Friday, July 29, 2016

The Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage

Cover image for The odds of getting evenThis is the third mystery of the Desperado Detective agency.  In this one Dale's father, Mason, escapes from jail just as Tupelo Landing experiences a crime spree.  Everyone blames Mason, but Dale believes his father is innocent. The Desperado Detective agency, including their newest member, Harm Crenshaw, are in a race against time to find the real perpetrator before allegations against Mason destroy Dale's family.

Anyone who, like me, have fallen in love with all the quirky characters Turnage has created in Tupelo Landing will enjoy this latest mystery.  I was glad that Turnage didn't continue with the ghost theme in book 2, but created a strait up mystery, though the Scooby Doo like grand reveal at the end (if it weren't for those meddling kids...)  felt a little contrived. More than the plot, it is the characters that carry this series, and if Turnage keeps writing them, I will probably keep reading them. 342 p.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Neon Aliens Ate My Homework and Other Poems by Nick Cannon

Cover image for Neon aliens ate my homework : and other poemsThis is a poetry collection by well known rapper and comedian, Nick Cannon.  Cannon also performs the poems on the recorded book version. They are not Pulitzer prize level poetry, but they are certainly full of vibrancy and fun. Cannon does not shy away from potty humor, and there is at least one swear word, but nothing you wouldn't hear in the halls of a grade school.  Some of the poems are just silly, like the title poem, but some are a little more serious.  There are several that are motivational, and also some that discourage hate culture.  The poems are illustrated by bold and energetic black and white line drawings. This would be a great first exposure to poetry for an inner city kid, or for any reluctant poetry reader who has to get through a poetry book that is more than 100 pages. (142 p)

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Cover image for VenetiaI couldn't find any children's fiction audio books that I wanted to listen to last week, so I indulged in another Georgette Heyer.  In this one Venetia is a 26 year old daughter of a country gentleman.  Her father is very protective and has not allowed Venetia to travel more than just a few miles from their estate.  All the neighbors believe Venetia will marry another local gentleman who is very respectable and has been a friend of the family for years. Venetia has more exotic tastes, and when she meets the neighborhood bad-boy rake, it doesn't take long for her to fall sincerely in love.  He falls for her too, but knows that if he marries her, he will ruin her reputation and any chance she might have had of moving in respectable society.  He tries to put her off for her own good, but he has underestimated his beautiful neighbor.

This was cotton candy fun. Venetia was an endearing heroine, not as extreme as Sophie in The Grand Sophie, but delightful in her own quiet way.  Lord Damerel is just like all of Heyer's charming rakes.  I liked the fact that once he met Venetia, his interest never wandered.  Anyway, it was a pleasure, and clean enough that I wouldn't hesitate to give it to a teenage daughter.  (355 p.)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Jacky Ha Ha by James Patterson

Cover image for Jacky Ha-HaJacky Hart struggles with a shuddering problem. When other kids make fun of her she fights back by being the class clown.  Sometimes her antics make her friends laugh, but other times they just land her in the principal's office.  When Jacky gets 20 detentions in the first day of 8th grade, a new teacher offers her a way out if she agrees to try out for the school play.  Jacky reluctantly agrees, but soon finds that theater life suits her.  Soon play practice is the only light in her otherwise dismal life that includes worrying about a mother serving in Afghanistan, a father who seems too interested in a female co-worker, and an ailing grandmother.

I am not a huge James Patterson fan, but somehow most of his books end up on the best seller lists.  This one has kid appeal.  There are some funny moments and it is highly illustrated with cartoon drawing.  Kids who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid would probably like it. I guess it appeals to a certain demographic, and that demographic buys books. (363 p.)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hephaestus and the Island of Terror by Joan Holub

Cover image for Hephaestus and the island of terrorOk, here is my intermediate book for last week.  This is the tenth in the Heroes in Training seriesThe premise for the series is that the 12 Greek Olympic gods are all children and are just finding out that they are gods. The Delphic oracle keeps giving them quests to find magical artifacts and other Olympic gods.  In this book they are looking for a bow and gold arrows for Artemis. In other words, this is kind of like a junior Percy Jackson series.

