Friday, December 21, 2007

The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles

The Aurora County All-Star baseball team is looking forward to playing against their old rivals on July fourth. They had to forfeit last year's Independence Day game because their only pitcher, House Jackson, had a broken arm. Not only did House lose the game for his team-mates, he got his arm broken by a girl running into him - a mere girl. How humiliating! The Aurora County All-Stars vow revenge. They practice hard to win this year's July fourth game - their only scheduled game of the year. Then, disaster strikes! Their mothers sign all of them up to participate in the town's special July Fourth Birthday Pageant. Will the whole team have to lay down their bats and put on tights, and sing and dance instead? Read The Aurora County All-Stars to find out what really happens on this special, fun-filled, surprising July fourth town celebration! Review by Trudy Walsh

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

This book is by the author of one of my favorite science fiction books, Fourth World. Unfortunately, I didn't like this book nearly as much. It started off well, but kind of bogged down about halfway through. In this story, people in Kinvara, Ireland, are finding themselves increasingly short of time. It seems like no one has time for anything anymore. J.J. is determined to get his mother some more time for her birthday, because that is the one thing she really wants. When the book began to fall apart for me was after J.J. crossed over into "The Land of Eternal Youth," or the land of the fairies. Apparently there is a time leak between the two worlds, but while J.J. tries to figure out where the leak is, the story drags on and on. Each chapter begins with a musical transcript of an Irish tune (of course one of which is The New Policeman) and all the talk about the Irish music that J.J. plays with his family is interesting. Review by Stacy Church

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Onts (Secret of Dripping Fang series) by Dan Greenburg

If you are not grossed out by very large insects, feet that really smell, and very snotty tissues, then this might be just the book for you! Twins Cheyenne and Wally are orphans living at the Jolly Days Orphanage until they are adopted by two women...or are they women? Should they leave the smelly, disgusting orphanage where they are overworked and underfed to live with these very weird women, the Onts? The mystery gets even more bizarre as the story goes on. Review by Joyce Levine

Saturday, November 24, 2007

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko

This new book by the author of Al Capone Does My Shirts is about two kids, Walker and Kirsten, who go to middle school together. Walker, a bright, black boy, has gotten a scholarship to transfer to Kristen's all-white private school from an inner city school. His very strict mother has dreams for him, and knows that this new school will keep him on the right path. But how will this boy who can handle most situations with ease deal with news that will rock his world? Kirsten's friends don't act like real friends, her parents constantly fight, and her summer weight gain leaves her feeling fat. Will Walker and Kirsten's friendship help them through their tough times? The beginning of this book reminded me of the movie "Mean Girls," but then the story took some unpredictable twists and turns that made it a great read. Review by Joyce Levine

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel

Ellie McDoodle loves to doodle and write in her journal, and we can enjoy all of her fun stories and drawings as she takes her journal with her camping. Ellie loves camping when it's with her family, but this time it's with her aunt who spits when she talks, her undle whose neck turns red when he gets angry, and her monster cousins. On top of all that, they don't even camp in tents! How will Ellie survive the week? I really enjoyed reading this book/journal and learning how Ellie gets through the week (and even enjoys it). This book reminded me of Diary of a Wimpy Kid because of the sly humor and funny pictures, so if you like Ellie McDoodle, try Diary of a Wimpy Kid next! Review by Joyce Levine

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

The Wednesday Wars is the new book by the author of one of my other favorite books First Boy. The main character is Holling Hoodhood (I'm not sure I believe someone would really be named that, but it does make for some hilarious moments), and the time is 1967. Holling is off to a bad start with his new teacher, Mrs. Baker, for no reason other than that he is the only kid who doesn't leave early on Wednesday afternoons, and so Mrs. Baker has to stay with him and think up things to keep him busy. She gives him lots of unpleasant chores to do, including cleaning out the rats' cage - which leads to a very funny ongoing situation when the rats escape into the ceiling and terrorize the students for the rest of the book - until she decides to have Holling read Shakespeare. Not only read the plays, but take tests on them and recite scenes. This is a great book with great characters. The Vietnam War serves as a backdrop to what is going on in Holling's life. Review by Stacy Church

