Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

mockingbird“…Devon says you can’t moan or scream or shake your hands up and down or rock or get under a table or spin around over and over in public.  Actually you can’t do most things over and over in public because that’s not normal unless it’s something like clapping or laughing but you have to do it only at the right times and places and Devon always tells me. Now I don’t know anymore.”  Caitlyn is in fifth grade and she has Asperger’s syndrome.  That makes it hard for her to read other people’s emotions (she uses a chart to memorize how a person’s face looks when they’re feeling a certain emotion) or to understand idioms (like “putting herself in someone else’s shoes”).  What she’s really good at is drawing, reading, doing things exactly the same way every time (Thursday is pizza night), and remembering rules (“You shouldn’t get in someone’s personal space”).  Caitlyn and her dad are trying to find a way to go on after losing her older brother, Devon, in a tragic event.  Caitlyn’s mother died years earlier, so it’s just the two of them.  The school counselor, Mrs. Brook, becomes Caitlyn’s main source of information about human behavior, advice on how to make friends, and most importantly, how to get closure about Devon’s death.  There are many light moments in the book when Caitlyn’s inability to see past the literal meaning of something causes misunderstandings, even with Mrs. Brook. Her many eccentricities are also charming, like her habit of naming gummy worms before eating them.  Her descriptions of others’ behavior can be quite funny –“We are at recess and I think Mrs. Brook might have Asperger’s too because she is very persistent which is one of my skills.  She is stuck on her Let’s Make Friends idea even though I am making it very clear with my eyes that I am no longer interested in this conversation.” Mockingbird has joined the fairly short list of books I love featuring characters on the autism spectrum: Rules by Cynthia Lord, The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, and Blue like Friday by Siobhan Parkinson.  Review by Stacy Church

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

heartIn 1841, while on a fishing trip to earn food for his family, 14-year-old Manjiro and his crew become stranded on an island off the coast of their home, Japan. With very little to eat and the remaining crew hurt or sick, Manjiro, who has always dreamed of becoming a Samurai, decides to be brave and search the island for help. While on the other side of the island, he spots a giant ship sailing close by, and summoning all his courage, Manjiro swims out to the ship. He is shocked to find that the captain and crew are “blue-eyed barbarians,” the “devils” his countrymen have feared and banned from their shores for the past 250 years. Although the captain is kind, the ship is a whaling ship and the voyage is dangerous and long. Manjiro learns much from the captain and the crew, but he is always torn between the excitement of adventure and the dream of going home. This book is based on the true story of a boy named Manjiro, who had the heart of a Samurai, and who is said to be the first Japanese person to visit the new world. Review by Loretta Eysie

The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan

lost childrenJosephine’s life with her rich father is very lonely and quiet since her mother died. Her father doesn’t pay any attention to her at all –he doesn’t even speak to her! And to make matters worse, he is responsible for a new town law that says everyone must wear gloves all the time. At school the kids hate Josephine because they hate wearing gloves, so she doesn’t have any friends either. One day while searching the old shed in the back of her huge house, Josephine meets a boy from a different time, but before she can ask him anything, he disappears. Josephine decides to investigate the old shed to see if she can find any clues, and while she is searching, she falls through the shed wall into a dark, scary basement. When she lands on the basement floor, the first thing she hears is someone barking, “No, no that’s all wrong!.....I’m going to throw you down those cellar stairs,” and “you ant brained speck of fly dung! Into the cellar!” Josephine doesn’t know yet that she has landed in a different time zone and a different world –a dangerous world filled with horrible creatures and a more horrible master. Review by Loretta Eysie

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

smileRaina was not looking forward to getting braces, but before she could even get started, she fell and badly damaged her front teeth. Middle school isn’t a very supportive place to live through the experience of having her teeth fixed. It’s embarrassing, humiliating, and maddening, not to mention painful. Her “friends” aren’t helpful; in fact they probably hurt her feelings more than help her. This graphic novel, based on the author’s real life experience, is about teeth and friendship –both sometimes painful! Review by Loretta Eysie

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

long walkThis is a story in two voices. First we hear Nya’s voice as she is trudging in the broiling hot African sun to fetch water for her family. The water jug is light going the three hours to the water supply, but very heavy on the way back. Nya does this everyday, twice a day. Water in the Sudan is very hard to find and carry, but without it, no one could live. This isn’t taking place 100 years ago; this is happening in 2008. Next, we hear Salva’s voice. It is 1985 and he’s in school, and like most students, he is waiting for the end of the day so he can go home. Shots ring out, and the teacher tells everyone to run, run into the bush and don’t look back. Soldiers have come to kill the villagers, so Salva runs. He doesn’t know where he is going or if his family is alive, but he runs. Salva’s run takes him far, far from home for many years. In alternating chapters we hear Nya and Salva tell their stories, neither of them knowing that one day they will actually speak to each other, brought together by something we take for granted every day: water. Review by Loretta Eysie

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Boom! By Mark Haddon

boomThis is a story about Jim and Charlie, two curious friends who decide to spy on their teachers by bugging the teachers’ lounge. They unknowingly stumble upon a much bigger mystery than just which student is the biggest troublemaker –they hear Mrs. Pearce and Mr. Kidd speak in a strange secret language! But what does “spudvetch” mean, and why do Mr. Kidd's eyes flicker with fluorescent blue light when Charlie says it to him? Are they bank robbers speaking in code? Perhaps they are aliens, or maybe spies? Whatever they are, Jim and Charlie are determined to find out. So from the moment Jim and Charlie hear their teachers speaking in this strange language and see strange violet lights flash from their eyes and finger tips, things start to go downhill. When Charlie goes missing and an attack is made on Jim and his sister, Jim must use all his wits to save not only his best friend, but the whole world. This is a fun and funny adventure that, as it gathers speed and begins to spin out of control, can only end in one way…. with a boom! Review by Lizzy Healy

The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

reinventionSIDE NOTE: “Moxie” used to be a soda beverage that was known for having a powerful kick along with its sweet and bitter taste. The word moxie today derives from the soda name, and refers to someone with energy, pep, courage, determination, or know-how.

