Wednesday, July 31, 2013

World Wednesday-- A Moment Comes

A Moment ComesBradbury, Jennifer. A Moment Comes. 
25 June 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Set in 1947, just as the Partition of India is about to take place, this book is from the point of view of three different young people involved in the process. Tariq is a Muslim, and his family is preparing to move to Pakistan. He doesn't want to go, because his grandfather convinced him that all of the people most instrumental in changing India went to Oxford in England, so he gets a job with an English cartographer in order to perhaps get a reference. Anupreet is Sikh, and sent to work in the English household to keep her safe from all of the violence in the streets, which also spread into a shop where she was, and resulted in her being attacked. She now has a bad scar on her face. Margaret would much rather be in England, but her father is the cartographer, and she herself was the object of some scandal after her liaison with an American soldier. Her mother feels that taking her to India will make the scandal subside, and that they might be able to meet up with Lady Mountbatten and her daughter Pamela, who are making all of the society newspapers because of their charitable work in India while Lord Mountbatten is arranging the details of the Partition. Tariq is drawn to Margaret a bit, because she is exotic and outspoken, but is also interested in Anu. Anu just wants to stay safe, and gets a glimpse of a totally different lifestyle when she is dealing with Margaret. Margaret thinks Tariq is cute, and would be glad of liaison, but is thwarted in her attempts. As the deadline for Partition draws closer, the three are thrown into closer contact and put in the middle of a dangerous situation.
Strengths: Not only did I learn a lot about British history, but the romance and intrigue made this a fast and interesting read. Margaret was fairly reprehensible, but this looks at an English girl abroad would be interesting to students who have gotten sucked in to Downton Abby. Bradbury does so many different types of books well, and this was a nice mix of many things. Definitely buying, even though it won't be wildly popular.
Weaknesses: Hard enough to get students to read history, much less the history of India. I really like Venkatraman's Climbing the Stairs, but it's tough to convince students to read it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pirate's Coin

Timeslip Tuesday is a recurring feature at Charlotte's Library. Charlotte also does a fabulous round up of middle grade and YA fantasy fiction on Sundays.

The Pirate's Coin: A Sixty-Eight Rooms AdventureMalone, Marianne. The Pirate's Coin (A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure)
28 May 2013, Random House Books For Young Readers

After their adventures in The Sixty-Eight Rooms and Stealing Magic, Jack and Ruthie are back. They are still interested in having adventures in the rooms (who wouldn't be?), but have a more serious reason to investigate-- during a genealogy project at school, they find out that their friend Kendra is a descendent of a woman who ran a business in the early twentieth century, something rare for an African-American woman at the time. Even though Kenra's ancestor had gotten her formulae from her ancestor, who was a slave, she had no proof. Ruthie and Jack find a book of recipes, but also a cryptic note that they should talk to Isabelle. They do, and find out that she worked with Mrs. Thorne and knows that a will was drawn up clearing Kendra's relative. The will must be in the rooms somewhere, where it was put for safekeeping, and the children need to find it. Jack also wants to find an ancestor of his own-- Jack Norfleet, a pirate! After meeting him, however, Jack starts to fade away, and Ruthie has to go back and set things right so that Jack doesn't cease to exist. Despite a dangerous spider encounter and troubles with museum security, Jack and Ruthie use their time traveling adventures to help solve mysteries in the present day.
Strengths: One of the best time travel devices EVER-- miniature rooms that actually exist. Certain objects animate the rooms, and while it's a little unlikely that the children would get in to the museum, a convincing back story has been built. I like the children, and their reasons for being in the rooms are solid. I would have adored these books when I was younger.
Weaknesses:The first two in the series don't get checked out very much, so I'm debating purchasing the third. There is a fourth coming out as well, and I don't know that I can justify them. Sigh.


