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.
Smile is the true story of Raina Telgemeier’s journey through orthodontia. It was not a pleasant or a short journey. It began with an overbite and a fall resulting in the loss of her two front teeth. The journey consisted of false teeth, braces, surgeries, headgear, and four years worth of visits to various dental professionals…all during junior and high school. Poor Raina! Throughout it all Raina is also dealing with boys, pimples, friends, mean girls, and all the other trials and tribulations of high school. She comes through it stronger and happier, but it is not an easy journey.
As someone who has had braces and retainers (thankfully not four years worth) I completely sympathized with Raina. They are an invented torture to make our teeth look perfect. They work but are definitely not pleasant. I winced with her when her braces were being tightened and when all she could eat was mashed potatoes. I think Raina definitely remembers this time of her life perfectly and she really captured it on the pages of Smile. The story and illustrations embody the torture of braces and the agony of middle and high school. I would recommend this to just about anyone.
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.
Imagine a world ravaged by war and taken over by the religious right. This is the dystopic future of Kristen Simmons Article 5. Sometime in the not so distant future the United States has lost a war with foes unknown. The outcome of that war is that the moral majority takes over and takes away the civil liberties of the population. Sounds scary and just a little bit possible doesn’t it? This is the world of Ember. She is a regular 17-year old worried about mom, school, friends. Then she comes home one day and the Moral Militia are arresting her and her mom for article violations. Why? Because her mom became pregnant without being married. Ember is a bastard. Doesn’t matter that it happened long before the MM took over. They are still arrested and taken away. Ember has no idea what happens to her mom; she is taken to a reform school with a bunch of other girls like her. Then her childhood love, Chase, who now belongs to the MM comes and rescues her. They embark on a race to find a safe place in a world that is hunting them.
We don’t learn a whole lot about the war or the group that brought about this dystopian power. Now most of the time I would rage about the lack of world building and how it makes the book weaker, but in this case it is ok. The present time of the world is developed enough that I don’t think you need the whole back story of the world. It makes it scarier in my opinion to leave parts up to your own imagination. The articles themselves are pretty interesting and don’t seem that out of the realm of possibility: you have to worship the one religion; family is defined as man, woman, children; you can only read appropriate materials; you have to behave morally; etc. Seems like things you hear about in present day. Of course the military isn’t killing you if you violate any of these right now. I thought the MM coming in and cleansing towns and people was also a really interesting idea and well thought out. I can just see this systematic taking over of the country. I also liked the rebellion because of course there will be a rebellion. Not everyone is going to fall in line.
I think my biggest issue with this book was the main character. Ember is a really hard character to like or root for. She is whiny and stupid for most of the book. She is 17 so you would think she would be a little smarter and she is about some things but then she is really stupid and naive. Her relationship with Chase is one example. They were in love, he joins the military (because he is drafted and has no choice), he is there when she and her mom are arrested, he rescues her, but then she runs away from him and doesn’t trust him several times even though he has shown no reason for this. I didn’t get her motivation for most of the book and she really didn’t grow into a decent character until about the last 50 pages or so. If I was Chase I probably would have left her on the side of the road. Chase was a great character. You could see his conflict and his determination to do what is right. He was a character I could root for.
Of course there were things about the book that were very predictable as well. The storyline with the mom was so predictable I couldn’t believe it. I was waiting for the twist throughout the whole book because I couldn’t believe it would be so obvious, but it was. I couldn’t believe Ember didn’t ask more questions or pick up on the signs or that situation. The MM was also very one dimensional. I wish we could have seen a little bit more from the bad guys. However, I like where this world is going and I will probably read the next book in the series.
The world has come to and end and zombies are run amok. This is the world of Amanda Hocking’s Hollowland. This is a fast paced zombie adventure novel. It reads almost more like a movie than a book and I could definitely see it unfolding on screen. There are things I like about this book. I like the heroine; I think she kicks ass and has come to grips with the world as it now is; she isn’t sentimental except about her brother. She sees things as they are and she is realistic. So often the characters in these post-apocalyptic books don’t seem to be in touch with the reality of their world and she is. I like that. I also love Ripley the zombie eating lion. I know…not very realistic, but for some reason it worked for me and I liked it. I didn’t really like the boy in this one. Didn’t get the romance angle didn’t see the point and not sure why it was in there. Didn’t make sense to me why she was attracted to him or why they got together in the first place. My quibble since all these teen books seem to have to have a romance angle. This was a fun zombie book and I am glad I finally got to read it.
Cress is the third installment in the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder and Scarlet) and might just be my favorite so far. I loved how all of the characters from the previous books came together and how the final book (Winter) is set up. This is such a creative and fun series that it really sucks to have to wait a year between books.
