Thursday, August 24, 2006

School Year begins

If anyone is looking for book reviews here, the most current updates will be at my school website.

http://www.sjms.jordan.k12.ut.us/MediaCenter/corner.htm

I may post here on long weekends or holidays!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

On a Roll

As you read my reviews today, you'll notice I seem to have a beef against swearing. And I do, when it feels like the swearing is added to artificially inflate the maturity level of a book. I have defended books with swearing before. Oh well! Let me know if you feel differently!

Wiess, Laura Such a Pretty Girl, 224 p. Simon Schuster – Meredith has been safe for three years, but now her rapist – her own father – is getting out of jail early for good behavior and her mother insists that Meredith welcome him back with open arms. In the few dramatic days following his release, Meredith discovers some unexpected supporters and the strength within her self to survive. Very engrossing and a speedy read that will generate lots of word of mouth among students. The book does mention, of course, the rape, without describing it. Meredith also is pretty cozy with her older boyfriend, but again the descriptions are fairly limited. The “F’ word is used once, and other swear words less than half a dozen times. MS, HS-ESSENTIAL

Page, Katherine Hall Club Meds, 166 p. Simon Schuster – Jack, Mary and Sam call themselves and other kids who troop to the nurse’s office each day “Club Med”, as they get the medication they need to survive another day of school. Now they are in high school and Jack’s old tormentor has decided to use Jack as his personal supplier for his drug deals around campus – forcing Jack to turn over half of his medication for each day. Since Jack needs that medication to make it through each school day, he and his friends hit upon a plan to thwart Chuck and assert themselves against the school bullies. I have to wonder if someone told the author that the book would never sell unless she included some swearing, so she went back and add a swear word about every other page. I kid you not – that’s just about how often they are. They add absolutely nothing to the narrative and instead feel like great big clunker sin the middle of the story flow. It’s too bad – the story is very goos, but the sheer amount and variety of swear words, with no purpose, make this off limits for public schools. NO

Dowswell, Paul Prison Ship, 300 p. Bloomsbury – Sam Witchall survived the epic battle in Powder Monkey and has a new berth on a new ship. Unfortunately, He raises the ire and suspicion of the ship’s purser and the purser’s son, who frame him and his best friend Richard for cowardice in the midst of battle. The two are sent to Australia for punishment and continue to get themselves into trouble time after time, even though they have good people trying to help them. I really enjoyed the descriptions of ship life and colony life, but I got tired of watching the boys continually make horrible mistakes and be saved from their own follies in a deux ex machina fashion. I haven’t read the first title, but if it is the same then I have a hard time being enthusiastic. MS-ADVISABLE


Lopez, Jack In The Break
, 192 p. Little, Brown – Juan and his best friend Jamie spend the best part of their days catching waves at their favorite breaks up and down the shore. When Jamie’s stepfather forces a confrontation, Jamie beats him until he is close to death. With Amber, Jamie’s sister, the pair head to Mexico to find a place for Jamie to hide out. With the help of an old Mexican man, the friends head out to a sheltered island with gorgeous waves and pods of dolphins playing in the surf. Danger lurks right around the corner. Part of the blurb on the back of the book calls the author’s writing “lyrical”, and it might be, but its hard to tell through all of the swearing. Clunky and jarring, the large amount of swear words – totally without purpose – interrupt the reading and spoil the novel. NO

Umansky, Kaye The Silver Spoon of Solomon Snow, 304 p. Candlewick - One fateful day, Solomon Snow discovers that he truly is a foundling, left in the snow with only a napkin and a silver spoon as the keys to his origins. Along with Prudence, a girl too smart for the village, he ventures to Town in search of spoon, which his stepfather pawned more than a year earlier. Along the way they acquire a little girl, a rabbit and chimney sweep – all of whom are key to solving the mystery. Written after the author was inspired by Dickens, the parody of old Victorian novels. I know adults would appreciate the book, but I am not so sure about children. EL-OPTIONAL

