Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure by Georgia Byng

I honestly wasn't sure how much of a story was left to tell in this third book of the Molly Moon series. It does get off to a slow and depressing start with Molly "mooning" about (pun intended) with her depressed mother who she previously rescued from the clutches of her evil twin brother, the famous hypnotist Cornelius Logan. Luckily, Molly is almost immediately kidnapped by a mysterious man in a turban, who takes her on a roundabout time-travelling journey to 1850's India. There she is turned over to another evil villain, a maharaja who has a strange speech problem which causes him to mix up the beginnings of words. I have to tell you that I found it very annoying to have to read his garbled speech and figure out what he's saying. If you like puzzles, maybe this will appeal to you. This problem aside, there is a lot of detail about India that makes it a fun read, and it's a pretty interesting concept having a bunch of different aged Mollys all present at the same time (conjured up by the maharajah from different time periods). Review by Stacy Church

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Convicts by Iain Lawrence

19 century London was an exciting and dangerous place for 14-year-old Tom Tin. The son of a sea captain unjustly sent to debtor’s prison for standing up to an evil businessman, Tom sets out to rescue his father and the family’s future. He is soon caught up in the London underworld of grave robbers and crime-hardened juvenile gangs. Tom is mistaken for a gang member known as the Smasher, and winds up convicted of murder. He is sentenced to seven years hard labor in Australia, a common fate in those days, and sent to a vile convict ship anchored in the Thames River to await transport. Here things become even worse as he deals with a cruel captain, vicious bullies, and a very bad case of sea sickness. The ship is where Tom discovers he has the courage and heart to resume his quest. The Convicts comes to a satisfactory conclusion, but not without a price. I liked this book for its realistic picture of London. Tom is a character that will certainly hold your interest - he’s not a typical hero and his doubts and faults make his final triumph all the more enjoyable. The author focuses on the ugly and gross conditions of the time, but it made the book seem more believable. I would recommend it to anyone who likes an exciting, historical adventure story. Review by Tom Viti

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Leon and the Champion Chip by Allen Kurzweil

This book is a sequel to a book that I love, Leon and the Spitting Image, in which a 4th grade teacher teaches only sewing in her class. This is disastrous for Leon, whose small motor skills are not up to par. Leon makes a doll that is an exact replica of his teacher and, through some lucky breaks, discovers how to use it to control the actions of their teacher. Of course the results are hilarious. In the sequel, Leon and his friends are trying to achieve the same kind of success with a doll (or action figure as the boys like to call it) that is the image of the class bully, Lumpkin. There's also a new science teacher who decides to teach his class using potato chips (Leon's other obsession) as the subject of every lesson. Through the scientific methods they learn in class, Leon and his cohorts try to solve the problem of the failure of the Lumpkin doll. I enjoyed the book. It's funny (although not as funny as the first book) and you learn a lot about science (not to mention potato chips), too! Review by Stacy Church

Grace Happens by Jan Czech

This book is the story of a fifteen-year-old girl who lives a very glamorous life -- her mother is a very famous movie star and she travels all over the world to various movie locations bringing Grace and her tutor in tow. Most kids would be envious, but Grace really longs for a normal life with school and friends and a stable homelife. She also longs to learn about her father, who left the family before Grace was born, and whom her mother refuses to talk about. When Grace's mother takes her to Martha's Vineyard for a real vacation, Grace decides it's time her mother told her the truth. I enjoyed this book. The characters ring true, and there are some good issues for discussion. I did find the ending somewhat disappointing, though. It seemed too hasty and the problems in Grace's family are resolved a little too easily. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tackling Dad by Elizabeth Levy

I wasn't expecting much when I started this book - I'm not really interested in football - but once I started reading it I was hooked. The main character Cassie is 13 and she's always had a natural talent for football. Her dad was a football player through college and she's inherited his moves. She used to play peewee football, but when she got older and girls didn't play football, she switched to track. She still plays backyard football with her friend whose father is the coach of the middle school team. The coach recruits her and her friend Molly to try out for the team. Cassie's parents are separated and her mom is great, even though she's worried about Cassie getting hurt. You would think her father would be impressed when Cassie makes the team, but instead he's a real jerk about it. She has a tough time with her parents, her teammates, the other kids at school, and also with the physical pain that comes from playing tackle football, but she just won't give up. Good for her! Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Belle Teal by Ann Martin

