22. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Romeo Blue by Phoebe Stone, read by Angie, on 04/21/2014

Flissy lives with her American relatives in Maine. She has been shipped off from Britain because of WWII. Her parents, Winny and Danny, are both spies and missing in France. Flissy lives with the Gram, aunt Miami, Uncle Gideon who is actually her father and Derek who has been unofficially adopted by the family. All of the Bathburns seem to be in some type of spy/government work. Gideon is getting ready to head to France and try and rescue his brother Danny and Winny his first love. Miami is being courted by the mailman who is also being shipped off. Derek has decided to try and find his father, but is the man claiming to be his dad really his dad? Flissy loves Derek but does he love her back? Will Winnie and Danny ever make it home?

I haven’t read The Romeo and Juliet Code so I wasn’t up on this story. I don’t think it hurt this book however since the past was rehashed fairly well. This was a slower read and one I am not sure kids will stick with. There is a TON of 1940s slang throughout the dialog which makes it a little more difficult to understand what exactly is going on. I do like the story of Flissy and her family, but I am not sure how kid friendly it is.

22. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Sunny Sweet Is So Not Sorry by Jennifer Ann Mann, read by Angie, on 04/21/2014

Masha wakes up one morning with plastic flowers stuck to her head. Turns out her little sister glued them on during the night. Sunny is a genius and thought the flowers would help Masha make friends. After repeated attempts at home (washing, peanut butter, freezing) to remove the flowers mom gives up. Masha is allowed to stay home from school until they figure something out. Soon after mom and Sunny leave, Masha hears a racket and finds her neighbor collapsed in the street. She calls an ambulance which takes Mrs. Song, Masha and a newly arrived Sunny to the hospital. A comedy of errors then takes place as Masha and Sunny might have caught whooping cough, Masha gets a cast on her arm in a case of mistaken identity, and various hospital personnel try to remove Masha’s flowers all the while calling her Marsha. Genius sunny becomes a mini-doctor during their stay in the hospital, always offering Masha advice and annoying her to no end. 

I found this book charming and fun. I really enjoyed the relationship between Masha and Sunny. You could feel the sisterness of it. They love each other, but they really can’t stand each other at times. Having two sisters myself I knew exactly what was happening. Masha’s experience was a bit extreme, but it made for a good story. I especially enjoyed the ending when their true feelings for each other came out. I think this is a fun book that kids will enjoy.

21. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction

Treasure Hunters by James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein (Co-author), Mark Shulman (Contributor), Juliana Neufeld , read by Angie, on 04/18/2014

Tommy, Storm, Beck and Bick are the four Kidd children. Their mother has disappeared in Cyprus and their father disappeared off their boat, The Lost, during a storm. This is a family of treasure hunters and the kids continue the hunt for the next treasure just like their dad had planned. They are beset by shady dealers, pirates, surfer pirates, sneaky girls, a shady uncle and a whole gaggle of other dangers. They have to figure out the clues their dad left them and get to the treasure before someone else does. 

This book was a chore to get through. The writing isn’t that great and it is just too unbelievable in every aspect. Then there were the “twin tirades”. Beck and Bick are twins and they like to have twin tirades; they even keep track of how many they have had. The twin tirade is basically them yelling at each other and saying mean things for about a minute and then making peace. The first one was sort of entertaining, the sixth one was sort of annoying and by the twelfth I was ready to skip it entirely. I think some kids will enjoy this story and the ones that follow (because of course it is a series), but it was definitely not for me. 

19. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus, read by Angie, on 04/18/2014

Henri Bell has been sent to America to live with his Great Aunt Georgie. His father has disappeared in British Malay and his mother has gone to look for him. While staying with his aunt Henri discovers that he can communicate with insects. He suspects Georgie can too. Georgie’s neighbor is the sinister Mrs. Black who takes a peculiar interest in Henri. Henri runs away with the circus and starts working with the flea circus. He decides that he wants to travel to Malay to find his father and to capture Goliathus Hercules, a giant beetle of legend. On this journey Henri starts a metamorphosis of his own…he is turning more and more insect like. He is pursued always by Mrs. Black in one guise or another.

