Archive for March, 2010

Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay

TroubleI think many of us are allergic to the idea of “sequels” to classic stories, written by newer writers, in the same way that many of us automatically reject movie versions of beloved books as Never as Good as the Originals. I’ve read decent — and even entertaining — purpose-written sequels in the past, but none of them have swept me up or inspired me.

Wishing for Tomorrow got universally excellent reviews when it came out earlier this year. In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that it was written by Hilary McKay, one of my favorite authors, I still resisted reading it.

This was a very stupid thing to do.

I am writing this review less than five minutes after finishing the book, and all I have to say is: go read this book. If you liked the original, read this book. If you like boarding school stories, read this book. If you like historical fiction, read this book. If you like smart, fun characters, read this book. If you like difficult, seemingly unpleasant characters hiding deep secrets, read this book. If you like precocious-but-never-annoying children, escapist cats, friendship, Action! Adventure! and settings so well-described that you might as well be there, read this book.

It IS just as good as the original.

Posted by: Sarah

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London Calling by Edward Bloor

London CallingI really liked this book but it is for a little older reader or a reader who is able to handle more mature themes. The story is a blend of a boys’ growing up and learning to cope with family issues like depression, alcoholism and family tradition and a sci-fi about time travel back to London during the blitz in World War II.

John Martin Conway hates his school which is Catholic and caters to the rich contributors, especially the Lowery’s. Martin and his friends are censured for damage to a stature of Hollerin’ Hank Lowery even though the rich kids started the fight. Martin finds out that his sister never liked the school either even though she was really bright and got good grades there. Instead of being kicked out, Martin chooses to do independent study at home. While listening to a radio from the 1940’s which his grandmother left him, he falls asleep and wakes up during the blitz in London. There he meets a boy named Jimmy who begs him to do his part. He visits Jimmy a number of times and learns some unflattering things about his grandfather and about Hollerin’ Hank Lowery who were stationed in London at that time. He also is a witness to a crime and realizes that he has a mission to help Jimmy’s father in the present day.

It is a terrifying experience being in London during the blitz and will appeal to history and adventure buffs. It is also a moving story about family relationships. Martin’s family examines a lot of family-held attitudes and beliefs and grows in ways which result in much healthier relationships and a much better situation for Martin and his parents. An interesting and thoughtful story. Recommended for Grades 7-9.

Posted by: Fran W.

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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWest meets East in Grace Lin’s newest novel, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. It’s a wonderful introduction to at least a small piece of Chinese culture, the folklore. I am embarrassed to say that, prior to this book, my knowledge of Eastern folklore was mostly limited to Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Nightingale.”

Now Ms. Lin has opened my mind to a world of benevolent dragons, malicious monkeys, ingenious children, wicked villains and mystical sages. Despite the fact that, except for the monkeys, these are all conventions of European fairytales, here they have a different feel. There’s adventure, danger, and suspense but somehow, and perhaps this is the Chinese influence, the story has a different feel. Minli, unlike many European folktale characters undertakes her adventure for purely altruistic reasons. Her mother is desperately unhappy and Minli wants to help her. Even in the direst of situations, the heroine’s inner resolve to improve the lot of her family keeps her level headed and on her true path.

I was not prepared to, but I loved this book. Lin’s spunky heroine, Minli–not so unlike Pacy in her semi-utobiographical novels Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat—will enchant girls of any ethnicity.
Despite the fact that I’m a big Percy Jackson fan, in my humble opinion, it’s a delightful change of pace from the super cool guy action heroes of late.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, was a choice of Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids, a part of The Today Show. Here is a short video of the Grace Lin talking with Al and some of the kids who read the book.

Posted by: Eileen

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Hurry Hurry by Eve Bunting

Hurry HurryThe barnyard animals are in a rush to get somewhere. Where could they be going in such a hurry? In this brightly illustrated picture book, we discover just why mama hen is so excited for all the animals to come to the barn. Although few words are used to tell this story, the excitement builds throughout. Kids will be eager to learn where all the animals are headed. This is a great story for spring or one to welcome the arrival of a new little baby. Hopefully soon, we’ll all be able to say welcome to spring!

Posted by: Liz

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Over My Dead Body by Kate Klise

Over My Dead BodyThis book may take place in Ghastly, Illinois, but it is far from scary. This clever ghost story is about the unlikely relationship between a boy, a cat, a grumpy old man and an old ghost who all live together in a haunted house.