Moxie Roosevelt Kipper has one unique name –a name that conjures up a person full of spunk, energy, and zip. But to Moxie, her name is burden and a constant taunt. Moxie doesn’t think she’s spunky, or full of energy and zip; rather, she feels like an ordinary boring thirteen-year-old. But Moxie realizes she may still have time to transform or reinvent herself into an un-ordinary lively girl when she transfers to the all-girls’ boarding school Eaton Academy. Before starting at the new school, she has narrowed down her personality choices to the following:

  • DUCKI= a Detached, Unique, Coolly Knowing Individual
  • MEG= Mysterious Earth Goddess
  • HHSE= Hale and Hearty Sports Enthusiast
  • ARA= Assertive Revolutionary Activist

Instead of picking one new personality, Moxie opts to mold herself to her audience, adopting a different personality with each of the many different groups of girls at the new academy. She has to keep a logbook just to remember which personality she's been using with whom! But as the story progresses, she finds it increasingly difficult to remember what she has said to whom and which role she needs to fill. It becomes exhausting, and she’s just barely holding it together until she realizes that her journal is missing. She's terrified it might land in the wrong hands. You can probably relate to Moxie –at one time or another we all tend to believe that other people's lives are more exciting than our own, and we want to make ourselves special, too. This book is filled with hilarious misadventures as Moxie embarks on her quest for identity. In the end, she realizes that true friends like you for who you are, and enjoy differences as well as similarities. Review by Lizzy Healy

The Tilting House by Tom Llewellyn

tiltingJosh isn’t happy about his family’s move into a new house, where life becomes strangely unbalanced. First of all, the floors all tilt at precisely 3 degrees, and scribbled notes of mad science cover the walls, ceiling, and floors. But those aren’t the only mysteries: rats talk, pocket knives grow to the size of swords, and walls disappear with the flick of the light switch. Brothers Josh and Aaron and their neighbor Lola try to unlock the secrets of this uneven house, starting with the diary of its original owner, a brilliant but deranged inventor F.T. Tilton. Join the kids as they struggle to solve riddles of mad science, love lost, and bodies buried in this tale full of strange occurrences and crazy hi-jinks, all ultimately connected with the titling house. This story is similar to Neil Gaimen‘s The Graveyard Book –it’s filled with episodic stories that converge in the end. At first Josh and Aaron are none too pleased with their tilting house, but over time, begin to love its strange quirks and its mystery. The episodes involving the talking rats, oversized pocket knives and dogs, and a buried secret treasure make for amusing anecdotes. Who wouldn’t want to have an adventure while solving the mysteries of your strange, but pretty cool, house? Review by Lizzy Healy

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seaglass Summer by Anjali Banarjee

seaglasssFor as long as Poppy can remember, her parents have taken her to India each summer to visit her grandparents, but this year, Poppy has convinced them to let her spend the summer with her uncle on an island off the Washington coast instead. This vacation will be different.  Poppy wants to become a veterinarian, so she has saved up enough money to buy her own professional veterinarian’s kit, which includes a stethoscope and a bendable thermometer. Poppy’s Uncle Sanjay owns “Furry Friends Animal Clinic, and as she rides the ferry to visit him on Nisqually Island, she can imagine herself assisting him in savings animals’ lives.  With Poppy, we gain insight into the challenges and joys of working with animals.  Yes, there are the tender moments of attending newborn puppies at the clinic, but there also are the tough moments when medical emergencies arise.  Sometimes it’s hard to deal with irrational pet owners who don’t want to cooperate.  This is a delightful, fast-moving summer story.  Anjali Banerjee has us laughing and crying with Poppy as she struggles to follow her dream of becoming a veterinarian to save the animals of the world.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We the Children by Andrew Clements

we the children This is the first book in Andrew Clements’s funny, engaging new series, Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School.  When the school custodian has a heart attack, he begs Ben to take his special golden coin and use it to make sure nothing happens to their school, The Seaside Oaks Middle School.  The school, which was donated in 1793 by an old sea captain, is in danger of being torn down to make way for an amusement park.  How can Ben, who is just a kid, save a school that has just been sold in a 30 million dollar real estate deal?  You can always count on Andrew Clements to deliver a terrific story, and We the Children doesn’t disappoint.  Review by Joyce Levine

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Bulu: African Wonder Dog by Dick Houston

bulu Have you ever longed for an exciting adventure in your life?  Steve and Anna Tolan are police officers in England who dream of a life filled with adventure in the African bush.  Since they are both intelligent and practical people, they fear this dream will never be fulfilled, so every year they save their money to vacation in Africa.  When Steve has an accident and can’t work for the police force any more, the couple sells all their belongings and moves to Zambia.  Anna has to leave her 15-year-old dog, Marly, behind with her parents.  She is determined to get a dog again, even though everybody tells her that pets don’t survive in the African bush because of all the wild animals running free.  A friend brings news that there are puppies for sale at the old Crocodile farm. The only one left is the runt of the litter.  Anna makes up her mind to give the very small, quiet puppy a home, and names him Bulu, meaning “Wild Dog.”  Much to the surprise of everyone, Bulu develops into an amazing dog.  He not only finds his voice and bravely protects his family, but he is also very gentle.  He becomes a loving foster parent to the orphaned baby animals rescued by the Tolans.  This is a beautifully-written exciting adventure story set in the African bush –a true story about Bulu, a special dog with unique spirit and gifts of love, compassion and bravery.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Shug by Jenny Han

shug Annemarie Wilcox is twelve years old.  Her family has called her “Shug” ever since she was a baby.  Her Mama used to say to her, “You’re my sweet Shug, my little bowl of sugar.”  Annemarie doesn’t feel “sweet” anymore. Now that she has started junior high school, everything is changing around her, and she doesn’t like it one bit.  It upsets her that Mark, her best friend since they were five years old, would rather spend his time with the boys in her class.  Shug is noticing that all of a sudden she has feelings for Mark that she didn’t have before.  How can she get Mark to look at her, really “look” at her and notice her?  This is a wonderful book about a young girl growing up and dealing with the changes in her body and in her emotions.  As the story unfolds, we experience with Shug the passions and the pain of first love.  Annemarie Wilcox is a delightful twelve year old to get to know, in Shug by Jenny Han.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Word after Word after Word by Patricia MacLachlan

