Friday, December 30, 2011

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

After accidentally firing the rifle his father took from a Japanese soldier, Jack is in trouble. Then, when he mows down his mother's corn that she was growing to help feed senior citizens, Jack is grounded for the rest of the summer, even though his father is the one who told him to do it. Stuck at home and forced to help his dad dig a bomb shelter, Jack is feeling stir crazy. So he is only too happy to help out Mrs. Volker when she needs someone to type up obituaries for the old women who seem to be dying suddenly all over town. Mrs. Volker even promises to help Jack stop the nosebleeds that plague him whenever he even thinks about something scary or gruesome. She proposes to cauterize the inside of his nose at her house even though she can barely move her hands due to the crippling arthritis in her hands. As the summer goes on Jack learns more about history and his town which was started by Eleanor Roosevelt to help poor people get a leg up. He also comes to appreciate some of the odd characters around town even when it seems like he ought to be suspicious as more and more people seem to be dying. This book is obviously partly autobiographical since the main character is named Jack Gantos. It is a nicely written slice of life story in a small, interesting town but I'm left wondering exactly what is the point? It seemed like things ended with a few loose ends. What happened to the harassment by the Hell's Angels? Did the town die out, as seemed to be happening? (Actually, I looked up the real history of Norvelt so I know the answer to that but it's not answered in the story) Did Jack's family move to Florida? Just felt like it went in too many odd directions to me.

Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Anglelberger

This sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda finds Tommy writing another case file, this time to defend his friend Dwight who has been accused to disrupting school with his finger puppet. Harvey, who has always been skeptical of origami Yoda's powers, comes to seventh grade with a Darth Vader finger puppet and is determined to prove that origami Yoda is not real. After Yoda makes a prediction that seems to be threatening, the principal threatens to expel Dwight and Tommy and Yoda's supporters must show that origami Yoda only helps others at the school. This book is cute but it didn't grab me as much as Origami Yoda. I'm not sure if that's because it's actually not as good, or if it's because the idea isn't as fresh now. Also, the way everything worked out seemed a bit too good to be true for me.

Island's End by Padma Venkatraman

Uido lives on an isolated island with the forty families who make up her tribe. She has dreams of visiting the Otherworld and talking to the goddess who lives there but she has only shared those dreams with her good friend Danna and the tribe's spiritual leader. She is honored and surprised when she is chosen to become the next spiritual leader for her tribe and sets off for months of difficult training. While most of her tribe is happy and accepting of Uido's new role, her older brother is jealous and skeptical. Uido's decisions are questioned further because she does not welcome the strangers who visit their island bearing gifts that seem helpful. Although she feels that she is right to be distrustful of the strangers, she finds that she has to rely on them when her younger brother falls sick and his spirit wanders over the ocean to the strangers' land. This story was inspired by real life tribes who are living in a primitive way even today. The author drew on the stories she heard of how several of these tribes knew about the tsunami that devastated civilized countries on the Indian Ocean.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fetching by Kiera Stewart

Olivia and her friends are constantly made fun of by the popular kids at school. Most recently, Olivia was humiliated when they put ketchup on her pants making it appear that she had an accident. After being forced to wear horrible granny pants given to her by the school nurse, Olivia resolves to find a way to stop the bullying. Seeing how well some techniques work on the dogs she helps to train, Olivia decides to try the same techniques on her classmates. She and her friends begin acting like alpha dogs, ignoring bad behavior, distracting their bullies, and rewarding good behavior. Before long they begin to see some results and are soon surrounded by more friends than they could have ever imagined. Even the biggest bully, Brynne, seems to be coming around, especially after they train her friends to ignore her. Although everything seems to be going her way Olivia finds that she is not as happy as she had thought she would be. I love the premise of this book and enjoyed it overall but I wish that Olivia and her friends had jumpstarted their training techniques just a little earlier into the book. I was also sad that Olivia had such a falling out with her close friends because I imagined that they would never be able to completely get over that. But that's probably just me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Josh gives Emma a CD-ROM so she can load AOL on her new computer in 1996. When AOL finally loads and she gets online, Emma finds herself looking at a strange page called "Facebook" with a picture of someone who looks like an older version of her. She calls Josh over and eventually they decide that they are actually looking at their lives 15 years in the future. Josh is happily surprised to see that he is married to one of the most beautiful, popular girls in school. Armed with the knowledge that he will marry her in the future, he begins feeling more confident now and has soon attracted lots of attention from all sorts of girls. Emma's posts, however, indicate that she is in an unhappy marriage and not doing well at work either. She decides to take her future into her own hands and begins making changes now that ripple into the future. But each time she eliminates one possible future, something equally unattractive seems to happen. What's more, she has found out something about her best friend's future and is unsure about what to do with that information. I felt that this book was not a masterpiece and yet I keep thinking about it - something that I really love when it comes to a story! It presents an unusual twist on time travel as well as some subtle jabs at the all-consumingness of Facebook. I think it will be popular and spark some good discussion.

Saving Audie: A Pit Bull Puppy Gets a Second Chance by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Audie is a puppy rescued from Michael Vick's dog fighting ring. Although 40 dogs were rescued from the fighting ring, they still faced struggles. Most of them were scheduled to be euthanized because people believed that they would be too dangerous to ever be pets. But after a pit bull rescue group stepped in the dogs were tested and all but one of them was able to be rehabilitated. Audie is one of the dogs who was saved. This is his story from his life at the dog fighting kennels to his new life with the family who loves him. I liked the book and am, of course, thrilled that Audie is doing so well but the overall story seemed a bit slight to me. I wanted more details and lots more bashing of Michael Vick!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

13 Gifts by Wendy Mass

After pulling a dumb prank to impress some kids at school Tara is suspended for the rest of the school year. Her parents have plans to travel to Madagascar so they send her to their hometown of Willow Falls to stay with her aunt, uncle and cousin. Although she generally avoids other people Tara soon finds herself with a group of friends and social engagements. Unfortunately, she has no money since all of hers was stolen on the train. In order to get some spending money Tara makes a deal with the mysterious Angelina who runs a collectables shop. Angelina gives Tara a list of 13 items to find in exchange for the money she needs as well as a promise not to tell anyone about something Tara has done. Tara sets to work trying to find the items with the help of her new friends but it seems that Angelina has made deals with many people in town, not just Tara. I enjoyed this book as I was reading it and was curious to find out what connected each of the items on the list as well as trying to figure out what was going on with some of the other people in town. But after finishing it I don't think I liked it nearly as much as I thought. It seems like the book is going everywhere at the same time. Some of the many, many things happening in the book include: the items themselves, the reason Angelina has had Tara collect the items, the thing Tara has done that opens her up to blackmail, her cousin's secret ability, her mother's reason for acting so strangely, the celebrity coming to town, David's bar mitzvah and his feelings about that, etc., etc., etc.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

Elise and Franklin have been best friends their entire lives. They spend their time playing Knights, making ice cream with Elise's aunt Bessie, building things with her uncle, and investigating life under Franklin's microscope. When the two friends start 6th grade, however, Elise quickly learns that "playing" is something only babies do and that she doesn't fit in with a middle school crowd. Bullied mercilessly by her locker mate and unable to get help from a teacher, Elise falls behind in school and begins distancing herself from Franklin. On her 12th birthday she finds a key with her name on it that opens one of eight locked doors in her uncle's barn/workshop. What she finds is a room left for her by her father with an important message about living her life. Now, she just needs to find the other seven keys... This is a smallish but touching book about friendship, coming to terms with who you are and making choices that might affect the rest of your life. I liked it when I was finished, but I'm finding that I like it even more the more I reflect upon it.

They Called Themselves the K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

The Ku Klux Klan arose after the Civil War and quickly became a terrorist organization spreading fear and hatred throughout the United States. This book traces the entire history of the KKK from its beginning as a "social club" to the modern day. Details about the founders and other members are given. Raids are described in enough detail to give the reader chills while imagining what it would be like to live through the terror. The book is well-researched and presents a number of people giving personal accounts about the impact of the KKK on their lives. Although I thought the book was well done, it didn't grab me as much as Bartoletti's book about the Hitler Youth.