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Plethora of titles

DuPrau, Jeanne Prophet of Yonwood, 304 p. Random House – 11 year old Nickie has come to Yonwood with her Aunt Christine to sell her great-grandfather’s house. The pair find the town under the grip of a woman in a coma, Althea Tower, who is being called The Prophet. Old Ms. Beeson has taken the role of interpreting the Prophet’s mumblings into directives for the townfolk. Christine is torn between her desire to help forward the Prophet’s vision and her feelings of loyalty to people who don’t really believe in Ms. Beeson’s orders. This book has almost nothing to do with the previous Ember books, except for a contrived relationship that means nothing. If you feel that your readers will be disappointed by that, then don’t by this book. If you think your students will be interested in a tale of town in the grip of a cult-like experience, then you might buy this, but there are better books out there addressing the topic. Email me if you want some titles. EL, MS-OPTIONAL

Baker, E.D. No Place for Magic, 250 p. Bloombury – Emma and Eadric are ready to marry, but Emma insists that they receive his parents’ blessing. In Eadric’s country, however, witches and magic are not respected. When the pair arrive, they are immediately set with the task of rescuing Eadric’s little brother from evil trolls – and Emma is going to try to accomplish this without depending on her magic. A nicely done addition to the Frog Princess series. EL, MS-ADVISABLE

Moore, Lilian Beware, Take Care PICTURE BOOK Henry Holt – A rambunctious ghost, a smiling monster, a misunderstood dragon are part of the poems and adorable illustrations in this short picture book. My favorite poem is The Teeny, Tiny Ghost. If you have a large Halloween collection, this would be a good addition. EL – OPTIONAL

Murphy, Jim Desperate Journey, 272 p. Scholastic – Maggie and her family live and work on the Erie Canal. If they don’t get their current load to the city on time, they will probably loose their boat and their livelihood. Along their way, however, their father and uncle are arrested on trumped up charges. Maggie, her mother and her brother must somehow get the boat there on time. While the writing and pacing are excellent, the subject matter will probably not draw students to the novel. If you have a teacher who requires an American Historical fiction read, then add this to your collection. Otherwise, you will need to sell this title. EL, MS-OPTIONAL


Truss, Lynne Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Why commas really do make a difference
, PICTURE BOOK Penguin – A panda walks into a diner, eats a bit, shoots a couple of arrows and then leaves. So begins several pages of misplaced and replaced commas and great illustrations for each convention. The importance of the lowly comma becomes very evident. This title was originally published as a non-fiction title that expounds at great length (yes, I have read it). This much shorter, and to the point adaptation, would be an excellent tool at every level of education. You will need a opaque projector or its modern equivalent in order to make the most of this title. EL, MS, HS – ESSENTIAL

Cooper, Susan Victory, 208 p. Simon Schuster – Sam has been pressganged onto Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flag ship before the battle of Trafalgar. Molly has moved with her mother and step family from her beloved London to Connecticut, bringing along a severe case of homesickness. The two young people’s stories come together when Molly finds a piece of Admiral Nelson’s history preserved by Sam between the pages of a book. Books about sailing ships and sea battles seem to be doing well in many libraries. If this is the case in your library, then this will be a good addition. EL, MS-ADVISABLE

Reeve, Philip Infernal Devices , 368 p. HarperCollins – 20 years after Hester and Tom took refuge on the tiny city of Anchorage, they must set out among the Hungry Cities again. This time they must rescue their daughter, Wren, who has been kidnapped and is in a situation more dangerous than she knows. Pennyroyal, Anita Fang, and Stalker Grike are back, each with an important part in this small family’s destiny. Definitely exciting, but for a more mature audience. This title will work best in school’s which already own the first two. I would not buy the series based on the strength of this title. MS, HS - ADVISABLE

Mackall, Dandi Eva Underground, 256 p. Harcourt – Eva’s mother has died and her father has dragged her from her comfortable American life and into the extremely poor and anti-democracy environs of Communist Poland of the 1970’s. While father tries to nurture a revolution, Eva tries to just survive the harsh, unfamiliar life that she has been thrust into. The events of this title are far removed from the students of today. This title might find a home in a large high school library, especially one where a faculty member actually discusses the events. It will need help finding its audience. MS, HS – OPTIONAL

Smith, Lane John, Paul, George and Ben PICTURE BOOK Hyperion – A fun, humorous look at the early lives of five (Tom, too) important men in American history. A great true/false section at the end of the narrative elevates this from mere entertainment, to a way to introduce these men to middle or high school students. EL, MS, HS – ADVISABLE

Sis, Peter Tree of Life
PICTURE BOOK Farrar, Straus, Giroux – Peter Sis applies his unique illustration style to short, but in-depth look at the life of Charles Darwin. Tiny, detailed drawing, along with (tiny, detailed) writing make this book only appropriate for middle school or high school. If a teacher used an opaque projector, their class could be enjoy this look at Darwin. MS, HS – OPTIONAL

