Dixon, Franklin W. The Video Game Bandit (Hardy Boys Clue Book #1)
April 19th 2016 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Frank and Joe's baseball team is having a fund raiser so that they can go to Florida. Ellie Freeman's parents are hosting the event in their yard, and have caterers bring in food. When the auction begins, the bidding is fast and furious, and it looks like the fundraiser will be a big success... until the popular and hard-to-find video game console that Mr. Fun has donated goes missing! Frank and Joe are on the case, finding the chewed up box, interviewing the catering staff, and figuring out who stole the game! Will they be able to recover it in time to have it auctioned off to the highest bidder?
Strengths: This had a very strong Encyclopedia Brown feel to it, and I'm a huge sucker for anything like those! The clues are fairly easy to follow, there are a few pictures, and this was a fun, quick read.
Weaknesses: I can never tell Frank and Joe apart, unless they are being played by Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson. Sigh. There's a happy thought for your day!
What I really think: I prefer The Hardy Boys Adventures, but since I have so many struggling readers, I think I will purchase this series as well. An earlier incarnation, The Pumped-Up Pizza Problem (Hardy Boys: Clues Brothers #9) has seen a lot of wear and tear in my library, and this would make a good replacement.
Weeks, Sarah. Cheese
January 5th 2016 by Scholastic Inc.
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Originally published as Oggie Cooder (2000) and Oggie Cooder, Party Animal (2009), Cheese capitalizes on Oggie's main hobby (and stress reliever) of charving-- chewing and carving cheese into different shapes-- and gives the book a new cover reminscent of the author's more recent works, Pie and Honey.
Oggie lives with his parents, who run a local resale shop and get most of Oggie's wacky clothes as well as household furnishings from their attempts to stock the store at garage sales. It's a tough business, especially when a pipe breaks and is going to set them back $10,000, so Oggie is always on the lookout for contests he can enter. He doesn't win a trip to Florida for naming a bagel (Raisin' the Roof is so much better than Sunshine!), but he thinks he might be able to win the local version of Hidden Talents by charving a selection of states. That is, until neighbor Donnica Perfecto talks him into teaching her to charve, so she upstages him. She doesn't have Oggie's talents, though, and he is victorious, even though he chooses not to go on to the next level.
In Oggie Cooder, Party Animal, Donnica's mother makes her invite Oggie to her pool party because Oggie's mother is helpful and is an influential part of the garden club that Ms. Perfecto wants to join. Donnica is not pleased and fears that Oggie will totally ruin her party, especially since her father has hired Bumbles the juggling bear instead of the local hot high school band, Cheddar Jam. (The books are set in Wisconsin.) Oggie also has to deal with a poetry project at school and has to write a haiku while trying desperately, with the help of his friend Amy, to memorize all of Donnica's rules for how he should and should not behave at the party. In typical Oggie fashion, however, he manages to save the day.
Weeks does a great job with humorous books, Regular Guy (1999) remains a staple in my middle school library. Oggie is goofy, with his seersucker pants and habit of making odd noises, and his attempts to fit in with his classmates will resonate with elementary aged readers).
The great thing about middle grade fiction is that it is often about kids who DO things. In Oggie's case, it is mainly charving, but he also gets into all sorts of different activities. Donnica's party in particular speaks to the sort of difficult situation many kids find themselves in when trying to fit in.
Cheese fits right in with other timeless, humorous novels like Park's Skinny-bones, Dowell's Phineas McGuire and Paula Danziger's Matthew Martin series and delivers plenty of laughs. Just lock up the plastic wrapped, processed cheese slices if you buy this for your own children-- you might inadvertently start them on a new hobby!
This fell on the elementary side of the Pilkey line for me, and since it is very different from Pie and Honey, I don't know that the new cover is a great idea.