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