Monday, October 8, 2012

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead *****

Georges has a lot to deal with: His father has lost his job; his family has moved into an apartment; his mother is working extra shifts as a nurse at the hospital; he is hounded by several of the kids at school; and his new neighbor "Safer" wants him to join in his activities as a spy.  Part mystery but so much more, this is a winner and one of my top picks for the Newbery this year.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen ****

When Wahoo Cray and his animal-wrangling father agree to take a job with the popular series Expedition Survival, they quickly find themselves facing off with the star of the show, egomaniac Derek Badger.  However, when Derek goes missing in the Everglades, Wahoo and his new-found friend Tuna find themselves running from her deranged father and dealing with a confused Derek at the same time.  I love the humor in this one along with the wildly engaging characters.

Captain Awesome to the Rescue by Stan Kirby; Illustrated by George O'Connor ****

Young readers will find a new superhero to root for in the fun new series.  8-year old Eugene pulls out his alter ego, Captain Awesome when he moves to a new town and sets out to find the missing class hamster.  his enthusiasm and humor is contagious and the illustrations more than add to the appeal.  This one is perfect for beginning chapter book readers looking for fun.

The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith ****

This humane title explores the beginnings of Precious Ramotswe's very first case.  The celebrated heroine of the adult series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency solves the mystery of some treats missing from her classroom.  When others rush to quickly accuse an overweight classmate, Precious takes the time to follow the clues and find the real culprits.

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham *****

In a touching celebration of community, Bob Graham pulls together gentle illustrations and an engaging story to tell the story of an abandoned bus, adopted by a little girl, and made into a community center.  When the bus is towed, little Stella attempts to bargain with the junkyard boss to get the bus back.  He challenges her, "tell me why should I play you for the bus?"  Her response captures the essence of the story, "Because there are sparrows nesting in the engine."  Here people look out for and care for one another as well as the creatures found on their city block.  Lovely!!

Sophie's Fish by A.E. Cannon; illustrated by Lee White ****

A young boy imagines all the disasters that could come his way after he agrees to pet sit his friend's fish while she is away.  He calms down just in time for the fish to arrive and a surprisingly shocking ending to greet him.  I love the touch of humor and the mixed media illustrations dominated by watercolor and collage provide a fascinating back-drop for the story.

Sent: The Missing Book 2 by Margaret Peterson Haddix ***

Well, after all these years I have finally found myself involved in this series.  This second installment took some getting used to as the first seemed more like sci-fi and this is firmly in the Historical Fiction Time Travel genre.  For that reason I didn't love it from page one but I was turning pages by the conclusion and plan to continue reading on.

Fish had a Wish by Michale Garland ***

Fish dreams of being bird, a turtle, a bee, and more in this beginning reader picture book.  The satisfying conclusion finds fish joyfully acknowledging, "It is good to be a fish"!  Readers captivated by the unique "digi-wood" illustrations will be visiting this one over and over again.

What Little Boys Are Made Of by Robert Neubecker ***

This celebration of boys manages to move beyond the stereotype, offering a fun romp through many of the things that might make up a boy.  Delightful illustrations, full of color and action support the text.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Every Day's a Dog's Day by Marilyn Singer; illus. by Miki Sakamoto ***

Appealing and full of cuteness for the dog lover.  That said, there's nothing that really makes it stand out above others in the area.  My favorite dog lover's poetry is Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia MacLachlan.

The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence ***

I would give T. Sands' audio presentation of this title 4 stars.  The only reason I hold back a little on the story itself is I find the audience a little questionable.  This is a rip-roaring western mystery set in 1862. P.K. Pinkerton's parents have just been murdered and P.K. travels to Virginia City in an attempt to escape the ruthless desperadoes and claim his deed to a large amount of land and silver mines.  Along the way P.K. acquires some interesting acquaintances including Samuel Clements.  The story is entertaining and the characters intriguing.  The title does include plenty of salty words, a dash of gore, and some questionably mature references.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wonder by R. J. Palacio *****

Wow!  I think this deserves 5+ stars.  It has been a long time since I've read late into the night - but this one had me doing just that even without the adventure or fantasy element.  Just spectacular writing kept me wanting more.  This is the fascinating story of 5th grader, Auggie Pullman who was born with sever facial abnormalities.  For the first time in his life he is being sent to school (having been home-schooled previously).  This title follows Auggie through his first year at school and includes sections told from the viewpoint of various supporting characters.  Wonderful.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

I listened to the audio on this one.  Mark Turetsky, the narrator, does a nice job, providing easily distinguishable voices for each character and carrying the action along nicely.  A Candymaker's son with a terrible past, a quiet boy who witnessed a drowning, a rich snob hiding more than one secret, and a perky young girl who is really a spy come together in this intriguing title.  If one can slog through the first half of the book they will be well rewarded.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Green - Written & Illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger *****

In this celebration of the color green, Seeger's amazing textures will have readers lingering over each page.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems *****

Willems is the master when it comes to very young readers.  The pigeon appears once again in this new outing, this time learning a little lesson in humility.  While the youngest readers may not pick up on it, the last line will leave older readers laughing.

Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett; illustrated by Ann James ****

This title for young chapter book readers is just right - short chapters, large type, engaging characters, and a touch of humor.  Hannah's hands, Sadie and Ratz, get her in plenty of trouble.  They especially like to try to rub Baby Boy's ear's off - UH, OH!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

and then it's spring by Julie Fogliano & illus. by Erin Stead *****

This sweet poetic text meshes perfectly with Stead's woodblock prints with pencil.  They come together perfectly in this hopeful celebration of spring and the anticipation that proceeds it.  Lovely in every way!

Kali's Song by Jeanette Winter ****

Kali a Paleolithic cave dweller, discovers music in the string of his bow, leading him to care more about the beauty of the sound than the hung.  I love the textures of the illustrations.

Crow by Barbara Wright *****

Moses Thomas is a sympathetic and compelling character that offers readers a look into the terrible Wilmington Massacre of 1898.

Case of the Gypsy Goodbye *****

Five stars for this excellent conclusion to a captivating mystery series.  I found it satisfying in every way - and the audio book is superb.