I really enjoyed the first part of this book where Henri learns about his new skills with insects and works with the flea circus. I loved the other characters he met at the circus: Tony, Billy and Robin. I thought it was really interesting how he kept enhancing the show with more varieties of insects with different abilities. Where I thought this story fell apart a bit was the end where they get to Malay and start looking for Goliathus Hercules. First there is Henri’s transformation which is never fully explained. The mystery of his father is cleared up, but we have no idea why the insect communication gift has seemed to occur differently with the members of the family. Then there is the evil Mrs. Black. Her desire for Goliathus Hercules and her pursuit of Henri are never explained at all and we are left wondering what it was all about. Jennifer Angus is a new author and I think she has some really interesting ideas; she just needs to work out the details a little better.

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

The Misadventures of the Magician's Dog by Frances Sackett, read by Angie, on 04/14/2014

Peter is your typical army brat kid. He lives with his mom and sisters while his dad is deployed flying jets in Afghanistan. Peter is really worried about his dad and a little mad at him too. On his birthday the last thing Peter wants is a party or a big to do, so it is with a lot of surprise that he announces he wants a dog. Peter can’t figure out where the words came from because he is afraid of dogs. But he adopts The Dog from the shelter and takes him home. That is where the fun begins. The Dog is not your normal dog. The first thing you notice is that he talks, the second thing you notice is that he can do magic. Turns out The Dog is a magician’s dog and he needs Peter’s help to free his master. The magician has turned himself into a rock. Peter starts to learn to do magic with The Dog’s help but soon realizes he has to get angry to do it. The more magic he does the angrier he gets. He wonders if magic is worth the price he is going to have to pay.

I really enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Peter is a great character who seems really real. He is dealing with a lot of things that kids deal with today: absent parent, trying to be the man of the house, taking care of his younger sisters, not showing how scared and frustrated he is. I really enjoyed the struggle he went through when he was deciding about the magic. He had to come to a place where love was more important than anger. That is not a thing a lot of people can do and I thought it was a great lesson in the book. Plus there are dinosaurs. Who doesn’t love magic dinosaurs?

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

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli, read by Angie, on 04/12/2014

Jack lives in Hokey Pokey; a land inhabited by children and surrounded by places like Snuggler and Stuff and Socks and The Kid. Jack likes to hang with his amigos, giving Tarzan yells and riding his wild bike Scramjet. Then one day Scramjet is stolen by The Girl and Jack is different. He keeps hearing a whistle and the tattoo that every kid gets in Hokey Pokey is fading. His friends try to help him but there is nothing they can do. Things are suddenly different and they don’t know how to handle it.

This is a strange little book that I am not sure I completely understand and I am pretty sure kids will not. I can’t decided if Hokey Pokey is a metaphor for childhood or a dreamland or what exactly. It is definitely not the real world as we see the real world in the latter part of the book. I was not a fan.

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

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, read by Angie, on 04/15/2014

Mickey Cray has been brought down by a frozen iguana. It has caused a concussion, headaches and double-vision. It also means he hasn’t been able to work as an animal wrangler. Bills are piling up so his wife has gone to China for a job, leaving Mickey and son Wahoo home alone. Then along comes Expedition Survivor and Derek Badger. He is a reality tv survivalist who believes his own hype and wants to film an Everglades episode; he is also a big fake. Mickey and Wahoo hire on to the show and start saving Derek from one animal after another. He is almost drowned by an alligator, bitten on the nose by a snapping turtle, bitten several times by a snake and attacked by a bat he is trying to eat. Mickey and Wahoo are joined on their expedition by Tuna, a girl in Wahoo’s class whose father hits her and who needs a safe place to hide out. The Expedition Survivor shoot is filled with chaos, mainly because of its star. Things get even worse when Tuna’s dad shows up and kidnaps Mickey.

