Sunday, November 27, 2016

Tales from a Not-So-Perfect Pet Sitter by Rachel Russell

Cover image for Tales from a not-so-perfect pet sitterNikki believes all her problems are over when mean girl Mackenzie transfers to another school.  Then Nikki finds a box with a mother dog and eight puppies left on the steps of the dog shelter she and her friend (and crush interest), Brandon, helped to establish.  The problem is that the shelter is at capacity, so they need someplace to keep the dog family until they get openings at the shelter.  Nikki and three friends agree to take the dogs for 24 hours each but when Nikki asks her parents' permission they refuse. Rather than let down her boy friend, she decides to hide the dogs in her room over night. After all, how much trouble can eight little cute puppies be?

There used to be (and maybe she is still around) a lady in this area who was considered the guru of children's literature named Nancy Livingston.  She would say things like, "If you have never read Harry Potter you are illiterate" or "If you haven't read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you are illiterate."  She is kind of right if you are involved in Children's literature in any way.  I was feeling illiterate because I had never read any of the Dork Diaries. This series is "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" for girls, and every time a new one comes out it is on the PW top 20 list for weeks. This is #10 in the series and was OK.  I can see why it is popular with the reluctant reader crowd. The story is light and entertaining with some fairly funny moments.  There is also a wish fulfillment element to it.  Even though awkward and embarrassing things happen, everything works out better than expected in the end.  It is pretty much popcorn and peanuts in print. (291 p.)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Captain Awesome Meets Super Dude by Stan Kirby

Cover image for Captain Awesome meets Super Dude!Here is my intermediate book for the week. Eugene (aka, Captain Awesome) is super excited to learn that his idol, Super Dude, will be visiting the local comics shop.  As the big day draws near Eugene notices an increase of activity among the local super-villain population. Is it possible they are planning a group attack on Super Dude? Captain Awesome and the other members of the Sunnyview Superhero Squad are determined to warn Super Dude before it is too late.

This is the latest (#17) in a fun series about a kid with a really active pretend life. The humor is in the double meanings. Young readers will enjoy being "in on the joke" as Captain Awesome foils the evil Mr. Drools (a slobbery overly-affectionate dog), Queen Stinkypants, (Eugene's diaper wearing little sister) and other neighborhood "villains."  I love the fact that when they little boy puts on his superhero suit his parents play along and start calling him "Captain Awesome." Even though the book has almost 150 pages, it is on a fairly low reading level, with large print and lots of fun black and white illustrations. This is a great transition intermediate for the superhero loving crowd. 148 p.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith

Cover image for School ship TobermoryBen and Fee McTavish are brother/sister twin children of marine biologists.  When it is time for them to go to boarding school, they are sent to a school that is on a sailing ship.  They quickly make friends, and enemies, and learn the difference between port and bow.  On their first semester voyage some students are invited to be extras in a movie about pirates, but is the the piracy all on film, or is there something more sinister going on?

This is delightfully innocent book.  The kids actually make correct and responsible choices when deciding whether to tell the Captain what is going on or sneak onto the movie ship and investigate for themselves. Hooray! Here is a book with the charm of the Penderwicks that will appeal to both boys and girls. It is a good choice for fairly young readers who are reading at an advanced level or for a family read aloud where there is a variety of ages of listeners. (218 p)

p.s. I was surprised to find out it is written by the author of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency.  It makes me want to try one of that series. (Ha ha, probably most adult women readers would have said that sentence the other way around.)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Cover image for The hammer of ThorThis is the second in the Magnus Chase series. Magnus is settled in at Valhalla when a new resident arrives.  It is another child of Loki, named Alex.  Alex is gender fluid so on some days she is female, and other days he's male.  Alex and Magnus, along with the Valkyrie, Samira, and Magnus' elf and dwarf friends, are sent by Thor to find and return his hammer which has been stolen by the Giants.  As they continue they begin to wonder if there whole quest has been secretly directed by Loki.

So it seems that Riordan has not only jumped on the GLTB bandwagon, he is become its conductor. If you can get by that, then this book is just like all the Riordan books--lots of fast action and lots of snappy patter.  As always Riordan makes interesting relationships between the kids and the immortals. I enjoyed the book and will probably read the last one in the series when it comes out.  (468 p)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa De Los Santos

Cover image for Saving Lucas BiggsMargaret's father has been sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. As he is taken from the court room, he makes Margaret repeat the "forswearing" a promise all the people in her family make to not time travel, although they have the power to do so. After conferring with her best friend Charlie, and his grandfather, Joshua, Margaret decides to go back in time, even though by doing so she is risking everything she cares about in the present.  She travels to 1938 to try to change the early life of the vindictive and corrupt judge who convicted her father.  

