Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Girl Who Saw Lions by Berlie Doherty

girl This novel tells the story of two girls with very different lives. Abela lives in Tanzania on the continent of Africa, and is dealing with the death of her mother and baby sister from AIDS. Abela’s uncle has recently been kicked out of London for being there illegally, and he comes up with a plan to return that involves Abela possibly being sold as a domestic servant. Rosa lives in a suburb of London with her mother, who is considering adopting another child. The thought of sharing her mother, her home, and her life with another child who is a stranger makes Rosa very uncomfortable. This book sensitively and honestly deals with some tough subject matters, but the intertwining of Abela’s and Rosa’s lives makes for a positive and uplifting story. Review by Katie Corrigan

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino

 neil armstrong2Tamara Ann Simson is mad.  She’s mad because her mother  watches soap operas all day and doesn’t fit in with the other mothers in their suburb.  She’s mad because her beloved brother is away at college, and when he comes home, their dad yells at him about his long hair, and he yells at their dad for “working for the man.”  She’s mad because the new kid in the neighborhood, Douglas McGinty, lies about everything (“Did I happen to mention that I’m training for the Olympics…” “Did I ever tell you about the time I sang on Broadway?” “My uncle is Neil Armstrong, the astronaut.”),  and all the other kids and adults seem to believe him. But most of all she’s mad because her best friend Kebsie moved away one day without even saying good-bye.  And worst of all, the new kid is living in the house where Kebsie lived with her foster mother.  Tamara calls him “Muscle Man” because he’s so scrawny, but he seems to like his nickname.  In fact, he’s cheerful about everything, no matter how mean Tamara is to him.  By the end of the book, when everyone in the neighborhood is watching the astronauts land on the moon, Tamara learns that even though someone is cheerful on the outside, they might be just as lonely on the inside as she is.  Author Nan Marino says that she chose 1969 as the year to set her first novel in because, “ The day that the first man walked on the moon is one of those moments in history that elevated the human race by filling our hearts with hope.”  Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

ear the eye This science fiction/fantasy book is set in the future, Zimbabwe in 2194, and involves two trios of characters: the three children of General Matsika, the country’s Chief of Security, and the three detectives the General’s wife hires to find them when they disappear on their first outing outside of the family residence.  Harare is a dangerous place full of gangs (especially The Masks) and criminals who are all too eager to get their hands on the General’s children.  The General would never have agreed to let the children' venture out on their own, if he hadn’t been tricked during his morning session with the Mellower (somehow no one can ever quite remember what the Mellower says to them during the combination praise and storytelling sessions designed to make every feel relaxed and happy).  Of course, the children disappear, the General and his wife suddenly remember the Mellower asking for passes, and, in desperation, they turn to a detective agency operated by three mutants with special talents (caused by a nuclear accident that killed and maimed many people).  The book is full of legends and history based on Shona history.  There is a glossary at the back of the book with a combination of the made-up terminology in the book, and actual Shona, Zulu, and Afrikaans words.  There is also an appendix with info on some topics covered in the book.  Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

anything I was so excited to read this new book by the author of a few books I love--In the Company of Crazies, and especially, What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows –but I was completely let down. I had read the reviews, so I know my expectations were high, but still, that doesn’t account for all of my disappointment. Baskin tries hard to put the reader inside the head of an autistic boy, 12-year-old Jason, and she does a good job of describing his behavior, but it feels like someone on the outside describing him. I know that people will say she’s trying to show the detached way of thinking a person with autism has, but that doesn’t make the book any more engaging. For me, Baskin’s style of writing in the book prohibits any connection with the character. Maybe part of the problem is that there isn’t much of a storyline. If you want to read something about people whose minds work differently, I would suggest you try The London Eye Mystery, or Blue Like Friday, and, of course, for older readers, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Review by Stacy Church