This was a fun book. Carl Hiaasen obviously knows his animal info and is passionate about it. I thought he did a great job of passing along information about wildlife conservation and the plight of animals without shoving it down our throats. I liked how it was just a part of the story. I really enjoyed Mickey Cray, he is a fabulous character and one that was fun to read. His relationship with his son Wahoo was also really good. I liked how they were more partners than father and son, but Wahoo wasn’t the caretaker. I thought Derek Badger was hilarious and just how a reality tv star would be. Of course everything is fake and the star is a diva. The only part I didn’t think worked quite as well as Tuna’s dad. I thought his motivations were unclear and a little over the top. Other than that I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was great!

10. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction

The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz, read by Angie, on 04/09/2014

This is the story of Jorinda and Joringel, twins who were born to a dead father and an absent mother. They move throughout the fairy tales as the lead characters. And these are not your Disney fairy tales, these are the ghastly, repellent, and sinister Grimm tales. These tales will give you nightmares and make you sleep with the light on. Both children die repeatedly throughout the book and in gruesome ways. There is death and destruction and mutilation and monsters. Good doesn’t always triumph in the end. Some facts I learned: Cinderella or Ashputtle actually means toilet cleaner! The people who fell asleep with Sleeping Beauty aged as they slept. Satan lives with his grandma in Hell. I really found these gruesome stories just as awesome as the narrator said they would be and I am sure kids will really enjoy that aspect of it. The one negative I have is actually about the narrator. For the most part the interjections are funny and don’t take away from the story. However, there is a section of the book where Jorinda and Joringel meet the narrator in Brooklyn and he reads the other two books in this series to them. I thought that section really broke up the story and wasn’t necessary. The rest is awesome…especially Hell. I might have to go back and read the others in this series.

09. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kristy

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by Kristy, on 03/15/2014

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

09. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kristy, Poetry

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, read by Kristy, on 03/31/2014

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental–and emotional–turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.

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

Snap by Ellie Rollins, read by Angie, on 04/08/2014

Danya loves her pony Sancho. She takes him with her everywhere and he is her best friend. When she finds out her parents have sold Sancho she is determined to save him. Danya and her cousin Pia run away with Sancho to Florida. They are determined to find Danya’s grandmother Angie, Danya’s favorite author and who she has never met. They are on a hero’s quest like in Angie’s books. There are certain tasks they must complete in order to complete the quest. The three of them travel from Kentucky to Florida with the help of those they meet along the way. They wrestle alligators, join the circus, stow away on a cruise ship and spend the night in Graceland.

I thought this was a fun book, completely unbelievable, but fun. Somehow the girls get a pony to hide in a truck, ride in a motorcycle sidecar and stay in a cruise ship cabin. There is never any mention of the horse doing his business (which I am sure would be terribly messy wherever they were). There are times the group is recognized and chased by police or concerned citizens, but they always manage to outwit them and make their escape. I liked Danya and Pia and Sancho, but I couldn’t quite buy their story or stop questioning how they were able to do what they were doing.

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

Cal Ripken, Jr.'s All-Stars Wild Pitch by Cal Ripken Jr., Kevin Cowherd, read by Angie, on 04/08/2014

Last summer Robbie Hammond hit a kid in the head during a baseball game. Ever since then his pitching has been terrible. He can throw a huge fastball in practice, but anytime there is someone batting he just throws fouls and clunkers. His team is on a losing streak and Robbie’s pitching isn’t helping. Then he meets Ben, a kid who lost an arm but still has a great throw. With Ben and his friend Marty’s help, Robbie starts to deal with his phobia of hitting another kid.

This is a typical celebrity written book. It isn’t horrible, but it isn’t really good either. Ripken is writing what he knows in baseball, but the story doesn’t have a lot of depth. It is a little too after school special for my tastes. Very predictable story and not the best writing. Ripken should stick with what he knows…playing baseball…instead of writing about it.