word In this slim book Word after Word after Word, Newbery award winner Patricia MacLachlan introduces us to an inspiring author who is visiting a fourth grade class.  The children become aware of the power of words through the author’s unique approach to teaching about creative writing,   They are invited to experiment and even play with words.  As the children start the writing process, they discover that words can describe a place, transport us back or forward in time, and introduce us to interesting characters.  Patricia MacLachlan tells us that her book Word after Word after Word is somewhat biographical.  We certainly gain in insight into this author’s gift of choosing just the right words to express emotions, thoughts, truth and wisdom.  Word after Word after Word is a fast read, yet this small book opens up whole new worlds through the amazing power of words.  We gain an insight into how this author chooses her words so effectively.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Song of the Whales by Uri Orlev

song Can dreams come true?  Can they predict the future?  Can dreams transport us back to past lives?  Michael never thought much about dreams while he was growing up in Port Washington, a small town on Long Island Sound in New York.  When his family moves to Jerusalem to be near his elderly grandfather, Michael is surprised to find out how much they have in common.  There is a special bond between grandson and grandfather.  Michael is looking forward to getting to know his grandfather more and more.  Michael’s parents, however, worry that he spends too much time with the elderly man and not enough time with friends his own age.  Michael doesn’t care about meeting kids.  He is fascinated by the antiques in his grandfather’s house.  As Michael shares his love of old things with his grandpa, his grandpa shares his special interest in dreams with Michael.  Together they discover that they have the power to be in each other’s dreams.  Grandpa realizes that Michael has “the gift,” and that’s when Grandpa begins to teach Michael how to make other people’s dreams more pleasant.  Michael gladly becomes Grandpa’s apprentice.   Together  they have some amazing experiences through their synchronized dreams, where time and space become warped.  The Song of Whales takes you on a fantastic trip, where the lines of reality and dreams are blurred.  This story will continue to stay in your mind long after you’ve closed the book.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Come Fall by A.C.E. Bauer

come fall I have to confess, I was pretty disappointed with this book.  The main story is well-written enough, but the interspersing of the faeries’ story is very confusing even if you know the story of Puck, King Oberon and Queen Titania, which I doubt most kids do.  Salman Page is a new kid yet again, trying to stay under the radar so that no one will find out his situation: that he lives in a foster home with abusive foster parents.  Lu Zimmer is assigned to be his d.b., or designated buddy, and she just won’t leave him alone.  She’s determined to prove what a good d.b. she is, and Salman finds himself drawn to her, despite his intentions to remain a loner.  So far so good, but Salman has a crow for a friend, the crow is really Puck, who has been ordered by both the queen and king of the faeries to keep tabs on Salman for very different reasons. The language of the book seems younger to me than the subject matter, and that combined with the confusing nature of the faery part of the story make this a hard book to recommend.  Review by Stacy Church

Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt

best friends I love everything about this book.  The layout, illustrations and handwritten text really make you feel like you’re reading someone’s scrapbook, and the characters and story are so engaging that once I started reading I couldn’t put it down.  Louise Margaret Krueger, age 14, vows to keep a scrapbook to share with her best friend, Dottie Masuoka, also 14, when Dottie and her family are allowed to return home after being interned with all the other Japanese-Americans during WW II.  The scrapbook begins on April 24, 1942, and continues until January 10, 1943.  Included are letters to Dottie from Louise, Louise’s letters to Dottie, and memorabilia that Louise has taped into the scrapbook, things like a newspaper clipping about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the incident that led to the “evacuation” of Japanese-Americans to camps, the handbill instructing all persons of Japanese ancestry to report for evacuation, and the note that someone threw through the Kruegers front window “Go back to Germany Nazis.”   The book really gives a good picture of the history of the time period, and Louise’s affection for her friend and contempt for the cowardly way her family is treated make the book a wonderful read.  Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs

crossing In the summer of 2010, the state of Arizona passed a law that requires police to check the identification papers of anybody they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. In Crossing the Wire, we read about such an illegal immigrant. Victor is a fifteen-year-old boy who tries hard to make a living for his family on a mountain farm in Central Mexico. His father has died, and Victor takes care of his mother and younger siblings. Everything had been working out well until the time came when he couldn’t sell his corn. In a desperate attempt to save his family from starvation, Victor heads north to cross into the United States, in Arizona, to find a job and send money back home. On his journey north, Victor faces many challenges, including traveling through freezing cold and scorching hot landscapes. The people who offer Victor a helping hand are not always trustworthy. How will Victor find a way to cross the border safely and not be caught or attacked, or worse, be sent back to Mexico? Will Hobbs has written an action-packed adventure story of one brave young man’s struggle to “cross the wire” into the land of freedom and opportunity. Review by Trudy Walsh

Star in the Forest by Laura Resau

star Zitlally is eleven years old and lives with her family in a trailer park. After her father gets deported to Mexico because he does not have the proper papers, life changes drastically for Zitlally. To get away from all the family worries, Zitlally escapes into the forest surrounding the trailer park. Near an old-abandoned car she finds a dog in need. Zitlally befriends the dog, which she names Star, and starts to feed him and take care of him. Deep down, Zitlally believes that Star is a magic dog sent to her to be taken care of. She believes that Star’s life, somehow, is tied to her father’s life. If she can nurse Star back to health, she is sure her father will return. Star in the Forest is a beautifully-written story about a young Mexican girl growing up in Colorado, whose family is caught up in the newly-enforced immigration laws. Review by Trudy Walsh

Emma Dilemma, the Nanny, and the Secret Ferret by Patricia Hermes

emma Emma and her family are ready to head north to Maine for their summer vacation. The cars are loaded, but before the family can leave, everybody has to line up for the traditional “before vacation photo.” There will be an “after vacation photo” taken also at the end of the summer, when everyone will look tanned, relaxed, and happy. As the family cars are ready to drive off, Emma has one more emergency stop to make in the house. She quickly stuffs something into her backpack and is finally ready to leave for Maine. Without telling her parents, Emma has secretly stuffed her pet ferret into her backpack. This is a wonderful summer vacation story with many humorous incidents, as Emma tries to hide her pet ferret as long as possible. Review by Trudy Walsh