The Grave Robber's Secret by Anna Myers

Robby is horrified when his alcoholic father forces him to take a dead body from its grave but he is fascinated by the doctor who uses it to learn more about treating people. Robby vows never to grave rob again and luckily, he doesn't have to when a man and his daughter come to rent two rooms from Robby's family. Robby is unsure of what to make of their new renter, Mr. Burke. He is kind and loving towards his daughter Martha but deliberately trips Robby with his cane. And although he has lots of money, he won't talk about what he does for a living. He also seems to have a mysterious hold over Robby's father. Robby tries to put everything out of his mind and focus on his new job working at the hospital helping out the doctors there, but when he hears his father and Mr. Burke bringing someone into the house late at night he has to investigate. He finds that they are up to something worse than he had imagined. This book was all over the place and the crimes of the two fathers seemed unrealistic as well as the results of the trials. Just blah.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

"It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die." A great first line opens this fantasy about meat-eating, wild water horses and the people on a small island who attempt to train and race them once each year. Sean Kendrick has a special way with the capaill uisce and has won the race on his horse for the last four years. He works for the richest man in town training other horses both magical and ordinary. His dream is to buy his horse Corr but his boss knows that he can't afford to let Sean go. Sean is further tormented by his boss's son, a mean-spirited, jealous man who would do anything to see Sean fail. Meanwhile, Kate Connelly decides that the only chance she has to keep her older brother on the island and their ragged family intact is to ride in the races herself even though no women have ever entered the race. Terrified of the capaill uisce, she decides to ride her horse Dove against the water horses. This book has a lot to think about and presents what I think is a very realistic vision of life on a small island that relies on tourism. All the characters are shown with depth and flaws and the relationship between Sean and Kate builds slowly. I know that it is well-written and will probably be popular with teens, but I didn't enjoy it myself. The pace was entirely too slow and the seemingly unending deaths made for a looooonnnnng read for me. Reminds me a bit of something about small town life in Maine by Stephen King in terms of how the atmosphere of life on the island is explored in detail.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza lives a privileged life on her family's ranch in Mexico. She receives many presents on her birthday, has beautiful dresses to wear, is waited on my servants, and is doted on by her loving parents. But her life changes drastically when her father is killed by bandits. When her uncle tries to blackmail her mother in marrying him in order to maintain their lifestyle, Esperanza and her mother flee their home and travel to America to start over. They end up in a farming camp and Esperanza has to work for the first time in her life even though she doesn't know how to do something as simple as sweep a floor. Slowly, Esperanza begins to adjust to her new life and becomes aware of just how lucky she is, especially compared to some of the people around her. This is a good story from Ryan about hope and overcoming obstacles. Esperanza is spoiled but likeable and her trials and growth seem realistic. There are also many things to learn about this time period but they are not presented in a heavy-handed way. For instance, I had never heard of Valley Fever nor was I aware of the extent of forced returns to Mexico.

The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson

Henrietta lives in a society where everything is determined for you and children are protected from the simplest things. When they exercise in school, they do one jumping jack to keep themselves from overexerting. Their entire day at school is spent answering questions on a computer in order to prepare for the tests which determine whether you get to move on or become a garbage collector. Henrietta is not very good at school and she also suffers from terrible headaches on occasion which her parents believe are caused by the fact that they live in an old house with wood rather than a new synthetic one. Things change for Henrietta with three different events. First, her grandfather shows her an old book - printed on paper! - full of unusual animals. Shortly after receiving the book, Henrietta discovers that a wild house cat has moved into her attic. Finally, she makes two new friends who also suffer from headaches. Together, they determine that their headaches are actually caused by a strange creature called the Wikkeling, which only they can see. This is a creepy book but not the good kind of creepy. It also just crawls along reveling in the strangeness of society without really expounding on what exactly is happening. Too many happenings in too many directions for me.

Queen of Hearts by Martha Brooks

Marie Clare lives on a farm in Canada during World War II. When she begins to feel run down she is surprised to learn that she has developed tuberculosis, along with her younger brother and sister. The three are sent to a nearby sanatorium where they can try to get well. Marie Clare is separated from her siblings but makes a new friend in Signy, who has been chasing the cure for years but still seems frail. Together, they endure treatments such as having their lungs collapsed, ribs removed and spending all night outside in the below zero air. Despite her difficulties and a horrible tragedy, Marie Clare learns that her life still goes on and that it might even lead to love in an unexpected place. This book was fine but it didn't move me much although historical fiction is often not my thing. Unlike other historical fiction pieces, however, this one told its story without blatantly teaching you a lesson. The story was the main focus with a background of the TB sanatoriums and the treatments that were actually employed at the time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

In this book Kenneth Oppel imagines what Dr. Frankenstein might have been like as a teen and what might have begun his journey down the path to creating his monster. Victor feels that he is inferior to his twin brother Konrad in many ways even though he loves Konrad more than anyone else in the world. Driven by his competitive nature to try to best Konrad - as well as trying to impress their cousin Elizabeth - Victor takes risks including exploring a secret passageway that leads to a library full of occult books. Although their father forbids the boys and Elizabeth from entering the dark library ever again, Victor returns when Konrad falls ill with a life-threatening sickness. Victor finds a recipe for the Elixer of Life and believes that if he could just make the elixer, he would save Konrad and get all the glory for himself. Victor, Elizabeth and their friend Henry get help from Julius Polidari, a man who is known to have worked on mysterious potions in the past. The three friends embark on a series of increasingly dangerous quests to find the necessary ingredients to save Konrad. I have never read Frankenstein so I was not troubled by any discrepencies between this story and that one. This book was adventuresome, mysterious and thoughtful. Is Victor a good guy or a bad one? It's a hard question to answer and by giving us a look into his thought process Oppel let's you see how a person can make some decisions that lead to some bad consequences.

Addie on the Inside by James Howe

Addie is the only girl in a group of misfits (see The Misfits, also by Howe). Addie doesn't fit in because she is tall, smart and outspoken. In this book she is in seventh grade and finds herself questioning herself and the other girls around her. Why do they seem to act dumber when boys are around? Why do people roll their eyes when she raises her hand in class? Why does her boyfriend seem to get annoyed when she stands up for things she believes in? I loved, loved, loved this book! Having read The Misfits, which I also loved, I was actually hoping that there would be more of a gay theme to this one (even though Joe also has his own book). Gay issues are addressed but since this is Addie's story that was not the main theme. But I was very happily surprised to find that this book is a strong feminist piece instead. It is written in free verse which I usually hate because the kids hate it, but I still loved the book. That's how good it is!

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines

Iris and her private eye father have just moved into a house in a much poorer section of New York than where they lived before. Her pop has just returned from World War II with an amputated leg which is making his detective work more difficult. Iris misses her privileged life and private school uptown and finds that she is an outsider at her new school. When the only boy who was nice to her goes missing, his parents hire her dad to find him. Iris decides to start her own investigation at school and soon finds herself making friends with the cool group, sneaking looks at school records and dancing the night away at the Savoy. The more she discovers, the less sure Iris is about who to trust, including her best friend from her former life. This is a great, realistic mystery with lots of shady characters. I enjoyed the historical setting but I think that some of the lingo of that time period might be confusing for teen readers. I especially liked the character of Suze and the nastiness of someone she thought was a friend (but I can't say who since that would give away too much!)

Fantasy Baseball by Alan Gratz

Alex believes he must be dreaming when he finds himself playing baseball with Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. His team includes a flying monkey, a tin man and a scarecrow, among others. Although Alex is sure it's all a dream, Dorothy tells him that he is a Lark - the daydream of a real person who wishes he was a great baseball player. Whatever he is, Alex becomes the star of the Cyclones helping them win against teams filled with many other storybook characters. He runs into trouble, however, when he humiliates the Big Bad Wolf in front of a stadium full of onlookers. With a price on his head and a growing sense that Dorothy might be right and that his time with the Cyclones is limited, Alex has to find a way to save himself and convince his team that they are as good as anyone else. An interesting book about being "real" no matter who you are. I gave it to a friend who is a huge baseball fan to get her opinion since I'm not into sports books but I haven't heard from her yet...

Alice in Time by Penelope Bush

14-year-old Alice feels that she has a terrible life. She lives with her mom whom she blames for her parents' divorce seven years before. She fights almost constantly with her mom and is scheming to move in with her dad now that he has remarried. She also has a crush on the new cute boy at school but doesn't know what to do when she finds out his sister is the girl who constantly picks on Alice. The icing on the cake comes when Alice's best - and only - friend tells her that she wants to attend a private art school next year. After being humiliated at a party Alice goes to a local park and twirls around and around on the merry go round until she is thrown off. When she wakes up she finds that she is her seven-year-old self again. Her parents are still married and she is still best friends with the girl who torments her as a teen. With this opportunity to affect her future, Alice makes a list of the things she wants to change including saving her parents' marriage, keeping her cat from being killed, turning the tables on the girl who picks on her later, and doing what she can to keep her grandmother from getting sick. But Alice finds that changing the future isn't as easy as she thinks and that the circumstances of her life aren't exactly as she has remembered. I thought it took too long to get to the point where Alice travels back to being seven but once there the book was intriguing. Some of Alice's revelations were obvious to me but mabye that's part of the fun since we can see things that she can't. And isn't that probably the truth in our own lives - that we "remember" the past as we want to see it, not necessarily as it actually was?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Me & Jack by Danette Haworth

Joshua moves a lot since his dad is an Air Force recruiter. When they move into their new home his dad surprises him by letting Joshua adopt a dog from the pound. Joshua feels an immediate bond with an odd-looking, large red dog with pointed ears. After deciding to name his new dog Jack, Joshua sets out to meet some new people. While wandering around town with Jack he meets Ray and Prater. Ray takes a liking to Jack but Prater is immediately mean to both Joshua and his dog. When some trash cans are knocked over and some small animals are killed, people in town begin to believe that Jack is the culprit. Joshua feels certain that his dog couldn't be to blame and is determined to find out what's really happening. Joshua's dad is facing problems of his own since he is recruiting boys to serve in the military and many people don't support the Vietnam war. This book kept me interested throughout but when I finished it I sort of felt "blah" about it. I think that the bulk of the book was better than the somewhat quick resolution.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Warrior Sheep Go West by Christopher Russell

The warrior sheep are just five regular sheep living on a farm in England. When they think they have received a threatening message from Red Tongue they believe it is up to them to save all of sheepdom from the monster. Before you know it they have managed to get themselves on a flight to the American west where they hope to find Red Tongue and defeat him. The warrior sheep are silly, to be sure, but actually not as silly as I had hoped. I thought this book would be a lol-riot but it was more odd and contrived. Of course it was contrived - it's a book about sheep saving the world - but even the silliness didn't flow for me. And the rapper sheep really left me cold.

TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow

Liam is onboard the Titanic minutes before it will sink to the bottom of the Atlantic when a strange man appears out of nowhere and offers him a chance to live by becoming a TimeRider. Liam accepts and becomes part of a team with Maddy and Sal, two other people rescued from untimely deaths. Since time travel has been successfully invented the TimeRiders are tasked with keeping history intact from people who would try to change the past. The three teens are given the job of living the same two days over and over again while watching out for changes. They are joined by Bob, a robot in a human body. When the team notices a slight change Liam and Bob travel back in time to investigate and find themselves trapped there. Meanwhile, the future becomes worse and worse as changes are made by the man who has sent himself back for exactly that purpose. I really enjoyed this book! It had a lot of depth for a light read. And while time travel stories can be confusing, this one did a nice job of keeping things pretty clear. The change in motivations seemed believable and the horror of the resulting future was palpable. I highly recommend it for something fun but not meaningless.

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett

Tomas, his younger brother Andrej and their baby sister are the only survivors of a Nazi raid on their home of Gypsies. They have been on the run ever since struggling to stay alive. One night they enter a small zoo and find that they can talk to all the animals living there. The animals have also been struggling to survive since their caretakers have been driven off. The children and animals share their experiences with the war and gradually come to appreciate each other. As the children overcome their fear of the animals they try to find a way to set them free but it seems to be an impossible task. I was hoping for a book full of animal love but this one is much more serious and the animals are less friendly and helpful than I had imagined. I think the distrust is more "realistic" but less fun. However, the message of the book sinks in slowly as you are reading which makes a more lasting impact. The dreamy sequence at the end of the story didn't do anything for me either but I think that's typical of the author from what I've read by her.

The Project by Brian Falkner

Luke and Tommy believe that their English teacher has assigned them the most boring book in the universe to read so they decide to play a prank instead. When they are caught their principal make them a deal - prove that the book is the most boring in the world or face punishment. When they begin to investigate they find that a title named Leonardo's River has been described as so boring that the printer couldn't even keep awake while making it. The book has been missing for over a hundred years and an eccentric man has offered to pay millions of dollars for a copy of the book. While helping to clean out the basement of the local library during a flood, the boys see a copy of Leonardo's River and make plans to steal it. Unfortunately for them, they are not the only ones who are trying to get the book and the other people are willing to do anything to get it before Luke and Tommy. Like Falkner's other books, this one has lots of action and complicated schemes driving the bad guys. People who have enjoyed his other titles will also enjoy this one.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Auslander by Paul Dowswell

When Peter's parents are killed during World War II he is sent to an orphanage in Poland. But even though Peter is Polish, he looks just like the Aryan boys on the Nazi posters with blonde hair and blue eyes. The Nazis decide to integrate him into their society and Peter is adopted by a German family. At first Peter is happy that he has been rescued from the orphanage and is living with such an important family - his new "father" is a high-ranking scientist. Before long, however, Peter begins to question the Nazi techniques as well as their ethics. But Peter has also learned that is is very dangerous to say anything bad about the Nazis and that you can't trust anyone. This book accurately portrays the climate of fear in Germany during World War II and presents some atrocities not normally shown such as the experiments on children and the disabled. Although those sections were interesting I found that the book moved slowly overall so I have my doubts about whether students would keep reading.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pie by Sarah Weeks

Alice's beloved Aunt Polly makes the best pies in the world. She has won the prestigious Blueberry award for 13 consecutive years. Alice spends as much as possible working in her aunt's pie shop along with Polly's cranky cat Lardo. When Polly dies suddenly everyone is grief-stricken, but also curious about who will inherit Polly's secret pie crust recipe. At the reading of the will it is revealed that the recipe is to go to Lardo and that Alice will inherit her aunt's cat. Suddenly everyone in town is struck by a desire to bake pies in order to try to win the Blueberry but someone is trying to win it by finding the secret recipe. When Lardo goes missing from her house, Alice has to use all of her detective skills to figure out who would want the disagreeable cat and how he can possibly have the crust recipe. This is a quick read but very much on the light side. The revelation about where the crust recipe actually is was a surprise to me, however.

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Ten-year-old Ian is librarian Lucy's favorite patron. Ian loves to read almost anything but his mother insists that he can only read books that have the "breath of God" in them so Lucy conspires with Ian to sneak other books home. Lucy is further concerned about Ian's home life when she discovers that he is enrolled in a religious program designed to keep young boys from being gay. When Lucy comes to the library early one day she finds Ian hiding there and begins a road trip with him to take him away from the family she believes is stifling him. Together they travel to the east coast meeting odd members of Lucy's family and their friends all while being tailed by a mysterious man. The longer Lucy travels with Ian the more she believes that she will never be able to return him to home without being arrested as a kidnapper, even though Ian pressured her to go with him in the first place. Although the premise of this book sounded somewhat light I found that it dwelled too much on the heavier aspects of their adventure. Of course Lucy is actually a kidnapper which in reality is a serious thing, but I expected the story to be a bit more fantasy-esque and ignore the implications. Unlike most of what I write about, this is a book for adults, not YA.

Girl's Best Friend by Leslie Margolis

Maggie has a secret job as a dog walker for three families in the neighborhood. She also has a crush on Milo, a quiet boy at school. Maggie thinks she has found the perfect opening line for a conversation with Milo when she tells him that one of the dogs she walks is also named Milo, but human Milo has his earbuds in and doesn't even hear her at first. Maggie's personal life is further complicated when her ex-best friend enlists her help to get back her dog which has been stolen. Since Maggie loves Kermit the dog, she agrees to help and soon finds that she has several suspects as to who the dognapper might be, including someone she never would have suspected! This is a light but entertaining mystery with some good red herrings thrown in to keep you guessing.

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

A vacant lot in the city is transformed from a dumping ground for trash into a community garden that brings people together. Each chapter of Seedfolks is told from the point of view of a different person who is drawn to the the garden for a different reason - one to impress his girlfriend, one to recapture his childhood, one a pregnant girl who doesn't want to be there, and many others. This is a short book but filled with lots of different stories to get you thinking about what it takes to make a community. Although everyone was living in the same neighborhood, they weren't a community or even very good neighbors. Lots of meat for something so short.

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement Moore

Amy Goodnight comes from a family of witches but she prides herself on being the normal one in the bunch. She has worked hard to downplay the family's weirdness and ignores any paranormal tendencies she might have herself. While she and her sister Phin are housesitting for their aunt the girls hear about the local mystery of the "Mad Monk", a ghost who is supposedly hurting people to keep them away from his treasure. Amy wants nothing to do with the ghost but finds that she can't stay uninvolved when the ghost visits her in her bedroom and asks her to find him. Only wanting to stop her own haunting Amy begins working with a group of college students who are excavating some remains nearby the farm. As the number of skeletons grows so do Amy's feelings of dread both that she will never get rid of the ghost haunting her and that she can't ignore her Goodnight tendencies anymore. She is further troubled by handsome, brooding Ben who runs the neighboring ranch. Although she finds him annoying, she can't keep her mind off of him... This is a fun romance with lots of scary bits as well. Amy's family is eccentric and perfectly at ease with themselves so they provide lots of interesting secondary characters and events. The unusual setting makes for something new in the world of paranormal romance. Really fun and a good page-turner as well!

LIE by Caroline Bock

Told from the point of view of several characters LIE takes place after two Hispanic boys are attacked and beaten by two high schoolers. Skylar's boyfriend Jimmy is the main perpetrator of the crime and is in jail. As Skylar's best friend keeps telling her, "everyone knows but no one's talking" - a reminder that Jimmy and the other members of the baseball team went "beaner-hopping" every weekend and everyone at school knew it. The more Skylar learns about the El Salvadorean boys who were beaten, the worse she feels. But how can she betray Jimmy who has been there for her through all sorts of problems? This is a well-written thinker about racism and hate crimes. The characters are well drawn and the author really takes you into their thoughts which allows you to see why it is more difficult to do the right thing than it ought to be. I highly recommend it, although it is gritty and not for readers who like lighter fare or books that resolve neatly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Waverly and Kieran were born on a ship traveling through the galaxy to New Earth to restart human civilization. Life on their ship Empyrean is happy and Waverly's life seems perfect, especially after Kieran proposes. Even though she loves Kieran and everyone expects them to marry, she is strangely drawn to moody Seth. Life on the Empyrean changes, however, when the other ship traveling to New Earth suddenly appears despite the fact that the New Horizon should be millions of miles ahead of them. The peace on Empyrean disintigrates when they are attacked and all the young girls are kidnapped by the New Horizon crew. They girls are told that they have been rescued in the nick of time from damages to their ship and that everyone else on board died. Although the girls are welcomed on the ship, Waverly is suspicious of their motives and their story. The captain of the New Horizon, Anne, is also their religious leader and everyone on the ship seems to follow whatever she says is the word of God. Desperate to find her mother and return to Kieran, Waverly leads the other girls in their attempts to find out what is really happening. This is a fantastic sci fi story with lots to think about as well as paying homage to other works. Life among those still on the Empyrean is reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies while life on the New Horizon seems like A Handmaid's Tale. So much to discuss and think about!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ghoul Strike by Andrew Newbound

12 year old Alannah uses her strong psychic powers to hunt and banish ghosts and demons in order to take their treasure. She is assisted by her friend Wortley who is an expert at breaking through security systems. They have been very successful with their business until they are hired to see what's happening at an old house. Alannah and Wortley arrive at the house on exactly the same night it is being investigated by a member of the A.N.G.E.L. squad since it is the site of a portal between two worlds. Inspector Fhli is surprised to find that Alannah can see her since they are usually invisible to humans. Fhli is even more surprised to find that Alannah is able to fight against the huge gargoyle who is emerging from the portal. Although the humans and A.N.G.E.L.s don't get along, they find that they have to stop their squabbling in the face of a greater threat to them all. This is intended as a comedy but the fighting between Alannah and Fhli just went on too long for me to be interested or invested.

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis

Chet is new to town, living with his uncle and working in his restaurant. He has just managed to befriend three local boys and they are all fascinated by the stories of a shark attack in the ocean off New Jersey. When Chet pulls a prank on his new friends to get back at them for something they did to him he goes a little too far in scaring them. So when he really sees a shark in the creek where everyone swims, no one believes him. This book is based on the true story of shark attacks that killed four people and injured one in 1916. People were surprised by the attacks in the ocean but absolutely stunned by the attacks in a local river. Although the real story of the shark attacks is fascinating this book is much too simple for my tastes. However, it is a good introduction to this event for a low reader or younger student.

Picture the Dead by Lisa Brown

Jennie receives word that her fiance Will died honorably in battle during the Civil War. Although he is gone, Jennie senses that Will's spirit might still be around and trying to communicate with her. When Will's brother Quinn comes home he seems withdrawn and he hints that Will might not have been as honorable as everyone thinks. Disturbed by his comments, Jennie faces even more problems from her aunt who is slowly shutting Jennie out of the house and treating her as a servant now that Will is gone. When Quinn makes it clear that he is interested in Jennie himself her sense that Will is trying to communicate with her becomes even stronger and she is even led to some places that were important to her and Will. Is Will trying to harm or protect her? This is an unusual ghost story in that there are many pictures in the book, all supposedly taken from Jennie's scrapbook. The mystery of what is going on with Will, Quinn and Jennie kept me guessing until the end.

Hold me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Sam is a college dropout working at a fast food restaurant. He damages a car in the parking lot while playing potato hockey with his friends. When the owner of the car comes into the restaurant he senses a strange power in Sam and begins to question him. Sam and the two other boys who work there run the man off and believe that they have seen the last of him. But they find out otherwise when their friend Brooke arrives at their door - or, at least her head arrives. She has been killed but her head is still alive and sent with a warning for Sam from the car owner. His name is Douglas and he is a powerful necromancer who has sensed that Sam has the same abilities even though they are hidden. Sam decides to investigate his own life and hears a strange story from his mother about her own powers and why she never told him about his own abilities before. This is a great book with fun characters and chapters named after songs. The sarcastic humor is infused throughout the book, even in the midst of some very serious circumstances. Sam's friends are great secondary characters who add lots of depth to the book along with some other people with unusual abilities. It's hard to imagine that there could be something new in paranormal stories but this is different from anything else.

Entwined by Heather Dixon

After the death of their mother Azalea and her 11 sisters are forbidden to dance in public. When they follow a secret passage through an enchanted forest of silver trees they find a mysterious man named Keeper who allows them to dance in his hall every night. At first the girls are delighted with their good fortune but they soon begin to see that Keeper has some sinister motives for allowing them to visit each night. When the king learns that they have been dancing despite the ban he devises a plan to figure out where they are going - young men can try to discover the princess's secret in exchange for one of their hands in marriage. This is a lush retelling of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Azalea is feisty girl who takes care of all her sisters while trying to get their father more involved in their lives. Keeper emerges slowly as a villain but he is a nasty one once he shows his true colors! If you like romance, magic and fairy tales, this is the book for you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thor by Wayne Smith

Thor is a German shepherd who lives with his human pack. Thor is smart and protective of his humans and prides himself on being a "good dog" - one of the many words and phrases he knows. Thor is also highly attuned to any disturbance in his life and recently he has sensed that something bad is coming. When his favorite relative, Uncle Ted, comes to stay with the family for awhile Thor's sense of dread rises. For some reason Uncle Ted seems to be afraid of Thor even though they have always been good friends. What's more, Ted acts like a "bad dog" and some of his clothes smell like a wild animal that Thor can't recognize. While following Uncle Ted one night Thor finds the exact spot where Ted's smell disappears and the wild animal's smell begins and then he finds a creature chained to a tree wearing Ted's clothes. Thor isn't sure what has happened but he does know that the greatest threat to his pack is now living in the same house with them and that it's up to Thor to protect them.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor

Paul has been told that he became legally blind when he looked directly at an eclipse at a young age. Paul can't remember doing that but he is slowly starting to remember some other events now that his family has moved to Tangerine, Florida. His parents fawn over his older brother Erik who is a star football player but an incredibly nasty bully off the field. Paul is a great soccer goalie but because of his official status of having a disability, the school's soccer coach won't let him play. After a tragedy allows Paul to change schools he is finally given the chance to show what he can do on the soccer field while he makes new friends. But Erik continues to cause problems for Paul, his friends and others in the neighborhood and little by little Paul is remembering what actually happened to him when he was blinded. This is a dark, dark story but so good! Well-written and full of surprising events and lots of things to think about.

Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Melly and Anna Beth were very old and ready to die when they were given an experimental treatment to make them young again. They were promised a chance to become young and stay at any age they wanted but the drug that was supposed to stop the aging has a serious side effect. Now Melly and Anna Beth are becoming younger each year and know that eventually they will be too young to even take care of themselves. They have to find someone to take care of them but first, they have to find a place to live where the institute who caused their problems in the first place can't find them. This book has an exciting premise and begins strong but wraps up a little too easily in the end.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mr. Monk in Trouble by Lee Goldberg

This is one of a series of books based on the character of Adrian Monk from the TV show "Monk". In this book, Monk and his assistant Natalie travel to a town that was established at the time of the California Gold Rush to solve a murder. While there they discover a 50 year old mystery of stolen gold. Unable to leave something unsolved, Monk decides to locate the missing gold as well as determine who killed the museum security guard. This is an entertaining read and definitely feels like Monk from the TV show. However, he seems even more obsessed with everything around him than the television character which gets a little wearing.

True (Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Delly has a hard time staying out of trouble. She has pulled pranks and gotten into fights so often that many people in town have labeled her as "bad" and now she believes it herself. When she gets into trouble again the principal tells her that just one more problem will land her in alternative school. Delly isn't sure how she's going to avoid trouble but seeing her mom cry makes Delly determined to try harder. She finds that one thing that works for her is to watch new girl Ferris Boyd. Ferris doesn't talk and no one is allowed to touch her but she has a way with animals that fascinates Delly. After following Ferris a bit the two girls become friends, making room to include Delly's younger brother when he starts hanging around as well. With Ferris's support Delly is able to stop causing trouble and is feeling good about herself but she knows that Ferris is hiding a dark secret. This book seems light but turns gradually to something more serious as Ferris's secret becomes more clear. The story is touching, full of moments to really savor and enjoy. One of the aspects of the story that has been a favorite for other readers is Delly's tendency to combine two words to make up her own. That was probably my least favorite part of the book because it just seemed intentionally quirky and precious.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Gwyneth's cousin Charlotte has been trained to be a time traveler her entire life, a gene that Gwyneth is happy she hasn't inherited. But when Charlotte's time arrives it turns out that there has been a mix up and now Gwyneth is the family member who is destined to travel in time and complete the circle of 12. With no training at all Gwyneth begins traveling and is thrust into the society where she is not trusted and is unwanted. She is also forced to travel with Gideon, a boy her own age who seems to dislike her but is too attractive to ignore. Together they are trying to restore the circle of 12 after the original time traveling device was stolen by their ancestors. The only problem is, they have enemies both in the past and the present and can trust no one. This is an exciting book and Gwyneth is a very likeable character. My only complaint is that several things were left unexplained - no doubt to be addressed on the sequels - but I am still pretty confused about some of what happened here. But I really enjoyed the story regardless.

Blood on My Hands by Todd Strasser

Callie is at a party when her friend Dakota tells her to go look for their mutual friend Katherine. Callie does find Katherine but she has been stabbed to death. When Callie picks up the knife to examine it, a group of people arrive and take pictures of Callie with the murder weapon in her hand. Now the prime suspect in Katherine's murder, Callie is on the run trying to prove her innocence while finding the actual killer. Callie's story is told in alternating sections of what she is doing now and what happened to lead up to Katherine's death. Like all books from Todd Strasser, this one moves fast and keeps the reader wondering right up until the very end. I was disappointed by who the killer actually is as well as the reason behind Katherine's meanness towards Callie. But I still enjoyed the book while I was reading despite flaws.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby

This book tells the stories of three people whose lives intersect during the 1800s. Hannah is working at the hotel where her father was a stonemason. She is supporting her family ever since her father had a stroke but they are barely able to survive. Her luck appears to change when she becomes the personal assistant for an eccentric visitor to the hotel, Madame Pomeroy. Hannah also overhears the nasty woman who is in charge of all the hotel maids making plans to find a secret treasure left by a former hotel visitor. Hannah wants to find the treasure before anyone else in order to help treat her father and save her family.
Frederick is an orphan who has been taken in by a clockmaker. Frederick's dream is to become a clockmaker himself at an early age. He has been working on an automated man and has the entire body made but doesn't know how to go about making a head that will control all the rest. When he learns that an historical clockmaker named Mangus made such an automaton in the past Frederick is determined to find that head and learn its secrets.
Giuseppe works the streets each day playing his violin for spare change. All of the money he makes has to be given to Stephano, the man who brought him to America and keeps him and other boys as his slaves. If Stephano is unhappy with the amount of money brought in any day, the boy has to spend the night in a hole filled with rats, or worse. Giuseppe dreams of raising enough money to pay for a ticket back home to Italy and when he finds a beautiful green violin after a shipwreck it seems like he might be able to play well enough to do just that.
These three teens each have a dream and when they meet accidentally they find that they might be able to help each other. This is an intricate book but the story keeps moving along with several surprises.