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg

Well, I had mixed feelings about this book. I was hooked on the story and the characters right from the beginning, although I don't remember any of the adults from their roles in the two previous books, Silent to the Bone and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place. After Amadeo Kaplan and his mom move from New York City to St. Malo, Florida, he strikes up a friendship with William, another oddball kid, when he spots William's mother's car at the home of an eccentric neighbor that Amadeo is fascinated by. William's mother has been hired to catalog and sell the neighbor's belongings in preparation for her move into a nursing home. The neighbor, Mrs. Zender, is the former Aida Lily Tull, the richest girl in St. Malo who went on to become an opera star. Now, at the same time this drama is unfolding, Amadeo's godfather Peter, a museum curator in NYC, is putting together an exhibit of art that was banned by the Nazis during World War II. Quite a lot of interesting information is given about Hitler and his attitude towards art. I won't begin to try to tell you how these two plots fit together. My main complaint is that in an effort to wrap up the plot, way too much is crammed into the last bit of the book, so if you read it, be prepared to slog through the last few chapters. Review by Stacy Church

Monday, October 01, 2007

What the Dickens by Gregory Maguire

I love the cover of this book! I also loved the book...right up until the very end, that is. It's a story about Dinah, her older brother and baby sister who are left at home with their 21-year-old cousin Gage while a terrible storm rages outside. Dinah's parents have left (or disappeared); there's no power, and almost no food. To help get them through the long, very dark, very scary night, Gage tells a story about magical creatures called skibbereen, who turn out to be tooth fairies. The book is divided into 4 sections: Twilight, Midnight, The Witching Hour, and Dawn. The story of the skibbereen is touching and clever, and the story of Dinah and her family is suspenseful and exciting, but at the very end, even though you know why Dinah's parents left, you don't know what happened to them. And you also don't get any clues as to whether Dinah's parents have changed through the course of the book. At the beginning, you're told that they keep to themselves because they are trying to live according to the gospel. The kids aren't allowed to have friends outside the family, or watch tv or movies, or go to the mall. Unless Gregory Maguire is planning to write a sequel to this book, I don't understand how he can just drop that part of the story. It's definitely worth reading, but don't expect to gain any insight into Dinah's family. Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata

Willie loves his German Shepherd, Cracker. They are a team. Then Willie's father loses his job and the family has to move to an apartment, where no dogs are allowed. Willie wants a good life for his intelligent dog and is willing to give him up to the military to be trained as a bomb-sniffing dog. The Vietnam War is raging, and Willie hopes that his German Shepherd , properly trained, can save lives, including his own. Cracker is teamed up with Rick, a young, energetic soldier. Together they train for survival in Vietnam. Can they become a team and trust each other and protect each other in the worst of circumstances? If you like adventure and survival stories, this is the perfect book for you! Review by Trudy Walsh

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

I didn't like this book as much as The Old Willis Place, the last ghost story by Mary Downing Hahn. The mystery starts off well enough. 13-year-old Ali finds a photo of her mother and her mother's sister, her aunt Dulcie, and a third girl who's been torn out of the picture. Her mother, who is a nervous and/or sickly person who spends most of her time in her bedroom, denies knowing who the third girl might have been. Then Aunt Dulcie invites Ali to spend the summer babysitting her 6-year-old cousin at the old lake house where the picture was taken, a house that Ali's mother refuses to return to. Ali's father convinces her mother to let her go, and Ali is eager to get a break from her overprotective mother. Ali loves the lake, and she loves taking care of her cousin, but she doesn't think much of the strange girl, Sissy, who appears and makes befriends Emma. Scary things start to happen, and Aunt Dulcie doesn't believe Ali when she tries to explain. The book is kind of creepy, as it should be, but the characters are not quite believable. Review by Stacy Church