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This Means War! by Ellen Wittlinger

this means war This is a great little book.  By little, I mean it’s a quick read, not that it’s little in terms of ideas, story or characters.  There comes a time in some kids’ lives when their relationships with kids of the opposite sex become not quite so easy.  Or downright hostile, in Julie’s case.  She and Lowell have been best friends forever, but now that he is friends with the new kids, twins Mike and Tommy, he treats Julie like she has cooties.  And it couldn’t happen at a worse time.  It’s 1962 and Julie is afraid that America is going to go to war with Russia over Cuba, and that Russia will fire missiles at us, which, since she lives near a big air base, puts her and her family in danger.  Some kids’ families have even built fallout shelters.  Then a new girl, Patsy, moves to the neighborhood.  At first, she helps take Julie’s mind off of things, but then Patsy gets into a battle with an older boy in the neighborhood, and suddenly Julie is dragged into a series of challenges to prove who is better –boys or girls, and it isn’t long before things get dangerous.  I’ll just warn you:  there are some serious consequences to the things the kids get involved in, but don’t let it stop you from reading the book.  You can’t help rooting for Julie to overcome her fear of how out of control the world seems to her. Review by Stacy Church

How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog) by Art Corriveau

nicky flynn Life has been treating Nicky pretty unfairly lately.  He had to move with his mom from their really nice house in a suburb outside of Boston to a tiny, run-down apartment in Charlestown.  His mom works all the time now, and never seems to have the energy to make dinner.  She also drinks too much wine and watches too much TV.  Then instead of bringing home groceries, she brings home an 80-pound German shepherd named Reggie.  Nicky doesn’t even want a dog.  He tries to make her take him back, but his mom is determined to keep him.  As Nicky gets attached to Reggie, he becomes obsessed with finding out who his former owner was and why he was given up for adoption.  Nicky’s obsession leads him to explore his new neighborhood and make some new friends.  Unfortunately, he lies to the new people he meets, pretending to be Reggie’s previous owner’s grandson in order to get information from them, and of course, in the end, he tells too many lies to get away with.  Nicky’s mom makes him go to a therapist to deal with his feelings about the divorce, and Nicky refuses to talk to him.  I’ve never heard of a therapist treating a parent for 1/2 an hour and a kid for the other 1/2 hour, and it doesn’t seem realistic that Nicky’s mom expects the dog to eat human food because she refuses to buy more than one can of food at a time.  I hate how Nicky endangers Reggie’s life by dragging him into his own drama, but I guess it could happen.  All in all, I enjoyed reading about Nicky and Reggie, but the book was far from perfect.  Review by Stacy Church

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

little blog This book is a hilarious account of what happens when a nice, normal 13-year-old girl is forced to spend her summer at Camp Frontier having an authentic 1890’s pioneer experience instead of doing the kinds of things most 13-year-old girls in America do in the summer.  You know, there’s a reason why society has progressed, and the reason is that life in the 1890’s wasn’t all that great: no indoor plumbing, no screens on your windows, no heat for cooking or bathing unless you cut and haul wood…I could go on and on.  At first I was too afraid that the snarky heroine of the book, Genevieve, was going to end up getting all mushy about how changed she was from the experience to really enjoy how funny the writing is.  Of course that is kind of what happens in the end, but not before Gen gets in a lot of digs at the owners of the camp, their nasty daughter Nora, and frontier life in general.  Even though campers are supposed to surrender all their personal belongings when they arrive at the camp, Gen makes enough of a fuss that her mom insists they let her keep her tube of Clearasil, in which she has hidden the new cell phone her mom promised her in exchange for her giving in gracefully (relatively gracefully, anyway) about the vacation.  When Gen starts feeling the pain of frontier life, she takes the phone out to the fields and texts some very funny messages to her friends back home.  What she doesn’t know is that her friends turn them into a blog, and before they know it, there are lots of people reading about Gen’s adventures on the frontier: “Week 1 – Monday 11:16 am  I am standing in the middle of a cornfield.  I am holding a hoe.  As my mom said when we were setting off to work in the field, we are farmers now.”  “Week 1 – Monday 11:17 am  Here’s the thing: being a farmer is BORING.  I am halfway down one row, there are ten rows to go, and it’s already taken TWO HOURS.” “Week 1 – Monday 1:24 pm You know what’s worse than being caught by your little brother singing “Beat It” at the top of your lungs while you do a  little corn-weeding dance?  Having him follow you down the row singing, “Showin’ how funky and strong is your fight.  It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right,” doing a little dance of his own, and stopping only to say, ‘Come on, Gen, you know you’re feeling it.’  All morning long.” There’s some romance and intrigue along the way, too.  Review by Stacy Church

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams

 palace “’My name is Sadie Evelyn Brooks.  I’m thirteen years old and practically a woman.  I love painting, Frosty Cocoa Flakes cereal and my family.  I hate stomachaches, spiders and saying good-bye.  July 5, 1985.’  That’s what I wrote on the inside of my bathroom cabinet just before we hopped in the car to leave Texas for good. That way, even if it was just in the bathroom, I’d always be a part of the story of the house where I used to live.”  What a great beginning!   Soon after Sadie moves into her new house, she finds what a previous resident left behind: the words “Palace Beautiful” handpainted over the doorway of a tiny room in the attic, and inside the room, an diary from 1918 written by Helen White.  Sadie, her sister Zuzu, and their new friend Bella limit their reading of the diary to 3 entries at a time to make it last longer, and they become determined to find out what happened to Helen White after the terrible flu epidemic killed most of her family.  Although some of the story elements seemed a little over the top (the names Sadie gives to colors, like Judgment-Day White and Sugar-Punch Pink), I really enjoyed the characters, and the way the two stories paralleled each other.  Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

mountain Deep in rural China, a young girl named Minli lives with her parents in a gray, mud-covered village at the foot of Fruitless Mountain.  The mountain is barren now, and the people in the village are poor.  Minli’s father tells her stories of ancient China and of a time when the people were rich and prosperous.  Minli believes the magic stories and sets out on a journey to bring back wealth and happiness to her family and her village.  On her quest she meets a dragon who cannot fly.  They become good friends, and together they make their way through dangerous forests and cities to find the Old Man of the Moon, who is the Guardian of the Book of Fortune.  Minli believes that the Old Man of the Moon has the power to help the dragon fly, as a proper dragon should, and to grant her own wish for wealth and good luck for her family.  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a fast-paced, magical story that will take you on a fantastic journey of adventure through ancient China.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Dog in the Wood by Monika Schröder

dog in the wood This book takes place in April, 1945, right at the end of World War II, in eastern Germany. 10-year-old Fritz lives with his mother, older sister, grandmother, and grandfather (who is a Nazi sympathizer). There is a lot of uncertainty as the Soviet army gets closer to their town. Some people look forward to their coming, but Fritz’s family situation is a little different, and after the announcement comes of Hitler’s death, his grandparents kill themselves. Things get even worse: after the Russians take over, their farm is taken away, and they have to leave to go live with his other grandmother, someone Fritz has never warmed up to. At least Lech, the Polish farmhand who has been like a second father to Fritz, comes along with them. Fritz learns the difference between a friend who cares more about himself (his childhood best friend Paul pulls Fritz in front of him when a drunken Russian soldier points a gun at them) and a true friend like his new friend Konrad, who borrows a bicycle for Fritz to use to try to track down his mother and Lech after they are taken prisoner by the Russians. This is a sad book, and there is no happy ending, but Fritz learns to rely on the people who really care about him, and how to stand up for what he believes in. Review by Stacy Church

