Oliver Watson is one of the dumbest kids in the seventh grade, and one of the most pathetic. However, he knows something the other kids don't. In factOliver Watson is one of the dumbest kids in the seventh grade, and one of the most pathetic. However, he knows something the other kids don't. In fact, he knows lots of things the other kids don't, because the dumb-kid thing is actually his cover for his genius. And we're not talking quiz-bowl genius, but third-richest-man-in-America, secret-lair-under-the-house genius. After buying up companies and corporations (several for the sole purpose of helping or hurting classmates' parents, depending how nice each classmate is to him), Oliver has his sights set on one more task: becoming class president. With his connections, it's easy to eliminate the competition--but how can one really win an election when there's nobody running against him?
Despite Oliver's penchant for being a vindictive jerk, he's still enjoyable to read about. His voice never wavers; Lieb manages to make him sound exactly as you'd expect a seventh-grade evil genius to sound: part cartoonish, part business, part exasperated with his family, his teachers, his classmates, his minions. Oliver may be strategically brilliant, but his immaturity trips him up in hilariously unexpected ways.
This is one of the few books I've found that can sustain a particular style of humor without working my last nerve by the end--it never seems self-conscious, but just so much exactly who Oliver is. Probably best for 8th-11th grades--even though Oliver is in the 7th grade, his voice is a little older and many of the references will go over younger readers' heads. A sharp and funny read, even if the cover may look a little young.
[edit:] You could make a case for a certain Walter Mitty-ness to this, but that's more thought than I want to put in right now. I like it at the surface level. Fascinating to consider it as the daydreams of a bullied kid, but that's a lot of intellectual energy I don't have at the moment....more
Travis and Corey are spending the summer at the grandmother's isolated Vermont inn--an excellent alternative to the summer camp they got banned from aTravis and Corey are spending the summer at the grandmother's isolated Vermont inn--an excellent alternative to the summer camp they got banned from after last summer's pranks and mischief. Grandmother's inn isn't doing too well, though, since the ghostly activity has ceased, as people don't come so far out of their way to visit an un-haunted inn. The siblings vow to turn things around for their grandmother, and stage a haunting to convince the current guests that the inn still has some secrets. Their plan goes off the rails when the real ghosts awaken--from the mischief-making group of ghost children to Miss Ada's malevolent spirit. Since Corey and Travis awakened the ghosts, it's their job to put them to rest again--if Miss Ada's ghost doesn't put them to rest first.
This fast-paced ghost story will appeal to upper-elementary or early middle school readers looking for a quick thrill, but isn't fully developed enough to really hold an older reader's interest. The plot is predictable almost from the first page, and even the central characters never develop beyond their most basic attributes. Only the grandmother has any kind of change of heart, and her change from skeptic to believer is too abrupt--even under the circumstances--to feel at all authentic. The climax manages to be both sluggish and rushed, without any real sense of urgency. Still, this is a quick read to tingle the spines of kids looking for more gentle ghost stories, or for Hahn's established fans....more
I understand the continuing, unabating appeal of this series, but it's just not doing it for me. I just don't like Greg. Granted, I'm not sure I'm reaI understand the continuing, unabating appeal of this series, but it's just not doing it for me. I just don't like Greg. Granted, I'm not sure I'm really supposed to, but still....more
We've been working our way through this one since July. Reasonably non-alarmist and excellent for my inner scientist--it's not as touchy-feely as a loWe've been working our way through this one since July. Reasonably non-alarmist and excellent for my inner scientist--it's not as touchy-feely as a lot of the pregnancy books out there, but provides a lot of solid information. Easily arranged for browsing and/or quick reference, along with an extensive index.
There is a bunch of information (crammed into a lengthy section) on Things That Can Go Wrong, but (a) it's all pushed into one section you can easily skip over if you want, and (b) even their These Things Can Go Wrong is remarkably non-alarmist.
