I'm a big fan of the Orca Sports books, so I was very glad to get a chance to see these Orca Young Reader books, sent by the publisher.
Ridge, Yolanda. Trouble in the Trees.
Nominated for the Cybils by Mandy.
Bree loves to climb trees and is determined to beat her neighbor Tyler at climbing every tree in their condo development. When another neighbor, Ethan, injures his elbow by falling out of a tree, his mother (who is president of the condo association) enacts a bylaw banning all tree climbing on the Cedar Grove property. Bree loves climbing too much to sit idly by, so she not only approaches the council, but comes up with a plan to teach the other children how to climb safely and to win over the adults in the complex.
Strengths: A solidly written novel with a lot of appeal. Good plot, character interaction, setting, cause. Very nice.
Weaknesses: Orca seems to be a big player in Canadian publishing, so why does everything seem to be published in paperback? And least the Orca Young Readers have more white space than the Orca Currents. Just odd.
Hyde, Natalie.I Owe You One
Nominated for the Cybils by Marina Cohen
After Wes gets into a couple of muddy scrapes and is saved by his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Minton, his friend Zach says that he "owes her". When the boys accidentally blow up the local television tower and endanger Mrs. Minton's chances of seeing a relative ride in a horse race, Wes tries to get the tower repaired. Things don't go smoothly, but he works hard to try to make things right for Mrs. Minton, especially when she has surgery and is doing poorly.
Strengths: Another solid middle grade novel with good amounts of derring- do. Wes's character development is strong, and his desire to live up to his deceased father's standards is well-handled.
Weakness: Blowing up a television tower? Isn't everything mainly underground now, or through satellite? I don't know, but this part seemed odd. They could take out a whole neighborhood?
Mulder, Michelle. Out of the Box.
Nominated for the Cybils by E. Kristin Anderson (whose Hatemongering Tart website caused my internet exporer to crash)
Ellie Saunders goes to spend the summer with her aunt, who is struggling with the death of her long time companion and feels a need to clean out her crowded basement, but needs moral support to do so. Ellie is glad to gets away from her parents' odd moods, but finds that being separated from them makes her worry more about their relationship and her mother's mental health. Still, she is able to make friends with children in her aunt's neighborhood and uncovers a mystery surrounding a bandoneon, a musical instrument that was in her aunt's basement that is tied to a man whose parents were killed during the military dictatorship in Argentina.
Strengths: Good and unusual mystery, with historical notes that help a lot. Good sense of place, and nice friendships. I was amused-- my daughter's name is Eleanor Saunders!!!
Weaknesses: With so much going on, the mother's mental illness seemed a bit much. Mental illness is a hard topic for students to understand, and in a book this short, I don't know that it was able to be given justice, although the attempt was good.