Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Woof by Spencer Quinn

Cover image for Woof : a Bowser and Birdie novelBirdie lives with her grandmother in Louisiana. Her grandmother runs a bait and tackle shop near the bayou and does swamp tours on the side. Birdie's grandmother lets her adopt a pet dog for her 11th birthday and she names him Bowser. Together Bowser and Birdie try to figure out who stole the stuffed marlin that hung in her grandmother's shop. As they dig into the mystery they find out more about their town and Birdie's family history than they had bargained for. The story is told from Bowser's point of view, and he may be the most endearing dog character I have ever read in children's literature. He just loves Birdie more than anything, and though he often doesn't understand what is going on he is totally thrilled to be anywhere his little mistress is.  Birdie is a great character, too, sweet but with a lot of gumption and persistence. This book came out in 2015 and the sequel, Arf,  is already out.  I think I might just put it on hold right now. (293 p.)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Royal Wedding Disaster by Meg Cabot

Cover image for Royal wedding disasterOlivia's half sister, Princess Mia of Genovia, is getting married, and Olivia is excited and anxious about the wedding. She is also a new student at the Genovian Royal Academy, where she runs amuck of her spiteful cousin, Louisa. Olivia knows that a true princess is gracious and patient with everyone, but a new school, a sister's wedding, and a first crush, (on a real prince, no less) would unsettle anyone. And then there are the iguanas. Can Olivia hold it together, or is she on course for a real royal disaster?

This is the second in the Middle School Princess series by Meg Cabot.  I liked the first one, and I liked this one too.  It is light and fluffy, with a little drama, a little romance, and bit of fun.  One of the interesting relationships is between Mia and her grandmother.  The grandmother is not like the Julie Andrews character in the Princess Diaries movie.  She is more concerned with maintaining the right appearances, than necessarily doing the right thing.  She is conniving and controlling, in an endearing way, and Olivia thinks she is the greatest.  There are other fun differences from the movie, like the fact that Mia is marrying Michael Moscovitz, Lilly's brother, instead of the royal guy she marries in the sequel movie.  Anyway, this is a fun series for princess lovers. (282 p.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Geronmo Stiton: Mousekings #1: Attack of the Dragons

Cover image for Attack of the dragonsAnyone who works with children's books knows that Geronimo Stilton is one of the hottest intermediate series out there. There are a lot of Stiton books, too.  There are the original Geronimo Stilton books, then the Thea Stilton books, the Fantasy, Spacemice, Cavemice, Creepella, and others.  There are more than 200 books in all published since 2000.  The extent of the series is probably only exceeded by the Daisy Meadow books.

The is the first book of the Mouseking series.  The setting for this series is like northern Europe, maybe German Barbarians or Vikings.  In the different series, the same main characters are made over to fit that setting.  In this one Geronimo (a mouse) is a brainy wimp among tough guys. When the best cook in the town gets sick, Geronimo and others set off on a quest to get some mint teach, which only grows in cave inhabited by dragons.

I think these books are written with ADHD kids in mind.  The text is typeset with key words in large and colorful font, so as you  read it, the highlighted words jump out at you, almost as if they are yelled at you.  If you were ADHD I think the creative typesetting would help you stay focused on the book.  There are funny black and white and colored cartoon drawing throughout that further make this a great choice for someone who struggles with reading.  (115p)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell

Cover image for Inspector FlytrapInspector Flytrap is, you guessed it, a Venus flytrap.  He lives in a pot and has a goat assistant, Nina, who pushes him around on a skateboard.  He is always looking for "Big Deal" cases to solve, and he finds them. During the book Flytrap is able to solve several short mysteries, each taking one chapter of the book.  The only problem is that in solving the cases, Inspector Flytrap and Nina seem to make more enemies than satisfied customers. 

I was pretty excited to hear that Tom Angleberger and his wife, Cece Bell, had collaborated on an intermediate reader.  As I started to read it, my first impression was that this was just too silly for me. Come on, a talking venus flytrap and a goat that eats everything?   But I stuck with it, and was delighted how Angleberger pulled elements of each of the mysteries together into a fairly clever finale.  I think 2nd graders are going to love this.  The second in the series was just released.  (98 p.)

