Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart

Noel had been kissing Ariel Olivieri.
I felt shattered.
Except, how could I be shattered? We weren't together. We would never be together, because of Nora liking him. We had barely spoken to one another since the term started.
Get over it, I told myself. You're not allowed to be shattered.
He's your Chem partner. You're his bodyguard.
Nothing more. (50)

E. Lockhart continues Ruby Oliver's journey through high school in the latest installment The Treasure Map of Boys. Following the events of The Boy Book, Ruby Oliver is faced with the dillema of being in a perpetual state of noboyfriend. That doesn't mean that she still doesn't have boy trouble though. She's conflicted by her feelings towards her ex-boyfriend Jackson who cheated on her with her ex-bestfriend Kim. Noel also seems to like Ruby, but Ruby is trying not to let Nora find out because she promised Nora (who likes Noel) that Ruby wouldn't date him. And then there's the little fact that Nora recently got fired from her job at the zoo for calling a dad drunk. Overall, it's no wonder that Ruby is having panic attacks. If only life wasn't so complicated.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen

Sitting in a disarray of just-blooming bluebells, mud, and free-floating feathers was a small girl. A small girl with wings. [...]
"More of a cherub, really, don't you think, John?" said Charles.
"And you would know this how?" asked John. "When have you ever seen a cherub?"
"Look," said Charles, "when he said 'angel,' I was expecting something a little more grown-up. This cherub can't be more than five years old."
"I'm eight, I'll have you know," the girl piped up. "Next Thursday, anyway. And I'm not a cherub or an angel, whatever those are. I'm Laura Glue, and Laura Glue is me." (16)

In the sequel to Here, There Be Dragons, James Owen begins the story nine years later. Charles and John have been contacted by Jack's brother to come immediately. Upon arrival, they are greated not only by Jack and his brother, but by a tiny winged girl with a message for "Jamie" that "The Crusade has begun." Jamie turns out to be Sir James Barrie, the previous Caretaker of the Imaginarium Geographica. After calling on their old friend Bert, they discover that children, including Aven's son, have all gone missing along with the dragon ships. As the conduct The Search for the Red Dragon, they're transported to Never Land where they meet some familiar characters.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

I came to court last autumn to serve the new queen, and awaited her winter arrival with the rest of her ladies-in-waiting. But by early spring the gift of the sapphire made the focus of the king's affection clear for all to see. At fifteen years old, I am on the brink of gaining great wealth and great privilege for my family. Or so I have been told. I had best act properly, I am often reminded, or else squander all of our chances. The king is forty-nine and not as well as he once was. Time is precious, fleeting. (5)

Abby Libby presents a fictionalized account of Catherine Howard in The King's Rose. For those not familiar with the story, King Henry VIII is currently married to wife number four. But when he catches sight of fifteen year old Catherine Howard (cousin to wife number two Anne Boleyn), he promptly divorces his wife and weds Catherine. Catherine, however, is less than estatic, having been foisted on the king by her ambitious family instead of courting the man she actually loves. Court intrigue and politics make it dangerous for Catherine, who must produce an heir before the king looses interest in her or is convinced by his advisors to get rid of her.


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

It's not like Froggy Welsh the Fourth is a huge catch. First of all, there's his name. Not a nickname for Frank or Frederick or even Frog. I'm still shocked that his great-great grandparents named a son Froggy. But what astounds me to no end is that three subsequent generations decided to follow suit.
Froggy is medium height and slender. His ruffled blond hair crests into a cowlick. His dollop of a nose reminds me of a lamb's snout. Especially since it's always pinkish, probably from so much tweaking. Whenever his pubescent voice cracks, he sounds like a screeching chicken. Put his name and traits together and you've got a farm. (8)

