Thursday, May 15, 2008

Big Slick by Eric Luper

Luper, Eric Big Slick. PG. 232, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Language-PG 13, Sexual Content-Pg 13, Violence-G . Andrew is sixteen and is playing poker. when he enters a tournament and loses, he finds himself in a hole. He tries to earn the money he stole from his dad's shop. this was an okay story but I couldn't finish reading it. It said the "F" word close to a dozen times. It also swore around one hundred and fourteen times, all of this and I only made it to page 133 out of 232. HS, NO. Student Reviewer-MP

Lavinia by Ursula LeGuin

LeGuin, Ursula K. Lavinia, 272 p. Harcourt - Language: PG, Sexual Content: PG-13, Violence: PG-13 - Lavinia has been shunned by her mother ever since her two brothers died after a terrible sickness. As Lavinia comes of marrying age, men from all over come to win her father's trust and ask for her hand. Her mother wants desperately for her to marry Turnus, her cousin from the neighboring kingdom, but as Lavinia falls for another, more powerful king, a war breaks out. Who will come out on top and claim Lavinia's hand in marriage? This book was OK. It had a lot of names that were hard to pronounce, and it was harder to get into than some books. I liked how she was such a courageous young girl and fought for what she knew was right, even though the ending was pretty sad. Some of the book was confusing, and I probably would have stopped reading it if I had just picked it up to read it. MS, HS - OPTIONAL. Student Reviewer: KH

Portia's Ultra Mysterious Double Life - ESSENTIAL

Hays, Anna Portia's Ultra Mysterious Double Life. Pg. 211, Aladdin Mix. 

Portia Avatar lives in Palmville , California and has just experienced another earthquake, but this time it's worse than before. . While Portia's helps her mom clean up her restaurant, she is also trying to find out more about her missing father, Patch. 

I really liked this book it had a great story of how a twelve year-old girl tries to deal with another earthquake catastrophe and having no father. I really liked this book and would gladly add it to my own collection. 

EL, MS, ESSENTIAL,Student Reviewer-MP

Treasure Fever by Andy Griffiths

Griffiths, Andy. Treasure Fever, 198p. Scholastic- Language: G, Sexual Content: G, Violence: G- Henry McTrottle thought it was just going to be his everyday substitute. What he didn't expect was Mr. Brainfright. His class went from learning math to falling out of windows! Not only did they learn that, they also learned how to eat a banana, fly, and make history. While learning the weirdest things, Henry and his friends are looking for treasure... and about thirty other kids. Will they beat everyone to the chase? What is in the treasure? Treasure Fever was a random and funny book. A good book, but not one that you had to absolutely read. EL- ADVISABLE. Student Reviewer: CW

Chasing Normal by Lisa Papademetriou

Papademetriou, Lisa Chasing Normal, 193 p. Hyperion, 2008. 

Mieka, 12, and her father, have been summoned to the side of Mieka's paternal grandmother, as she seems close to death. Never mind that Mieka and her dad are closer to her maternal grandmother and that Mieka has never even met Grandma Baker in her life. Now she is spending three weeks with her cousins and a surly old woman, and wondering the grass really is greener on this side of the fence. 

Three weeks may seem short, but it may be just enough time for Mieka to figure out what it is she wants. All in a nice, neat package that doesn't include one swear word even! 


The Sky Inside by Clare Dunkle - ESSENTIAL

Dunkle, Clare The Sky Inside, 229 p. Atheneum (Simon), 2008.

 Martin's world is perfect. Okay, maybe his genius little sister is annoying, but he still loves her. Life in his climate protected dome is safe and normal and pretty much without challenges. Then the day comes when the government sends someone to take away all of the children of his sister's generation, because of a defect in their genetic programming, promising to replace them if the parents want. The children go with the man, but then the government comes and no one is sure who they sent the children with. Now Martin has no problem deciding that he must go after his sister. I may mean leaving the dome. It may mean going against the governement and risking death, but Martin is determined. What is outside the dome? He won't know until he goes.

