Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes

She could have called herself "Goldilocks" because of her wild, blonde hair. She definitely was not "Sleeping Beauty," since she only slept when she had to. "Cinderella" was not an option, since she loved to dance wildly and would have snapped off the glass heel of the slipper way before midnight. She called herself "Rapunzel" - not that she identified herself with that particular lettuce. No, she identified with "Rapunzel," the fairytale character who was stuck in a tower. When Rapunzel discovers part of a letter her father has written to someone at a P.O. Box number, someone who helped her father succeed as a poet and a human being, she is intrigued. When her father is admitted to a mental hospital, she starts writing to the person with the P.O. Box number asking for help. Her mother calls her father's sickness "CD" (clinical depression). Rapunzel calls it the "evil spell," and she is determined to find a way to rescue him. Rapunzel's quest for a happy ending is recorded in Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes. It is a sensitively written, moving story of a young girl, who, though she feels utterly alone, bravely takes heroic measures to understand and help her father. Review by Trudy Walsh

The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John

When Martine's parents are killed in a fire, she is sent to a wildlife reserve in Africa to live with her grandmother, who she has never met. Right away, Martine becomes aware of how dangerous life is on her grandmother's reserve. Not only are the wild animals dangerous there, but the people are dangerous too. When Martine discovers a ring of poachers, it takes all of her courage and great strength to rescue her friend, the white giraffe, from the clutches of the poachers and a terrible fate. If you love adventure and exploring faraway places, then read The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John. It will take you right to the heart of the African bush. Review by Trudy Walsh

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Schooled by Gordon Korman

This is the new book by the author of the very funny books Son of the Mob, and The 6th Grade Nickname Game. I loved this book, especially since I lived in Vermont in the 1970's and 80's and actually knew people who lived on communes like the one Cap is growing up on. When Cap's grandmother has to go into the hospital, Cap has to move to town to live in a normal house and go to a normal school (he has always been homeschooled by his grandmother). He has never watched television, or used a telephone or a computer. The bullies at the Claverage Middle School (which the kids call "C average" because that's what you get if you take the "l" out of the name) think Cap will be an easy target. I mean, come on, he wears sandals made out of corn husks. How he becomes the most popular kid in school makes for a great story. The chapters are told in alternating points of view, including Cap (full name Capricorn Anderson), Mrs. Donnelly (the social worker he goes to stay with), and Sophie Donnelly (her snobby daughter). Review by Stacy Church

Larklight or, The Revenge of the White Spiders! or To Saturn's Rings and Back

Art Mumby and his sister Myrtle live on a space ship named Larklight, in the year...1851. In this alternate history tale, people have been traveling and living in space since the early 1700's. One day the Mumbys receive word that they will be receiving a visitor - who turns out to be an enormous white spider with a few hundred thousands of his friends. The spider's visit is not a friendly one, and while the children's father is captured, Art and Myrtle make their escape via a space-pod lifeboat. They hook up with a teen-aged space pirate and his alien crew, and their travels take them to the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn. It soon becomes apparent that the spiders are trying to take over the universe, but they need the key to Larklight - and therefore Art and Myrtle - to do so. This humorous and adventurous tale will interest fans of fantasy, science-fiction and historical fiction, and the illustrations of the space ships and creatures are a plus. The author has created an interesting mix with this outer space adventure with Victorian age characters. The Mumbys' adventures continue in the sequel, Starcross. Review by Katie Corrigan

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Archer's Quest by Linda Sue Park

It is 1999. Kevin is in his room after school, trying to relieve the boredom of his history homework by bouncing a ball, when an arrow shoots out of nowhere, taking off his cap and barely missing his head. The arrow shooter turns out to be a Korean king who has come from 2,000 years in the past. The adventure begins as Kevin tries to help Archie, the king, back to his own time period. I really enjoyed reading this book. It has great characters, and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. Review by Joyce Levine.

Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas by Pauline Chen

11-year-old Peiling is dying to celebrate Christmas. She wants to get a tree, decorate her house, make cookies, and, at the end of school break, tell all her school friends about the presents she received. Peiling's parents, who emigrated from China seven years ago, have raised their daughter in a very traditional Chinese way, but at Peiling's request, they decide to try celebrating an "American Christmas." This is a beautiful story about family, school friends (good and bad), a crazy teacher, and learning that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. Review by Joyce Levine