Life, After by Sarah Littman

Dani's father has never been the same since her aunt was killed in a terrorist bombing in Argentina. And now that the country is facing severe economic problems things are even worse. Her father spends all day on the sofa in depression and the family lives in a tenetment with barely anything to eat. With their future looking more bleak by the day Dani's mom convinces her father that they must move to the United States to start over. Dani is excited about the possibility of a better life but sad about leaving behind everything she knows. And life at her new school is complicated as well. She becomes friends with Jon, a boy who is obviously also an outsider but gets on the wrong side of the popular girls because she is wearing their former clothes that were donated to charity. What's more, her boyfriend from Argentina who promised to love her forever seems to be withdrawing from her whenever she manages to talk to him. Eventually, Dani learns that she has more in common with the popular girl than she could ever imagine. This is a nice story that shows some of the problems faced by immigrants to our country as well as the after effects of terrorism on families. There is nothing too ground-breaking here and it feels to me that Dani fits into America fairly easily, but it is a book that is told well and will appeal to many teen readers.

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

Sarah has just begun attending an expensive private school but she doesn't fit in because she is there on a scholarship. While on a class trip to the Everglades Sarah is even more aware of how much of an outsider she is when all the other girls ignore her and whisper about her. While wandering around the campsite by herself, Sarah meets Andy, a boy who lives nearby. When Andy invites her to go on an airboat ride she decides to play sick and go with him. The two are having a wonderful time together when they stop for a break on a small island. That's when Andy realizes that he forgot to put the plug back in the boat and it has sunk, ten miles from camp. The only way to survive is to walk back to camp through the Everglades but that means days in the hot sun with no food, surrounded by blood-sucking insects, all while trying to avoid the thousands of alligators and poisonous snakes. This is a great survival story full of all sorts of dangers but also an appreciation of the amazing qualities of the Everglades.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

Rafe is not looking forward to middle school. He already has a problem at home with his mom's fiance who spends all day just sitting on the sofa while his mom works double shifts to support them all. Rafe's concerns about middle school are confirmed on the first day he gets on the wrong side of Miller the Killer in homeroom. And at the first assembly of the year the principal hands out the code of conduct and reads every rule aloud - all 112 of them. With the support of his best friend Leo, Rafe decides that the only way to make the year better is to break every rule in the code. He devises a point system for the rules awarding himself extra points for things such as standing up to Miller or attracting the attention of cute girl Jeanne. This book is obviously meant to appeal to fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books but it comes across as what it is, just a knock off. Still, it will undoubtably be very popular because of the format and the author.

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Zulaikha and her sister Zeynab have always been close. Together they deal with their father's second wife's crankiness while taking care of their younger brothers. Life for everyone in their town in Afghanistan is getting better now that the Taliban has been largely defeated by the American soldiers. In fact, their Baba has just been hired to work on a new school that is being built in town, a school that will even teach girls. Zulaikha would like to learn to read and love poetry just like her mother who was killed by the Taliban for keeping books in the house. But Zulaikha's greater wish is for her cleft lip to be fixed so that she can be as beautiful as Zeynab. After she attracts the attention of some of the soldiers it seems like her wish might finally come true. Zeynab's dream of becoming a wife is also happening when Baba matches her with a man in his 40's with two other wives. But both girls run into obstacles and find that their dreams don't work out as well as they'd wished. This book is written by a former soldier who was stationed in Afghanistan and based his story and characters on real things he saw in the country.

Framed by Gordon Korman

Thanks to his earlier escapades Griffin has been labeled as a troublemaker by his new principal and the local newspaper reporter. When the principal discovers a Super Bowl ring hidden in a school cupboard he puts it on display in the trophy case. Before long the ring is gone and in its place is Griffin's retainer, making him the prime suspect. Griffin comes up with plan after plan to prove his innocence but each plan only gets him in deeper trouble until he is finally on house arrest. Luckily, he has a group of loyal friends who continue to try to find the ring and prove that Griffin isn't to blame. They just have to narrow down the pool of four suspects to find the right one.... This is the third book in a series but you don't have to read the others to understand the action in this one. When the thief is found it is definitely a surprise, if unbelievable.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Saving Zasha by Randi G. Barrow

Mikhail and his brother Nikolai find an injured man in the woods near their house. He is accompanied by a beautiful German shepherd named Zasha. Although the boys and their mother help the man, he dies of his infection. The family decides to keep Zasha but it is a dangerous choice for them since this is set at the end of World War II. Russians, fresh from the war with Germany, are destroying anything German at all including the dogs who were trained to help the German soldiers. Although Zasha is a good dog, she would likely be stolen or killed if anyone found her. With dog thieves and a local reporter closing in, the family has to work hard to keep Zasha safe and the stakes are even higher when they find out she's going to have puppies soon. This story is a feel good piece but written for younger audiences than the typical middle schooler.

Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Hibernia, Otis and Willie all have problems. Hibernia wants to be a famous singer like her mother who left her as a baby. Otis's parents died in a car accident. And Willie has parents but has to live at the orphanage with Otis after his father harmed him in a terrible way. All three kids love Joe Louis and follow his fights on the radio. With his bid to become the first African-American heavyweight champ coming up, the lives of the three teens are about to intersect with some surprising outcomes for all of them. Bird in a Box presents a realistic picture of life at this time as well as a clear sense of how important Joe Louis' victory was for the black community.

Flirt Club by Cathleen Daly

Izzy and Annie - aka Cisco and Bean - spend much of their time at school writing notes to each other which is the format of this book. Cisco and Bean are both attractive enough but neither of them have boyfriends so they decide to form their own club to figure out how to flirt. They observe other girls who seem to have it all worked out and then try the techniques themselves. Before long, both girls have attracted the interest of boys, but what will happen next? They recruit some new members to the club to help with the plans. This is a funny book and both main characters are witty. There are no deep problems to be solved but if you're looking for something light throughout (and maybe some flirting tips) this would be a good choice.

Sellout by Ebony Joy Wilkins

NaTasha is participating in her first ballet recital. She has never really like ballet but her best friend Heather has convinced her to join. NaTasha's grandmother Tilly believes that Tasha should stick to things she likes better such as volleyball. Tilly is proved right when Tasha gives a horrible performance, tripping the most popular girl in school. With this problem fresh in her mind Tasha agrees to spend several weeks in Harlem with Tilly getting more in touch with her African-American roots. Her main job is to help out Tilly at Amber's Place, a center for young women struggling with problems. Tasha is happy to help but on the first day she runs afoul of Quiana and Monique, two rough girls who accuse her of being a sellout and trying to act white. Tasha wants to run back to her suburban life but decides to stick it out and see what she can learn about herself. This book is sure to be popular but Tasha's story didn't move me at all or seem very realistic. On her first day out of the apartment Tasha stumbles over a homeless man. Her reaction is to slam the door and ask Tilly to call the police. Although she has lived in a suburb I found it hard to believe that she has been that sheltered or is that unaware of life in the city.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Comes After by Steve Watkins

Iris is still devastated from the death of her father when she learns that she has to leave the only home she's known to go live with her aunt Sue and cousin Billy in North Carolina. Aunt Sue is harsh. She refuses to provide vegetarian food for Iris, she makes her work constantly, she spends all of Iris's inheritance on luxury items for herself, and she hits Iris if she dares to complain. The one saving grace in Iris's new life is that she gets to take care of the small herd of goats Aunt Sue keeps to make cheese. Iris becomes deeply attached to all the goats (and they to her), especially the three babies who are all boys. When Aunt Sue decides to kill the babies because they are not profitable for her, Iris knows she has to intervene to save them. But her decision to help the goats leads to an even more severe consequence that changes her life again. This book is full of tragedies big and small and yet it is also such a testament to hope and goodness. Since I love animals so much I was very worried about them but also about the depictions of what was happening to them. Although there are some hard scenes, I was able to get through them without feeling like the author had sensationalized them and, of course, Iris's love and personification of them mirrored my own. A really beautiful story that had me in (happy) tears by the end.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

End of the Line by Angela Cerrito

Robbie is in a "school" that is really a prison after killing a friend. He begins his time at the school in solitary confinement subject to the whims of Mr. Lester. If he produces work Mr. Lester approves of, he gets to eat. If not, he gets water and a bologna sandwich. In alternating chapters the reader learns about life for Robbie in prison, and what happened that ended with him killing someone. Robbie's story has many more layers than it appears at first with lots of interesting characters including his beloved uncle, a girl at school, a nasty teacher, other boys in the prison, and Ryan - the boy who died. I was just expecting a page turner but was surprised by the depths I found in this book.

