Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

Cover image for The creeping shadowThis is the fourth installment of the Lockwood and Co series.  In this one Lucy has left the agency because of the premonition she received at the end of book 3.  She is successful as an independent agent, but her life is empty and her only friend is The Skull. When Lockwood comes to her door begging her to come back and help them with "just one case" he doesn't have to twist her arm very hard.  Their case is a request by Penelope Fittes herself to tackle the ghost of a famous cannibal.  That case leads to another, and soon they are battling the biggest and scariest phenomenon they have ever faced.

This story does not disappoint Lockwood and Co fans at all. All the main characters develop in their relationships with each other, and readers get few more hints at the ultimate cause of "The Problem."  Stroud is a master at crafting both characters and plots, balancing intensity and humor so that readers are biting their nails one minute, and laughing out loud the next.  I can hardly wait for the next one to come out (probably in the fall.) (445 p.)


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Snow White by Matt Phelan

Cover image for Snow WhiteThis graphic novel got a lot of attention last year during Mock Caldecotts.  It is a retelling of the story of Snow White set during the depression.  It has very few words--I read the whole thing in about 1/2 hr, but the art work is stunning. Snow is the daughter of wealthy stock market investor. After her mother dies, her father marries a glitzy Broadway star. Then the stock market fails and Snow's family is left penniless. Snow's step mother disposes of her husband by means of a poisoned drink and then sends Snow off to boarding school.  When Snow graduates and returns home, her step mother is jealous of her beauty and hires a stage hand to kill her.  He can't bring himself to do it, and urges her to flee.  Snow is befriended by a group of street kids but they are unable to protect her from her jealous stepmother.  When they find her unconscious body, the put her in a sparkly department store window display out of respect for her kindness to them.  She is discovered by a police man, officer Prince, who revives her.  It is all very clever and works quite well.  Phelan's illustrations are primarily black and white, but capture the time period and drama of the story perfectly. This book is a little dark, and isn't really appropriate for small children, but for older kids up to adult, it is well worth the read. (216 p.)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke

Cover image for Zita the spacegirl. Book 1, Far from homeZita and her friend, Joseph are playing in the forest when they find a newly formed impact crater.  At the bottom they find a shiny red devise.  Joseph warns Zita not to push the button on it, but she does and as a result Joseph gets sucked into another world.  Zita decides to go after him and finds herself on a world full of creatures of all shapes and sizes.  The only other human she meets is the mysterious Piper and he agrees to help her find her friend, but can he be trusted?

This is another graphic novel series that is popular for lovers of action adventure science fiction.  Zita is a solid character and she meets several endearing side kicks along the way. The color illustrations are great and the whole story is imaginative and entertaining.  This is the first of a three book series. (182 p.)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor

Cover image for All rise for the Honorable Perry T. CookPerry was born at the Blue River minimum security correctional facility when his mother was still a teenager.  He was allowed to live at the facility because the warden was his official foster parent.  Then, one day a new district attorney discovers that he has been living at the facility and goes on a crusade to try to "free" him.  Perry loves being able to live with his mother, and has close friends among both the staff and the residents of the facility, so he is not happy when he gets yanked away. He is a good boy, and, with the help of some friends, works through legitimate channels to try to find a way to be reunited with his mother again.

Here is another book about a nice boy trying to work through a difficult problem.  It had a similar feeling to the one I just read, The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones. In that book, the reader comes to sympathize with residents of a nursing home, and in this the reader comes to see the prison inmates in a new light.  In the book Perry does an oral history project where he collects the stories of some of the inmates. Some of the inmates received really long sentences for just momentary lapses in judgement.  It makes me wonder how true-to-life the stories are.  I kind of wish there was an afterward that said that the stories of the inmates were based on real cases and sentences.  The inmates, Perry, his friend Zoey and Perry's foster parents all have well developed and interesting personalities. Although this book is well written and got good reviews, I am not sure if many kids would pick it up on their own.  It is one librarians will have to promote or I am afraid it won't circulate much. The Mother/Son book club  at our library will be doing this book in the fall.  (381 p)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Into the Lion's Den: a Devlin Quick Mystery by Linda Fairstein

Cover image for Into the lion's denDevlin Quick is the daughter of the NYC police commissioner.  She, like her mother, has a nose for crime solving, so when a  friend believes she has seen a page cut out of a valuable book in the NYC Public Library, Devlin is on the case.

This is the first in a new child detective series.  I liked it okay but I didn't love it.  Devlin is a strong girl character, but I didn't like how she was cavalier about rules.  She seems pretty a-moral, and her friends have to keep reminding her that breaking the rules really isn't OK. What's more, her mother, the Police Commissioner, who you would think would be uber-strict about such things, was actually rather permissive. After Devlin totally disobeys her mother, and almost gets herself killed, her mother just beams with pride at her brave little daughter. I could see how kids might like it.  Devlin gets to do all kinds of cool things, and never gets in trouble, so in that way it is a wish fulfillment story.  Still, I don't imagine I will bother reading any more in the series. (312 p.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

Cover image for The secret life of Lincoln JonesLincoln and his mother escaped an abusive situation and have started a new life in a new town. Lincoln's mother has a job as a caregiver at a nursing home, and every day after school Lincoln goes to Brookside and spends his afternoons with his mother and the residents. The home cares for Alzheimer's patients, and things can get pretty crazy sometimes, but Lincoln admires how his mother and the other caregivers take care of the "oldies".  Life is more complicated at school.  Lincoln is so afraid that the other kids will find out where he spends his afternoons, that he keeps to himself and spends all his free time writing stories in his notebooks.  Then Candy shows up, noses her way into Lincoln's life, and everything changes.

I really like Van Draanen.  I think I would be willing to read about anything she wrote.  Lincoln is one of the nicest kids in recent literature.  He isn't perfect, or goody goody, but he is just a nice boy who is making his way through a rough situation.  Van Draanen's descriptions of the residents of the home is sometimes humorous, but always sympathetic. Interestingly, she often parallel's the resident's behavior with the behavior of the kids at Lincoln's school.  This is a great read, and I wish it had received more national attention.  261 p.(maybe the cover is partially to blame.)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hilo #3: The Great Big Boom by Judd Winik

Cover image for The great big boomSo here is number three in the Hilo series.  I looked back at my review records, all three in the series have received starred review, which is rare for comic books.  They really are a delight.  In this one Hilo and DJ must find a way to figure out where Gina was taken at the end of book 2.  They find her on the home world of their new friend, Polly, the warrior cat.  Polly's clan is in trouble and Hilo and DJ stay to help bring peace to their world. In the process, DJ learns more about friendship, and Hilo learns more about his past. (193 p)