Odd is a kid who smiles all the time, even after his father dies. The village people do Not understand him. Then he attempts to use his father’s giant axe, and in the process injures his leg; he builds himself a crutch and drags himself home. His mother remarries a man who doesn’t care for Odd. But Odd perseveres, using the talents he has, he is able to help out the Norse gods, Odin, Loki, and Thor, who have been turned into different animals. This was a fun short read.
God Got a Dog is a short collection of poems by Cynthia Rylant. These poems all explore what would happen if God came to earth to explore being a human. He gets a job, gets in a fight, goes skating, eats spaghetti, gets cable and ends up with a dog to warm his feet. I liked the fact that while some of the poems are a little irreverent (talking about writing the bible) most of them are fairly serious looks at what God would find himself or herself doing as a human. I also really liked the fact that God could be any age and any gender; he is everyone and no one at the same time. This book will not be for everyone, but it is filled with thoughtful poems that really explore what it means to be human and who God is.
Anna, Henry and Jose are back for another adventure. This time they are headed to Costa Rica to find the legendary Jaguar Cup. The cup was supposed to be on display in Washington, DC, but a fake was in its place. Turns out the cup has been stolen and it is up to the Jaguar Society to find it. The kids are once again on their own with their parents stuck in San Jose. And once again the culprits are right under their noses. It is a race through the jungle with deadly snakes, bullet ants, swinging rope bridges and zip lines. It is a fast paced adventure mystery with lots of twists and turns.
I think Kate Messner writes great mysteries that kids will really enjoy. Anna, Henry and Jose are all smart and creative thinkers. I really liked Sofia and the knowledge of the jungle she brought to the book. I was glad this one didn’t rely as heavily on the stereotypes as the first one. Anna isn’t in junior investigative reporter mode the entire time and Jose’s nose isn’t always stuck in a book. Henry however is still the same video game obsessed kid he was in Capture the Flag. I think once Messner gets him totally fleshed out this series will really take off.
Jack Baker is leaving his Kansas home to go to boarding school in Maine. His mother has just died and his father is in the Navy. It is WWII and Jack has nowhere else to go. Maine is completely different from Kansas and Jack has a hard time fitting in. He makes friends with weird kid Early, but that doesn’t help him with the other kids. During a school break Jack and Early set out on a quest…a quest to find the great bear and prove that Pi (the number 3.14) is alive. Early is convinced that if he can just complete this quest he will also find his brother Fischer. Fischer was the school golden boy who we are told died fighting in France. Early is convinced he is still alive though. He has concocted a story about Pi, told through the numbers, that explains the journey Pi has to take. Early and Jack’s journey mirrors Pi’s as they head out into the wilderness.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this book as I was reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. Clare Vanderpool is completely unique in her storytelling. The whole time I was reading I was getting flashes of the types of stories Mark Twain would write, but this was different. There is a quest as Early and Jack set out down the river to find the great black bear. Along the way there are obstacles that distract them from their quest. What I found really interesting was how Pi’s story was woven through their own. As Early tells the story of Pi, his adventures are reflected in the boys’ adventures. Of course they are rewarded at the end of their quest but not in the way I expected. This is a unique and beautiful story about friendship and family and determination.
True Blue Scouts is a meandering, lazy book full of beautiful, swampy descriptions. It has an environmental message but the urgency of the message is lost in the meandering story. There are the racoons Bingo and J’miah who climb trees on missions and wait for the Voice of Intelligence in the Information Center. There is Chap who’s mom runs the Paradise Pies and who’s grandpa just died. There is Sonny Boy Beauchamp who owns the swamp and wants to turn it into a Gater Wrestling Area. Then there is the Sugar Man, a creature of myth and legend who protects the swamp and has been sleeping or a long time. There are wild pigs rampaging on a quest for sugar cane. We want to save the swamp from Sonny and the pigs and the only one who can do that is the Sugar Man. I didn’t really enjoy this one. It was too slow and meandering for my tastes. It is a decent story but the urgency of the message seemed lost in the meandering text.
Summer and her brother Jaz are headed out with their grandparents on harvest. Her grandfather will drive a combine as they travel the country harvesting wheat. Obaachan and Jiichan are an old Japanese couple who argue constantly and are always trying to help with Summer and Jaz. The family’s luck hasn’t been very good ever since Summer got malaria in Kansas and almost died. Her parents had to go to Japan to care for dying relatives leaving the kids with the grandparents and a mortgage to pay. While on harvest Obaachan keeps antagonizing Mrs. Parker the head of the harvesters and Jiichan gets sick. Summer has to step up and help out and change the family’s luck.
