The first few pages of this book led me to believe that it would be a terrific pick for reluctant readers and a solid kid-pleaser. Stuart Gibbs is a s...moreThe first few pages of this book led me to believe that it would be a terrific pick for reluctant readers and a solid kid-pleaser. Stuart Gibbs is a screenwriter, and that comes through in the easy way this story unfolds and the amount of action that's to be found here. As the novel progressed, though, my initial spark of enthusiasm faded a bit. The premise is great, the story is clean, the writing is straightforward, and the characters (for the most part) are fun. But the pacing is uneven. Wanting to provide readers with more information about animals and zoos and more detailed backstory, the narrator throws in numerous asides -- often in the middle of action scenes that should be moving at a clip and are instead slowed by all the extra commentary. Still, I became used to that halting pacing and subsequently felt jarred when, toward the end of the book, the speed picked up dramatically and numerous bits of the mystery were wrapped-up in overly quick and disappointingly unrealistic fashion. Two additional complaints: Wanting to provide some stock kid humor, the author makes too many crass and insensitive remarks about fat people for my taste; and a pivotal scene at the end, during the funeral of Henry the Hippo, seemed just digusting and distateful -- especially in light of all the messages in the book about the respect we should be paying to animals, Henry included.
That having been said, I do think most kids will enjoy this book (which is ultimately what matters most to me). I think they'll learn interesting facts about a number of species (hippos in particular) and gain some interesting insights into the work and thoughtful planning that happens at zoos. I think they'll enjoy trying to tease out the details of this mystery, far-fetched though it may be, and I like that the mystery is solved by an intelligent boy and girl, working in tandem. I just wish it had lived up to the potential it REALLY possessed, as a few small changes might have made this one of the most solidly kid-friendly books I read this year. (less)
I was anxious to read this young graphic novel, having LOVED the first installment in the series, but ultimately I was let down. Sasspants' delightful...moreI was anxious to read this young graphic novel, having LOVED the first installment in the series, but ultimately I was let down. Sasspants' delightful personality isn't given room to shine here, and some of the kid-friendly jokes in the first book seem to have run their course by this point. I was previously somewhat entertained by the fact that the pet shop owner gets his animals confused, but in this second book that same concept just feels old, too far-fetched, and therefore rather unfunny. Of greater concern to me, though, is the fact that the mysteries in this book have less satisfying reolutions, and one of them is LITERALLY flawed -- as in, there's a serious error in the book's artwork.
(Warning: SPOILER!) When the pet shop owner and others believe they have witnessed a ghost, it turns out what they've actually seen is the shadow of the toy diver floating in the pet shop's aquarium. His shadow is shown, both in the book and on the cover, with his arms raised, but if you look at the toy diver (which I did early on, because I initially suspected he might be casting the shadow), you will see that his arms are NOT raised in either of the illustrations in which he appears. It is therefore simply not possible that the diver cast the shadow shown in the book! I find it frustrating that this is case, because it means a kid reading the book can't actually solve the mystery on his/her own. I'm also dismayed that this mistake wasn't caught before it made it onto the pages of the finished book.
