Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hyperbole Saturday

It's always fun when books congregate and a theme emerges. When Remarkable, The Exceptionals, and Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms had a harmonic convergence next to my reading chair, they begged to be mentioned together, especially since they shared something else in common-- they weren't quite what I needed. I got them in a box of ARCs from Baker and Taylor, so feel I should mention them because they might be exactly what someone else is looking for.

Cashman, Erin. The Exceptionals.
From the Publisher: " Born into a famous family of exceptionally talented people, fifteen-year-old Claire Walker has deliberately chosen to live an average life. But everything changes the night of the Spring Fling, when her parents decide it's high time she transferred to Cambial Academy--the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities. Despite her attempts to blend in, Claire stands out at Cambial simply because she is normal. But unbeknownst to her new friends, she has a powerful gift she considers too lame to admit. Suddenly, the most talented students in school--the Exceptinals--begin to disappear. In an attempt to find out what happened to them, Claire comes across a prophecy foretelling a mysterious girl who will use her ability to save Cambial students from a dire fate. Could she be that girl? Claire decides there is only one way to find out: she must embrace her ability once and for all. "
Why this didn't work for me: I liked the writing, and the story was engaging, but it's too paranormal/YA for what I need right now.

Evans, Lissa. Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms.
From the Publisher: "Enter a wonderful world filled with real magic, mystery, and danger. As if being small and having S. Hortenas his name isn't bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends.But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart's swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony--a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth--and Tony's marvelous, long-lost workshop. Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door... and encounters trouble from another magician who's also desperate to get hold of Tony's treasures."
Why this didn't work for me: A bit too young, and a bit too British. Might be good for fans of Lemony Snicket. Also very oddly reminiscent of The Shrinking of Treehorn in the illustrations.


Foley, Lizzie K. Remarkable.
From the Publisher:" In the mountain town of Remarkable, everyone is extraordinarily talented, extraordinarily gifted, or just plain extraordinary. Everyone, that is, except Jane Doe, the most average ten-year-old who ever lived. But everything changes when the mischievous, downright criminal Grimlet twins enroll in Jane's school and a strange pirate captain appears in town. Thus begins a series of adventures that put some of Remarkable's most infamous inhabitants and their long-held secrets in danger. It's up to Jane, in her own modest style, to come to the rescue and prove that she is capable of some rather exceptional things. "
Why it didn't work for me: Set off my quirky/precious meter. Love the cover, though. Again, this would please the Snicket crowd.

Hathaway, Jill. Slide.
From the Publisher: : "Vee Bell, able to slide into other people's minds, sees someone standing over the body of her sister's best friend, Sophie, holding a bloody knife but she is afraid that anyone she tells will think her crazy and so she must find a way to identify the killer herself, before he or she strikes again."
Why it didn't work for me: Too YA. I was intrigued until the younger sister and friend run off with a bottle of rum in search of diet coke. I would buy this for a high school collection, though.



And yes, I am hording ARCs so that I have books to give to students who have no other way of getting books when the library closes down for the summer. Because we are ending earlier this year, all books are due on May 11! This usually means that there's about a week when students need to read but can't have a library book. Trust me, I am already panicking about this and mustering resources, but since there are about 1,500 books checked out at any given moment, it really does take two full weeks to get everything back in.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Guy Friday-- Wars old and new

Calkhoven, Laurie. Michael at the Invasion of France, 1943.
Michael's family is in big trouble in Paris during WWII. His mother is American, which puts them all under suspicion, his father and brother are missing, and they are hungry and angry with the Nazis for occupying France. Michael begins to realize that his friend Jacques is working with the Resistance, and he wants to help as well. Instead of just irritating the Nazis, Michael helps to gets messages and forged documents to other collaborators, and helps to hide and take care of downed aviators. When some of the aviators need to escape the country, Michael is entrusted with helping them. Can he make his country, and his father, proud?
Strengths: Calkhoven's Boys of War Time series is just what many of my students want. There is a lot of research apparent in these titles (also Will at the Battle of Gettysburg and Daniel and the Siege of Boston), and there is just enough war action to make the readers happy. They are a good length, have great covers, and remind me, vaguely, of the We Were There books, in a good way. I will buy any that come out in this series!
Weaknesses: I was absolutely riveted when the Nazis came to take away neighbors and someone shoves the little girl into Michael's apartment and wants his family to hide her. That must have happened a fair amount, and how heart-stoppingly difficult must that have been. Unfortunately, the story line didn't cover much about how that panned out, and I was disappointed. I'll have to forgive Calkhoven, though; reading the blurb in the back where she admits to being intrigued by the Resistance made me feel not so awkward that I still, on rainy mornings, bike up hills thinking that I must get sensitive documents delivered!


Mazer, Harry and Peter Lerangis. Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am.
Things are going well for Ben Bright. He’s got a good role in the school play, has a girlfriend, and generally excels in everything. When he enlists in the Army right after high school, his parents are devastated, especially when he gets sent to Iraq right away. While there, he is gravely injured when the Humvee in which he is riding is blown up by a Tickle-Me-Elmo bomb. The worst of his injuries are to the brain, and he slowly begins to recover. His family, especially his autistic brother, Chris, rally around and try to help him through this difficult time.
Strengths: This book has an appealing cover, is short and interesting enough for the target audience, and addresses a modern concern in a straight forward fashion.
Weaknesses: The part of the book where Ben is in Iraq is only 20 pages long, and there are many of my boys begging for books set in the middle of military conflicts, so this was disappointing.





Harry Mazer wrote the Boy at War series, which is hugely popular in my library, as well as The Last Mission. (Which is really good but does have some salty language.) His experiences in World War II clearlyhad a profound effect upon his life. The Solid Gold Kid is another title that circulates fairly well even though the copy I have has so much glue and tape on it that I am surprised each time it returns in one piece! I am glad to see that Mazer is still writing. I was very sad when I heard that his wife, Norma Fox Mazer, passed away in 2009. She was very kind, and once replied to a letter I wrote her with information about a writing workshop where she taught. It is a big regret of mine that I never got to attend that and learn from her.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Conspiracy EVERYWHERE!

