Saturday, November 18, 2017

Countdown to the Mock Newbery

Our Library is having a Mock Newbery activity in February.  This week we finalized our reading list for the event.  The list was assembled by the head of the Children's Department. She made a spread sheet to determine what would go on the list.  Books got one point for each starred review, plus points if they are nominated for other awards, like the National Book Award.  Then they got a point if they were features on "Heavy Medal" the SLJ Newbery blog, recommended by the library director, or if they were one of the favorites of the lady who was making the list.  The top 15 scores were put on the list.  From what I have seen it is a pretty good list.  These really are the books everyone is talking about.  There is only one book I would add, Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley, which just got it's 5th starred review.

Here is the List
Alexander, Kwame                    Out of Wonder
Applegate, Katherine                 Wishtree
Bradley, Kimberley                    The War I Finally Won
Grimes, Nikki                            One Last Word
Harris, Chris                              I'm Just No Good at Rhyming
Heiligman, Deborah                    Vincent and Theo
Kelly, Erin Entrada                      Hello, Universe
King, A.S.                                  Me and Marvin Gardens
Ruby, Laura                               The Shadow Cipher (York #1)
Schlitz, Laura Amy                      Princess Cora and the Crocodile
Sheinkin, Steve                          Undefeated
Snyder, Laurel                            Orphan Island
Spinelli, Jerry                             The Warden's Daughter
Williams-Garcia, Rita                  Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
Wolk, Lauren                             Beyond the Bright Sea

If you are an avid reader of my blog, you will know that I have already read and blogged many of these.  I am going to try to read the rest before February.

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner

Cover image for The big bad foxA scrawny fox keeps trying to steel a hen from the hen house.  When he keeps failing, his friend, the wolf, convinces him to take some eggs, hatch them, the then fatten them up.  They plan to eat them when they get big enough.  When the eggs hatch, the three chicks think the fox is their mother.  Gradually the fox gets attached to the chicks, and finds himself protecting them from the wolf.

This is a cute graphic novel that shows that families can come in many shapes.  The fox's transformation from predator to parent is gradual, and at times pretty funny.  I admired the author's courage to be subtle.  He trusted that the reader would get that the Fox was getting attached to the chicks, without showing the attachment too soon.   This is a great choice for either boys or girls and both younger and older grade school ages. (2017, 187 p.)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Slider by Pete Hautman

Cover image for SliderDavid has an older sister who is a straight A student, and a younger brother who has sever autism.  He feels like he isn't good at anything, except competitive eating.  He can down a whole pizza in three minutes.  He follows other competitive eaters' careers, and when a memento from a famous hot dog eating competition comes available on a online auction website, he borrows his mother's credit card to bid on it.  He accidentally bids more than he planned, and decides to enter a major eating competition to earn money so he can pay back his mother.

This is another on my starred reviews list.  It got stars because David's relationship with his autistic brother is very sweet.  He is the only one in his family that really pays attention to his brother and figures out what he needs.  That part of the book I enjoyed.  The descriptions of the competitive eating, and David's training to expand his stomach and shove pizza down his mouth as fast as he can, was hard for me to read.  I am someone who is really sensitive about healthy eating and all of that I found rather revolting.  I could see how a 5th grade boy might be fascinated by it, and I will probably recommend the book to that demographic. (2017, 272 p.)

This past week I was listening to this and The Class Town Game, and I didn't really like either of them very much.  I was glad to move on to Threads of Blue, which I enjoyed better.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Cover image for All's faire in middle schoolHere is another Victoria Jamieson graphic novel.  In this one a girl who has been home schooled goes to middle school for the first time.  Her family works at a medieval festival every summer, and are totally in to it.  When Imogene is faced with middle school peer pressure, she has to decide between doing what she loves with her family, and fitting in with the popular crowd at school.

Does this sound like a familiar plot line to you?  Of course.  There isn't really much that is original here.  Still, it was a decent graphic novel.  It is well drawn, and the behind the scenes workings of the Medieval Faire are kind of interesting.  Kids who liked all the similar girl realistic fiction graphic novels, like Smile, Roller Girl, or Real Friends, will like this one. (2017, 241 p.)

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Glass Town Game by Catherine Valente

Cover image for The Glass Town gameWhat if children's pretend games came alive?  In this thickly layered and deeply imaginative story the remaining children in the Bronte family, Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell, have developed a very complicated and ongoing pretend game in their Yorkshire home. When it is time for the older girls to go to a dismal boarding school, the children find that they have the opportunity to take a magic train to visit the world they have created. They seize at the chance, but soon find that their pretend wars and battles are much more frightening when they are real.

This book has received a bunch of good reviews but it was a bit much for me.  It was to dense, and too long.  There were some sparkling moments.  I especially liked when the girls were at the ball trying to convince The Duke of Wellington, and Lord Byron to help them.  But most of the book was a bit of a slog for me.  In fact, when I turned my play back speed to 1.4 I actually enjoyed the book more, even though it made the reader sound like she were on a java trip. I was trying to decide to whom I would give this book.  I would probably recommend it to an adult who was an avid reader, liked the Bronte sisters,  and loved Alice in Wonderland. (2017, 535 p.)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Philip Stead and Mark Twain

Cover image for The purloining of Prince OleomargarineThe origin of this book is more interesting than its story.  Mark Twain mentioned in one of his journals that his kid's would always bug him to tell a story before they went to bed.  Once when the family was in Paris, the story Twain told was so good he wrote some notes about it so that he could write it up later.  Recently some Twain scholars found the notes, but they were pretty sketchy and incomplete.  They contracted Philip Stead to fill in and complete the story and Erin Stead to do the illustrations.

The story itself is pretty random.  It reminds me of the stories my husband used to make up for my kids.  Johnny lives with an overbearing father. When he father asks him to go to town and sell his pet chicken for some food, Johnny starts on an adventure that includes magic beans, talking animals, and a spoiled rotten prince.  The book is illustrated with colored pictures throughout.  I wasn't thrilled with the audio recording.  It was full cast, but the producers were not 100% consistent with which actors where reading which parts.  It was fairly distracting.  This book got several starred reviews, but I think it is because of where it came from instead of its actual content. (2017, 151 p.)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Dragon's Guide to Making Your Human Smarter by Lawrence Yep

Cover image for A dragon's guide to making your human smarterIn this second in the "Dragon's Guide" series. In this one Winnie is about to start school in the Sprigg's Academy for both magical and non-magical people.  She is nervous, but under Miss Drake's watchful eye, she makes friends and discovers that the power of intellect and cleverness is its own kind of magic. 

This is a cute series for kids who like Cowell's How to Train Your Dragon series, or Mylnowsky's Whatever After series.  There is an element of wish fulfillment in it.  Who wouldn't like to take science from Sir Isaac Newton, or have a chat with the Lock Ness Monster.? It is pretty light and would be appropriate for advanced younger readers. It is interesting to me that Yep would write such a series so late in his career when his earlier stuff was rather serious.  (2016, 294 p.)