I really do read all the fiction books before I buy them for my library, or read them when a shipment comes in if I haven't been able to get hold of a copy of popular titles. Every football story, high fantasy epic, problem novel, tome on talking mice running around in underpants. All. There are books I don't buy because I don't have readers for them, and I buy plenty of books that aren't something I personally enjoy.
That's why it is such a delight and relief when there are new titles out that I know will be amusing and well crafted and not make me wanted to keep getting up from reading to groom the poor long-suffering dog! I love Gibbs, and I think his novels just keep getting better. This latest installment reminded me a bit of Donald Westlake's comic crime novels with Dortmunder. *Happy sigh.*
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.
Gibbs, Stuart. Big Game (FunJungle #3)
October 13th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Teddy is having a typical day for him, walking the elephants around the zoo before school, when a gun goes off and they stampede, wrecking a restaurant and a lot of other areas of the zoo. Rhonda, a pregnant rhino, seems to be the target, and this is a serious concern, since poachers might be trying to kill her so that they can sell her horn, which is considered valuable. A little less serious is the vandalizing and robbing of a candy store and an ice cream store-- actions which Large Marge is hot to pin on Teddy. J.J. McCracken, the owner of the park, asks Teddy to help with the investigation this time, but is still underhanded: he asks Teddy not to tell his parents. Along with Summer, McCracken's daughter on whom Teddy has a bit of a crush, Teddy tries to figure out the logistics of how the shooter would have gotten into the zoo, gotten near enough to the enclosure, etc. He's also trying to prove that an orangutan is targeting the food stands, and dealing with the fact that his home has been moved on the other side of the park, because McCracken wants to put in roller coasters. Despite the inept efforts of the zoo security staff, but with help from his parents, can Teddy solve both mysteries and maybe (finally!) get the girl?
Strengths: Really solid, clever set up of clues to the evil doing, and great use of setting. I'm not usually a fan of figuring out mysteries, but this was really top notch. I also thought it was touching that Gibbs gives a nice shout out to the late, great Donald Sobol by comparing Teddy to Encyclopedia Brown. There is plenty of action and poop when animals escape, which lightens the tone a bit.
Weaknesses: Teddy was out of school a lot while he was solving the mysteries. I worry.
What I really think: I'm completely okay with this series going to about 8 books, but I think Gibbs can certainly do other good books as well. Looking forward to them!
Brown, Daniel James. The Boys in the Boat:The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics (young reader's edition)
September 8th 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Mr. Brown's neighbor was Joe Rantz, who was part of the 1936 Olympic rowing team. This team was originally formed at the University of Washington, and was comprised of young men for whom life had not been easy. Joe himself had been sent off from his family at the age of ten to cut kindling for the local school and live in the building because his step mother did not care for him. Later, he was left on the family farm when things got bad and his father took off, possibly to California, to try to earn a living. Joe had to perform a lot of physical labor-- cutting down and hauling trees, pouring asphalt, and jack hammering rock off a cliff face to make a dam. A hard worker, Joe was eventually helped by his older brother, a teacher, to enroll in the university, where he fought for and won a place on the rowing team.
Joe's hardscrabble life is interspersed with details about the rowing teams members and races, as well as information about their Olympic journey to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Readers who are interested in sports will find the details about the coaching of the group, and the ins and outs of the difficulties of competing to be on a team and then having to work together with one's rivals to be interesting, but I was enthralled with Joe's story. His long and difficult romance with his eventual wife is a story that was no doubt repeated again and again during the years of the Depression, and explains why some couples from that era were so devoted to each other. Unlike Louis Zamperini in Unbroken, Joe Rantz is a thoroughly likable character who is sympathetic in the extreme.
Like many young reader versions of adult nonfiction, this is still on the lengthy side due to the rather poetic descriptions, but Joe's story is so enthralling that this won't be as hard to sell to readers who want sports stories, or stories of young people surviving against the odds.
I also marvel that we can see videos of some of these historical events, thanks to the magic that is YouTube. The book trailer for this is very nice: