Archive for October, 2008

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard BookI know I’ve dropped the ball on this one—every other blogger seems to have had an Advanced Reading Copy of this book for months and months. I, however, have had to subsist on these other blog reviews and the odd mention on the author’s website. Finally, however, just in time for Halloween: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaimain.

Nobody Owens, (Bod for short) has grown up in a graveyard. Not near a graveyard. Not next to a graveyard. Actually in a graveyard. His whole family was murdered when he was just two years old, and he escaped by toddling into the graveyard, where he was adopted by the ghosts.  He’s raised by two of the ghosts (Mr. and Mistress Owens, who died almost 300 years before), guarded by Silas, who lives in the crypt and is . . . neither living nor dead, and taught, nurtured and protected by the rest of the denizens of the graveyard.  Why do they need to protect him?  Because no one knows why his family was killed–and the murderer is still looking for him.

I know, I know–it sounds unremittingly grim, terrifying, even.  And I cannot deny that it is scary.  But it’s also by turns charming, bittersweet, illuminating, and gripping.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes ghosts, mysteries, atmosphere and even coming-of-age stories.  Happy Halloween!

(Bonus points if you figured out the title’s reference to a classic of children’s literature–The Jungle Book!).

Posted by: Sarah

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Fartiste by Kathleen Krull

FartisteI’d like to say that this book stinks.  But, I can’t.  I also like to say that because it’s by Kathleen Krull, it’s a seriously good biography.  Once again, I can’t.

There’s nothing stinky or serious about Fartiste, the tale of Joseph Pujol, a man, who once the people of 19th century Paris got “wind” of his act, packed the Moulin Rouge with “toots” and hoots every night for years.  As its subtitle exclaims, it’s an “explosively funny, mostly true story.”  I’m not sure which part is not entirely accurate, but, it’s so much fun that I hope it’s a very small, inconsequential detail such as the color of his coat—maybe actually black instead of red?

While there’s nothing too serious in it, this is a worthy book.  Ms. Krull has yet to turn out a biography that—no matter it’s length—has not shown scholarly investigation as well as some unabashed humor.  Who else could have found Isaac Newton to be a humorous guy?  As is her wont, Krull has packed Fartiste, a mere 36 pages, with laughs, a good story and solid information—there’s even a bibliography. 

I can say without reservation, this one will blow you away.

Posted by: Eileen

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy KidGreg Heffley is keeping a journal of his first year in middle school to make his mother happy. He is a fountain of information about the adolescent boy’s view of the world and how to deal with its problems and challenges. He is quickly learning his way around the pitfalls of middle school. Unfortunately, his friend Rowley isn’t as fast a study. Greg is a funny guy with an honesty that is hilarious as well as eye-opening. From avoiding the Cheese touch, which can totally ruin a person’s social life, to becoming a special crossing guard in order to gain privileges in the school cafeteria, Greg is always striving to have fun and gain influence especially with the girls. You will cheer for his successes, such as avoiding the older bullies at Halloween and be appalled at his lack of sensitivity, as when he lets Rowley take the rap for scaring the children he is supposed to be walking home for lunch. You will want to hear more about Greg Heffley and his escapades because he is FUNNY! The expressive cartoons add to the fun.

Posted by: Fran W.

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Alphabeep: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson

AlphabeepZipping, zooming down the street . . . . What’s up ahead?  Come on—Beep, beep!  This clever ABC book has been around for a little while, but I think it is worth noting again.  It has huge appeal to little boys like mine who love cars and trucks and THINGS THAT GO!  The illustrations are bright and colorful and funny, and the letters of the alphabet show both familiar and unfamiliar names of vehicles AND make wonderful sounds such as ka-Boom, squish, crunch, and gr-r-r-r-rind.  What could be better for reading aloud?  Our almost 3 year old now points out Jeeps all over town (J is for Jeep) and even knows the word “Zamboni” (which by the way, his Daddy used to drive on a part-time job).  We discover something new each time we read this book and could read it again and again.  I think lots of kids would love it just as much!

Posted by: Mary

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Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard

Me Hungry
Me Hungry! is a book of few works, but a clever story nonetheless.  A young cave boy is hungry, but his prehistoric parents are too busy to feed him.  So he sets off alone.  Along the way he encounters a number of troublesome creatures but also bumps into a new friend who helps him find food.

Me like.  Me think funny.  Me recommend.

Posted by: Liz

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Tangerine by Edward Bloor

TangerineBeing a good soccer goalie in spite of having to wear thick glasses for an eye problem should make your parents proud. But Paul Fisher’s parents are so absorbed by his older brother’s football prowess, as they hope for him to fulfill his dad’s football dreams, that they don’t pay much attention to Paul’s soccer skills. They also ignore the older brother’s violent streak. The family has just moved to Tangerine, Florida, and has to cope with lightning strikes, sink holes, and burning muck. The intensity and suspense of the story combined with insight and humor make it more than just a sports story. Kids in middle school and high school will find a lot to think about in Tangerine. So will adults.

Posted by: Iris

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My Chocolate Year by Charlotte Herman

My Chocolate YearI love chocolate and couldn’t wait to read this book.  I was shocked to discover it was not something light and fluffy, but rather a historical fiction novel about a Jewish American family right after WWII.  The cover and inside jacket description do not hint in any way at the serious tone of this book.  The book takes place in 1945 and is about a young girl named Dorrie who was to come up with a sweet treat to bring to the end of the school year.  The winner from her class will be photographed and put in the local paper.  However, you soon learn that there is a lot more going on.  Her family is waiting for news of relatives from Europe and fearful that they have died.  Then, they discover a cousin who has survived, and he comes to live with them.  Needless to say, this is not a light and fluffy book.  I think the publisher was being deliberately misleading which is unfortunate because it was a wonderful story.  One example that really bothered me on the jacket was that they described the cousin who has just survived the Holocaust as “an immigrant from Europe”.  I think that kids will pick this up not realizing what is inside and be a little turned off.  On the other hand, if they had marketed it properly, they would have had a huge success, I feel, as good books about the Holocaust are always needed.

Posted by: Kate

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