M. T. Anderson has a talent few other authors can boast: he can suck in a reader like nothing else. Hilarious YA novel about competing burger chains? Yep. Picture book biography of Handel? Check. Middle grade fantasy about (among other things) mechanical goblins? No problem. Historical fiction written in next-to-perfect 18th century diction? Of course! An increasingly long series of books written as a pastiche of historical series books, with perfect understanding of the series tropes, characters that appeal to modern readers, and extremely affecting (and hilarious) stories? Why do you even ask?
He Laughed with His Other Mouths is the latest in Anderson’s Pals in Peril series. This one focuses on my favorite of the three main characters — Jasper Dash: Boy Technonaut! In the 1930s and 40s, Jasper starred in his own series of sci-fi adventure novels (and movies, and t.v. serials and advertisements, etc), but now he lives in Pelt with his single mother (Jasper was created by a highly concentrated beam of information projected from the region of the Horsehead Nebula), and tries, with the help of his friends Lily and Katie, to fit in the modern world.
After a disastrous science fair project (it didn’t even try to take over the world! AND people laughed at him!), Jasper feels so low that he decides, over the objections of his mother, to transport himself to the Horsehead Nebula to see just who it was that originally sent that concentrated beam of information. Was it his . . . father? Or was it Something Else? This rash decision will have drastic consequences not just for Jasper, not just for his mother, Lily, and Katie, but FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD!
CAN YOU STAND to find out what Jasper discovers in the Horsehead Nebula?!
THRILL to outer-space hijinks!
SHIVER at the desperate danger!
DON’T WAIT to read this fabulous book, filled with, I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear: “Even more death rays! No, really! Way, way too many death rays”!
Posted by: Sarah
Cut off from the rest of the world by an enormous mountain, secured by a massive gated wall exists the city of Deliverance. The residents of Deliverance are special. They look like everyone on the other side of the mountain, but they all possess a form of telekinesis called psi. The people of Deliverance use their psi for everything including cooking, cleaning, getting dressed, driving, etc. Ocassionally, however, children’s psi powers do not develop and are labeled Freaklings. Of course, it is impossible for Freaklings to exist among the psi wielders; therefore, those children are sent to the nonpsi village outside the walls of Deliverance where they are taught to survive in a world where they must do everything for themselves.
Taemon was not born a Freakling, but he is different from other psi wielders. He has the ability to “mind wander” or see inside objects using his mind – a very dangerous power in the hands of the wrong person. Taemon’s brother, Yens, is extremely gifted at using psi and hungers for fame and power. As Yens starts to realize just how powerful Taemon really is, he begins to feel threatened and attacks Taemon in hopes of scaring him into explaining the root of his power. As a result, Taemon actually loses his ability to control objects with psi and must hide his handicap or be exiled from the city. Ultimately, Taemon must make a decision that will impact everyone in Deliverance and even beyond, but can he trust himself to make the right decision?
Posted by: Staci
DC Super Pets are fantastic easy readers. The text is clear, sentence structure is perfect for beginning readers, and they even use comic book style fonts and color to denote dialogue which helps beginning readers distinguish dialogue from the rest of the text AND adds a fun, comic book element. The illustrator, Art Baltazar has won the Eisner award and it shows in his illustrations for this book. The Eisner award is awarded to outstanding comic book artists each year. Backward Bowwow contains high gloss, bright illustrations that will draw kids into the stories.
In this title, Superman’s dog Krypto meets his evil counterpart, Bizarro Krypto. Bizzaro Krypto crash lands on Earth with the intent of reversing the relationship between dogs and humans. In Bizzaro World, the dogs are in charge and the humans are the pets, and Bizzaro Krypto is determined to make Earth the same way and it is up to Krypto to stop him. The title also has bonus material at the end including jokes and a glossary to define some of the higher level words called “Word Power”. This series has everything a beginning reader would want: superheroes, pets, great pictures and fun stories.
