Saunders, Stephanie. Villain School: Good Curses Evil.
ARC received from contest at Project Mayhem.
Rune Drexler is a vampire at the School for Wayward Villians because he isn't evil enough. When the headmaster (his father!) thinks he can be more evil, he is assigned a Plot: he must kidnap a princess and a baby, find a henchman, and overthrow a kingdom. Rune has two conspirators, Wolf and Jezebel, the daughter of Dracula. Rune's father tells Chad, Rune's half-brother, to sabotage Rune's attempts. Rune overhears this and is surprised to learn that Chad is his half brother. The group sets off through the Forgotten Forest, fight dragons, sprites, and ogres. They are helped by a band of fairies who also give them a foundling baby. They meet the Princess Ileana and rescue her by kidnapping her from the Resistance. They find Ileana's parents, who are fighting to get their kingdom back, and run into Chad's mother, the evil Muma Padurii. Rune is able to defeat her, complete his tasks and move up a rank, while finding out more information about how the "villains" that he fights are linked to the school.
Strengths: This is a good fantasy/quest book for younger students who are interested in monsters. It might also assuage the withdrawal pains of Lemony Snicket fans.
Weaknesses: This is slightly young; I can see my 6th graders who love Michael Buckley reading it, but not my 8th graders.
Brown, Tami Lewis. The Map of Me.
ARC recieved from Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media.
When her mother, who loves to collect chickens, leaves a note on the refrigerator that she is leaving, Margie and her sister peep try to contact their father at his job selling tires, but he is too busy to talk to them. Sure that her mother has gone to the International Poultry Hall of Fame, Margie and peep take off in their father's car to find her. After an eventful trip, they end up at the Hall of Fame only to realize that it is a gift shop and that their mother is not going to be there. With the support of the woman who runs the shop, they are reunited with their father and start to move on with their lives minus their mother.
Strengths: The new cover is much better than the one on the ARC. For fans of Weeks' So B. It or other quirky problem novels, this will be a good choice.
Weaknesses: Again, a bit younger than my students like, and on a personal level, a little too quirky/Southern. Most people seem to like that, but I don't.
Webster, Travis. Sally Forth, Vile Curmudgeon.
"Dead tree version" received from author.
Sal and his father Hal run a bakery in Gordonsburg. They find a free trained bear, Gorgenschtein, who helps them in the bakery but turns out to be a minion of the evil Vincent Con Vinnevigne who helps kidnap the father. The police and anothering bear named Automne help find the father, who has been zombified in the same way as the trained bear.. Vincent has taken the father because he somehow got the baking talent (via potion) that was meant for Vincent. Hal has sold the bakery to Vincent because of various money problems. Sal also has to deal with the mayor, who is taxing the bakery heavily to help fund his yearly ball. Automne seems to be helping Sal but injects him with the same serum that turned him into a super smart bear. Automne also "fixes" Hal, turning him super smart, but compelling him to want to take over the world. Vincent blows Hal and the trained bears up, and the mayor uses this as an excuse to arrest Sal and Automne for the explosion, levying another huge fine against them. To work this off, the two are engaged in a baking contest against Vincent. Vincent wins, but Sal finds out that his deceased father has left him the means and a plan to survive.
Strengths: Lots of goofiness and funny turns of phrase. Inventive situations and slap stick humor make this something that readers of Dav Pilkey type books will enjoy.
Weaknesses: Again, on the young side. The title is slightly unfortunate, since my entire family asked why I had a Sally Forth (as in the comic strip) book on the counter after it arrived. While the goofiness is amusing, it wears a bit and made the plot a tiny bit confusing.