Fry, Erin. Secrets of the Book
4 February 2014, Two Lions
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Spencer's mother makes him volunteer at a rest home, and Ed, the man he is visiting, gives him a Pandora's Book, which has the ability to bring famous people from the past to life. This is a bit of a problem with Socrates appears to Spence and his friend Gregor. Gregor is on the autism spectrum, so doesn't do well with loud noises or change in routine, but does fairly well talking to one of his idols. Of course, nothing is ever that simple-- a man shows up with Pandora's Other Book, looking for Spencer's help right around the time that Ed goes missing from his rest home. Ed has told his granddaughter Mel where to find Spencer, and she helps the boys figure out how to work the book. It turns out that the "other book" has the bad guys, and while the man in charge of the book is no saint (he turns out to be Al Capone), he has kept things safe, but can only continue to do so with Spencer's help. With Ed missing, and Gregor's dog taken hostage, can the kids return things to the way they should be without giving away the secrets?
Strengths: I love how Ms. Fry works cross country running into the book! There are some especially nice touches with Mel and Gregor's motivations for running that I liked, and the tiny bit of romance is good, too. Gregor's situation is portrayed realistically; in fact, it's one of the better portrayals of a child on the autism spectrum that I've read, and there are so many right now. The plot moves along nicely, and the characters from history remind me a little of Lubar's Flip, but with better action.
Weaknesses: Fry's Losing It was such a good novel that I was hoping for another realistic fiction book from her, since there are already so many fantasy books. No majr problems with this, just some quibbles-- Spencer's degenerative eye disease is mentioned at the beginning of the book, but then not addressed much later. There is one mention of track practice being canceled because of DRIZZLE-- is that what they do in California? (Yes, apparently it is!) Since this is more action/adventure than fantasy, I'll buy a copy.
Plumeri, Arnauld and Bloz. In the Beginning: Dinosaurs #1
Papercutz, 7 January 2014
Review copy provided by publisher
This hardcover graphic novel introduces readers to lots of facts about dinosaurs. The information (strung together loosely by the narrator, cartoon archaeologist Indino Jones) has information on a variety of individual species, but also pages on eras, how fossiles are formed, dinosaur tracks and the disappearance of the dinosaurs, just to name a few.
Strengths: This is much better bound that other Papercutz books, so I will probably put this in my library. The information about dinosaurs is interspersed with funny anecdotes about them, so children interested in dinosaurs will not only get good information, but be amused as well. I can see this being carried around constantly by some children who are really interested in dinosaurs, and would be a good gift for a first to third grader with those interests who is a strong reader.This is the first book in a series.
Weaknesses: I know that younger eyes don't have a problem, but the small dimension of the book ( 6.70 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)) makes the font very small and hard to read. This is a translation of the French edition, and there are a few politically incorrect things that point to its European origins. (Fat, pushy wife, bullying dinosaurs.)
Marvelous Middle Grade
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day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.