Walton, Rick Suddenly Alligator: an adverbial tale
PICTURE BOOK Gibbs Smith – A young boy walks through the swamp in quest of a new pair of socks. Along with other discoveries, he encounters an alligator intent on making the boy his next meal. The author places each adverb at the end of the sentence add emphasis, helping younger readers enjoy the lesson. Middle or high school grammar and writing teachers could use this book to show how using a wide variety of adverbs enhances writing MIGHTILY. EL, MS, HS – ADVISABLE

Kerr, P.B. Cobra King of Kathmandu 384 p. Scholastic – John, Philippa and their best friend Dybbuk travel to India on the hunt for a murderer – not knowing that they must also save their Uncle Nimrod and breakup the resurrection of an old snake cult, whose leader is bent on capturing djinn for his own nefarious purpose. A likable, well-written addition to the series. EL, MS – ADVISABLE

LeGuin, Ursula Voices, 352 p. Harcourt – Memer has lived in her city, under the rule of print-phobic usurpers, the Alds, for most of her life. Only she and the Waylord have access to, or even know about, the secret library that was saved from destruction. Now Gry and Orrec, who is a Maker, have arrives in search of this repository. Orrec is destined to stir things up. This title is much more accessible than its predecessor, but will be better enjoyed if read second. If you already carry LeGuin, your upper level students will enjoy her new series. MS, HS – ADVSIABLE

Abbott, Tony Firegirl 145 p. Little, Brown – Tom is normal sixth grader, with a best friend, a bit car crazy and a secret crush on the prettiest girl in his grade. Then Jennifer, the victim of a horrible fire, comes to his class while she is receiving burn treatments and skin grafts, changing everything Tom thought he knew about himself and his best friend. This is a short and powerful novel that should be read aloud to every elementary and middle school student across the nation, followed up by an intense discussion about how to treat people with differences. The unembellished writing drives home the author’s intentions and shows how it is as easy to befriend someone as it is to ridicule them. EL, MS-ESSENTIAL

Wooderson, Philip The Plague: My side of the story, 192 p. Houghton – Rachel and Robert’s lives intersect in her father’s shop, where Robert is the apprentice, just as the plague takes hold in 1665 London. Even as the plague devastates London and moves into the villages, someone is trying to ruins Rachel’s father’s cloth business. This book is written back to back, with the reader having to flip the book in order to finish. The hype on the inside would have you believe that both sides give different, and possibly conflicting, views of the same action. Instead, one is really only a continuation of the other – and I started reading the wrong one first and knew the end before I had even begun! It really is necessary to read Rachel’s story first. Other than that quirk, the novel is a middle quality read that adds little to the drama around the Black Death. EL, MS-OPTIONAL

Feinstein, John Vanishing Act: Mystery at the U.S. Open
, 256 p. Knopf – Stevie and Susan Carol are covering another major sports event as they pursue their dreams of becoming major sports reporters. This time they are at the U.S. Open of tennis, where a major star disappears as she is approaching the court for her first game. Never kids to turn down a great mystery, the two do their best to expose the truth behind the kidnapping. This novel is as engaging as the author’s first, with loads of information about sports reporting, tennis professionals and the seedy world of athlete agents. The action is engaging enough that even if people recognize that there are major flaws in the background logic, they will be willing to forgive because the read was so much fun. MS-ADVISABLE

Coombs, Kate The Secret-keeper, PICTURE BOOK Simon Schuster – Kalli has been hearing and keeping the villagers’ secrets for years, but is made sick by the burden during one long winter. The villagers find a way to ease her heart and help her recover her spirit. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this picture book as a rip off of Sharon Shinn’s Safe-keeper’s Secret, though at the beginning the similarities are a bit irksome. Instead, enjoy this sweet little book that is so full of hope. Can anyone think of a way this would be useful in a secondary classroom? EL – ADVSIABLE

Steele, J.M. The Taker, 350 p. Hyperion – Carly must get into Princeton, but she tanks the SAT and only has eight weeks to study for the final retake. Then she receives a text message from “The Taker”, who promises to raise her score at least three hundred points, but she must study and act as if she is working hard on her own. For her tutor she enlists Ronald Gross – the nerdy guy who has lived across the street, and whom she has ignored, forever. Along the way Carly learns about lies and love, test-taking skills and life-skills. This is the second SAT fiction book I have read in the last six months and I enjoyed this one the best. A fun, quirky look at the too serious world of the SAT’s that many high school seniors will relate to. MS, HS – ADVSIABLE

