23. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt, read by Angie, on 02/20/2014

Julian did something that got him suspended from school. He doesn’t want to talk about it though. When he gets in trouble again his English teacher makes him take on a journal project. He has to write every day and turn it in to his teacher. Julian talks about his friends and the neighborhood and school and girls, but he still won’t talk about what happened over Christmas break.

I actually liked this story a lot more than I thought I would. Julian is a very likable character even if he does seem to just go along with his friends. I thought all the nicknames the kids had were pretty funny and it made me wonder if kids actually did give each other nicknames like that in the 1960s. I really liked Julian’s growth in this book. It seems he really comes to accept who he is and what he has done. I thought the girl part was a little ridiculous, but it added a lot of humor to the story. I think this is a story kids are really going to relate to. Who hasn’t done something they regret and wanted to forget about?

23. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Serafina's Promise by Ann E. Burg, read by Angie, on 02/21/2014

Serafina dreams of being a doctor, but unfortunately she doesn’t even go to school. Her family is very poor, living in Haiti, and she is needed at home to help her mom and grandma. A flash flood wipes out their home and village so the family has to move to another part of the island and rebuild. Soon after an earthquake strikes as well. Serafina is on her own after the earthquake trying to find her family.

I really enjoy novels in verse. I like the fact that authors have to get their story told using so few words. I think Serafina’s story is a good one. You can feel her desire to go to school and her fear when she is on her own after the earthquake. I am assuming this story is set during the recent earthquake in Haiti, but there is no exact date given and it could be at any point in the last century. This is a powerful story and a really enjoyable read.

23. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus, read by Angie, on 02/21/2014

Gregory comes from a family of mathematicians and her really doesn’t like math. He is the oddball in his family and no one seems to understand him. For Gregory loves writing, poetry specifically. He and his best friend Kelly love to write together and share what they have written. In order to pass his math class and appease his family he has to keep a journal where he writes about math and his life. He also enters the citywide math contest. Gregory learns about the Fibonacci Sequence and decides to do his project on it. But he doesn’t do a traditional math project; he decides to write poems based on the Fibonacci Sequence, which he calls fibs.

Full disclosure, I am not a math person. So a book about math really wasn’t my thing. However, I did like Gregory’s story and how he had to overcome his math deficiencies and find his place in his family. I liked his friendship with Kelly, but didn’t think it was ever fully explained why she and her mom were moving away. It almost seemed like there had to be some tension other than math and the author decided that the best friend leaving was perfect. I think this book will find an audience with the math nerds and the word geeks among readers.

23. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Doll Bones by Holly Black, read by Angie, on 02/21/2014

Zach, Poppy and Alice are best friends who like to play games full of imagination and story. Their stories usually center around The Queen, who is a old doll in a glass case in Poppy’s house. One day Poppy decides to take her out of the case and the doll starts speaking to her. It turns out the doll is made of bone china using the bones of a little girl named Eleanor. The three friends head out on a quest to return Eleanor to her grave.

I really enjoyed the friendship between Zach, Alice and Poppy; it was nice to see boys and girls as friends. I do wish they wouldn’t have included the love interest bit, but overall it was a good friendship that can overcome disagreements and quests. I thought Eleanor’s story was creepy and spooky. I loved how the kids figured it out (using the library). Fun, little mystery story.

20. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, read by Angie, on 02/19/2014

Castle Glower is alive and it has a mind of its own. It can change its rooms, make new ones and kick you out if it doesn’t like you. It also chooses who will rule the kingdom. And it has chosen Celie’s family as the current ruling family for ten generations. Celie loves Castle Glower; she has been mapping it her whole life and she knows the Castle better than anyone. She is the youngest of the royal children and one of those left at home when the King and Queen go off to bring the oldest son Bran home from the School of Wizardry. Celie along with Rolf and Lilah must take care of things while they are gone. Then word comes that the King, Queen, Bran and most of their party have been ambushed and killed. Suddenly the castle is in an uproar. Their are foreign princes and the royal council interfering in the children’s business and trying to take over the kingdom. It is up to them and the Castle to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I am a sucker for fairy tales like this and I have to admit that this one enchanted me from the beginning. I loved Celie and I loved Castle Glower. They are really the heart of this story. Celie is smart and spunky and loyal. Rolf and Lilah are too, but they didn’t quite capture my heart the way Celie did. I loved the relationship between the siblings though. They each had their own personalities that worked well off each other. I really enjoyed how they plotted to overcome all the bad guys trying to take over the kingdom and the Castle. And I have to say that I really want to live in a castle that will work with you and against your enemies.

I would recommend this to anyone really because I enjoyed it that much. It was an enchanting book full of adventure and magic and mystery…and a moving castle!

20. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Angie, on 02/19/2014

This is what I learned from this book:

A proper Empire wants a border and currency and some who are high and some who are low. And a really proper Empire, the best and most enviable kind of Empire, has Criminals. You’re not doing Empire right if there aren’t loads of people who don’t like it one bit!