Carter, Ally. Out of Sight, Out of Time.
When a bruised and underweight Cammie wakes up in a convent in the Alps, she has not idea how she got there, but quickly finds out that her entire summer is gone-- and she can't remember it. She knows she ran away after Joe Solomon almost died, but doesn't know where she went or what she did. This is a problem, since the Circle of Cavan may or may not have taken her at some point and extracted information from her. Her mother and friends are glad to have her back, and Zach is now living at Gallagher Academy to keep him safe from his evil mother, but Cammie is having a hard time readjusting. She frequently blacks out due to her multiple head injuries, and occasionally shows some mad assassin skills that she didn't have previously! She and her friends try to figure out what happened, and whether or not the circle is still trying to kill her. Their research takes them to Italy, where it turns out Cammie made some startling discoveries. Can she follow all of the threads and get the answers that she needs... and still stay alive?
Strengths: Hard to write a review of this AWESOME book without giving too much away, but it was even better than the first four! The details of spying make me think that either the author is really good at research or has a background that she isn't telling us about. I love how supportive her friends are, how her mother and aunt are worried but not overly in her face, and how Zach doesn't doubt Cammie's abilities but checks up on her none the less. Also, the girl on the cover is not a stick. Hooray.
Weaknesses: Ms. Carter needs to take a tiny break from writing teen books and write one about a middle aged ,um, LIBRARIAN spy!

Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School.
Ben is surprised when he is recruited by the CIA to go to their Academy of Espionage, which is cleverly disguised as a geeky science academy because aside from some cryptography skills, he's not that smart. Turns out that he has been brought in as bait-- the word is put out that he invented a special code, and people start coming after him. The daughter of the man who recruited him, Erica, tells him that all is not as it seems at the school, and there is a mole that must be found. Of course, if Ben can find the mole, he might be able to stay in the school. There is a lot of personal peril-- bombs under the building, people kidnapping and drugging him... but Erica is always saving him. Is the mole a fellow student who just appears to be stupid? Is the principal as stupid as he looks? And what's up with Erica's father? Once Erica tries her own plan to flush out the mole (emailing from the principal's account that Ben has developed Jackhammer, a super code hacker program), will everything work out?
Strengths: Great cover, fun twist on standard spy stories, LOTS of action and adventure with bonus romance. Definitely will buy a copy of this.
Weaknesses: This is not quite as believable as Alex Rider or the Gallagher Girl books, since it walked right along the edge of Goofy. This will make it more popular with the under twelve crowd; I don't think it would do well in high school, whereas the other aforementioned works would.

Austin, Sean. Echo's Revenge.
Publication May 2012. ARC received from publisher.

Brothers Reggie and Jeremy escape from absent mother and her abusive boyfriend by playing online games, and Reggie is so good at "Echo's Revenge" that he gets a letter from the game maker inviting him to a focus group. He runs off, knowing the boyfriend doesn't want him to go, and meets a lot of the people he knows from the game. After the meeting, the company contact, Luca, gives Reggie a secret passwords and tells Reggie to contact him if he needs anything. Sure enough, when he gets home, Reggie is in trouble. He and Jeremy take off and try to head to their long-absent father's house. Not only are they picked up quickly for rides, but when they stop at convenience stores for food, they find that all of the gamers they know are on milk cartons as being missing kids! Something sinister is occurring, and sure enough, just as they reach their father's house, they are drugged, kidnapped, and taken to a secret mine where they end up working for Echo. How will they escape? What evil purpose does AAA Reality Games have? And will anyone ever believe their story?
Strengths: A lot of my students are interested in video games, and very few books include them. This not only has descriptions of the games (which must be interesting to someone-- Surly Teen Boy will watch YouTube videos of people playing video games, which I don't get at all!), but the boys get trapped in a situation that is essentially one big video game. Good action and adventure; STB read this one very quickly.
Weaknesses: A bit confusing for me, since I don't understand video games. Also, have a sneaking suspicion that this is self published; the publisher is supposedly AAA Reality Games, but going to that web site causes one to be redirected to echohunt.com. Not a bad book, but might be hard to find in a library copy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Difference a Cover Makes

Clifton, Lutricia. Freaky Fast Frankie Joe.
Publication date 1 April 2012, Holiday House
Frankie Joe is perfectly happy in Texas, at the Lone Star Trailer Park. He knows most of the residents, and they all take care of each other. When his mother is sent to jail for drug dealing, Frankie Joe must go with the father he has never met, his new wife, and his four young sons. It's tough to get used to being with a large family, especially since one of his brothers is veyr smart, and Frankie Joe struggles in school. The oldest brother also is very mean, and taunts him about his mother being in jail. Frankie Joe makes plans to run away back to Texas, and is very methodical-- he makes a list, gathers supplies, and gets a variety of jobs to earn the money he will need. In the process, he gets to know his neighbors and schoolmates, and starts to realize that his new family isn't so bad. Is going back to Texas still a good idea? Is it even a possibility?
Strengths: It's somehow refreshing to read books about children who are in difficult but not dire circumstances. Not every family is intact; not all parents are able to take care of their children. This book realistically portrays the troubles that Frankie has changing environments, but also provides him with a lot of kind, supportive people. I ended up liking this one a lot more than I thought I would.
Weaknesses: Why did I think this one would be bad? The cover is awful. The ARC I have has a much darker cover. It will take active persuasion to get students to read this.

Compare the cover above to this one for Aaron Karo's Lexpros and Cons. This is an awesome cover. And it would be great for a series, because it could have about the same image in different colors, to reflect the main character's moods, which he expresses through his shoes. I could put this one up in a display, and it would be checked out in five minutes.

Too bad it's REALLY a high school book. Or a book that one checks out from the public library. Here's the thing: The Edumacation of Jay Baker, was read by one of the teachers during SSR. He laughed so much that the students were interested. I keep the ARC on a shelf behind the circ desk and know NOTHING about it. (Or that copy of Miracle Wimp that is hanging around. )If kids pick it up, I have no idea how he got it, since it's not quite appropriate for the middle school. This one? I'm not even taking the ARC to school. I'd feel super creepy if boys got the book from me.

