Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina by Martin Powell and Sarah Horne

Cover image for Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina : the graphic novelThis is a short graphic novel retelling of the classic story of Thumbelina.  All the elements are here, the frog, the mouse, the mole.  The author does add a little at the end that isn't in the original story.  The text is sparse, and both author and illustrator touch on merely the main points of the story.  I guess the book is fine as far as it goes, but there are so many better versions of the story out there with lyric text and lovely illustrations.  Powell has some thought/discussion questions in the back and suggested writing prompts.  I am guessing this book is intended to be used in a classroom setting and it would actually work fine for a one day literacy activity. I picked it up because I thought it was a new publication, but it turns out that it has been around for a while. (2010, 32 p.)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Case in Any Case by Ulf Nilsson

Cover image for A case in any case
This is the third in the Detective Gordon series.  In this one Detective Gordon is on vacation, and Buffy is minding the police station.  One night something comes scrabbling outside the police station.  Buffy is so worried she decides it is time to go and get Detective Gordon.  No sooner does he return, than two children go missing.  Detective Gordon and Buffy must work together to solve the mystery, but will Buffy ever discover who the mysterious scrabbler is?

This is a charming intermediate that feels a lot like the old Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel.  There isn't really anything that is scary and no real villain. All the characters are nice and good and the conflict comes from small mistakes the characters make. It has simple color illustrations every couple of pages. This would be a great choice for a child that was an advanced reader at a young age or for a visiting grandparent to read aloud over a couple of evenings. (2017, 95 p.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sci-Fu Book 1: Kick it Off by Yehudi Mercado

Cover image for Sci-fu. Book 1, Kick it offWax is a DJ who lives in New York in the 1980's.  When they are not spinning the discs, Wax and his friend Cooky are scooping ice cream at their uncle's ice cream truck.  One day their whole apartment building is scooped away into another world.  Wax becomes a Sci-Fu master and must face the 5 deadly dangers in order to return his family to Earth.  As he goes through training to sharpen his Sci-Fu powers, he begins to turn into a robot and to lose track of what is most important.

I have been in charge of ordering graphic novels for my library for about a year now.  On this blog I have written about 42 of them.  With all that practice, I thought I was getting better with my graphic novel literacy, but this one was difficult for me to read.  I had a hard time following the action of the illustrations, and I didn't understand a lot of the cultural references to the DJ and rap culture. Near the end I was starting to do better.  I am sure that kids and adults who are part of the inner city music culture will enjoy this book just like I enjoyed Real Friends by Shannon Hale because it reflected my childhood culture.  Even though this book has got starred reviews nationally, I doubt if it will be very popular with my patrons.  (2018,144 p.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud

Cover image for The empty graveThis is the fifth and (probably) the last in the Lockwood and Co series.  In this one Anthony, Holly, Lucy, George and Kips are ready and poised to find the real cause of "the problem."  There are no lengths they will not take, nor any place they will not go to find out the truth.  Their courage is not without cost.  They are facing powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets.

I can't really write any better summary without giving away spoilers.  Suffice it to say that this was a fitting and satisfying end to the series.  It seems that Stroud decides to give each of his characters their time in the limelight.  Kips, Holly, George, Lockwood and Lucy each get their moment to shine, and even Inspector Barns, Flo Bones, and the Skull do their bit.  Stroud is such an amazing plotter, and also does such a good job of building suspense. But most of all, we love his characters, and this book shows how much he cared about each one as well. If you haven't read this series yet, do yourself a favor and pick up book one. (2017,437 p.)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller

Cover image for Elizabeth and ZenobiaAfter her mother runs away with an opera star, Elizabeth and her father go to live in her father's childhood home.  Elizabeth brings along her closest friend, Zenobia, that no one else can see or hear.  Zenobia is the opposite of Elizabeth.  She is brave and strong with a affinity for the macabre. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is afraid of everything and likes flowers and sunny rooms.  In their new home Zenobia is determined to meet the ghost, or "spectral presence," she is sure lives in the house.  At first Elizabeth  follows along reluctantly, but as the two girls seek for the ghost, Elizabeth gradually learns more about her family's clouded past.

I didn't really like this book at first.  My regular readers will know that I am not fond of the whole "imaginary friend" thing. Even aside from that, I didn't feel sympathetic to either brash Zenobia, or whimpy Elizabeth. But as the story progressed, Elizabeth gets a little more spunky, Zenobia becomes a little less grating and I got caught up in the plot with its ghoulish implications.  All in all, this is a decent horror offering for a middle grade reader.  It isn't as intense as Coraline, but it delivers enough spookiness and suspense that the chill seeker will be satisfied. (2017, 202 p.)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Aspergers on the Inside by Michelle Vines

Cover image for Asperger's on the insideThis is a memoir of a woman who is a "Aspie," a person with aspergers, or high functioning autism.  In some chapters she narrates scenes from her life with commentary, and in other chapters she answers common questions about what it is like to be an Aspie.  I checked out the book because I associate with a couple of people on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum on a regular basis and I was hoping it would give me insight into how a "Aspie" thinks.  It did give me some good insight and it was mostly enjoyable to read.  I must admit I didn't finish the book.  I stopped reading about 50 pages from the end.  There were two reasons for this.  One, the book was due back at the library and I didn't really want to renew it, and two,  near the end she started to come over a little bit whiny.  Her attitude is, I am a great person, and my asperger's traits are positive, rather than negative.  This is a good and healthy view for her to take, but as the book progressed she spent a lot of time wondering why others couldn't accept her as she was, and why she had a hard time building long term relationships.  I probably should have finished it, but I felt that after 250 pages I got a good and sufficient dose of her life experience and insight. (299 p. 2016)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix & Sean Williams

Cover image for Have sword, will travelOdo, a gentle-giant son of a miller, and Eleanor, a feisty daughter of a female knight, have long been friends. One day Odo finds an enchanted sword in the dried up river.  He reluctantly takes on the title of "knight," and with a much more eager Eleanor as he squire, undertakes a quest to find out why the river has stopped running. Under the tutelage of the old--and slightly forgetful--sword, they have many adventures and find their true destiny.

This is a entertaining new romp by one of my favorite authors.  Although it is not connected to his other recent book, Frogkisser, it has a similar tone and story line. Both are about young people who are given an unexpected magical gift, and must use it to save their people.  I will be happy to recommend both of these to kids who like The Frog Princess series by E.D. Baker. They all have a similar tongue-in-cheek type humor, and have fun with well known high fantasy tropes. (2017, 274 p.)