Monday, September 29, 2008

Spies, Elvis, Cameras and Time Travel

Jennifer Lynn Barnes' The Squad: Perfect Cover was a good, light weekend read. Computer hacker/semi-Goth girl Toby gets recruited to become a varsity cheerleader and international spy. The spy part is fine, the cheerleader part takes some doing, especially the makeover, which includes sparkly pink tops that do not go with Toby's combat boots. For fans of Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, this will be a welcome book. I have the sequel to read tonight.
Any book about teenage spies and government complexes located under posh high schools is going to require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, but I think a whole lot of children's books do. Perfect Cover explains away as much as needed, and almost makes more sense than Carter's books. Certainly, there are lots of laugh out loud lines as Toby struggles with being a cheerleader. That is almost more of a focus than the spying. My only complaint was that there is more making over going on than training to be a spy, which would not make sense.

Pearsall's All Shook Up did not look good at first, but I did enjoy her two historical novels, Trouble Don't Last and Crooked River, so I picked it up. I was pleasantly surprised. Josh must spend the summer with his father in Chicago while his mother takes care of his grandmother. When he arrives, he finds that his father has lost his job at a shoe store and is working as an Elvis impersonator to make ends meet. Josh is accutely embarrassed and hopes that no one at school will find out about it. He is so embarrassed that when his father is booked to play at his school, he invents a competition on the same day, and his father choses to enter it for the prize money, which he needs but which, of course, does not exist. I don't think many of my students know who Elvis is, but there is a note at the end about him. This is a good funny book for boys, more about family, circumstances and (ta da!) personal identity. I'll buy this.

Click: One Novel, Ten Authors was an interesting exercise. All ten stories tell a different facet of the life of a photojournalist, spanning a number of years and countries. Some of the stories make very little sense, and the good stories left me wishing that the author who did that section had done more. The chapters I liked were, predictably, by author's I enjoyed. My son had the same reaction to the book as I did; some of it was good, some confusing. I had a student who is interested in photography who loved it.

Haddix's Found was okay. The fans of her Among the Hidden series will be thrilled that there is a new series out, and won't be disappointed by the story of adopted children who suddenly get notes telling them that something is wrong. There's not a lot that I can say without ruining the plot of this one. Time travel, evil government conspiracies and bad guys chasing are protagonists around are the main draws of this one. I'm not a huge fan of Haddix, although the students love it. There is something simplistic and repetitive about her books that I don't like but students do. That's what's important, after all, and many reluctant readers have become avid readers because of her books.

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