Friday, June 20, 2014

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Cover image for ClementineI am working at the reference desk at the library several hours a day now, and this book is one that I noticed is very popular with the 2nd grader crowd.  I decided I better read it.  It is very like Junie B Jones, except Clementine doesn't say "stupid" so much.  In the beginning of the story Clementine finds her best friend crying in the bathroom.  Her friend has gotten glue in her long hair, and in an attempt to get it out, cut off a piece of hair in the front.  Clementine, always helpful, agrees to use the scissors to "even it up."  Of course the girl's parents are furious, and in simpathy, Clementine cuts her own hair to match.  Parents shake their heads as the girls go on to try to color their new dos with permanent marker.  The children do everything they do with the purest intentions, but with disastrous and very funny results. I can see why the book is so popular.  The humor is just at the right level for the target audience, but adults reading the books with or to the children can enjoy them, too.  Who cannot remember a time when they or their children have not attempted to cut their own hair? (136 p)

Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Cover image for Rainbow Valley
While I was reading Beyond Courage (see below) I needed something to balance out the heaviness of that book.  So I picked up Rainbow Valley.  I know the title sounds like a small child's brightly colored cartoon series, but it is actually a book seven in the Anne of Green Gables series.  In this book Anne is married to Gilbert and they are the parents of six active children.  The children live near a valley that they named the Rainbow Valley and there they play and fish and do all the things children are supposed to do in an ideal world.  One day a new minister arrives in town, who is a widower with four children, just the ages of the Blythe children.  The book primarily follows the escapades of the minister's children who get into scrapes simply because they have not had a mother to teach them basic social conventions.  Of course, the children are good-hearted, and everything works out for the best in the end. It is a delightfully old fashion book, completely unrealistic, and unfettered by any modern edginess. It was just right to read along with the other book, and sooth my troubled soul.(225 p)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beyond Courage: The untold story of Jewish reisistance during the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport

Cover image for Beyond courage : the untold story of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust
I have to balance my reading.  After reading the silliness of the NERDS book, I was ready for something a little more serious. I found it in this nonfiction book about Jewish resistance during WWII.  In the forward, Ms Rappaport states that as a Jewish girl growning up, she was disheartened that all the stories of Jews during WWII were about them hiding and escaping.  She thought they seemed weak and helpless. So she decided to look for stories of Jews fighting back against the Nazis.  She found them.  These are amazing and inspiring stories about Jews fighting back against incredible odds.  The courage, selflessness, and ingenuity of the people in the stories is amazing.  Unfortunately, many who fought back did not survive the war.  There are stories of uprisings, carefully planned for months, in which only 50 or so out of hundreds survived.  But at least some did survive, whereas none would have without the effort.  Because of the content, this is not a cheery book.  I wouldn't recommend it to a sensitive child, because it emphasizes again and again how barbaric and cruel people can be to each other.  But there are some children that would be inspired rather than overcome by the stories.  My own daughter went through a period when she was in third grade when she loved the Holocaust survivor books, and read one after another.  If there is a child who is interested in this time period, this is a great book because the stories are real, and it gives a sense of what the people really went though, without candy coating, but not without some slivers of hope as well. (228 p)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NERDS: The Villain Virus by Michael Buckley

Cover image for The villain virusNERDS lovers will enjoy this fourth installment in the continuing adventures of the kids whose weaknesses have become their superpowers.  This story focuses on Flinch, whose superpower is his hyperactivity. When Flinch consumes sugar, his hyperactivity gives him super speed and strength, but is also makes it hard for him to think straight. As a result he is rarely put in charge of a mission.  When he finally gets to be the head of a mission, he ends up destroying Paris.  When a nanobot virus starts turning ordinary people and even the NERDS team of scientists into super villains, it is Flinch's unpredictability that saves the day. 

In the final sequence of the story Flinch is shrunken down to nanobot size and enters a human brain to try to defeat the virus.  Buckley uses quite a lot medical terminology  while describing Flinch's journey, so readers end up getting a pretty good lesson in brain anatomy. The story ends with some major changes in the NERDS team, so it will be interesting to see where Buckley goes with the next installment. (259 p)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Taglewood Terror by Kurtis Scalleta

Cover image for The Tanglewood terrorEric is something of a bully.  He picks on his younger brother and is rough with his teammates in football.  One day he finds a strange glowing mushroom patch in the forest near his home.  Over the next few weeks the mushrooms spread and start to overrun the town.  At first no one seems to be concerned except him and a runaway girl he meets.  As he tries to discover the origin and meaning of the florescent fungi, he also learns to be a nicer person.

Sound hokey?  Yep.  I think it is supposed to be a RL Stine style kitty horror book.  It never really got scary or even really creepy.  The town's response to the impending doom was pretty unrealistic. The mushrooms were impregnating peoples homes, growing up through the floorboards, and what does the town do?  Throw a benefit concert.  The pacing of the book was also a little bit slow.  The middle of the book got mired in relationships, without really advancing the action.  It is a difficult balance. One good thing about the book that it told the story from the point of view of the bully.  I have often wanted to see a book done this way, explaining how a kid justifies being a bully to himself.  This one does an OK job of this.  Eric doesn't really understand that his actions are as intimidating as they are.  He just thinks he is having fun. Still, not a great book and I am glad it is over and I can move on to something else. (264 p)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Mystery of Beethoven's Hair by Russell Martin

Cover image for Beethoven's hairAs the legendary composer, Beethoven, lay in repose after his death, a young admirer cut a lock of his hair.  The young music student had the lock put into a locket necklace.  This interesting nonfiction traces the journey of the locket from the 1800's to the present.  It is an interesting story.  The lock was passed from father to son, but then was lost in Denmark as its owner fled the Nazi occupation. The new owner passed it to his daughter who eventually sold it at Sotherby's to some Beethoven collectors in America.  The new owners decided to do a chemical analysis of the hair to try to discover clues to Beethoven's frequent illnesses and deafness.  What they found was stunning and changed the way people look at Beethoven. 

This was a well written and interesting nonfiction.  It wasn't quite as engrossing as Written in Bone, but almost. That is perhaps because this book was only dealing with one historical mystery, while the other had several different mysteries to unravel. The book is based on a longer book written by the authors for adults.  It is a good nonfiction choice for either boys or girls, especially ones with a special interest in Beethoven. (270 p)