Belle Teal is a poor white girl who lives with her mother and grandmother in the rural south. Her mother works full time and her grandmother is slowly losing her memory. Belle is really excited about school this year since she got the teacher she has always wanted. Inside the classroom, there’s a lot going on, between a snobby girl, a boy that is physically abused by his father and a black boy. The book takes place in the early 1960’s and black students are new to the school. Some townspeople treat them badly and hold demonstrations. Belle struggles with these issues in a very mature way. It’s an enjoyable book because Belle is such a likeable character. Review by Joyce Levine

United Tates of America by Paula Danziger

This is another great book by Paula Danziger that is both fun and serious. Sixth-grader Sara Kate Tate, who likes to be called Skate Tate, is beginning Middle School and trying to get used to all the changes that come with a new school. She gets great comfort from her Uncle Gum, one of her favorite people. He lives part time with Sara’s family and the rest of the time he travels the world. When he dies suddenly, Sara’s heart is broken. Instead of being sad, her uncle wanted her family to take some of his money and travel around the United States. Sara and her family head off for adventure. The book also includes some scrapbook art that Sara creates with her new camera. Review by Joyce Levine

Secret School by Avi

To many people in this small working-class town, school isn’t as important as helping on the family farm. When the town’s teacher announces she has to leave before the year is up, the School Board decides not to replace her and let the kids finish the school year “early.” This becomes a problem for the students that want credit for that school year, especially for Tom and Ida who want to go on to High School. Tom suggests to Ida, the class brain, that she become the teacher for everyone. The kids vote and decide to have a “Secret School.” You quickly see how teaching and keeping up with her chores takes its toll on Ida. This was a lovely book that will appeal to anyone. Review by Joyce Levine

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

This fantasy book will take you under New York City to an amazing world of horse-size bats that people ride upon and bond with for life. There are nefarious people-size rats and enormous spiders, as well as giant cockroaches that are able to communicate and help the bats and people in the underworld. Don’t let the gigantic bats, rats, spiders and cockroaches turn you away from this book. There are some likeable characters in all of these creatures. The main character is Gregor, an 11- year-old human boy, whose father went missing years before. His mother works full time to support Gregor’s Grandmother and the 3 children. Gregor is responsible for watching over his Grandmother and his 2-year-old sister Boots while his other sister, 7-year-old Lizzie, attends camp for the summer. Let yourself be carried to the underworld and swept away in this amazing quest foretold by an ancient prophecy that only Gregor can unlock. You will experience suspense, frightening moments and maybe relief. This is the first in a trilogy, all 3 of we have at the library. Review by Ann Thomas

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Chicken Boy by Francis O'Roark Dowell

The author of this book, Francis O'Roark Dowell, is also the author of one of my favorite books, Dovey Coe (a funny and suspenseful story of a girl who winds up in jail, accused of murdering her sister's boyfriend). It took me a while to pick this book up and actually start reading it (I mean, really, Chicken Boy??), but I have to say that I really liked it. The main character Tobin has a pretty terrible life. Since his mother died, no one really takes care of him. There's no food in the house, his dad never talks to him, and he has no friends. Only his grandmother seems to care about him, but she is basically crazy, and she and Tobin's dad hate each other. He doesn't like school, doesn't play sports and basically isn't interested in anything. Tobin gets in a fight with another kid at school, and a new kid, Henry, joins in to help him (he was getting trounced). After that, Henry just keeps pestering Tobin until he gives in and starts hanging out with him. Henry and his brother keep chickens, and Henry thinks chickens hold the secret to the universe. Of course, Tobin gets roped into the whole chicken-keeping enterprise. Even though you feel sorry for Tobin, the book is funny, so it isn't depressing. Review by Stacy Church

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

I loved this book! Even more fast-paced and exciting than it's predecessor and chock full of funny, scary new characters. The story begins one year later with Meggie thinking constantly of Inkheart. She longs to visit the exotic world contained within the book. Dustfinger has the same wish, and he becomes more and more desperate to find a way back into the story. He meets a storyteller, Orpheus, with the ability to read him back. However, Dustfinger returns without his young apprentice Farid. Heartbroken, Farid goes to find Meggie, and convinces her to read both of them into the book also. But, as wonderful as the storybook world of Inkheart is, it is also quite dangerous. And before too long, the trio are joined by other characters from the first book, some of whom would do them harm. Review by Jane Malmberg.