Boy NobodyZadoff, Allen. Boy Nobody.
11 June 2013, Little Brown
ARC from publishers at my request

Ben isn't a regular kid. He works for the Program as a paid assassin. They rule his life, tell him what to do, and he does it, because they killed his parents and he has no where else to go. Fresh from killing his new best friend's father, he is sent to New York City... to kill the mayor. In order to do this, he is sent to the mayor's daughter's private school and has to befriend her. He has five days to complete this latest assignment, but there are wrinkles galore. First off, he rather likes Sam, and he feels a bit sorry for her father after he meets him. This hasn't stopped him in the past, but Ben also feels that he is being followed and that something if wrong with the whole mission. He wants to continue his work with the Program, but he also is longing for his parents and a normal life. Since he also fancies Sam, will it be enough for him to distance himself from his life of crime?
Strengths: I love Zadoff's writing, and it was great fun to read a thriller by him. Ben was as sympathetic a character as a brain washed assassin could be, the romance with Sam was nice, and the details of how Ben contacts his "parents" in the program were well done and intriguing. This is exactly what students are asking for, and I would definitely purchase for a high school. (Also tried to read another thriller right after this; Glen Beck's The Overton Window that a student loaned me. Boy Nobody was so much better that the other book doesn't even seem like a book.)
Weaknesses: Ah, well. This is too YA for my crowd for several reasons. Like The Reluctant Assassin, there's the problem of cold-blooded murder. Without a pivotal one at the end of the book, I might have considered purchasing, but I didn't get the feeling that Ben would ever be able to stop his association with the Program. There was also some middle school inappropriate sexual behavior, and a rather disturbing scene with a secondary character abusing, um, library books in a disturbing fashion. A huge percentage of the books that get checked out in my library are ones that I put in students' hands myself, so I'm just not all that comfortable with having this one. I enjoyed it, though! Can't wait to see what Zadoff will write next.

UnWholly (Unwind, #2) Shusterman, Neal. UnWholly. 
28 August 2012, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Yes, it took until school was out for me to be able to have a copy of this to read. I had to replace a copy of Unwind because it fell in to little pieces. There is supposedly a movie coming out, although details are sketchy. Surly Teen Boy, who  follows the Neal Shusterman Facebook page, reports that there will be four books in his series. Very dark, very dystopian, and current news articles are interpolated to good effect to point out how close reality is to this book.

That said, I found it confusing. Too many characters, too many points of view, and at first I thought that I had grabbed the first book by mistake, since there were some similar characters. But my students adore it, and that's what counts! If I bought what I adored, the shelves would be empty except for Anne of Green Gables, some Alcott, and everything Anthony Horowitz has ever written!

Monday, July 29, 2013

MMGM-- Dorko the Magnificent

Beaty, Andrea. Dorko the Magnificent
1 April 2013, Amulet Books

Robbie Darko has always been interested in magic tricks, even though they constantly get him in trouble at school--he really did think he had that trick with the rabbit down. How was he to know that Houdi would escape and eat everyone's lunches? He really wants to go out of Hobson Elementary with a fantastic performance in the school talent show, but he has a lot of things working against him. His past problems have irritated some of the other students and teachers, and he has to deal with Grandma Melvyn moving in to his room, so he has to share with a younger brother. Grandma Melvyn (really a great aunt) needs knee surgery, so is living with Robbie's family for a little bit for help until she can get that scheduled. At first Robbie doesn't like her, but it turns out that she performed as part of a magic act, and is soon teaching Robbie some great tricks-- after he practices a LOT. He starts to put together an act, and enlists his friend Cat as an assistant. Things are going well until he accidentally crosses Grandma Melvin. Can Robbie pull everything together in time for the show, and can he make things right with Grandma?
Strengths: Grandma Melvyn is one of the best older characters I've encountered in a while. She's tricky and fiesty and multidimensional. Not only do students not meet many actual older adults, I don't think they meet many fictional ones, either. This had a lot of good information on magic acts as well, some school drama, and engaging characters.
Weaknesses: A little unsure on the audience for this. I can't think of any middle school students who have an interest in magic, although I would definitely purchase for an elementary school. Also, it is unclear whether Robbie has a Disaster plan for his rabbit.

For a cute picture of a dog ruminating upon this title, head over to Binky's Book Club, where "Binky and her friends sit in the vicinity of books." Sylvie approves.

No Nonfiction Monday post here-- I've been doing more home repairs than reading lately. I don't feel too bad, because there wasn't a host listed for today when I checked on 7/22.

