Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Kadohata, Cynthia. Kira-Kira

Kadohata, Cynthina. Kira-Kira. Atheneum, 2004 [0-689-85639-3]It is a the last 1950s and a Japanese-American family is struggling to survive in Georgia. The two parents work in a chicken processing plant. The older girl in the family gets ill about a third of the way through this 243 page book and begins to slowly die. This is the story of a family hanging together, dealing with an ill child and eventually her death. It is a touching story told with warm language. [This is the 2005 Newbery Medal winner]

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Crum, Shutta. Spitting image

Crum, Shutta. Spitting image. Clarion, 2003 [0-618-23477-2]
It is summer in a small town in Kentucky in the late 1960s and Jessie is about to learn about life. She lives with her mom and doesn't know anything about her father. Her colorful grandmother visits although they don't get along very well. The whole summer changes when a volunteer shows up in the county to help the President with his war on poverty. She asks Jessie to be her guide. The volunteer succeeds in getting most everyone angry with her. Jessie tries to discover who her father is... and both the reader and Jessie are surprised at the circumstances of her birth and who her father is. Jessie does a lot of growing up in this 218 page book centered on a small Kentucky town described beautifully by the author.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Mikaelsen, Ben. Countdown

Mikaelsen, Ben. Countdown. Hyperion, 1996 [0-7868-1208-7]
Two parallel stories meet at the end of this 246 page book. One is of Elliot, a student chosen to fly on the Shuttle. The other is of Vincent, a Massai herder who is struggling with an internal conflict of the old ways and the ways he learns from the school and hospital near his village. Near the end of the story the Massai boy is at the school and hears a Ham Radio message from the boy on the shuttle. The two fourteen-year-olds defend their own cultures and way of lives and argue in a way which gets the whole world interested. Along the way, the reader learns much about astronautics and the Massai way of life. It is a great discussion starter about the values of various cultures.

Torrey, Michele. To the edge of the world

Torrey, Michele. To the edge of the world. Knopf, 2003 [0-375-92338-1]
After the death of his parents, 14-year-old Mateo becomes cabin boy to Magellan on his trip around the world. The reader experiences the mutinies, and the many hardships and horrors of this dreadful three and a half year-long journey. There are historical notes and a bibliography at the end of this 219 page story. The book is a good way for students to experience and try to understand this epic journey of achievement.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Ibbotson, Eva. The secret of Platform 13

Ibbotson, Eva. The secret of Platform 13. Dutton, 1998 [0-525-45929-4]
There is a portal on platform 13 in London which opens up to magical land. It only opens every 9 years for 9 days. The books opens with a sitter bringing the magical land's prince as a baby through the portal and he is kidnapped! The land has to wait the nine years to go get the prince. The 9 years pass and two groups are sent through the portal to get the child. When they arrive at the house there is some confusion about the two children living there. There is much adventure and action trying to get the correct child back before the portal closes again. This 231 page book is a fun fantasy/adventure book. You should note that Ibbotson is British and there are plenty of "Britishisms" in the book. I purchased this book because of the reference in the title to a similar platform in Harry Potter.

Koja, Kathe. Buddha boy

Koja, Kathe. Buddha boy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003 [0-374-30998-1]
Jim is fine at school, hovering socially somewhere between several social groups until he is assigned to work on a project with Jinsen, better known as "Buddha Boy." Jinsen is an artistically talented boy who lives alone with his elderly aunt. As Jinsen's ability starts to become more evident, the jocks choose him as a target.. and Jim get in the middle of the whole thing. This 117 page book is the story of a misunderstood young man and an average boy who are thrown together and become friends. Of course the conflict between the jocks and Jinsen reaches a climax at the end of the story. This would be a good high interest book since it takes place in a High School.

Colfer, Eoin. The wish list

Colfer, Eoin. The wish list. Scholastic, 2000 [0-439-44336-9]
Meg, a troublemaker, is convinced by her friend, Belch, to break into a senior citizen's home. The robbery is foiled and when they are runnign away a gas tank explodes and they both die. Traveling down the tunnel of light Belch is sent downward at the fork but there is a problem with Meg. It seems her bad deeds equal her good deeds so they don't know where to send her. Finally it is decided to send her spirit up to Earth on borrowed time to try and gain some "good points" by helping the senior citizen at the robbery. The man downstairs doesn't want to lose her so he sends up a pair to foil her attempts. Meg attempts to help the older man fulfill his wish list before he dies. This 252 page adventure is a humorous (although dark at times) story in which a friendship grows between the senior citizen and Meg. Colfer pokes some fun at both Lucifer and St. Peter.. that along with the whole heaven/hell thing could make the book objectionable in a religious community. I found it to be an adventure with (believe it or not) and Artemis Fowl feel. Lucifer and some fun, malfunctioning technology.. more advanced than St. Peter.

Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia. Hawksong

Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia. Hawksong [The Kiesha'Ra #1]. Laurel-Leaf, 2003 [0-440-23803-x]
This book is the start of a tale about two groups of shape shifters (Avian and Serpentine) who are constantly at war with each other. Both sides realize that their royal families and armies are being killed off but do not trust each other until... Danica becomes queen of the Avians. She decides that the only way to stop the wars is to marry Zane, the young king of the serpentines. Of course neither side likes this. It is a marriage of convenience and these new rulers don't really trust each other either but they realize that they must make the marriage work for the good of the peace. But.. who is trying to assassinate them? (In case you are wondering... these shape shifters spend most of their time in their human forms.) This 243 page book will have a larger audience then her previous vampire books. I hope it is a limited and defined series, not one that goes on forever.