Great cover, though. And my son thought it was a great book. *Sigh*

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Last Musketeer-- Time Slip Tuesday

Gibbs, Stuart. The Last Musketeer.
Greg and his parents are traveling to Paris, but it isn't really a vacation. In order to survive financially, they are selling many family heirlooms to the Louvre, even though Greg's grandfather told them not to. The museum director is particularly keen to get Greg's mother's crystal necklace, even ripping it off her neck when she decides to keep it. The reason? He has the other half, and when the parts are reunited, all four are sent back in time to Paris in 1615. There, the director accuses the family of attempting to assassinate the king, and they are sent to jail. Greg manages to escape and gain sanctuary in a church, and is later befriended by Aramis, Porthos and Athos! Greg has his great-great grandfather's diary with him, and hopes that it will uncover the mystery, especially when he begins to think that the museum director and Richlieu are connected. Can he uncover the code in the diary, understand his family's background, and save his parents?
Strengths: Good historical information about the living conditions during this time period, and a fair amount of action and adventure. I've often said that The Three Musketeers is a good story that needs to be retold for modern tastes.
Weaknesses: This will be a hard sell, especially since it is very clearly the first book in a series. As much as I love time travel, students wrinkle their nose at it. I preferred this author's Belly Up, for the mystery and the unique and interesting setting.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday was started by Anastasia Suen and is hosted today at her Booktalking site today./ Hop over there to see a list of many great nonfiction book reviews!





Lasky, Kathryn. Silk and Venom: Searching for a Dangerous Spider.
Nominated for the 2011 Cybils by Jone MacCulloch.
Scientist Greta Binford studies spiders, and is especially interested in the highly poisonous Loxosceles, or Brown Recluse spider. She travels all over to find a sizeable population of them to study, searching through abandoned houses, in trees and bushes, and eventually finds some in the Dominican Republic. This book follows her investigation, and provides a lot of facts about spiders and the study of spiders along the way, illustrating this information with fantastic close-up photographs.
Strengths: Spiders are a topic that my nonfiction lovers frequently will pick up, but many of my books are so long that they look at the pictures more than read the text. This presents the information within the context of the story of Binford's search, which makes it much more interesting. Definitely will add this, which will be a good companion to the Scientists in the Field series.
Weaknesses: Again, the horizontal rather than vertical format makes it seem like a book for younger students, and there is a slightly strange "golly gee!", simplistic feel to the writing, which surprised me greatly, since Lasky writes so much for middle grades.

Moore, Christopher. From Then to Now: A Short History of the World.
Nominated for the 2011 Cybils by Betsy Bird.
Sure enough, this book starts with prehistoric hunter-gatherers and over 182 pages works its way to the present day. It goes at breakneck speed, covering the highlights of all of history, in the same way that I used to give one lecture a year on all of Roman history-- fifty minutes of holding on to your hat! While this book is slightly Euro/Amerocentric, it does cover the history of other parts of the world, and that is very helpful in putting into context what happened in history. When I took history in school, World History and US History were two separate subjects, and I've always struggled with creating a world history timeline in my head. This was very helpful in that respect. In fact, I only have two objections to this book; the illustrations immediately took me back to the Scott Foresman Wide Horizons and Open Roads basal readers that we had in elementary school, and I am not sure how many students will want to pick this book up, in part because of the cover illustration. (The illustrator is Polish, and in the 1960s, when the basal readers were produced, there was an influx of illustrators from Poland. Any connection? )

Must admit that we are on spring break this week and I have been a complete and total sloth. I read four books over the weekend, two of which were NOT middle grade. Before I got so sucked into blogging, I generally used breaks to read vast quantities of Nora Roberts' books. I try to be a little better now! The main problem this weekend was that none of the children had shoes, and I spent much more time cleaning things than I wanted to.

People ask how I have time to read so much. The answer is simple-- I let the housework slide as much as humanly possible. And I don't cook much. And the four teenagers know I am always here if they need me but normally spend most of their time sleeping! And, as I tell my students, I don't have time to watch t.v.!

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz

Toffler-Corrie. Laura. The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz.
Roaring Brook Press, 2010.

Amy is having a difficult year because her best friend Callie is spending it away from their New York City home living in Kansas with an aunt and uncle. Amy has a crush on John, but is irritated to the extreme with her remaining friends. She finds an unusual ally in Miss Sophia, a neighbor who was a librarian for 30 years and is now interested in helping Amy with a school project involving the diary of an immigrant girl. Miss Sophia also brings along her nephew, Beryl, who is from a Hasidic family and is very conservative and uncomfortable in Amy’s presence. The three do a lot of research on Anna and her times, and end up making a fairly large discovery. Amy thinks for a while that Beryl might “like-like” her, but they end up being good friends, and even though Amy is not particularly nice to John, he seems interested in her as well.
Strengths: Lots of good details about Jewish life in New York City, and fairly funny. This reminded me a bit of some Paula Danziger books, or A Begonia for Miss Applebaum. (I really was expecting Miss Sophia to die!)
Weaknesses: Amy was not particularly likable, although she did improve, and the format was confusing. Some of it reads like letters,(to Callie) but some is almost in text message format without Callie’s replies. This might be why it put me in mind of older titles. Even though this is only two years old, I know very few students who communicate by e mail, and certainly none of them write letters!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brain child of the lovely and talented Shannon Whitney Messenger. Hope over to Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe to see this week's round up of middle grade reviews.

Matching Covers

The students laugh at me when they want a book but have no hints to give me as to what topic-- I frequently pick out a book to match their outfits, and it's surprising how often this works out well! Even though these books are very different, the covers go well together!

O'Dell, Kathleen. The Aviary.
Clara loves living in the Glendoveer mansion with her mother, Mrs. Glendoveer, and Ruby, the cook. When Mrs. Glendoveer dies, however, all sorts of secrets from the past come to light. Years earlier, the five Glendoveer children were kidnapped along with their nanny, and the bodies of four of them turned up drowned. The fifth child, Elliot, was never found, and the family hoped for his return. Mr. Glendoveer was a famous illusionist who was accused of using his magic to harm the children, and his career never recovered. He did, however, manage to use actual magic to place the spirits of the children into birds, and instructed his wife to take good care of them, not telling her what he had done. The only way for the spell to be broken is for Elliot to return. Clara, who has been told for years that she has a bad heart, makes a friend in a new neighbor girl, and the two try to figure out the family mystery so that the spirits of the children can be freed. They uncover more secrets than they bargain for!
Strengths: This is a good gothic mystery with paranormal themes that might go over well with Lemony Snicket fans.
Weaknesses: Some of the letters included are in a cursive font that is almost impossible to read. This, combined with the length of the book and the somewhat slow start to the action might make this a hard sell. It does have a Secret Garden vibe to it, somehow, which will appeal to adults.

