Up until reading this Calvin Coconut book, my interest in this series focused mainly on the immersion in Hawaiian culture and the boy-friendly humor tUp until reading this Calvin Coconut book, my interest in this series focused mainly on the immersion in Hawaiian culture and the boy-friendly humor that have been at the center of each of the books I've read so far. In Man Trip, however, author Graham Salisbury shows us a whole new layer to Calvin's character that elevates this book from simple fluff to true literature.
Calvin begins the book faced with a dilemma. He's been asked to mow the lawn, but there are a bunch of bufos - or toads- lurking in the grass, which must be removed before he can actually start the lawn mower. His solution is pretty typical of his mischievous character: he starts violently hurling the toads into the nearby pond. When Ledward, his mother's boyfriend sees him doing this, though, he encourages him to think about how his actions might be hurting the toads. After that, Ledward takes Calvin on a special fishing trip - a man trip, for men only - where he learns to appreciate and respect the beauty of the natural world.
I am reading this series out of order, mainly because I read the books as I am able to find them, so it's possible that earlier books have shown a quieter, more contemplative side of Calvin. But for me, after reading Trouble Magnet and Zoo Breath, where Calvin is mainly causing trouble and investigating the disgustingness of life, the Calvin of Man Trip feels like a brand new character. I absolutely loved being inside Calvin's mind, and actually seeing the transformation he undergoes on the fishing trip. I also enjoyed seeing him deal with the admiration shown to him by his classmate, Shayla, and his interaction with his teacher, Mr. Purdy. The details of the fish which Calvin helps to catch, tag, and release, are so well-written, and so action-packed, I can't imagine an adventure-minded boy would be able to resist them.
Calvin Coconut is one of those series that just never grows stale or runs its course. Each book is richer than the last, and I love seeing Calvin's growth from a prankster and a troublemaker to a thoughtful and responsible young citizen. ...more
I wrote this review, and originally planned to put it in my blog, but since I didn't like it very much, and I'm trying to focus the blog in on realistI wrote this review, and originally planned to put it in my blog, but since I didn't like it very much, and I'm trying to focus the blog in on realistic fiction only, I decided to just post it here in its entirety instead, so as not to let it go completely to waste.
I saw Hugo without reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret, so I came to Wonderstruck without the benefit of a previous experience with Brian Selznick’s style. Since his combination of text and illustration has been widely lauded as this unique and innovative approach, I did expect to be wowed by my reading experience. I don’t know if it was my high expectations, or just that Wonderstruck isn’t that great of a book, but either way, I wasn’t really affected by the story in the way that so many other readers have been.
I think the biggest thing that kept me from enjoying this book was how contrived everything felt. I can’t stand stories that rely on coincidence to tie up their plot lines. It feels like sloppy writing, and in otherwise reality-based stories, I can’t suspend my disbelief to accommodate easy endings. I don’t want to spoil the book by giving anything away, but the way things come together in the end did not feel authentic to me at all.
I also found it impossible to connect emotionally with either Rose or Ben. The changing perspective in the illustrated portions of the book quickly becomes repetitive and predictable, as the pattern of zooming in on a particular object or person is always the same. The text, too, is unremarkable, delivering the facts without doing very much else. I made it to the end of the book because it was fairly easy reading, and I don’t like to leave books unfinished, but there was nothing in particular about the story that kept me turning the pages. I never got to like Ben, and therefore never became invested in his fate.
I do truly appreciate the amount of historical research and reading Selznick must do to create his books, and I think the afterword, revealing some of his sources and inspirations, was ten times more interesting than the story itself. (Even if I did think the homage to Konigsburg was kind of lame and gimmicky.) I also know this book will have no trouble finding an audience. Kids love The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and the same kids have been checking this book out of my library non-stop since it arrived. Reluctant readers, visual learners, and graphic novel fanatics will undoubtedly fall in love with this book. But for me, it’s too sugary-sweet, too difficult to believe, too emotionally detached, and surrounded by too much hype. ...more
Like many paperback series titles, this one is out of print, as are the rest of the books about the Nic-Nacs. I’m not surprised that it’s not availablLike many paperback series titles, this one is out of print, as are the rest of the books about the Nic-Nacs. I’m not surprised that it’s not available anymore, given how quickly chapter book series come and go, and how much more the author has written in the past 20 years. Still, though, reading the book gave me a good dose of nostalgia. It brought me back to that time in my childhood when I graduated from the easy readers - indicated by yellow stickers in my childhood library’s collection, to the green-stickered chapter books The cover of this book resembles many Dell Yearling books from that time period as well, and I enjoyed the walk down memory lane.
Someone has stolen Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School’s only trophy out of the display case in the Achievement Alcove, and Principal Van Vreeland is furiSomeone has stolen Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School’s only trophy out of the display case in the Achievement Alcove, and Principal Van Vreeland is furious. Determined to bring the thief to justice, the incensed principal decides to punish the entire school, cancelling the eighth grade trip and promising a week straight of quizzes in every class if the culprit won’t fess up. Bethesda Fielding, the heroine from The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, realizes no one is going to take the blame as long as these terrible punishments continue, so she takes it upon herself to solve the case. In the meantime, she must also figure out why Tenny Boyer is behaving so strangely, and why she and new girl Reenie Maslow haven’t become friends.