This makes me feel like so much less of a slacker!


Do head over to Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for a variety of Middle Grade Reviews as well as to Teach Mentor Texts where they are always on top of hosting It's Monday! What Are You Reading!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Boy on the Bridge

Standiford, Natalie. The Boy on the Bridge
1 August 2013, Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com, where I am automatically approved. Thank you!



Laura is spending a semester in Leningrad in 1982 because she is a Russian studies major at Brown. It’s cold, the food is bad, and the locals aren’t exactly friendly, until she meets Alyosha when he saves her from begging gypsy women. The two hit it off, and Laura gets to see a side of Russia previously unavailable to her. Alyosha is an artist who has run afoul of his father and makes his living painting movie posters. He and Laura travel around, fall in love, and eventually make plans to be married. Laura knows that this is fraught with complications, since the USSR won’t let Alyosha out quickly, but he assures her that by the time she graduates, he will be in the US and they can move to San Francisco. The course of true love, however, never runs smoothly, and circumstances keep them apart.
Strengths: Cannot really do this one justice. Standiford spent a semester in Russia, and it clearly shows. The details of life in the USSR at this time are starkly but richly portrayed. I don’t know if Standiford loved and lost in Russia, but she must have known someone who did. The best romances are always the ones that end. This is brilliant and so sad!
Weaknesses: This one is a tad YA, but fairly tame. There is one scene at the very end that’s slightly more descriptive—clothes are removed and the two get into bed, but there’s nothing overly graphic. I’m thinking that if one of my girls gets through all of the thirty year old Russian history details, this is a tame reward!

And the cover... not 1980s. Sigh. To be expected. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Video Games

Want to hear about MEAN? Until very recently, Members of Staff were limited to a half hour of screen time PER DAY. That's right-- either a half of of a PBS show, or a half hour of an educational video game. Later, they could check e mail or Facebook, or attempt to play RuneScape with dial-up, but they still had only a half hour. In the summer, they only could watch a movie if it rained. My eldest daughter thinks this is the best thing I have ever done, having spent some time babysitting children who were overly fond of video games. I'd been saying that few books address this topic, and lo and behold, TWO graphic novels about video games showed up.

After you read this, get off the computer and go outside and play. Although, having search this topic, parents are really paranoid about doing this now. I'm skulking off to go feel old....

Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain: Lunch Lady #9Krosoczka, Jarrett. Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villian
23 April 2013, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Copy from Young Adult Books Central, and reviewed there.

Hector is determined to run for student body president against Christopher Milmoe even though Milmoe has huge banners, buttons, and campaign promises that aren't realistic. He even brings in pizza on vegetable souffle day in the cafeteria! At the same time, electronic devices start disappearing around the school, including Hector's X-Station Mobile. The Lunch Ladies are on this, using what technology they have left for surveillance. When they discover the culprit, they go to battle with him... but Lunch Lady gets sucked in Hector's video game and is in danger of losing. Even though it's in the middle of speeches, Hector comes to her rescue. No matter what the outcome of the election is, though, problems are looming because of the new, evil superintendent, Dr. Van Grindheimer. What will become of the Lunch Ladies in book 10?
Strengths: As always, these are a fun romp of evil characters. No one (except the lunch ladies) is spared! Children delight in seeing teachers play the bad guy if it is done in an over-the-top way, and the illustrations in these books are always fun to look at. With the state of school funding, I got a big kick out of the evil superintendent strutting around in pointy black boots and making her cuts, knowing that the Lunch Ladies will find a way to neutralize her!
Weaknesses: More school elections. Still not my favorite thing!

