14. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

Amelia Earhart: Lady Lindy by Ann Hood, Denis Zilber (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 10/13/2014

Maisie, Felix and the Ziff twins are sent back through time to the Congo to find the missing Amy Pickworth. They get chased separated and Maisie and Felix end up chased by gorillas and stalked by lions. They escape leaving the Ziffs to their fate. They end up with Amelia Earhart as a young girl before she falls in love with airplanes. Of course they don’t realize she is Amelia Earhart because she goes by Meelie and the kids spend a month with the family without asking their names (I’m serious here!). Finally they realize who she is and complete their mission.

So I haven’t read any of the other Treasure Chest books and wasn’t really familiar with the stories or how the time travel works in this series. Apparently, the family has been amassing treasures throughout time and storing them in a room called the Treasure Chest. In order to time travel you have to be a twin and find an object that will take you to the time and place you want to go. Once there you have to give the object to the person you are seeking after getting a lesson in order to go home. Seems a bit complicated and it really is if you never ask a person their name. Not my favorite mainly because I didn’t find Maisie or Felix that likeable and they just seemed a little on the dim side (I really can’t get over the fact that they stayed with Earhart for a month and never found out who they were staying with).

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Tell Me by Joan Bauer, read by Angie, on 10/12/2014

Anna is a twelve year old drama kid. She is currently starring as a dancing cranberry at the mall. Unfortunately, her parents are not getting along right now and need a little space. They decide to send Anna to Rosemont to stay with her grandma Mimi for a little while. Rosemont is getting ready for its famous flower festival which Mimi founded and runs. Anna jumps right in to life in Rosemont. She meets Taylor and Taylor’s horse Zoe and she gets a role as a dancing petunia at the local library. While at the library one day Anna notices a sad girl who seems to be in trouble. Anna can’t get the girl out of her mind and is determined to help her. She enlists the help of Mimi, the librarian, and the everyone she can think of including the librarian’s grandson Brad who works for Homeland Security. Anna spends her days helping with the festival, being a petunia at the library and trying to remember more details to help this mysterious girl.

Joan Bauer does a good job writing these types of books. They have strong female lead characters who kids can identify with. Anna is smart and determined and dedicated. Things don’t always work out for her but she does the best she can with what she has. Human trafficking is a pretty dark subject but it is handled with a gentle touch in this book. It is a good introduction of the subject to kids who have probably not heard about it before. I like the fact that the case wasn’t solved like magic but through investigation and determination. Tell Me is a good read and another winner for Bauer.

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Twice As Nice by Lin Oliver, read by Angie, on 10/12/2014

Charlie’s friends aren’t talking to her ever since she told on two boys who started a fire. Her twin Sammie thinks this is for the best since mean-girl and leader of the pack Lauren isn’t nice at all. Charlie just wants to be part of the in-crowd though. When Lauren decided to form The Junior Waves club she needs Charlie to increase their chances of getting approved. Charlie is excited to be back in the group and will do pretty much anything even if it means going against what she knows is right.

This book was pretty cliched with no likable characters. I know it has a nice message about not giving in to peer pressure and bullying and being true to yourself but the delivery had the subtlety of a sledge hammer. Pretty much any cliche you can think of was in this book and you knew how the story was going to play out from the beginning. There are much better books out there that deal with these topics.

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald , read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Theodora Tenpenny is not having a good summer. Her grandfather Jack died in a freak accident and she is left caring for her reclusive mother and their aging house. When Jack was alive they were just scraping by with his salary from the Museum of Modern Art, but now they have no income and very little left to live on. She makes due with food from her garden and treasures she finds around New York. Jack was an artist and when he died told Theo to look for a treasure under the egg. Their is a painting of an egg in the house and Theo is obsessed with finding the treasure. One day she spills alcohol on the painting and finds another painting underneath. This painting looks old and probably stolen. Theo spends the rest of the summer trying to figure out if the painting is really a lost Raphael and how Jack ended up with it. She finds help throughout the city from a variety of people including the daughter of two actors, a priest, a fun librarian, and a guy selling nuts on the street. Turns out the painting has an amazing back story.