The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Lesley M.M. Blume

This is a very entertaining book about a girl growing up in a small town in Minnesota in 1953. Franny, who's 10, and her best friend Sandy get into lots of mischief, because there's not a lot else to do in Rusty Nail, Minnesota. When Franny's not getting into trouble she's playing the piano. She's talented, but her piano teacher is a cranky old woman who sleeps through her lessons, and her parents don't have enough money to pay for a better teacher. Then a mysterious Russian woman moves to town. Everyone in town shuns her, claiming that she's a Communist, but Franny and Sandy are intrigued, and spy on her. When Franny figures out that the Russian is a pianist, she won't give up until Madame Malenkov agrees to teach her. The book gives a good idea of what life must have been like in the mid-west in the 1950's. Review by Stacy Church

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor

Georgina is quite happy with her life. She has a best friend and gets along just fine in school. Then, in an instant, everything changes. Her father walks out and leaves the family penniless. Even though her mother works long hours, she doesn't make enough money to pay the rent for their apartment. In desperation they move into the family car. Georgina tries hard to keep it a secret that she now lives in a beat-up old car. She washes up every morning in a gas station lavatory before going to school, but her clothes are not freshly washed and they show signs of having been slept in. After she loses her best friend, she sees a poster offering a $500 reward for a lost pet, and she comes up with the brilliant idea to steal a dog from a rich person, and then to demand a large "finder's fee." Since Georgina is now in charge of taking care of her younger brother Toby, she has to include him in all of her plans. Can Georgina find the perfect dog to steal? When practical Toby asks her where they are going to keep this stolen dog, and how they are going to feed it and exercise it, Georgina is silent. But then, she tells her little brother not to worry, that big sister will take care of everything! To find out if Georgina suceeds with her "brilliant" plan to help her homelss family, read How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor. Review by Trudy Walsh

Friday, August 24, 2007

Finn's Going by Tom Kelly

There were things that I really liked about this book, but I found the writing style distracting. The characters are interesting: the main character is Danny, who has an identical twin Finn, their little sister Angela is deaf, and the parents are not your typical parents. You know from the beginning that something terrible has happened to Finn, and that Danny feels responsible, but you don't get the full story until the very end of the book. There are some funny scenes, like when Angela, after getting knocked over by a big kid on the playground, makes use of some of the rude words Finn and Danny have taught her to sign, signs to the kid, "Bog off, you stupid git!" Wanting to find out what happened kept me reading until the end, but I have to confess that I skimmed over some of the weirder parts of the book. The author uses devices that didn't work for me: lists, footnotes and long rambling sections of Finn's thoughts. Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett

If you like your science fiction with a large dose of humor, then this is the book for you. Johnny Maxwell is addicted to his new computer game, “Only You Can Save Mankind”. He is about to achieve a new high score when something completely unexpected happens: the aliens he is shooting at surrender! And they want Johnny to grant them safe-conduct back to their home! It is difficult enough trying to save mankind from the aliens, but the other way around proves to be an even greater challenge. The only bright spot comes with Johnny’s realization that this is just a game – or is it? This book is highly original, very funny and suspenseful. Johnny gets completely lost trying to figure out what is real and what is just a dream. His friends think he has lost his mind, but when their copies of the game start flashing weird messages, they rally round Johnny and his charges. This is the first book in a trilogy followed by Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is such a funny book! Greg Heffley is starting middle school and finds himself “stuck…with a bunch a morons.” His mother suggests he keep a diary, and Greg complies, detailing his day to day existence with a much younger brother, clueless teacher, and the usual class nerds. He finds himself in a series of complicated situations, brought on by an innate need to act like an idiot despite his best intentions. His retellings of these events are hilarious, and the accompanying line drawings add to the humor. I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading this book – it’s a great choice if you are looking for something to make you laugh. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent

Have you ever felt out of place in your own family? Have you wondered if there is any place where you really do fit in? 14 year-old Joseph Calderaro knows these feelings well. While he loves his Italian-American adoptive family, the differences between them and his native Korean culture are becoming more and more apparent. Then, his social studies teacher assigns an essay on ancestry that becomes an impetus for Joseph to search for information about his birth family and the events leading to his abandonment. His adoptive parents are not much help, (they don’t have much more information themselves), and at first his father seems threatened by Joseph’s questions. So Joseph decides to pretend that a famous Korean Olympic athlete was his grandfather, and writes an essay that wins a school award. His lie is discovered and he is forced to rewrite the paper, prompting Joseph to make a more thorough search for his birth family. This is a great book, I really liked Joseph right from the beginning, and although his father has a hard time understanding Joseph’s confusion, it is clear that he loves him. This book hits home in communicating Joseph’s need to have his own identity, separate from that of his family, and does so with humor and warmth. Highly recommended. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Wonder Kid by George Harrar

In 1954 no one knew how polio was contracted, but many people were afraid that it was from swimming in contaminated water, or being in public places. The main character of The Wonder Kid, Jesse James MacLean (named after the famous outlaw Jesse James), is spending a boring summer indoors because his mother is trying to keep him from catching polio. His father is a not-very-nice guy who is away from home most of the time on business (which Jesse is grateful for), and Jesse's grandfather, who Jesse is very close to, has come to live with them. Even when Jesse becomes ill, his father treats him like it's his fault, and he's a weakling to be sick. I really liked this book. The characters are believable, and it gives a good picture of what life was like for a kid growing up in the 1950's. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

This is probably the heaviest book I have ever read. Don't be intimidated by how big it is --I read it in one night. There are a lot of illustrations, and the illustrations are part of the story. They're black and white, but even so they're riveting. The story is part adventure, part mystery. The main character is a boy who's living on his own (since his evil uncle disappeared) in the walls of the train station, taking care of all the clocks in the station, and trying not to get caught. He collects his uncle's paychecks and piles them up because he doesn't know how to cash them. He knows a lot about clocks because his father was a clockmaker, and he has a mechanical man (called an automaton) he rescued from the museum fire that killed his father. He steals mechanical parts and toys from a toy stall in the station to use to try and fix the automaton. He meets a girl who's lives with the toyseller and his wife, and even though they fight a lot, she eventually helps him get the automaton to work, which leads to a surprising discovery about the toyseller. I really enjoyed reading this. Review by Stacy Church

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer

First of all, I have to say: this is a long book! It's 400 pages and it seemed to take me forever to read it (really about a week). It begins with a "To the Reader" that I still don't understand - it's one of those books that pretends to be written by one of the people in the book, but I'm not sure which character is supposed to be writing it. Nevertheless, the story is good, and you learn a lot about what life was like in 1763, the time that Kate and Peter travel back to when they are messing around in Kate's father's lab, and accidentally come in contact with an anti-gravity machine. They make friends with Gideon, who has his own troubles, which they get drawn into because of a common enemy: The Tarman. The Tarman steals the anti-gravity machine, without which Peter and Kate will be stuck in 1763. This is the first book of a trilogy, so the ending is kind of unsatisfying. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes

This is a book about a girl who finally gets a chance to be happy. Then she has to make a choice between staying with her new family that she's come to love or giving her mother one more chance to make a home for her and her brother. Paris can remember a time when she was happy with her real family, but her more recent memories are not so good. Then she and her brother moved from one abusive foster home to another. It seemed the worst thing yet to be separated from her brother, who had been the only stable influence in her life, and it didn't turn out so well for him. But Paris ends up with a really nice family who is willing to take their time getting to know her. Just when things are settling down, Paris's mother starts calling her. I really liked this book. Paris is a great character, and I'm sure this type of situation occurs more often than most of us know. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Book of One Hundred Truths by Julie Schumacher