Bulion, Leslie Uncharted Waters, 185 p. Peachtree – Jonah and his little sister Jaye are spending the summer with their beloved uncle in a cabin on a lake. Jonah, however, is hiding two secrets – that he will have to repeat seventh grade English if he doesn’t finish his final writing project and that his encounter with a jellyfish has left him afraid to go in the water. Jaye has taken his place in the local summer swim program and Jonah has found a job working for a local dock owner, but his fear of the water will come back to haunt him when he takes a job helping a young marine biologist. EL-OPTIONAL

Strasser, Todd Sidewayz Glory, 197 p. Simon Schuster – Kennin wakes from his horrific crash and finds himself with a badly broken leg and in the hospital, having lost five days in unconsciousness. Even with his cast on, he finds himself pressured on all sides – from Tito, who wants to make up for causing the crash; from Derek, who wants him to race at Mr. Mercado’s new drift track; from Jack, who wants sole control of Kennin’s sister; from Mariel, who still trying to make her boyfriend jealous. On the track and in his life, Kennin is never sure if he will ever regain control of anything. Excellent end to the Drift X trilogy. Buy at least two copies of each title, because at least one will be stolen! MS, HS-ESSENTIAL

Friday, July 14, 2006

15 Reviews for you

So here are the books that I read while I was on vacation. Since I have been home, I have been reading through my trashy romance novel pile, so I don't add those books to the list. Now that I am caught up, I am back to reading YA fiction. I've got a good stack to go through. Is there anyone out there in downtown Salt Lake who wants to read for reviews too?

Muchamore, Robert Maximum Security, 287 p. Simon and Schuster – 13 year old James Adams is tapped for a highly dangerous mission – entering a maximum security prison for juvenile offenders as an inmate and cuddling up to the only son of a major weapons dealer. CHERUB can not protect James once he is inside – not from the factions within the inmate groups, and not from guards who might be out for revenge. A much grittier CHERUB novel than the previous two. References to make body parts, a very graphic body cavity search scene, and violent fights elevate the maturity of this novel. Think hard before you put it in the middle school. MS-OPTIONAL, HS-ADVISABLE

Sorrells, Walter The Silent Room, 233 p. Oz’ new stepfather pushes him and goads him into fighting until Oz’ mother finally agrees to send him to a detention facility. Life on the facility’s tiny island is harsh and unbearable and the other boys whisper about ‘The Silent Room”. Oz’ and the other boys in his dorm have discovered an old boat abandoned in the swamp and work desperately to get it in working order so that they can escape. Oz, befriending the daughter of the camp director, learns that the director’s wife and one of the benefactors are actually dangerous con artists, who have plans for the boys under their care. When I started reading this novel, I first thought I was experiencing dejavu, but then realized that I was mixing it up with Willo Davis Robert’s “Blood on his Hands,” because both novels use the evil stepfather setting up the stepson in order to get rid of him as the major step up for the action. This sin one of those books that will make you queasy with tension as you read, a feeling that middle school students love. MS-ESSENTIAL

Davidson, Ellen Dee Stolen Voices 188 p. Lobster Press – At 15, Miri is supposed to be looking forward to being Masked and Bonded to her age mates. Unfortunately, she has no Talent and feels like a failure. Unable to join her friends, she sneaks in and witnesses the ritual – and is caught by the Masker – who has other plans for Miri. With the help of a rebel servant, Miri escapes to the Secret Valley and finds her destiny. An excellent piece of science fiction from a small press out of Quebec. I hope you can get your hands on a copy. MS, HS-ESSENTIAL

L’Homme, Erik Mystery of Lord Sha and Face of the Shadow, Scholastic – Second and final in the Quadehar trilogy. Robin and his friends have returned safely from the Uncertain Lands and are working on their chosen career paths. One evening Robin’s mentor Quadehar returns to the Unknown Lands on a secret quests, leaving Robin once again in the monastery of Gifdu for protection,. Instead, a mysterious figure cloaked in black breaches the security and hunts Robin down. Since these books are already in paperback, they would be worth adding to a large fantasy collection. EL, MS-OPTIONAL

