Short, funny retelling of The Reluctant Dragon (the dragon is even named Grahame in honor of original author Kenneth Grahame). Kenny is a rabbit, whicShort, funny retelling of The Reluctant Dragon (the dragon is even named Grahame in honor of original author Kenneth Grahame). Kenny is a rabbit, which makes the whole thing cuter. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Alan Cumming and it is GENIUS. Many, many awesome accents and character voices. Highly recommended for kids as young as five. ...more
The best part of this book, for me, was flipping to the end and seeing a picture of the author as a kid with giant hair. This is a fun concept and welThe best part of this book, for me, was flipping to the end and seeing a picture of the author as a kid with giant hair. This is a fun concept and well done, but doesn't quite have the oomph I was hoping for. I think it's because the ending is just, "We don't really need our hair to be super!" That's great, but it's a tad lame. Still, the illustrations are great and I think kids will enjoy this. ...more
What's the name of the 11-year-old main character in Paperboy? The reader doesn't know because the main character can't really say it. He has a stutteWhat's the name of the 11-year-old main character in Paperboy? The reader doesn't know because the main character can't really say it. He has a stutter and the letters of his name give him particular trouble. So he's referred to as "Little Man," "son," and "the messenger," but not by his name. In this review, I'll refer to him as the paperboy, even though he's not really the paperboy.
This story is set in 1959 in Memphis, Tennessee. The paperboy is temporarily covering paperboy duties for his friend Rat, who's spending the summer out on the farm. Being the paperboy means having to to talk to strangers, which is daunting when you have a stutter. So the paperboy practices using "Gentle Air" to get his words out. He also finds many opportunities to test his courage and confidence. There's being swindled by the junk man, Ara T. There's the beautiful and troubled red-headed woman named Mrs. Worthington. And there's a mysterious, philosophical customer named Mr. Spiro who gives the paperboy interesting tips and conversation.
Readers will learn a little about what it might've been like to be a white boy raised by a black housekeeper before the Civil Rights Movement. They will learn a tremendous amount about living with a stutter. This is really where the book shines. If you read the afterword, you find that this book is really more a memoir than a work of fiction. The author writes with such passion about growing up with a stutter because he actually grew up with a stutter.
I really enjoyed the the paperboy's voice and his challenges, so I'd recommend this book. The weak points are the plot, which definitely drags in the middle, and the length. I think you could easily cut this book down have something more digestible for your average middle grade reader. But for kids who love to empathize with characters who have dramatic struggles (as in, for instance, Wonder, Out of My Mind, and Rules), this will satisfy. Very impressive for a first work of fiction (and a first work of fiction for children at that). ...more
In the style of Diana Wynn-Jones and J.K. Rowling, there's a lot of moral ambiguity in this fantasy, buoyed by great characters and sly humor. The ploIn the style of Diana Wynn-Jones and J.K. Rowling, there's a lot of moral ambiguity in this fantasy, buoyed by great characters and sly humor. The plot is satisfyingly wrapped up, but Jinx himself remains a bit of a mystery at the end, so we can expect sequels. Here's how I'd book talk it:
After being abandoned in the Urwald forest by his uncaring stepfather, Jinx is adopted by a cranky wizard named Simon. As he grows up in the wizard's strange home, he learns some magic and makes friends with two other kids, Elfwyn and Reven, who have mysterious curses on them. Jinx is no ordinary boy himself: He has the strange ability to see the color of people's thoughts. Together they search for a way to lift their curses and discover the secrets of the Urwald. ...more
I say this with the deepest respect for Mr. Stroud's work and talents: This book reminded me of Scooby-Doo. Like the best possible Scooby-Doo! No, betI say this with the deepest respect for Mr. Stroud's work and talents: This book reminded me of Scooby-Doo. Like the best possible Scooby-Doo! No, better than the best possibly Scooby-Doo (while still being pretty Scooby-Doo-ish).