I have become kind of obsessed with the Nazi art looting of Europe and the Monuments Men story in the last year or so. This book really brought that obsession to life in a wonderful middle grade novel. I loved Theo and her determination and resilience. She is a fabulous character who is stuck at the beginning of the novel. Throughout the book she becomes more and more unstuck as she meets wonderful, helpful people around the city and realizes she is not alone. The thing I liked best about the book was the fact that the mystery of the painting was believable. So many mysteries for kids take a huge leap of faith on the part of the reader and this one did not. Sure there was a huge coincidence at the end, but the rest of it made sense. I highly recommend this one. Loved it!

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Sunny Sweet Is So Dead Meat by Jennifer Ann Mann, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Masha and Sunny are back in their second adventure. This time it is a trip to the science fair where it turns out Masha is Sunny’s project. The project involves red dye exploding all over Masha and observing how people treat her once she looks different. Masha of course is not happy about this at all. The day ends up with Masha sneaking through the school and meeting Batman and Robin, Masha and Sunny taking the wrong bus home and ending up at a graveyard, Masha getting lost in the graveyard and falling into an open grave, and of course Sunny winning the science fair. I really enjoy these stories. While you do have to suspend a bit of belief to believe a six-year-old could accomplish everything Sunny does the interaction between Masha and Sunny are very true to life. Little sisters can be annoying but you do love and support them…even if they spray you with red dye!

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Susan Marcus Bends the Rules by Jane Cutler, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Susan Marcus is leaving New York and heading to St. Louis, Missouri. It is 1943 and the family is moving so her dad can start a new job. Living in St. Louis is much different than New York. Susan has a hard time accepting the Jim Crow laws of Missouri. She doesn’t like the fact that her new friend Loretta can’t go to the movies, the swimming pool or to restaurants just because she is black. Susan, Loretta and Marlene concoct a plan to fight Jim Crow when they realize that public transportation is not segregated.

I like the fact that this book is set in Missouri and it was interesting to read about the Jim Crow laws that affected this state. Most historical fiction dealing with this time period is set in the South not the Midwest so this is a new and different perspective. I think Susan’s confusion over the difference between New York and St. Louis came off completely realistic. I am sure there were a lot of kids who didn’t really see color if they didn’t grow up being told to notice it. It is a nice message for kids today. However, I did have a couple of issues with this book. There is a lot packed into this very short novel, yet strangely not enough. A lot of the book is taken up with the Jim Crow laws and the issues facing people who are not white. Very little is actually mentioned about the war and the rationing and how this affects every day life. There are a few instances, but you would have thought it would have more of an impact on the characters. I also truly hate the cover of this book and think it will turn kids off. I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover but we all do and this one looks too old fashioned for kids today.

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction · Tags:

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

This is a very nice beginning chapter book that teaches kids about Eastern philosophy without them even really knowing it. Isabel is the best bunjitsu bunny and each chapter of this little book teaches a different lesson. While each chapter is about Isabel they are all independent stories and don’t need to be read in order. Isabel is a wise bunny who shares many lessons she has learned through bunjitsu with the readers and the other characters in the book. It is a nice lesson on sharing and thinking of others and doing your best. Lots of white space and illustrations and short chapters so even the youngest readers can handle this one.

11. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Ashara is a place ruled by magic. The powerful kasiri wield the magic and have all the power. The magicless halani are relegated to subservient positions and living in slums. Marah Levi is a 14 year old halani girl who dreams of a better life. She wants to study music in secondary school, but she also has a passion for books and languages. It is through her love of obscure languages that she meets Azariah a kasiri boy who also enjoys languages. Together they start exploring ancient books in a forgotten language. All the while a plague starts ravaging their city. The plague turns people’s eyes black and kills them. So far no cure has been found and the powerful kasiri government doesn’t seem to be doing much about it. Marah and Azariah stumble upon the cure and the cause of the plague in the book they are studying. Together they set out to create the cure and save those they love.

This is an interesting book. Because it is set in another land with magic it is able to make quite a few comments on racism and elitist governments. It is pretty heavy stuff for a middle grade book. The kasiri are the minority in Ashara, but wield all the power over the halani. Anytime the halani try to stand up for themselves they are labeled subversive and either killed or sent to prison. It is very reminiscent of some places and periods of history in our own world. I enjoyed the story and the quest Marah and Azariah take in order to figure out the cure for the black eyes plague but at times I felt the story almost took a backseat to the political/social commentary. I am sure a lot of that message will go over the heads of the intended readers so I wish the story would have been just a bit stronger.

10. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Katy, Science Fiction · Tags:

The Good, the bad, and the Goofy by Jon Scieszka, read by Katy, on 10/10/2014

9780670843800_xlgThis is the third book in the Time Warp Trio series. While enjoying a western on television, Fred, Joe, and Sam are transported back to the old west after reciting a spell. Based on knowledge from their previous time travel adventures, they know the only way they can get back to current day is by locating their magical book in the Wild West. They have some close calls with a flood, stampedes, and almost get scalped! They manage to survive by finding the book and using a Time Freezer spell to get themselves out of a dangerous situation and back to the present day.

I don’t read many juvenile books but I thought this was cute and had good illustrations.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan, Eric Wight (Illustrations), Magician Mike Lane, read by Angie, on 10/09/2014

Mike is always getting in trouble, not because he is a bad kid but because he just can’t sit still. The first week of school he is sent to the principal’s office twice! He and new girl Nora have to spend every afternoon together this year too. Nora is smart and good at everything. One day they find The White Rabbit magic shop and Mike discovers he is good at something too. Mr. Zerlin challenges Mike and Nora to a riddle and only Mike can figure it out. Mr. Zerlin teaches Mike a magic trick. Soon Mike is learning tricks on his own and doing great. He still isn’t doing that well at school, but the magic gives him the strength to stand up to bully Jackson.

This is a fun book that I am sure kids will enjoy whether they like magic or not. I do wish there was a bit more resolution to the story though. It seems to end abruptly which I guess is to get the reader interested in the next book in the series. I also think Mike’s problems could have been handled better by his parents. They are present during the book but don’t seem to take a lot of interest in Mike. It does have a good message about finding what you are good at and standing up to bullies.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren, read by Angie, on 10/09/2014

Esther’s mom is extremely superstitious. Any little thing can be bad or good luck. Esther never knows when she is going to do something wrong and it seems like her mom doesn’t love her like she does the other kids or like other moms love their kids. Esther never gets hugs and kisses or “I love yous”. She is always trying to think of ways to earn her mom’s love. It is the height of the Depression and things are not looking good in Chicago. When Esther’s dad loses his job, the family decides to buy a farm in Wisconsin and start over. Esther loves the farm and all the animals. She has made a new friend and likes the community. However, her new friend has a mole on her face which to Esther’s mom means she has been marked. She tells Esther they can’t be friends anymore. Esther can’t obey her mom in this as Bethany is her best friend and so very nice. Esther wonders if her mom could be wrong for once about the signs.

This is a nice story about a girl living in the 1930s depression. I liked the story of surviving on less and learning to appreciate what you have. I think the heart of the story is really Esther trying to understand her mom and learning to live with the restrictions her mom’s superstitions place on the family. It is a gentle and slower story than many that are written today; more heart than action.

08. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Magician's Boy by Susan Cooper , read by Lisa, on 10/07/2014

Only a child can find the way to bring Saint George back to the play.

The Boy works for the Magician, and he wants more than anything to learn magic. But the Magician always says, “Not yet, Boy. Not till the time is right.” So the Boy has to be content with polishing the Magician’s wand, taking care of the rabbits the Magician pulls out of hats, and doing his favorite job: operating the puppets for the play Saint George and the Dragon, which the Magician always performs as part of his act.

Until one day the Saint George puppet disappears, and the angry Magician hurls the Boy into the strange Land of Story to find Saint George. His quest is full of adventures with oddly familiar people, from the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe to the Giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk. But the Boy’s last adventure is the most amazing of all — and changes his life forever.

08. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore, read by Angie, on 10/07/2014

Hazel lives with her parents in the small Vermont town of Maple Hill. Her parents are the caretakers of the local cemetery and Hazel has free reign over the cemetery. It is 1953 and the height of the Joseph McCarthy Red Menace where communists seem to be everywhere. Hazel believes what she hears. She is building a bomb shelter in one of the mausoleums and investigating the new gravedigger Mr. Jones. She believes that since the FBI is investigating the local factory there must be other commies in town. Hazel thinks Mr. Jones is suspicious and wants to catch him in the act. She enlists the help of her new friend Samuel who is new in town and has a mysterious past. Together they have to figure out the mystery of Mr. Jones and the communist threat.