Freymann-Wyer, Garret Stay With Me, 238 p. Houghton – 16 year old Leila is trying to cope with the suicide death of her much older half sister and her guilty feelings for not knowing her other family better. While trying to track down a mystery man she saw with her sister at a coffee house, Leila takes a waitressing job and ends up involved with 31 year old man. As I sit writing this review, I feel like the whole premise of the book is pretty weak. I actually enjoyed watching Leila and her extended family deal with their grief, but I could never get over my revulsion to the May-December romance which was so acceptable to Leila’s entire family – including the sex. NO

Lasky, Kathryn Born to Rule, 160 p HarperCollins – Alicia, a princess of B----- is away for her first summer at princess camp. She has formed a bond of friendship with her roommates, but she is struggling with the challenge every princess must face – finding and training a songbird. To further complicate things, rumors of a ghost haunting Alicia’s tower seem to have some truth, distracting Alicia with an enticing mystery. Fluffy and cute, prefect for middle elementary. EL-ADVSIABLE

Price, Charlie Dead Connection, 240 p. Roaring Book Press – Murray has been communing with the youngest residents of the local cemetery for some time now – to escape his home situation, to escape his school situation. After a very rough beginning, Murray forms a friendship with Pearl, the daughter of the cemetery’s caretaker. She supports him when he hears a new voice – one that he thinks belongs to a girl who disappeared months earlier. While I enjoyed the unfolding of the mystery, a wide variety of swear words and a plot point involving a violent alcoholic left me cold. A book for the older crowd. HS-OPTIONAL

Winterson, Jeanette Tanglewreck 416 p. Bloomsbury – When Silver was 7, her parents and sister died in a car accident. Now, four years later, she is still living in her home, but under the care of an evil guardian who makes her life miserable. Events have been set in motion that will send Silver across the world, across time, across space, introducing her to friends to help her and villains who want to possess her – with everyone in pursuit of the Timekeeper. Books written about time and space have to be carefully plotted and/or written brilliantly so that even if you are confused occasionally, you love it so much you are willing to go back and figure out how you got lost. Michael Lawrence’s Small Eternities is a good example of these two qualities. This particular title, however falls a bit below the mark in either of these traits. With an 11-year old protagonist, I don’t see how it will appeal to someone who can actually follow the action. MS-OPTIONAL

Durrant, Lynda My Last Skirt: The Story of Jennie Hodgers, Union Soldier, 208 p. Clarion – As a girl in the hills of Scotland, Jennie masqueraded as a boy in order to help her family earn much needed coins. When she and her brother immigrate to America, she keeps up the charade, going as far as to join a Union regiment during the Civil War. Even after the war she maintains the fiction, until one day her lifelong secret is discovered. Full of fascinating details of battles as life as a soldier, but the human parts are rather stiff and sketchy. If you need a new Civil War novel to round out a collection, then buy in hardcover, otherwise wait for the paperback. EL, MS-OPTIONAL

Sage, Angie My Haunted House and The Sword in the Grotto 144 p. each HarperCollins – Araminta Spookie lives contentedly with her Aunt Tabitha and Uncle Drac in a fantastically creepy house where she can’t find a single ghost. One day Aunt Tabby announces that she is sick and tired of the broken down house and is determined to find a buyer. Mint knows that she must do something drastic in order to keep her home. In the second title, as Minty searches for the perfect birthday present for a 500-year old, she and her new best friend Wanda are in desperate danger in an undersea grotto which is quickly filling with water. Cute. creepy fiction for the younger crowd. EL-ADVISABLE

Dines, Carol The Queen’s Soprano, 336 p. Harcourt – Angelica lives in Rome during the time of Pope Inocente IX, who is determined to bring the entire city under papal rule, while keeping a firm grip on the lives of the women, too. Angelica’s beautiful voice attracts negative attention and in order to escape the pope’s influence and her domineering mother, she takes a position as soprano to the only remaining queen of one of Rome’s last free quarters. Angelica is not ready for court life and intrigue and danger to her reputation is always close at hand. A beautifully written book that will probably have a hard time finding an audience without some help. A good addition to a larger library wi island th an active historical fiction collection. MS, HS – OPTIONAL