Perspective is definitely assuming you're having a hospital birth, but what do you expect from the Mayo Clinic? It does explain the differences between OBs and different levels of midwives, and encourages parents-to-be to choose what's right for them. (It also encourages Dad to be involved without assuming he's a useless bump on a log, which is a nice change from pretty much every other pregnancy book I've seen so far.)...more
I'm giving up. I can't take any more of this über-crunchy hippie-dippy nonsense. While I can get behind the idea that birth doesn't have to be scary aI'm giving up. I can't take any more of this über-crunchy hippie-dippy nonsense. While I can get behind the idea that birth doesn't have to be scary and horrible, and that the scary parts can be eased with self-relaxation techniques, I just can't read any more of this book. Even the sections that could make sense, I have trouble parsing, thanks to the reinvented lingo (for instance, I won't have "contractions," I'll have "uterine surges." There will be no "pushing," only "birth breathing"--because it's apparently my lungs that will be responsible for getting the baby from the inside to the outside?).
Then the directions on how to properly breathe to achieve that meditative state only cause me more stress because I can't do them properly (hey, while your diaphragm is being pushed 2" higher due to that baby right under it, take the deepest, slowest breath you've ever taken and expand the diaphragm all the way down into your pelvis!) (note: it does not actually advocate for expanding your diaphragm into your pelvis, but it does seem to suggest doing the impossible.)
I'm okay with a certain amount of crunch, but HypnoBirthing is way, waaaaaay over that line. I tried, but I really need something that has facts in it. I will be more relaxed if I know exactly what can and will happen, rather than attempting to BREATHE my child to the outside world. ...more
Not much of a plot, but a Year in the Life of Carter. Having never been a 14-year-old boy, I can't speak to exactly how authentic his voice is, but itNot much of a plot, but a Year in the Life of Carter. Having never been a 14-year-old boy, I can't speak to exactly how authentic his voice is, but it sounded pretty realistic to me. Carter tries hard and sometimes misses the mark, but most of the time he's sweet, funny, and genuine. And for a sweet kid to be fourteen and attempting to navigate high school (accompanied by warnings from his older sister not to be a dork)--well, that's going to be hard on anyone.
Pretty good audio version, too, though it's one of the annoying ones from Brilliance that has 99 tracks of 45 seconds each on each disc, so transferring to you mp3 player of choice might be a PITA. Mechanics aside, this is a narrator who was born to read for a 14-year-old boy. (He actually sounds a fair bit like Neil from Freaks and Geeks.)
If you have boys looking for realistic fiction, preferably something funny, this is a good choice to hand them....more
Aleksander, son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie Chotek, is pulled from his bed in the middle of the night to practice night maneuversAleksander, son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie Chotek, is pulled from his bed in the middle of the night to practice night maneuvers with the walker. It's not long before he learns the truth from his teachers: his parents have been assassinated, and they need to get out of Austria quickly. Alek has very little time to learn how to pilot the giant machine in the dark. He also has to avoid detection, and when that fails, escape any and all attacks without getting himself or any of his men captured. He may be the rightful heir, but nobody can know--at least right now, on the brink of war--that he still survives.
Meanwhile, Deryn is desperate to pass the tests to become a midshipman in the Air Service. The only problem she might have is that they don't allow girls, so she enrolls in the testing as Dylan--and when a runaway hydrogen-breather takes her on an impromptu tour over London, she proves her mettle enough to be admitted. As long as her superiors don't find out she's a she.
Eventually these two meet up, both in rather dire straights. Deryn's British, Darwinist officers are all for keeping the strange Austrian Clanker under lock and key, but he may hold the keys to their salvation--just as they can help his escape. Deryn, Alek, and their respective crews have choices to make: do what's best for their countries in this new war, or what's best for their new, though unlikely, allies.
Westerfeld's latest series treds new ground for him, breaking into the Steampunk genre with this alternate history of the World War I. Unfortunately, Westerfeld is less confident here than in his other settings; the world setting fails to come alive the same way as his other books. Deryn and Alex and just about the only characters (there are others, but even the most major of these are background) and even their development is a little thin at times.
I've no doubts that this book will circulate, particularly among middle-school boys, but this Westerfeld fan was disappointed. It reads younger than his other books (maybe 5th-8th grade?), and the pictures throughout don't help. On the bright side, if I could get posters of the endpapers, I'd frame them and hang them everywhere. Too bad the interior illustration doesn't hold up to the promise made by the jacket art and endpapers....more
I was really excited about this book. And then I was really disappointed by this book. It had such promise, but then it fell apart into rushed conveniI was really excited about this book. And then I was really disappointed by this book. It had such promise, but then it fell apart into rushed conveniences that were trying too hard to be Lemony Snicket, and missing the mark.