Having said all this, I do think a lot of kids will still find this book entertaining -- hence the three stars here, despite my disappointment in it. I'm not giving up on this series, as I think Colleen Venable has created a really unique and fun character in Sasspants and I'm optimistic that later adventures will offer a return to the genius displayed in the first book. (Fingers crossed!)(less)
Five stars? Yep. I'm giving this book 5 stars. I've loved the books in this series, and with this one I think they've gotten EVEN better. Maybe it's j...moreFive stars? Yep. I'm giving this book 5 stars. I've loved the books in this series, and with this one I think they've gotten EVEN better. Maybe it's just because I've gotten to attached to the goofy characters? I don't know. But my gut says 5 stars for this one, if for no other reason than reading it made me want to go right back and re-read all the others. AND put them in the hands of every 2nd - 4th grader I see! Plus at one point I snorted loudly on the subway while reading this one and am SURE I was grinning ear to ear through all the pages. It definitely brought out the third grader in me!(less)
This lively, superbly entertaining novel gallops along from short chapter to short chapter (most just 3 pages long), taking some unexpected turns alon...moreThis lively, superbly entertaining novel gallops along from short chapter to short chapter (most just 3 pages long), taking some unexpected turns along the way. In short, this is a rollicking ride -- a terrifically fun Western that will hook readers early and keep them turning the pages. I can't wait to read the next installment of P.K.'s adventures! (less)
I loved, loved, LOVED this book. It's a sensational, highly memorable debut novel -- one I enjoyed so much that I didn't want the book to end! I can't...moreI loved, loved, LOVED this book. It's a sensational, highly memorable debut novel -- one I enjoyed so much that I didn't want the book to end! I can't WAIT to see what Sheila Turnage writes next.(less)
Truly outstanding! This is an engrossing, suspenseful mystery with remarkable depth and a lot of heart. Once again Rebecca Stead delivers a wonderful...more
Truly outstanding! This is an engrossing, suspenseful mystery with remarkable depth and a lot of heart. Once again Rebecca Stead delivers a wonderfully clever and compelling story with an ending that will both move young readers and leave them thinking.
There are numerous themes for discussion here, including peer pressure, manipulation, bullying, fears, denial, and friendship. Random bonus: a POSITIVE depiction of a phys. ed. teacher which is a true rarity in middle grade or YA fiction!(less)
I genuinely enjoyed this novel - would give it 3.5 were than an option. It's a light, fun romance featuring witty, likeable teens, and I found it to b...moreI genuinely enjoyed this novel - would give it 3.5 were than an option. It's a light, fun romance featuring witty, likeable teens, and I found it to be a genuine page-turner. But... not for the reasons I thought I would.
As a SPY story this book is lacking. Maggie (our heroine) is purported to be an expert spy, as are her parents, but we see them do relatively little spying in the course of 350 pages. Sure, Maggie cracks a few safes and picks a few locks, but apart from that there's scant evidence of espionage. There are no cool spy gadgets, she does not (as the cover of my ARC would suggest) don ANY disguises, nor does she do impersonations, trail suspects, crack codes, deliver secret messages, or do any of the other things I've come to expect fictional spies (even teen spies) to do. I also found it agonizingly implausible that none of her wealthy, secretive targets appears to have a single security camera (at least she never mentions or disables one), let alone an alarm on their property. No - this book is neither a solid spy story, nor particularly satisfying as a mystery.
What kept ME turning the pages was its witty spin on love and friendship. It's a clever tale of three super-smart teens (high school-age) who appear on the surface to have it all together but who are socially and emotionally rather clueless (which is a key reason for their likability and charm). Watching them figure out how to be with and be good to one another is really quite a treat.
It is also a delightful romance full of clever quips and fun flirtations -- think Veronica Mars transplanted to the set of Notting Hill. Maggie falls head-over-heels for an adorable boy who she is SUPPOSED to befriend only for the purposes of stealing files from his father, but (obviously) he steals her heart instead.
All in all, a fun read if you're looking for a light and witty teen romance. If you're hoping for serious suspense, red herrings, and lots of spy-oriented action, I'd look elsewhere.(less)
The world's friendliest doughnut is back and expanding his skinny-armed reach from picture books to chapter books! In this delightfully absurd, charmi...moreThe world's friendliest doughnut is back and expanding his skinny-armed reach from picture books to chapter books! In this delightfully absurd, charmingly offbeat, fully illustrated mystery -- a "Who-Donut" -- Arnie attempts to figure out why Mr. Bing, an accomplished bowler, is rolling gutter balls during the big bowling championship. Kids seeking a straightforward, linear narrative may find this book challenging, as Arnie is a chatty, easily distracted host and the central plotline is almost secondary to his random asides, but that's part of the book's charm. You never quite know where Arnie is taking you, but his company is so good (and his jokes so adorably bad) that you're happy to sit back and enjoy the ride. Fans of silly jokes and witty wordplay and/or fans of quirky illustrated chapter books like Fashion Kitty, Bad Kitty, and Captain Underpants will devour this one. (SORRY, Arnie!! I meant your book! They'll devour your BOOK! Metaphorically!! *whew*)