Saturday, February 25, 2006

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

For all of you who read the first two books in this series, your long wait for the final installment (six years!) is finally over! I loved The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, but The King of Attolia is by far my favorite. Eugenides, as you may remember, has married the Queen of Attolia, despite the fact that she cut off his hand when she caught him breaking into her palace one too many times. The people of Attolia and his guards and attendants have no respect for him, but the reader knows from past experience that there is more going on than meets the eye. Never forget that the way Eugenides operates is by playing the fool. The Queen wants Eugenides to act more like a king, but he resists her efforts to make him behave. There's plenty of action, including an assasination attempt that ends with two dead and one mortally wounded. I couldn't put this book down until I finished it, so make sure you have plenty of free time when you start! Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hitler Youth: growing up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

In 1926 Hitler and the Third Reich began attracting groups of children to be in a prestigious group called “Hitler Youth.” They enticed these naive children to join with promises of camping trips and parades. Slowly, over the years, the activities became more military: children were taught how to use guns and throw grenades as well as to hate Jews and other people who were not “perfect Germans.” The book answers the question of how the Holocaust happened. In this book you meet twelve people that were in the Hitler youth, and through interviews, pictures and diaries you see how the nation changed over many years. By 1945 there were millions of children in the Hitler Youth, and they were performing actual military duties, as well as wrecking Jewish homes and stores, thinking the victims deserved what they got. This book is very well done and is for older children who can handle this subject matter. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about the Holocaust. Review by Joyce Levine

Bear Dancer by Thelma Hatch Wyss

Elk Girl can ride her pony like the wind. She loves to hunt deer in the Rocky Mountains with her brother, Ouray, a Ute chief. Elk Girl grows up happy and free. Everything changes on the day she is captured, first by the Cheyenne and then by the Arapaho warriors. Elk Girl becomes a slave on the Plains. She is afraid of her captors, but she fears the White Men – the White Enemy – more. When Elk Girl is finally rescued by some White Men who bring her to Camp Collins, a Western outpost, she learns a whole new way of life. Eventually, Elk Girl is able to return home to her tribe. Bear Dancer is based on the true story of a very brave Ute girl named Cutshutchous, which means “Elk Tooth Dress,” who lived in the American West in the late 1800’s. Review by Trudy Walsh

Airball: My Life in Briefs by L.D. Harkrader

The only reason Kirby Nickel wants to join the basketball team is to meet NBA star Brett “McNet” McGrew. Kansas University has announced that they will retire Brett McGrew’s jersey, and that his hometown seventh grade basketball team will be invited to participate in the ceremony. Klutzy Kirby’s chances of making the basketball team are slim, but he has to find a way to succeed since this is his only chance to meet Brett McGrew, who might be his father. It is not easy to be on the seventh grade basketball team. The coach has supplied the team with special “Stealth” uniforms, guaranteed to make the players run faster, jump higher, and perform better. There’s only one problem: for anyone who doesn’t have what it takes to be a good basketball player, the uniforms are invisible. Does their coach expect the team to play in their underwear, or are there really electrical currents flowing around each player, energizing and empowering them through their special “Stealth” uniforms? Airball: My Life in Briefs is a fast-paced, hilarious, fun-filled basketball story with just a touch of mystery for suspense and a surprise ending! Review by Trudy Walsh

Friday, February 10, 2006

Out of Order by Betty Hicks

This is a book about blended families, told in alternating chapters by each of four stepsiblings. The story begins and ends with Lily, a sixth-grader who was once the eldest in her family, but has now dropped in rank to second-youngest, thanks to the addition of her smart, beautiful, and sometimes cruel stepsister V, and 14 yr-old Eric, who dresses in black, reads Hemmingway, and plays Rock-Paper-Scissors with Lily's younger brother Parker. Each of the siblings is struggling to find his or her place in this new family, which is made all the more difficult by a series of false accusations and misunderstandings. A group project to raise enough money to send soccer balls to kids in Iraq brings the family together eventually. I chose this book because it sounded unusual in plot and style, and I was glad that I did. All of the characters are great -- well-written and very real. The story moves along quickly, and there is lots to make you laugh and cry. Review by Jane Malmberg

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This book is the first in the new Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, about a 12-year boy who finds out that he is the son of the Greek God Poseidon. His mother is human, which makes Percy a demigod, or "half-blood" as the gods refer to such children. Percy has been kicked out of six boarding schools in six years, due to his penchant for causing trouble. He is dyslexic and has ADHD, which, as it turns out, is a sure sign of the child of a Greek deity. As if that isn't bad enough, it seems that Percy is being chased by all kinds of monsters, (the Furies, a minotaur, and Medusa, just to name a few), who are charged with killing him. Someone has stolen Zeus' lightning bolt, and Percy is being framed for the crime. If he isn't able to find the missing bolt and return it to Zeus, it could be the start of a world war between Zeus and Poseidon. Fortunately, his best friend is a satyr, assigned the job of keeping him safe, and they are aided by the daughter of the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena.

This book reminded me of Harry Potter -- it was full of action, adventure, magical beings and creatures, and lots of humor. The Gods themselves are quite funny, and there are lots of references to the original Greek myths. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next book, The Sea of Monsters. Review by Jane Malmberg

Monday, February 06, 2006

Babymouse: Queen of the World! by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

This is such a cute book! It's a graphic novel, with the text by Jennifer Holm (she wrote the Boston Jane historical novels and one of my favorite books, Our Only May Amelia) and the illustrations are by her brother, Matthew. Babymouse is a slightly hyper, very imaginative middle-school-aged mouse who is prone to lengthy fantastical daydreams right in the middle of whatever she's supposed to be doing. The illustrations are entirely in pink, white, black and gray, and the characters are adorable with great expressions. I can't wait to read the second babymouse book, Babymouse: Our Hero. Review by Stacy Church

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud

This is the third book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, and it is just as good as (or maybe better than) the first two! In this book, it becomes clear just how much the magicians have ruined England with their corrupt, elitist government. Nathaniel, who is now the Information Minister, is so boring and pompous it's hard to remember why I had any sympathy for him in the previous books. Kitty, on the other hand, (who, by the way, is supposed to be dead) reminded me constantly how intelligent and resourceful she is. This conclusion to the trilogy is satisfying - plenty of intrigue and action, and you learn a lot more about Bartimaeus's past and what it's like in the Other Place. Review by Stacy Church