Monday, July 31, 2006

Halliday, John. Predictions

Halliday, John. Predicktions. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003 [0-689-84564-2]
Westlake is a dying town. Even the annual carnival is considering not coming back. This is the story of four sixth graders trying to develop friendships and a town hoping to find a way to attract people to the town. Josh was born at the carnival and has his own prediction board (much like a Ouija board) which is always making misspelled predictions so he has to figure out what the board is trying to say. This 183 book is the humorous tale of four kids growing together in 6th grade.

Napoli, Donna Jo. Bound

Napoli, Donna Jo. Bound. Atheneum, 2004 [0-689-86175-3]
It is ancient China and Xing Xing's parents have died so she is bound to her stepmother. They live together in a cave with her step sister, Wei Ping who is suffering through the agony of having her feet bound. The story tells the horrors of what it was like to suffer through having your feet bound to make them small (and beautiful.) Xing Xing does the chores and fetches the water daily for her "family" who treat her like a servant. One day she finds a dress and pair of golden shoes hidden by her mother before shoe died. When Wei Ping and stepmother go off to the festival, Xing Xing puts on the dress and shoes and follows. Of course, by now you realize that is another of Napoli's fairy tale expansions. Just like in Cinderella, Xing Xing rushes home and loses a shoe and the local prince decides to marry whoever the shoe fits. In this 186 page book, like Napoli's others, you get wrapped up in the story before you realize it is a retelling of a fairy tale. China is one of the many cultures that have a Cinderella type story in their folklore. This book is good on many fronts, especially the depiction of what it must have been like to have your feet bound.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fleischman, Sid. The Giant Rat of Sumatra or Pirates Galore

Fleischman, Sid. The Giant Rat of Sumatra or Pirates Galore. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2005 [0-06-074238-0]
It is 1846 and a 12-year-old boy is pulled from the sea by pirates and is nicknamed, Shipwreck. The ship lands on the California coast in what is still Mexico. His pirate captain buys land and sets up his ranch and since the US is at war with Mexico, Shipwreck (from Boston) must hide the fact that he is American. Now Shipwreck is stuck there and gets involved in mutineers, outlaws, old enemies and former friends of the captain. This 194 page book is written in the same adventure and fun spirit as Fleischman's other books. A note at the end of the book explains that this book is the last in a trilogy which started with "By the Great Horn Spoon."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Horowitz, Anthony. Scorpia

Horowitz, Anthony. Scorpia [Alex Rider #5]. Philomel, 2005 [0-399-24151-5]
At the end of the last book, Alex was told his father was affiliated with Scorpia, not MI6. In this book Alex goes in search of Scorpia, an international crime organization. He finds out that his father worked for them and because of how MI6 tricked him before (in previous books), Alex decides to switch sides and become part of Scorpia. He gets entangled in a plot of Scorpia's to pit the USA and Great Britain against each other. Of course, at the end of this 312 page book, Alex once again saves the day and is convinced to go back to MI6. Once again Horowitz had written a great thriller/spy novel with a 14 year-old-boy as the main character.

Crutcher, Chris. The sledding hill

Crutcher, Chris. The Sledding Hill. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2005 [0-06-050243-6]

This book centers around around a troubled boy, Eddie. Recently both his father and his best friend died. The story is narrated by Billy, his best friend who recently died and is looking after Eddie. Sometimes they meet on the sledding hill... hence the title. The trauma of the double death is too much for Eddie so he stops talking. In school a teacher introduces a controversial book which Eddie and other troubled kids really take to. Unfortunately the local minister gets the community riled up to have the book removed from school. This touching 230 page book is about death, friendship, and of course censorship. Initially it bothered me that the book which is introduced and causes a stir, is another book by Crutcher. I thought this was a little self-serving but by the end of the story you can understand why he did it.

Hart, J.V. Capt. Hook.

Hart, J.V. Capt. Hook. HarperCollins, 2005 [0-06-000220-4]
James, the Illegitimate son of a member of Parliament, is enrolled in Eton much to the anger of all the royal children there. He is a loner and has a pet spider. One upper class-man is out to get James. This early part of the book has the feel of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Unfortunately James and an Ottoman Sultana fall in love much to the anger of the Queen of England. He dreams of a place called Neverland. When the Sultana is shipped away from England James and his friend stowaway on the ship. Then this book becomes a sailing story. Life on the ship is harsh and especially evil near the end when James, dubbed Capt. James leads a mutiny on the ship and ends up being voted captain of the ship after he kills the captain of the ship with a hook. While I think this 337 is a complete book, it does leave the possibility for another one. Please not that his book is not a cutsey Peter Pan book. It contains, duels, death, murder, slavery, harsh life on a ship so I would not recommend it to elementary students. This is the author's first book but he has written screen plays one of which was "Hook." The illustrations are done by Brett Helquist of Lemony Snicket fame.

