Sequel to Liar, Liar. Kevin, in the wake of his disastrous run of bad luck with lying, has been cut off from his allowance and is in need of some spending money. He can't get a break-- even the little boy whom he babysits has parents in the midst of a divorce and financial difficulties, so they can't pay him. Kevin gets creative, starting poker games, snack delivery to the college, and cleaning out garages whenever he can. He assembles a loyal but quirky staff who stick by him even when things don't go well. Will he manage to improve his finances enough so that he can ask the beauteous Tina to the dance?
Strengths: Again, a surprising and successful turn into humor for Paulsen. This is a very short book, but one that doesn't look overly young. There's even a problem in it, so it will be perfect for boys who put off reading problem novels until the week before the 8th grade unit test. Fans of Project Sweet Life will like this one.
Weaknesses: This suffers a little less from The Fourth Stall Syndrome than many books; the jobs that Kevin dreams up are within the realm of possibility, but still a bit of a reach. Again, the boys seem to like that but it bothers me.
Ford, Michael. The Poisoned House.
Abi grew up in Greaves Hall as the daughter of a maid, but was raised with Samuel. When he comes home with a war injury, Abi helps nurse him, to the chagrin of his aunt, Mrs. Cotton, who is cruel to Abi. Once Samuel comes home, Abi is haunted more and more by her mother's ghost, and attempts to figure out why the haunting is occurring only cause more problems. The treatment of servants during this era is very clear, and a large part of the story deals with the everyday difficulties that this class of people had to face. The ghost story, however, plays a larger part, and there are lots of good, Gothic spooky happenings to keep the suspense going right up to the end.
Strengths: Spooky, atmospheric, deliciously Victorian.
Weaknesses: There's so little call for Victorian stories and so many great ones being written right now. Guess I'll have to push them a bit. I am really disappointed that Mr. Ford wrote this instead of another ancient Greece book. His Fire of Ares series is SO popular that I was hoping we would see more of that sort of book from him. He's a good writer, and we do need more ancient Greece and Rome books!