Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

The time period: 1863, the Civil War.  The story begins when 7-year-old Homer and his 17-year-old brother, Harold, are forced to live with their nasty uncle after their parents pass away.  The uncle has a terrible temper, he doesn’t feed them, works them hard on the farm, and makes them mostly true sleep in the barn.  One day, in a fit of temper, the uncle sells Harold to the Union Army, despite his young age.  And here Homer’s adventures begin: he grabs his horse (which his uncle had stolen from him) and heads south to find Harold and save him from getting killed in the war.  His journey is anything but smooth!  He’s often at the wrong place at the wrong time, and he meets up with some not-so-nice people.  The thing that repeatedly gets him out of trouble is his ability to lie himself out of any situation.  Review by Joyce Levine

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Forensic Science by Alex Frith


I love this book about crime scene investigation!  It’s gory, but not too gory, because it’s in comic book style.  It’s full of information about what evidence scientists use to solve crimes, interspersed with actual cases.  There’s a list of who’s who in a criminal investigation, from the victim to the coroner and jury.  There’s an illustration of a crime scene, showing what evidence was collected where: fingerprints, bloodstains, files on a computer hard disk.  There’s even a chapter called Criminal Identity that includes forensic psychology, or profiling. In the back is a timeline of forensic science and some internet links for those of you who want to learn more.  Review by Stacy Church

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan


This is a really fascinating book by the author of my favorite graphic novel, The Arrival.  It’s a collection of 17 stories with a wide variety of illustrations, including a very dark-looking landscape in grandpa’s story, and an essay told in collage called Distant Rain (about what happens to all the poems people write) .  The author has a very unusual viewpoint, which in this book he gets across not only with bizarre illustrations, but also with his seemingly unconnected short stories and essays.  “Shaun Tan was born in 1974 and grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. In school he became known as the 'good drawer' which partly compensated for always being the shortest kid in every class.” (  Check out the author’s website for some really cool line drawings and his thoughts on art, picture books and creativity.  Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls

If you had only a short time to live on this earth, what would you still like to experience, to learn, and to accomplish? The best way to get started would be to make a "bucket list" by recording all the things you still want to do before "kicking the bucket" --before dying. Eleven-year-old Sam starts writing a book when he finds out he has leukemia. He wants to find answers to questions nobody ever seems to want to talk about. He especially wants to break a world record and get his name published in The Guinness Book of World Records. He also wants to become a scientist and do important research. Then, Sam meets Felix, who uses a wheelchair to get around. They work on Sam's book together and have a lot of fun plotting against the adult world that surrounds them. Here is a book about two young boys who want to enjoy themselves while asking some serious questions about the meaning of life and death, and the many "Ways to Live Forever." Review by Trudy Walsh

For another review of Ways to Live Forever, see Jan. 25, 2009