Martino, Andy. Unison Spark.
I have developed Dystopia Overload, which when combined with Fantasy Amnesia, does not serve me well.

From the Publisher: " Fifteen-year-old Mistletoe lives in the sub-canopy zone amid poverty and outdated technology, but when she meets Ambrose Truax, the privileged sixteen-year-old heir to the Unison empire and they discover they share a sinister link, they begin a frightening journey into the uncharted territory of the Unison 3.0 upgrade."

This one started out well, and I think that it is interesting that more and more of the dystopian books (like Cinder) are set in Asian lands. I just couldn't get my head around this one, right from the beginning when it was described that Anna no longer wants to be called that, she wants to be Mistletoe instead, and her hair is blue. I liked the cover (which would be awesome next to Brain Jack and Klass' Stuck on Earth), the book design (sans serif font should be a requirement for all science fiction, shouldn't it?), and the inclusion of social networking and internet delivered to the palm of your hand. I'll probably even buy it; there are some books that I just can't keep stuck to my brain!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Magical Mischief

Dale, Anna. Magical Mischief.

Mr Hardbattle's dusty old bookstore is having a harder and harder time staying in business, mainly because of The Smell. To Mr Hardbattle, it smells like manure, but other patrons have complained of other odors. He consults Mrs Trinket, who solemnly informs him that he has an infestation of magic because he has provided a perfect environment for it to flourish. It could be remedied easily enough, with a good clean out and lots of vacuuming, but since magic is such a rare commodity, Mr Hardbattle sits tight for ten years, until he finds out that his rent is going to go up. Luckily, at about this time he meets young Arthur and Miss Quint, who both believe him about the magic and want to help. While Mr Hardbattle goes to look for a new home for the magic, he leave Miss Quint in charge of the store. Things go well at first, until she becomes bored and summons a vast quantity of book characters to life. Some are not bad (the young Susan, who becomes very dear to both Arthur and Miss Quint), but others go too far afield in their quest for amusement and cause massive problems in the bookstore and in the village. Can Mr Hardbattle send the characters back where they belong, and preserve both his business and the magic?
Strengths: I heard about this one from Charlotte at Charlotte's Library, so I was sure to like it. Aside from teaching Latin at Eton College, I think that running a dusty old bookshop in a small English village would be the best job ever. This is perfect for fans of Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones' more realistic books, and anyone in need of a slightly old-fashioned, gently magical read.
Weaknesses: My students would rather read about murder. Or football. Or some combination of the two. *Sigh* It's hard to get students to read a book where this much tea is consumed! (I adore that about British books. There would be PG Tips in my bookstore, and a nice assortment of biscuits, too. I could continue to wear my pleated skirts and warm wool sweaters. There could be an impressive apidistra. I'd have a pair of small Yorkshire terriers (Named Ottmar and Johannes. Or Buckram and Vellum.) instead of a cat.)

I'm sorry. Was this supposed to be a book review instead of a lapse into my own fantasy world?

Kenyon, Sherrilyn. Infinity: Chronicles of Nick #1
From the Publisher: "After fourteen-year-old Nick makes enemies of his friends for refusing to mug an innocent tourist, he takes up with Kyrian of Thrace, a vampire slayer and Dark-Hunter who introduces Nick to a dangerous world where he must find strength within himself to survive battles with demons. "

I mention this book because I keep picking up ones in this series, and always come to the same conclusion-- I just can't buy it. It's just too young adult, somehow. Since no one else in my district has a copy of any of these, I don't feel too bad. Picked it up this last time because a student requested it. The books always sound good, and certainly the font and design say "middle school", but there's something just... vulgar about them. We'll see.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Guy Friday-- Let's Put on a Show

Sullivan, George. Tom Thumb: The Remarkable True Story of a Man in Miniature.
Born in 1838, Charles Stratton was a healthy and intelligent baby, but one who was very, very small. His parents worried about him and his future, and when P.T. Barnum offered to put him in shows, under the name of Tom Thumb, they thought that this would be a way for Charley to be a productive member of society. Even though he started performing when young, and never received any formal schooling, he managed to be a well adjusted and happy person. Barnum provided him with opportunities such as traveling Europe and performing for royalty there, and these opportunities also allowed Charley to amass a great fortune. When he became lonely for female companionship, he was introduced to another Little Person, Lavinia Warren, whom he married and with whom he performed until his death from a stroke at a fairly young age.
Strengths: This is a beautifully illustrated book that tells not only about the life of an extremely popular performer in the 1800s, but also sheds light on the treatment of individuals who do not fall within the commonly accepted norms of society. I learned a lot from this book, and it was very interesting to read.
Weaknesses: I have a copy of The Great and Only Barnum, which is a great companion book to this, and it's hard to get students to read it, perhaps because of the length.

Maybe a display of "performers" might encourage some circulation. Do I have a little striped tent somewhere I can use to house the following titles?















I've been promising a Disney parody all week, but this was the best I could do. Apparently, The Lion King is the movie the students know best, but it came out in 1994, when my daughter was tiny and I was still keeping her away from screens of any kind.


Hi Ho, Hi Ho
Renew, renew.
‘Cause books are overdue
If you are done, get another one
Renew, renew.

Renew, renew.
If you’re well or have the flu
If it is lost please pay the cost
Renew, renew.

Renew, renew.
Don’t hide books with your shoes
With your conscious clear, read without fear
Renew, renew.

Renew, renew.
Ms. Yingling’s feeling blue
When we come back get another stack
Renew, renew.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Shooting Stars

Rushby, Allison. Shooting Stars.
Jo is 16, but she is a top notch paparazzi who uses her small size to sneak into places that olders photographers can't. It's lucrative work, and it keeps her busy while her father is frequently out of town and leaves her with a cousin, but it also makes it hard for her to do her school work. When she gets a really lucrative assignment, she thinks that the money might be her ticket out of this kind of work and into college. The problem? She has to go to a rehab center to gets pics of Ned Hartnett, a teen singing star. She's shot pictures of him before and knows that he has an overbearing father but is really nice to his fans. When she gets to know him a little better, she is conflicted about whether she should finish the assignment. What's more important-- college or really hot, cute boy?
Strengths: Did NOT see all of the twists in this coming, so it was really brilliant! Really sweet romance and tons of character development. The cover shows that Jo is half Japanese nicely. So happy that Baker and Taylor just shipped this one!
Weaknesses: The beginning didn't suck me in right away; the girls will be more interested in celebrity stalking than I am and will probably not have this problem.

Nelson, Kadir. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
True to the title, this book starts with the Declaration of Independence and follows history through the African American experience up through Civil Rights and a mention of Barack Obama. This is in picture book format but has much more information that could easily be read aloud in a sitting. The history is presented from the point of view of a woman who has lived through the Civil Rights movement and had grandparents who were slaves, and her homey dialect includes the occasional "honey". Nelson's pictures are, as usual, very moving, and the overview is a nice one. I'm just not sure of the audience for this, since it looks like a picture book but is much more text heavy than that. This would probably be good to use in the elementary school to present various elements of history.

Still about 200 overdue books. Ran notices to be delivered in homeroom and will sing on the announcements to the tune of "Roll Out the Barrel". If only I could play accordian!

Roll Out the Overdues
It's almost Spring break--
why are there books overdue?
It makes my heart ache
when you don't have something new.

It's elementary--
here are the words you should heed:
everybody to the library
so you can read, read, read.

Okay, a little lame, but I'm working up a Disney Classics version for tomorrow, possibly with banjo accompaniment!

And no, sadly, I am not on iTunes. Or YouTube.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Grumpy Librarian

Am I the only librarian who has an odd urge to scream when the fortieth child of the day asks for The Hunger Games? I spent my morning processing nine new Suzanne Collins' books that I bought with my own money because the demand was ridiculous. But really, people. There are 11,030 OTHER books in the library. Just because the movie is coming out doesn't make the book the only thing to read.

This is why I was so happy when a 7th grade girl told me that she sat up for three hours reading Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones (Head, 1967). That was the first book I was allowed to check out from the public library's adult collection, so I've never been able to get rid of it.

The huge number of overdues is making me grumpy. It's almost break! Students should be getting new books instead of hording titles they've had out for a month in their lockers. So I made up a song. I intend to sing it with a nasal twang, to the tune of Achey Breaky Heart.

You can check out Squire or maybe Catching Fire.
You can check out Copper Sun.
Or you can check out Rats, or The Cat in the Hat,
Or even Korman's On the Run.

Or check out Summer Ball or The Door in the Wall.
Or you can check out Icebound Land.
Or check out Devil's Breath, or maybe Reef of Death,
Or Slob, Holes, Dune, Pop or Canned.

But check when they're due, they might be overdue,
and that is worse than anything.
So if your book is due, please bring it to renew
Or else I might just have to sing.

Phantoms in the Snow

Duble, Kathleen Benner. Phantoms in the Snow.
When fifteen-year-old Noah's pacifist parents die of the smallpox in Texas, he is sent to Camp Hale, Colorado to stay with his uncle James Shelley whom he has never met. James is part of a rough-and-tumble mountain skiing unit, and the commanding officer is less than pleased that Noah is there, so he and his uncle agree that he will train with the unit. Noah has never skied, and believes that war and fighting are bad, but he bonds with his uncle and the other men, and learns about what is going on in Germany under Hitler. Training is rough, and it comes out that Noah is not quite old enough to train, but when he turns 16, he enlists with his uncle's permission. When the unit (the Tenth Mountain unit, or the Phantoms) ships out to Italy, Noah gets a taste of fighting and war, but realizes that helping people who have been suffering under the German occupation is worth it, even when he loses several friends.
Strengths: Excellent story of a different facet of WWII. Noah's family story is intriguing as well, and the character development of him not wanting to fight but seeing the need to is interesting. He never loses his humanity, though, and decides to take up medical training.
Plenty of action, though, which is what the boys want.
Weaknesses: Very few. Perhaps a tad altruistic, but an excellent book! I'm definitely buying a copy and recommending that my public library does as well.

Carlton, Susan. Love and Haight.
This book is definitely YA, but a couple of years ago I had a student who really wanted to read about hippies in the 60s and 70s, and I still pick up books thinking about her! From a social history perspective, this was very interesting-- Chloe is pregnant, and abortion is legal in San Francisco in 1971 as long as certain procedures are followed. Chloe and her friend MJ go to spend Christmas break with Chloe's aunt while Chloe is going to all the appointments and getting all the paperwork in order for her abortion. Of course, they also investigate the hippie and drug culture during that time.
Strengths: Considering how big an issue abortion is in the presidential campaigns, it is interesting to get an idea of what it was like when abortion was not legal everywhere. The whole issue is handled very well-- Chloe doesn't treat this lightly, but knows that she doesn't have much of an option otherwise.
Weaknesses: This is always a controversial topic, so some people will disagree with how it is handled, and again, this is not a middle grade novel.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ellen Conford!

Conford, Ellen. Felicia the Critic. (1973)
Felicia argues with the weather on the radio every morning and is constantly trying to tell everyone around her a better way to do things. She thinks the crossing guard is inefficient. She tries to return a fatty roast to the supermarket for her mother. She gets in fights with her sister Marilyn constantly. Her mother tells her that she should be more constructive in her criticism, but even this does not help. When her best friend Cheryl tells Felicia that she can only be in a group her classmates are starting, Felicia shuts up-- even when the group tries to make money by having a carnival... in the middle of winter. When the carnival is a failure, Felicia learns that sometimes she should speak up, but in general, she should learn to be more positive.
Strengths: This title is 40 years old, and even though there are a couple of references dating it (Felicia sets her hair on rollers, a pot roast costs $4, there is a friend named Phyllis), it still stands up extremely well today. Felicia's habit of criticizing everyone is a habit that still gets students into trouble today, and the interactions with family and friends still resonate.
Weaknesses: The art on the first edition copy dates this horribly, and the condition of my library's book isn't great, either, but this still circulates!