This is not my best review, because my 16 year old son took the book from me after I read it and I haven't seen it since. I insisted that I write Clare Dunkle and tell her that there had better be a sequel (there will be - thanks Clare). He adores it, just as I did. You may know Clare for her Hollow Kingdom Trilogy (if not - buy them now); she is just as good in science fiction! I could spend paragraphs in the various themes and depths of this expertly crafted writing, but I want you to discover it for yourself.


Girlwood by Claire Dean

Dean, Claire Girlwood. Pg. 246, Houghton Mifflin Company. Language- PG, Sexual Content-G, violence-G. When Polly's older sister Bree disappears, Polly knows that Bree is in the woods and that she has to help her mom and find Bree. When her Grandma shows Polly grandma shows her a small, hidden grove, where Bree might be hiding, Bree might be hiding, Bree shows her friends the grove and they name it Girlwood. I really liked this book and was amazed at how well written it was. The book portrays a great story of adventure, love and hate. though there was some swearing I really liked the book. MS HS, ESSENTIAL, Student Reviewer- MP

Rits by Mariken Jongman

Jongman, Mariken Rits, 236p. Front Street. Language: PG-13, Sexual Content: G, Violence: G- Rits has just started his new diary. He wasn't so sure why his mom and dad made him go live there. With problems going on in-between those two, Rits is really confused. When he thought that he wasn't going to have any friends, Rita comes along. They start to make fun videos together.He is just getting use to living there when his dad comes back. Will he live with Cory, his mom, or his dad? It was really funny how Rits was at 13 years old and he didn't know things that teenagers usually know. He said that when his head hurted, it meant that his brain was "sagging." Rits is a funny book on a bizarre life. Even with his funny turns, there was some bad language that Rits used. Also, some of the book had parts that just seemed there to fill space. MS, HS- OPTIONAL. Student Reviewer: CW

The 100 Year old Secret by Tracy Barrett

Barrett, Tracy The 100 Year Old Secret (The Sherlock Files #1), 157 p. Henry Holt, 2008. 

Xena and Xander Holmes have moved to London with their parents. Almost immediately they are contacted by a Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives and informed that they truly are descendants of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. They children, with the reluctant help of a descendant of Dr. Watson, take on a case from Holmes' unfinished files, tracking the whereabouts of a missing painting. 

Actually, the mystery is fairly clever and kind of reminds me of a more in depth Encyclopedia Brown. The twins use their brains, get in a little danger, and don't have to resort to superpowers or pretending that all adults are stupid in order to solve their crime. 


Monday, May 12, 2008

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

Doyle, Marissa Bewitching Season, 346 p. Henry Holt, 2008. 

Persephome "Percy" Leland and her twin sister Penelope "Pen", have been taking the regular deportment lessons, in order to prepare them for life among the English aristocracy, but their course of classes also includes training for their magic powers. Tongue-tied and totally in love with her neighbor, Lochinvar, but is devastated by rumors that his mother was killed by a witch. In London for their first Season, the girls' tutor is kidnapped and the girls are thrown into a plot to control Victoria, the heir to the throne. Only with quick wits, the aid of Lochinvar and inexplicably their little brother Charles, can the girls hold off the enemy and save the soon to be queen. 

I have to admit that Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer did a better job of creating a magical romance with a whole lot of depth. Analogy - this book is about magic as much as Twilight is about vampires. But, for those who enjoy lighter fare, this book still has plenty of charm. 


Julia Gillian by Alison McGhee

McGhee, Alison Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing, 288 p. Scholastic, 2008. 

Julia Gillian usually adores summer time with her doting parents, but this year Mom and Dad are both pursuing higher degrees, which leaves them very little time for their ten year old daughter. Instead, Julia Gillian is stuck walking a nine block area of downtown Minneapolis with her faithful dog Bigfoot, and feels very alone as she confronts challenges and questions that seem very important for a little girl. 

Julia Gillian is very much a typical little girl, not a souped up, over mature pre-teen. Little girls who read well and like thick girly books will like Julia Gillian. 


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - ESSENTIAL

Collins, Suzanne The Hunger Games, 420 p. Scholastic, October 2008. 

