Friday, April 17, 2015

Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins?

Not on task for my usual Guy Friday posting-- this looks more like a Tuesday, with time travel and other fantasies.

On the bright side, my evaluation is DONE, and I'm a "skilled" teacher. Who knew? I did have a moment when I came in this morning and didn't have to spend time pouring over rubrics as I planned my day-- my final exam is done, so I don't have to do anything else this year, right?

Oh, well. Inventory, book orders for July, and repairs it is!

22747824Kessler, Liz. Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins?
February 24th 2015 by Candlewick Press
Copy received from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there

Jessica and her friend Izzy are having a fine time in school... until the day in class when Jessica's arm goes invisible. Then life gets even more interesting! The girls do a variety of experiments to try to figure how Jessica becomes invisible, but they don't find out why until  Jessica's godmother, Nancy, tells them about experimental work to cure diseases that she was engaged in at the time Jessica was born. Jessica and several other children, including Max, whose father was the doctor working on the cures are affected. It turns out that if children take the serum he concocted and then come in contact with stones also treated with the serum, they will have special powers. Jessica is invisible, Max can hear thoughts, and mean girl Heather can now walk through walls! With the help of her new friends (including Tom), Jessica has to thwart the plans of a villain who wants to use the serum for evil.

This was a delightfully fun and easy read! The plot advanced beautifully and made sense, which many fantasy books don't manage to do. There was a lot of scientific explanation behind why the serum worked on the children and the stones, and it was interesting and though provoking. The reasons behind the invention of the serum were a little sad, but the book in general was light-hearted and amusing, which is exactly how a book about children with super powers should be!

I loved that Jessica and her friend Izzy worked together to figure out what was going on, and I cheered when Izzy got a power as well. The variety of the children who ended up working together are amusing (mean girl Heather isn't really mean at all), and their different powers are ones that many of us would like to imagine having. The parents don't get in the way but are around, Nancy is everything that a godmother should be, and even Max's distracted dad is wonderfully clueless-- that way, he needs the children to save his scientific work!

My only objection is that Kessler is a British author, and the US edition has clearly been scrubbed of British terms. I would love to see the British edition!

Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins is perfect for fans of Kessler's Emily Windsnap series, Kate Saunders' novels, and E.D. Baker's fairy tale retellings. A great choice for readers who enjoyed Ruth Chew's books when younger. One note of caution: younger readers might find this book to be so believable and intriguing that they will concoct a serum in the kitchen and attempt to soak their mother's jewelry in it in order to become invisible just like Jessica!

Clark, Henry. The Book That Proves that Time Travel Happens
April 14th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ARC from Baker and Taylor

In Freedom Falls, Ohio, Ambrose (whose mother is African American) has to deal with his father, who is being accused of being a trans-temporal dresser because he is a history teacher and likes to put on costumes to go along with lessons. He is about to lose his job. When a carnival comes to town, Ambrose and his friend Tom who is Asian American) seek the help of a fortune teller. Instead, they meet her daughter, Frankie, and manage to get sucked into Frankie's search for her family heirloom-- the time trombone. The three get taken back in time to Freedom Falls... in 1852. Slave catchers are bound and determined to sell the children, and steal the trombone as well. While the children escape, they find that they must repair something that happens in 1852, or they might cease to exist. There are some other stops along the way, and the children all learn things about their own lives that change the ways that they wish to go forward.
Strengths: Nice multicultural cast and time travel mechanism. Decent amount of action and adventure. Moments of peril. Better than this author's What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World which was over-the-top quirky.
Weaknesses: There are stereotypical bullies, stereotypical creepy carnival (are there any carnivals in literature that aren't?), and stereotypical time travel trip back to the days of slavery.
What I really thought: Not a bad time travel book, just pretty standard, and I don't have a lot of readers who ask for time travel, more's the pity. (And I'm just waiting to see what Charlotte thought of it!)

22875380Lettrick, Robert. The Murk
April 21st 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC from

Piper enjoys her younger brother, Creeper, but she adores baby Grace, so when Grace is diagnosed with a progressively degenerative disease, Piper and her friend Tad determine that Grace might be able to be saved by a flower that grows in the Okefenokee Swamp. They enlist the help of Macey and Perch, who have a boat called the Mud Cat. Using the journal of an ancestor who investigated the plant in the early 1800s, the group (with Creeper in tow) go into the swamp to retrieve the flower. Swamps are dangerous, but when they begin to realize that the plant (whom the ancestor named Mergo) is able to fend off intruders and injure them, the alligators don't seem nearly as dangerous. Since Mergo really doesn't want to give up the flower, can the group survive long enough to make it out of the swamp?
Strengths: Some really good, gory scenes of Mergo dispatching victims, ooky swamp descriptions, and a lot of plant science, if you're in to that sort of thing.
Weaknesses: Very slow paced. The information about Grace's illness and the whole reason for going into the swamp took much too long, especially considering that we never find out anything more about Grace after the group returns. (Spoiler, sorry.) There is one death, but unlike Frenzy, it's not just a random camper-- it's a very sympathetic character. Not only did this fail to get really exciting until the last fifty pages, there were a lot of significantly unexciting things in the process of getting there. Family drama with Creeper feeling unloved. Entries from the ancestor's journal, an odd and inappropriately timed romance between Piper and Tad.
What I really think: I ADORED Frenzy, and I swear that both copies of that book were off the shelf every single day from August until the beginning of February. Most awesome horror book. I would not be at all surprised if Lettrick started off with wonderful plant violence but was told by an editor that he needed to add more depth. Considering how perfectly Lettrick wrote to the target demographic in Frenzy, this was just a disappointment.

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