I had no idea Ben H. Winters had written a sequel to Ms. Finkleman, so when I saw this on the “new” shelf at one of the libraries I frequent, it was such a pleasant and welcome surprise. This book shares a lot of the same strengths as the first of Bethesda’s adventures - strong characterization, humorous caricatures of middle school faculty, just the right amount of suspense, and a wonderfully light and breezy tone. Bethesda’s intelligence and spunk remain fresh and interesting, and her determination to solve the case no matter what really drives the central plot of the story.
There is a huge cast of characters, which has the potential to overwhelm readers, but it didn’t bother me. I liked revisiting some old friends from the first book, and also getting to know some new characters. In fact, the high volume of characters added to one of the book’s greatest features - the fact that it really brings the reader into this school community and almost makes him or her feel like a part of it. I continued to enjoy the very tongue in cheek descriptions of the teachers and their relationships to the principal and to the students, as well as Bethesda’s father’s silly obsession with a cartoon wolf detective.
Like its predecessor, this book compares well to other school stories, such as Sideways Stories from Wayside School and The Fourth Stall, which exaggerate everyday experiences in order to poke fun at them. This book is also much more of a traditional mystery than the first book, and fans of amateur detectives like Nancy Drew, Gilda Joyce, Enola Holmes, and Ingrid Levin-Hill (from the Echo Falls books) will welcome this clever addition to the genre. This is also one of those more gentle reads that works well for kids who don’t like too much foul language or talk of romance, and/or who are easily scared by mysteries with spookier themes....more
Lauren Barnholdt’s tween novels never disappoint. They are somewhat formulaic, given that every one of her protagonists finds herself caught in some kLauren Barnholdt’s tween novels never disappoint. They are somewhat formulaic, given that every one of her protagonists finds herself caught in some kind of lie, but aside from that predictable overarching theme, each book is fresh and brand-new, offering a creative look at middle school life. Samantha’s secret-passing business is a unique concept, which Barnholdt develops very well. The strength of character Samantha demonstrates by refusing to peek at the secrets, even when dared to do so, is a quality many girls can relate to, as well as a strong example of staying true to oneself even when the peer pressure is on. Most girls probably haven’t found themselves in Samantha’s exact situation, but her feelings of wanting to be accepted while also wanting to do the right thing are universally understood by middle schoolers everywhere.
My biggest problem with this book was my relationship with the main character. Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s fair to judge a book based on whMy biggest problem with this book was my relationship with the main character. Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s fair to judge a book based on whether I personally like a character or agree with her actions. Kacey is obviously a “mean girl” and though I’m not crazy about “mean girl” characters, I can usually relate to them, especially when they are first-person narrators and I am privy to all their thoughts. My issue with Kacey, though, is that I couldn’t find anything that any reader might like about her. She’s mean and shallow, and for most of the book, almost until the very end, not much else. She becomes interesting at certain points, but I really wonder how many tween readers would stick with the book long enough to see that happen.
What I like so much about this book is how the silence reflects what nature sounds like at night. Even when the animals are noisily riding the sled, tWhat I like so much about this book is how the silence reflects what nature sounds like at night. Even when the animals are noisily riding the sled, there is an air of calm surrounding every page, which is emphasized by the contrast between the deep blue of the sky and silvery white of the snow-covered hills. The animals are very expressive, showing their curiosity, fear, and excitement about the sled, and though the scenery doesn't change much from page to page, the action within that scenery does a wonderful job of keeping the flow of the story moving, even without the benefit of text. Illustrator Lita Judge uses interesting perspectives to focus our attention to the most important aspect of each page, and keeps the reader laughing all the way through to the end of the story.
Ridiculous and hilarious, this book is sure to delight preschool story time audiences who will be surprised at the many things (and people) Floyd usesRidiculous and hilarious, this book is sure to delight preschool story time audiences who will be surprised at the many things (and people) Floyd uses to free his kite. The somewhat unresolved ending also gives kids an opportunity to offer their own suggestions for getting unstuck. Oliver Jeffers has a truly interesting imagination and this book is my favorite of all his bizarre ideas.
My main question upon finishing the book was whether its audience will relate to crushes in the way they are described here. Preschoolers certainly arMy main question upon finishing the book was whether its audience will relate to crushes in the way they are described here. Preschoolers certainly aren't concerned with romance. Older elementary school kids might have crushes, but I doubt they'd be be interested in a picture book with such a basic plot when so many chapter books cover the topic in greater depth. A Giant Crush might appeal to readers who enjoy Helen Lester's picture books Tacky the Penguin and Hooway for Wodney Wat, since they all share the common theme of being oneself and accepting one's differences, and I think fans of Marc Brown's Arthur series will also enjoy the similar writing style, even if the subject matter goes over their heads a little bit.