Sunday, January 29, 2006

Butler, Dori Hillestad. Sliding into home.

Butler, Dori Hillestad. Sliding into home. Peachtree, 2003 [1-56145-222-x]
Joelle was a baseball star on her team back home in the big city but when she moves to a small suburban town she finds out girls can only play softball. First she meets with the coach, then the principal, then the President of the Board of Education and finds out that softball is a "comparable" sport to baseball so she could not play on the boy's baseball team. The girls on the softball team thinks that Joelle thinks she is too good to play softball. Then of course she starts to like the coach's son. Finally she contacts some people and decides to set up her own girl's baseball league much to the annoyance of the school and local recreation department. While in the process of setting of the league the School Board decides to let Joelle play baseball. Will she stop setting up the girl's baseball league? This 218 page book is a great read.

Van Leeuwen, Jean. Cabin on Trouble Creek

Van Leeuwen, Jean. Cabin on Trouble Creek. Dial Books, 2004 0-8037-2548-5]
It is summer of 1803 and Daniel and Will are brought to the wilds of Ohio to build a cabin and hold it while the father goes back to Pennsylvania to get the rest of family. Little do Daniel and Will realize that their father would return until almost a year later. They have to finish the cabin as best they could and survive the harsh winter. This 219 page book is a great survival adventure in the frontier.

Oppel, Kenneth. Airborn

Oppel, Kenneth. Airborn. HaperCollins, 2004 [0-06-053180-0]
Oppel has created an incredible alternate reality where dirigibles rule the sky of transportation. Matt is a cabin boy on a very elegant one. The book opens with them finding a lone hot air balloonist mumbling about incredible flying creatures that were not birds. He dies on the ship. On a later cruise the granddaughter of this balloonist appears on the ship as a rich passenger and Matt and she get involved in searching for the incredible "cloud cats." To add more excitement, sky pirates raid the ship. This 355 page book is an incredible read and I can't wait to read the follow-up book. This book is a complete story on its own.

Almond, David. The fire-eaters.

Almond, David. The fire-eaters. Delacote, 2004 [0-385-73170-1]
It is the summer of 1962 and Bobby is walking along a British beach with his mom. They spy an crazy man, entertainer - fire-eater, sword swallower, escape artist,etc. At home they tell his father who remembers this guy from the army. Meanwhile they have a new neighbor who decides to do something about the way kids are beaten at school for punishment and Bobby gets involved in that. Everyone is getting depressed about the missile crisis between the US and Cuba. Near the end of the end of the 218 page book a group of families are sitting on the beach waiting for the missiles to fall at the peak of the missile crisis. As unusual, David Almond writes a thought provoking book. Other than the sub-plot of school beatings, I am not sure it will be a popular book with students. There are a lot of "British-isms" which may confuse some American readers.

Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster boy

Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster boy.Clarion Books, 2004
It is 1905 and Turner's dad is a minster who gets a new church in Maine and they move from Boston. Everything is so different. Everyone in town is concerned about how the minster's boy acts. There is a colony of African Americans squatting on an island off their town. Turner meets Lizzie, a girl from the island. This starts a whole stir as the town finds out. Part of his punishment is to play pump organ for a lonely old lady in town. Will Turner do what the town wants him to do? Will Turner's dad follow along with the town? What will happen to the black community? While this 219 page book starts out slowly, various plots and sub plots keep the reader entwined in the story.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Stewart, Paul & Chris Riddell. The last of the Sky Pirates.

Stewart, Paul & Chris Riddell. The last of the Sky Pirates [Edge Chronicles #5]. David Fickling, 2005
We return to the world of the Edge about 50 years after the last book. Now the academics are driven underground and live the sewers with their huge library. Periodically they choose a group of Knight elect librarians to go out to the Deepwoods and study an aspect of life there to write their thesis. It is a surprise to everyone when Rook was one of the three chosen this time. He and his two other partners take a long journey through many perils involving many interesting characters to reach the Deepwoods where they struggle to survive and write their thesis. While there Rook runs into the last of the Sky Pirates and gets involved in his adventure. This 369 page book is full of adventure, excitement, and interesting creatures as the previous books. It carries on the series while branching out into another story line, thus keeping it fresh.