The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank

homeschool I didn’t expect too much from this book when I started it, but after reading for a while, I realized there was a lot more to it than I thought there would be.  Katya can’t stand the prospect of starting school again.  Mostly she just can’t face another mind-numbing year.  She spent the summer going to a wilderness camp where she learned all kinds of interesting things about nature –how to forage for edible plants, how to identify alien invasive plant species.  She also doesn’t like the person she becomes when she’s at school –she still cringes when she remembers the essay she wrote about their principal, Mr. Westenburg, and his supposed affair with his secretary, Ms. Pinchbeck, which her friend Danny read over the PA.  “At camp there was no need for me to start trouble.  At camp I didn’t worry if I was good enough or too good, not perfect enough or too perfect for anyone to like me.” Katya is so freaked out on the first day of school that she runs away –from school, that is.  She puts together a presentation to convince her parents to homeschool her.  They are completely against the idea, until they go with her to the principal’s office and realize that they don’t like his attitude very much.  Against their better judgment, they decide to give it a try.  There are some interesting side stories and characters, like old Mr. Horton who comes in to Katya’s mother’s salon for pedicures because he’s diabetic and needs her to check his feet for sores.  It turns out that he is an amateur naturalist and he helps Katya rescue a beaver she finds trapped under a log.  There’s even a romantic interest –Milo, a violin prodigy she hears playing in a field near her house one day, who turns out to be homeschooled, too.  Review by Stacy Church

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne

total tragedy I really enjoyed reading this book!  It’s hard to imagine a situation more embarrassing than the one Hamlet Kennedy has to face as she’s starting 8th grade.  First of all there’s her name.  Then there’s the fact that not only are her parents Shakespearean scholars at the local college, they also dress in Shakespearean clothing (complete with capes with bells in her mother’s case, and tights in her father’s) and speak only Shakespearean English (no contractions allowed).  These are things that Hamlet has dealt with her whole life, although heading into 8th grade they seem a little worse than when she was younger.  The thing that really pushes the envelope is that Hamlet’s younger sister, Desdemona, who is a certifiable genius at the age of 7 (IQ over 200), will only be allowed to enter college if she takes arts classes for credit at the local middle school.  That’s right, the same middle school where Hamlet goes.  Luckily Hamlet has a really great circle of friends who already know all about her strange home life.  Unluckily there are a couple of mean girls who quickly decide to make Desdemona their pet so they can cheat from her.  One of the things I like about the book is that the author avoids turning Hamlet into an angry character who refuses to acknowledge her family in public.  Even when she is pretty angry at the way Desdemona is acting, she feels too much sympathy for her as a really out-of-place under-aged kid at school to really take it out on her.  By the end, Hamlet and Desdemona team up to get revenge on the mean girls.  Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Watching Jimmy by Nancy Hartry


I love Carolyn, the main character of Watching Jimmy. She feels a lot of regret about what happened to her best friend Jimmy. She thinks she should have yelled at her Aunt Jean not to leave them alone with her brother, Uncle Ted, or that she could have run faster when Uncle Ted went zooming off down the street with Jimmy sprawled out across the trunk of his fancy car, or maybe if she had screamed, someone would have come and stopped the awful thing that happened next. The worst thing is that Uncle Ted told everyone Jimmy fell off a swing at the park and that he tried to wake him up and then carried him to his car to get help. Carolyn knows it won’t do any good to tell, so she tries to protect Jimmy as best she can after he comes home from the hospital. She never leaves him alone with Uncle Ted, and she coerces Uncle Ted into helping Aunt Jean by threatening him in a way that only he will understand. Carolyn has her own troubles, but she knows they’re nothing compared to Aunt Jean’s: Ted claims ownership of her house and says she’ll have to move out; Jimmy could have surgery to help with his brain injury but there’s no money to pay for it; and she has the great sadness of having lost her older son in the war. Carolyn has a couple of talents. She has a beautiful singing voice (but she’s careful not to let anyone hear her), and she’s a moving public speaker (which she’s not shy about showing off at all). This is a story where good triumphs in the end, even though things can never go back to the way they used to be. Warning:  there is some language that might be considered offensive.  Review by Stacy Church

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Listen! by Stephanie S. Tolan

listen Do you think that it is possible to telepathically communicate with a dog?  Do you think that you can mentally become aware of what your dog is experiencing at a particular moment in time? This amazing book will show you how it can be done!  In Listen! we meet Charley, who is home for the summer recuperating from a car accident.  Her house is on Eagle Lake, where she walks daily to get her strength back and fight her pain.  One day she spots a wild dog in the woods.  Instantly she connects with him, but when she blinks and looks again, the dog has disappeared. Yet the vision of the day stays with Charley.  Over the summer, as she realizes that the dog, who she has named “Coyote,” needs help, Charley works out a plan to rescue him and pursues it fervently.  If you think that Charley’s plans to rescue “Coyote” are too fantastic and impossible to achieve, then read the author’s “EXTRAS” at the end of the book.  Stephanie S. Tolan’s photos of the real “Coyote” and her testimony on how she rescued him verify everything in the beautifully written book Listen!  Review by Trudy Walsh

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sylvie and the Songman by Tim Binding

sylvie What a fabulous book!  Chapter One starts with poor Sylvie trying to memorize the famous Willliam Blake poem “Tyger”

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,/In the forest of the night:/What immortal hand or eye,/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