The Director of The International Movement for the Safety & Protection Of Our Kids & Youth (IMSPOOKY) is Dick Tater (note the name play!) who is out to rid the town of Halloween, ghost stories and anything to do with ghosts. This hardly makes sense to the inhabitants of the Spence Mansion at 43 Old Cemetery Road who have a thriving business writing and selling ghost stories. Mr. Tater uses his authority to break up this trio of ghost writers – at least that is what he thinks!

Told mostly in letters, newspaper articles and illustrations, this witty book will delight readers – especially those who are just looking for some ghostly fun!

Posted by: Wendy

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Football Genius by Tim Green

Football GeniusWhen you are watching football games do you follow the patterns of all the plays or do you just enjoy the action and the touchdowns? Troy could follow the patterns of all the plays and predict what the other team would do and what his team should do. But could he convince anyone to follow his football advice? His two best friends believed him, his mother believed him. Could he get an Atlanta Falcons player or coach to believe him? The author, Tim Green played for the Atlanta Falcons so he knows NFL football and describes football plays in great detail. He’s also good at describing the relationships of Troy and his friends. This book is a first down. Keep going with some of his other books including Football Hero and Football Champ.

Posted by: Iris

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The Great Race: The Amazing Round-the-World Auto Race of 1908 by Gary Blackwood

The Great RaceImagine racing around the world in your car, from NY to Paris, stopping in Seattle, Alaska, Russia and Germany along the way. You would have to find gasoline when you needed it, be able to repair your car in the middle of nowhere and be among people who do not speak the same language as you do. And now imagine doing this in 1908, over one hundred years ago! The Great Race chronicles a real car race around the world back when most places had never even seen an automobile, nevermind had gas or spare parts available or in many cases, even roads. So was the situation for entrants in the Greatest Auto Race where cars from Germany , France, Italy and the US set out to prove that cars could be a reliable form of transport.

The teams that competed in the race were determined to win. However, they were faced with a lot of setbacks that they had to overcome. For instance, where there weren’t roads, the cars raced on railroad tracks, often just minutes ahead of a train. Some teams thought ahead and bought up gasoline to have waiting for them at stops along the route, but others found themselves stranded for weeks in remote Russian towns, and all the teams had to deal with unpredictable weather and dwindling food and supplies. The entire race was filled with danger, misery, miscalculation, penalties and over-confidence but when it finished a route that covered 3 continents and over 22,000 miles in 169 days, the automobile was the real winner. The Great Race uses first-hand reports from team members, photographs and newspaper accounts and is a great example of how non-fiction can actually appeal to children. Who doesn’t love a good car chase?

Posted by: Cindy

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Trouble by Gary Schmidt

TroubleThis book is on next year’s Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Award. This is a state award that is given to a book that the children in Illinois pick. Children must pick three of the 20 books on the list in order to be eligible to vote. I have a feeling this will be one of the more popular books.

Henry Smith is just your average 8th grade boy while his older brother Franklin is the stuff of legends. Henry looks up to Franklin and is counting on their trip up Mt. Katahdin this summer. But all that is pushed to the side when Franklin is hit by a car while out running. He hangs on for awhile, but soon passes away. Henry must come to terms with the death of his brother and the possible breakdown of his family. Maybe Franklin wasn’t so great and maybe he has a lot more to learn about life, but maybe not. All Henry knows is that he is bound and determined to climb Mt. Katahdin in honor of his brother. As the story slowly unfolds, the reader finds out bits and pieces of the night Franklin was hit and the mystery surrounding the driver of the truck. A lovely book with great characters and a strong tale of friendship, love and family.

Posted by: Kate

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Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl! by Tedd Arnold

Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl!Well it is about time that Fly Guy find that special someone. Of course, Fly Guy is the faithful friend and fly companion of Buzz, and in this new book we meet Fly Girl who lives with her friend Lizzz. Liz quickly explains that her pet, Fly Girl, can do all the things that Fly Guy can do including tricks, eating gross stuff (even grosser than Fly Guy), and saying her friend’s name – Lizzz! Buzz and Liz become quick friends, as do Fly Guy and Fly Girl, except that for the flies, friendship soon turns to love. What better adventure for Fly Guy than falling in wuzzy love, getting married (yes married), and having a little fly family. Eventually though Fly Guy and Fly Girl find their way back home to their first friends, Buzz and Liz. What fun for kids and adults alike!

Posted by: Mary

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