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster

Kyle volunteers to be one of four people who are hypnotized during the town talent show. When he and the other three volunteers wake up they find that everyone in the audience and in the town are frozen in place. Upon further investigation, they discover that they cannot find anyone on the radio, television or internet. In fact, the computer only shows a screen full of strange symbols. When the four return to the site of the talent show, everyone else is now awake and moving but things don't seem quite right. Kyle returns home with his family and tells them about what he has seen but they have no memory of it. After being examined by the town doctor, Kyle overhears the adults talking about eliminating him and knows he must escape right away. What has happened to humanity while they were hypnotized and how will they be able to survive when there are only four of them? I really like this type of science fiction (as opposed to books set in outer space in new worlds I don't understand) but science fiction is sometimes hard to sell to teens. This is a fast-moving story that's not too long. Another advantage is that the author made it clear what was happening at each step of the way without reducing the suspense. I read it in one sitting!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Second Trial by Rosemarie Boll

Danny's father is on trial for nearly killing his mother. Although Danny is the one who called 911, Danny feels sure that his father is sorry and won't do it again so they can go back to being a family. He is stunned to hear in court that his father has been convicted of abuse two other times in the past and that the court psychiatrist believes that if his dad is let out of prison he will murder his mother. Although the judge is sympathetic and believes there is danger, legally he cannot help and Danny's dad is likely to be set free within a week. In order to protect herself, Danny and his sister, Danny's mom decides to enter them into a victim relocation program. Danny's family has to leave their home and start over with all new identities within a few days. Since Danny's dad has always been nice to him, Danny doesn't believe that he needs to upend his life so drastically. He takes his anger out on his mom and sister while planning for a reunion with his dad. This is a deeply moving book that presents a realistic picture of abuse and the toll it takes on families, even when they are trying to get better.

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan is the master of understated, deep stories in graphic novels. This book contains three different stories. In the first, a girl wanders through an increasingly dark landscape discussing her feelings of depression only to end with the possibility of hope. The second story concerns a lost thing - can't really tell what this thing might be - and the boy who finds it. And the final story is an allegory for white people arriving in a land of native people. Although the author's note makes it clear that the story was written about Australia, it could just as easily apply to the United States. While sort, this book contains some deep thoughts and subjects with layered artwork.

The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine

Mike's father is a scientist who plans to turn Mike into an engineer when he grows up. The problem is that Mike has a math learning disability and knows he will never meet his father's expectation. With summer approaching Mike is looking forward to some fun only to learn that his dad will be working in Romania while Mike is sent to live with his great aunt and uncle in a small town. When Mike arrives in Donover he finds that his great aunt Moo can barely see to drive, has named her car Tyrone and her purse Junior, and vacuums whenever she needs to cry so that no one can hear her. His great uncle Poppy sits in his chair without talking to anyone, throws his duck slippers at things when he wants someone to get them for him, and will only eat scrapple. The eccentric characters in the book continue with a homeless man who seems to have an awful lot of stuff and connections for someone who lives out of a shopping cart, and a goth girl with a hidden talent. Everyone in town is working together to help a local minister adopt a boy from Romania but they need to raise $40,000 in just a few weeks to make it possible. Mike feels a strange connection to the boy and before he knows it, he is put in charge of raising the money. This book has a great deal of humor despite some serious problems for the characters. Mike learns a lot about himself and his father in this charming title.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Storm Mountain by Tom Birdseye

Cat is looking forward to a weekend alone with her dog, Mugs. She has made herself her favorite pesto pizza and plans to follow it by doing whatever she wants since her mom is out of town. But her plans are spoiled when her cousin Ty shows up out of the blue with a plan to climb Storm Mountain. Ty's and Cat's fathers were twin brothers who were expert mountain climbers but both died in a rescue attempt on the mountain two years before. Now Ty has had a dream of his father asking to have his ashes scattered from the top of Storm Mountain and he believes that Cat's father would have wanted the same thing. Cat is adamently opposed to the idea and refuses to participate. But when she wakes up the next morning she discovers that Ty has taken her father's ashes and set off on his mission with Mugs. Cat charges after the two but before long finds that she has gotten herself into a situation she might not survive. The two cousins have to rely on each other so that they don't repeat history and die on the same mountain as their fathers. This is a quick book with lots of action so it might appeal to students who are looking for a fast read. The writing, however, is not good and I found that I didn't really care about either character. There is also a lot of mountain climbing terminology but no glossary. I am fascinated by Mount Everest climbing so I've read several books and websites about that but was still lost as to what was going on at some points.

Flip by Martyn Bedford

Alex wakes up one morning to find that it is six months later than the day before and that he is in the body of a boy named Phillip. He is also living with Phillip's family about 200 miles north of his home in London. Once Alex grips his situation he figures that he will be able to call home and somehow his parents will sort everything out. But when he tries to call his mother at work he gets a message from a co-worker accusing him of being a psycho and warning him to never call again. Calls to his own cell phone tell him that his number doesn't exist. When Alex finally manages to get an e-mail to his best friend, his friend tells him that it is impossible for him to actually be Alex. All of this, along with the time he has somehow lost, convinces him that he must have died but that his soul somehow ended up in Phillip's body. The shock of this revelation is replaced by an even bigger one when he learns that his body is in a coma. Knowing that his body is still alive, Alex becomes obsessed with finding a way to get his soul back into it. But in the meantime he has to live as Phillip while trying to figure out what exactly has happened to him. This is an intriguing book full of thought-provoking ideas.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Warped by Maurissa Guibord

Tessa and her bookstore-owning father purchase a lot of books at an auction only to find that one of the boxes contains an old tapestry with a picture of a unicorn on it. Tessa is drawn to the tapestry and when she draws her fingers over it she finds herself pulled into a vision of the 1500's. In her vision she sees an Earl who has his thread of life withdrawn by a witch who weaves it into her tapestry. When Tessa pulls on a loose thread on the tapestry she accidentally frees Will De Chaucy, the Earl of her vision. He tells her that he has been imprisoned in the tapestry as a unicorn all this time. Tessa is happy to have freed Will and feels herself drawn to him but the witch who enslaved him wants her tapestry back. It is the tool she needs to keep herself young and immortal. Tessa is also contacted by the fates who spin life but who have been missing seven threads for centuries. Stuck between her love for Will, immortal creatures, and an evil witch, Tessa isn't sure how she can make everything right. A unique love story with a strong female lead character.

Vampire Crush by A. M. Robinson

Sophie hopes to be editor of her school newspaper but first she has to interview four of the mysterious, pale new students at school. They all live together and seem to follow Vlad, a good-looking but odd boy. Vlad immediately takes an interest in Sophie's stepsister Caroline but Sophie herself can't seem to get close enough to get an interview. She is aided by James, her next-door neighbor from childhood who has suddenly moved back into his old house but seems to prefer spending all of his time there in the dark. James knows all the other new students from his old school but warns Sophie to stay away from them. Intrigued, Sophie does the exact opposite only to find herself deep in something she never expected or believed possible. This is a funny, campy story and romance. Sophie's voice is very witty and the pop references fly fast and furious.

Orchards by Holly Thompson

After a classmate commits suicide because of being ostracized by the rest of the girls in her class, Kana is sent to Japan for the summer to be with relatives. Feeling guilty about how she didn't see the signs or make any effort to help the girl, Kana is also unhappy about being sent away. She has to spend her summer in school and helping with the harvest at her family's orchard. Slowly she begins to come to terms with her role in the suicide and her feelings about it, only to face another tragedy back at home.

The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

Will has lived at a monastery since his parents died several years earlier. While in the woods one day he finds a hob caught in a trap, frees it and takes it back to the abbey to be healed by Brother Snail. The hob is a mythical creature who can only be seen by those with "the sight" but Will can both see him and begins to care for him. Shortly after the arrival of the hob, two mysterious guests come to stay at the abbey. Will discovers that one of them is a leper and over time realizes that his servant is a member of the Fay. The two men are searching for something at the monastery and with the help of Brother Snail and the hob Will learns that an angel was killed and buried nearby many years before. Somehow Will is now involved in the search for the angel's grave and is being targeted by the Dark King of the Fay. This is a fast-moving adventure that reminds me of the Last Apprentice series. And now I wish I had a hob.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

A planeload of girls on their way to compete in the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on an island. The surviving girls have to find out how to stay alive until they are rescued. The first order of business is to choose a leader and two girls step up. Miss Texas, Taylor, believes that the girls should continue to practice their numbers and interviewing skills for the pageant so that when they are rescued they will be ready to perform. Miss New Hampshire, Adina, is more interested in practical matters such as building shelter and finding food. Taylor wins the vote but the girls also spend part of the days taking care of other business. What they don't know is that their island isn't deserted. In fact, The Corporation has a secret compound on the other side of the island and is well aware of the fact that the girls are there but doesn't want any unwanted attention on what they are doing there. As the beauty queens spend more time on the island they begin to realize that there might be bigger things to achieve in life than the Teen Dream title. This book is any number of things: a laugh out loud comedy; a good adventure; a story that integrates gay, bisexual and transgendered characters without making it a big deal; a romance; a biting satire about how our lives and opinions are controlled by marketing and big business; and most of all - in my opinion - as strong a piece of feminist literature as I've read in a long time. VERY enjoyable!!