07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Courtney, on 03/27/2014

September has now been to Fairyland twice. As the final book in the Fairyland trilogy begins, September is yearning to go back to her favorite magical place. She’s been stuck in Nebraska for over a year, helping her family and learning to drive a Model A. It’s all horribly dull in comparison to her beloved Fairyland. Finally, after months of waiting, September is whisked away to the moon by the impetuous Blue Wind. They arrive at a way station on the moon. September is given an occupation (criminal) and is given a task. The moon is being torn asunder by a giant Yeti and September will need all of her wits and her old pals, A-L and Saturday to save it and Fairyland.
The third of the Fairyland books does not disappoint. The Moon over Fairyland is as whimsical as Fairyland itself. The main difference this time is September herself. She is no longer the eager and uninhibited girl who was first whisked away. This September is a girl who is starting to grow up. She has matured emotionally since she left and now finds herself holding back. She is also now confronted with the consequences of her previous actions in Fairyland, which have far-reaching effects. This final book is very much a metaphor for the process of growing up and becoming a woman. Taken literally, however, it’s a delicious and detailed adventure story with a spunky young protagonist. Either way, it’s a satisfying addition to the Fairyland series.

07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Paperboy by Vince Vawter, read by Angie, on 04/05/2014

A young boy in 1959 Memphis takes over his friend Rat’s paper route for the month of July. For any other boy this would not be a problem, but this boy stutters and has a hard time communicating with people. They often assume he is slow or stupid or try to finish his sentences for him. On the paper route he meets Mr. Spiro, a merchant marine. Mr. Spiro likes to chat with the boy and doesn’t mind that it might take a while to get the words out. Each week with the paper collection he gives him a piece of a dollar bill with a word on it: Student, Servant, Seller, Seeker: the four parts of your soul. He also meets a beautiful but sad housewife who drinks too much and is in an unhappy marriage. Then there is TV boy who just stares at a silent TV all day long; it isn’t until the end of the summer that we learn he is deaf and learning to read lips.

The paper route is set against the backdrop of this boy’s home life. His parents are gone a lot and he is being raised by Mam, the Black housekeeper. Mam doesn’t treat him any different because of his stutter either. She helps him and guides him. There is trouble with a junk man who seems to be connected to Mam and who is taking the boy’s things. He also finds his birth certificate and realizes the man he calls his father is not his father. But he realizes this man makes the time to play pitch and catch with him and be his father even though he doesn’t have to. We finally learn the boy’s name at the end of the book. He never says it because it is impossible for him to say with his stutter.

This is a wonderful story about a young boy dealing with a difficulty. I like the fact that it is based on the author’s own life and struggles with his stutter. He never overcomes it, but he does learn to live with it. I thought the racial issues worked themselves into the story very well. This was the segregated South on the eve of integration and racial tensions were everywhere. I did think the story with the junk man seemed a little extraneous to the main story, but it didn’t take away from the story. I would recommend this book.

07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Lawless by Jeffrey Salane, read by Angie, on 04/05/2014

M Freeman has gotten accepted to the Lawless School. After a very strange interview, she is whisked away from her mother and her home. Her life before of tutors and homeschooling is over. But the Lawless School is not what it seems. The classes are not your normal classes and this is not your normal boarding school. It is a school where the children of exceptional criminals come to learn their craft. Turns out her parents aren’t art restorers and dealers, but art thieves. Her dad was a graduate of Lawless and may have been killed because of something he learned there. M (yes that is her full name) discovers that her tutors have been preparing her for this life of crime her entire life. She has been born a thieve and she is good at it.

This is a crazy thrill-ride of a book. The school itself is insane in the extreme, but really fun. M never knows who she can trust and that seems to change on a daily basis. There is of course a huge mission, a secret code, a message from her dead dad, and an end of the world scenario. The story is in no way believable or possible and the twist at the end is just a little too strange for my tastes. However, it is a fun book if you don’t think about the improbability of it all.