I loved this book! 12-year-old Thea says, "Most people think there are only two kinds of lies: little white lies and all the others. But that isn't true. Lies come in a lot of different colors." This is a book about lying. When Thea is leaving to spend the summer with her grandparents and the rest of her extended family on the Jersey Shore, like she does every year, her mother gives her a journal in which she tells her to write whatever she wants, as long as it is true. It becomes clear that there is something troubling Thea, and in fact, many members are her family are troubled. Her 7-year-old cousin Jocelyn, who she ends up spending most of her summer babysitting, has a raging case of eczema and an obsession with keeping everything absolutely neat and put away. Thea and Jocelyn discover that two of her aunts are hiding something, and they are determined to find out what it is. So, like I said, this is a book about lying. Review by Stacy Church

The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff

There were things I liked about this book, and things I didn't like. One interesting thing is that the main character is a dwarf. An actual dwarf. He's also a pretty typical fourth grader, who has a best friend (until a new kid at school comes between them); a class enemy (until she pesters him into being her friend); and a happy home life (until his parents tell him they're having a new baby). Georgie also has other physical problems related to being a dwarf. The thing I didn't like about the book was the way that most of those problems are revealed to the reader - through handwritten sections that are kind of preachy and annoying. Another thing I liked about the story was the character of Jeanie the Meanie. She is the most irritating person, and has always pestered Georgie, but it turns out that in her eyes, she has been trying to make friends with him. Overall, it's a pretty fun book to read. Review by Stacy Church

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant

Georgia McCoy doesn’t remember a lot about her mother -- just that she was an artist like Georgia, and when she was still alive, their family seemed much happier. Now, Georgia’s father not only refuses to talk about her mother, but he avoids anything that even reminds him of her. Whenever he sees Georgia sketching in her book, he turns away. Soon after she turns thirteen, Georgia receives an anonymous gift in the mail, a letter of membership from the Brandywine River Museum which grants her free admission for a whole year. From the moment she first walks in the door, her life begins to change This touching story is told in free verse, which effectively expresses the flood of emotions Georgia feels as she struggles to find herself and reconnect with her father. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

The summer of his thirteenth birthday, Jeremy Fink receives a mysterious delivery – a wooden box engraved with the words "the meaning of life: for Jeremy Fink on his thirteenth birthday." The box, it turns out, was left by his father, who died five years earlier. It has four different locks which must be opened with the correct keys or the contents will be destroyed. However, the keys are nowhere to be found. Jeremy and his best friend Lizzy embark on a search for the missing keys that takes them all over New York, where they meet an eclectic group of people including an elderly pawnshop owner and a famous astronomer, each with his/her own words of wisdom to impart. As the summer progresses, Jeremy learns, among other things, that the question may not be “what is the meaning of life,” but rather, “why are we here?”
This book is a little long, but the two main characters are really fun and likeable, and there are several twists and turns to keep the story interesting. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti's Necklace by Betty Jacobson Hechtman

This is the best mystery I have read in a long time! The main character, Blue Schwartz, is a hard-working, thirteen-year-old girl who is unjustly accused of stealing a priceless necklace by the father of some kids she babysits for. The father is a professor at the local college, and you can tell something is fishy about him from pretty early on in the book. Poor Blue! Her family doesn't have a lot of money, and she's trying to earn enough to buy herself a computer because her brother, a brainy kid who studies all the time, hogs the family computer. Blue likes to cook, and her favorite recipes are included in the back of the book. This book is a fun read! Review by Stacy Church

The Royal Diaries: Marie Antoinette by Kathryn Lasky

Thirteen-year-old Marie Antonia uses the diary her tutor gives her to practice her writing skills, one of the many things she must learn to prepare for her future life as the queen of France. Unfortunately the things Marie enjoys most - riding her horse very fast and playing outside - are unheard of activities for a future queen. The book gives you a real sense of Marie Antonia's feelings as she learns what is expected of her now and in the future, and when she meets her future husband. Review by Joyce Levine