Conford, Ellen. To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie. (1982)
In 1956, fifteen-year-old Sylvie is obsessed with Hollywood and Hollywood idols, and thinks that her future lies there, and not in the series of foster homes where she has been living because her alcoholic mother is incapable of caring for her. When her latest foster father starts the same pattern of abuse she has experienced earlier, she decides to run away. She has saved up money and has a good plan for getting on a bus out of town, but when her wallet is stolen, she has to take help from Walter, a middle aged Bible salesman who thinks Sylvie is older than 15. He suggests getting married in Las Vegas, and Sylvie thinks this is a good idea until she meets Vic, who is closer to her age and helps her to understand that love and sex are not the same thing.
Strengths: For a book of this age, the cover is not bad, and the story of running away is kind of interesting. I don't think I will put this in my library (I had to buy a copy in order to read it!), but I'm glad that I saw a copy. The paper alone is so much nicer than books printed today. Picky Reader will enjoy this one.
Weaknesses: I'm not sure I could get students to read about this historical period, even though the details of clothing, cars, everything are exquisite. Probably even better than books written during this time.

Myracle, Lauren. Violet in Bloom. (Sequel to Love Ya Bunches.)
From the Publisher: "Katie-Rose, Violet, Milla, and Yasamanfour girls with seemingly little in common but their flower namesare nurturing their new friendship and are busy building luvyabunches.com, their very own social-networking site. Their first flower-power task? A doomed campaign to get their school to serve healthier snacks. The Jelly-Yums they championsoon dubbed "beans of grossness"taste like candied beets. And that's just the start of their troubles. A scheming classmate tries to drive a wedge between Katie-Rose and Yasaman, Violet may have been slammed in a secret journal, and poor Milla unintentionally commits hamstercide. It will take all the strength and genuine affection of these pals to weather a particularly stormy week of fifth grade."
Strengths: I had to buy multiple copies of The Winnie Years series and have recently had girls asking for more by this author.
Weaknesses: This will date very quickly-- there is a lot of text-messaging and blog posting. Also, while diversity in literature is good, there is so much in this that it seems forced. An African-American girl, a girl with two mothers, a hijab-wearing Muslim-American girl AND a mother hospitalized for mental illness? That's a lot of issues, and societal perception of many of them will change quickly. This is why the simpler books like Conford's seem preferable to me. That said, at the rate my library books are being reduced to crumbling piles of glue and tape, I shouldn't worry about this too much!

Mysteries!

McClintock, Norah. Last Chance. Robyn (Robbie) is in the wrong place at the wrong time during a protest about using animals for testing, and ends up on the wrong side of the law. Since her mother is a lawyer and her father is a retired policeman, she manages to get time volunteering instead of fines or a record... but she has to volunteer at an animal shelter, and she's terrified of dogs after being attacked by one when young. She manages to fit in fairly well, and ends up doing a lot of paperwork, but she has a problem working with Nick, a juvenile delinquent who is in a group of such offenders who are working with dogs that are so maladjusted they can't be adopted until they are trained. She has had run ins with Nick before, and when money goes missing from the shelter, she assumes that either he or one of the other boys is responsible. Is her anger at her parents and her dislike of being in the shelter clouding her judgement of Nick? The first book in a trilogy.
Strengths: I've been looking for something for fans of Sorrel's Fake ID and Ferguson's The Christopher Killer, and although this doesn't have a murder in it, it has a sort of gritty feel to it that I think my students will enjoy.
Weaknesses: Robbie is not really very likable, and the plot is a bit predictable.


Grant, Katy. Hide and Seek.
Chase's mother and stepfather run a small
motel and bait shop in Arizona near the White Mountains. He's tired of having to help with it, so enjoys getting out on his bike to do some geocaching with his GPS. When he finds a note in one of the boxes, it leads him to Sam and Jack, who are living with their father in a tent in the wilderness and struggling to have enough food. The more he gets to know the boys, the more suspicious he becomes that something isn't right with their situation. He looks up a missing children site on the computer, and finds out that Sam and Jack have been abducted by their noncustodial father. After calling thie mother, Chase goes to check on the boys, since Sam has been ill, and is discovered by their father, who hits Chase with a shot gun and abducts him! After a harrowing experience, Chase manages to escape and tries to make his way back home with the help of his GPS. Can he make it in time to save the boys? Will he make it home at all?
Strengths: Really good outdoor adventure combined with a good kidnapping story. Both are highly requested in my library. Definitely will buy a copy!
Weaknesses: Chase doesn't tell his parents that he is helping these boys, and doesn't let them know when he runs off the last time, but this is addressed as something that is not a good idea!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday was started by Anastasia Suen and is hosted this week at EMUs Debuts. Hop on over for a complete list of links with nonfiction reviews.






McClafferty, Carla Killough. The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon.
Who knew? The popular opinion of George Washington nowadays is that he was dour and old, and people don't know as much about him now as they did thirty years ago. To offset this, a group of researchers connected with the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens decided to put together as much information about what Washington looked like, as well as who he really was, so that modern day people could get to know him. The book chronicles the process used in getting an accurate depiction of what Washington looked like and using this information to make life sized, extremely realistic wax models of him, with descriptions of what Washington's life was like at the various stages portrayed by the models. The science of the research and the art of the models are described very clearly, and information about Washington's life and how this led him to be the person (and president) he was is presented in an intriguing way.
Strengths: This is an excellent book for anyone who is heading to Mt. Vernon to see the site, or for history classes studying Washington. The recreation process is very interesting, and am I the only one who came away with a tiny bit of a crush on the 19-year-old Washington? Who knew that he was such a strapping young man?
Weaknesses: This is a bit much to read straight through, because there is a lot of information. Also, I was a little bothered (as I always am) by the amount of money spent on figuring out someone who is dead when there are so many children who are living who would benefit from some of it. I know, I know; history is important.

Barton, Chris. Can I See Your I.D.?: True Stories of False Identities.
Have you ever wanted to be someone else? This book includes the stories of ten people who not only wanted that, they acted upon the impulse and assumed another identity. From Keron Thomas, who wanted to drive a train even though he wasn't old enough, to Solomon Perel who assumed a gentile identity to survive the Holocaust, to Sarah Wakeman, a woman who fought as a man during the Civil War, these ten people all decided to be someone else and were successful at it, at least for a limited time. Each story covers why the people assumed a new identity, and what happened to them after they were discovered. An long bibliography in the back of the book shows the extensive research that went into this book.
Strengths: Chris Barton (The Day-Glo Brothers) has a knack for telling the story of little known people in very compelling ways. Students love reading about crime and criminals, and with this appealing cover, the book will never make it back to the shelves.
Weaknesses: I found the second person narrative harder to follow, although I understand why this was used. Every year, a language arts teacher asks for a book with a second person narrative style, and since Bright Lights Big City can't really be used in middle school, here's my example!