A silent Library is a sad Library. A Library without patrons on whom to pile books and tales and knowing and magazines full of up-to-the-minute politickal fashions and atlases and plays in pentameter! A Library should be full of exclamations! Shouts of delight and horror as the wonders of the world are discovered or the lies of the heavens uncovered or the wild adventures of devil-knows-who sent romping out of the pages. A Library should be full of now-just-a-minutes and that-can’t-be-rights and scientifick folk running skelter to prove somebody wrong. It should positively vibrate with laughing at comedies and sobbing at tragedies, it should echo with gasps as decent ladies glimpse indecent things and indecent ladies stumble upon secret and scandalous decencies! A Library should not shush; it should roar!

Oh, every place has a Pluto! It’s where a universe keeps the polar bears and last year’s pickled entropy and the spare gravity. You need a Pluto or you’re hardly a universe at all. Plutos teach lessons. A lesson is like a time-traveling argument. Because, you see, you can’t argue until you’ve had the lesson or else you’re just squabbling with your own ignorance. But a lesson is really just the result of arguments other people had ages ago! You have to sit still and pay attention and pantomime their arguments over again until you’re so sick of their prattle that you pipe up to have your own. You can’t learn anything without arguing.

Going straight in a line to anything is the saddest path.

Blood is a word that means alive. You can do without almost anything: arms, legs, teeth, hope. But you can’t do without blood. Life eats life. Blood makes you move, makes you blush, makes the pulse pound in your brow when you see your love walking across a street toward you, makes you r very thoughts fly through your brain. Blood is everything and everything is blood.

Living is a paragraph, constantly rewritten. It is Grown-Up Magic. Children are heartless; their parents hold them still, squirming and shouting, until a heart can get going in their little lawless wilderness. Teenagers crash their hearts into every hard and thrilling thing to see what will give and what will hold. And Grown-Ups, when they are very good, when they are very lucky, and very brave, and their wishes are sharp as scissors, when they are in the fullness of their strength, use their hearts to start their stories over again.

Family is a transitive property.

Love is a Yeti. It is bigger than you and frightening and terrible. it makes loud and vicious noises. It is hungry all the time. it has horns and teeth and the fore of its fists is more than anyone can bear. It speeds up time and slows it down. And it has its own aims and missions that those who are lucky enough to see it cannot begin to guess. You might see a Yeti once in your life or never. You might live in a village of them. But in the end, no matter how fast you think you can go, the Yeti is always faster than you, and you can only choose how you say hello to it, and whether you shake its hand.

I think that about sums it all up. Read this series, you won’t be sorry. It is a literary delight.

20. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan, Nathan Fox , read by Angie, on 02/19/2014

Dogs of War is a graphic novel in three parts. Each part deals with a war and a dog who was part of that war. We start out with Boots, a mercy dog in the trenches of WWI. The middle story is about Loki, a sled dog in Greenland during WWII. The final stories switches between flashbacks of Sheba in Vietnam and Bouncer back in Alabama. These stories are interesting, but I didn’t always feel like the illustrations were totally clear. At times I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on in them. I also wondered about the age this was geared towards. It seems meant for kids, but there was some graphic violence.

20. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman., read by Kira, on 02/16/2014

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 Odd & the Frost Giants - Cover +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 AdamStower_OddtheFrostGiants01fun short read.universe_within

19. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Poetry

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant, Marla Frazee (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 02/19/2014

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.

18. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Hide and Seek by Kate Messner, read by Angie, on 02/17/2014

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.

18. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, read by Angie, on 02/16/2014

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.

16. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt, read by Angie, on 02/15/2014

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.

14. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Multicultural Fiction

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, Julia Kuo (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 02/13/2014

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.

14. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown, read by Angie, on 02/12/2014

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.

13. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Graphic Novel, Pamela

Fractured Fables by Multiple Authors, read by Pamela, on 02/08/2014

fablesKids will get a kick out of these well known fairy tales and fables that have been rewritten and illustrated in comic book fashion.

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.

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

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia, read by Angie, on 02/11/2014

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.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Joyce, Mystery · Tags:

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham, read by Joyce, on 01/30/2013

 In the small city of Strattenburg there are many lawyers, and thirteen-year-old Theo Boone thinks he is one of them, but his inside knowledge of the justice system means trouble when a cold-blooded killer is about to go free and only Theo can stop him.
11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Joyce · Tags:

In Front of God and Everybody by K. D. McCrite, read by Joyce, on 01/30/2013

In the summer of 1986, eleven-year-old April Grace, who lives on a rural Arkansas farm with her family, across a field from her grandmother, has her sense of Christian charity tested when a snooty couple from San Francisco moves into a dilapidated house down the road and her grandmother takes up with a loud, obnoxious, and suspicious-acting Texan.
11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman, Darren Rawlings (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 02/10/2014

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.

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

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth, read by Angie, on 02/10/2014

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.