Sachar, Louis. Small steps

Sachar, Louis. Small Steps. Delacorte, 2005 [0-385-73314-3]
It is two years after "Holes" and Armpit has settled down with a job and saving money.
One day one of his buddies from Green Lake, X-Ray, shows up with an investment opportunity. With Armpit's money X-Ray plans to buy 12 tickets to a hot concert coming to town and make a killing scalping them. Well the plan works out until X-Ray pulls a scam on Armpit so armpit can take someone to the concert. That starts a big mess where Armpit nearly gets arrested but is saved by the pop singer at the concert. Of course they fall in love. Because of the trouble with the ticket scalping at the concert the mayor wants to track down the trouble-makers. What will happen to Armpit and X-Ray? Can the relationship between Armpit and the pop singer outlast the trouble? Although this 257 book is not really a sequel to Holes, it does follow-up on some of the characters

Carmen, Patrick. The Dark Hills divide [Land of Elyon Bk I]

Carmen, Patrick. The Dark Hills divide [Land of Elyon Bk I]. Scholastic, 2005 [0-439-70093-0]
Alexa lives in a world of walled cities with walled roads between them. Every summer she visits Bridewell with her father where she explores the city and the lodge where they stay. One day she finds a way to get outside the wall where she meets a world of creatures which she can understand and befriends them. She finds out from them that some outlaws will invade the city with the help of a spy in the city. When she gets back in the city she tracks down some mysteries and takes her findings to the ruling council still not knowing who the inside spy is. This 250 page book is a mystery, adventure, and fantasy which is a good read. Unfortunately it has a juvenile illustration on the cover which may turn off some kids.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Swallow, Pamela Curtis. It only looks easy

Swallow, Pamela Curtis. It only looks easy. Roaring Brook, 2003 [0-7613-1790-2]
The day before the first day of 7th grade, Kat’s dog is hit by a car driven by a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. With the dog at the vet, she goes to school the next day. She is so upset, she "borrows" someone’s bike at school (leaving a note) and rides to the vet. At the vet someone steals the bike that Kat borrowed. In this heartwarming 168 page book the reader learns how Kat deals with the loss of her repuation, her hurt pet, and a relationship with the woman with Alzheimer’s disease. The readers get wrapped up in the angst of a junior high girl.

Balliett, Blue. Chasing Vermeer

Balliett, Blue. Chasing Vermeer. Scholastic, 2004 [0-439-37294-1]
Petra and Calder have a wonderful teacher who challenges them to think but one day she changes. Her assignments get strange. Petra finds an interesting book in a used book store which leads the two to a fascinating lady in town. Soon we find out that three people in the town have received mysterious letters about Vermeer paintings. Petra and Calder start on an adventure of a thinking exercise and end up getting clues to a mystery about a crime involving one Vermeer painting. This 254 page book starts out making you think then slowly slides into a mystery. It is a very different kind of mystery that I frequently could not put down. The reader ends up becoming familiar on the sly with a painter of which he/she may have never heard. Note: the illustrator, Helquist, also illustrated the Lemony Snicket books.

Myers, Walter Dean. The beast

Myers, Walter Dean. The Beast. Scholastic, 2004 [0-439-36841-3]
Anthony, "Spoon" lives in Harlem but in his Junior year of High School he gets a chance to attend a prep school in Connecticut through a scholarship. When he comes back at Christmas to his family and friends... he looks at Harlem though different eyes. The girl he loves is now using drugs (the beast) and he provides her emotional support. His friends are all getting in trouble.. everything is just different. His dreams and loves of his life in Harlem suddenly change. This 170 page book looks approachable for younger students but it deals with a meaty topic. I would not recommend it below 7th grade.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Krull, Kathleen. Lives of.....[series]

Krull, Kathleen. Lives of.....[series] Harcourt.
I don't usually talk about non-fiction books but this series of collective biographies is presented in a very light, entertaining fashion (with cute, yet not silly) illustrations. They are in a larger format (8.5x10.5) and are under 100 pages. Each biography is only 2-3 pages (enough to whet the appetite.) The selection of people is good: some of the usual, and some of ones that are not so familiar. As far as I can tell there are Lives of Presidents, Atheletes, Artists, Writers, Musicians and Women. I have seen the Musicians and Women.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart

Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart. Scholastic, 2003 [0-439-53164-0]
One night Meggie wakes to find a stranger outside her window staring at her house. When he is invited in by her father, thus starts a fanciful journey. It appears that when her father reads books out loud, he brings the characters to this world. When this happens someone must leave this world and enter the book.. that is what happened to Maggie's mother. Nine years ago her father read a book and brought a bunch of evil characters to this world. Now Meggie, her father, and a friend book collector have to battle these cruel and evil people and send them back to the book some way. This 534 page book is an incredible fantasy. It might be a good "if-you-liked-Harry-Potter" type book. Just note that these are evil and cruel characters who kill and harm people.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Morgan, Clay. The boy who spoke dog.

Morgan, Clay. The boy who spoke dog. Dutton, 2003 [0-525-47159-6]
Jack is shipwrecked and washes up on a deserted island. There was once a sheep farm on the island and the people have left (or died.) The sheep and sheep dogs still live there. To survive, Jack has to befriend the dogs who still guard the sheep. There are also dogs on the island who have gone back to being wild. This is not a cutesy story where a boy speaks in dog talk (so the title is misleading.) In this 165 page book (told by both Jack and one of the dogs, Moxie) Jack learns to communicate with the dogs and they with him. After a long time when someone finally comes to rescue him, will Jack want to leave the island and the dogs. This is a touching tale of survival and friendship between animals and one human.

Lubar, David. Sleeping freshman never lie

Lubar, David. Sleeping freshman never lie. Dutton, 2005 [0-525-47311-4]
It is Scott's first year at High School. He has to put up with all the nonsense of being a lowly freshman while trying to get a hot babe (who he has known since Kindergarten) to notice him. Then.. what about the girl with many piercings and pink died hair? In this 279 page book Lubar has humorously captured the life and feelings of a teenage young man. He is right up there with some of the better Korman works such as "A semester in the life of a garbage bag", "Son of Interflux", and "Twinkie squad." I can't wait for his next book.

Karr, Kathleen. The 7th knot.

Karr, Kathleen. The 7th knot. Marshall Cavendish, 2003 [0-7614-5135-8]
It is the summer of 1896 and troublesome Wick and Miles are taken with their very rich Uncle to purchase paintings in Europe. His uncle brings along an art expert. It isn't long that the two brothers discover the art expert is not just an art expert. All three are wound up an an adventure trying to foil the plans of an evil German society to take over the world. The 148 page book reads like a turn-of-the-century James Bond adventure. While the society in the book is loosely based on a historical society, the society feels very much like the start of the Nazi party before World War II. The only problem I have with the book is that readers may try to connect pre-World War II times with this group which existed before World War I. Besides that, it is a great read.

Karwoski, Gail Langer. Surviving Jamestown

Karwoski, Gail Langer. Surviving Jamestown. Peachtree, 2001 [1-56145-245-9]
This is historical fiction following James Collier who is a page to John Smith. The reader follows the trials and tribulations of the crossing to American, the hardships in the new colony, the clash of classes and personalities, and the shaky relationships with the native Americans. Not only is this 193 page book good story-telling but the reader learns a great deal of the Jamestown settlement and what it must have been like to be a colonist. If you school studies this period, this book is a must.

Buckley, Michael. The fairy-tale detectives

Buckley, Michael. The fairy-tale detectives [The sister's Grimm: bk 1]. Amulet Books, 2005 [0-8109-5925-9]
Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are suddenly orphans and end up living with a grandmother that they always thought was dead. It turns out she lives in a land where all the fairy-tale characters live. Many years ago the Grimm family negotiated with the locals for the fairy tale characters to live there. Prince Charming is the mayor. One day a giant destroys a farmer's house and Sabrina and Daphne accompany their grandmother to solve the case. This 284 page book is a fun adventure while the trio tries to stop the giant and to figure out why he went on a rampage. This is a fun book for kids who know the usual Grimm fairy-tale characters. If they don't, they won' t catch the charm of the book.