Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Doom Machine by Mark Teague

doom Things are getting very strange in the sleepy town of Vern Hollow. It’s 1956 when Jack Creedle sees the flying saucer overhead. Not everyone believes that aliens have landed, so Jack and his new friend Isadora set out to prove it. Sure enough, the huge spider-like aliens known as Skreeps are there, and they’ve come looking for the secret invention that Jack’s Uncle Bud has created. When Jack and Isadora almost thwart the aliens’ plans, they find themselves kidnapped and taken aboard the spacecraft, along with Uncle Bud and Isadora’s scientist mom. This is quite the adventurous tale, with Jack and Isadora escaping from the Skreeps and traveling to different planets, all in an attempt to keep Uncle Bud’s dangerous creation out of the Skreeps’ hands. The characters are interesting, especially the ruthless Skreep commander Xaafuun. I thought that the book was a little too long because it started to lose me at the end, but all-in-all I thought this was an exciting sci-fi adventure! Review by Katie Corrigan

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

evolution I know a book is good if I don’t want it to end, and that is definitely how I felt about this one. With one chapter left, I found myself putting the book down to finish the next day. I wanted to put off saying goodbye to Calpurnia, her family, and her interesting life. Eleven-year-old Calpurnia Virginia Tate lives in Texas, and is smack-dab in the middle of three older brothers and three younger brothers. During the hot summer of 1899, she starts to explore the animals and plants near her home. Her grandfather, impressed with this, shares his own nature observations with her, and shows her the correct way to make scientific observations in her notebook. But not everyone is pleased with Callie’s new hobby. Her mother thinks she should spend more time learning needlework and cooking, in preparation for when she’ll one day be a wife. This is a charming and humorous story of a girl on the verge of growing up, and not sure if she’s ready to. Callie’s brothers are also growing up, learning that it’s best not to make pets out of farm animals, and developing crushes on Callie’s best friend. The rest of Callie’s family is as interesting as she is, making for a book that is hard to put down, and hard to finish. Review by Katie Corrigan

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

al One of the things I like the best about this sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts is that things and people are rarely black and white, except in the end, of course.  Moose encounters lots of people in his life on Alcatraz Island in 1935: a mean guard, Officer Darby, who seems to have it in for him; Al Capone himself, who is calling in the favor Moose owes him from the previous book; Willy One Arm and Buddy Boy, two convicts that work at the warden’s house; Piper, the warden’s daughter, who Moose has a love/hate relationship with.  It’s hard for Moose to tell who he should trust.  HIs instincts are pretty good, but the thing that continues to get him in trouble is that he wants to make everyone happy.  His sister, Natalie is away at a special school on the mainland, and though everyone says it’s good for her, Moose isn’t too sure.  The conclusion of the book is very exciting, and involves guns, kidnapping, and an attempted prison escape.  Review by Stacy Church

Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff

wild This is a book that really drew me in. Although I wasn’t crazy about the chapters told from the young horse’s perspective, the chapters told from Lidie’s viewpoint just got better and better as the book went on. At the beginning, Lidie is getting ready to leave Jales, Brazil, where she has been living with her aunt and uncle for the past 5 years. Her father and brother moved to the US after her mother died, but they couldn’t take her with them. Even though she is angry at having been left behind, she loves her home, the countryside, her aunt Titia Luisa and even her Uncle Tio, who she has a stormy relationship with, and especially riding the neighbor’s horse wildly through the fields. When she arrives in New York, she is angry to discover that her father and brother expect her to be the same 7-year-old girl they left behind in Brazil (not realizing that she expects them to be the same also). She doesn’t speak much English, and school turns out to be humiliating when she can’t make the teacher understand that she needs to go to the bathroom. She wets her pants and then runs away from school, swearing to herself never to return. It takes a while for things to improve for Lidie, but the world of horses that surrounds her (her father runs a stable and her brother is a budding jockey) draws the family together and when the filly whose voice narrates the alternating chapters comes to the stable, Lidie recognizes a kindred spirit. There are exciting scenes from the racetrack, and it’s nice to see that Lidie loves the old horse her father bought for her to learn to ride on, even as she resents that he thinks she could only ride such a broken-down old horse. Review by Stacy Church