Each year, a boy and a girl are chosen as sacrifices from each of the thirteen districts, the remnants of what used to be North America. The central government uses a game of mortal combat to at once show the districts that they have no control, and to reward the winner's district with special privileges for the next year. When Katniss' sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Though there can only be one winner, Katniss works with the boy from her district as they make final preparations. In the heat of the battle, they will need each other, and a better outcome may just be possible. 

Wonderful future fiction - a little gory, because it is combat to the death, but the violence is not the point. The brilliantly, compelling plot and characters are the point! A perfect piece of science fiction - and a sequel should be forthcoming! 


The Trials of Kate Hope by Wick Downing - ADVISABLE

Downing, Wick The Trials of Kate Hope, 323 p. Houghton Mifflin, 2008. 

Only fourteen, Kate Hope has her law license, having been taught by her grandfather after the deaths of her father and brother. She is quite content working with and for her beloved "Judge", but his health is iffy at best. Now she is in the middle of two very important cases and her grandfather is in the hospital, unable to take the cases to trial. It's time for Katie to pull it all together and show her community and herself that she really does have what it takes to be a practicing trial lawyer. 

Kate's story involves danger and intrigue, good detective work and fast-thinking. It covers immigration issues, gender roles and age-ism, each with just enough coverage to get a caring person thinking. 


The Humming of Numbers by John Sensel

Sensel, Joni The Humming of Numbers, 243 p. Henry Holt, 2008. 

Because of his love of richly drawn illuminations, hand-drawn illustrations in the days of hand-copied books, Aidan has committed to joining the monastery. His oath is set, until the day that the local lord brings one of his by-blows to imprisoned in the abbey as punishment. Aidan is inexplicably drawn to Lana and struggles to resist the temptation she represents. Circumstances, however, throw the two together and Aidan's surrender to love may be inevitable. 

While there is nothing particularly wrong with this book, I didn't find it particularly intriguing nor compelling, either. It doesn't cover a historical situation, nor does it address a subject that students will find particularly interesting. Sorry. 


Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus - ESSENTIAL

Mebus, Scott Gods of Manhattan, 340 p. Dutton (Penguin), 2008. 

The magical trick of a party magician opens Rory's eyes to the real magic going on around him every day. Now, however his very life is in danger, as the Gods of Manahatta, the spirit world companion of modern Manhattan Island, have no desire for a Light, which Rory is, to interfere with their plots and schemes. Someone has figured out how to kill the gods, who should be immortal, and Hex, the magician, needs Rory to use his powers to free the Indians of ancient times, who have been trapped with the confines of Central Park for centuries. 

Every situation and every character has ulterior motives and unplumbed depths in this richly written tale - the beginning of a series. Any school that has students reading Harry Potter should add this to their shelves ASAP. 


Spin the Bottle by Elizabeth Kimmel - ESSENTIAL

Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody Spin the Bottle, 239 p. Dial (Penguin), 2008. 

Phoebe is SOOO excited to start middle school, especially the chance to join the Drama Club and rub shoulders with her stage idols. Her best friend forever, Harper, is happy to go along for the ride, but is less than enthused by Phoebe's over the top idol-worshipping. While Phoebe agonizes over the traditional opening night game of Spin-the-Bottle, the girls fight and quit speaking, leaving Phoebe to wonder what really matters to her. 

For once, here's a book that lets middle school girls realize that just because you and your best friend have different interests, doesn't mean that you have to say good-bye forever. The very pink front cover will catch the attention of girls who will definitely like it, but they will be getting more than just a bunch of fluff. Yeah! 


Debbie Harry Sings French by Megan Brothers

Brothers, Meagan Debbie Harry Sings in French, 234 p. Henry Holt, 2008. After Johnny's father died, Johnny raised himself as his mother descended into a funk. Now, a year later, Mom has snapped out of it and Johnny is ready to self-destruct on drugs and alcohol. In order to remove him from his friends, Mom sends him to live with his uncle, the brother of his deceased father. Even here, Johnny doesn't blend in very well, and when he becomes interested in a pretty girl, her jealous ex-boyfriend wants to make Johnny's life miserable. On top of everything, the world seems unsure about Johnny's sexual preference, while Johnny is surprised how good it feels to dress up like his idol Debbie Harry and sing in a drag show. Don't get bent out of shape about a boy realizing that he is a transvestite - that part of the book is very well done. In fact, on the whole I liked the book and think it fills a niche that has very few entries. Unfortunately, I also have to tell you about the 15 "f's", the 50-ish other swear words, the drugs, drinking and tastefully done sex scene. It's those things, rather than the theme of the book, that makes this inappropriate for schools. NO

