Golden, Christopher. The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild.
Young Jack takes off for the Yukon with his ailing brother-in-law, who soon turns back and leaves Jack with provisions but no companion. Things aren't easy-- with the help of a new friend, Merritt, he traverses a frozen, raging river, gets captured by slavers who make him pan for gold, and is almost eaten by a wendigo who does devour many of his companions. Saved by a beautiful young girl, Jack spends a long time in her enchanted cabin recovering before he realizes that she is like Odysseus' Circe, and he must leave before he is forever trapped. Going back has its perils, but he manages to conquer the wild, return to an alcohol addled Merritt, and get ready for, one presumes, his next adventure.
Strengths: Monsters have been greatly in demand in my library lately, and there are always a number of students intrigued by London. This is a fast-paced novel that reads quickly. One review likened the illustrations to the Great Illustrated Classics series, but I thought this added from the book, rather than detracted from it.
Weaknesses: Follett says that this has been canceled by the publisher. Golden's work are intriguing but almost impossible to get from my public library. Since they also seem to be more young adult, I would like to read them before purchasing, and I never seem to be able to. This book wasn't perfect (the enchanted cabin bit dragged a little), but it was a good, solid book for boys that makes me want to investigate this author further.
Rayburn, Tricia. Ruby's Slippers.
Ruby and her mother leave their comfortable but somewhat impoverished life in Kansas to move in with Ruby's estranged and very posh grandmother in Florida. Ruby has trouble fitting in to Sweet Citrus Junior High, especially since she has no talent to perform for the mandatory Citrus Star talent show and gets thrown in with a popular girl who has been giving her a hard time. Her mother, a rather irresponsible but loving woman, has trouble finding a job and constantly runs afoul of her mother, especially when it comes to providing Ruby with technology that will catch her up to her peers. In the end, the three work out their family problems and get Ruby to a more comfortable place in her school.
Strengths: Rayburn, author of the excellent Maggie Bean trilogy has a knack for writing quirky characters with family problems. I normally don't care for these, but this was excellent and has been popular with my girl readers.
Weaknesses: The mandatory Citrus Star competition stretched my credulity a bit, but students won't think much about it.
Homzie, Hillary. Things Are Gonna Get Ugly.
Taffeta Smith has worked hard to improve herself after moving to California-- she is now tanned, fashionable and fabulous. She's popular and having a great time until Mr. Drabner catches her cheating and turns her back into Ernestine, her former geeky self. She is forced to reexamine her dealings with other classmates, especially the pony tailed and nerdy Winslow, who has a crush on Taffeta. In order to reverse the spell, she needs to dance with Winslow at the Winterfest Dance.
Strengths: Girls who love The Clique series will find this tale of fashion, backstabbing and jockeying for popularity amusing.
Weaknesses: Insulted my cultural background. As a Geek American, I was a annoyed by the aspersions cast that Geeks wear polyester, are good at school, hang out at the library, and are, in general, ugly and in need of massive makeovers. ("Then this overweight girl comes whirling up to me. She's got greasy hair and glasses that are smudged and her pants are so high water that they could almost be shorts.") Trust me, I'm the ONLY one in my middle school wearing polyester. And I wear it ironically, okay?