Saturday, March 28, 2015

Whatever After #4: Dream On by Sarah Mlynowski

Cover image for Dream onAbby is having her first sleep over party in her new home with her new best friend, Robin. Robin inadvertently triggers the magic mirror in Abby's basement and is transported into the story of Sleeping Beauty where she accidentally pricks herself on the evil fairy's spindle and falls asleep.  Abby and her brother, Jonah, must then find a way to wake Robin up and help the real princess fall asleep so she can be rescued by a prince and fulfill her destiny.  It is not an easy task, especially with 13 hard-to-please fairies involved.  I read the first in this series about a month ago (oops, I just realized I never blogged that one.  Ok, see below), but skipped 2 and 3 to read 4 because it was published in 2014 and I could blog about it on the Library website.  There wasn't much plot lost by skipping the two books.  I think after a reader finishes the first book, and learns the basic premise, they could read the rest of the books in about any order they wanted.  The story is simple and predictable, but the language and characters are plucky and upbeat and Mlynowski works in a simple life lesson. This is a not a bad choice for a younger reader who is ready to move on from the "Magic Tree House" series. (157 p)

Ok, here is a short note about #1
Cover image for Fairest of allFairest of All

Abby and Jonah have just moved into a new house in a new town.  They find an ornate mirror in the basement.  When Jonah knocks on the mirror, it starts to send out purple fog and make hissing noises.  When he knocks on it again he and Abby get sucked into another world.  They end up at the house of the seven dwarfs, and inadvertently convince Snow White not to eat the poison apple.  Once they discover that they have messed up Snow's chance at her happily ever after, they do all in their power to make it right.  (169 p.)

Ballet for Martha: Making the Appalachian Spring

Cover image for Ballet for Martha : making Appalachian SpringHere is a short nonfiction about the creation of the Appalachian Spring ballet.  I hadn't realized that Aaron Copland asked Martha Graham to write a story for a ballet.  Aaron Copland then wrote the music for it and gave it to Martha.  While Martha created the choreography, artist Isamu Norguchi created a dramatic set for the stage.  All three elements came together to create an American classic.  The Floca does a wonderful job with the illustrations which capture the appearance and the mood of the ballet.  This book got a lot of attention when it came 2010 and won the Sibert honor medal.  It is best read with a recording of Appalachian Spring playing in the background.  (48 p)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Honey by Sarah Weeks

Cover image for HoneyMelody's mother died when Melody was born.  Since then the ten-year-old has been wishing that her father could find someone new.  One day she overhears her father call someone "honey" on the phone and she begins to hope that her wish will come true.  Now she is on a quest with her best friend, Nick, and the pesky little neighbor girl, Teeny, to discover who this "honey" is.  Excitement fades as Melody begins to think her father's intended is a lady she really doesn't like. A new friend, a dog named Mo, and some amazing shades of nail polish help her get through the crisis and learn a little more about her own biological mother.  This sweet family story is told from the point of view of three characters:  Melody, Bee Bee, a new manicurist in town who is obsessed with bees, and Bee-Bee's dog, Mo.  Weeks does a good job of tying the three points of view together to keep the reader engaged  and eager to figure out several little mysteries along the way. This is a good choice for early or middle grade readers who enjoyed Junie B. Jones or Clementine but are ready to move on to something a little longer.(152 p)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde

Cover image for FroggedFourteen days before princess Imogene's thirteenth birthday her mother gives her a book about how to be a good princess. She is not thrilled and goes out by a pond to avoid reading it. There she meets a talking frog and agrees to kiss him to turn him back into a prince. Instead she turns into a frog in his place. The rest of the book she is trying to get back home so someone can turn her back into a girl. In the process she gets involved in a traveling show, makes new friends and enemies, and decides being a princess isn't so bad after all. Vande Velde has written several of these mixed up fairy tales. The writing is solid, and the story is cute. There are some genuinely funny moments. This could work for a younger child who is an advanced reader or for anyone who likes the fractured fairytale genre. (198 p)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Beholding Bee by Kimberly Fusco

Cover image for Beholding Bee
Not a great cover,  Bee has curly hair, not straight. 
Bee is an orphan who lives with a traveling show in the US during WWII.  She helps to run a hotdog stand with a older teenage girl, Pauline, who is kind to her.  Bee has a diamond shaped birthmark on her face, that she constantly tries to hide with her hair. When the cruel show manager decides to split Bee and Pauline up, and threatens to make Bee and her birthmark part of the freak show, Bee runs away.  In her flight she is guided by a kindly old lady in a floppy hat who leads her to an old Victorian house in the country.  There she meets another old lady and the three of them set up a comfortable living situation.  The only problem is that Bee soon realizes she is the only one who can see the two old ladies. 

When I had finished this book and the other book, A Dark Inheritance, I realized I had been reading two ghost stories at once. But what different stories they are. The one is spooky and suspenseful, while the other was nostalgic and sweet. This book isn't really about ghosts.  It is about learning to accept your flaws and see yourself as valuable and capable. It is also about how having people be kind to you makes all the difference in how you see yourself.  Having the ghostly aunts was just kind of an odd side story. (329p)

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Dark Inheritance by Chris D'Lacey

Cover image for A dark inheritanceMichael Malone lives with his mother and sister, but his father disappeared while on a business trip a few years earlier.  One day on the way to school Michael happens to save a dog who is trapped on the edge of a cliff.  When he does, something supernatural happens that alters Michael's reality a little.  Suddenly his sister can play the flute, and he has a french au pair that he didn't have before. No one else seems to notice that there was a change.  Michael finds out that he has the ability to jump between multi-verses into parallel realities.  He also discovers there is an organization that monitors this kind of thing call the Black Unicorne and that the organization is mixed up in his father's disappearance.  Michael agrees to help them solve the mystery of the dog on the cliff in return for information about his father's disappearance. 

This book only got mixed reviews on "Goodreads" but I really liked it.  I thought it as an engaging psychological thriller for a younger audience,(probably 5-7 grade), and I liked D'Lacey's quirky use of language.  He uses a lot of unconventional similes and metaphors in his descriptions that tickled my fancy.  I also enjoyed Michael's relationship with the shadowy goth girl, Freya.  I must admit that the last few pages of the story were bit wonky, like "whoa, where did that come from?" but I will be excited to read a sequel. (291 p)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cleopatra Rules! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen by Vicky Shecter

Cover image for Cleopatra rules! : the amazing life of the original teen queenLast Friday I had finished my recorded book, but still had several hours of house cleaning to do, so I downloaded this short nonfiction from the library website.  In it Shecter attempts to debunk some of the misconceptions of Egypt's most famous, or notorious queens.  Was she a beautiful seductress who wrapped Mark Anthony around her little finger? Was theirs a love affair that caused both of them to make tragic errors that cost them the throne?  Maybe not. Shecter tries to track down how some of the misconceptions got started and mentions the original ancient documents that contain information about the teen monarch. Shecter uses informal language and there are side boxes that add interesting exposition or detail to the topic.    The author mentions, appropriately, Cleopatra's various marriages and affairs, but focuses on the political motivations of her actions and decisions.  This is not a bad choice for a 6th grader who has to do a report on a biography longer than 100 pages and wants to read about a strong woman character. (128 p)