I found this book a little on the slow side and I have to admit I was a bit bored by all the information on combines and harvesting wheat. I did like Summer’s journey to help her family and was pretty entertained by Obaachan and all her complaining. I like the fact that Kadohata’s writing is filled with Japanese words and information on that culture.
Roan Novachez has always dreamed of going to Pilot Academy, but when he doesn’t get in he thinks he is doomed to the Tantooine Agricultural Academy. Then he is offered a spot at the Jedi Academy. Roan is way behind his classmates who have been learning the ways of the Jedi for years, but he slowly catches up. He makes friends and learns about the force from Master Yoda and his other teachers. Soon Roan realizes he doesn’t need to be a pilot anymore because he is destined to be a Jedi. This is a book I am sure kids are really going to like. It is about Star Wars, it has graphic elements and an entertaining story. I appreciated the fact that the book had several different elements: graphic, doodles, illustrations and straight text.
This is a humorous take on 30 familiar fairy tales and fables where Cinderella and Pinocchio have attitude, the Little Mermaid has really bad luck, and Little Red Riding Hood karate kicks the big bad wolf all the way back to his house.
P.S. Be Eleven is the follow up to One Crazy Summer. It picks up with the three Gaither sisters on the plane back to Brooklyn from Oakland. They are no longer with their revolutionary mother Cecile learning about “the people” from the Black Panthers. They are back under Big Ma’s rule where they are not to make a negro spectacle of themselves. Things are different in Brooklyn; their father has a new lady friend he intends to marry and Uncle Darnell is home from Vietnam. Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are also introduced to the Jackson Five and go crazy! They start saving their money to see them at Madison Square Garden. Delphine has a new teacher in sixth grade who is different from anyone else. She has to get used to his teaching style and the change in the boy/girl rules. Seems like sixth grade is when boys aren’t nearly so gross to some of the girls. Delphine writes letters to Cecile to try and come to terms with all the changes in her life. Her mother responds to her letters with good advice and a reminder to Be Eleven, to not grow up too fast and be worried about things you don’t need to worry about.
This is a more enclosed story than One Crazy Summer. A lot of the action happens at home among the Gaither family as Big Ma and Pa clash over Uncle Darnell and Miss Marva. I really enjoyed the actual events that were woven through this story. There is of course the Jackson Five coming on the scene and the craziness that ensued from that, but also the election of Shirley Chisholm (the first Black woman elected to Congress) and the effects of being in Vietnam. We still have a bit of the Black Panther movement, but it isn’t nearly as prevalent as it was in the last book. I also enjoyed the clash of cultures between Big Ma, who doesn’t want to call attention to herself or offend the White Man, and Miss Merva, who is more hip and socially aware. It is an interesting peek at an exciting time in history.
In the year 52,740, the earth has become a series of bubble cities. Oil has been replaced by hydro-2 which is destroying the landscape and eating up all available space. Craven Industries and its evil CEO is the richest man on earth because he controls hydro-2. Phoebe is an orphan living on her own for the past year since her parents were killed in a shuttle explosion. All she has left of them is her robot Max and her moon certificate. When she is picked up by Child Protective Services and sent to the orphanage she meets five other orphans whose parents were also killed in the shuttle accident and who also have moon certificates. They escape from earth and travel to their moon which they discover is paradise. They are brought back to earth when Craven tracks them down. They must inform the world of their parents’ discovery which could lead to a new fuel source for earth.
This graphic novel was surprisingly complicated and detailed. The story could have easily translated to a novel format, but was completely enhanced by the graphic format. I thought the kids were all well thought out and each had their own personalities. I did think Craven was a little one dimensional, but a lot of bad guys are just drawn that way. I think kids will really enjoy this action-packed adventure.
This is an eerie, spooky story about a boy who was lost and then found. The story starts when Nate moves into a new house and discovers tapes under the floor of his room. The tapes tell the story of Walt who lived and disappeared 50 years ago. Walt discovered a world outside of the normal world with talking animals and magical trees that act as gates to this other world. Nate starts seeing the same things Walt once did and with the help of new friend Tabitha sets out to figure out what is going on. They must travel into this other world and defeat the Vespertine and save the word.
This is a complicated story that might be more appropriate for upper elementary students instead of the younger ones. I think if readers stick with it they will find the magic and wonder of the story interesting, but some might get turned off by the complicated dual stories. I loved how this was illustrated in simple ink drawings. They really brought the action to life. You have to really pay attention to get all the details out of this one, but you will be rewarded if you do.
