Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

I loved many things about this tone perfect book, the characters, smart but human, the action, always exciting, the dialog and narration, but maybe it was the actual setting which gave me the element which launched this book into must-read status for me.  Set in a slightly parallel late nineteenth century slum, the city itself, with its poverty, sewers, and human villains, took on the character of the ultimate dystopia, all the more so because it could have been real.  The bogles themselves, dangerous though they are, are taken care of with an exciting but almost reassuring certainty by Alfred, the bogle slayer; it's the humans you have to watch out for, but there are also plenty of human helpers in this community at every turn.  This is a very rich and a very rewarding read. Certainly recommended for fantasy lovers; even young historians and realistic readers might be beguiled by the strong history behind Jinks' work.

Lemony Snicket, "Who Could That Be At This Hour" from the All the Wrong Questions series

A mash up of Lemony Snicket style and Dashiell Hammett plot, Travis Sherman says, "Not to my taste." All the ingredients are here: humor, action, smart young heroes, but no human beings.  What genre is this? Not really mystery -- too droll.  Lots of action -- but not quite believable.  Humor? Yes, very dry.  Like a martini.  These are fun books, I just don't know who I would recommend them to.  

I have to agree with Travis on this one, I'm just not quite who I would feel inclined to recommend this to. There are so many other books that take the cake for those at this reading level who like Lemony Snicket and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Yes, it is a different and original book, but to me it stops there. It is just a weird and quirky story about Lemony Snicket, a mysterious organization, and a bunch of strange people in a strange town. What it really reminded me of (adult reference point here) is a Wes Anderson movie. It is art? It is satire? Is it supposed to be just so unbelievable that you can't stop watching to see how far the joke is taken? Or, do I just not get it? 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe

The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Start
Lexile: 850

 Travis Ann Sherman says The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Start, by Gordon McAlpine, is the mystery you love to recommend to 2nd to 5th graders, reluctant readers or otherwise. Heck, it's the book you like to read yourself.  Gimmicky? Yes. Can you get more of gimmick than identical twin heroes, the great great great grand nephews of Edgar Allan Poe, psychically linked together so that their brains work with mega swiftness?  As one who has always yearned for an identical twin genius, this book really hit the mark for me. The author's comic timing is just right, the action popping along. So many highly amusing scenes in this book, from when their homeroom teacher, Mrs. Rosecrans, rudely awakens them in class, to their revenge on the neighborhood bullies (they used real worms), to the discovery of the coffin intended for their use hidden behind the scenes of the roadside attraction by the villain.  (They're disguised as flying monkeys at the time.) Very amusing series. Oh, and there are tons of literary references thrown in for good measure.

  Jeannette Atwater says: As Travis points out, yes this book is very gimmicky! Very very very. However, who am I to say it's not a little bit funny? They are the great great great something grand nephews of Edgar Allen Poe! That alone is just ridiculously silly enough to be funny enough for lovers of the Wimpy Kid series and perhaps for those a couple steps above Captain Underpants. This is the audience I think McAlpine is trying to appeal to, and he makes a good case for these two prankster twins. There are laugh aloud moments throughout, and the nonsensical decisions of the twins will only pull the reader in more. And yes, they disguise as flying monkeys and there is a Wicked Witch and they find themselves in an OZitorium :)

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

http://openwalls.com/image/22981/panda_bear__7_2560x1920.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-5FrRFl2oYiA/VLFZOBaHKqI/AAAAAAAACEc/xLTMXVMzGZo/s1600/thumbs%2Bup%2C%2Bsmall.jpgJeannette Atwater says:Gordon Korman writes with amazing ease towards young readers. The dialogue he writes between kids is uncanny to the conversations I hear kids having everyday. Ungifted follows the adventure of Donovan Curtis, a troublemaker, at the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. This school for gifted students mistakenly lets him into the school with paperwork mix-up. Donovan's interactions with his teachers and the grown ups around him are very funny and somehow the situations with them always end up in his favor. Somehow he manages to keep his secret at school, and chapters where the reader hears from his classmates and the administrators keep the reader engaged while at the same time making one wonder "how does he do it??" A book that gives the reader a perspective into the life of an ultimate prankster and the lives of gifted students, combining their worlds and perhaps arguing that there are fewer differences among us than we may think.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson


 Travis Ann Sherman says:  The Boy on the Wooden Box, a Holocaust memoir, starts off, in anything, a little slowly, portraying a young Jewish boy's rural life in Poland in a loving family. As I'm reading, I'm thinking, "Hmmm, we're going to lose them on the first thirty pages." 
Then Hitler invades. Leon's father has moved his family to Krakow, where he does skilled machinist work in a factory owned by...Oskar Schindler.  The narrative heats up, to the point that I seriously considered shelving my copy in the YA section, except that I don't have a nonfiction YA section. Leyson's tale is harrowing; at one point little Leon, who works constantly to try to find or earn a little food, hurts himself and goes to the Jewish infirmary. Fifteen minutes after he leaves, the head of the camp decides the concept of a Jewish infirmary is ridiculous and goes in and murders all the patients.  And it goes on and on.  
Contrasted with the shocking horror is the fact that Leon's family is still a close, loving one, looking after each other, sacrificing for each other.  Schindler is there to rescue them and bring them together as a family, a heroic humanitarian.  
This excellent book deserves to be read by 10 - 14 year olds studying the Holocaust.  When you pull it, emphasize that it may start slow, but it gets really serious when the Nazis invade! And shiver.  Because the book made me shiver.

http://openwalls.com/image/22981/panda_bear__7_2560x1920.jpgJeannette Atwater says: The Boy on the Wooden Box surprised me. I found it to be engrossing and refreshingly honest. A great choice for any Holocaust reading list, Leon's struggle will resonate with young readers. His depictions of life in Krakow, Poland are spot-on for what I would imagine it to look like to a boy his age. The reader really understands how thankful Leon is to Oskar Schindler for rescuing his family, and the book becomes somewhat of a dedication to his hero. A great choice to accompany lessons on WWII in classrooms, or for any kids interested in the Holocaust or Jewish history.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Mystery of the Missing Lion: A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers

 Travis Ann Sherman says: A big yes to the next in this charming mystery series set in McCall Smith's Botswana. As a fantasy lover, I usually steer clear of anything that smacks of the real world, but this was a lovely outing.  Perfect for the young mystery lovers among us; perfect for the young world citizens among us; and, perfect for reluctant readers too, because though they lexile in the 700s, these are real page turners.  Oh, and did I mention the illustrations by Iain McIntosh made me stop and stare in pleasure at the pages? It's been a long time since that happened.  This is a series I'll be happy to push at my library.
http://openwalls.com/image/22981/panda_bear__7_2560x1920.jpgJeannette Atwater says: First off, as charming as Precious Ramotswe (who in the future will become Botswana's best private detective) is, I was not enraptured with the mystery of the lion Teddy gone missing as I would have liked. The mystery seemed to me to be more of an adventure through the Botswana landscape. However, the setting, characters and easy vocabulary make this a great suggestion for young readers who enjoy stories about the flora and fauna of the world. The illustrations are captivating, the depictions of lions throughout really make for a fun book!