“The first lines of the poem seemed straightforward enough, the tiger with his bright shining eyes prowling through the jungle, but she couldn’t get her head round the second half too well.  Immortal hand –what did that mean?  And symmetry? She’d never even heard of the word.  But despite it all, it did make a sort of sense, this fabulous beast with its great rippling body and huge padded paws.”  And speaking of symmetry, the book begins and ends with the tyger/tiger.  Sylvie’s life is on a trajectory to bring her into direct opposition to the Songman, who plans to take over the world and gain dominance over all animals –and eventually humans too –by taking away their voices.  There’s only one animal that’s been able to resist his control, and guess what it is?  The tiger. Sylvie’s father is a composer who also invents bizarre instruments for his compositions: the Furroughla, the Shinglechord, the Featherblow, and one night when Sylvie is helping him practice, something bizarre happens. The instruments sort of take on a life of their own, creating a huge, booming vibration, which causes sort of a seismic shift in the world.  The Songman is instantly aware of what has happened, and the next day he kidnaps Sylvie’s dad to make him tell the secret.  The book is about music –the power of music to transform our lives (just look how the Songman entrances Sylvie by singing her own song to her, the song of her life, that is so sweet that she will give up almost anything to hear it again).  It’s also about animals and how important they are to our lives.  Sylvie loves her old dog, Mr. Jackson, and after a fox (who is actually supposed to help her save the world from the Songman) bites her, she can hear his voice (“seeyoulaterMrJackson seeyoulater Who‘salovelyboythen who’salovelyboy”). This is a classic good vs evil story, and though you can count on good to triumph in the end, there’s plenty of excitement along the way.  Review by Stacy Church

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Crimson Cap by Ellen Howard

crimson I’m not usually a fan of this type of historical fiction, but I found The Crimson Cap really interesting.  I didn’t know anything about the time period (1687) or the setting (LaSalle’s expedition to find the Mississippi River and the route to New France), but I got hooked into the story pretty quickly because Pierre Talon is such a great character.  He is only a boy when he is chosen (because of his ability to learn Native American languages quickly) to accompany LaSalle’s expedition, and he must leave his mother and siblings behind.  He is afraid, but feels a heavy responsibility because his father has run off and left the family to fend for itself.  The settlers are starving, and LaSalle is going to try to find help.  Pierre makes friends with a slightly older boy along the way, and has to contend with some pretty horrible behavior from some of the men on the expedition.  When LaSalle is killed by his own men, and Pierre falls ill, he is taken in by the Hosinai and nursed back to health.  He has to choose several times between the Native Americans who have adopted him and Europeans who haven’t all treated him very well.  The story is realistic, and makes the point that your enemies are those who don’t treat your own people well.  They’re not necessarily good or evil.  Review by Stacy Church

Hannah’s Winter by Kierin Meehan

hannah Hannah’s mother has an irritating habit of speaking in capital letters, which is pretty funny (“Living in Japan will be a WONDERFUL experience for you.”)  Hannah can speak and understand some Japanese from when she lived in Japan as a toddler, but she doesn’t read or write it well, so her mother sees her upcoming trip to Japan to research her next book –Surprising Japanese Gardeners (which Hannah says should be called Surprised Japanese Gardeners because they’d be very surprised after they’d met her and seen her bright purple hair) –as the perfect opportunity for Hannah to learn at least 1,000 kanji.  Hannah is to stay with the Maekawas, who have a daughter, Miki, about her age.  Miki and Hannah turn out to be well matched, especially when it comes to solving the mystery of an ancient riddle that turns up in an antique box that was a gift to Mr. Maekawa.  The riddle leads to some pretty alarming meetings with a ghost/spirit who turns out to be a mischievous boy, and some more alarming meetings with various spirits trying to prevent them from helping the boy, who they nickname “Ocean Boy.” Hannah’s Winter will give you a real sense of Japanese culture, both modern and ancient, and the mystery is fun, too.  Review by Stacy Church

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner

brilliant Gianna Z. is good at a lot of things: helping her grandmother find where she left her false teeth (in the vegetable crisper), posting the fastest times at cross-country meets, figuring out what dogs people would be if they were dogs (the mean girls at school –pit bull/bloodhound mix), dreaming up really cool art projects.  Unfortunately, she isn’t good at deadlines or schoolwork.  She especially has trouble with big projects with lots of little deadlines.  It doesn’t usually get her down, but now her science grade might stand in the way of her running in the cross-country sectionals, and it doesn’t help that the mean girls break into her gym locker and trash the part of her project she has finished.  As if that’s not bad enough, Gianna’s beloved Nonna seems to be slipping away from her, and her mom is too caught up in her busy schedule to even show up at Nonna’s doctor appointment.   Luckily she has a great best friend, Zig, who seems to always understand what she needs help with.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that Gianna’s dad is a mortician and sometimes has to drop her off at school in the hearse.  Great fodder for the mean girls.  I absolutely love this book.  It’s my favorite combination of funny and sad.  Review by Stacy Church

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks

mirrorscape Here are the things I like about this book:

1. Great beginning: “It should have been darker than the darkest night, as black as Indian ink.  But it was not.”

2. Lots of (sometimes gory) action, including kidnapping, torture, maiming and murder

3. Wonderful imaginative premise: The world is ruled by five “Mysteries,” each of which has dominion over one of the senses.  For instance, the First Mystery controls the sense of touch and controls the production of cloth and tailoring, among other things.  If someone wants to develop a new type of cloth, they have to pay the First Mystery for something called a “Pleasure.”  The Mysteries, which originally were a way of regulating trade and guaranteeing quality,  have become corrupt, only interested in profit, not value.  Everyone lives in fear of being imprisoned and sent to the mines for running afoul of one of the Mysteries.  The book is all about the Fifth Mystery, which is the most powerful.  It controls the use of color.

4. It’s all about the world of art.  Mel loves to draw more than anything, and apparently he’s very talented at it.  So talented that the most famous artist in the land sends his most trusted minion to get Mel to come be one of his apprentices.  Unfortunately, he lands right in the middle of a lot of intrigue and the aforementioned kidnapping, torture and murder. 

Here are the things I didn’t like so much about the book:

1. Too many battles in the world-within-the-paintings.  At first it was really cool, and the imaginary creatures were fun, but after a while it got tiresome.  It seemed that one struggle would just barely be over and a new one would start. 

