Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

This was such a relaxing book to read! The style of the book is chatty and felt very familiar, but I can't figure out exactly what it reminded me of. The Penderwicks are a family of 4 girls, a father and a large unruly dog named "Hound." The girls are wildly different from each other and each is quite a character, especially the youngest, Batty, who insists on wearing a pair of wings at all times except when she is sleeping. The Penderwicks have rented a cottage in the Berkshires for vacation since their usual Cape Cod house was sold unexpectedly. They arrive only to find that their cottage is on the grounds of a huge mansion called Arundel; as they come up the long winding drive they see a boy looking out of an upstairs window. Jeffrey lives at Arundel with his mother, a horrible mean woman. There are plenty of adventures involving Jeffrey, Cagney (an older boy who is the gardener), and Cagney's rabbits. Review by Stacy Church

Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk by Angie Sage

It took me several tries to get far enough into this book to get hooked on the story, but once I did, I couldn't put it down! The book reads sort of like it's set in medieval times, except there are wizards, magical creatures (many of them disgusting or frightening), and of course a struggle between good and evil. Septimus Heap is born the seventh son of a seventh son, and in the wizard world that makes him very special. But the midwife pronounces him dead soon after birth and whisks his body away before his poor mother can see him. Around the same time, Septimus's father finds an abandoned infant in the forest. He brings her home and she grows up as the only girl in a family of 6 boys, living a happy, hectic life until her 10th birthday. On that day, the ExtraOrdinary wizard knocks on the door of the Heap house with a shocking revelation, and this is when the real story begins. Even though this is the first book in a trilogy the ending doesn't leave you hanging. Book Two is due out next April. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Jimmy Coates: Assassin? by Joe Craig

This book is not what I thought it was going to be when I started reading it. I expected a detective/thriller, and instead it turned out to be science fiction. Jimmy Coates grows up thinking he's just an ordinary boy, with an older sister and a mother and a father, but when two men in suits show up at his house unexpectedly and try to make him go with them, he discovers that he has super powers. At least that's what it seems like when he is able to fight them off and jump out his second story bedroom window without getting hurt. From that moment on there is non-stop action: fighting, chase scenes, and kidnapping, as Jimmy tries to find out the truth about himself and the career he was engineered for. This book will really appeal to lovers of action, science fiction and thrillers, and it also touches on ethical questions about government interference in people's lives. Review by Stacy Church

Monday, August 08, 2005

Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay

This is the third installment in the story of the eccentric and artistic Casson family. In this story, several of the characters are faced with some type of quest. Caddy has become engaged to "Darling Michael" despite her ambivalence about marriage. She loses her diamond engagement ring and tears through the house desperately searching. Saffy has become increasingly eager to find out the identity of her long lost father, and enlists the aid of her good friend Sarah. Indigo's American friend Tom has returned to America, and the Casson family has heard nothing yet from him. Rose in particular is heartbroken, and waits daily for some news in the mail. As usual, a new character is introduced and quickly becomes part of the family. David, one of the boys who spent the previous year bullying Indigo at school, has turned over a new leaf and become a friend, much to the annoyance of Indigo's sisters. The plot takes some twists and turns -- delivering some surprises at the climax. Fans of this author's other books will not be disappointed. Permanent Rose features the same blend of humor, tenderness and adventure I came to love in Saffy's Angel. A fun, satisfying, summer read. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Lowji Discovers America by Candace Fleming

This is a really fun book about a boy who moves from Bombay, a big city in India, to the small town of Hamlet, Illinois. It is the beginning of the summer, he doesn't know anyone, and his first encounters with other children are not promising. When he was in India, Lowji dreamed of having pets in America, but he soon finds out that his cranky landlady doesn't allow any pets. He does manage to make some friends, and eventually convinces his landlady that she should get a cat to catch the mice in the apartment building, and then a dog to keep away burglars, and a goat to cut the grass. Of course there are disastrous results which are quite entertaining. Review by Stacy Church

Fourth World by Kate Thompson

This is book one of The Missing Link Trilogy and I, for one, am eagerly awaiting book two. The beginning of this book was slow, but I kept on reading and I'm glad I did. The main character is 15-year-old Christie, who is angry and resentful of his new stepfather and his older stepbrother, Danny, who is mentally disabled. Christie does care about Danny and has learned some ways of helping him cope with his emotional difficulties, so when a talking starling appears in Danny's room, and Danny says they're leaving to go to his mother's in Scotland, Christie feels compelled to follow him. The journey turns out to be long and difficult. There is an oil shortage and buses have been cancelled, trains are running sporadically and finally car travel is banned completely. Most of the book recounts their journey from Ireland to Scotland and the people they meet, including a homeless girl who joins in with them and a talking dog named Oggie who helps guide them. When they finally arrive at Danny's mother's they find an unbelievable situation involving talking animals and a girl who looks just as strange as Danny but seems to possess super powers. This is science fiction at it's best - Danny's mother has a lab where she performs secret experiments. What has she done to these animals and children? Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Midnight Diary of Zoya Blume by Laura Shaine Cunningham

This book is filled with mysteries: where did Zoya's mother go, and is she coming back? Who is Leon and what is his relationship with Zoya's mother? What is a Buka and why is Zoya so afraid of it? What is making the mysterious crying sounds in the basement of Zoya's building? Before Zoya's mother went away she gave Zoya a diary to write in, and she told her that she needs to write down her first memory. But what is Zoya's first memory? I thought the style of the book was a little stilted, but I still enjoyed reading it. It's a touching and unusual story. Review by Stacy Church

The Liberation of Gabriel King by K. L. Going

The opening scene of the book takes place on fourth grade graduation day when, instead of walking across the stage to get his certificate while his parents watch proudly, Gabe is tied up under a picnic table by two fifth grade bullies. Gabe decides that he doesn't want to move up to fifth grade because then he'll have the same lunch and recess as the two worst bullies of the school,who are a grade ahead of him. This is a story of two best friends, one white and one black (the only black student in the school), set in rural Georgia in 1976. Frita decides that they have to spend the summer liberating themselves of their fears (Gabe has many many more than she does), and they write out lists of what they're afraid of so they can cross each one off as they conquer it. It's not so bad when the fear is spiders - Gabe gains a pet he names Jimmy - but when they get to Frita's fear of the Ku Klux Klan, things get more intense. This is a fun book to read, even though it paints a very real picture of life for a black family in the rural south in that time period. Review by Stacy Church