Friday, February 27, 2009

One False Note by Gordon Korman

Amy was close to tears. ‘I hate them! Now we’ve lost our only lead!’
‘It wasn’t much of a lead, Amy,” Dan said softly. ‘Just music. Even if it was by Mozart –big whoop.’
‘It is a big whoop,’ his sister lamented. ‘Just because we couldn’t find what was hidden in the piece doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. At least I wanted to play the notes on a piano. Maybe it would have told us something.’
Her brother looked surprised. ‘You want the notes? That’s easy enough.’” (15)

Fourteen year old Amy and eleven year old Dan Cahill, along with their au pair Nellie Gomez and their Egyptian Mau cat are on the trail again, this time tracking specifics about Mozart and his lesser known sister. From Austria to Venice, the sibling sleuths have to again outsmart the other teams who are just as determined to beat them to the next clue. Be prepared for jumping out of windows, boat chases, an ongoing hunger strike, and very angry monks when you read the next installment in the 39 Clues series. Gordon Korman picks up the story in this action packed sequel, One False Note.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

"Can I go outside?"
"What does your mother say?"
"She says you're not going out in weather like that, Coraline Jones."
"Then, no."
"But I want to carry on exploring."
"Then explore the flat," suggested her father. "Look--here's a piece of paper and a pen. Count all the doors and windows. List everything blue. Mount an expedition to discover the hot water tank. And leave me alone to work." (7)

Coraline Jones, mistakenly called Caroline by all of her new neighbors, has just moved into a new house that they share with two former actreses and a crazy old man who claims to talk to his mouse circus. While exploring, Coraline discovers that the door in the drawing room --which originally went nowhere -- now connects her to an alternate universe. She finds a world like hers, with an "other mother" and "other father" who want her to stay. They want her to stay with them so badly, they kidnap Coraline's real parents. Coraline must now find her real parents in the fantastical world if she is ever to return to her real home. Read Coraline by Neil Gaiman either before or after you see the movie. Which one do you like more?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell

"Don’t pretend you didn’t hear the Rat talk, because I know you did.”
“I’m not pretending,” said Emmy hurriedly. “He does. He talks. I don’t know why, either, but nobody else ever seems to hear him–”
“I did,” said Joe.
“Yeah, well, you heard him today, but I’ve been hearing him all year.”…
“All year? You haven’t been in our class all year.”
Emmy stared at him. “I’ve been sitting across from you since September,” she said slowly. (51)

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell tells the story of Emmaline Addison, a good girl who does her homework without being told and excels at everything she does. But no matter what she does, she seems to remain invisable to her teacher and classmates at her new school, Grayson Lake Elementary. It’s no different at home, where her newly wealthy parents are continuously leaving her in the hands of Miss Barmy, a mysterious nanny who forces her to take “vitamins”. However, when classmate Joe admits to Emmy that he is also hearing the class’s pet Rat talk, life for Emmy and Joe gets even stranger. First Joe and then Emmy end up shrinking to about four inches tall. Then, with the help of a nutty, narcaleptic professor and a family of chimpmunks, they must stop an evil plot to steal all of Emmy’s family’s money and lock up Emmy in a loony bin.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Willow Run by Patricia Reilly Giff

“Every single apartment was the same. Gray. Not a curtain on a window….A kindergarten kid could have drawn it: a long low box that stretched from one end of the paper to the other, no paint, no color. And if you divided the box into tiny sections, each family would have one to live in. Worst of all, there was no grass, nothing growing, only tree stumps near the curb, their tops pale and raw. I remembered what Grandpa had said once, shaking his head in anger. ‘To kill a tree!’I could see that Mom was as disappointed as I was. I handed the cats to her, one by one, then backed out of the car.” (33)

This is Margaret “Meggie” Dillion’s first impression of her home in Willow Run, Michigan, where her family has moved to from Rockaway, New York. Her dad just got a new job at the airplane factory there, helping the war effort building planes to fight in World War II. Her mom soon gets a job in the factory too. Their new home is so small, they had to leave behind Meggie’s German Grandfather, who Meggie worries about as she spends her lazy summer afternoons meeting the other kids who live at the plant. She also worries about her brother Eddie, fighting overseas. When a telegram arrives telling the family that Eddie is missing in action, eleven year old Meggie needs to find the strength and courage that she never believed was there. Travel back in time to World War II, and read Willow Run, by Patricia Reilly Giff.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Newly awarded a Newbery Honor!

"My savvy is going to be a good one," I told my brother Rocket. "I just know it."

"Girls don't get the powerful jujubes," said Rocket, running one hand through his dark shock of unkempt hair with a crackle of static. "Girls only get quiet, polite savvies-sugar and spice and everything humdrum savvies. It's boys who get the earthshaking kinds of savvy."