Jules is an entertaining young girl with Pizazz! She has a lot to deal with at school what with her former best friend coming back from a fancy vacation and not liking her anymore. Then there is the new girl Elinor of London who she hopes will be her new best friend. She also has her very first audition coming up. The only problem is that it is for orange mouthwash and Jules doesn’t do anything orange since the orange sherbert incident. It will take all the help of new and old friends as well as her grandma to get her ready for her debut.
This was a good beginning chapter book for girls. Jules is a fun character who likes to collect words and make lists. I enjoyed the fact that her family was pretty much normal with just a few entertaining quirks. Her little brother was awesome. I also liked the fact that even though she felt left out when Charlotte found new friends she learns that friendship goes both ways.
Zozimos’ journey to the kingdom of Sticatha has been anything but smooth. He’s survived enslavement, battled golems and a ravenous Cyclops, and generally served as plaything to gods and goddesses looking for a good laugh. All for the sake of reclaiming the Sticathan royal throne–stolen from him by an evil witch, aka his stepmother.
You’d think that a stickman would catch a break after all that, but you’d be wrong. Arriving home only brings crazy family members and a return trip to sea, where mercenary centaurs and giant boar gods keep Zozimos questing and readers laughing. It would all be an epic tragedy if it wasn’t so funny.
Ely’s best friend is his dog Tommy. Sadly, Tommy gets hit by a car and Ely is devastated. He goes to his grandpa’s farm for the summer and finds a t-rex in a cave. Now Ely has a new best friend, one who destroys everything in his path. Ely and Grandpa have to teach the t-rex to obey. Once they do they start earning all kinds of money to pay for damages and helping the local politician. Ely has run-ins with the local bully who wants to destroy Ely’s good fortune. There is a story in here about friendship and bullying and making what you have good. The illustrations are fabulous and the story is one kids will enjoy.
A Hero for WandLa continues the adventures of Eva Nine, introduced in A Search for WandLa. Eva and her alien traveling companion, Rovender, journey to New Attica, the idyllic modern human city founded by Cadmus Pryde, the mind behind the Sanctuaries and test-tube breeding program of which Eva is a product. All is not what it seems, however, and soon Eva is on the run.
DiTerlizzi is both a wonderful author and illustrator, and this book is a great example of that talent. Even though the plot covers several science fiction tropes (paradise with a rotten core? Shocking!), the story is more satisfying than the first novel. The relationship between Eva and Rovender is genuinely touching, and the addition of a certain familiar face adds a nice twist. Unfortunately, this book also ends like the first- smack dab in the middle of great things, as if the author simply decided it was as good a point as any to break for the next installment. I know I will be reading it. Recommended.
Chickenhare and his friend Abe the turtle are sold to Mr. Klaus the taxidermist. They must escape his evil clutches along with their new friends the monkey and the elf girl. Mr. Klaus is determined to turn them all into stuffed animals because his beloved goat Mr. Buttons ran off 40 years ago. The escapees are helped by a tribe of Shrompf. There is a mighty battle between the good guys and Mr. Klaus and his evil henchmen. The heroes are aided by the dead Mr. Buttons and triumph in the end. Mr. Klaus and henchmen become dinner and all live happily ever after. I am not really sure what to think about this story. There are some fairly funny gags and the illustrations are good. But the story is gruesome and there is cannibalism. I am sure there are kids out there who will really enjoy this one, but as an adult I was not really a fan.
Max is an orphan who has been shuttled around to seven different foster homes in the last six years. When his latest home burns down he is sent to The Merry Sunshine Orphanage. The orphanage run by Hanti Annie is more than a home for orphans though it is a spy school. Max receives coded messages that indicate his father is alive. A covert mission gives him the perfect chance to see if he can find and rescue his father from the evil LOTUS group. Max must decide if his only blood relative is his family or if the group at the orphanage has become his family. Loyalties will be tested.
This book was a little over the top even though it is about orphans being trained as spies. I didn’t feel like we go to know any of the characters enough to really care about them one way or the other. I also thought the storyline with Max’s father was fairly predictable and not nearly as inventive as the plot suggested. I liked the fact that there was a very multicultural cast of characters though I thought it was a missed opportunity to have Hanti Annie speak pidgin and not understand English that well when she was an accomplished spy who spoke seven languages. I think some kids will enjoy this book, but there are better spy stories out there.