Bounce and Pema are taking one last bike ride through the woods before winter when the trail abruptly ends in a construction site: Oasis Developers isBounce and Pema are taking one last bike ride through the woods before winter when the trail abruptly ends in a construction site: Oasis Developers is building yet another subdivision, and this new one isn't enough for them. Representatives have been bullying Bounce's friend's family into selling their beloved farm, and they won't take no for an answer, even if it means violence. Pema's sister is working as an intern with the TV news, so she could help get the story out--except that Viamix, Oasis Developers' parent company, is a major advertiser on that network. Before Bounce and his friends can spread the word about what Oasis is doing, they need to learn how the media works--and how to make it work for them.
This fourth entry into the Graphic Guides series gets away from sports tips and into more academic topics. The informational scenes are reasonably well-integrated into the story, but are still mildly didactic in their nature. Information is delivered clearly, though the language is more geared to middle schoolers than upper-elementary age students. The artwork is in the same cartoony style as the rest of the series, which may draw in some younger kids but turn off the older ones who are likely to get more out of the book.
This is a great resource for kids who are looking at advertising in schools, and will inspire an interest in other kids who pick this up off the shelf. ...more
There are some stories in this collection that will stick with me forever, and others I'd forgotten almost as soon as I'd turned the page. But that'sThere are some stories in this collection that will stick with me forever, and others I'd forgotten almost as soon as I'd turned the page. But that's any anthology, really. Almond's writing blends quirky characters and situations with a certain sensitivity to how people think and react--it all sounds very real, and even the funniest bits are tempered with a bit of sadness when you recognize just how true the reactions are....more
When Jesse is sent down to the marsh to hunt a turtle for the soup pot, he knows he's in for a miserable night--it's dark, it's rainy, and it's too eaWhen Jesse is sent down to the marsh to hunt a turtle for the soup pot, he knows he's in for a miserable night--it's dark, it's rainy, and it's too early in the season for turtles anyway. Just as he's about to give up, there's a knife at his throat, and a runaway slave is begging him to go fetch the midwife, because this slave's baby is coming now. Unfortunately, labor doesn't go so well, and Jesse makes a promise to the dying Lydia to take her older son, Perry, to Baltimore to live with her white friend. Despite his misgivings, Jesse agrees, and the two boys set out on a dangerous journey to find Miss Polly. It'll be hard enough to avoid the riots and skirmishes at the cusp of the Civil War, but with the ruthless slave catcher just one step behind them on the whole journey, Jesse's promise to Lydia is looking almost impossible to fulfill.
As historical fiction goes, it's not bad--the plot moves along at a consistent pace and the drama of the slave-catcher on their tail keeps tension. A lengthy author's note at the end explains which events really happened and which were fabricated, and gives some background on the era. The plot winds through a number of contrivances in which every stop houses one of Perry's relations before ultimately depositing him with his grandmother and sending Jesse back home just in time to nurse his uncle back from the brink of death. This is a relatively short (200 pages) book to fulfill historical reading assignments, but teens picking this up based on the author's name are bound to be disappointed as this is not her usual supernatural horror story. ...more
So it seems the annotated version is mixed in with the regular. I still love the book, and the annotations--well, I have mixed feelings. On[May 2012]
So it seems the annotated version is mixed in with the regular. I still love the book, and the annotations--well, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's nice to have this new insight into the book. On the other, it sort of destroys some of the magic to see behind the curtain--to know that Juster planned so much of the wordplay and it didn't just spring to life and become my first introduction to puns and absurdity. Also, reading annotations really disrupts the flow of reading the text, but this may be because I am Not Gifted at reading two texts concurrently.
But holy crow this [the un-annotated, base text] is easily in my Top Five Books of All Time.
How can anyone not love this book?
I've read it approximately forty-eleventeen times and every time I find something new in it that I'd forgotten. And I giggle, snicker, chuckle, chortle, and laugh my way through this whole goofy book, and love every minute of it.
