Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Isn't it amazing when an author hits a home run the first time they come up to bat.  Gail Carson Levine did it with Ella Enchanted, Kate diCamillo did it with Because of Winn Dixie, and Palacio does it here with Wonder.

August is a boy with a major deformity of his face.  He has never attended school, mostly because he had been in and out of the hospital since he was born, having undergone more than two dozen reconstructive surgeries. Finally, at age 11, he is strong enough to try school.  At first he is very nervous.  His face is so misshapen that is sometimes scares people.  His class mates at school do not know what to think of him and are afraid to even touch him.  But a few of the children reach out to Auggie, and over the school year his courage inspires admiration and friendship from his peers.  This book is so well written.  The characters seem completely authentic and the boy, Auggie, and his family are so likable   The story doesn't candy coat things.  It shows how painful it can be to be "not normal" and how people can be cruel both intentionally and unintentionally. Although the book is honest, it is not a big downer.  The overall tone is upbeat and the author portrays those kids who are willing to overlook Auggie's disfigurement as real heroes.  There is a lot of talk around my library that this as a strong contender for this year's Newbery. I hope so.  I would love it if every kid in the country would read this book. (315 p)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Cornelia Funke is a German author who became internationally known for her first book The Thief Lord. Since then she has written several fantasy novels and a couple of picture books that have done very well.  With this book she has clearly moved into the teen genre. This is darker and edgier than any of her other books I have read.  Jacob Reckless' father disappeared when Jacob was just a boy.  When Jacob was a pre-teen he discovered that a mirror in his father's office leads to another world.  When the main action of the story starts, Jacob has been moving between the two worlds for several years, sometimes living in the real world, but in many ways preferring the mirror world. The mirror world holds the fairy tale stories and legends from this world, but they don't necessarily have happy endings.  Jacob works as a treasure finder, recovering glass slippers, Rapunzel hair, and other magical items for wealthy customers. One day Jacob's little brother follows him into the mirror world, and is poisoned by an evil fairy.  The throughout the rest of the book Jacob tries to discover a way to keep his brother from turning into a stone creature because of the fairy's poison. Jacob has a girl friend who can shape shift into a fox. Jacob's brother, Will, also has a girl friend who follows him into the mirror world.  The relationships between the four main characters are complicated and interesting. The politics of the mirror world are also interesting, and readers will recognize repeated references to twisted fairy tales.  One reason the book is not really appropriate for grade school age children is that there are several references to Jacob's affairs with several female characters, but it is all on the level of innuendo. Overall it wasn't a bad fantasy read, but I liked some of Funke's other books better. (394 p) 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffery Brown

I was looking through the new book cart today, and came across a delightful bit of humor. What if Darth Vader had known about Luke as a child and had decided to try to be a good dad.  This answer is in the form of a short comic/picture book.  Each page is a snap shot from an alternate Star Wars reality, where Vader is interacting with the 4 year old Luke.  This sideways look at Star Wars is so funny it made me laugh out loud more than once.  Brown manages to weave in quotes from all the Star Wars movies, but puts them in a new parental setting.  For example, little Luke is trick or treating, dressed as a storm trooper,  and the lady at the door says, "Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?"  On other pages Brown just takes typical scenes from fatherhood, and translates them into a Star Wars groove. On one page, the little Luke is asleep in his dad's arms, and Vader is thinking, "My arm is totally asleep". That has probably happened to most young dads, but somehow it is more humorous coming from Vader's black helmet. The illustrations are just as funny as the text with every page packed full of Star Wars cliche.  Boys old and young are going to like this one but be warned, there is some potty humor. (picture book)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Deedy and Randall Wright

Carmen Deedy is a wonderful author and storyteller.  I have seen her perform at the Timpanogos Story Telling Festival.  She has written some amazing picture books.  The range from quite serious and touching (14 Cows for America) to silly and fun (Martina the Beautiful Cockroach).  This is one of her first chapter books and it fits into the latter category.

Skilly is a cat who manages to get adopted by the owner of an eating establishment in Victorian England.  The the inn owner, Henry, takes Skilly on as mouser, but Skilly doesn't like to eat mice.  Instead he makes a bargain with the mice to supply him with his favorite food, cheese, in return for protection.   Skilly becomes friends with the mouse leader, Pip, and together they fend off a less friendly cats and ultimately solve the mystery of the Queen's missing tower raven.  One of the regular patrons of the inn is Charles Dickens and there are all kinds of cute references to famous Dickens quotes. This one is similar in flavor and reading level to Bless this Mouse by Lois Lowery, and like that, is a great book for low age/ high reading level readers. It would also be a fun read aloud for families with young children. (228 p)