Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Joplin, Wishing; Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth

32075665Stanley, Diane. Joplin, Wishing
June 13th 2017 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Joplin never knew her grandfather, the much celebrated author Martin Camrath, but when he passes away, there is a media frenzy around her New York apartment, which she and her mother share with her mother's best friend Jen. The death is hard for Joplin, but only because she must deal with her mother's sadness. She was allowed to take one keepsake, and grabbed a Christmas tin with a broken platter in it. She and Jen go to have it restored. The first person to whom they talk creeps them both out, but the platter is put back together by someone else, and Joplin hangs it in her bedroom. After the rumors that her grandfather had problems start to bother her at school, Joplin wishes that she had a friend... and the girl on the platter comes to life! Since the girl can't live in the garden, Joplin convinces her upstairs neighbor Chloe to pass Sofie off as her visiting cousin while she figures out what to do. Joplin also meets Barrett Browning, a boy who shares many of her interests, and the two work to figure out the connection between her grandfather, Sofie, and the mysterious man who is following them around.

My favorite part of this book was the fact that Joplin DID tell people about Sofie... and they reluctantly believed her! Granted, the best part of magical books is often keeping the secret from the adults who are around, but I appreciated the fact that Joplin's mother was sympathetic to her plight and was willing to help her out even though the circumstances were very odd indeed!

Joplin starts off as a rather underdeveloped character, so it is interesting to see her grow and start to stand up for herself. Her relationship with Barrett is charming, and Chloe is an intriguing secondary character. Sofie's past is filled with all sorts of people, including the creepy Lucius Doyle. I especially appreciated the fact that Stanley brings a 21st century sensibility to Joplin's dealings with this man-- she tries to make sure that Joplin doesn't go meeting the suspect character on her own!

While I wish we had more information about Sofie's world, the New York setting is very vivid, and the author's notes about her own childhood in a similar place imbue this with a charming nostalgic feeling that will resonate with readers.

Stanley has done more high fantasy novels in the past, but this is a book filled with magical realism and mystery that will resonate with fans of Ruth Chew, Liz Kessler, Laurel Snyder, Kimberly Griffiths Little and Kathryn Littlewood.

32320210Boyce, Frank Cottrell. Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth
June 20th 2017 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Prez is being raised by his grandfather, a former sailor, but when his grandfather's dementia worsens, he is sent to Children's Temporary and then out to a family on a farm for a summer placement. Once there, an odd boy shows up at the door and declares that his name is Sputnik and he's there because the Earth is in danger and he's going to save Prez. However, everyone else sees Sputnik as a dog. The two get involved in a number of adventures, including going back to Prez's apartment, trying to jailbreak the grandfather but getting the wrong "prison", and eventually visiting Prez's grandfather at the Shangri-La retirement home. Sputnik is problematic as a dog, and Prez's foster family debates sending him away, but even after Prez is returned to Children's Temporary, the two have a solid bond and Sputnik helps Prez through his difficult times.
Strengths: This was an interesting way to deal with the difficult topic of a grandparent dealing with dementia and a boy having to go into foster care because of it. I liked that the foster family was very supportive, and the details about farm work and family life were very nice.
Weaknesses: This had a very strong, British feel to it, with a large dose of Roald Dahl or David Walliams' type humor/difficulties.
What I really think: As much as I enjoyed this, I will probably pass on purchasing, since Boyce's work just is not picked up frequently by my readers.

  Ms. Yingling

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