Okay, okay, students! I will release the new books today, thanks to parent volunteers who got everything ready to roll! These are some of the new titles.
Wood, Maryrose. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery
Your Lemony Snicket fans sobbing in the aisles because they've read the series five times? Hand them The Mysterious Howling and this sequel. Penelope Lumley, having gotten the feral children to a presentable state only to have the house come down around their ears on Christmas, has the brilliant idea to go to London while the house is being fixed. She can meet with her teacher, Miss Mortimer while Lady Constance embraces the social whirl. Educational opportunities for the children abound, but certain things, like the hats on the Buckingham Palace guards, set them off, and the fact that someone is trying to do them in doesn't help. With the help of a guide book that Miss Lumley's parents had, she finds a few clues as to why someone might wish the children ill, and also a few hints about her own past.
Strengths: The voice and choice of language. Funny, funny stuff. There are Snicketesque asides on vocabulary, but they aren't irritating. Penelope is a great character, and a great teacher. Jon Klassen's illustrations are wonderful and remind me of some childhood books I can't quite put my finger on.
Weaknesses: The mysteries are not intriguing me, for some reason, and the feral children's addition of "woo" to words (while perhaps realistic) started to grate on me. Small complaints.
Hawkins, Rachel. Demonglass.
Sophie, having survived Hex Hall and discovered that she and her father are both demons, is sent to England for her protection, and ends up at the Prodigium headquarters... this time with more students like herself. Someone is breeding demons, while the Eye is still hunting them. Rachel is supposed to have her powers removed, since they are so uncontrollable, the book with the instructions in it is missing. Life is complicated by romances, being haunted by Elodie, and working with her father and coming to terms with their relationship. True to the dedication, there are more swords and fire in this one.
Strengths: Again, the snarky voice of Sophie was brilliant. I quoted way too many lines to my family. (page 276: "...like taking the life force out of ghouls was one of my favorite hobbies, right up there with knitting and sodoku.") The growing relationship with her father was interesting as well; most writers have a hard time depicting parents.
Weaknesses: Last night must have been my night for having trouble following plots, because I finished the book and had to page back to see where we were headed. Maybe I was distracted by the great turns of phrase!
Flinn, Alex. Cloaked.
Okay, definitely not my night for following plots, although this certainly had a lot of twists to follow. From the publisher: "Seventeen-year-old Johnny is approached at his family's struggling shoe repair shop in a Miami, Florida, hotel by Alorian Princess Victoriana, who asks him to find her brother who was turned into a frog. " Johnny's father abandoned his family, which is why he must work such long hours, but he loves designing shoes, which he hopes that Victoriana might wear to get him some publicity. Along with asking Johnny to help find her brother, she offers to marry him if he is successful. This complicates his relationship with his friend Meg. Since Johnny's quests are all based on fairy tales, I may suggest to my students that they read the descriptions of those in the back before beginning.
Strengths: Much more original use of fairy tale elements than Beastly. Better cover than A Kiss in Time.
Weaknesses: As much as I appreciate a boy as the main character, I still don't think that many boys will read this. Have about five working through Pierce's Alanna series thanks to Guys Read Pink Month, however!
Barnholdt, Lauren. Rules for Secret Keeping.
Samantha has a great business, so great that a girls' magazine is interviewing her and giving her a lot of publicity. Fellow students can put a secret and a dollar in her locker, and she will deliver it. When an evil new student (are all new students evil?) develops an internet version of this, Samantha's business is in danger. Typical middle complications like clothes, boys, family and school add to the plot.
Strengths: Good, realistic fiction for girls. If this one had a higher reading level than 4.3, I'd definitely buy the AR test for it.
Weaknesses: I can't believe any book that has students running businesses out of school. Not going to happen. Instead of her father nominating her for a teen magazine award, he would have been called into the principal's office to make Samantha give the money back. Since so much of the plot hinged on that, I couldn't get into it. Will the students mind? No.