Hunter, Nick. Inside the Olympics.
This 64 page book starts with the ancient Olympics and continues on through the revival in the late 1800s. It then follows a few notable historic games and then covers how the games are set up, hosted, and carried out. Record holders are mentioned, as are controversies that have arisen over the years. Photos and statistics add to the narrative.
Strengths: I liked how the 2012 games are covered a bit-- how London was chosen, what sort of preparations are being made-- while still remaining primarily a history book. This is a book well worth having, since there is usually a call for more than one copy.
Weaknesses: Most of the record holders mentioned are young enough to be my children!

Middle Grade Monday-- India

Behera, Sanjiv. Vikram and the Enchanted Seals.
Rickshaw Books, Ebook received from author.

Vikram and his family travel from their home in California to India for the funeral of his grandmother. He meets and bonds with his grandfather, who gives him a very old family seal... right before he goes missing. When Vikram, his brother Jai, and a family servant, Manu, go looking for the grandfather, they meet Toral, whose grandparents have been kidnapped by horrible, giant monsters called Rakshasas. Toral's grandparents also have a seal,and the Rakshasas, led by the evil King Kama, think that they can rule the world if they can assemble all of the seals and destroy the Dharma Cube. Vikram knows that he can't let this happen, so the group, aided by some very clever langurs, set out to find the seals and destroy the Rakshasas. Vikram begins to realize that his purpose in holding the seal is to save the world from destruction, so even though he despairs at times, he holds fast to his purpose in order to fulfill his destiny.
Strengths: This was a well-written and well-plotted fantasy novel with great action scenes. While it has much in common with many other quest and/or "teens save the world from utter destruction" books, the refreshingly unique part it that the mythological base for this book is Indian and not Celtic. Other than Lloyd Alexander's The Iron Ring, I can't think of another middle grade book with an Indian setting. I also liked Vikram's longing for a relationship with his grandfather, and his desire to understand his culture of origin. For another review, check out Boys Read.org.
Weaknesses: The new cover is better than the old one, but at first I thought the "enchanted seals" were animals rather than seal stones, which didn't sound as interesting.

Thanks to a very kind offer from Mr. Behera, this Kindle eBook is available today for FREE! Here are his instructions:

The book will automatically be priced for free on the amazon.com website. Your readers just need to go to amazon.com, find the book, and the purchase price will be $0. No code necessary. Here is a link you can use: http://tinyurl.com/79xlyft

(Currently, the price is $2.99, but will change on Monday @ 12:01am pacific time.)

Ellis, Deborah. No Ordinary Day.
Valli works in the coal town of Jharia picking up stray pieces of coal, living with an abusive aunt and uncle. When she find out that these people were merely given money by her family to take her in, she runs away to Kolkata. When there, she is at first taken in by woman running a brothel (although this is not clearly explained-- I inferred it) until the woman realizes that Valli has leprosy. Valli lives on the streets for a while until she meets Dr. Indra, who cleans her up and tries to treat her injured feet. Valli balks at being cooped up inside and runs away, but eventually comes back to the hospital. Dr. Indra explains why her feet have no feeling due to the nerve damage caused by leprosy, and Valli decides to stay and get treatment because she wants to grow up to be like Dr. Indra.
Strengths: Ellis' work is always short and very powerful. We use The Breadwinner as a class novel in the 6th grade, and it is a very popular unit. No Safe Place is another powerful work.
Weaknesses: The short length of Ellis' work appeals to students, but I would have been glad to read more about Valli and her experiences.

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! Hop over to Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog to see the complete listing of middle grade reviews for this week.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Tea with Old Friends

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Who Were They Really?:The True Stories Behind Famous Characters. (1999)

This amusing and well illustrated book briefly tells the stories of a variety of beloved literary characters, including Misty of Chincoteague, Paddington Bear, Betsy-Tacy, Peter Pan, and others. There are brief descriptions of the authors' lives, and the people or animals they knew who drove them to create their fictional characters. I knew some of the stories, but it was nice to have such a thorough overview. I especially appreciated the tact with which the story of Alice in Wonderland was told. I'm not sure that this would be a big hit with my students, but parents who have shared most of these stories with their children would certainly find this a fun book to read with those children. It's not a bad starting point to introduce classic literature to young readers, either! (My children were all huge Beatrix Potter fans; sometimes I think this was because the books were so appealingly small!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Unhappiness of all kinds

Not only is my own 8th grade daughter, Picky Reader, very fond of books about domestic abuse, many of my other students are as well. The biggest push for these occurs in February, when all I want to read about is girls in poodle skirts and saddle shoes hanging out at the Malt Shop, but I persevere. The other constant need I have is books about war. Bless Chris Lynch for his new Vietnam series, because I am now getting a lot of boys whose grandfathers fought in Korea or Vietnam, and there are very few books set on the battlegrounds during those time. Here's our whopping dose of violence and depression for today!
 

Vigilante, Danette. The Trouble with Half a Moon.

Dellie's family is reeling from the death of her brother in an accident that Dellie feels responsible for. Life is hard enough in their inner city tenement, but this event has made it hard for her mother to function at all. Dellie struggles in school, and is having trouble with her best friend, but all of these problems pale in comparison to the life of Corey, a small boy who lives in her building. His mother is neglectful and abusive, and since Corey reminds Dellie of her brother, she tries to take care of him. When a new neighbor moves in who encourages Dellie, she realizes that even though she isn't Corey's sister, she can still care for him, especially when things come to a violent crescendo with his mother.

Strengths: A well-paced, sad story that will definitely appeal to students who like Don't Hurt Laurie, Waiting for Christopher, and The True Colors of Kaitlyn Jackson.

Weaknesses: Wasn't quite as gripping as some tales-- not as horrific, which I liked but which students might not.



Watkins, Steve. What Comes After.

When Iris' veterinarian father dies in Maine, she is sent to live with her Aunt Sue and her surly cousin Book in North Carolina. Her aunt has a farm, but both relatives are very cruel to the animals, and cruel to Iris as well. Iris is a vegetarian, but Sue doesn't care. School is difficult, Sue starts slapping Iris for small infractions, and she misses her father terribly. When two young goats are supposed to be slaughtered and Iris intervenes, the aunt becomes even more abusive.

