Tuesday, March 01, 2016
How to Capture an Invisible Cat and Forest of Wonders
Tobin, Paul. How to Capture an Invisible Cat
March 1st 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
ARC from Lizzy Mason, Bloomsbury USA
Delphine gets a cryptic note from Nate and is soon plunged into a nonsensical adventure. Nate has managed to make his mother's cat, Proton, not only a giant, but an invisible one! He's prone to making these sorts of moves, and to further complicate matters, he has hidden the formula on four different people... and a goldfish. Despite his brilliance and extreme wealth, he needs help from Delphine. She finds him oddly attractive, and is willing to accompany Nate on his escapades, whether they are jumping from a plane or driving in a car to elude the dangerous Red Death Tea Society, which is out to capture Proton and use the cat for their own evil devices. Nate's dog, Bosper, is also engineered and can talk, which makes it easier to tell him to do things, like keep the giant invisible cat in one place while Delphine and Nate try to figure out a plan. Luckily, the two are able to take care of the issue with Proton, but the Red Death Tea Society is still interested in Nate, and Delphine is ready for any adventure that comes up.
This certainly had a lot of action and adventure, and the fact that Nate has unlimited wealth (in the form of a rare Gold Elephant credit card) and limited parental supervision makes this a fun romp. After the sky diving, giant marauding cat, mechanical flying sea gull and sense of general mayhem in this book, my favorite thing was Delphine and Nate's relationship. They both have a little crush on each other, but are first and foremost friends and associates. The fact that they are both a little confused by their feelings of having a crush is absolutely age appropriate.
Goofiness abounds in this book, and Nate has a million improbably schemes. There are nano machines, jet packs, a mechanical octopus that can hypnotize people, and scores of other wacky devices and events. Readers who enjoy Dan Gutman's The Genius Files or Korman's The Hypnotists will enjoy this frenetic romp.
I'm conflicted about this one. I really did like the relationship between Nate and Delphine, but it walked right along the Pilkey Line of goofiness. I'll have to see the final cover-- it might be just a little too young for middle school.
Park, Lina Sue. Forest of Wonders (Wing and Claw #1)
1 March 2016, HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central
Raffa and his cousin Garith enjoy working in their parents' apothecaries in their small village, even though Raffa is far more talented at making potions. When Raffa finds a badly injured bat, his parents discuss a vine that grows in the forest that may help. The forest is dangerous, but the cousins go together and manage to find the vine. The potion Raffa makes, however, has an odd side effect-- the bat, Echo, can talk to him. His parents don't believe it, and are occupied by other things. They have been asked to move to the main town of Gilden and live in the Commons while working for Obsidia's government. They end up declining, although Garith and his father leave to work there. When Raffa makes another potion with the vine that almost costs him his hand, he realizes that it is a very powerful substance, and feels a need to warn his cousin. He takes off on the long journey to the city, and makes several friends along the way; Kuma, who has tamed a bear, and Trixen, who works in the kitchens as an assistant jam and pickle maker. The three run afoul of the guards on their way in, but are pardoned by the Chancelor, who tells them about her plans to train animals, using the potions that Raffa has made to help them communicate. Unfortunately, the friends discover a plan that is even more evil. There will be more details when book two comes out!
Park writes intriguing tales of travel in A Single Shard and A Long Walk to Water, and Raffa's journey to the city is full of adventure and danger. The details about plants and potions are very well done; I half expected there to be an appendix of potions at the end of the book, since the descriptions were so believable.
Raffa has a tendency to get into trouble, as do the other young characters, but it was refreshing to see his parents bring him in line. Of course, that doesn't stop him from running away and doing things that are of questionable safety, but I thought it was an important message that he thought about the results of his action because of how his parents had raised him. This made his reaction to the evil government plot all the more believable.
Obsidia is set in a rather medieval world; we learn a bit of its history of earthquakes and destruction, but not nearly enough. There is a map at the beginning of the book, and I hope that there will be more of the back story of Gilden, the Commons, and the Forest of Wonders in the sequel. This world felt vaguely Celtic as well; I was hoping for something a little different.
Readers who like the action and adventure in classic high fantasy like Alexander's Book of Three, Jacques Redwall series, or Prineas' The Magic Thief will find that Forest of Wonders, with its appealing animal companions and satisfying does of magic, is a pleasant yet exciting place to spend an afternoon.
Fantasy is always tricky for me, but I rather enjoyed this one. Will purchase and gladly recommend to my new crop of insatiable readers of medieval fantasy.
Happy Super Tuesday! While I am very careful to make choices at the polls and do my research about candidates and issues before voting, I can't say I find politics at all interesting. If your elementary classroom is more politically inclined than I am, you might want to take a look at this book.
Reynolds, Aaron. President Squid.
March 1st 2016 by Chronicle Books
Copy provided by the publisher (Lara Starr)
Squid decides that he has a lot in common with presidents from the past-- he wears ties, lives in a big house, and is famous, and loves to boss people around and do all of the talking. When no one on the sea floor cheers him on, he asks Sardine why this is. Sardine is preoccupied because he is stuck in a clam, and when Squid rescues him, he realizes that the most important job the president does is to help people. As this is exhausting, squid decides that he will instead become king.
This is a humorous look at what it means to be president and could be used to start a conversation in elementary classrooms about this government office.
While it's supposed to be funny, I think the last sentiment, where Squid decides that being king means "All the Power! None of the work!" might be misunderstood by younger readers, since actual kings certainly do a lot of work, even if some of it is ornamental!