I don't know why I don't re-read it more often....more
Emily and her brother Navin are on their way to find an antidote to the poison that's slowly killing their mother in this second installment of Kazu KEmily and her brother Navin are on their way to find an antidote to the poison that's slowly killing their mother in this second installment of Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series. Aided by the toys Emily's great-grandfather charged with her care and the sentient, robotic house, they make good time to the city--only to learn that the only cure is even further away, in a mountain forest, and the Elf King and his warriors are closing in fast. The stone that hangs around Emily's neck offers advice on how to win the upcoming battles, but the advice hinges on Emily giving all her control over to the stone--the one thing Leon Redbeard, her fox bodyguard/trainer, warned her not to do.
If anything, the second book moves faster than the first, without the need for the exposition of the first book. Readers new to the series will be confused by the mixed cast of humans, animals, and toys, but will likely be sucked in anyway by the warmth of the illustrations. Kibuishi's artwork is polished and his use of color extraordinary, and both complement the story being told. The warmth of the artwork may appeal to manga fans of all ages, but Amulet will likely hold the most appeal for middle schoolers.
Five stars because, well, look at it! Are you made of stone? This book is gorgeous! ...more
Ricky wakes up out of a good dream--one about an Island, a lush green paradise--and is startled to hear a crunching sound outside his window. Trying tRicky wakes up out of a good dream--one about an Island, a lush green paradise--and is startled to hear a crunching sound outside his window. Trying to be brave, he opens the window to investigate, and in comes Peter: an about-16-year-old with an Australian accent who seems to know everything in Ricky's head. Peter offers to take Ricky to the Island he's been visiting in his dreams, and seeing nothing to lose, Ricky accepts. No sooner have they gotten to Peter's Island, though, when Ricky is clubbed in the back of the head and comes to to find a rescue mission in progress. Alex cuts Ricky's binds and leads him out of the dark caves, back to the burrow where he and a few other rescued teens have been living with the man they call Captain. Slowly Ricky starts to trust his rescuers, and they slowly start to trust him--enough, anyway, that they can use him in their mission to capture Peter so that they can all, finally, go home.
This fast-paced adventure sticks pretty close to the source material, while still allowing for some creative reinterpretations necessary to modernize the story. Captain Hooke's crew--these three troubled boys and one very troubled girl--are not as dynamic as they could be, but the point of the book is more in the updating of the Peter Pan story rather than richly nuanced character development. The one strike against it is that the cover copy makes no mention of this being a Peter Pan story; while this might draw in some readers who otherwise wouldn't be interested, it does contribute to a bait-and-switch reading experience. Teen boys swear a lot and think inappropriate thoughts, so I wouldn't hand it to sixth-graders, but mature 8th graders and up will find themselves turning adventure-filled pages late into the night....more
"Wait for the audio," I told myself. "You love the audio versions." But then one of my favorite patrons told me how much she loved this volume ("I thi"Wait for the audio," I told myself. "You love the audio versions." But then one of my favorite patrons told me how much she loved this volume ("I think it's the best one so far!" she raved). And I tried to hold out for the audio still... and I made it a whole week.
I know it's not great literature, but Jacky's adventures are just so much fun. While this volume took a little longer to get going, I think I, like my teen patron, have a new favorite installment....more
Sharp writing and fantastic artwork, with a plot that gets muddy and convoluted at the end and lettering that is, at times, a struggle to decipher. WoSharp writing and fantastic artwork, with a plot that gets muddy and convoluted at the end and lettering that is, at times, a struggle to decipher. Worth a read for noir fans....more
Dade is in that awkward space between high school and college. His kinda-relationship with Pablo is just about over, his parents' kinda-relationship wDade is in that awkward space between high school and college. His kinda-relationship with Pablo is just about over, his parents' kinda-relationship with each other is just about over, and Dade is recognizing that he wants more than a kinda-relationship with anyone. Enter Lucy, a neighbor's niece who was kicked out of her own house for being a lesbian, and she and Dade quickly become close friends. Enter also Alex, whom Dade meets briefly at a party and immediately crushes on. With Lucy's encouragement, Dade finally cuts ties with Pablo and starts dating Alex, and understanding what love is.
Dade's story is a little predictable in the way of any romance--getting over the ex and not taking them back, finding a new love--but is made a little newer because the exes and new loves in question are all male. Not that this should be a Big Huge Deal, but so much of gay teen romance (writing, I mean) is fraught with the issues of coming out and homophobia. Those issues are represented here, but they're so far from the main story that they're barely issues at all. This really is, primarily, a guy-romance.
(That said I never fully connected with any of the characters, but I liked the book all the same!)...more
8th grade math whiz Tess can't resist a puzzle--which is why the "Four 4s" graffiti on the back of the church intrigues her so much. First solving the8th grade math whiz Tess can't resist a puzzle--which is why the "Four 4s" graffiti on the back of the church intrigues her so much. First solving the equations and then cracking the code, Tess gets drawn into investigating a classroom fire that had occurred a few weeks earlier. But her investigations lead her into some shady doings herself, resulting in a number of consequences her number-based brain never anticipated.
This is the sequel to an earlier book I haven't read, but it give a little background on what happened in the first book, as that situation isn't fully resolved yet. The gimmick of the math problems is incorporated well enough into the plot, but is still a little clunky. None of the characters are all that dynamic (one can hope that happened in the first book?). The heart on the cover and the blindingly pink endpapers make this a girlier pick than it needs to be, and the 8th-grade characters read more like 5th or 6th grade. This isn't a series I'll be adding to my library collection, but it might work somewhere else....more
Winston Breen and his two best friends are back for another round of puzzle-solving adventure. This time, Winston's school has been selected to competWinston Breen and his two best friends are back for another round of puzzle-solving adventure. This time, Winston's school has been selected to compete in a puzzle competition sponsored by the quirky snack-food maven Dmitri Simon (think Willy Wonka of the salty foods empire). The mystery this time: solving the six puzzles, and finding out who the cheater is who's been sabotaging the other teams.
In the first Winston Breen book, the puzzles were dropped in more or less at random in Winston's treasure hunt; here there's a more organic part of the story, and for obvious reasons. As a result, this volume is less gimmicky than its predecessor. The extra puzzles--the ones outside of the competition--are dropped in where Winston is killing time traveling from place to place, or while waiting for people, or in other such places, instead of (actual example from the first book, as best I remember) "I'm trapped in a burning basement, and here's the puzzle it reminds me of!"
As mysteries go, this is about my speed--I've always been a fan of puzzles but mysteries don't interest me much. This is the kind of book I'd have gravitated toward in 4th or 5th grade, when the inevitable Mystery Book Report came around....more
Kiley is starting a club at school, a club that no one's ever thought of before, and she wants Anne, Josh, and TJ to join it. Her club will be the TelKiley is starting a club at school, a club that no one's ever thought of before, and she wants Anne, Josh, and TJ to join it. Her club will be the Tell-All Club, and to join they'll all have to answer (truthfully!) 50 questions that cover everything from their favorite salad dressings to who they LIKE-like. Predictably, their answers to that last question all get passed around to the others, with the expected disastrous consequences.
This is a little short to develop all four of the characters we're following, so their individual background dramas are only briefly mentioned, and Josh's is only hinted at. To this reader, the cover looks like a "boy" book, and the inclusion of the boys' point-of-view tells me it's supposed to be a boy book (at least on some level), but the basic plot is a prolonged "does he like me-like me?"
5th grade characters; 4th grade appeal. Can't even really say this drives home the point about not spreading rumors, since it never even gets beyond this little quartet. An okay effort....more
And yet it was somehow still really dull. This never leapt off the page (well, CD, I guess; it was anPiracy, shipwrecks, mutiny, swordfights, duels!
And yet it was somehow still really dull. This never leapt off the page (well, CD, I guess; it was an audio) at me. I listened dutifully to the end, but I'm not super-inclined to pick up any of her other books. ...more
An endearingly disorganized protagonist trying to hold herself together while everything she's worked for is going to pieces--and her grandmother is,An endearingly disorganized protagonist trying to hold herself together while everything she's worked for is going to pieces--and her grandmother is, too.
