Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wing Nut by MJ Auch

12-year-old Grady Flood has moved around constantly with his mother since his father died 7 years before. They never have enough money, but Grady's mom, beautiful red-headed Lila, always thinks things will work out for the best. At the beginning of the book, they are living on a commune, but decide to leave when Lila finally realizes she's being taken advantage of by the other residents. They head out in their old car that's held together by duct tape. Of course the car breaks down, and they walk for miles until they reach a run-down diner where the kindly owners tell them about a mechanic who might be able to fix their car, and a job Lila may be able to get as a cook for an old man who lives alone. The old man is a crotchety guy who just wants to be left alone, but he starts teaching Grady about the purple martins he takes care of. I really liked this book - it was touching and believable. The relationships between the characters in the book are rocky, but in the end, they manage to work things out. Reveiw by Stacy Church

Click Here by Denise Vega

The full title of this book is: Click Here: To Find Out how I Survived Seventh Grade. This was a fun book to read, and will appeal to girls who like to read books in diary or journal format. Erin Swift is just starting middle school and faces many humiliations, beginning on the first day of school when she ends up punching her archenemy for calling her "puppet," a reference to the fact that she always does what her best friend Jilly wants her to do. Erin keeps a secret unpublished blog chronicling her feelings about everything that is happening in her life, including how she feels about her friend Jilly, her crush on a boy who ends up being Jilly's boyfriend, and feeling sorry for her brother who has a crush on someone who doesn't like him back. The blog entries are interspersed in the narrative. Erin is very knowledgable about web design and becomes active in helping design a new web site for her school. In her rush to submit material for the publication date, she submits the wrong disk - the one with her secret blog! You can imagine how people feel about her after reading her secret rantings about them. Her parents won't let her change schools, so she has to find a way to make things right again. Review by Stacy Church

Surviving Aunt Marsha by Sofie Laguna

I really enjoyed the style of this book. The chapters are very short, sometimes following the story line and sometimes just sort of random recollections by the main character,
11-year-old Bettina. Bettina's parents leave for a 3-week vacation in Paris to rediscover the romance in their marriage, and their hateful Aunt Marsha comes to stay with Bettina and her two younger brothers. Since Bettina is the oldest she feels it is up to her to make things go smoothly....even though Aunt Marsha won't let their dog, who usually sleeps on Vince's bed, come in the house at all, and makes them eat black kidney pie for dinner, and won't let Aidan read his comic books. The book is funny, but it really made me feel bad for the poor kids. There's an exciting event at the end involving lightning, a tree house, and Aunt Marsha who's afraid of heights. However, I didn't feel the resolution was believable. Perhaps Aunt Marsha really does love the kids, but I thought the change in her character and the sudden love shared between them all was a bit much to swallow. Review by Stacy Church

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sam I Am by Ilene Cooper

When Sam Goodman's dog Pluto knocks down their Christmas tree, (also known in their family as the Hanukkah Bush), his parents start to think about whether or not they made a wise decision to raise the children without organized religion. Sam's dad suggests they celebrate Hanukkah this year, which creates a lot of tension in the household -- especially between the parents, as both grandmothers come for a visit and spend the holidays sniping at each other. Even after the holidays are over, his parents' bickering and his confusion over what religion he really is, continue to bother 12-year-old Sam. He has tried talking to God (at his mother's suggestion), but God doesn't seem to be listening. When his class in school begins studying the Holocaust, Sam only feels more distressed. Sam is a thoughtful kid, and he brings up a lot of good questions. Unfortunately, he never does receive much help with his situation. While I enjoyed the characters, and felt that many of the situations rang true, I found the conclusion to be unsatisfying. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Never Mind!: A Twin Novel by Avi and Rachel Vail

This is the story of a brother and sister, Meg and Edward Runyon, who, although they are twins, could not be less alike. According to Edward, Meg is twelve noon, and he is midnight. Meg is a statuesque control-freak who finds herself invited to join the "High Achievers Club" at her academically elite school. Edward is by contrast a short, slacker student at an "alternative" school. He is disgusted with the notion of Meg having one more achievement to rub his nose in, and decides to make it his mission to sabotage Meg's efforts to be accepted by the popular girls at school. Meg is terrified of her new friends finding out about her embarrassing twin, and concocts a story about her handsome, rock star brother. Events spin out of control, with hilarious consequences. The two authors tell the story in alternating narratives that really ring true for each character. This book is a lot of fun -- just right for a summer beach read! Review by Jane Malmberg.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Stravaganza: City of Flowers by Mary Hoffman

This is the third book in a wonderful fantasy trilogy which began with Stravaganza: City of Masks. Each book follows the adventure of a London teen drawn into the dangerous world of political intrigue and murder inTalia, a land that resembles Italy in the 1500's. In this book, Sky Meadows finds an antique perfume bottle, a talisman which turns him into a Stravagante, one of a select society who are able to travel back and forth between present day England and the imaginary Talia. The cast of characters is huge, but there is a family tree to help you keep everyone straight. I liked the parts of the story set in England, with the teens struggling with their own problems in addition to the feuds, poisonings, sword fights, etc. they are part of in Talia. A great series, although I found the beginning of this one slow going. Review by Stacy Church

Overboard by Elizabeth Fama

This is an unusual book, because after the first 35 pages, the rest of the action takes place in the Indian Ocean, where 14-year-old Emily is floundering without a life vest after the ferry she was on sank. It is based on a true story of a girl who is living in Sumatra, Indonesia, where her pediatrician parents are working. Emily helps out with the sick children at the clinic too, but she resents the amount of time her parents spend there, and she wishes she could return home to Boston with her uncle, who is visiting the nearby island of Weh. After an upsetting incident involving the death of a child patient, Emily runs away and takes a ferry to try to meet her uncle, but halfway through the crossing the ferry sinks. She finds herself in the deep, shark-infested ocean waters amid hundreds of panicking people. She meets a younger Indonesian boy who she helps, and they must struggle through the night and the next day, hoping to be rescued. The book is suspenseful and gives a good insight into the differences between Muslim and Western cultures. Review by Stacy Church

The Search for Belle Prater by Ruth White

This book is a sequel to Belle Prater's Boy, one of my favorite books. In the first book you meet Woodrow, whose mother has disappeared from their backwoods home in Coal Station, Virginia. He goes to live with his grandparents, and becomes best friends with his cousin Gypsy, who lives next door. In The Search for Belle Prater, it is 1954 and Woodrow and Gypsy are in the seventh grade. On New Year's Eve, someone calls Woodrow's house and hangs up without saying anything. He's sure that it was his mother, and when he traces the call to the nearby town of Bluefield, he and Gypsy decide to go there to search for her. Readers who were unhappy with the ending of Belle Prater's Boy will like the resolution of the sequel. A great depiction of life in a poor community in Virginia in the 1950's. Review by Stacy Church