Cress, our title character, is a young Lunar null who has been exiled to a satellite between Lunar and Earth. She is tasked with spying on Earth and reporting back to her mistress. However, Cress has become fascinated with everything Earthen and instead of turning Cinder and her band over to the Lunars she has decided to help them. Her rescue attempt goes awry however leaving Wolf injured, Scarlet kidnapped and Cress and Thorne falling out of the sky in a disabled satellite. Cinder is still determined to stop the wedding of Kai and Levana and take her place as Princess Selena.
I devoured this book in a day despite its size. Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I love how Meyer wove the traditional Rapunzel tale into Cress’s story. I really enjoyed her introduction to Earth and her infatuation with Captain Thorne. This book progresses the story of this series really well. Everyone moved forward and things are lined up perfectly for Winter, which I can’t wait to come out. I really can’t say enough about how much I love this series!
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.
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.
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.
Sage is an orphan and a thief. After he is caught stealing a whole, cooked roast he is purchased by Lord Connor, one of the regents of Carthya. The king, queen and crown prince have all been poisoned and Connor is determined to put a new prince on the throne. Prince Jaran has been presumed killed by pirates for the past four years, but Connor has a plan to put an imposter in his place. Sage wants nothing to do with the plan, but not going along with it surely means death. Attempting to thwart Connor at every turn, Sage nevertheless does what he needs to do in order to become Connor’s choice. Along the way secrets are revealed and motivations exposed. Does Sage have what it takes to become Prince Jaran and save Carthya?
Sage’s story is a compelling one. Sage is such a rascally smart aleck that you can’t help but root for him. I love the fact that no one is really who they seem to be nor are they who they start out as. Connor isn’t a villain in the stereotypical way, but he is a magnificent one nonetheless. Connor isn’t your typical hero either, but he makes a marvelous prince.
2014-15 Truman Nominee.
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.
The Wells Bequest is a companion novel to The Grimm Legacy. The action takes place in the New York Circulating Materials Repository. In this book Leo sees himself and a beautiful girl appear in his room. They tell him to read The Time Machine and to stop Simon. Leo is the youngest in a family of scientist. He doesn’t fit in with everyone else because he is into machines and technology. His science fair project on robots takes him to the Repository where he meets Jaya Rao the girl from his vision. Soon Leo is himself a page at the Repository and learns all about the wondrous things there. Simon FitzHenry is also a page at the museum and he is obsessed with Jaya. When his obsession is thwarted he turns into a sociopath with evil plans. He is going to use Nikola Tesla’s death ray to destroy major metropolitan cities if Jaya doesn’t agree to love him. Leo and Jaya then have to use the Well’s Time Machine to travel back to 1895 and stop Simon’s ancestor from stealing the death ray from Tesla. It is all very complicated.
First off I will just say that I really like the idea of the Repository. I think it is really interesting to see things from books come to life. I thought the explanation of how some of these things could be real was a little clunky, but I went with it. Where I think this book falls apart is with the characters. My major issue was with Simon the evil villain. Simon is 16 years old yet so obsessed with the love of his life Jaya (who has never expressed an interest in him or dated him) that he is willing to blow up cities to have her. Not sure where the logic went on that plotline but it ended up no where near the actual book. My second issue was Jaya herself. I am not sure why Leo and Simon are so in love with her because she is just not a likeable character. She is mean and impatient and doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of common sense. She is also very reckless with the artifacts and everything associated with the Repository. You would think the head page would have a little more respect for the institution she has worked at for so long. My final issue was the ending…everything is solved because of True Love. Seriously, there is a machine from a book that will point you to your True Love. Sociopath Simon is fine after finding his True Love in someone other than Jaya. It is also implied that Leo and Jaya are True Love as well. It is all just rather silly and washes away any of the good feelings I had about the book. I really did like the time travel aspect and meeting Tesla and Mark Twain. However, the flaws in the book were many and the good stuff just seemed to fall into the background.
I think this is a book that everyone who works in a library should read. It is nice and short, but it is full of practical advice for keeping things safe in your library. I really liked the fact that most of the advice can be tailored to your specific situation but is relevant to everyone. This book is easy to read and seems like it would be fairly easy to implement. It is full of library anecdotes that any library employee can recognize. I think some of the best advice in the book is about being aware of your surroundings and being consistent in how you enforce library rules.
