Sunday, August 31, 2014

Charlie Bumpers vs. The Squeaking Skull

Harley, Bill. Charlie Bumpers vs. The Squeaking Skull
1 September 2014, Peachtree Publishers
Copy provided by publisher through Armchair BEA contest!

Charlie is ready to go trick-or-treating with his friends... if only he can figure out a good costume, a way to NOT have to take his annoying four-year-old sister Squid, and how he can avoid watching the scary movie at his friend's sleepover that night. With the help of an eccentric art teacher, he manages to make his own bat costume out of two broken umbrellas, and his brother Matt tries to help him get used to scary things by telling him creepy stories at night. Meanwhile, Alex's mother decides that the movie is way too scary for the boys, but the somewhat evil Kyle claims to have a copy that he can bring. Other fun subplots include Tommy's insistence that he needs to glue hair to his face in order to be a convincing werewolf!
Strengths: The more I read of Charlie, the more I like him for a good series for younger readers. Figuring out what to be for Halloween and worrying about what friends will think if movies scare you are two very valid elementary school concerns. I don't know if I will buy this third book (Halloween is a completely different affair in middle school), but it is certainly a must have for elementary libraries.
Weaknesses: Credulity stretcher in this was an elementary school allowing costumes! Even when my own children were small, this was never allowed, unless the school theme was "Bats and Snakes" and they were allowed to dress like animals. Maybe this still happens; it certainly did when I was in elementary school!

Other titles in this series include Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year, and Charlie Bumpers vs. The Really Nice Gnome.

18509627 Cheaney, J.B. Somebody on this Bus is Going to be Famous
September 2nd 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
E ARC from

The students on Mrs. B's bus all have a variety of concerns in their lives, and going through the months of the school year, we get to know more about them. Shelley is bound and determined to be a famous singer, but her mother's pregnancy means there is no extra money to send her to camp. Bender's mother is a high powered real estate agent, and he struggles to live up to his older brother's accomplishments. Kaitlyn is inspired by the Salvation Army kettles and takes up a collection on the bus for a family in need. There are several mysteries that surface during the year-- the empty bus stop, what happened at the high school graduation in 1985, and various secrets about the families of the riders that intertwine.
Strengths: Can't say I've read any books that take place primarily on the school bus, so this was a nice twist. Readers who enjoyed the different perspectives of Because of Mr. Terupt will like this tale which portrays many of the family difficulties that students face today.
Weaknesses: The happy cover of this belies the very, very depressing nature of the vast majority of the stories. I was fine with that until the end of the book, when there was even more tragedy-- it was too many different sad situations put together for my taste.

18170137 Christopher, Matt. (Peters, Stephanie True) Perfect Game (Little League #4)
March 4th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Okay, I have to admit that sometimes, sports books don't stick with me. While I enjoyed the other books in the series, all I really got from this one was that the cousins lived on opposite coasts, somebody was now getting along better with the DiMaggio boy, the players had lucky superstitions, and they figured out what kind of pitch people would throw by watching tapes of games. And they played a lot of baseball. This series has done very well, especially with the bright new covers. Here's a summary from

Two weeks of intense competition remain to decide the final teams for the Little League® World Series. This year, the anticipation is high as it's possible that both of the previous final two teams will return, a very rare occurrence. And those are the teams Carter and Liam now play for! These two players, one from each team, are thinking the same thought: How can I play against my best friend?

This is the fourth book in a five-book series that follows Liam and Carter as they work their way to the Little League® World Series. The final book in the series will coincide with the Little League® 75th Anniversary in 2014.

Also found out that Dale Christopher is retired from teaching and now travels to schools to give talks about his dad's writing career, which is awesome. I do think that the books should not say that "Matt Christopher IS the bestselling author"... since Matt Christopher died in 1997, it's time to acknowledge publicly that other people write for the Matt Christopher franchise.

1 comment:

  1. Shows what a good name can do to get a young person to pick up a book. Charlie Bumpers has that kind of name. Agree with you on Matt Christopher. I only found out he passed away about a decade ago after happily reading his sport's tales for so many years. Love the idea of the school bus story but I'd like it more if there was a humorous tale inside.