Archive for March, 2007

Where Do Balloons Go by Jamie Lee Curtis

Where Do Balloons GoThis book is such a funny and quirky story that imagines where balloons go when they float away.  Jamie Lee Curtis seems to really remember what it was like to be a child, and her books often make you think of all the things that little kids think about that adults have long forgotten.  I pretty much love all of her books!

Posted by: Mary

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Ark Angel by Anthony Horowitz

Ark Angel

I think I must have been a boy in my former life because, although there are adventure books with girl protagonists, all of my favorite adventure stories seem to have boys enjoying the numerous heart-stopping predicaments.  Alex Rider is one of my favorite characters.  He finds himself in more life-threatening situations than any other character I can think of, and those situations keep coming at lightning speed.  Each book in this Anthony Horowitz series is action-packed, fast-paced, and keeps the reader on edge.  The most recent book in the series is Ark Angel, which is the name of the first luxury hotel to be built in outer space.  This book, therefore, involves rockets to space, eco-terrorists, a multibillionaire and his luxury home on Flamingo Bay Island, ruthless killers, Alex escaping a high rise inferno by tightrope walking a cable to the opposite high rise, dangerous scuba diving, risky kite-surfing, really cool defensive gadgets the British spy organization MI6 arms him with before each mission, and much, much more.

It doesn’t seem to matter to me that the Alex Rider predicaments are so far-fetched and unbelievable.  I love how Alex is a “reluctant” spy, getting involved only because he gets tricked into service, or put on some guilt trip, or is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He is not in the spy business for any self-glory, and he genuinely cares about and helps out the innocent people he becomes involved with, while saving the world from the really evil ones at the same time.  I recommend the entire exciting series and I certainly hope Anthony Horowitz keeps them coming. 

Posted by: Fran D.

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The Misadventures of Maude March, or, Trouble Rides a Fast Horse by Audrey Coloumbis

Misadventures of Maude March

Recently orphaned after their only known relative, their Aunt Ruthie, was shot to death, 11-year-old Sallie and her sister, 15-year-old Maude, escape a life of drudgery and servitude when the sneak away in the middle of the night on “borrowed” horses.

While trying to find their long lost uncle, they begin a new life running from the law having been accused of being horse thieves—and worse.

If you think that sounds pretty grim, you’d be 100% wrong. As a matter of fact, this is one funny book. Told from the point of view of Sallie, this is the story of usually strait-laced, no-nonsense Maude and how overnight, she underwent a transformation from school girl to horse thief and was finally branded “Mad Maude”, a dangerous desperado. Just like that. One day she was walking down the street with her Aunt Ruthie and the next, she was an orphan on the wrong side of the law.

 

Despite the fact that things seem to go from bad to worse, Sallie secretly thinks being a range rider dodging both lawmen and outlaws, is thrilling.  She’s an avid reader of “dimers”—adventure novels filled with wild stories of daring do, improbable situations and outlaws with a heart of gold. And let me tell you, what happens to Maude and Sallie could fill a couple of dimers.

 

To start with, Aunt Sally was shot by Joe Harden, the hero of some of Sallie’s favorite books. Instead of being outraged, Sally is rather impressed. Then when the girls get mixed up in a botched bank robbery—also thanks to Joe Harden—Sally is happy that the horses they’ve stolen to get out of town are better than the ones they had before. And so it goes. Wherever they go, the girls find trouble—and Joe Harden. Sally is thrilled and Maude, thanks to the overactive imagination of several reporters, becomes more and more notorious. The only thing that dampens Sallie’s spirits is the fact that all the sensational newspaper articles about “Mad Maude,” girl scourge of the West, never mention Sallie, her brilliant sidekick.

 

Anyone looking for a rollicking page turner need look no further. Between hero worshipping Sallie, taciturn Maude and the remarkable cast of characters that both aid and thwart them, the West’s never been wilder—or more entertaining.

 

Posted by: Eileen

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So B. It by Sarah Weeks

So B. It

Today our review is of the Caudill Award winner, the Illinois Children’s Choice award for grades 4-8. 

 

Heidi’s mother is mentally disabled.  She only knows 23 words, one of which is her name: So B. It.  On day she showed up on a strange woman’s  doorstep with a new baby in her arms, dripping wet, holding out the baby, a bottle and some powdered milk.  The woman, Bernie,  has cared for them ever since, even though she has agoraphobia: the fear of going out.  How do they manage?  Bernie has a little nest egg, money left her by her father; also, So B. It’s apartment (which connects to Bernie’s) is paid for and so is the heat and electricity.  Strangest of all, Heidi is lucky. 

The sort-of-family lives in Reno, a big gambling town, and anytime they are short of money, Heidi, who is now 13, goes to the Laundromat and plays the slot machine.  She always wins: she can call heads or tails correctly for 10 flipped coins in a row. 

This ability helps her when she finds a camera in the old suitcase of her mother’s. She develops the film and finds a lead to who she is and where she came from in the pictures. To follow the lead, she makes her way from Reno all the way to New York, all on her own. 

The book is interesting because I was really curious about her mother’s odd name, about how they came to Bernie’s doorstep, about who pays the bills, and what one of So B. It’s words means,  the word soof.  I really wanted to find out the answers  to these questions.  Also, Heidi is a very enterprising and likable heroine.  I wanted her to find answers.  A caveat: there are some mature topics and some unsettling elements of this story.  For that reason I recommend it for girls in 7th or 8th grade.

Posted by: Fran W.

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Superdog: the Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner

SuperdogDexter is a dachshund–a lowly wiener dog.  No one takes him seriously, and Cleevis (a mean cat) is always picking on him.  All he wants is to be SUPER, even to be a superhero!  He works hard at developing his strength, makes sure to be kind and helpful to everyone, and even sends away for a special superhero costume.  In the end, he truly becomes a superhero–even saving Cleevis from distress! This hilarious and wonderfully illustrated book just won the Monarch Award–Illinois’ children’s choice award for grades K-3. Congratulations to Caralyn Buehner! (And everyone come to the library and check out her book!)

Posted by: Sarah

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Gossie by Olivier Dunrea

GossieLooking for a great story about friendship and sharing? Then look no further than Gossie. The story is about a gosling who loves to wear red boots. As the story progresses, she learns to share her prized possession. Gossie is one of my favorite books. I enjoy how the bright illustrations and the simple text work together to create a fun and memorable story. I love the unpredictable ending and think it is one that young children can relate to. If you enjoy Gossie check out the other titles in the series about the gosling’s friends.

Posted by: Liz

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The Boy Who Ate Stars by Kochka

Boy Who Ate StarsThere have been some truly great books published in the past few years about children with special needs; this one I found to be especially good.  Originally published in French, The Boy Who Ate Stars tells the tale of Lucy, a young girl who has just moved into a new apartment with her parents.   She becomes very aggravated with all the noise from upstairs, and one day decides to go up and give her neighbors a piece of her mind.  What she discovers when the door is opened is a world unlike any she has ever known.  She meets Matthew, an autistic boy; his mother; and his caregiver.  She slowly learns about autism and grows to become friends with all three neighbors.  While short in length, the book’s prose is so lyrical that the brief descriptions convey a detailed picture for the reader.   The author’s descriptions of autism, and what it means, aptly describe what I imagine it must be like to have autism.  Lucy grows in maturity, knowledge, and understanding throughout the book as she learns more about autism and being friends with someone who has special needs.  Overall: A delightful tale to help look at something that is often seen as negative in a new light. 

Posted by: Kate

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