Fisher, Catherine Day of the Scarab, 400 p. HarperCollins – Final in the Oracle Prophecies. Mirany, Seth, Oblek, the Jackal and Alexos must fight not only against Argelin, but also against Argelin’s mercenaries, Mantos the sorceress, the Emperor and factions within the Nine in this fast moving end to the Oracle trilogy. This is a much better book that the slow moving middle book, with all of the disparate plots and characters coming together for a nail-biting finish. MS, HS – ADVISABLE

Stanley, Diane Bella at Midnight 278 p. HarperCollins – At birth Bella’s knight father gives her to a foster family to raise, far from his sight. In the small village, Bella also meets and becomes fast friends with one of the sons of her country’s king. At 16, Bella is summarily called “home”, where she meets a new stepmother and sisters, who find Bella well beneath them. Then she hears news that forces her to take bold steps that will change her future. This book is unfortunately terribly derivative (a step mother and two stepsisters!?), drawing together familiar elements of several familiar fairy tales, without creating something so new and fresh that you feel you are reading something brand new. Younger students, who are maybe not as familiar with their fairytales won’t mind, but older students and adults will. EL-ADVISABLE, MS-OPTIONAL

Monday, July 10, 2006

ALA 2006 Author sightings, signings and schwag

As I spend my days typing up all of the reviews I am overdue from another trip (!), I thought I would at least say a little more on the subject of ALA. I go for the books and the authors. So, here is a list of the authors I talked to, saw, had pictures taken with and interacted with. This may not be a complete list, as I didn't take pictures of everyone I wanted to!

Tamora Pierce
O.R. Melling
Ted Lewin and the very lovely Betsy Lewin
Ian Falconer
Robert Sabuda
Matthew Reinhart
Margaret Haddix
D.J. MacHale
Laurence Yep
Jon Scieszka
Lane Smith
Neal Shusterman
Susan Fletcher
Sonya Sones

Slap me - because I totally forgot to go back to a booth and see Scott Westerfeld!! I didn't give greetings to our hometown girl Shannon Hale, either.

My kids went to the neighbor's and picked up our mail and my three boxes that I shipped from New Orleans, so I spent some happy time going through my goodies. Roughly here is how it breaks down:

21 shelvable, autographed novels that I paid for
12 free, shelvable novels
65 ARCs (!)
a schlode (?) of catalog pages (only tear out what you want)
8 tote bags (Greenwood's is the coolest - silver mesh)
1 t-shirt (Rainbow fish)
a couple of pens (pens are not a popular freebie at ALA)
27 business cards (get busy with that email!)
a pink boa
a teddy bear
a nail kit
and a whole lot of fun!

The kids have already divided up most of it, so very little is left for me. They'd better at least let me have access to the books!

Monday, July 3, 2006

Summer's third trip with pyromaniacs

Bad me. Midway through summer and I am off on my third, but not last trip of the season. The family was only planning on going to Portland OR to visit my brother and his family, but when my cousin found out we were heading to the Pacific coast, he talked us into driving three more hours to swing by his house on Bainbridge Island WA, too. So I am reading like crazy, but don't really want to sit down and write the reviews. I am taking notes, though, so give me a week! It's almost time for fireworks. We are across the water from tribal lands and they have SUPER fireworks! I have never personally lit a firework that goes over 100 feet in the air until now - and it is a whole LOT of fun! I have also snuck in a visit to Churchmouse - an awesome yarn store on the island.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Sequel Mania

As I was getting ready to publish this blog, I realized that every one of these books is a sequel. Three of them are the final in the series, but the other two are in the middle somewhere. And the book I am reading today is also a sequel. I have to tell you - that drives my son crazy - sequels that is. He prefers his books to be singles. I think he really doesn't like series because he is so impatient for the next one. He and me daughter always snatching books out of my ples of reading. The two of them read faster than I do! So here are some pretty great sequels for you and your students.

