Charlotte at Charlotte's Library frequently has a Timeslip Tuesday, as well as excellent weekly round ups of science fiction/fantasy reviews and new releases. Definitely take a look!
Scarrow, Alex. Time Riders.
Copy graciously donated by my former principal.
Liam was supposed to die on the Titanic. Maddy should have died in a plane crash in 2010. Sal almost perished in a fire in 2026. Instead, all three teens were spirited away at the last moment by Foster, who recruits them to be Time Riders. A time machine was made, but its maker realized that it was evil and tried to destroy it, but unfortunately others figured it out and are running loose in time.The teens are stationed in New York City on September 10 and 11, 2001, and observe the days. If anything changes in any way, they have to figure out where history was corrupted, and travel back to save it. As a test run, Liam goes back and stops President Kennedy from being assassinated; the girls figure out what he did, and 2001 stays uncorrupted. When one morning is very different (German seems to be the second language), Liam and a clone helper are sent back to 1956 to try to figure out what has happened. It turns out that Paul Kramer has met up with Hitler, usurped his power, and tried to "improve" the future by putting a very strict government in place. It takes several tries to figure out at what point history needs to be fixed, and things are quite dire for a while, but the Time Riders manage to get the world back to the way it should be, even if that is not perfect.
Strengths: For a time travel book, this made a fair amount of sense. There was just enough discussion on the mechanics, and very realistic implications of history changing on the Time Riders themselves. I always love alternative histories, and the Germans winning World War II is a plot that many of my students will like. I also appreciated that while the future is dystopian, it is better than it could be!
Weaknesses: The characters could have used a little more development. I never felt like I understood Paul Kramer, and his motivation was intriguing.
Why, why, WHY is Simon Scarrow's Gladiator: Fight for Freedom not published in the US? Argh. It looks like a great beginning to a new young adult series.
Teller, Janne. Nothing.
This title recommended by Aaron Mauer at Coffee for the Brain.
When their classmate goes up into a tree to stay becomes life has no meaning, a group of Danish children start assembling a group of items with meaning in an abandoned sawmill. It starts out innocently enough, with books and clothes and bikes, but when this doesn't seem to be enough to move Anton out of the tree, the children start bullying each other to find objects with more personal sacrifice. They bring a hamster. Cut off a girl's hair. Exhume one's baby brother. Behead a dog. Arrange to have a girl raped. Once a boy's finger is cut off, he goes to the police, who are not quite sure what to do. Eventually, the pile is sold to an art museum for over a million dollars, but even then Anton will not come. When one of the girls goes insane, he finally visits, only to tell the group that the pile still has no meaning, especially since they sold it. SPOILER ALERT: The children are so angered that they attack and kill Anton, then burn down the sawmill. The police assume that Anton tried to burn down the sawmill and died in the attempt. Nothing happens to the children. This book was the winner of the Best Children's Book Prize from the Danish Cultural Ministry.
Strengths: Certainly, this is a very deep and effective book about the evil that dwells within us all. It is compared to Lord of the Flies, but it put me in mind of Jackson's The Lottery. Much food for thought here.
Weaknesses: NOT for children. I described this to my daughters. The elder said "I feel violated just hearing about this book!" and the younger said, quietly, "I don't think I want to go to Denmark." Disturbing doesn't begin to describe this book. I almost feel like I should let the public library know that this might be better shelved in the adult section.
Margolis, Leslie. Girl's Best Friend (A Maggie Brooklyn Mystery)
Maggie has a job walking several neighborhood dogs, but hasn't told her busy parents about it. When she starts to notice that a lot of neighborhood dogs are missing, she first suspects her crush, Milo, of stealing them. When a former best friend and now enemy has her dog stolen, Maggie gets involved in the mystery. Add to the mix an elderly neighbor with a mystery of her own, mean girl issues, and the crush on Milo, and this is a great mystery for middle grade readers.
Strengths: This was such a pleasant relief after Nothing. It reminded me very much of a Lenora Mattingly Weber Katie Rose book that also dealt with pet kidnappings. The sense of place (Brooklyn, NY) was wonderful, the characters true-to-life and amusing. This will be a huge hit, just like Boys Are Dogs. (The third book in that series, Everybody Bugs Out comes out May 34, 2011.)
Weaknesses: I could see the answer to the mysteries, and I usually don't.