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Showing posts from August, 2011

The Green Glass Sea, written by Ellen Klages, 318 pp, RL 4

I have to begin this review by saying that I am completely amazed that Ellen Klages' book The Green Glass Sea has only one award medal on its cover rather than the raft of awards that it deserves. It did win the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 2007, which is a prestigious honor, but this seems to be one of the many great books mysteriously overlooked by the Newbery panel of judges in any given year. Besides the stunning setting, Los Alamos National Laboratory during the Manhattan Project, Klages' book is also unique for its representation of intelligent, scientifically minded girls and women. And, finally, The Green Glass Sea is the moving story of two girls who are outsiders on the way to finding themselves and each other. I think I have said here before that I have a hazy grasp of history, so I began reading The Green Glass Sea with only a basic knowledge of the Manhattan Project and the events that occurred in Los Alamos, New Mexico during WWII. I knew how …

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, 224 pp, RL: TEEN

(an epistolary review of an epistolary book)
July 27, 2011
Dear Friend, 
     I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and that you were at this bookstore and could have stolen this book but didn't. I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn't try to steal books even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.      I just read this book and I really need someone to talk about it with. It was called The Perks of Being a Wallflower and it's about a boy named Charlie but that's not his real name. He doesn't use anyone's real names in the book. He is starting high school and the whole book is made up of these letters that he writes to this person he calls "Friend." Charlie is a wallflower and there is this English teacher named Bill wants him to "participate" and gives him extra assignments of books to read and write about like To Kill a Mockingbird, This Side of Paradise, Peter…

Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum Peril & Romance by Marthe Jocelyn, 288 pp, RL 5

Oh how I love Mabel Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril and Romance by Marthe Jocelyn.  Set in Canada in 1901, and with a protagonist who aspires to be a writer someday, the comparisons with Lucy Maude Montgomery's beloved Anne Shirley are unavoidable and apt. While Montgomery's Anne books start in 1878 and span nine books and forty-two years in the main character's life, we only get a glimpse into three months of the life of Mabel Riley, but an amazing three months they are! As we learn from the "identification" page in the front of the novel, which poses as a diary, Mabel Riley is a forward looking girl. Besides listing her hat and glove size, birthday and hair color ("I wish I could say raven but really it's dung-beetle brown") we learn that a person she finds noteworthy is Miss Nellie Blye. Blye was a pioneering female journalist of the time who is most noted for her record-breaking trip around the world that followed the path of Phileas …

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming, 192 pp, RL 3

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary by Candace Fleming is nothing short of brilliant. Everyone has heard of Aesop and his fables and, if nothing else, most people know the big three: the tortoise and the hare (slow and steady wins the race), the story of the ant and the grasshopper (there is time for work and time for play) and the story of the lion and the mouse (a kindness is never wasted.) But how many others can you actually recall? Of course, we have two fabulous picture books to keep these fables fresh in our minds. Arnold Lobel's Caldecott winning collection Fables from 1980 and Jerry Pinkney's gorgeous, wordless Caldecott winner from 2010, The Lion and the Mouse are wonderful for story time. However, the most popular and widely read retellings of the fables are for very young readers while the messages in these stories are pertinent for readers of all ages and probably best suited to the target audience of Fleming's superb book.
In The Fabled Fourth Grader…

Swindle, by Gordon Korman 251 pp, RL 4

A little bit like the movie "Oceans 11" for kids, Gordon Korman'sSwindle starts with a twelve-year-old boy with a big chip on his shoulder who is out to right a wrong and get back what's his. It's his drive, intellect and ability to bring people together that makes the heist work and watching it all come together and biting your nails as they pull it off makes for a fast paced, funny and fun read.
Griffin Bing has always been "the Man With a Plan" and he is furious that the town council of Cedarville won't even give him and his friends the time of day. Without even looking at the plans for the stake park the kids have drawn up to be put on a soon-to-be-vacant piece of land, they vote to build the Cedarville Museum. As a way to show them that they can't push kids around and disregard them, Griffin comes up with another plan. The soon-to-be vacant lot is home to the soon-to-be demolished, crumbling Rockford Mansion. Griffin invites all of the six…

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, 315 pp, RL 5

I came across Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde while shelving in the Teen Department at work several years ago and was so intrigued by the premise that I snapped it up and read it right away. And loved it. Although technology changes at light speed these days, Heir Apparent, which was published in 2002, employs video gaming as part of the plot and still feels contemporary and relevant almost a deacde later. Despite the gaming aspect of the plot, Heir Apparent is really a fantasy novel with a medieval setting with a contemporary, wise cracking, fast thinking fourteen year old heroine. The book begins with a printout of a gift certificate for $50.00 to one of the many Rasmussem Enterprises Gaming Centers and is made out to one Giannine Bellisario. This is a birthday gift from her father, who had his secretary call and ask Giannine what she wanted as a gift. Raised by her grandmother, Giannine has a few choice comments to make about both of her absentee parents as well as the parenta…

The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch, illustrated by Gilbert Ford, 360 pp RL 4

The Secret Series, as this quintet of books (the fifth book to be released on September 20, 2011) is called, began in 2007 with The Name of this Book is Secret, authored by the mysterious Pseudonymous Bosch (which reminds me of the imaginative Dutch painter Heironymous Bosch) and perfectly illustrated by the wonderful Gilbert Ford. The Name of this Book is Secret was published the same year as Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society and the two have some similarities - intrepid, quirky main characters who uncover the mysterious machinations of devious, maniacal adults. And, of course, both series owe a nod to Lemony Snicket and his Series of Unfortunate Events. However, of the three, The Secret Series has to be my favorite. Bosch's narration and frequent interruption of the story to protect the reader, give advice and share background information on the characters as well as word definitions is entertaining and the appendix he provides at the back of the book is bril…