07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Finding Zasha by Randi Barrow, read by Angie, on 04/06/2014

Ivan is a 12 year old boy living in Leningrad when the Germans start bombing the city during WWII. Soon the city is cut off and supplies are running out. People are starving and freezing every day. Ivan lives with his mother in an apartment building in the city. Their upstairs neighbor Auntie Vera moves in with them when her apartment is damaged during a bombing. Auntie starts teaching Ivan all about how to survive during wartime, lessons she learned during WWI. Soon Auntie and Ivan are going to leave the city. Ivan’s mother works in a factory that is being moved to the Ural Mountains. Auntie and Ivan are going to take the ice road over the lake and out of Leningrad. They end up with Auntie’s sister-in-law in Vilnov. Soon they have joined the partisans, the people fighting against the Germans throughout Russia. Ivan catches the attention of Major Axel Recht because he plays the concertina so well. Ivan is moved into the Nazi headquarters and also starts taking care of Recht’s two German Shepherd puppies Zasha and Thor. Ivan is completely attached to the puppies and wants to save them from Recht. When the time comes to leave Vilnov, Ivan and the partisans take the puppies with them. They escape to Uncle Boris’s cabin in the woods where they spend the rest of the war.

I didn’t realize this was a prequel to another book until I was finished reading it. I guess the sequel takes up the story of Zasha and what happens to her after she is taken at the end of this book. I found the historical aspects of this story interesting. The Russian side of WWII is not one we in the west hear about a lot so a different perspective was nice. However, I didn’t find Ivan that great of a character. He was fine except for the role he had to play. I didn’t believe he could be a partisan; he just wasn’t sneaky or calm enough. He acted on his emotions too much and put the mission in danger several times. I also found it a little far fetched that this group would welcome him in so quickly and completely. I enjoyed his attachment to the dogs but also thought that was a bit over the top as well. The first part of the book was all excitement and adventure, but the back half really slowed down as the final years of the war passed. Some kids will stick this one out but it is not for everyone.

03. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

The Shadow Collector's Apprentice by Amy Gordon, read by Leslie, on 03/31/2014

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In the summer of 1963, after his father has inexplicably disappeared leaving Cully with his three eccentric aunts on their barely profitable apple farm, Cully goes to work for a mysterious antiques dealer who has the strange hobby of collecting shadows.

Another good read for both boys and girls, from Amy Gordon.  A bit of mystery rolled in with suspense and history.  Some of it is a bit far-fetched for me, but not for kids.  They will enjoy this one as a Mark Twain nominee.

03. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, read by Leslie, on 03/30/2014

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When the original Star Spangled Banner is stolen, seventh-graders Anne, José, and Henry, all descendants of the Silver Jaguar Society, pursue suspects on airport carts and through baggage handling tunnels while stranded at a Washington, D.C., airport during a snowstorm.

A great first in a mystery series for young readers.  While easy for me to see where the plot is heading, kids will definitely enjoy the twists and turns the author takes them on.  A Mark Twain nominee, I can recommend this to both boys and girls.

02. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Duke by Kirby Larson, read by Angie, on 04/01/2014

It is the height of World War II and everyone is being asked to do their part. Hobie Hanson is already buying victory stamps and collecting scrap metal. His dad is flying bombers over Europe and he is the man of the house. Hobie has a wonderful German shepherd dog named Duke that he adores. He is struggling with whether or not to donate Duke to the Dogs for Defense program. As soon as he lets Duke go he immediately regrets it, but there is nothing he can do to get him back. Duke is partnered with a marine and sent to the Pacific. At home, Hobie is dealing with the fact that his best friend has moved away and a new kid is being picked on for having a German name. Hobie has a lot of growing up to do and has to figure out if he is strong enough to stick up for what he knows is right.

I thought this was a book that kids will really be able to relate to. Hobie is just your average kid trying to do what is right and not always succeeding. He struggles with his mixed feelings about Duke and his inability to stand up to the local bully. I liked the fact that the story is based on real historical facts even though the characters are fiction. There really was a Dogs for Defense program where people could donate their dogs to the military. It must have been very difficult to let a beloved pet go to war and I am sure a lot of kids handled it just as badly as Hobie.

01. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Fortunately, the Milk. by Neil Gaiman , read by Kira, on 03/31/2014

milkA cute piece of froth wherein the father goes out to purchase some milk for his children’s cereal, and when he arrives later than expected he spins a tale of time-traveling dinosaurs flying in balloons visiting talking volcanoes, purple ponies, vampires, and GaimanMilk_1_photo_Brady_Hall080713pirates.  Not Neil Gaiman’s usual fare.