Monday, December 28, 2009

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney

Pa stood up and started pacing around, rubbing the back of his neck the way he always did when he was pondering something important.
"Eben, I have a deal for you," he finally announced. "You find yourself Seven Wonders right here in Sassafras Springs, and I'll buy you a ticket to go see Molly and Eli and that mountain." [...]
"How long do I have?"
"Seven days seems fair," said Pa, settling back down. "Long as it took for God to create this world and take a day off."
"A Wonder a day? I don't know." At that moment, seven of anything sounded like a lot. Especially since if Sassafras Springs had Wonders, they hadn't showed up so far. (10-11)

Eben McAllister lives in Sassafras Springs, Missouri, which is as boring a place as you can get compared to the pictures he sees at school of pyramids and hanging gardens and temples. So when his father challenges him to find The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs in order to go on a train ride up to Colorado, he's worried he won't succeed. But, a bet is a bet, and he's itching to see something besides the farmland that surrounds his tiny town. Eben though doesn't have great big wonders, so where is he going to find something as wonderous as pyramids? Weaving tall tales with true events, Betty G. Birney weaves a fun story that makes you question what really is so wonderous about a wonder.


In Too Deep by Jude Watson

"Is there something you want to tell me? About what you're really doing in Australia?"
"Okay, Dan said. "I guess it's time we told you the truth."
Amy gave him a no way look.
"Back in Massachusetts, Amy and I broke into our school one night. No biggie, right? Except that our assistant principal, Mortimer C. Murchinson, is an alien. At night he takes off his face and turns into this eleven-foot-tall thing with eight arms . . ."
". . .who plays for the Boston Celtics," Shep said with a sigh. "I get it." His gaze was searching as it rested on them. Then he turned and started back to the cockpit. "If you see any stealth bombers coming our way, just give a yell, okay?"
"You got it, Captain," Dan answered. (108)

In Jude Watson's second book for the 39 Clues series, In Too Deep is a very appropriate title. Dan and Amy Cahill are off to Australia, with au pair Nellie and cat in tow, and they are in over their heads. The Kabra's mother Isabel has entered the fray, and she is not happy with the way her children have been handling the hunt. Irina is also following close behind, but might have her own agenda. New things are coming to light about Nellie, including the fact that she can fly a plane?! New information is also resurfacing about Dan and Amy's parents, and the fire that took their lives. In the race for the 39 Clues, you either sink or swim.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Back Home by Julia Keller

"When your dad comes home," my mother went on, "he's going to be different, okay? He was hurt really, really bad, and he--" She stopped. Then she went on.
There are things you hear that, once you hear them, just keep traveling through you forever, like sunlight through a windowpane. Like it's some sort of natural process. They don't stop. So you're never really not hearing them, ever again.
"He doesn't have one of his legs anymore," my mother said, "and he doesn't have one of his arms either." She was saying these things in a strange calm voice like they were normal to say, like they were ordinary things. Like checking off items on a list for the store. "But he's going to be okay. He'll get better. They're going to give him a new leg and a new arm, and then he'll be able to get around and do things and play with you." (9-10)

But for Rachel Browning, life is anything but ordinary when her father returns from Iraq. Her dad wasn't even a real soldier, just a public-relations director for a power company who spent time serving in the National Guard. It's not like he killed people for a living. But he's the one who was injured and suffered a traumatic brain injury and became a double amputee. Rachel can't get used to her father's lack of initiative to get better, and she looses friends as they become embarrassed over her situation. Julia Keller wrote Back Home after doing a news story about traumatic brain injuries. Readers will learn the difficulties of trying to make a family whole again after war tears them apart.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

“A pirate ship needs a name that inspires fear in the heart of every sailor who hears it,” said Stache. He drummed his bony fingers thoughfully on the desk that once belonged to Captain Scott.
Smee said, “What about the Jellyfish?”
Stache turned and stared at Smee with a look that Smee, unfortunately, mistook for encoragement.
“I mean the stinging kind,” Smee continued brightly. “I’ve seen grown men cry when they–”
“SHUT UP, YOU IDJIT,” thundered Stache, slamming the deck with his fist. He took a long, deep breath, then continued in a calm voice: “You don’t name a pirate ship the Jellyfish.”(131-132)