Look, this book seriously gave me nightmares. Not as a I was reading it, but a few weeks after finishing it I had this terrifying nightmare about a room filled with blood and I woke up and thought, "Screaming staircases!" So clearly I don't mean to say that this book is cartoonish. Or that it has a talking dog.
But it is about a crew of kids solving ghost mysteries. It's a Gothic Ghost Busters. I enjoyed the mystery aspect and thought it was very moody and atmospheric. The relationships between the three main characters were great. You have Lockwood (the serious and talented boss), Lucy (the up and comer and our main POV character) and George (a slob but sharp as a tack). There is no love triangle here! Thank goodness.
Many characters' stories are tangled up into this hairy knot of a novel. Among the kids, there's Cady, an orphan and a Talented baker of cakes; Zane,Many characters' stories are tangled up into this hairy knot of a novel. Among the kids, there's Cady, an orphan and a Talented baker of cakes; Zane, a troublemaker with a Talent for spitting; Marigold, a responsible girl trying to find her Talent; and little Will, who is always getting lost. The cast of adults includes the grumpy, villainous Owner of the Lost Luggage Emporium; the sweet matchmaker Jennifer Mallory; an old lady known only as "V;" the mysterious Toby; the even more mysterious man in the gray suit; and Marigold, Zane and Will's mother Mrs. Asher. Phew! I said there were A LOT of characters.
A Tangle of Knots is about a world mostly similar to the real one, except people are either Talented or Fair. The Fair are basically normal people (like Muggles), the Talented possess one special ability (sometimes normal stuff like knitting, sometimes magical stuff like floating).
This book works like a bunch of little mysteries that can only be solved when the characters connections are untangled. What is the Owner looking for? What's so special about Mrs. Asher's hairpin? Will Marigold find her Talent, or is she just Fair? Can Miss Mallory match Cady with her perfect adopted family? Is having a Talent a gift or a curse?
This is definitely a jigsaw puzzle of a book that will keep readers turning the pages to find out how it all fits together. Will they be totally satisfied by the ending? Maybe, maybe not. (view spoiler)[I was a little disappointed that the man in the gray suit remained completely unexplained--was he God or what? (hide spoiler)]. But as a consolation, the books includes lots of delicious-sounding cake recipes to try. Recommended for fans of Savvy, quirky mysteries, magical realism, and (of course) cake.
As for its Newbery chances, I can't see this as a serious contender. Though the plot is interesting and twisty, the setting, themes and characters are given short shrift. This is more a crowd-pleaser than awe-inspiring.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is a beautifully written novel about a girl who loses her parents and is raised by a well-meaning, but prejudiced aunt who is a member of a rightThis is a beautifully written novel about a girl who loses her parents and is raised by a well-meaning, but prejudiced aunt who is a member of a right-wing Christian mega-church. We first meet Cameron Post when she's twelve years old on the day her parents die in an accident. It's also the first day she kisses a girl. The story follows her through her teen years, set against the backdrop of rural Montana in the early 1990s.
Cameron is not exactly a lovable character. After her parents' death she clamps her emotions down, becomes obsessed with watching movies on VHS, develops a bit of a drug and alcohol problem, and enters a series of questionable relationships. But she is a gifted athlete and a good student, so it seems like she's going to make it to college without getting caught committing the "sin" of homosexual behavior. Now, would this be a good story if she skated through? Yeah, I don't think so.
The heart of this novel is the time Cameron spends at a private Christian "rehabilitation" school for gay teenagers. Honestly, who thought putting a bunch of gay teenagers together would discourage them from being who they are? It's at the school that Cameron develops deeper friendships and decides to take control of her life, and really face what happened to her parents. Discussing the effect the school has on Cameron would be a great way to explain irony.
