Monday, March 31, 2008

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

I really enjoyed reading this funny/sad book about a girl trying to make the best of a not-so-stable home situation. At the beginning of the book, Addie's stepfather, Dwight, is moving Addie and her mother (Mommers) into a tiny trailer on a run-down street corner. It doesn't take long to figure out that Dwight is the good, loving influence in Addie's life, even though Mommers blames him for everything. Addie misses Dwight and her two half-sisters, who she calls "The Littles," and she worries that Dwight doesn't want her to come live with them, too. Addie makes friends with the owners of the mini-mart next door, and it's a good thing she does because they are her only company (besides her hamster) when Mommers disappears for days at a time. Because Addie is worried that it will cause trouble like the last time she told the truth, she protects Mommers and doesn't let anyone know how bad things really are. There's an exciting ending, and although things work out pretty well for everyone, the happy ending doesn't feel forced. Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy by Diane Stanley

Franny and her friends change dramatically once they start at the exclusive Allbright Academy: former gloomy Cal becomes cheery and upbeat; funky Brooklyn cuts off his dreadlocks, gives up writing poetry and changes his name to the more mainstream Brook; and Franny finds studying easy and becomes a neat freak. In fact, all of the students at Allbright Academy are near perfect, and act more like adults than children. The story pulls you in right away, and while it's not a surprise that there is something not right at the school, the plot is by no means predictable. Franny narrates and speaks directly to the reader. Her voice is natural, yet not exactly realistic for an 8th grader. In fact, I thought that this book might have been better if the characters were high-school aged: it would be more believable that they could do some of the things they do in the story. But these slight faults do not in any way detract from the enjoyment of the book, which is fun, sophisticated, and un-put-downable. Review by Katie Corrigan

The School Story by Andrew Clements

This is another fun book by Andrew Clements. Zoe thinks the story her best friend Natalie has written is so good it should be published. Even though Natalie's mother is a publisher, Natalie wants her book to be judged the same way as other manuscripts submitted to her are, so Natalie assumes a pen name. She becomes the author "Cassandra Day" and Zoe assumes the name of "Zee Zee Reisman" as her publisher. These two take on the adults and the world of publishing to get Natalie's book published. Review by Joyce Levine.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

This is the most enjoyable children's book I've read in a long time. Granted, I love mysteries, and I am interested in quirky people, which the main character of this book certainly is. The book begins with a pretty detailed description of the London Eye, a huge ferris-wheel-type tourist attraction in London, and then jumps right into the mystery - the disappearance of Ted and Kat's cousin Salim from one of the pods of the Eye. He went up, but he didn't come down. There is a lot of insight into how Ted's brain works, even though the author never comes right out and says what his condition is called (probably some form of Asperger's Syndrome). The last two sentences of the first chapter kind of sum it up. "Somewhere, somehow, in the thirty minutes of riding the Eye, in his sealed capsule, he had vanished off the face of the earth. This is how having a funny brain that runs on a different operating system from other people's helped me to figure out what had happened." Solving the mystery requires Ted to form a partnership with his sister Kat, who is not usually a fan of his, learn to tell lies, and travel on the underground (subway) by himself for the first time. Not to mention tailing a motorcycle gang member and staking out a pub! Review by Stacy Church