A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin

Do you know what a stray dog loves more than anything?? Garbage!! The many wonderful treats you can find to eat can be heavenly! This book is the life story of a stray dog, Squirrel. The book follows her from birth through old age, telling about how she learns to survive on her own, and the different people who take care of her and then abandon her. I really enjoyed reading about the good and bad times of Squirrel's life - I learned a lot about what it's like to be a stray dog! Review by Joyce Levine

A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack

There's a lot going on in Rosemary's life, but luckily, this strong-willed, smart girl can handle everything that comes her way. After the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on desegregation, Rosemary' all-black school is closed, and she has to attend a school where she is the only black student. She has to face the unkindness of some of the students, in addition to dealing with her parents' faltering marriage, and her best friend being stricken with polio. The development of an unexpected friendship helps her deal with the difficulties in her life. Review by Joyce Levine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

I'm not really sure why this book was chosen as this year's Newbery winner. It's a good book, but not a great book. The main character is a 10-year-old girl living a very odd life in a series of connected trailers in the California desert. Her mother was killed in a freak accident, and her absentee father sent for his French ex-wife to come and be Lucky's guardian. They have no money, and Lucky spends her time hanging around eavesdropping on different 12-step meetings (alcoholics anonymous, etc.). Lucky knows that her guardian Brigette loves her, but because she's so homesick for France, Lucky is afraid that she'll leave her. So...the plot is pretty far-fetched, but the characters are interesting and quirky. Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica

I really had a hard time putting this book down! Molly is a 12-year-old girl whose Mom dies of cancer. Right before she dies, she tells Molly her dad is a famous Boston Celtic basketball player. Molly sets out to meet him and win his heart. Her dad doesn't quite believe her claims, and thinks it's a scam to take money from him. As Molly gets to know him, she's not quite sure she really wants him as a father after all. In the end, this turns out to be a heartwarming story full of risks and small miracles. Review by June Lenzo

Friday, February 16, 2007

Vive La Paris by Esme Raji Codell

This is a companion book to another book that I just loved, Sahara Special. In this book, the story revolves around a classmate of Sahara's, fifth-grader Paris McCray. Paris is bright, engaging, and a lover of words of all kinds. She is also very brave and open to all kinds of new experiences. Paris can make snap judgements. As the story progresses she starts to have an understanding of the choices her friends and family make, even though she doesn't agree with them, for example: her brother Michael's reluctance to stand up to a girl who bullies him, and the mysterious gift of a yellow star she receives from her piano teacher, Mrs. Rosen. When she forms her Extreme Readers Club, Paris is torn between doing what she wants to do, and what she knows is right. This book is full of happy, funny and sad moments; it is every bit as good as the first one! Review by Jane Malmberg.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

This is the first children's book I have ever seen about the development of the atom bomb. The main character is 10-year-old Dewey, whose mother is dead. She has been living with her grandmother while her father is away doing "war work." When her grandmother becomes too ill to take care of her, she must travel alone across the country to meet her father in a secret location, which turns out to be Los Alamos, New Mexico. They live in a tiny hastily-built house, alongside all the other families of scientists who are working on "the gadget," as they call it. Dewey is happy enough, even though she is teased by the other children, because she loves science and inventing things. Then her father has to go away (again) and she must move in with another family, the family of one of her worst tormentors. Of course, over time, the girls become friends. The book is a really good story which gives a realistic picture of what life was like for people involved in the development of the bomb: the secrecy, pride in accomplishment, and ultimately, the questioning of the morality of the use of such a destructive weapon. Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane By Kate DiCamillo (Audio Edition)

In the beginning…
Edward Tulane is a fancy china rabbit with tailored clothes, a pocket watch and a haughty disposition. He belongs to ten-year-old Abilene Tulane. She loves him dearly. Abilene’s grandmother senses that Edward doesn’t appreciate how much Abilene loves him, so she tells him a story. The story is about a princess who has never felt love. After telling him the story, she tells Edward that he disappoints her. Edward’s miraculous journey begins when Abilene decides to take Edward on the family vacation aboard an ocean liner. Edward is catapulted overboard. As terrible as this is, there is more to come. Edward finds himself in situations with people he never could have imagined.
In the end…
The many people and experiences stir emotions that Edward had never known before. The listener observes Edward’s transformation from cold-hearted and detached to having a grateful and loving heart. Review by Ann Thomas

Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher

Fourteen-year-old Mitra and her five-year-old brother Babak flee for their lives. They are of royal blood, yet, the Persian king pursues them. Ever since Mitra's father unsuccessfully plotted against the tyrant king, the king has vowed revenge, and he will not stop until Mitra's whole family is wiped out. Mitra disguises herself as a boy, and is constantly on the alert to keep ahead of the king's spies. A powerful Magus becomes aware of Babak's gift, dreams which foretell the future. He takes Mitra and Babak along on his journey to Bethlehem. Three Magi are forming a caravan to head west to follow a bright new star. They believe the star announces the birth of a powerful new king, and they want to meet him and bring him presents. The journey to Bethlehem is filled with hardships, with adventure, and with intrigue. Will Mitra and Babak survive it all? Will they be reunited with their family? Alphabet of Dreams takes you back in time to the year of Jesus' birth, an amazing event which was announced in the stars. Review by Trudy Walsh

The Winner's Walk by Nancy Ruth Patterson

Case Callahan lives on a farm. When he brings home a stray dog, he tries hard to convince his parents to let him keep the golden retriever, Noah. Case discovers that his dog has unusual talents. If the phone rings, for example, Noah brings it to Case so he can answer it. After Case and his dog win a blue ribbon and have their picture published in the local newspaper, Noah's past as a trained service animal is revealed. Can Case continue to keep Noah as a pet when he knows that several hundred children are just waiting for the opportunity to be partnered with a trained service dog? Case grows up fast during the summer months that he shares with his very talented golden retriever, Noah. Review by Trudy Walsh

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

If you think you are having a bad week at school, you should read about Clementine's week. Every day her teachers have been telling her to "pay attention," but she has been paying attention -- just paying attention to other things. Every day she has been sent to the Principal's office. And to make matters worse, her (ex) best friend Margaret isn't speaking to her anymore, just because Clementine cut off all Margaret's hair, and then colored what little was left with permanent marker. But the very worst part of the week is when Clementine thinks her parents want to get rid of her because she has gotten into so much trouble. Full of zany situations and misunderstandings, this book about how Clementine turns terrible into terrific will keep you laughing and wondering what will happen next! Review by Loretta Eysie.

The Manny Files by Christian Burch (audio edition)

I really enjoyed this book. It is so nice to read about a family that works together to solve its problems. The listener gets a sense that despite their differences, the members of this family really love each other and have fun together. The narrator of the audio version does a really good job conveying the Manny's goofy sense of humor, Lulu's hyper-cranky personality and Keat's sensitivity and gentleness. This is a great audiobook for the whole family to listen to together. Review by Jane Malmberg.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Notorious Izzy Fink by Don Brown

This is an action-packed book that tells the story of a 13-year-old boy growing up in New York in the 1890's. Sam Glodsky is half Irish and half Jewish, and during that time in New York, the streets were ruled not only by adult mobsters and corrupt policemen, but also by gangs made up of kids whose parents had immigrated from the same country. I had no idea that the streets of New York were as rough as the book describes them to be. It also sounds in some ways like a kid's paradise, because although parents could be very strict, kids were on their own out on the streets all day. Sam has some really good friends, and one sworn enemy: Izzy Fink. Izzy is a kid who no one seems to like, even though he is part of a gang. Sam sells newspapers to earn money for his family, and the headlines are full of the cholera epidemic in Europe. Then a ship docks in NY harbor and it is quarantined because some people on board are sick. Sam becomes involved in a plot to sneak on the ship to steal an expensive pigeon for the most powerful gangster on the Lower East Side. This is an exciting book that gives you a good feeling for what life was like for immigrants at the turn of the century. Review by Stacy Church