Gianna may be in 7th grade, but I think her target audience is more like 5th grade. Still, a quick read, which is good because the owning library called me today to shake me down for it because it was two measly days overdue. Bad librarian....more
At its heart, this is a coming-of-age story about accepting oneself and looking beyond exterior labels to the person beneath, moving past one's historAt its heart, this is a coming-of-age story about accepting oneself and looking beyond exterior labels to the person beneath, moving past one's history to create something new. The culmination isn't a big surprise, but where this book shines is in the characterizations: in lesser books, the Fat Girl's goal would be to lose weight to win over the boys; the gay characters would either be on a crusade to end discrimination everywhere or become the Fat Girl's Cause To End All Discrimination. Here, though? Yes, Dara is a Fat Girl, but it's not her whole identity. Yes, her friend is gay; yes, her sister is gay, but "gay" is not who they are, or even what they are. What could be labels as a shorthand to personality are more background details; they could just as easily have been "redheads" or "Canadian" for all it mattered. And that's an excellent thing--while they occasionally discussed the problems of being stereotyped for what they were, in Frazer's hands they were never treated as stereotypes.
(Disclosure: Meg and I went to library school together and I'm pleased to call her my friend--and chagrined that it took me this long to get around to reading her excellent book!)...more
Part historical fiction on the Dust Bowl, part fantasy, part folklore--and those are a lot of elements to cram into a relatively slim graphic novel, sPart historical fiction on the Dust Bowl, part fantasy, part folklore--and those are a lot of elements to cram into a relatively slim graphic novel, so the story isn't as developed as I'd like to see--I feel like I'm missing several bits that would tie elements together and make them all relevant. The art is nice, but the precise typesetting of the text holds the reader back from really falling into the illustrations....more
After the death of his father, Jeremy and his mom move away from their home in rural Nova Scotia to live with an aunt in Toronto. Jeremy's adjusting tAfter the death of his father, Jeremy and his mom move away from their home in rural Nova Scotia to live with an aunt in Toronto. Jeremy's adjusting to the move just fine--making friends, doing okay in school--but the memories (and guilt) about the accident that killed his father haunt him, particularly in his dreams. School is mostly okay, though--until he gets paired up with the most annoying boy in the class for the mealworm project. Aaron is such a pain and so hard to deal with that Jeremy almost can't help being mean to him, and that goes double when he finds out that Aaron considers Jeremy his best friend.
There's a lot of boy-appeal here, despite its tendency toward the sentimental. Themes of grief and loss, friendship, identity, and acceptance are all present and balanced against each other; no particular theme is superimposed too obviously over the others. While the author never talks down to children, her word choices are occasionally a little elderly. Still, a worthwhile book even just for not treating Jeremy's nightmare-induced bedwetting as shameful.
I loved Part 2 of this book, when we were exploring Burt's flawed relationships with his family, the meeting and courtship of his wife, the coping witI loved Part 2 of this book, when we were exploring Burt's flawed relationships with his family, the meeting and courtship of his wife, the coping with the even-then-apparent hatred and bitterness of his eventual mother-in-law, all in the context of his own foibles and obsessions. The first part had laid out those obsessions, Burt's interest in medieval re-enactment and the distancing effect on his family, but I never really felt invested in any of them. Part 2 is where Burt becomes emotionally three-dimensional, but by then, I wasn't sure I cared at all about him.
Maybe if I'd read this at a different time I'd have loved it. For now? Eh. Good but not great....more
Yes, I've been reading this for the obvious reasons.
On the whole, there's a lot of good information here that's worth thinking about, though there isYes, I've been reading this for the obvious reasons.
On the whole, there's a lot of good information here that's worth thinking about, though there is an obvious bias for a much crunchier style of birth than I'd feel comfortable with (there are a lot of stories of home births, for instance, and while it's a fine option for a lot of people, it's not for me). Still, a good resource to pick up just to know what the options are, and what "normal" things could complicate the experience. I probably won't follow a lot of the advice they're offering, but it is making me think more about things I'd already rejected, and that's always a good thing.
*** [edit:] Now I'm finished with this. As I said, some information is great--it's really helpful to know the many ways in which the medical establishment might try to push a C-section, and the circumstances under which I should actually consider consenting--but much of the delivery (ha! pun not intended, I swear) is an oddly sanctimonious uber-crunchy campaign to make sure everyone attempts a home birth with a midwife.
Great for exploring your options; not so great as a how-to bible....more