Thursday, September 08, 2011

Bestest. Skateboarding. Zombies.

Sharif. Medeia. Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.
Almira would really like to be true to her religious heritage and make her Muslim grandfather proud of her by fasting for Ramadan without cheating, but it's hard. When things get tense at school, whether with her best friend Lisa or her crush Peter, a cookie would really make things better. While her parents are not religious, her grandfather is, and now that he is teaching Almira to drive, she realizes how different his opinions are from her own. Life has its ups and downs; she and Peter get closer and closer, but her father gets upset about her pictures of male stars on her computer. She does well on her fast, but she and Lisa fight. Just like any high schooler, Almira must figure out the best way to strike a balance for herself.
Strengths: This is a great, every day life girl book where the main character is Muslim. She has troubles with friends, boys and food. The cover will make lots of readers pick it up. And of course, there are so few books with Muslim main characters not set in predominately Islamic world that this is all the better. In fact, my only fiction with Muslim main characters are the following:
Abdel-Fattah. Does My Head Look Big in This; Ten Things I Hate About Me. (Australia)
Al-Windawi, Thura. Thura's Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq (Iraq)
Clinton. A Stone in My Hand. (Set in Gaza)
Robert. From Somalia with Love. (London)
Staples. Under the Persimmon Tree (set in Pakistan)
Weaknesses: Almira whines a bit much for my taste, and the writing was repetitive on occasion and could have used a little more editing. (Her mother is hot, she likes-Peter-does-he-like-her etc.) That said, if I wrote a realistic fiction book, my style would probably be very much like this.

Walter, Eric. Grind.
FINALLY!!! A skateboarding book my boys will like! Phil Falcone loves to skate; he'd rather do that than go to his first period class. Unfortunately, he's not a great skater and is prone to injury. When he and his friend Wally meet Bam Bam, a famous skateboarder, they learn that he is making money from running a web site and decide to pursue their own. Phil's ex-girlfriend Lisa and a tech-savvy friend help them put together a site, talk it up in chat rooms, and score sponsors. The site is successful, but Lisa still won't forgive Phil for their misunderstanding, and injuries threaten the future of their site.

Strengths: Not preachy like a lot of books on skateboarding. Illegal skating is addressed but not looked down upon, and the lucrative skateboarding site is a somewhat fantastical touch. Like in The Secret Ingredient, I find it hard to believe that the sites would get that many hits. Either that, or I am not a smart blogger. (Entirely possible!)
Weaknesses: Same as strengths. As a parent, I was concerned about lack of safety. Also, while Orca books are great, the Follett bound versions have such small margins. I would love to see these reformatted.

McElligott, Matthew. Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers.
From the Publisher: ""Wherein is contained an accounting of the quest by our subject and his young compatriots to solve a mystery of vampires terrorizing the great city of Philadelphia.". Benjamin Franklin returns from the dead, moves into Victor Goodwin's downstairs apartment, and faces peril from vampires in Philadelphia, a pair of bike shop owners, and a shadowy figure known as 'the Emperor.'" Sequel to Benjamin Franklinstein Lives!

This falls on the elementary side of the Pilkey Line but would be great for elementary boys who like Steampunk. While the historical inventors being brought back to life are not technically zombies, that's what the cover would indicate, and my readers, while frothing at the mouth for zombie books, are more interested in zombie fighting and gore than humorous takes on their antics.

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