Review by Stacy Church

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

out of I love the beginning of this book, where Melody talks about words and how she loves them. It’s not until the end of the first chapter that you find out what words really mean to her: “I have no idea how I untangled the complicated process of words and thought, but it happened quickly and naturally. By the time I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings. But only in my head. I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old.” Melody has cerebral palsy. She’s unable to move voluntarily (except for her thumbs), although she sometimes moves in a jerky, spastic way, especially if she’s upset or excited. She can’t really communicate, but there’s plenty going on inside her head. Luckily her parents always believed in her intelligence, and her neighbor Mrs. Valencia, who has been babysitting her since she was born, has pushed her to try and do what she can for herself. School, though, has been terrible up until fifth grade, which is when the story takes place. Now there are some inclusion classes, there’s a special ed teacher who believes her students are capable of learning, and Melody gets her own aide, Christine, a college student. Things really start to look up for her when she gets a computer that can talk for her. Melody is alternately ignored and made fun of at school, and it’s not until the tryouts for the Whiz Kids quiz team that the other kids (and the teacher) are forced to recognize that maybe she isn’t an idiot after all. Melody, with her computer to help her communicate, gets all the questions right. The ending is good, because it’s not too pat. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Giant-Slayer by Iain Lawrence

giant-slayer The Giant-Slayer is really two stories in one.  The main story tells about a girl growing up in 1955, before the polio vaccine was discovered and many kids were being stricken with the illness.  Because polio affects the muscles of the body, it also affects one’s ability to breathe normally.  The solution in 1955 was to put the afflicted in an “iron lung,” a machine that completely encased the body and worked like a bellows to force air in and out of the patient’s lungs. Laurie is a lonely little girl whose mother is dead and whose father works for the foundation that is raising money to fund polio research. She spends her days with a housekeeper, Mrs. Strawberry, who has old-fashioned ideas about how to keep Laurie from catching polio, which means she isn’t allowed to go anywhere during the summer where other children congregate, especially if there’s water involved.  Laurie has never really had a friend, but then Dickie moves into her neighborhood.  Everything is going great, until Dickie comes down with polio.  Laurie goes to visit him in the polio ward, even though her father and Mrs. Strawberry have forbidden her to.  There are 2 other kids in iron lungs, too, and Dickie convinces her to tell them a story, just like they used to tell each other before he was in the hospital.  So she starts what is the second story in the book.  To be honest, at first I had trouble getting into the giant-slayer story that Laurie tells, but once I could keep the characters straight I enjoyed it.  The style of the writing seems a little young compared to the content, which is pretty sad and upsetting, but I got used to it and ended up really liking the book.  Review by Stacy Church

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

evolution I’m embarrassed to say that I just got around to reading this year’s Newbery winner.  What an unusual book!  I will just tell you that I am not happy with the ending though.  Calpurnia Tate is unlucky enough to be growing up during a time (1899) when young ladies are expected to be interested in all the things that will make them good wives and mothers: cooking, sewing, knitting, darning; and not the things that will make them good scientists: evolution, the natural world, the scientific method and how to distill whiskey from pecans.  Calpurnia is the only girl in a family of 6 boys, and during the summer just before she turns 12, just as she discovers that the grandfather she’s always been so afraid of is a home-grown scientist who welcomes her company and help in his scientific endeavors, her mother decides that it’s time for her to really buckle down and learn the arts of housewifery.  Most of the book moves along happily enough, with entertaining tales of her exploits with her grandfather and funny stories about her brothers, but as I got closer to the end I kept waiting for the moment when Calpurnia would be saved from the life that was expected of her.  She bravely asks her oldest brother if he will help her if she wants to go to university, and asks her grandfather if women can’t be scientists too, but it’s pretty clear that although you, the reader, can hope for a different outcome, it isn’t very likely.  And for a character that I grew so fond of, that’s not a satisfactory ending for me.  Review by Stacy Church

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

love aubrey “It’d been a good three days: crackers and cheese for breakfast, TV; crackers and cheese for lunch, TV; crackers and cheese for dinner, TV, bed. Nothing to think about but TV and cheese. A perfect world. Then I ran out of cheese.”

Like most children in her situation(if books are to be believed), Aubrey covers for her mother after she disappears. She doesn’t tell anyone that she’s all alone, she doesn’t answer the phone, and she doesn’t answer the door. When she runs out of cheese, she takes the money she got for her birthday and goes to the store, buying only the important things, like SpaghettiOs with meatballs, Cheerios, bread, some vegetables, and a pet fish. The aloneness doesn’t last long. Aubrey’s grandmother is worried and comes down to Virginia from Vermont on the train (and she hates to travel!), and when she understands that her daughter Lissie has gone off and left Aubrey alone, she takes her back to Vermont with her while she tries to find her. The story just gets better from here. Aubrey doesn’t want to give in and be happy, but Gram is too good at getting her to cooperate for her to fight it for long. Also, she becomes instant friends with the girl next-door, Bridget. Aubrey bottle up her feelings inside (this may be why she feels sick to her stomach so often) and really only lets them out in letters she writes to her younger sister’ imaginary friend. The author only gradually lets the reader in on the back story –what happened to the rest of Aubrey’s family. In the end, Aubrey has to make a difficult choice: whether to go back to Virginia with her mother, or to stay on in Vermont for a little bit longer. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Back Home by Julia Keller

back home Back Home is the story of what happens to one girl’s life when her dad returns from the war in Iraq with sever injuries: he’s lost an arm and a leg and suffered a traumatic brain injury.  Rachel is 13, her sister Marcy is 8 and their little brother Rob is 4.  Their mom is the kind of parent who doesn’t keep secrets from her kids, even though she tends to give speeches, “My mother…is one of those people who believes she can get out ahead of things –bad things, I mean –by preparing everybody in advance, by speaking slowly and carefully about the sadness or confusion or frustration you’re about to feel.”  Rachel feels that she can’t ask silly questions like her little sister, but she wonders how much of a person needs to be intact to make you still the same person as before.  At first, her dad doesn’t seem to really be there at all. Not only does he not communicate, but he doesn’t respond to things going on around him.  The hospital said he should be able to do things for himself (like take care of his “personal needs”), but he doesn’t seem to want to.  Then Rachel realizes: “It’s not that Dad didn’t want to do things. It’s that the part of his brain that told him to do things was one of the parts that was injured. So what looked like laziness wasn’t laziness at all. When it looked like he just didn’t care, it wasn’t that he didn’t care. Caring, it turns out, comes from your brain. I know that’s a strange way to think about it, but it’s true: caring comes from your brain. The part of my father that wanted to do things wasn’t there anymore.”  This is a beautifully told story, and even though the ending might not be what you hope it will be, it is certainly realistic. Review by Stacy Church