Horton Halfpott by Tom Angelberger

This book has several lengthy subtitles which you will need to look up yourself because I'm not going to make this heading be five lines long. But one of said subtitles refers to the loosening of a corset which is the impetus for all the subsequent action in the book. Horton is a kitchen boy in the home of M'Lady Luggertuck. Although he only earns a penny a week he is happy to have the job because he is hoping to save enough money to allow his sick father to see a doctor. Things begin to change, however, when M'Lady agrees to host a ball for her nephew so that he may woo a neighborhood girl. From that point forward things get sillier and sillier as M'Lady's son attempts to frame Horton for wrongdoings, a clueless investigator arrives on the scene, and a band of shipless pirates (pirates who have lost their ship) become involved. I was anxious to read this since I love Origami Yoda soooo much. This didn't live up to the greatness of his previous title but it was still fun and had me lol-ing at several points. In particular, I enjoyed the references to M'Lady Luggertuck's previous adventures and the fact that the name of the pirates ship -before they lost it - was The Very Scary Shark.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Although this book is fiction, it is based on the real life holocaust of people in Europe by the Soviets at the time of World War II. This story follows Lina, a 15 year old Lithuanian girl who is taken from her home along with her younger brother and mother. For weeks they ride in a train car across the Soviet Union packed in with so many other people there is little room to move. Each time the train stops more and more dead bodies are thrown out of the other cars. When the train finally arrives at its final destination Lina finds that they have persevered only to be locked into a work camp with very little food. The only way to survive is to sign a pledge admitting that you are guilty of crimes or to do other, even more unspeakable things. This story seems similar given all the Nazi holocaust literature out there but this is a story of a different atrocity which has received very little attention but which is just as heartbreaking.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny lives in Nigeria but was born in America. She is a great soccer player but can't play because she's albino and can't be in the sun for long periods of time. While staring into a candle one night Sunny has a vision of the end of the world and she learns soon afterwards that she is a Leopard person - someone who has some magical abilities. While most Leopard people come from families with magical powers, Sunny is a "free agent" so she has no background training in her abilities. With the help of three friends she begins to learn what powers she naturally possesses and what things she will be able to learn with time. Being a Leopard is not all fun however. An older, powerful magician is killing children in their community in order to summon a being even more evil than himself and Sunny and her friends are tasked with finding and stopping him. This fantasy is very different from anything else I've ever read which is saying something. I got a little confused at times with the different characters because there is a lot of dialogue but the world in which Sunny lives is unique and intriguing. A good read for people who like fantasy and magic but are getting a little weary of Harry Potter and Twilight knock offs.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

After her 16th birthday princess Nalia receives a shock. Due to a prophecy predicting the death of the princess before age 16, the king and queen had their daughter switched with a commoner at birth and had both girls put under a spell to make everyone believe in the imposter. Now that the 16th birthday has passed the read princess is coming to assume her place in the palace and the false princess - who is actually named Sinda - has to leave immediately to live with an aunt who didn't even know she existed. Sinda is reeling from her change and especially because she had to leave her best friend Kiernan behind without even saying goodbye to him but she tries to adapt to her "real" life. But after a betrayal by someone she trusted she discovers that she has huge magical abilities which will be dangerous if she doesn't receive training. Sinda ends up back in the city where she finds that there is even more deception at the palace and that she might not be the only false princess. Sinda starts off a little meek but as she has to deal with more and more events she emerges as a strong woman, especially when she has the help of equally strong Kiernan. I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next and how Sinda was going to save the royal family from the lie they have been told. You also learn who the bad guy is somewhat early on and I wondered if that would lessen the excitement but that was not a problem at all. A really exciting story but also well-crafted.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'll be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Sam and his younger brother Riddle have been on the move since they were stolen by their mentally unstable and criminal father. Sam hasn't been to school since the second grade but he has educated himself through lots of reading. Sam knows that Clarence is a criminal but since his father has largely left him and Riddle alone, Sam has gone along whenever it is time to leave town. His life changes when he wanders into a church and hears Emily Bell sing. The two teens are drawn to each other even though Sam tells her nothing of his background and life. Emily's parents are suspicious at first but they are won over - her father the music teacher when he hears Sam's amazing talent at playing the guitar, and her mother the nurse when she meets Riddle and realizes that he needs nurturing. But when Clarence realizes that his sons are spending time with the family he decides it's time to move again. This mystery kept me riveted wondering if and when the boys would escape their father and even if they would survive all the things that happen to them. The story is written in a sparse (despite the length of the novel) way broken up into many small chunks that nearly all end with a cliffhanger or twist of fate. I either loved this style or was annoyed by the preciousness of it, I'm not sure which.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rosebush by Michele Jaffe

Jane awakens in the hospital unsure of how she got there. Her family tells her she was the victim of a hit and run accident - or was it a suicide attempt? Jane remembers going to a party with her two best friends the night before but not much else after they arrived. Her room is filled with flowers including several gifts from a secret admirer all of which include a sinister promise that they will meet soon and finish what they started. Jane is sure she wasn't trying to kill herself and begins to believe that someone was purposefully trying to kill her, especially after she receives a threatening phone call. The problem is, no one else believes her since no one else heard the phone ring. Is Jane going crazy or is someone actually stalking her? And if she's not losing her mind, which of her trusted friends is the killer? This is a book that made me wake up early because I couldn't wait to read to the end to find out what was going on. A really enjoyable read!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Z by Michael Ford

Josh lives in a post-zombie world. 15 years before many people suddenly began turning into zombies due to a mutated flu strain. While not actually "living dead", these zombies were not able to think or feel as people anymore and they spread the virus through bites and blood. The only way to stop the infection was to burn the zombies, a task that was taken on by Torchers. Josh has never seen any real zombies but he does enjoy playing a videogame where he plays a Torcher. Because of his talent in the videogame he is recruited to play a real life version of the game where he works with his team to hunt and destroy animatronic versions of zombies. Charlie, the cute girl who recruited him, also introduces him to the drug Z which allows you to think more like a zombie while reducing your inhibitions. Josh is having a great time but the more he plays the game the more he realizes that there are some secrets that are being kept from him. This is a good action book with a few twists I didn't see coming. The ending is wide open so either the author intends to write a sequel or it's just meant to keep you thinking.

Jersey Tomatoes are the Best by Maria Padian

Henrietta - "Henry" - and Eva have been best friends since elementary school. Henry is a champion tennis player and Eva is a ballerina who has just been accepted to a prestigious summer program in New York. Both girls have overbearing parents and they compare stories to see which girl has it worse at any particular point. For the first time they are going to be apart as Henry heads to Florida for a competitive tennis camp. Life changes for both girls in different ways. Henry finds herself flourishing away from her father's trash talk. With advice from David, a player who is on the brink of playing professionally, she learns new tricks to improve her game and for the first time in her life finds herself falling in love with someone. Eva, meanwhile, is struggling. Her dancing is better than ever and she quickly gains the attention of the damanding ballet instructor. But her health is failing as she refuses to eat in order to maintain the body size she believes she needs to succeed. This book tells each girl's story in alternating chapters. The voices are realistic and you really care about both Henry and Eva and the choices they make.

Eggs Over Evie by Alison Jackson

Evie lives with her mother while her father lives across the lake with his new, young wife. Evie's father is a celebrity chef and Evie is trying to follow in his footsteps by taking a cooking class at the rec center. Her teacher seems to be a grown up hippie and her cooking partner seems to take an instant dislike to her. Evie's home life is hard too with her mom beginning to date and her beloved dog living with her father. To top everything off, her new stepmom announces she's pregnant and expecting twins. It's up to Evie to find a way to make all the parts of her life work for her again. This is not a deep book but it is realistic and enjoyable. Each chapter also includes cooking tips and one of Evie's recipes which makes it more fun!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Cheyenne is sleeping in the back of a car while her stepmother goes into a pharmacy to get Cheyenne's medicine. When Griffin sees the Escalade with the keys in the ignition he steals the car without even realizing that Cheyenne is there. Although he intended just to steal the car and give it to his father - who makes his living out of selling stolen vehicles and parts - now Griffin faces serious charges. Cheyenne's situation is even more serious because she has been blind for three years so she has virtually no chance of escape. On the positive side, she can't identify her kidnappers so she hopes they will eventually let her go. Griffin is working hard on his father, Roy, to do just that and things look hopeful for Cheyenne until Roy learns that Cheyenne's father is the founder of Nike. Now Roy wants to ask for a ransom for Cheyenne in exchange for her freedom...

Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

This is a story about Sherlock Holmes as a teen. Sherlock is looking forward to his summer break so he is surprised when he learns he will be spending the break with an aunt and uncle he barely knows in the country. He is even less excited when his brother arranges for a tutor for Sherlock over the summer. His time in exile becomes more interesting when he meets Matty, a homeless boy with lots of street smarts. And then Sherlock's life takes a dangerous turn when he stumbles across a dead body covered in red sores while out with his tutor. He observes a cloud hovering over the body and Matty reveals that he saw a similar body and cloud just a few days earlier. With the help of Sherlock's tutor and his daughter, the two boys begin investigating the mystery and what they find is the surprising work of a demented genius. This book is full of action and you don't have to know about Sherlock Holmes to enjoy the story.