I really enjoy Matt Phelan’s books. I think they are wonderful slices of life. I appreciate the minimal text and lovely illustrations. Bluffton is the story of Henry and his summers spent with Buster Keaton. It seems Keaton and other vaudeville acts summer at Bluffton and fictional Henry was able to get to know them a bit. Henry wasn’t happy working in his dad’s store and really wanted to do more with his life. Unfortunately, Buster never shows him any tricks and just wants to hang out and play baseball. The book takes place over several years as Buster and family returns to Bluffton each summer. While I enjoyed this book, I am not sure it will find a wide audience with kids. I would guess very few kids have heard of or know of Buster Keaton or even vaudeville. Also, they might not be interested in a book that really doesn’t have a lot to say or a very exciting story. This is a sleepy little book that is a fast read and great for fans of Phelan. But we don’t really learn a whole lot about the historical characters and I am not sure we learn enough about Henry to really care that much. Beautiful as always with a Matt Phelan book, but limited appeal.
Ephraim’s father has had a stroke and his mom decides to move the family to Maine to help in his recovery. They move into the old family house,
The Water Castle. The house isn’t like a normal house, it is full of strange rooms that seem impossible and secret tunnels. The Appledore family has lived in the Water Castle for generations. They came to Crystal Springs, ME to find the Fountain of Youth and built a hotel and spa and water bottling operation on the spot.
Ephraim meets two kids at school who seem to know more about his family history than he does. Will Wylie’s family has always hated the Appledores. They were hunting for the Fountain of Youth too and planned on selling the water. The Appledores beat them too it and they have been bitter ever since. Mallory is a member of the Darling family. The Darlings have worked for the Appledore’s forever and her father is the current caretaker. Ephraim, Will and Mallory start out as enemies, but soon come together to work on a school project and to find the truth about the water of Crystal Springs.
Interspersed throughout the book are journal entries of Nora Darling. She worked for Dr. Appledore in 1909 and the journal details their quest to find the water and her hopes of becoming an explorer someday. Of course there are Appledores and Wylies at that time as well and the entries show that things haven’t changed all that much in 100 years.
This book is a little hard to classify. The Fountain of Youth storyline makes it a little more science fiction, but those elements are not treated in a fantastical way. Blakemore really tries to make this more realistic than anything else with historical elements thrown in. I like the ambiguity of the genre. I thought the kids quest for the truth about the water was a really good mystery. I do wish there weren’t quite so many threads left hanging at the end though. We don’t know who really set the fire that burned down the bottling plant and hotel in 1909. We don’t know if the water actually gives the drinker immortality. We don’t know if Ephraim’s dad is really going to recover. We also are left wondering about Mallory’s mom and if she is who it is implied she is.
Arthur Whipple doesn’t fit in his family. Everyone else has the same birthday and breaks world records every day. Arthur was born a day early and has failed at every record he has attempted to break. Even the people who work for the Whipples are record holders. Arthur tries everything to make his family see and appreciate him but they never do. Then a mysterious dwarf and giant ruin the big birthday bash and a family from Mr. Whipple’s past comes back and beats the Whipples at everything. The family cook is blamed for all their troubles, but Arthur knows he isn’t the real culprit. He has to find out who is behind everything and convince the others of the truth.
Ugh! I almost didn’t get through this one. It had so much going for it, but really didn’t live up to its potential. For one thing it was WAY too long. 400 pages is a lot of story especially for a book as convoluted as this one. The world record stuff was interesting at first, but quickly became a crutch for the story. It was way too unbelievable and clunky a device. The last thing that really bothered me was the fact that there wasn’t really any conclusion or moral or lesson to be learned from this book. We don’t know who ruined the birthday party; we don’t know who really hired the dwarf and giant; we don’t know why the cook was blamed; we don’t know what is up with the Goldwins; and Arthur’s family never appreciates him. I really wanted more from this book and didn’t get it.
EllRay has to deal with bullies and skateboarding and friends trying new things in this book. EllRay really wants to learn to skateboard and thinks his cool, older neighbor Henry is just the one to teach him. Trouble maker and cool guy Fly is always hanging out at Henry’s and he doesn’t want little kids around. He is a bully and puts Alfie’s life in danger. EllRay is also dealing with one of his friends making friends with the kid who bullies him. On top of everything else EllRay has to compare himself to a fairytale for a class project.
This series is a good one for beginning readers. It deals with real issues that kids deal with. I like the fact that there is a lot going on in EllRay’s life; it makes him seem more real.
EllRay Jakes’s little sister Alfie has a problem. Suzette Monahan has been mean to Alfie and causing all the other girls to be mean as well. EllRay tries to get Alfie to stand up for herself, but that doesn’t work. So he decides to take matter into his own hands and teach bully Suzette a lesson. This is a pretty decent beginning chapter book about bullying. It shows both sides of the issue with Suzette’s bullying of Alfie and EllRay’s bullying of Suzette. There are also some other instances of kids picking on others which could also be construed as bullying. I liked the fact that EllRay and his family are African American since there aren’t a lot of beginning chapter books featuring non-white characters. I think it is important to show diversity in books so kids can identify with the characters they are reading about.