(Note to librarians.  When I was ordering it I couldn't tell if it was going to be a comic book or an illustrated book.  It is an illustrated book. Just fyi)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Light by Rebecca Stead

Cover image for First lightPeter's father is a glaciologist and his mother is a microbiologist.  When Peter hears that his father is going to take the whole family with him to study a glacier in Greenland, Peter is pretty excited.  Once there, he starts to wonder if there is more than science that has brought his parents to this exact spot. He also wonders about a new ability he has begun experiencing that allows him to see things very far away.  Meanwhile, in a village closer than Peter could have imagined, another young person, Thea, is learning new things about her family and her community. When forces bring the two tweens together, they find that they hold the future of Thea's whole world in their hands. 

Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Medal for her book When You Reach Me,which I liked. I like this one as well, and they have a very similar feel.  In both the main character lives in the real world but has to adjust to the fact that the fantastic actually exists. This one doesn't have the mystery and emotional tension that When You Reach Me has, but it is a fun, light, sci-fi read for middle graders.  (328 p)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tashi, by Anna Fienberg

Cover image for TashiTashi is Jack's imaginary friend who wears a pointed hat and curly shoes. Jack and Tashi sneak away from Jack's parents and share wonderful stories about magical adventures in exotic lands. The writing is simple but lovely, and the book is illustrated with whimsical black and white line drawing on every page. I think it took me about 15 minutes to read. It is an older book, written in 1995 by an Australian author but the most recent Tashi adventure was written in 2014.  (57 p)

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Last Bogler by Catherine Jinks

Cover image for The last boglerThis is the third and last in the series that started with How to Catch a Bogle. In this one Mr Bunce has a new apprentice, Ned Roach. The two of them are on a newly formed committee to rid the city of Bogles using scientific methods.  They meet with a representative from the Board of Sewers, an engineer, Birdie and Miss Eames, the folklorist.  Ned is not as good at singing as Birdie, and not as nimble as Jem, but he is analytical, and he keeps coming up with good ideas about how to approach the bogle problem on a large scale.  But will his ideas be clever enough to succeed in the final bogle show down?

I have enjoyed this series.  It is exciting and Jinks created a bunch of fun and interesting characters. I was, however, pretty disappointed with how this book ended.  All during the book they are coming up with grand plans of flushing the bogles out of the sewer system, or frightening them out with flash powder, but the final resolution was just silly.  It totally didn't fit with the way the story had been going through the rest of the series. I wonder why Jinks didn't let the characters just carry out their plans.  It would have been more fun and exciting.  The final little epilog was charming, and made me feel a little bit better about having spent so much time on the series. (319 p)

I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic by Lauren Tarshis

Cover image for The sinking of the Titanic, 1912Here is another of the I Survived series.  In this one George is traveling with his sister and rich aunt returning from a trip broad.  George is a curious boy, and his curiosity sometimes gets him in trouble. He hears that one of the passengers is transporting a mummy in the ship's luggage compartment, so he sneaks from his cabin at night to try to see it.  While he is away the ship hits the iceberg. It takes a while for him and the rest of the passengers to realize the ship is sinking, and then he must struggle to find his family and a way off the ship.  As with the other I Survived book I read, it is easy to see why these are popular with otherwise reluctant readers.  They are short and exciting, and because of the title, there is never any worry that the main character will survive. Tarshis adds enough of sub-plot to make the story and characters interesting, and enough historical detail to make it feel a little authentic.  (96 p)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Saving Mr. Nibbles! by Patrick Carman

Cover image for Saving Mister NibblesMy intermediate chapter book for this week is the first in the Elliot's Park series.  Elliot is a squirrel who is good at solving problems.  He has a number of squirrel friends who each have their own personalities and talents. There are other animals that are friendly, and some that are not.  In this adventure Elliot and his friends see a strange squirrel given to a human boy for his birthday.  It only talks when they squeeze its ear, and it only knows how to say a few phrases.  Still, it is a squirrel and the other squirrels in the park feel that they must save it from being a prisoner in the human house.  Simple language, a short text and engaging illustrations make this a good transition book for kids that are moving from easy readers to chapter books. The story will appeal to kids as young as preschool and even the youngest readers/listeners will quickly figure out what the squirrels do not, that Mr. Nibbles is just a toy. (79 p.)