Jenkins, Jerry B. Second chance

Jenkins, Jerry B. and Time LaHayte. Second chance [Left behind #2] Tyndale, 1998 [0-8423-2194-2]
In this second book we continue to follow the same four kids after the rapture. Vicki and Judd go to the airport to pick up his car. Lionel and Ryan both are scared to go inside their own homes so they decide to sleep in a tent. The kids have to deal with looters (who burn down Vicki's trailer) suicide and basic lawlessness. In this 141 page book the characters go to Bruce at the church to find out more about what is expected after The Rapture and the following seven years. Once again, please note that his book is very Christian and may not be appropriate for your library.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Grant, Vicki. The puppet wrangler

Grant, Vicki. The puppet wrangler. Orca, 2004 [1-55143-304-4]
Telly's sister is always getting in trouble so their parents decide to send Telly to spend the summer with her Aunt who is the producer for a children's puppet show. After being accidentally locked in the studio one night Telly discovers that on the puppets is actually alive. She takes the puppet to the Mall and eventually on a wild adventure. The puppet is wild, mad and unpredictable but not evil as the puppet in Magrs' "The good, the bat, and the ugly." This 212 page book is a riot! I actually laughed out loud several times while I was reading it. Grant uses cute footnotes in the book to clarify things which at times I found a little irritating, but overall, I absolutely loved this book! When the book was all over, I wondered a little whether the puppet was really alive or it was all in Telly's imagination.

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. Speak/Penguin, 2001 [0-14-131088-x]
Melinda starts HS as a loner. One reason is that she broke up the end of summer party by calling 911. None of her former friends want to speak to her. At school nothing goes right except in Art class where they teacher tries to get her to express herself. As the story moves on the read finds out that Melinda called 911 because she was raped at the party and she did not stick around to tell the police. The writing by Anderson is wonderful as usual. The reader enters Melinda's head as she tries to face and deal with her situation. At the end of the 197 page book the person who raped her in August assaults her again in June. The initial rape is not described sexually but the reader knows what happened. The description of the assault is June is much more descriptive but is not sexual. This is a powerful, well written book that gets into the mind of a first year HS student. Because of the rape and assault, I would not give it to younger than 7th grade. But that is your call, with your population.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cooney, Caroline B. Tune in anytime

Cooney, Caroline B. Tune in anytime.Laurel-Leaf, 2001 [0-440-22798-4]

Sophie's life is like a soap opera. Her mother is strange.. likes fad things like pyramids and haunted stones (her father calls the mother a pyramidiot.) The father can't take it any more and falls in love with a new woman. Unfortunately is Sophie's sister's room mate at college. Now her father is divorcing her mother for another woman who is only a couple years older than she. Then of course, Sophie falls in love with a boy whose family owns the gravel pit where her mother's latest craze (circle of stones) resides. So much is happening in this 186 page book, it does feel like a soap opera where the reader can "Tune in anytime." It is a fun book but very different than Cooney's usual books.

Horowitz, Anthony. Eagle strike

Horowitz, Anthony. Eagle Strike [Alex Rider #4]. Speak/Penguin, 2004 [0-14-240292-3]

In this fourth book Alex once again gets tangled in a web intrigue. On vacation with a friend's family in France Alex spots the assassin who killed his Uncle. The place where they are staying is blown up so Alex fallows the assassin and gets his cell which helps trace the plot to an international rock star/philanthropist. In this adventure Alex gets mixed up and mastermind criminal and an ultimate video game. At end of this 322 page book Alex gets some clues about his Uncle's death which lead us into the next book. Once again Horowitz has written a story of a young "James Bond" with gadgets, car chases, and a master criminal. This series a very popular with my middle school kids.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Shipton, Paul. Bug Muldoon: The garden of fear

Sphipton, Paul. Bug Muldoon: The garden of fear. Penguin, 2001 [0-14-230242-2]
Bugs Muldoon is a detective beetle in a garden who is hired by the ants to find out what is happening in the garden. This is a fun story with fully developed bug characters and reminded me of the movies "Antz" and "A bugs life." It seems there is a plot by half of the ants to conspire with the wasps to take over the garden. I nearly was going to send this 138 page book over to our elementary school, but it was so fun, I have decided to keep it. After all, middle school kids need silly stuff too (and so do I.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Jenkins, Jerry B. and Tim Lahaye. The vanishings

Jenkins, Jerry B. and Tim Lahaye.The vanishings [Left behind - the kids #1]
Tyndale, 1998 [0-8423-2193-4]
This is book one in the popular adult series written for kids. Please note that this series is a VERY Christian story. The opening of this book traces the rebellious teenage children of four religious families After the reader gets to know these families, people around the world are suddenly called to heaven. Because of the disappearing people, cars and planes crash, building catch on fire and many other disasters happen. In this 146 page book the people left behind begin to realize what has happened and why they were left behind. I purchased this series because I had several requests for it.

Taylor, Mildred D. The land

Taylor, Mildred D. The land. Speak/Penguin, 2001 [0-14-250146-8]
In this prequel to "Roll of thunder" Taylor takes us back to the years just after the Civil War. Paul (a former slave) is the 14 year-old son of a large farm owner. While he is treated well by his father, he is not white and now allowed many of the other privileges is white brothers receive. Taylor uses the language of the day, refusing to "whitewash" history. The language (the use of the "n-word") and story can be harsh. After many struggles with his father, Paul and a black friend of his set out on their own. Paul decides that he wants to own land, hence the books title. This 375 page book is a long and sometimes painful read. It documents the harsh treatments former slaves received at the hands of the white people of the south after they had been freed. This is a must-read for 7th graders and up.