Game On! (Squish, #5)Holm, Jennifer L. and Matthew. Squish: Game on (Squish #5)
1 May 2013, Random House
Copy from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

Squish certainly loves to read comic books about Super Amoeba, but when his friends Peggy and Pod get him hooked on the video game Meitosis,Squish is so determined to make it to the next level that he doesn't care about anything else. He doesn't do his book report on Moby Dick, he doesn't sleep, and he doesn't even care about going to the comic convention with his dad! Evenutally, Squish realizes that the game isn't that exciting, and that he really needs to pay attention to other things in his life.
Strengths: Snarky humor that appeals to both kids and grown ups is always the best part of Squish. Additional information about science is fun as well, but children will enjoy seeing Squish caught in the throes of striving for "rainbow effect" and "kitten effect" to the exclusion of all else. A teacher who likes comics, as well as a father who supports Squish's interest, add to the fun characters.
Weaknesses: This was a bit cautionary, and I'm not sure if children who are addicted to video games will see themselves in this and learn from it! We can only hope!

Touched by Fire

Touched by FireWatts, Irene N. Touched by Fire.
10 September 2013, Tundra
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Miriam's first encounter with fire is when the Cossack's burn down her family's home in a pogrom in 1905. The family (which includes her grandparents, Bubbe and Zayde, mother, tailor father, and obstinate brother Yuri) moves to Kiev. Fearing that things are getting worse for Jews, the family relocates to Berlin and prepares to move to the US. Baby Devora soon joins them, and the father moves to the US, hoping to send for the rest of the family soon. When the tickets finally arrive, Devora is too sick to travel, and Yuri runs away in protest. When he doesn't answer the official's questions, he is deemed unfit to go, and the mother decides to stay behind and send Miriam on her own. She is scared, but meets an Italian girl named Rosie on the ship, and the two become good friends. Her father is disappointed that the rest of the family couldn't make it, but is doing very well in New York. Rosie helps Miriam get a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where Miriam encounters Malka, a long lost friend from her village. Eventually, Devora and the mother join the family, but Yuri and the grandparents decide to stay. Miriam and her friends are working when the fire breaks out in the factory, and some of her friends do not survive. An interesting postscript takes place at the eve of WWII with Yuri's young son.
Strengths: I am always intrigued by this historic event, and the lives of immigrants during this time period. One book I've owned for over 30 years is Meredith Tax's  1982 Rivington Street. Never been able to get rid of it. I really liked the span of the story, taking our characters from the pogroms in Russia to the eve of WWII. Nicely written, with good characters.
Weaknesses: There are several other good titles (Ashes of Roses, Threads and Flames) on this topic, and while I liked this one better than some, it didn't have anything terribly new and innovative. I will still probably buy it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Killer Species: Menance From the Deep

Muggy and hot enough for you? Hey, you have it easy, unless you are living in the Everglades, where the following book is set!

Killer Species #1: Menace From the DeepSpradlin, Michael. Killer Species: Menance From the Deep
25 June 2013, Scholastic Paperbacks
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there. 

Emmet Doyle is mad enough that he and his avian researcher father have to move from Montana to Florida, but nothing goes right. But then, nothing has ever since his mother passed away. Luckily, the park ranger in charge of where his father will be working, Dr. Geaux, has a son about his age, Calvin, and the two hit it off, especially when a short trip through the swamp puts them in the path of killer alligators. One of these killers has shown up, dead, and is the reason that Emmet's father was brought it. It seems to have some avian DNA, and is no doubt bioengineered. In fact, a mad scientist who goes by the name of Dr. Catalyst has engineered the animals to take out invasive boa constrictors, and he feels he is trying to save the Everglades. So does Mr. Newton, Emmet's science teacher, who is suspicious of everyone, including Emmet's father. When Dr. Doyle is kidnapped and ransomed by the deranged man, Emmet and Calvin use what they know about the swamp to try to find him. Unfortunately, Catalyst gets away, which leads us to

Killer Species #2: Feeding Frenzy Feeding Frenzy, Book #2, which comes out 13 October 2013!
Strengths: Realistic portrayal of boys reluctantly becoming friends, and great descriptions of the swamp and the animals that are native to it. Interesting science and mutations, and lots of action and adventure. I would expect nothing less from Mr. Spradlin, whose Youngest Templar series is also fantastic!
Weaknesses: Only available in paperback! Drat! And I did REALLY worry about Emmet's poodle, Apollo, who got dragged all over the swamp. Leave the poodle at home. It's only going to bark at the bioengineered killing freaks.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rules for Ghosting