The main difference between this and the Percy Jackson is that the Percy Jackson books are well written, and this one is not.  It sounds like the writer spent about 2 weeks tops preparing the text for the book (which is very possible, because Holub is quite prolific and has several series going on at once.).  It has no style or voice, and the dialog is all clunky.  I think is is possible to write an intermediate level book and still have nice writing.  That is not the case here.  It is very possible that little first and second graders will be so caught up in the fun premise, they won't notice the bad writing.  Anyway, I assume that is what the publisher was hoping.(106 p)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster, 1937 by Lauren Tarshis

Cover image for The Hindenburg disaster, 1937Anyone who works in a children's library knows that "I Survived" is the hottest nonfiction series being published right now.  There are at least 16 different books, all dealing with a child who survives a historical catastrophe.  In this one, Hugo and his family are traveling on the Hindenburg Zeppelin from Germany to New York to get medical treatment for Hugo's sick little sister.  On the flight over Hugo hears of German Nazis and American spies, and even helps a friend escape a terrible fate. I was impressed that Tarshis was able to not only tell a lot about what it was like to fly in the Hindenburg, she also fit in a lot of facts about the political climate of the time period.  I can see why these books are so popular.  They are a super quick read, with enough facts to satisfy young readers who like to learn things as they read, no magic for kids who don't want to mess with the pretend stuff, and enough excitement to keep any young reader engaged.  (91 p.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Staring Jules (As Herself) by Beth Ain

Cover image for Starring Jules (as herself)Here is this week's intermediate book.  Jules likes to make lists, likes to make up jingles for fizzy ice cream, and likes the new girl in class, Elinor.  She hopes Elinor will be her new best friend, since her old best friend, Charlotte, isn't her friend anymore since she decided she likes lip gloss better than playing with worms.  When Jules gets the opportunity to try out to be in a mouthwash commercial, Charlotte starts paying more attention to her.  Will her new social status mend the rift between her and Charlotte, or create a problem with her new friend, Elinor? Can Jules have two best friends at once?  This is a cute "friend drama" novel for kids who like Clementine or Ivy and Bean.  Jules is a believable little girl with a big personality. I liked the fact that Ain didn't make Charlotte a two dimensional "Mean Girl" but instead left the door open for a Charlotte/Jules reconciliation. Scattered black and white cartoon illustrations add to the kid appeal.  (143 p.) (Don't let the page count fool you.  This was a fast read due to large font, double spaced.)

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Cover image for The hidden oracleFans of Percy Jackson, put on your seat belts. Camp Half-Blood is back and its newest camper is no other than the god Apollo, himself. Zeus has cursed Apollo by turning him into a teenage boy, complete with (oh the agony) acne. What's worse, he has been bound to serve a young demigod, Meg in penance for allowing a giant serpent to recapture the Delphic Oracle. Adjustment to human life, with no godly power and no eight-pack abs, is difficult for Apollo, but with the help of family members and new friends, he finds the courage to face an unknown and incredibly powerful evil.

I actually liked this one better than the Sword of Summer.  Apollo is a delightfully flawed character, and Riordan has a fun time juxtaposing his past arrogance with the current shortcomings.  Parents should be warned that there is quite a bit of discussion about homosexual crushes.  Nico and Will (Will being one of the campers in the Apollo cabin) are important characters in this book, and Apollo himself discusses his past relation with Hiasynthus, a beautiful mortal boy that Apollo had a crush on.  So if you are not ready for that in kid's literature, then this is one to avoid.  I have to admit that it is so ubiquitous now that it doesn't really bother me anymore.  Evey new teen/tween series has a nod to homosexuality.  It is like a litmus test. You can't really publish unless it is there. So while I am reading I just think, "ok, there is the token gay couple," and move on. (376 p)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg

Here is a fun nonfiction that we used for one of our Mother/Son book clubs last year.  This is an account of how some famous people met their end.  It starts with Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, and moves forward through time to Columbus, Henry VIII, and others, ending with Albert Einstein.  In each chapter it recounts the gross details of the subject's physical afflictions, and how they were treated with the medical techniques of the time.  The author has a fun time pointing out disgusting facts, and being lightheartedly irreverent. Amidst all the eew's, there is quite a bit of good scientific and historical information. It is an entertaining book that will likely appeal to even reluctant reader  middle grade and junior high age boys.  (192 p)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Cover image for Out of my mindMelody has cerebral palsy which makes it so she cannot walk, talk, or feed herself.  Doctors tell her parents that she is also mentally retarded, but her parents believe that she is intelligent.  With their continued support she learns to communicate with a word board, but it is not until she gets an assistive computer that everyone discovers just how brilliant she is.  Once Melody can communicate she is put in a regular class for a few hours each school day, and there has to learn to manage interaction with other kids and teachers.

Some people have compared this story to Wonder by Palacio.  It is similar in many ways.  Melody, like Auggie, has a very supportive family. Like Auggie, she has to deal with the insensitivity of those she thought were her friends. Although I liked this book it just wasn't as good as Wonder because of how the story was timed.  Draper ends with betrayal of Melody, where as Palacio gives the kids in Wonder time to show that they have accepted Auggie after his betrayal at Halloween.  That gives the reader a much more emotionally satisfying experience.  The message in Wonder is that kids can learn to be kind and accepting, but the message here is that even though the kids were jerks, Melody is strong enough to go on. 

Still, I liked the book and I think Draper really gives the readers a valuable insight into the struggles physically challenged kids, and the strength of the human spirit. 295 p.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Autumn's Secret Gift by Elise Allen and Halle Stanford

I have a new assignment at the library to order the intermediate books.  Those are early chapter books with about 100 pages (some less) like Junie B Jones and Magic Tree House.  I haven't read many of those in the past, so I am going to try to read one a week for a while so I can get to know that section better.  Here is the one I read this week.

Cover image for Autumn's secret giftAutumn, Summer, Spring and Winter at the Sparkle Sisters, daughters of Mother Earth.  It is their job to oversee the changes of the seasons for the humans. Each of the sisters has a different personality.  Autumn is careful and likes to think things through before she acts. The other sisters tease her about it, but Mother Earth trusts her and gives her an important job.  She is to take care of a gift until a party that evening.  In a rare moment of impetuosity, Autumn loses the gift. Her sisters rally around her and together they rescue the present from the nasty Bluster Boys. 

This the first book in a fairly new chapter book fantasy series, Enchanted Sisters, for little girls who like Daisy Meadows or Rescue Princesses.  The story has lots of action, and there are cutsie stylized illustrations every few pages. I could imagine some little girls reading this and then wanting to pretend to be the Sparkle Sisters in their pretend games for a month.  (122 p.)

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

Cover image for The Mother-Daughter Book ClubI have been trying to read new titles lately, but this one has been out for a few years. Four sixth grade girls get roped into doing a Mother/Daughter book club because their mothers all take Yoga together.  The girls have very little in common.  Cassidy is an athlete, Megan is a fashionista, Emma is a book worm, and Jess is an animal lover.  As they all read Little Women together, they learn that girls that are different can still be friends and support each other.

This was a fun, light read.  I thought it started a little slowly, but by the end I was sorry it was over.  There is a lot here that tween girls would enjoy; first crushes, girls getting on the boys team in sports, practical jokes, and a mean girl who gets put in her place.  There are little social issues, but all smiles and sunshine in the end.  This could be a fun one to read with a real Mother/Daughter book club. (245 p) (though I am not sure why they put a 16 year old girl with perfectly sculpted eyebrows on the cover, when the book is about 11 year olds.)