Posted by: Kelly
Books set in future dystopias are all the rage right now. Usually society has become degenerate and evil, with a veneer of civility and promise. Only angry hormonal teenagers who are in love with multiple people at once can see the cracks in the facade!
What do you do, though, if a slightly younger reader doesn’t like romance, and isn’t angry, and would rather not believe that human beings are innately evil (except for a chosen angsty few)? Give them this book.
Henrietta isn’t a very good student, and she isn’t a very popular person. She just gets by, sort of, in her elementary school classes, and at home. Her grades and whereabouts are continually broadcast to her parents via their phones, children log in and out of their classrooms and bus seats, and hyper-safety and technology are prized above all else. Not horrible; not exciting; not memorable.
Henrietta’s non-safe and non-technological adventure starts when she discovers a trapdoor into her attic, and within the attic, a wild housecat. This first foray into the unknown leads her to form friendships with two other unusual children and, with them, into an exploration of the history of her town, and the town’s putative guardian, the frightening Wikkeling.
A truly original book, scary without being gruesome and showing a believable, realistic society only one step from our own, this book is highly recommended for children in late elementary school.
Posted by: Sarah
I liked the premise of this book. Fuel is unavailable. All the cars, and buses and trucks cannot run. The highways are empty. So people start walking and bicycling instead and they use the highways because it’s easiest. Can you imagine walking 22 miles to work? Bicycles become necessities and are in high demand.
Fourteen-year-old Dewey Marriss had been left in charge of his father’s bike shop and his older sister, Lil, left in charge of the house and children while their parents took their yearly trucking vacation together, making deliveries up the coast and enjoying the time together. This year the children had been left in charge rather than getting a sitter because Lil had turned eighteen. But because of the fuel shortage, mom and dad are stuck in Canada with no way to get home.
Dewey and his younger brother Vince work every day in their dad’s bike shop. The five-year-old twins go to camp every day and Lil is supposed to go to art school but that has been cancelled due to the energy crisis. She begins her own special art project using the side of the bike barn as her canvas.
As the gas shortage continues, bad things begin to happen. The book becomes a mystery as parts begin to go missing from the bike shop and the reader wonders who could be stealing from them – their odd neighbor, the man that Dewey befriended on the highway one day, or someone else? It is a portrait of a well-disciplined and loving family and their extended friends and neighbors working with them in tough times. Recommended for grades 5th and up.
Posted by: Fran
This book is hysterically funny. It tells the tale of three fluffy bunny aliens who come to take over and eat everyone on Earth. Kevin and Joules are twins whose parents drop them at camp while they go to a SPAM cooking competition. Yep, SPAM. Camp is not what they expect, especially when the adults all get eaten by 7 foot tall bunnies who force the kids to eat sugar. The twins and their friend Nelson must save the day. Much hilarity ensues and then the world is safe once more. A great book that is perfect for reluctant readers.
Posted by: Kate
It’s 1979 and in New York City, sixth-grader Miranda and her best friend Sal have parted ways, though they aren’t sure why except that it all seemed to start when that new boy Marcus punched Sal in the stomach. Miranda is saddened at this loss of a friendship, but she has other things on her mind, too. For instance, she is helping her mom prepare for an upcoming stint on the tv game show $20,000 Pyramid, she is reading and re-reading her favorite book A Wrinkle in Time to figure out time travel, and she is receiving strange notes addressed to her that seem to predict the future.
If it seems like the premise for a book heavy on the sci fi, well, it’s not. It is, in fact, a realistic and heart-warming story about growing up, learning who your friends are, realizing that meanness comes in lots of forms and that small acts of kindness can mean a great deal. As she tries to make sense of the notes she is receiving—the first one saying “I am coming to save your friend’s life and my own”–Miranda becomes a keen observer of the things around her, like the dynamics of middle school, the class distinctions in the world, and even the homeless man she encounters daily. The science fiction element is woven into the story so smoothly that people who don’t like scifi (like me!) will not be put off at all. It’s a great read and no surprise that When You Reach Me just won the Newberry Award.
Posted by: Cindy