I liked this book. Hazel is spunky and smart and a bit full of herself. She loves the mysteries of Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon and wants to solve mysteries herself. Since she lives in a small town there aren’t really a lot of mysteries, which doesn’t stop Hazel. She sees things as she wants them to be in a lot of ways. She doesn’t have a whole lot of parental supervision, but this is the 1950s so maybe parents were a bit more lax back then. I like the fact that this book is set in a time period that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention with middle grade novels. There is also McCarthyism which is not something a lot of kids know about it. It is a fascinating time in our history when there was a lot of fear-mongering going on. While the Mr. Jones mystery wasn’t really that interesting, Samuel’s story was as was how Hazel resolved it.

07. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

I Heart Band by Michelle Schusterman, read by Angie, on 10/06/2014

Holly is looking forward to going back to school and seeing her best friend Julia. Her first day does not go as planned however. First her brother spills orange juice all over her first-day outfit and new backpack so she has to use an old batman one. Then Julia has made a new friend at band camp and Natasha is not someone Holly wants to be friends with. Natasha and Julia have all kinds of inside stories about band camp that makes Holly feel left out and jealous. Natasha also plays french horn in band just like Holly does and she is better! Seventh grade is hard enough without having to deal with all of this extra drama.

I actually dreaded reading this book because of the title. I think I Heart Band is going to turn off kids who would actually enjoy this one. It is a completely realistic look at what happens when a new friend is introduced into the mix, when you start thinking about boys as more than friends, when you move up in school and the classes are so much harder. I remember a lot of these emotions and situations Holly experiences from my own experiences in middle school. You cringe a bit but can also laugh because you survived. However, as much as I would have enjoyed this story as a kid I would probably have never picked it up because of the title. I wasn’t in band and would have been completely turned off by the fact that it is mentioned in the title. I would have thought it was all about band instead of a decent story about surviving middle school.

07. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman, read by Angie, on 10/06/2014

Gladys Gatsby is an eleven year old foodie. She has been forced into learning to cook and learning to love good food by her fast-food eating, microwave cooking parents who have no concept of what good food actually is. She has been making her own gourmet meals since she was seven when her aunt Lydia introduced her to the wonders of excellent cooking. Her life as she knows it comes to an end one day when she accidently set the kitchen curtains on fire while trying to make creme brulee with a regular blowtorch. Her parents ground her from cooking, reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows on TV. Instead they say she has to go out into the world and make friends and do regular kid stuff. This also means she is forced to eat the awful things her parents eat.

Then her new teacher has a fabulous assignment. The students are to write a report on their future selves. These reports will be submitted to the essay contest at the New York Standard newspaper. Gladys loves the dining section of the Standard and all the restaurant reviews. So she writes her report as if she was submitting a cover letter to be a food critic at the paper. Her letter gets misdirected to the editor of the dining section who just happens to need a new food critic. Gladys is hired but now must figure out how to get to New York to the restaurant without her parents finding out or the paper finding out she is only eleven.

This book was simply charming! I was afraid it was going to be filled with implausible coincidences and a child prodigy cook, but it was nothing like that. While Gladys is a fantastic cook, she is also completely realistic. I liked her fascination with food and could belief that it developed because of her parents’ horrible tastes. She gets up to all kinds of schemes to try and get to New York and complete her assignment and I thought they were clever and smart. Doesn’t matter that most of them didn’t work out. I thought the ending was a perfect end to this journey we took with Gladys. My one complaint about this book is that it made me really hungry for fabulous food and delicious desserts.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Leslie

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, read by Leslie, on 09/06/2014

One Came Home

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn’t, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of “pigeoners” trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha’s blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

While set in the 1800s and the setting seems western in nature, it really isn’t a western.  Georgie, the main character, refuses to believe that her sister is dead, despite the evidence pointing to her demise.  She sets off, determined to find her.  While she is out looking, she runs into more than she anticipated and even though she still doesn’t believe her sister is dead, Georgie begins to resign herself to that conclusion.  What intrigued me about the story, were the pigeons and pigeoners, due to the fact that I had just been reading stories about the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the huge flocks of them that would migrate across the country.  I think this is a story that will find both boys and girls enjoying.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Hunter Moran Digs Deep by Patricia Reilly Giff, Chris Sheban (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 10/05/2014