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Walk of the Spirits by Cusick

Cusick, Richie Tankersley Walk of the Spirits, 328 p. Speak (Penguin), 2008. A hurricane in Florida has driven Miranda and her mother back to Mom's childhood home, next to her loving aunt, but also to her crazy grandfather, whom her mother doesn't even want Miranda to meet. As she as she comes to town, however, Miranda starts having bad dreams. With the help of five new friends, who enfold Miranda immediately into their group, Miranda must learn about her gifts and how to use them to help troubled spirits pass out of this world. Miranda's story kind of reminds me of Meg Cabot's Mediator series, but with a slower pace and more friendly support. About half of the five dozen swears are of the OMG type, with no "f's" in sight. I wouldn't call this a first purchase, but it is already in paperback. MS, HS - OPTIONAL

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blood Captain by Justin Somper - ESSENTIAL

Somper, Justin Vampirates: Blood Captain. pg.569, Little Brown and Company. language-G, Sexual Content-G, Violence- PG. On The Diablo, Connor struggles to overcome the fact that he has killed. Grace goes to "sanctuary" with Lorcan to help heal him. I was pulled into the book and was surprised when there wasn't a single swear word. There was some violence but not enough to turn me away. I would gladly read this book again and again. MS, HS, ESSENTIAL. Student Reviewer: MP

Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock - ESSENTIAL

Murdock, Catherine Gilbert Princess Ben, 344 p. Houghton, 2008. Princess Ben finds herself the heir to the throne of Montagne after the deaths of her king, her mother and her father. Taken to the castle by Queen Sophia for training, Ben's penchant for laziness and selfishness locks the two into a battle for control, which Ben seems to be losing. In desperation one night, Ben discovers a secret chamber where she can learn to control magic. And only magic can save her from humiliation and outrage when she learns that she is to be wed against her will. But Ben's life has many more twists and turns to complete before she can mature into a person worth holding the throne of an entire kingdom. And Ben also has to learn that she may be her own greatest enemy. This tale may read as a rather light, fun, fairytale, but it actually has incredible depths of theme and plot. A younger student may read it on one level, while an older student can enjoy its subtler points. EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

HORSE by Libby Hamilton

Hamilton, Libby Horse: The Essential Guide For Young Equestrians. Candlewick Press, 2008. PICTURE BOOK. This horse book is chuck full of the usual facts such as the breeds of horses, what to feed a horse, how to tell a horse's size and age. But it goes beyond the ordinary by giving advice on how to braid a tail, how to contact the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the secret art of horse whispering. It has great additions like pull outs and pop-ups, including a flip book that are fun for an individual reader, but may not hold up in a library setting. EL (2-8) - ADVISABLE. Reviewed by Susan Huff, Area Library Media Specialist


For those in the know, this is Cindy Mitchell's new review space. I have finally thought of a name I liked with anavailable blog name too! My past reviews (since June of 2006) are still on my old blog for your viewing pleasure. And of course you can see EVERY review on my official review space.
Here, however, I will point out the best of what my reviewers and I have read, with an easy to share name and url! I hope you can join me for the fun!


Today is the last day that I will post on this blogpage. Please see my newly titled blog "Kiss the Book" at The format will be the same; I just wanted to come up with a real name for the space.

Carmine: A LIttle More Red by Melissa Sweet

Sweet, Melissa Carmine: A Little More Red. Houghton, 2005. PICTURE BOOK. This abecedarian (alphabetically arranged) version updates the Red Riding Hood story in an art format that mimics the art journal of a precocious child. Vocabulary words are highlighted, defined, and used in sentences that advance the plot. In a nonviolent twist at the end, Sweet manages to make this a satisfying individual read for any age. EL - ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Beverly Stout, Elementary Library Specialist.