If YA weren't so hot right now, I'm sure this would've been considered an adult novel and not a teen one. What makes a book "teen" as opposed to "literary fiction about being a teenager"? While I was reading TMOCP, I kept thinking of the book Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. If Prep were published this year, would it be considered YA? ...more
I have many, many thoughts about this book and they are all jumbled in my head. That's what this book will do to you. You will feel glad that you readI have many, many thoughts about this book and they are all jumbled in my head. That's what this book will do to you. You will feel glad that you read it, but also very jumbled by the end. So I'll try to straighten my thoughts out:
First, there's the nature of the main character, Oscar. Adult readers will see him as a boy with autism, but many children will not make that connection because readers only know Oscar's perspective, and he's never heard of autism. Certainly many of Oscar's characteristics are exactly what we've come to associate with autism (not looking at people's faces, difficultly reading emotion, one savant-like ability, discomfort with loud noises, love of routine), but this book is fantasy and it takes place in a made-up world, so maybe there's no point in trying to diagnose Oscar in terms of our real world. I can only talk about where this leads with spoilers: (view spoiler)[ The thing to take away is that Oscar feels less "real" than other people and comes to believe that he's not even human. If Oscar had been right, if he had indeed been made out of wood and magic, it would be hurtful (even offensive) for people with autism, because that's like saying they're not "real." So adult readers will probably guess early on that Oscar is not, as he suspects, a wooden boy. (hide spoiler)]
Next, though this is squarely in the fantasy genre, there's not a lot of action or exciting magic in it (partway through this book, I suspected that the twist would be there wasn't actually any real magic at all in Asteri because there's so little of it on the page). The tone is by turns quiet, sad, scary, and suspenseful. I can't help but compare this to Jinx, which is another great addition to the fantasy genre that came out this year. Jinx followed a more familiar path than The Real Boy. It had a more fleshed-out cast of characters overall (think of how much better you know Simon than Caleb). It had a clearer journey and more funny, whimsical bits (there are only brief whiffs of humor in Oscar's life). I think Jinx is the more enjoyable book, but The Real Boy is more out-of-the-box and has more gravitas, which may be why it was long-listed for the NBA and Jinx was not (though that doesn't explain how A Tangle of Knots made the list).
I'm a little stumped about how this would do as a mock Newbery pick. I read for great characters and great language, so I liked The Real Boy, but I think there's something deeply unsettling about it, which keeps me from loving it. I think it's only a cryptic spoiler to say that the end suggests the death of magic. Bummer. Still, you have to respect this book. It's a thinker.
I've read a lot of criticism about how the magic in this book isn't easy to pin down. It doesn't have clear rules. But it’s okay with me that magic can’t really be pinned down. The point is that magic was once useful and good in the hands of wizards, but after the wizards were gone the culture changed and people became addicted to it, and now it’s become a scourge. Can’t you say the same thing about our real-world use of natural resources? Oil was at one time an amazingly useful and great thing, but now it threatens our existence on this planet. The environmental degradation of Aletheia being caused by greed for magic is similar to our real environmental woes caused by greed for energy to fuel the machines on which we are now dependent. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I loved Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow so I eagerly snapped this up when it came to my library. Interestingly, it has the same illustrator, but a diI loved Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow so I eagerly snapped this up when it came to my library. Interestingly, it has the same illustrator, but a different author, and yet the results are right on par. Both books ask readers to puzzle out simple but interesting questions. In Do You Know it was whether something was alive or not. In What Is Part This a variety of things are broken down into two parts and the kids can either guess what the second part is (from the rhymes and illustrations there are ample clues) or in some cases guess which thing is being described from the parts. Here are some examples:
Just like a bee is part BUZZ and part STING, A rap song is part TALK and part SING.
This pretty mermaid is part FISH and part GIRL. What's found in the sea that's part SHELL and part PEARL?
Somewhere between Artemis Fowl and Ella Enchanted lies Rump, a book that is both gross and sweet. Recommended for third and fourth graders who like acSomewhere between Artemis Fowl and Ella Enchanted lies Rump, a book that is both gross and sweet. Recommended for third and fourth graders who like action, humor, and magic.
Overall, I liked this and will happily endorse it for pleasure reading, but it didn't measure up as a mock Newbery pick. The writing was heavy-handed at times. The magic behind the mystery (the mystery behind the magic?) didn't quite add up. It was certainly longer than it needed to be.