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

Kayla's 16th birthday stinks. Her mom throws her a huge, pink party when all she wants is a quiet night at home. Her best friend shows up three hours late because she's out on a date with the boy Kayla has a serious crush on. When Kayla blows out the candles on her four tier pink cake, she wishes that her birthday wishes will finally come true because they never do. The next morning she is surprised to find a pink pony with a picture of an ice cream cone on its flank in her backyard. The day after that she wakes up to a room full of gumballs. Each day a new birthday wish from her past comes true with funny results. Kayla doesn't remember many of her wishes from her childhood but she does remember what she wished for last year - a kiss from Ben, her crush. She knows that she has to end this curse before that wish comes true and ruins her friendship with Nicole forever. This is a funny, light book that still contains a few important realizations for Kayla.

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Prudence is bored at her charm school classes. She is much more fascinated by scientific books and would especially like to figure out how to stop illness. When she gets an opportunity to work for Mr. Soper at the city health department she jumps at the chance to be his assistant. With Mr. Soper she begins to investigate an epidemic of typhoid fever. Thanks to Prudence's careful notes they discover that all the cases of typhoid can be traced back to a cook named Mary, even though she herself is completely healthy. Mary violently resists coming in for any testing so Prudence and Mr. Soper have to work together with a female doctor to find some way to stop Mary from spreading the illness to anyone else. All while Prudence realizes that she is falling in love with her boss, learning the truth about her father who has been missing for many years, and figuring out what she wants to do with her life. This book is based on the real mystery of "Typhoid Mary", a woman who carried the typhoid germ without being sick herself.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Miles From Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

Lacey is excited and nervous about her first day of work at the public library. Her mother is also starting a new job at the grocery store and Lacey is even more nervous about that because her mother has mental problems that often keep her from interacting well with others.. Ever since her mom threw Lacey's aunt Linda out of the house Lacey has had to try to take care of her mom all by herself. Her mother gets many messages from Granddaddy, Lacey's grandfather who killed himself when she was born. Lacey loves her mother but she just wants a little time to herself and a chance to leave the house so she has high expectations for the day. On the bus to their new jobs she runs into Aaron, a boy from school. She is surprised when he sits with her and talks to her without making fun of her. He even asks to meet and ride home with her when she is done with her job. Lacey's day seems to be going perfectly until they arrive at the grocery store in the afternoon and Momma isn't there. Lacey and Aaron search for Momma everywhere they can think and eventually arrive home to find a chilling scene which makes Lacey question whether she can continue to take care of her mother all by herself. This book started slow for me and it seemed like not much was happening. But as you read along you are slowly pulled into Lacey's crazy world of love, guilt and anger. And the ending - while nightmarish - felt totally realistic to me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

Tess lives on an island with her parents and little sister. The only school on the island is in danger of closing because a family with five children moved away and now there are not enough students to keep the school running. In an effort to keep the school open five foster children are brought to families on the island and Aaron has joined Tess's family. At first Tess is excited by the prospect of a new family member but Aaron doesn't seem to want to be there with them. And his attitude is not helped by the local bully who takes every opportunity to call Aaron an orphan. Aaron longs to see his mother but he is not allowed to have any contact with her. But Tess hopes that Aaron will be happier if he has a chance to talk to his mother and can see that he's better off where he is so she takes matters into her own hands.

Losing Faith by Denise Jaden

Brie's sister, Faith, is devoted to her religion and spends most of her evenings with the church youth group. Brie has lost her interest in church and is annoyed Faith's devotion. Brie does manage to use Faith to get a ride to meet her boyfriend on an evening that Faith is meeting with her group. For some reason on that night Faith is on a mountain's edge and falls to her death. After her sister's death Brie realizes that there are many things she never knew about Faith. And while she investigates Faith's life she finds more questions than answers. Where has Faith been going every night instead of the church youth group? Who are the people on her Facebook page? Why won't Faith's best friend even talk to Brie about what happened the night she died? And most importantly, was Faith's death an accident or suicide? With the help of a new friend and a mysterious boy Brie finds out that Faith was involved in something much more sinister than anyone imagined. This book is an intriguing mystery about what happened to Faith although the "bad guy" seemed a little exaggerated to me.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Forced to leave her home country of Vietnam because of war, Ha's family ends up in Alabama sponsored by a "cowboy". Ha's brothers seem to fit in fairly well right from the start. Her oldest brother gets to go to college while another attracts admirers because he is an expert in martial arts just like his hero Bruce Lee. But Ha faces troubles at school where several boys pick on her for being different. Worse than that, she is treated like she is stupid just because she doesn't know English yet even though she was at the top of her class in Vietnam. It seems impossible to believe but she preferred her life in war torn Vietnam to her safer life in America. This is based on the author's actual experiences coming to America as an immigrant from Vietnam.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Familiars by Epstein and Jacobson

Aldwyn is an alley cat who survives based on his street smarts. He has always been able to get away with stealing the food he needs until the day he is nearly captured by Grimslade, a bounty hunter. Aldwyn ends up hiding in a magic shop where he is selected as the familiar for a young wizard. Familiars are animals that have some magical abilities and are able to help out their human loyals and cats are supposed to be able to move things just by thinking about them. Even though Aldwyn knows he is just a regular cat he decides to go along with the charade after he finds that life at his new home is happy and comfortable. He also meets Skylar, a bird, and Gilbert, a frog, who are the familiars to two other young magicians. But shortly after Aldwyn arrives the elder wizard who has been teaching the others is killed and the three loyals are taken prisoner by the queen of the county. With his dying breath the old wizard tells the familiars that it is up to them to save their loyals. Unsure of how to do that with their limited abilities the three familiars set out nonetheless to find their people and save the kingdom. This is a good book for those who like magical stories such as Harry Potter. There are some unique creatures and magical abilities as well as some funny animals.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Clarity by Kim Harrington

Clarity only has to touch something and she has visions of what the object's owner was thinking, feeling and doing. Clare comes from a long line of psychics and she works with her brother who can talk to ghosts and her mother who can read minds to tell fortunes for tourists in town. Her paranormal powers have her labelled as a freak at school. But after a tourist is murdered the mayor hires Clare to help find the killer. Clare is forced to work with her ex-boyfriend who betrayed her and newcomer Gabriel who constantly ridicules her ability. When Clare finds out that her brother was the last person the victim saw on the night she was murdered, Clare has to work even harder to find the real killer before Perry is arrested. This is a fast-paced mystery full of twists, romance and danger.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Last Notebook of Leonardo by B.B. Wurge

Jem's father is a scientific genius who worships Leonardo DaVinci. Over the years he has done many things including growing an extra finger. When he converts himself into an orangutan his boss and their landlord don't see the advantages and Jem and his dad hit the road. Based on his research Dad is convinced that Leonardo faked his death in Italy and actually came to America so the father and son decide to find his final resting place. Telling people that his dad is a Native American shaman wearing a bear costume, Jem manages to get them rides along the way. When they actually do find Leonardo's resting place, no one could have predicted where they would end up!

Archvillain by Barry Lyga

Kyle has always been the most popular boy in school and is famous for his pranks. While working on the water tower one night to prepare for a new prank Kyle is showered by space plasma the leaves him with superpowers. While he is still experimenting with his new powers his town is astounded by "Mighty Mike", a boy who was found in the field who also has superpowers and is using them to help save people. Kyle is sure that Mike is an alien who is up to no good. But when he plans a prank to dissolve Mike's pants his machine goes awry and he is labeled as the Blue Freak, a villain. Even his best friend Mairi seems to worship Mike and hate the Blue Freak. With the help of his modified iPod, Kyle's plans for avenging himself go to the extreme. Who is really the villain of this story?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

After his father loses his job Doug has to move to stupid Marysville. Looking for something to do he goes to the library and meets Lil, a girl his age. Within the library he is captivated by a drawing of an arctic tern in a bird book by John Audubon. With the help of the librarian he begins to learn how to draw and develop an artist's eye. But when school starts he finds that he is an outsider with both the students and teachers. When his brother is suspected of breaking into the town hardware store everyone in the small town is suspicious of Doug as well. Doug must work even harder to prove that he is nothing like his brother, or his father even as he wants to fight back. Like all books by this author Okay for Now contains humor and heartbreak all together in one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon

Ella's only friend at school is Z, the weird boy. They are both outcasts, her because of the two-toned skin on her face and Z because he lives in a fantasy world where everyone is a knight or lady. Ella is so used to being picked on that she can't believe it when Bailey shows up and seems to take an interest in her. Besides being good-looking, popular and a basketball star, Bailey is the only other African-American student in school. Ella is unsure what to make of Bailey's attention but she's excited about the possibility of finally having other friends. The only problem is that the more time she spends with Bailey, the more Z seems to be retreating even further into his world of fantasy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Trapped by Michael Northrop

Scotty and six other students are trapped inside their school due to the blizzard of the century. All seven teens stayed after school for various reasons only to find that that snow was so heavy it covered the entire first floor as well as any cars that might have been coming to pick them up. At first the kids are unhappy but content to stay in the school for what they think will just be a day. But the snow keeps falling, even getting up to the second floor of the school and keeping them inside for days on end. And the problems keep piling up - no heat, no phones, no running water.... Only a desperate plan has any hope of saving them before the roof collapses. This book has a great premise and lots of promise of danger but it never quite follows through in making the reader feel the fear people actually in this situation would feel.