Rules for GhostingPaquette, A.J. Rules for Ghosting
9 July 2013, Walker Children's
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Dahlia has had a slightly boring existence as a ghost in Silverton Manor, and ever since her mother moved out, it's even worse. She's glad when Mrs. Tibbs, another ghost, comes to help her get released. At the same time, Oliver Day's family is moving in to help renovate the house and remove the ghost stigma so that Mr. Rutabartle can finally sell it. Oliver is thrilled to be in such a great house, and hopes that maybe this time his family can stay. His father does online puppet shows, so Oliver Day and his siblings Poppy and six year old twins Junie and Joe rely their mother and father's income at house sitting. When Mr. Riley, a contractor, shows up, the parents believe he has been sent by Mr. Rutabartle, and allow him to move in to start fixing up the house, but Wiley is really a ghost catcher. Mrs. Tibbs has helped Dahlia realize that she is anchored to the house by something that occurred in the past, and that she needs to discover what it is before she can be released. Mr. Wiley manages to catch Mrs. Tibbs and is ready to dissect her, so Dahlia manifests to Oliver and asks for his help. The two, with Poppy's help, manage to find a hidden attic room with the keys to many mysteries of the house. Can they clear these up, keep Oliver's family safe, rescue Mrs. Tibbs, and finally send Dahlia to where she needs to be?
Strengths: A great haunted house, and convincing ghost details. For some reason, I kept thinking of one of my favorite picture books, Jane Thayer's Gus was a Friendly Ghost when I read it. The Day family is amusing, and the villains are creepy without being over the top. I especially liked the first chapter, and there's some good writing in this.
Weaknesses: There's a lot going on in this book, and it gets confusing. The note at the end of the book explains the author's path to this story, and I understand why she included Oliver's story (which was a really good call), but I found that the Mr. Wiley and Laura Silverton plots dragged down the book a bit, and I just really wanted to find out whether Oliver would get to stay in the house!



Wow! I have gotten to the point where I don't have any paper ARCs to read, I've read all the library books I had checked out, AND I only have five books from Netgalley that I need to look through (Constable, The Nazi Hunters, Wolf, Elite Infantry, and Touched by Fire.)! I guess I need to make a trip to the library today, since the 300 and some books I ordered from Follett and Baker and Taylor (some of which I do need to read before I put them on the shelves) won't be in for another couple of weeks.

This means that I may have to clean out the linen closet. Drat!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

World Wednesday- Torn


TornMassey, David. Torn.
30 July 2013, Chicken House
E ARC from Netgalley.com

Elinor is a British medic new to her post in Afghanistan. She has a difficult bunk mate, Heidi, who is very resentful of her presence, and goofy cohorts who get off on the wrong foot with her by watching her shower. The group pulls together when they take a young boy, Husna, whose entire village was destroyed, with the exception of some children, who have formed the Young Martyrs group that is intent on killing adults on any side of the conflict. Husna maintains that Americans bombed his village, and a contingent sets out to investigate. While there, they find that the journalist daughter of the general in charge of the whole operation was married to an Afghani and most likely perished in the bombing, although her step son and daughter, Aroush, have survived. Aroush seems to show up any time someone is about to die, but Elinor is not convinced she is a ghost. Elinor takes a shine to Ben, an American Special Ops soldier that is on the same mission, but realizes that forming attachments while serving can be too distracting. The group manages to uncover the journalist’s papers as well as a Taliban plot, and barely make it back to base in one piece.
Strengths: It is possible to write to write a realistic book about war without a lot of curse words. Bravo. This didn’t pull any punches—there are several members of the unit that die, and Elinor is affected by their deaths. The danger is not downplayed at all, but it was interesting to me that there was so much danger even when the unit wasn’t actively fighting—they were just patrolling the area. The tie in with the general’s daughter being a journalist but living in a remote village was a nice touch.
Weaknesses: The decorations at the beginning of each chapter (poppies) slowed the load time on this down considerably and crashed my Nook. Again, e versions of books should take this into consideration. As for the story, I have no quibbles as all. Excellent stuff, to pair with Reedy’s Out of the Dust and the few other titles that are out there about Afghanistan.