Snicket, Lemony. The Grim Grotto (#11)

Snicket, Lemony. The Grim Grotto [A series of unfortunate events #11]. HarperCollins, 2004 [0-06-441014-5]
Well.. as the Baudelaire orphans are floating down Stricken Stream away from Count Olaf they come upon a submarine being driven by Captain Widdershins. He has been looking for them and offers to take them to find the last sugar bowl which they establish is at the Green Grotto. Of course once there they run into problems along with Count Olaf. I don't know whether I am getting tired of this series or not, but this 323 page book seems to have more of the usual silly explanations and sidetracks than the previous 10 books. Nevertheless, the kids flock to this series.

Stewart, Paul & C. Riddell. Midnight over Sanctaphrax (Edge Chronicles)

Stewart, Paul & Chris Riddell._ Midnight over Sanctaphrax [The Edge Chronicles #3]. David Fickling, 2004 [0-385-75072-2]
Book three of this series starts out with Captain Twig sailing over the edge and into the vortex of the Mother storm to locate his father. He finds his father just before the the storm destroys his ship and sends his eight crew members flying all to various places on the Edge. Twig lands in a daze and is taken to Sanctaphrax where he is nursed to health and finally goes out on a long adventure to locate his crew. Will he and his new friend find all his crew? Will they come back to Sanctaphrax to save The Edge? In this third book of 362 pages the reader returns to this fantastical world and all its spectacular creatures. So far each book in the series is a complete story, yet leads you on to the next one. NOTE: If you already have this book, check the page order. The first edition had some page problems (I noticed it between page 226 and 229.) The publisher is aware of it.

Colfer, Eoin. The Supernaturalists

Colfer, Eoin. The Supernaturalists. Hyperion, 2004 [0-7868-5148-1]
It is the future and Cosmo Hill breaks out of an orphanage (where they test products on residents) and ends up with a group of renegades. This group (along with Cosmo) have a special ability to see creatures they call parasites. These parasites, invisible to most, appear to be sucking the life out of wounded or ill people. This group who call themselves the Supernaturalist are out to kill as many of these parasites as they can to save Satellite City..but are they doing more harm than good. At the end of this 267 page book they get involved with forces with which they thought they would never be aligned. As in Artemis Fowl, Colfer once again weaves a marvelous world that kids will love with powerful corporations, lawyers, and insurance people. There is a hint of a possible following book at the end.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Farmer, Nancy. The house of the Scorpion

Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. Simon Pulse, 2002 [0-689-85223-1]
Matt lives in a future country which lies between the US and Mexico. He is a clone of a rich 140-year-old ruler who can afford to "raise" clones for replacement parts. The country is a major opium provider which is harvested by "eejets" who have had computer chips placed in their brains to become worker drones. Matt escapes the country and ends up in an orphanage run by cruel Keepers (a kind of Oliver Twist story.) This 380 page book wraps up a little too tight but I highly recommend it. It is very thought-provoking and can lead to discussions of raising clones for body parts, technology abusing people, and an unwatched environment.

Townley, Roderick. The great good thing

Townley, Roderick. The great good thing. Atheneum, 2001 [0-689-84324-0]
WOW what a great idea for a book! Here we have the characters of a book living the story and having to scramble to the correct spot every time a reader opens the book. Then they have to deal with being forgotten and their world collapsing as the last copy of the book sits on the shelf forgotten. What can they do to save the characters and their world? I have a strong feeling I will be purchasing more copies of this interesting twist on "A never ending story." It makes you want to promote books that are sitting on the shelf and not being read.

Hirsch, Odo. Bartlett and the ice voyage

Hirsch, Odo. Bartlett and the ice voyage. Bloomsbury, 2003 [1-58234-797-2]
In this entertaining story, a queen who rules several kingdoms is used to getting anything she wants. She has heard tales of the very perishable melidrop and wants to taste one. Unfortunately it only grows across the sea and it spoils one or two days after it is picked. Many people try to bring her one but no one can until someone suggests the famous explorer Barlett. He finally figures out how to possibly get one to her, but will she be patient enough. This 168 page book is a fun read.

Spinelli, Jerry. Loser

Spinelli, Jerry. Loser. HarperTrophy, 2002. [0-06-054074-5]
Donald was excited on his first day of school in first grade. His enthusiasm for school continues through fifth grade in the book. He loves to laugh, is clumsy, and loves words and word play. Most of the kids at school call him a loser, but his family always supports him in whatever he does. In this 218 page book Jerry Spinelli really gets into the head of Donald. The reader experiences the joy, excitement, and disappointment so growing up. This is a fun book to read about a strange kid who get undivided support from his family.

Mikaelsen, Ben. Rescue Josh McGuire

Mikaelsen, Ben. Rescue Josh McGuire. Hyperion, 1991 [1-56282-523-2]
Josh and his father are out hunting when his father shoots a mother bear. Josh decides to rescue the cub. He brings it home and finds out that animal rescue people give such cubs to animal experimentation places. Sooooooo.. Josh runs away with the bear leaving a note saying he won't come back unless he can keep the cub and the state outlaws spring hunting of bears. The night he runs away a huge storm hits the mountains. The story hits the wires and the national media shows up. This starts a survival, adventure that only Mikaelsen can write. The reader follows the rescue team of the police, Josh's dysfunctional family, and Josh's survival with his bear cub. This 265 page book is a GREAT survival adventure story.