Hunter and his twin brother Zack are out to find the treasure left by the town founder Lester Dinwitty. They team up with Sarah Yulefski and look for clues. They are followed and assisted by little brother Steadman. Bradley the Bully and their sister Linny are also looking for the treasure. They keep getting mysterious clues and help from someone. Their search leads them from the cemetery to the school basement and drum lessons to the train station and certain doom. Even though the characters in this book are older, it is clearly written for the beginning chapter book reader. The story is in some ways simple and in others completely uncomprehending. The whole treasure hunt scenario doesn’t make the most sense. And there are certain other things that really had me scratching my head in puzzlement. It takes a bit to find the story believable or possible. I think it is a good series for younger readers but can’t image anyone much older than 2nd/3rd grade enjoying it.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Revenge of Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach, Aleksey & Olga Ivanov (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 10/05/2014

The Barker brothers are back in the final installment of the Superstition Mountain trilogy. They and their friend Delilah found the mine in the mountains before it was buried by an avalanche in the last book. In this book they are trying to figure out what the mysterious historical society group is up to. They are back at the ghost town trying to find clues about the deathbed gold of Jacob Waltz and trying to figure out all the clues their uncle left them. The clues lead them to his long-time girlfriend and a plot in the cemetery. They also have to get back up to the mine and return the gold they took before the curse takes hold.

I read the first book in this series but not the second one. I am sure I missed out on some details but this final book does a nice job reminding the reader what has happened in the past. I like the fact that the mystery is based on actual historical events even if the contemporary people are not. I think that lends an aura of authenticity to the events in the books. I also enjoy the fact that this is also a book about family and the Barker family is very present although the parents do not seem to be as aware of their children’s actions as they probably should be. Overall this is a fun mystery series for middle grade readers.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora, read by Angie, on 10/04/2014

It is the summer after 8th grade. Lucy, Michael and Elena are looking forward to summer and contemplating their summer reading list. They are all book lovers and Lucy in particular truly loves To Kill a Mockingbird. Their favorite English teacher Fat Bob Nowak died the previous year and was also a big fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. The kids decide to start a campaign in honor of Fat Bob and their love of the book. The campaign will hopefully make more people want to read To Kill a Mockingbird, but how are they going to do that. They decide on “I Kill the Mockingbird” and travel around the state hiding copies of the book in libraries and bookstores (they never steal them). They also start an internet campaign and leave I Kill the Mockingbird posters where they have removed books. Their campaign takes off after Wil Wheaton tweets about it. Soon the I Kill the Mockingbird campaign has made the news and has become a national movement. Of course that is not all that is going on that summer. Lucy’s mom has is recovering from cancer and she is worried about her. Elena is an orphan living with her uncle Mort who runs a bookstore and is afraid she won’t fit in at high school because she is so short. Lucy also has a crush on Michael (he has one on her too) but is afraid to ruin their friendship. Michael is a fabulous baseball player and wants to be challenge during the game. This is a wonderful story about friendship, family and good books.

I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I was a bit skeptical at first but the premise of the book really worked. I loved Lucy, Elena and Michael. They are smart, articulate and fun characters who seemed exactly like the type of kids who could pull this off. I enjoyed the fact that the parents were actually present in the book and seemed like real people as well. So many kid’s books have absent parents or truly stereotypical ones. I think this is a book that book-loving kids will enjoy (as well as adults) and one that may spark an interest in reading some of the classics mentioned.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction

The 8th Continent by Matt London, read by Angie, on 10/04/2014

The earth in the future is being taken over by garbage and bureaucracy. Rick and Evie and their dad get in trouble with Winterpole after saving a bird whose habitat has become a landfill. Because of previous infractions dad is placed under house arrest, but not before he tells the kids about a secret formula he created years ago that would turn garbage into organic material. Winterpole found out about it and wanted to use it to make weapons (not sure how that would work) so dad and his partner split the formula and the partner disappeared. The kids are determined to find the partner and create an 8th continent out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Then they would be out from under Winterpole’s control. They are pursued by by Evie’s nemesis Vesuvia who is the secret CEO of her dad’s corporation and determined to turn everything in the world into pink plastic.

I’m not sure how believable this book is supposed to be, but I hope not very is the answer. Everything about it seems so far-fetched and unbelievable that it was difficult to get through at times. I liked the premise however and the writing was fun and entertaining. The characters were a bit one-dimensional especially Vesuvia and the Winterpole people. This book is the first in a planned series and the ending sets up the next book nicely. Even though much of the book makes no sense whatsoever I can see kids picking it up and enjoying the ride.