In The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, this is the boy that Virginia Shreves is allowing to make out with her every Monday after school, before her parents come home and before he has to go to trombone lessons. Needless to say, this is the first of many less than perfect aspects about her life, especially when she compares her larger-than-average self to her feminist older sister Anais and her idolized off-to-college brother Byron. Life is perfect for them, at least that's what Virginia thinks, until the family receives news that shatters their efforts of a perfect life. Carolyn Mackler's witty portrayal of a self-deprecating teenager won a Printz Honor when it was first released.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival by Arthur Slade

Newton Starker knew he would most likely die from a lightning strike. The bolt would deliver three hundred kilovolts of electricity to the top of his skull, burning his scalp and popping thousands of brain cells like popcorn. Then it would arc along his nervous system, arteries and veins, frying his heart and lungs. The lightning would leave deep burns at the exit points as it blew off his shoes and scraps of his clothing.
It would happen in the blink of an eye. Zap! One fried fourteen-year-old Newton, the last male heir of the Starker line. [...]
Lightning had blotted out nearly ever member of the Starker family tree, including his grandfather, his uncle Darwin, his mother. (2-3)

After his mother's inevitable death by lightning strike, Newton Starker feels he has no choice but to enroll himself in the Jerry Potts Academy for Survival, where they wear kilts, give their students traditional knives to wear, and teach them out to eat bugs. Here, he hopes to learn how to prevent himself from becoming the next lightning casualty, which has been happening since the late 1700s to every member of the Starker family. Instead of making friends however, he looses his kilt in front of the entire class and then looses fist fight with a girl. But with a scent tracking pig who seems to understand more than is normal, will Newton be able to save the day before the approaching storm gets him? Get Jolted with Arthur Slade's novel about finding yourself, with the help of a pig.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

For me, summer vacation is basically a three-month guilt trip.
Just because the weather's nice, everyone expects you to be outside all day "frolicking" or whatever. And if you don't spend every second outdoors, people think there's something wrong with you. But the truth is, I've always been more of an indoor person.
The way I like to spend my summer vacation is in front of the TV, playing video games with the curtains closed and the lights turned off. (1)

It's here! The fourth installment of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney has arrived! In Dog Days, Greg is dealing with the effects of a bad economy. His family can't afford the country club pool like Rowley's dad, so he's forced to endure the town pool. Heather the life guard makes it bearable, but Greg is forced to pay for all the smoothies that he and Rowley ordered. They start a lawn mowing company together even though neither one has access to a lawn mower, but Greg is NOT going to step over the dog turds that cover the yard. When Greg's dad has to pick him up early from a not so fun camping trip with Rowley's family, which included no television or video games, Greg gets worried that he's going to be sold, and calls the cops. Greg's story is anything but predictable.


Fade by Lisa McMann

"We've done complete background checks on all the teachers. Everyone comes up squeaky clean. And now we're stuck. Cabe, Janie, this is why I had you at the all-nighter. I'm looking for any information you can give me about Fieldridge teachers who might be sexual predators in their spare time. Are you up for the challenge? This one could be a bit dangerous. Hannagan, chances are, the predator is male. If we can determine who we're after, we may need to use you as bait so we can nail him. Think about it and get back to me on how you feel about it. If you don't want to do this assignment, you're off the hook. No pressure." (14-15)

In Fade, the sequel to Lisa McMann's Wake, Janie Hannagan is becoming decidedly more hands-on with her second police investigation. Rather than relying on her dreams, she puts herself in the thick of things trying to track a sexual predator. While she's gaining more control over her dream powers, she's also realizing that there might be consequences to them that she was never aware of originally. On top of that, she's trying to keep her overly-protective boyfriend a secret from everyone and deal with senior year responsibilities. When she begins to get in over her head, who will help her distinguish what is real and what is the dream world?