This might be a good book club pick for young readers. You could have a great discussion about all the fun fractured fairy tales there are out there. I'm sure kids will enjoy the world Shurtliff creates where your name is your destiny, trolls offer you sludge for dinner, and pixies climb up your pants and bite your rear. Speaking of which, we librarians could have a competition over how many "rump" puns we can fit into a booktalk! The bottom line is that you will enjoy Rump all the way to the end, so go read your tush off! ...more
I really, really didn't like the first few chapters of this. The narrator, Willow Chance, was too obviously and intensely quirky. Also, it bothered meI really, really didn't like the first few chapters of this. The narrator, Willow Chance, was too obviously and intensely quirky. Also, it bothered me that on page 3 she says, "...and all I know for certain, with the sun on our faces and the sweet ice cream holing our attention, is that this is a day that I will never forget." Because how does Willow know, in that moment with the sun on her face and the ice cream in her hand, that she will always remember that day? It didn't make sense to me because it's before she knows her parents were killed. This first chapter is told in present tense and it really annoyed me that the author either made Willow psychically know that the day was going to be unforgettable, or (more likely) goofed. I've re-read the first chapter several times and I find it hard to get over this, but I'd be happy to hear from a reader who thinks it makes sense. The only explanation I can come up with is that Willow thinks in that moment it's a day she'll never forget because she's eating ice cream with her new friend Mai. But that seems pretty dramatic. I'm convinced it's a goof.
Is that nit-picky? I would say yes. Because as the book went on I liked it more and more. Especially when the perspective shifted to close third person with other characters (I needed a break from Willow's robot voice). By the end, I was really rooting for Willow and Mai and Quang-ha and Pattie and Jairo, and even Dell.
A great read-alike for Wonder and Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. I don't think this is a Newbery contender for me because many of the plot elements came off pat and unrealistic, even when they were sweet and rousing. This novel shines in terms of great characters and its aching portrayal of bereavement and rejuvenation. ...more
This is the story of three friends and a doll. The friends are on the verge of putting away childish things and growing up. The doll is possibly posseThis is the story of three friends and a doll. The friends are on the verge of putting away childish things and growing up. The doll is possibly possessed by the ghost of a dead girl.
This was Goosebumps meets a coming-of-age novel. It's a sensitive book wrapped in a scary package. I had a lot of fun booktalking it at schools because many adolescents love a good creepy story. One kid raised his hand and asked, "Do you think the doll is like Chucky's little sister?"
I love this series! It just gets better and better.
I sometimes wish I could edit out the sexual violence parts so that I could recommend these booksI love this series! It just gets better and better.
I sometimes wish I could edit out the sexual violence parts so that I could recommend these books to younger readers. But it's (sadly) realistic that a girl like Jacky would face many threats to her maidenhood. ...more
Annie and her younger brother Rew live with their elderly grandmother in a town called Sunshine. They've dubbed the woods behind their house "Zebra FoAnnie and her younger brother Rew live with their elderly grandmother in a town called Sunshine. They've dubbed the woods behind their house "Zebra Forest" because of its black and white trees, but this book definitely explore issues that are not so black and white. An unexpected visitor arrives at their house via Zebra Forest and turns Annie and Rew's world upside down. The story takes place in the summer of 1980, but the only hint of that is Annie's fascination with the Iran Hostage Crisis. Annie and Rew share a love of Treasure Island, which allows the author to explore themes of judging good guys vs. bad guys. This is a mature story about guilt, forgiveness, and the ties that bind a family together. While there's not a lot of action, there are questions that hang in the air and keep the reader engaged with the plot.
Speaking of the plot, it hinges on one big coincidence ((view spoiler)[a man breaks out of prison and the house he chooses to hide out in happens to be the house where his estranged children are living with their grandmother--believable only because the grandmother chose to live in a house very close to the prison (hide spoiler)], but if you can accept it, then I'd call this a little book (about 200 pages) with a big emotional punch.