Mississippi "Mibs" Beaumont is about to turn 13, which is when people in her family develop their own special, magical gift, or savvy. Just before that special day however, her father is involved in a car accident. Her mother and older brother rush to tend to their father in a coma, and leaves Mibs, her grandfather, 14 year old Fish, seven year old Sampson, and three year old baby sister Gypsy in the house. On her birthday, Mibs has the unmistakable urge to go see her father, convinced that her secret savvy will help her father recover. She steals away with her two brothers and the preacher's children on a pink Bible delivery bus, and the adventures begin. With Mibs and her brother Fisch trying to stifle their savvys and get them under control before they are discovered, they both realize that they aren't the only ones who have secrets. Savvy by Ingrid Law is a beautifully written book and the story goes until the very end, pulling readers in with its simplicity. If you don't want to read it, then listen to Lily Blau's narration on the audiobook, which punctuates the entire book with different voices that match the characters perfectly.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer

"My name is Moon. Fletcher Moon. And I'm a private detective. In my twelve years on this spinning ball we call Earth, I've seen a lot of things normal people never see. I've seen lunch boxes stripped of everything except fruit. I've seen counterfeit homework networks that operated in five counties, and I've seen truckloads of candy taken from babies.

I though I'd seen it all. ... Or so I believed. I was wrong. Very wrong." (1)

Twelve-year-old Fletcher Moon, called "Half Moon" by just about everyone because he's so short, is trying to make it in the detective business. But when most of your clients pay in candy, it's hard to be taken seriously, especially when you're the youngest Internet certified detective in the world. That is, until April Devereux hires him to find a lock of celebrity hair that was stolen from her playhouse. While working on the case, Half Moon (I mean, Fletcher) gets attacked, and then accused of being an arsonist. One thing leads to another, and he finds himself teaming up with Red Sharkey, one of the Sharkeys, a family whose police record is over three hundred pages long. They have twenty-four hours to clear both their names, and the culprit is the last person you expect. The author of the Artemis Fowl series, Eoin Colfer's Half Moon Investigations combines Dick Tracey films with a kid sized sense of humor and mystery in this laughable tale of one kid's attempt to make a name for himself, before the law does.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Newly awarded a Newbery Honor!

From the practical "No toys in the fish tank" to the intuitional "Late doesn't mean not coming" to the specific "Keep your pants on! Unless Mom, Dad, or the doctor tells you to take them off," twelve year old Catherine's life is full of rules. It has to be, in order to have some order to her life with her eight year old autistic brother David. David finds the only way to express himself is by quoting portions of the book Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel. When a new girl Kristi moves into the house next store, Catherine sees this as an opportunity to have what she's always wished for. Her growing friendship with a wheelchair bound Jason however has her questioning how she feels about disabilities and what constitutes a normal life.

Readers who love Rules by Cynthia Lord as much as I do should also try Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, about a 14-year old boy whose younger brother is fighting lukemia.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

"So, there I was, tied to an alter made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians." (1)

The first sentence (quoted above) is now my favorite first sentence. This is how thirteen year old Alcatraz Smedry begins his true account of how his grandfather and he infiltrated the public library to steal back a bag of sand. That's right, Alcatraz's only gift from his supposedly dead parents arrives on his 13th birthday, and it's a bag of sand, which is promptly stolen by the evil Librarians. His madcap adventure ultimately deals with dinosaurs, paper monsters reminiscent of the creatures from Harry Potter, and Talents that appear worthless, such as arriving late and falling down. In the end however, everyone (including the English dinosaurs) proves their worth. With cliff hanger endings for (almost) every chapter, realistic troubles spelling Pterodactyl, and a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail on page 257, the book Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson is a must read for some hillarious encounters that could only be described in the words of Alcatraz as "propondidty". The sequel is even out already, titled Alcatraz Versus The Scrivener's Bones.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

No Talking by Andrew Clements

The fifth graders at Laketon Elementary are loud, obnoxious, and talkative. They are so loud, that they get their own lunch time, which is monitored by the principal and her red plastic bullhorn. That's not their only problem though. The boys and the girls in the fifth grade class can't stand one another. So when Dave Parker challenges Lyndsey Burgess to stay quiet for two whole days, it quickly becomes a war of boys versus girls. The teachers don't know about the war however, and they are very suspicious that the class that never stopped talking, now refuses to talk. Humming through choir practice and having three word debates in class might be amusing to some, but it's downright irritating to most. What happens when the principal orders the students to begin talking again, or else? Read No Talking by Andrew Clements to find out if students really do have "the right to remain silent."