Thursday, September 22, 2005

Do You Know the Monkey Man by Dori Hillestad Butler

I loved this book! 13-year-old Samantha hasn't seen or heard from her father in 10 years since her parents divorced and her twin sister Sarah died in a canoeing accident while she was with her dad. One of the only things she remembers about him is that he used to sing the muffin man song to her, but with the words "Do you know the monkey man?" Now that Sam's mother is getting remarried, Sam becomes obsessed with finding her father. She is so despearate that she calls on Madame Madeline, the only psychic listed in the yellow pages of Clearwater, Iowa. The fortune teller doesn't reveal anything about where her father is, but she has some startling news about Sarah. "I don't think she's dead...I think she's very much alive." Of course, then Samantha becomes even more determined to find out what really happened, even though it might lead to a painful and shocking secret. I loved the conclusion. Review by Stacy Church

Pay the Piper by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

The subtitle of this book is: A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale. It's a retelling of the Pied Piper story, set in modern times with rock and roll being the music played by the piper. 14-year-old Callie goes to a concert of the rock band Brass Rat to interview the band for her school newspaper. During the interview she senses something odd about the lead singer, Gringras, and after the concert when she sees him in the alleyway she sees rats who seem to be dancing to his music. She also eavesdrops outside the dressing room door and hears him make some cryptic statements about tithes and souls. She has a difficult time trying to write the story, so much so that she stays home during trick or treating to work on it. Because she has her headphones on while she's working, she is the only child in town not enticed away by the piper's music. Interspersed in the narrative is Gringras' story of his old life in Faerie, and how he came to be exiled. Even though this is not the kind of book I would normally choose, I really enjoyed reading it. Those of you who like Jane Yolen will be sure to like it. Review by Stacy Church

Deliver Us from Normal by Kate Klise

Things are not normal enough in Normal, Illinois, at least not for Charles Harrisong. Charles is 11 years old, just starting junior high, and he worries constantly about how abnormal his large family is. They are all embarrassing (not only because they are poor), but he seems to be the only one who minds. He copes by making lists; he hopes to someday be able to remove them from the top of his "Most Embarrassing Things in Life" list. He is also still trying to live down his overly emotional reaction when he read The Yearling at school the year before. His older sister Clara decides to run for 7th grade class president, and her campaign is interrupted by an incident so nasty that her parents decide to leave Normal in the middle of the night to start a new life on a boat they bought sight unseen in Alabama. Of course, the boat turns out to be a wreck, but since they gave up everything to buy it they are stuck with it. This book is funny and sad, my favorite combination. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Adam Canfield of The Slash by Michael Winerip

Adam Canfield holds two distinct titles. First, he has been the star reporter for the Harris Elementary/Middle School paper The Slash for years. And now, he is also the most overscheduled kid in America. He's always on the run somewhere -- and he's almost always late. To make matters worse, his friend Jennifer convinces him to become coeditor of The Slash along with her. While he does have a talent for investigative reporting, his people skills leave something to be desired. Between figuring out how to supervise Phoebe, an incredibly persistent third grade cub reporter with a knack for sniffing out front page scoops, and dealing with the school principal, who insists upon dictating the paper's content, Adam worries that he is losing his grip. But then, Phoebe delivers a scoop to beat all others -- an ugly story detailing misapropriation of school funds -- and involving none other than the principal! Now Adam has an even bigger problem -- can he and his friends dig deep enough to get to the bottom of the cover-up, and do they dare to publish the story and risk ruining their "permanent records"? Review by Jane Malmberg.

Three of Diamonds by Anthony Horowitz

The third book in a series about a pair of private detectives, the Diamond Brothers. Older brother Tim is perhaps the world's worst detective, but thanks to his clever 13-year old brother Nick, the duo always manage to crack the case. This volume finds the brothers in the middle of three exciting and humorous adventures. In "The Blurred Man", they must find out who flattened philanthropist Lenny Smile with a steamroller. A vacation in France proves to be a near-death experience when they become mixed-up with drug smugglers in "The French Confection". And in the final story, Tim is invited to a class reunion and becomes trapped on a Scottish island with a murderer in "I Know What You Did Last Wednesday". It takes some quick thinking for Nick to solve the crimes before his bumbling brother either messes up the investigation, or worse, gets them both killed. If you're looking for stories with plenty of humor and suspense, then Three of Diamonds is the book for you. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Cottonmouth Club by Lance Marcum

11-year-old Mitch has his upcoming summer with his best friend Tick planned out in detail: monster movies, 10-S 2 RRC (ride 10 speeds to Redlands, Riverside, and Crestline), skateboarding (down "the Hill" where Mitch previously left most of the skin of his right leg on the pavement), swimming, and sleepovers/stay up late/sleep in/TV/cartoons/Stooges. Mitch is horrified when his father announces that he has to report for a military assignment and the rest of the family is going to spend the entire summer on the farm in Louisiana where his mother grew up. There are a bunch of cousins - all boys who wear overalls and no shoes - that Mitch is expected to make friends with, a group of juvenile delinquents he tries to join in with, a raging bull and worst of all, poisonous cottonmouth snakes. This is a funny book and it paints a good picture of what life was like in the rural deep south, but I think some of the things Mitch does when he's hanging out with the "bad kids" (such as swimming across a cottonmouth-filled creek on a dare) are more dangerous and should be taken more seriously than they seem to be in the story. Review by Stacy Church