Sunday, June 10, 2018

Restart by Gordon Korman

Cover image for RestartChase wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the first 13 years of his life. People tell him that he fell from the roof of his house and hit his head, but he has no memory of that either. When he heals well enough to return to school, he begins to discover that he was a big-shot on campus, star of the football team with a close knit group of friends. He also discovers that he was not a model citizen and did some things that he now regrets. Now he needs to decide if he wants to reclaim his former status, or keep his new friends who are the very nerds he used to persecute.

This was not my favorite of Korman's books, but it was pretty good. It took quite a suspension of belief that someone's personality would change that much because of amnesia.  It was also hard to believe that Chase would forget all the people he knew, but not everything else, like how to do math or play football.  The selective nature of his amnesia was a bit too convenient.  If you can swallow that, then the rest of the book is interesting and thought provoking.  You are cheering for Chase to realize that his old life and friends were really lousy and he should keep his better, albeit more humble, new life.  This one would be an interesting one for a parent/son book club. (2017, 243 p.)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan by Frances 0'Roark Dowell

Cover image for Sam the Man & the chicken plan
Sam wants to earn some money like his sister does, but there are not many jobs for a 7 year old boy.  Finally he finds one tending the neighbor's chickens while she is on vacation.  Sam likes the chickens so much he decides he wants to buy one of his own, one that lays blue eggs.  His parents loan him the money to buy it, but now Sam has to find a way to pay back his parents.  Meanwhile he can hardly wait for his chicken to lay her first egg.  Henry needs a plan to earn money and pass the time before the first egg comes. 

This is my intermediate book of the month. I chose it because the 3rd in the series got a starred review.  It is a cute story with a likable character written in simple language.  I wouldn't call it particularly thrilling, or even funny but it has a good message about perseverance. It is maybe a good choice for a quiet kid who doesn't need a lot of excitement.  (144 p. 2016)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Chinese Emperor's New Clothes by Ying Chang Compestine

Cover image for The Chinese emperor's new clothesEveryone has heard of the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, but it is not true.  The real story is the one found in this cute picture book.  The Emperor is a 9 year old boy who is worried about his people.  His adult advisers are cheating them out of food, money and clothing.  The Emperor knows he cannot confront them openly, so he devises a plan to expose them.  He has his loyal tailors make a set of clothes out of rice sacks, and tells the advisers that only those who are honest can see the beauty of the magical cloth. When the dishonest advisers praise the Emperor's new outfit, the Emperor agrees to have the tailors make clothes for the advisers.  The rest of the story goes as you might expect, with the advisers leaving the empire in shame.  I don't review picture books that often, but this is one I have chosen to do a video book talk on at work this week. It has received several starred reviews. I particularly like the little mouse and cricket that show up in most of the pictures.  It would be a fun one to read together with a child, or a 1-2 grade child could read it on their own. (2017)

The Hero's Guide Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy

Cover image for The hero's guide to storming the castleHere is the second in the Hero's Guide series.  In this one each of the princes are down because the bards have made a popular song about how the robber king robbed them during the celebration party.  They are also all struggling and unsettled with their relationships with the different princesses.  When Liam gets captured by Sleeping Beauty the rest are eager to reunite to try to save him and restore their reputations.

I have several of the newer books on hold right now, so when I needed to fill the gap I turned to the second in this series.  It is very much like the first, but in this one more of the princesses get involved with the adventure. Healy is doing a good job of juggling all the relationships and personalities.  I actually don't know which princess is going to end up with whom. He is also a master of slapstick.  His battle sequences are a bumbling delight. (2013, 479 p.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sunny by Jason Reynolds

Cover image for SunnySunny is fast.  He always wins the mile race. Every. Single. Time.  His big secret is that he doesn't like to run.  His whole life his father has been pressuring him to run, because his mother, who died in childbirth, was a champion runner. What Sunny really likes to do is dance.  Is there any way that he can stay on the team he loves, but not have to run anymore?

This is the third in the Track series by Jason Reynolds.  This one is written in diary form, and has a unique voice character.  Like many early teen boys, Sunny talks and thinks a lot in sound affects.  I listened to the book on CD, and the reader does an amazing job of recreating a 13-year-old boy's colorful and a-linear train of thought. He adds rap beats and a variety of vocalizations with abandon.   The relationship between Sunny and his still-grieving father creates the emotional center of the book, and like the rest in the series, it has a sweet message about family and friendship. (2018, 159 p.)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mr. Lemoncello's Great Library Escape by Chris Grabenstein

Cover image for Mr. Lemoncello's great library raceIn this third tale of Mr. Lemoncello and his loyal board of trustees, Mr. Lemoncello has created a new game for Kyle, Akimi, Sierra, Andrew and their friends.  They must team up in pairs and find little known facts about the five new historical holograms recently created for the Library.  As they start their research, they find out facts that, if true, would ruin the reputation, and maybe the fortune of their beloved Mr. Lemoncello.  Abandoning the game, the friends go on a full out research quest to prove Mr. Lemoncello is innocent.

This book is really just a remix of the second book.  Kyle and their friends learn important lessons about careful research and prove their loyalty to their favorite millionaire.  If kids liked the first two, they will like this one.  Teachers will like it too, because it demonstrates several common research errors.  I really want to do a Lemoncello library type activity at my library this fall.  I will have to start thinking about how to make it cool. (2017, 279 p.)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Cover image for The hero's guide to saving your kingdomGustav, Frederic, Duncan and Liam are the princes in the Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty stories respectively. They all feel like they have been mistreated by the bards who didn't even include their names in their stories, but called them collectively Prince Charming.  Also, none of their relationships with their princesses have turned out "happily ever after." Desperate to save face, they band together to save Ella who has been captured by Rapunzel's witch.  As they pursue their quest to be heroes, they encounter one (often hilarious) obstacle after another.

This is not a new book, but I kept seeing it come up on suggested lists so I decided I needed to read it for myself.  I am so glad I did. It is a total delight.  Each of the princes has a different personality, and their interactions are so funny.  Also, it is refreshing to read a "strong guy" book for once, instead of a "strong girl" book.  I loved all the male bonding and macho bro love.  If you decide to read this one I recommend the recorded book version.  The voice actor is amazing and so funny.  (2012, 438 p.)