Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman

Cover image for The hypnotistsJackson Opus has unusual eyes. They change color when his emotions change, which allows Jackson to sometimes hypnotize people. Jackson is recruited by a foundation of hypnotists and begins intensive training to learn to control his power. The foundation claims to have the betterment of mankind as its goal, but Jackson begins to wonder about their real motives when the director asks him to do something unethical. It is only when he begins to express his hesitations that he realizes how much he is under the director's power. Suddenly Jackson is in a race to save himself, his family and the fate of the whole country. Korman has an amazingly long list of children books.  I wasn't that thrilled with some of his earlier series, but I have enjoyed some of his more recent ones.  I really liked Ungifted and I liked this one. This one has a different feel from Ungifted.  That one was funny and goofy, but his one was much more serious. It brings up some interesting ethical questions, and has some good action sequences. I have already put the second one in the series on hold. (232 p)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cold Light: Creatures, Discoveries, and Inventions that Glow by Anita Sitarski

Cover image for Cold Light: Creatures, Discoveries, and Inventions That GlowHere is another nonfiction.  This one is about a variety of things that glow with cold light.  It starts out with bio-luminescence and talks about luminous fish, algae and insects.  Then Sitarski moves on to chemo-luminescence and talks about how it was developed and some of its applications.  Finally it talks about phosphorescence and the development of LED's and their potential usage in society.  Since the book was originally written in 2007 some of the "potential" usages of LED's are now standard, like using LED's as head and tail lights on cars.  This was a very interesting book, and more engaging to me than the Stubby book below.  Sitarski's explanations of scientific processes is clear and accessible and she puts a lot of personality into her prose. Since I listened to this on recording I can't comment on the illustrations, but the cover looks cool.  This is definitely not a book for every kid, but a great choice for a young science nerd.  I could also see this book leading to some interesting science fair projects.(48 p)

Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I's Bravest Dog by Ann Bausum

Cover image for Stubby the war dog : the true story of world war I 's bravest dogStubby was a mixed bread dog who started hanging around the new recruits who were drilling at Yale before being sent over to Europe at the beginning of WWI. A young soldier named Conroy became attached to Stubby, and when it was time to ship out, smuggled him onto the ship.  Stubby became the mascot of his master's unit in France, and used his canine skills to help the soldiers. He could tell which soldiers were still alive after a battle.  He helped keep down rats in the trenches.  One time he even helped capture a German soldier who was sneaking around near the camp. After the war, Conroy actively promoted the dog, showing him in parades, and a VFW events until his death.  At his death he arranged to have the dog stuffed, and later donated the taxidermy dog and his memorabilia to the Smithsonian. This is a interesting short nonfiction. I think adults will see it from a different angle than children.  For children it is just the story of a brave and beloved dog, but adults have to wonder what was Conroy's motivation and psychological state.  Ms Bausum is careful to separate fact for legend, and always refers to her primary sources.  She ends the book with a short note about how she found out about and researched Stubby's story.  The book is illustrated with photos from a scrap book Stubby's master kept for him during the war and after he became famous.(72 p)

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Cover image for The scandalous sisterhood of Prickwillow PlaceOne Sunday afternoon at St. Etheldreda's School for Young Ladies the head mistress and her slimy brother suddenly drop dead.  The seven students of the Victorian girl's boarding school must make a quick decision.  Do they report the deaths to the authorities and face the inevitability of the school being shut down, or do they hide the murders and enjoy, for the first time, some measure of freedom and control of their future? Lead by Smooth Alice, the seven girls begin an elaborate charade to fool all the nosy neighbors, police, doctors and suitors and keep their bid for independence alive. This is a fun, but quirky Victorian novel. The story is a bit extreme and the reader must suspend belief a little to go along with things.  For example, one of the girls dresses up like the departed head mistress, and even the doctor can't see through the disguise.  It is like Clark Kent using glasses so people won't recognize him as superman: Not really believable, but necessary to make the story work.  I must also add an caveat. The girl, disgraceful Mary Jane, says some pretty suggestive things.  It doesn't quite go over the line, turning this into a YA book, but it gets close.  That said, I enjoyed the book. The plot was well crafted, and there were some funny scenes. The seven girls, who you think are just stereotypes in the beginning because of their monikers, turn out to be dimensional and interesting characters. There are certain older grade school girls who would love this one. (351 p.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Cover image for Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were MadeWhen Diary of a Wimpy Kid became such a great success, authors and publishers rushed to find other books that were similar.  This is one of those titles.  Timmy is a kid who thinks he is destined to become a famous detective and hires himself out to solve mini mysteries among his peers.  The problem is that he cannot figure out even the most obvious puzzle, and the contrast between his over confident bravado and his total ineptitude is the foundation for most of the book's humor. The rest of the humor comes from his interactions with two girls in his life.  One is his rival, a "girl who must not be named" who actually is intelligent, and a younger neighbor girl who has an all consuming crush on him.  Timmy is at a loss as to what to do with either of them.  I can see how the kids who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid might enjoy this one, but it was just too over the top for me.  It lacked the realistic subtle undertones of the Wimpy Kid. I never saw any of my own middle school experience in the exploits of this character or his friends.(294 p)

The Qwikpick Papers: Poop Fountain by Tom Angleberger

Cover image for Poop fountain!When Dave, Lyle and Marilla discover that they all have nothing to do on Christmas day they decide to find an adventure.  After much research and debate, they decide to go and see the soon to be torn down  "poop fountain" at the town's waste processing plant.  As they set out on their quest they get more adventure than they bargained for during an afternoon none of them will ever forget. Angleberger is a master at portraying junior high personalities and relationships.  The situations the kids get into are believable and very funny. I kept thinking, "I can totally see a bunch of 12-year-olds doing this."  This book was actually written before the Origami Yoda series (but recently republished with new formatting), and it was interesting to see some of the themes and techniques that would later make the OY a smash hit. This is a good choice for reluctant reader boys and girls. (134 p)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger

Cover image for The surprise attack of Jabba the Puppett : an Origami Yoda book
Ok, here is the Origami Yoda book I skipped earlier.  It shows how the kids at the school form the Rebel Alliance, and all get assigned their origami Star Wars characters.  I think that kids reading the series could really enjoy this one and get into heated discussions about which star wars origami character they would choose.  I also like the fact that with their origami characters, each kid is able to find the strength to make good choices.  Mr. Angleberger has instructions on how to fold all the puppets on his website. (208 p)