Haddix, Margaret Among the Free, 194 p. Simon and Schuster – Luke had been working in the stables at the Population Police headquarters for some time when he is taken on a patrol designed to issue new ID cards to the entire population simultaneously. When an old lady refuses to comply, Luke is ordered to shoot her; instead he makes a bold decision, leading to more decision which may change the course of his country’s history forever. This is an excellent end to the Shadow Children series. Plain, unembellished language brings the series to a swiftly moving, engrossing end. EL, MS – ESSENTIAL

Westerfeld, Scott Specials, 372 p. Simon and Schuster – Tally has been turned into a Cutter – ceramic bones, super healing and extra icy. Along with her friend Shay and the other Cutters, Tally sets in motion world-changing events involving every important figure Tally has ever come in contact with. The end of Tally’s story is filled with excitement, action, adventure and plenty of twists and turns. I did struggle with the feeling that Tally was just constantly being used by everyone around her, but with all of the excitement, plot sometimes takes a back burner. Tally’s final decision, while I think it was inevitable, was made incredibly quickly, but I still enjoyed the ride. MS, HS – ESSENTIAL

Zahn, Timothy Dragon and Herdsman, 299 p. Tom Doherty Associates – 4th in the Dragonback series. When one of Jack Morgan’s schemes to get information about the K’da enemies fails, he is joined in flight by Alice Kayna from his mercenary days. The group flees to a planet where they discover primitive K’da, Phooka, which they must protect also they also try to escape their enemies. Ambushes, sneak attacks, stealthy moves and quick thinking help this book move along. As this is the fourth book in the series, I hope we are nearing the end, as only one major plot point was revealed and that one was a surprise for the last couple of pages of the book. Jack is resourceful enough and Dracos is smart enough that I could wish for a little more. Not the best of the series. In fact, the author has yet to top number one! MS, HS – ADVISABLE (but only if you already own the series)

Meyer, Stephanie New Moon, p. – Return to Forks and the romance between human Bella and vampire Edward. Stir in a few werewolves and some really ancient vampires from Italy to spice things up. I am going to give away absolutely zero plot points in this review. The novel is excellently written. Even though you know it is setting things up for further books (one book?), you will still keep reading straight through until the end. MS, HS-ESSENTIAL

Delaney, Joseph The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane, 462 p. HarperCollins – Tom Ward and his master, the Spook, must confront the Bane with the help of Alice, Tom’s witchy friend, who is turning further to the dark side. Very dark and full of creepy ways to conquer evil. If you district tried to ban Harry Potter, you don’t want to add these books. On the other hand, if you students can tell the difference between make believe and reality and like spooky stuff, then by all means get this. I do not recommend this series for elementary students at all. MS-ADVISABLE

Barron, T.A. The Eternal Flame, 293 p. (and an extensive appendix) Penguin – Tamwyn, Elli, Brionna and Scree each have separate and essential parts to play during the final battle over the fate of Avalon. With the help of their many friends they may just find a way to defeat Rhita Gawr and his minions forever. I have been read several books with a lot of action lately and this one does not disappoint. I was worried that the author was handling too many points of view, but I should have had more faith. Elementary and middle school fantasy readers will enjoy this series. EL, MS – ADVISABLE

Barry, Dave and Ridley Pearson Peter and the Shadow Thieves, 541 p. Hyperion – Peter is settling happily onto the island and especially enjoys tormenting Captain Hook, as he now calls Black Stache. Then another enemy returns to the island, bringing greater danger as one of the Others comes seeking the chest of starstuff. In order to protect Molly and her family, Peter must make the long voyage to England. From the cover of the book, you may expect a retelling of Peter and Wendy’s adventure. Instead, you getting a rollicking tale that sets you up for more adventures to come – adventures you will look for with impatience. EL, MS – ESSENTIAL

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

ALA Detox

I just returned from the ALA convention, where I spent almost every minute in the exhibit hall and came away with dozens of ARC's to read this summer. I actually read two while I was on the plane. So please bear with me as I read like crazy and then type when I feel like it. Let me just put in this note - Stephanie Meyer's New Moon is not to be missed! Greetings to my roommate Mary! Thanks for the great time and thanks for putting up with my early nights. And many thanks to the vendors, editors, authors and marketers that made it all so much fun to be there.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Goddess and a god

Spradlin, Michael P. To Hawaii, With Love, 198 p. HarperCollins - Book Two of the Spy Goddess series. Rachel is still not convinced that she is the goddess Etherea come to life, but Simon Blankenship, Etherea's immortal enemy reborn, is still trying to capture and use her. Rachel and her group discover another of Mithra's artifacts is hiding in Hawaii. When the kids are left behind, Rachel engineers the kids' means to follow - landing herself in a whole lot of trouble (many times) and endangering her friends' lives. Spradlin hits the spoiled rich girl tone of voice in Rachel dead on and creates a not-too-campy romp that very nicely mixes spy novels with fantasy. MS-ESSENTIAL