Strengths: Interesting animal rights story, and also an interesting juxtaposition between life in Maine and in North Carolina.

Weaknesses: Something about this did not draw me in immediately-- I will give this to Picky Reader and see if she likes it.



Watkins, Steve. Down Sand Mountain.

From the Publisher: "In a small Florida mining town in 1966, twelve-year-old Dewey faces one worst-day-ever after another, but comes to know that the issues he faces about bullies, girls, race, and identity are part of the adult world, as well."


This is set during the Vietnam Conflict, but didn't involve enough of the war. Decent enough for issues of race relations and bullying. This is described as being for grades 7-12, and was more philosophical and slow moving.



Interestingly enough, I requested two unrelated books from the public library by this author. Just not what I needed today.



Arnold, Tedd. Rat Life: A Mystery.From the Publisher: " After developing an unusual friendship with a young Vietnam War veteran in 1972, fourteen-year-old Todd discovers his writing talent and solves a murder mystery."


I rather liked the first chapter, where Todd is discussing different options for the first lines of books, but again, I need books about the Vietnamese Conflict, not about veterans afterwards. Have a lot of those. Also, this book was published in 2007, and the library copy of it looks brand new. This cover and the one above are rather overwhelmingly beige and look a bit uninteresting. Again, just not the thing today.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guy Friday-- Adventure Guys!

Petrucha, Stefan. Ripper.
Carver Young wants to be a detective, so when he is adopted from the orphange in 1895 by Detective Hawking of the New Pinkertons agency, he is happy. Several other children in the orphange have been adopted by families in the same circle, his friend Delia by a news reporter. There has just been a Jack the Ripper-like murder, and certain segments of New York society, especially Theodore Roosevelt, the Police Commissioned, are concerned. Hawking puts Carver to the task of finding Carver's father, in order to sharpen his detective skills, and Carver soon learns that Hawking's motivations for adopting him had some evil motives. As the Ripper's violence escalates, can Carver figure out the pattern before there are other victims?
Strengths: Wow. So many. First, Petrucha seriously ROCKS. He prose is always facile and engaging-- he's probably the kind of writer you could entrust with the most random of assignments and he would produce something brilliant. ("Write about a boy who.... lives with a retired super hero... in Bermuda... and gets involved with... a dolphin and.... the mafia! Go!")I did NOT see the ending of this coming. Brilliant.

The second big strength is BOOK DESIGN. At 427 pages, this could be daunting, but it wasn't. The cover by Greg Stadnyk is awesome-- I want to do an entire post on his covers because he really GETS it. The pages have plenty of white space, the text is not tiny, and there are 85 chapters, but they are all short.

I'm not a fan of horror or suspense, but this was done so well, and was appropriate for middle school. Pair this with Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star for 8th grade mystery lovers.


Is there any bigger compliment than a student wanting to loan me a book he got for Christmas? Don't know that there is. Thank you, Matthew-- I liked this one and will definitely be buying it for the library!

Evans, Richard Paul. The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Series: Michael Vey)
Michael has always known that along with Tourette's syndrome, he has a power no one else has-- he can shock people with the electricity in his body. His good friend Ostin knows this, but his mother tries very hard to keep it a secret, even moving them from their previous location after an incident when Michael's power was revealed. Michael is bullied by some toughs in his school until he uses his powers on them. This brings him to the attention of Taylor, a cheerleader who has powers of her own-- she is able to "reboot" people's brains, rendering them briefly unresponsive! The three teens find that Taylor and Michael were born at the hospital during the same week, and that there was a malfunctioning piece of experimental equipment at the hospital that killed a huge number of babies. While researching this, they are brought to the attention of the Elgen Academy and the evil Hatch, who first tries to entice them to come to his school for special children and then kidnaps Taylor and Michael's mother. Taylor finds that she has a twin sister at the school and gets a taste of how manipulative Hatch is; Ostin and Michael take off to rescue Taylor and find Michael's mother. When they meet up with Hatch, Michael's powers prove no match to the ones at Hatch's disposal, and they are taken prisoner. Michael is put in Cell 25 and tortured, but neither he nor Taylor want to get involved with Hatch's evil schemes and plot their excape. The next book is Rise of the Elgen.
Strengths: There's an underdog main character who turns out to have super powers, vanguished bullies, a hot cheerleader, and high school students who can drive themselves places while behaving in a way that is appropriate for middle school students to read about. Lots of action and adventure, and evil villains. This was a little cheesy, but students will love it. Don't know how I missed this one!
Weaknesses: I was really bothered by Ostin calling their group the "Electroclan". Now have the theme song from ElectroWoman and DynaGirl firmly wedged in my brain. Every time that phrase was mentioned it was like nails on the chalkboard. Other than the essential cheesiness, however, no other problems for me.


Santat, Dan. Sidekicks.
Captain Amazing is getting on in years, but still fighting crime. When he is felled by exposure to a peanut, he uses his time off to look for a side kick to help him out. His pets think that they can help-- Roscoe has been trained as Metal Mutt, Fluffy the hamster has a cool outfit, and Static Cat, who ran away from home after an altercation with Roscoe, has been out on his own as The Claw. Captain Amazing also brings home a chameleon, Shifty, and the pets all attempt to fight crime and prove their worth. They all doubt their own powers to a certain degree, but when Dr. Havoc threatens the world, they manage to save the day.
Strengths: Very, very fun, with a great touch of humanity-- Captain Amazing is tired and just wants to hang out with his pets. Illustrations are appealing-- students will love this!
Weaknesses: The title has been used for other similar books.

Also read Andrea Seigal's The Kid Table, which was great fun for me, since I had 38 cousins on my mother's side, only four of whom were younger than I.
This was really more of an adult book, but I was hoping it was younger teenagers. Another example of really great cover design!

From the Publisher: " Ingrid Bell and her five teenage cousins are such a close-knit group that they don't really mind sitting at the kid table—even if they have to share it with a four-year-old. But then Brianne, the oldest cousin, lands a seat at the adult table and leaves her cousins shocked and confused. What does it take to graduate from the kid table? "


Here in Ohio, the temperatures have been in the 70s! I hope that everyone is able to have a great and relaxing weekend even if your weather is not that good!
 
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