Wake by Lisa McMann

She closes her eyes. Tries to think. Holds up a weak finger, letting him know she needs a moment. But she feels the next one coming already. She doesn't have much time. And she has to prepare him. She doesn't have a choice.
"Cabel. Do not freak if--when--I do that again, okay? Do NOT stop the bus. Do NOT tell a teacher, oh God, no. No matter what." She grips the armrests and fights to keep her vision. "Can you trust me? Trust me and just let it happen?"
The pain of concentration is excruciating. She is cringing, holding her head. [...] Cabel is gawking at Janie. "Okay," he says. "Okay." (74)

In Lisa McMann's first book Wake, seventeen year old Janie Hannangan is getting fed up with her special ability to jump uncontrolably into people's dreams. It's been happening ever since she was eight, with increasing frequency now that her classmates are falling asleep in school and on fieldtrips. She's kept her curse a secret, until classmate Cabel starts trying to determine what's different about Janie. Her ability reveals that Cabel also has his own secrets to hide, and they just might be more than she ever realized.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl by Albert Marrin

"At noon, darkness enveloped the earth. It seemed like an evil spirit had splashed an immense bucket of black paint across the sky. Within minutes, from horizon to horizon, the sun disappeared and noontime became "midnight." But such a midnight! There was no moon, mo stars, no meteorites flashing across the heavens. Instead, billowing clouds of dust, some rising more than two miles into the air, whipped across the plains. Driven by howling winds, the clouds easily overtook speeding cars. As the dust fell back to earth, it drifted like dirty, crunchy snow, choking roads and bringing trains to a grinding halt. Worse, the dust buried crops and livestock, destroying farmers' homes and livlihoods." (2)

Award winning author Albert Marrin presents a comprehensive discussion of the Dust Bowl in his newest book Years of Dust. Marrin takes readers all the way back to the 1700s to explain how pioneers and westward expansion effected the economy and ecology of the plains and led to the dust storms. He also talks about the effects of the storm, which caused over 2 million people to leave the area in search of a better life. Finally, he talks about possible solutions to the problems, dust storms around the world, and how events around the world can effect our planet. Filled with black and white photos, drawings, and charts that tell the story, children and adults will be enthralled.


Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls by Lynne Jonell

Emmy Addison was an ordinary girl--almost.
She had straight dark hair, skinny legs with a scrape on one knee, and no particular talent that she knew of. If you didn't count the fact that her parents were rich (very), her best friend was a boy (and a soccer star), and she could talk to rodents (and they talked back), she was very ordinary indeed. (1)

For fans of the first book in the series, Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, Lynne Jonell's Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls starts off about a month later. Emmy is looking forward to being a normal girl this summer, now that things are back to normal. But no matter how much she tries to distance herself from the rodent community in an effort to make human friends, Miss Barmy is still on the loose, and five girls are still missing. In fact, Miss Barmy has convinced everyone that she has changed, and is planning a beauty paegant for the whole community. Emmy doesn't believe it for one second, and sets off to discover the secret plan that involves stolen jewels by shrinking herself once again. When Sissy gets injured and Emmy blames herself, will Emmy and her friend Joe be stuck in the rat world forever?


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation by Gregory Maguire

"I won't attempt to name Sendak's theme. I will look at the body of his work casually, colloquially, admiringly, from several different approaches in order to show you what I see, and why I think the word genius isn't grade inflation." (4)

The author Gregory Maguire, of Wicked fame, sets out to show the world his long withheld appreciation of the work of Maurice Sendak. In Making Mischief, Maguire compares his art not only against other works of his own art, but also to such classics as William Blake and Chuck Jones and lesser known artists like Iona and Peter Opie and William Nicholson. While people familiar with art will probably get the most out of this book, the last chapters are enjoyable to everyone. In these, Maguire showcases the four popular categories (flying, reading, children, and monsters) that are noticably recurring in Maurice Sendak's works. In chapter four, Maguire picks his top ten pictures from Sendak's body of work. Finally, and probably the most eye-opening, is chapter five, which collects a hodge podge of Sendak's illustrations to retell the Caldecot winning story of Where the Wild Things Are. Fans of Sendak will definitely want to look at this.