The Case of The Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett


In this first book of the new “Brixton Brothers” series, Steve  Brixton dreams of becoming a famous detective…until he discovers that he already is one! When he is given a boring homework assignment requiring him to research the history of quilting, he heads to the library to find some books. It is there that his adventures begin, as he is surrounded by librarians who are actually CIA agents, and becomes immersed in a search to find a long-hidden quilt. Along the way, he tries to use the “detective work” tips he’s picked up from reading his favorite mystery novels, but the tips just don’t seem to work in his favor. When I picked up this book, I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. This book is a laugh-out-loud kind of story, and the references to the old-fashioned mystery novels that Steve loves to read are hysterical. The illustrations add so much to the humor of the story, and I am looking forward to the next book in this series! Detecting is hard work, but Steve Brixton has finally solved his first real case. Review by Ellen Parkinson

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First Light by Rebecca Stead

first light So I finally got around to reading First Light, and I really enjoyed it!  It’s funny because I recently read a young adult book called Ice by Sarah Beth Durst that is also set in the Arctic, and the descriptions in Durst’s book were so beautiful that at first I kind of missed that in First Light, but the excitement of the two stories doesn’t compare.  First Light is told in the alternating voices of Peter, a 12-year-old boy growing up in New York who’s about to go with his parents on an expedition to Greenland (his father is a glaciologist); and Thea who lives in a hidden world under the ice in Greenland, her people driven there generations ago by the English, who accused them of being witches.  Of course you know these two are destined to meet.  Peter’s mother has been hiding something from him for years, with her mysterious red notebook that she writes fanatically in whenever she has one of her “headaches,” and the whispered conversations with Peter’s father about searching for something in Greenland.  Both stories are engaging and suspenseful, and the world that Stead creates under the ice is fascinating. Review by Stacy Church

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George

cats If you go for a walk at dusk in our neighboring town of Holliston, and you pass an old depot, you might not notice any animals there.  But if you stop, and become very still, and search carefully, all of a sudden you will see what looks like a pair of ears sticking up.  Then, you will discover a head and a very sleek body attached to them.  As soon as you have spotted one cat, your eyes will reveal to you the shapes of many cats just sitting quietly in the area of the old depot.  When I spotted the large group of feral cats for the first time, I wondered how they all lived together and survived on their own.  Then I read The Cats of Roxville Station, which is the story of a hungry kitten named Rachet who arrives at Roxville and joins the group of wild cats living at the train station.  It is beautifully written and gives us insight into the world of feral cats, which live together in small areas and have to fight for their survival every day.  We are introduced to 14-year-old Mike who lives in a foster home not far from the train station.  He watches the arrival of Rachet, and he sets his heart on befriending her to help her survive the severe winter.  The Cats of Roxville Station is a well-written book about the complex society of cats and a wonderful story of the special bond between a young boy and a young cat.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Water Steps by A. LaFaye

water steps If I had paid more attention to the dedication --“To every kid who faces a fear and finds a little magic” – I might not have been so surprised by the ending of this book. Kyna is terrified of water. Not only swimming in water, but just having a drop of water touch her skin. She can’t even stand to take a bath, so when her adoptive parents tell her they’re all going to stay in a cabin on Lake Champlain for the summer, she is not happy. Luckily, the cabin is in the woods, and woods are something that Kyna does like. It’s a great place to look for subjects to photograph, and she wants to win the blue ribbon in photography at next year’s Cortland County Fair. Kyna makes a new friend right away, too. His name is Tylo, and he wants Kyna to help him take a picture of the silkies he’s convinced he saw on the lake shore one night. Kyna manages to avoid telling him about her fear of water, but in the end it catches up with her. I really like the way the author combines story-telling, folk lore and plot. The reader gets to learn all about silkies, fairies and other Celtic traditions through the stories Kyna’s dad, Pep, tells, and of course, they come into play in the story as well. There’s maybe a little too much dwelling on how Kyna feels about water, but it doesn’t spoil the book. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

when The first note that Miranda received stated, among other things:

I am coming to save your friends life, and my own.

You must write me a letter.

The trip is a difficult one. I will not be myself when I reach you.

The third note provided proof to Miranda that the person writing these mysterious notes came from the future. The letter that Miranda writes becomes the story told in When You Reach Me. It details the things that happened to Miranda that fall and winter, things both mundane and extraordinary. The time traveling aspects lend a unique touch to an otherwise realistic story. The story flows so smoothly that I had a hard time putting the book down. Readers who want to figure out who’s writing the notes will probably be able to do so, but that in no way detracts from an otherwise near-perfect book. Review by Katie Corrigan

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Last Newspaper Boy in America by Sue Corbett

last newspaper I enjoyed this book so much!  Sue Corbett manages to tell a story about a quirky family that’s funny, but not so over the top as a lot of recent books.  In Wil’s family, your 12th birthday is momentous because that’s when you get to take over the paper route that’s been in the family for generations.  “…every paper ever flung onto a porch in Steele had flown from the hand of somebody named David.” Wil has been training for years, and is probably the best newspaper tosser the family has ever seen.  And for Wil the route is doubly important because he wants to use the money he earns to buy his own computer, so it’s quite a set-back when he finds out the night before his birthday that the publisher of The Cooper County Caller is going to stop home delivery of the paper in his hometown.  At the same time, the fair has come to town.  Over the past few years, Wil has figured out the gimmick to each of the games at the fair, and why the competitors never win big, but this year there’s a new game called Cover the Spot.  The prize is $1000 and the game involves throwing.  If Wil can win the game he’ll have enough money to buy his computer.  He spends the first couple of days observing, because you can only play once.  When he finally has an idea of how the fair is rigging the game, it takes the help of lots of people to expose the cheating in a public enough way to make sure that he wins the $1000.  Along the way he gets an idea to help the town attract a new business to take the place of the factory that’s closing caused such financial hardship for just about everyone in town.  There are plenty of entertaining side bits and characters. Review by Stacy Church