Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico

Cover image for The snow gooseIn this beautifully written short story a lonely hunchback, Philip, cares for the wild birds that visit him at his lighthouse home.  One day a young girl comes to the him with an injured Canadian snow goose.  Over the years the girl continues to visit the hunchback and together they care for the goose and the other birds.  Then war arrived on their shores.  Only after Philip leaves to try to save the brave solders trapped on the shores of Dunkirk, does the girl, now a young woman, realize how much she loves him. 

Some brought this book to my attention because it had be put in the adult fiction section, but hadn't been checking out. I read it to decide whether to move it into the children's department or just to discard it.  Gallico's writing is lyrical, and Barrett's illustrations are hauntingly lovely.  It is very much a sweet and sad "Beauty and the Beast" story without any fantasy element and set in a chilling period of history. It would be a shame to discard the book, but I am not sure who would check it out. An older librarian friend of mine said that it got quite a lot of critical attention when it first came out. I'll have to try and recommend it to a few people and see what they think.  (46 p.)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sidekicked by John David Anderson

Cover image for SidekickedIn this kid superhero book, Drew Bean is recruited into a sidekick training program because of his acute senses.  He can smell like a bloodhound and hear individual conversations occurring anywhere in his middle school.  There are other kids in his secret H.E.R.O. training program, each with their own set of abilities.  Each of the kids is assigned to a superhero mentor who is supposed to be training them to fight crime and follow the superhero code.  Drew's hero turns out to be a has-been and he is jealous of some of the other kids who get to go out and save people with their younger and cooler mentors. When an evil super-villain returns from the past, Drew and his friends must use all of their budding powers to save the city and their superhero mentors from complete oblivion. 

This was another cute story in a very popular genre.  I was pleased that it wasn't totally predictable, and Anderson spends a lot of time developing the personalities and relationships of the young trainees who can take down a crazy killer robot, but can't figure out how to ask someone to the school dance. Although I enjoyed the book I haven't decided if I will read the sequel, Minon, that is already available. (373p.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Cover image for Raymie NightingaleRaymie's father ran away with his dental hygienist, but Raymie is convinced if she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, her father will be so impressed he will come back. She also believes in order to win the competition, she must learn to twirl a baton. When she goes to her first baton twirling lesson she meets two other girls whose lives are just as messed up as hers, Louisiana and Beverly. Although the three couldn't be more different, they form a bond and give each other the emotional support they are not getting from their families.

Although I have liked a lot of Kate DiCamillo's other books, this one just didn't do it for me.  I thought that Raymie and Beverly where realistic characters but I never thought Louisiana was a real person. She was just too far out there, and I didn't feel like she responded to certain situations the way a real 12-year-old girl would respond. My opinion on that character might be tainted by how the narrator of the audio book performed her, and I might have liked the book better if I had read it instead of listening to it. This book has received plenty of starred reviews and may be in the running for Newbery consideration. (272 p)

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Cover image for The astounding broccoli boyAfter reading the more serious books of Pax and Raymie Nightingale, it was fun to read something light.  In this book Rory, your typical middle school wimp, suddenly turns bright green.  Since all the other famous characters who are green happen to be superheros, Rory assumes that his new color comes with superpowers.  He is taken to a research hospital and put in a room with the only other kid who has recently turned green, Tommy Lee, who happens to be the school bully. Forced to face daily blood tests, urine samples and other indignities together, the boys start to form a tentative friendship. When Tommy Lee manages to sneak out of the facility at night, and Rory comes along, the fun and excitement of being green and (maybe) having superpowers begins.

Although Rory and Tommy Lee are stereotypical middle-grade-reader characters, Boyce makes them endearing and interesting. Throughout the book, the reader isn't completely sure whether the boys have superpowers or not, which adds a fun element. The boys' adventures are pretty wacky, and Boyce pokes fun at media coverage and how it can effect public opinion.  Even though the book is silly, it does give kids something to think about.(370 p)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Cover image for PaxPeter is very attached to his pet fox, Pax.  He has raised him since he was a pup, and Pax has been his only emotional support since his mother's death.  When Peter's cold and harsh father is called up to fight in a war, Peter is sent to his paternal grandfather's house. On the way, Peter is forced to leave Pax in the wild. As soon as he arrives at his grandfather's house, Peter regrets letting Pax go and vows to return and save him. He runs away from home, but hasn't gone far when he breaks his leg.  He meets a reclusive woman veteran with PTSD and she helps him in his quest to find his pet. In the mean time, Pax is adjusting to living in the wild for the first time. The chapters alternate between Peter's experience and Pax's. 

This book is getting a lot of attention and starred reviews.  I have liked a lot of what Pennypacker has done before but I did not like this book at all.  I am just not a pet lover, and the thought of an adult letting a child go into a war zone on the slim chance that he can find an animal that never really was domesticated in the first place just made me angry instead of sympathetic. No pet is worth it.  Drive the boy to where he left the animal and help him look for it or take the boy back to his grandfather and let him learn to deal with loss, don't make him a homemade cast and crutch and then send him on a 40 mile hike just days after he has broken his leg.  I was so distracted by the stupidity of it I wasn't able to really tell if the writing was good or not. That said, I am sure that there are some people and some children who would love this book.  (The same ones who loved Shilo and Lassie and The Call of the Wild the other books I didn't like). 276 p.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Unlikely Adventures of Mable Jones by Will Mabbitt

Do you need  a recorded book to listen to on a road trip this summer?  This is a great choice.  Mabel Jones unwittingly does "the deed" that makes her eligible to be kidnapped by a crew of talking animal pirates.  The captain, an evil wolf, convinces Mabel that she must help him find the pieces of a broken X to earn the right to return to her home.  Mabel's resourcefulness wins her the respect of her fellow pirates, but can the captain be trusted to follow through with his promise?

This book made me chuckle on the way to work every day for a week.  The writing is so clever and the narrator's delivery is perfect.  The story and characters are not deep at all, but it is all about storytelling and word play.  The narrator is Toby Jones, a familiar face in BBC productions.  No one could have performed this better.  I must admit that there was a little potty humor in the book, so if you are put off by that, beware (but then just listen to the book anyway because it really is very funny) I hope they do an audio version of the second one in the series. (304 p)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

Cover image for Newt's emeraldTruthful Newington is a young heiress looking forward to her first season in London in an alternative Regency period England. At her 18th birthday party, her grandfather shows her part of her inheritance, a large emerald rumored to have great magical powers. During the party the lights go out and someone steals the emerald. Truthful's grandfather falls instantly ill and Truthful worries that he might die unless the stone is returned. It is decided she will go to London a little early and search for possible leads to its whereabouts. She also decides she can accomplish her goals much more easily dressed as a man, but the deception lands her into more trouble and excitement than she could have ever imagined. 

My daughter checked this one out to listen to on ta road trip and when she got back she said I would probably like it. I really did. It is like Georgette Heyer meets... well... Garth Nix. Nix shows that he has a least a little familiarity of the time period, talking about dresses, and balls, and the "ton".  But he adds in an evil sorceress, necromancers (of course) and pirates to make it a little more interesting.  It reminded me of Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.  Anyway, it is a delight and, although it is a teen/adult book, it has no objectionable element at all. (291 p)