This is perhaps my favorite book I have read this year. It had a very complicated and sophisticated plot, and fully realized characters. As the different characters grapple with the ethics of time travel, De Los Santos packs in a ton of wisdom but only in one small place did it start to feel a little preachy. On top of all that, the writing is really good. The book kind of felt like Tuck Everlasting and perhaps like Tuck Everlasting, it will mostly appeal to adults. (279 p.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Moo by Sharon Creech

Cover image for MooReena's father loses his job in the city, so the family decides to move to Maine to make a fresh start. Reena's parents volunteer her and her little brother, Luke, to help an older Italian lady, Mrs. Falala, take care of her livestock, including an contrary cow named Zora.  At first the two are clueless about how to take care of the cow, but Mrs. Falala and some neighborhood kids help them and Reena  gradually becomes very attached to the cow and to Mrs. Falala.

This is a book written in free verse like Creech's Love that Dog, and Hate that Cat.  There was a lot that I liked about the book.  I liked that when the parents tell the kids to help Mrs. Falala, they grumble, but actually try hard to do something they don't want to do just to be obedient.  How often are there books about kids who are obedient to their parents and good things come of it?  The relationships in the book are very sweet, and because it is written in verse, it isn't very long.  If a grandparent had to babysit grandkids for a weekend and wanted a read aloud, they could get through the whole book in a few sittings.  I am not sure how much I will be recommending the book, however.  It is slower paced than a lot of what kids are reading these days. I will probably be giving it to parents who enjoyed reading things like The Penderwicks or The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate to their families.  (278 p.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Cover image for How to train your dragonI was excited to hear that Cressida Cowell was coming to speak at our library.  I was also embarrassed that I hadn't actually read any of her How to Train Your Dragon books.  So I quickly repented and read two this week, #1, and #5.  I must say they were a delight. The first book, though it has the same title as the movie, does not have the same plot line.  In the book the Viking community already uses dragons as companions, but they control them by brute force.  Hiccup is unique because he can talk to dragons, and instead of bullying them, he uses persuasion and psychology to win their cooperation.  In the book Toothless is much smaller than in the movie.  He is small enough to sit under Hiccup's hat. Also there is nothing about overcoming a handicap.  Still the movie is very much inspired by the personalities of the main characters in the book. Hiccup's inferiority complex, and sarcastic intelligence in the movie is right from the book.  The Viking bravado and funny brutishness is all from Cowell. I can see how the movie people could read the book and say to themselves, these characters could really work on the big screen.
Cover image for How to twist a dragon's tale : the heroic misadventures of Hiccup the Viking
I enjoyed #1 very much, but I almost enjoyed #5, How to Twist a Dragon's Tale, better.  In this one a new hero comes to Berk and so does a new threat.  An island volcano covered with Exterminator Dragon eggs is about to erupt.  When it does the eggs will hatch and the dragons will descend on Berk like a giant swarm of locust.  Hiccup, the has-been hero, and Hiccup's mismatched group of friends have to find a way to keep the whole Viking world from being overrun.  Even though the story is mostly silly fun, there was a little bit of depth in it.  The has-been hero is Hiccup's mother's old boyfriend, and Hiccup gets to see his mother for the first time as a real person instead of just a mother-figure.   There is a little scene at the end between Hiccup and his Mother that was rather sweet.

Anyway, I will be recommending this series a lot from now on to kids and to families who want a good read aloud.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Goldie by Ellen Miles

Cover image for GoldieHere is my intermediate book of the week.  Charles and Lizzie want a pet dog in the worst way.  They ask their mom every day, but each time she answers that she doesn't feel like they are ready for a puppy yet.  One day Charles' father brings a puppy home from work, a refugee from a house fire.  Lizzie's mother agrees they can keep the dog as a foster pet until they find a good permanent home for her. 

This is the first in a series "Puppy Place" for young dog lovers.  The writing is above average and the author works in a lot of good information about puppy care.  Although the book seems totally predictable, I must admit I didn't know if the kids were going to be able to keep the dog or not in the end, so kudos to Miles for adding a little bit of suspense.  Parents beware, if your child reads this book and doesn't have a dog already, they are going to want one by the end.  76 p.