Gideon, Melanie Pucker, 273 p. Penguin Putnam - Thomas and his mother fled their world nine years earlier - after Thomas was badly burnt in a fire. Even without her Seerskin, Michael's mother has visions which help pay their way on Earth. Now, though, she will die without the skin - the visions are driving her insane. So Thomas undertakes the journey back to Isaura, knowing that he will be healed, but also that he must give up everything to return to save his mother. I was faked out by the title and the cover, but still enjoyed the reading. The book has a few swear words (but one of them is "F") and a couple of breast mentions (which TOTALLY could have been left out), which leaves this out of the middle school definitely - you high school people will have to choose for yourselves. Should be a big hit in the public library, though. MS-NO, MS-OPTIONAL

Monday, June 19, 2006

Beetles and Rock N' Roll

Lest anyone think I've made a typo in the title, I really did read a book about about insects yesterday!

Copeland, Mark The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath, 167 p. Houghton Mifflin - Art is the grandson of the ringmaster in the insect circus. Spying (by accident) with his shiny new telescope, he sees the fly who acts as their advanced agent embroiled in nefarious activities. Art and his friends try their best to uncover the plot, but even a stick beetle and friendly woodlice can't help until its almost too late. Kind of cute, though I wouldn't go so far as to call this book charming. Art and his friends really do nothing of importance to solve the mystery or stem the coming crisis, though they do have bug-related excitement and intrigue aplenty. My favorite part is actually the addendum which is a booklet from Art's grandfather, explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the various bugs in the circus. EL-PAPERBACK

Watts, Leander Beautiful City of the Dead, 254 p. Houghton Mifflin - On her first day at a new school, Zee is befriended by Relly - a young man with a rock band that needs a bass player and holds a very large secret. Zee happens to play the bass quite wickedly, plus she has a head for lyrics and is the catalyst the boys need to propel them towards actual gigs. Unfortunately, evil is willing to use Relly to get their hands on Zee - because they need her also. A great title and a catchy front cover will draw teens in, and they will not be disappointed by the contents. MS, HS-ADVISABLE

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hiatus

So - bad me. I went off to Hawaii with my family and didn't post one single day. Of course, I didn't bring any YA books with me - only my not-so-secret vice - trashy romance novels. There was way too much fun stuff to do - so reading wasn't really in the equation much. It was great to be back on Oahu. I spent one year of college at BYU-Hawaii, so I dragged the family to the Polynesian Cultural Center and we also spent a day on Sunset beach - the BEST sand in the entire world! By chance there was also a children's literature conference going on on Maui - Karen Hesse and Jerry Pinkney were there - but I had no idea until I talked to another librarian in the airport. There was a great spread about it in the local paper, however.

So. I'm home for a few days before ALA (YEAH!). I'll see how much reading I can get in. For now its grocery shopping, laundry and catchup with the mail!

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Move over Gary Paulsen!

A new novel - the author's first - will have "Hatchet" fans running for the shelves!

Hokenson, Terry The Winter Road, 175 p. - The morning Uncle Jordy is supposed to fly Willa's mother onto the next remote settlement in the far northern reaches of the Hudson Bay area, Willa finds him sleeping off a drunk instead. So WIlla takes matters into her own hands and flies the plane herself - an unplanned first solo flight. A severe storm wrecks the plane and leaves Willa with a little food and a large store of homegrown survival knowledge. After she fails to grab the attention of the rescue planes overhead, she makes the life-changing decision to find her own way to safety. At first I was a little skeptical that this was just a blatant "Hatchet" ripoff. But the longer I read, the more I liked, and then fell in love with this excellent first effort. Descriptive, exciting writing, excellent survival skills (as if I would know! - city girl that I am!) and by the end I had tears in my eyes, because I couldn't stand the suspense any more!!! I can't wait for the author's next book. EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

Monday, June 5, 2006

Summer Fresh

Meet my summer book review website!

Nothing on here yet, but stay with me and the reviews will start rolling in. I normally have my reviews on my school website, but during the summer months I do not have permission to FTP. Which is really too bad, because I always read ALOT of books during the summer.

So, to keep my readers up to date, I have created this spot for the summer. We'll see how it goes!

If you want to see my past three years of reviews, go to this address:
http://www.sjms.jordan.k12.ut.us/MediaCenter/corner.htm
Hopefully the school computer doesn't crash and it will be up!
Later!