Night Shift by Jessie Hartland

Hartland, Jessie Night Shift. PICTURE BOOK. Bloomsburg, 2007.What is going on around the city while you are sleeping? All sorts of things - street sweeping, bridge painting, donut baking, window dressing to name a few. This book cleverly details the jobs of fourteen different night workers, and each description leads to the next topic through a clue in the illustration and a question in the lower right of the page spread. Adding to the fun of her quirky illustrations, Hartland makes sure to place at least one cat in each picture. Further unifying the book, each night-time job depicted is represented as fourteen workers gather at the end of the shift for refreshment and sociality at an all-night diner. EL - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Beverly Stout, Elementary Library Specialist.

Woe is I Jr. by Patricia O'Conner

O'Conner, Patricia T. Woe is I Jr.: The Younger Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English, 145 p. G.P. Putnam's (Penguin), 2008. Woe is I Jr. is a simple, lovely and very funny look at the crazy rules of the English language. A well-written index makes the text easy to use. I shared this with one of our English teachers and she wants her own copy so that she can use it to enhance her own teaching of the material. She would really love to have overheads or a CD version of the book to make it useful for all of her students. Show this one to your English teachers immediately. You may end up buying a couple of classroom sets! MS - ESSENTIAL

Puddlejumpers by Mark Jean

Jean, Mark Puddlejumpers, 328p. Hyperion- Language:PG, Sexual Content:G, Violence:PG-

Ernie Banks, named after the Chicago Cubs Shortstop, was always a trouble-maker. At three years old, he was abandoned on the doorstep of the Lakeside Home for Boys. As an orphan, he always wondered who he belonged to before. Now he gets sent to a farm to learn how to behave. Once he hears about the "Quilt Baby" case, he is determined to solve it. While trying to figure the case, he meets the Puddlejumpers. Somehow he has a special connection to them. Will he be able to solve his own mysterious past?

I thought this book was a cute story on finding where Ernie belonged. The mystery was compelling. I really enjoyed this book.

MS- ADVISABLE. Student Reviewer: CW

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare - ESSENTIAL

Clare, Cassandra City of Ashes, 453 p. Simon and Schuster, 2008.

There is trouble in the Downworld. Someone is draining the blood from Downworld children. Everyone suspects the vampires, but the Shadowhunters have other thoughts. Valentine, the evil mastermind is still alive and has another plot in the making. Clary and Jace are still dealing with the information that they are brother and sister and Clary's best friend Simon wants Clary to notice as a man, not just as a friend.

Love, power and danger in the dark underground world again combine for a feast for the senses. There are about three dozen swears ( no "f"), so know your audience.


The Winning Element by Shannon Greenland

Greenland, Shannon The Winning Element, 231 p. Speak (Penguin), 2008. Gigi has won the right to lead a Specialist mission to tail the man who killed her parents Her partner on the mission, however, is Beaker, a genius chemist who also is a Goth with a MAJOR attitude problem. And their cover? Cheerleaders. Gigi isn't sure that she can juggle Beaker's 'tude along with the emotional rollercoaster of the mission: not just spying, but also trying to win a cheer competition! But this may be her only chance to get some answers. This seems to be the third in the Specialists series, but I didn't have any trouble following the plot or any bacjground details from other novels. It's a more girlie version of the Cherubs series, without the English love of swear words (less than six, I believe). If this genre is as hot in your library as it is in mine, then you need it right away! MS - ESSENTIAL

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Kluger, Steve My Most Excellent Year, 403 pgs. Dial Books. Language-PG-13 (a few "f's"); Sexual Content-G; Violence-G; Three teenagers share their journals about their most excellent year, ninth grade. They have the same experiences and meet the same people; however, you get to hear it from their point of view. It includes everything from American Sign Language, to Mary Poppins, to the Red Sox. The transitions were very smooth between each person's point of view. The whole book flowed very well. I didn't want it to end. I felt like I was part of each person and like I knew them inside out. MS/HS-ESSENTIAL Student Reviewer: KD