Peter, who claims to be one year older than the oldest person of the group, is loaded onto the Never Land with four other orphans; James, Prentiss, Thomas, and Tubby Ted. Also on the ship is Molly, the daughter of a visiting dignitary, her governess Mrs. Bumbrake, and a trunk, which seems slightly unusual to Peter. He doesn’t realize how unusual until pirates show up, led by the evil captain Black Stache. Everyone ends up on a remote island as a result of a storm and revenge, where they encounter just what the contents of the trunk can do. Dave Barry and Ridley have started a rollicking, pirate filled series with Peter and the Starcatchers, a prequel to Peter Pan.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

"But I can't marry Jorge! We don't love each other!"
My mother gave me a look so cold that I stepped back a pace. "What does that have to do with anything?" she asked. "Husbands and wives who love each other are the exception, not the rule. Stop whining and be happy that he wants your hand at all. Not many princes would be willing to marry someone as awkward as you. Despite all my efforts, you have few social graces. If only you'd been born a boy as your father and I had wanted! Maybe then I could have made comething of you. As it is, this match is the best that you can hope for, so I expect you to be gracious about it. Now see what you've done! I can feel my headache returning."
Marrying Jorge would be a terrible mistake. (23)

Out of pure frustration, Princess Emeralda runs away from the castle, rather than having to deal with her soon to be fiance Jorge. It's in the neighboring swamp that she encounters a frog, who claims to be Prince Eadric turned into a frog by a spell that can only be broken by a kiss. Princess Emeralda feels she has nothing else left to loose, so she puckers up, first wiping the dead fly legs from his mouth. The kiss has disasterous consequences, forcing Emeralda and Eadric to travel to the scene of the first enchantment to find a solution to the problem.

The Frog Princess, by E.D. Baker, served as inspiration for Disney's newest movie The Princess and the Frog, due to hit theatres this weekend. If you like this book, try the rest in the series.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano (But She Does Love Being in Recitals) by Peggy Gifford

Two things disappointed Moxy about the recital tonight. The first was the fact that "Heart and Soul" was such a short song. She thought it should go on at least five minutes longer.
The second thing was that her twin brother, Mark Maxwell, who was seven minutes younger, was going to play a solo called "The Flight of the Bumblebee." Moxy thought that if Mark was going to play a solo then she, Moxy Maxwell, should be able to play a solo too.(6)

Peggy Gifford's Moxy Maxwell series is quickly growing, with a new book every year for the last three years. Some of you might remember Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuar Little or Writing Thank You Notes. Well, now Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano. She's more concerned with practicing her bow with her younger sister, making sure her mom made 150 cupcakes after an all night flight from Africa, and trying on her cape and crown to make sure they fit perfectly. Oh, and warm up her singing voice, just in case she gets asked to sing. She is not concerned about the fact that she does not stop playing the song in the right spot. She's confident she'll succeed, because she's Moxy. Right?


Slant by Laura E. Williams

I turn and walk back, my eyes lifted to the sky. More stars are out, but that first one I saw is still burning the brightest. I hope it's not a planet instead of a star. Wishing on a planet doesn't work, does it? Just in case, I pick another pinprick of light and wish on it too. I kinda worry, though, that this is negating my earlier wish since this really isn't the first star I've seen tonight. Have my two wishes canceled each other out? I comfort myself with the thought that at least I had my birthday wish. And a birthday wish, especially for a girl turning thirteen, should be pretty powerful. Not that I'm obsessed or anything. (11)

Laura E. Williams tells the story of newly turned thirteen Lauren who is hoping, wishing, and praying for one thing; the chance to have an operation to fix her eyes. There's nothing wrong with them, except as an adopted Korean teen she feels out of place with her classmates. They call her Slant and other names. When the boy she likes calls her that, she's flabergasted. But she becomes even more flabergasted when her grandmother comes for a visit and a past secret surfaces. But it's not just Lauren who has surprises in store for her.