Saturday, November 25, 2006

Kiki Strike


Ananka Fishbein is living a milk-toast life. She goes to the tony Atalanta School in Manhattan, but isn't rich enough to fit in with the rich girls, and doesn't fit the scholarship bill either. She just keeps her head down, and tries not to get noticed.

Everything changes during class one day, when the students get asked the perenial question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The answers are obvious. Then Ananka hears one girl say, "Dangerous!". Who is this pint sized, white haired girl that Ananka hasn't noticed before?

The answer is, Kiki Strike. Soon Ananka's life is anything but milk-toast, as she and Kiki and four other girls are off exploring Manhattan's underground, getting in scrapes with Chinatown gangs, breaking into warehouses and warding off rats!

This is an adventure story of the best sort. Lots of twists and turns. Self reliant, capable girls. Espionage. A bit of back stabbing. And a lovely dash of NYC history thrown in as well.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, and cannot wait to put it in the hands of some 6th grade girls I know!

5/5

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Mysterious Benedict Society



Go, Trenton Lee Stewart!

Reynie is off to take a test. An important test. A test for gifted children looking for "special opportunities". Reynie's tutor, Miss Perumal, thinks that Reynie is just the child to take said test. Reynie lives at an orphanage in Stonetown, and could use some "special opportunities".

But the whole test set-up is unlike anything that Reynie had expected. The questions seemed a bit odd...especially the last one. "Are you brave?" Just what is this test all about?

Reynie soon finds out as Sticky, Kate and Constance are the only children left after the series of tests. They are soon in the home of Mr. Benedict and his associates - Rhonda, Milligan, and Number 2, where they learn that the four of them have a mission to complete. Being the brightest children around, they need to infiltrate the local private school, and bring down "The Emergency".

Sound cryptic? It is.

The four children each bring something to the mix, and must work together to stop the evil Mr. Curtain from taking over the world.

Trenton Lee Stewart has written a timeless story about friendship, family and trust. Perfectly plotted, The Mysterious Benedict Society calls to mind a combination of Dahl and Bellairs. Just enough evil adults, mixed with a creepy and mysterious situation. The characters are over the top without being unbelievable, and the storyline is just James Bondesque enough.

The story is perfectly timeless in that modern day technology, slang and pop culture are left out all together. This could take place anywhere and anytime. I love that in children's books.

When this title comes out in March, I plan on purchasing it to keep aside for my daughters.

What fun!

5/5

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Book of One Hundred Truths


Truth be told, I picked up this book because of the cover and the fact that there is a character with my daughter's name. But I am glad I picked it up, because I truly enjoyed this story.

*****************

Thea is a liar. She fully admits it. She's not sure why she lies so much, but the lies just jump out of her mouth much easier than the truth.

It is summer time and she is off to the Jersey shore to spend some weeks with her grandparents. This summer, however, is different. The house is filled with cousins. Older cousins who don't give Thea the time of day, and younger cousins who need babysitting.

An unlikely alliance forms between Thea and her younger cousin Jocelyn who is constantly pestering her to find out what is in her notebook. Thea's mom gave her the notebook in order to encourage some truth out of her daughter. Thea starts off writing small fact like truths in her book, but soon the reader finds out what happend in Thea's life that makes the lies come so readily. Thea's not the only one lying, afterall.

Julie Schumacher has written a quiet, character driven novel. I think that Jocelyn steals the show on a number of occasions. My heart went out to her the most.

This is a story that will likely appeal to girls in 5th-7th grade.

4/5

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Lowji Discovers America


Back to hunting for titles for this year's lit night. Our theme this year is "East Meets West" - dealing with bridging cultures. It may be more than 30 books in 30 minutes this year because our fab library assistant is adding a graphic novel portion!

Enter Lowji.

Lowji and his family are moving from Bombay to Illinois. Even though his best friend from home, Jamshed, insists that there will be many "silver linings" when Lowji gets to the States, Lowji is not so sure.

Once Lowji moves into his new home, he starts to notice the differences. Where are the kids? In Bombay they are everywhere! Why is the school empty? In Bombay he goes all year. Where are the pets? This is something that is the same. Just like in his old apartment building, the new Landlady Crisp says, "NO PETS!". That wouldn't be so bad if Lowji could make some friends.

The boys at the All Mart don't seem interested in him. The girl on the bicycle rides by too fast.

Lowji starts hanging out with Landlady Crisp. She doesn't really want him around, but Lowji has so many ideas about how she can have less work. She wouldn't have to set traps if she had a cat. She wouldn't need burglar alarms if she had a dog. She wouldn't have to fix her lawn mower if she had a goat.

Before long it seems that Jamshed was right. There are many silver linings to be found in Lowji's new home.

Fleming has written a sweet friendship / family story about making the most of change. While the culture shock is there, it is gentle and handled carefully. Lowji is an incredibly likeable boy, and I for one, would like to read more about him.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Escape from the Carnivale


I love Dave Barry! Peter and the Starcatchers was such an amazing read, and now he and Ridely Pearson have started a Neverland series for the younger set! Yay.

Little Scallop is a princess of the Mollusk tribe, yet she is bored. Her brothers get to go off on spying missions, but she is left behind. One night Little Scallop and her mermaid friends Surf and Aqua, sneak out of their homes to go and dive for pearls in the Shark Cave so that they can have their very own pearl necklaces. Unfortunately, Surf gets caught up in a net - not any net at that, but the net of an "oddity" collecting pirate.

Will Aqua and Little Scallop be able to hatch a plan to save Surf? Afterall, Peter is off exploring, and Little Scallop's own tribe is not around.

A fun, quick read with familiar characters. This is a series that kids will eat up, and works well as a filler read for older kids who are looking for a "skinny book" to pass the time.

4/5

Thursday, August 03, 2006

shug


This book has the cutest cover ever!

Annemarie Wilcox (Shug to her friends and fam) is just about to enter junior high. She and bestfriend Mark are eating cherry popsicles just like they always do when Shug turns and looks at Mark. Really looks at Mark. Everything has changed.

He is perfect, and the moment is perfect for a first kiss.

Problem is, Mark doesn't see Shug. At least not the way she wants him to.

There is noone at home to talk to about this. Sister Celia is just too perfect. Daddy is always gone on business. And Mama...well, Mama is either drinking or in bed. Shug just has to figure it out herself.

**********************

Jenny Han has the 12 year-old voice down perfectly. The big highs and big lows. The lonliness. The fact that friends will turn on you on a dime. She blends the unfortunate reality of alcoholism, and broken families seemlessly into everyday life. Because for kids who are experiencing it...that's just what it is.

Eventhough some of the topics are heavy, I think that most tween girls can find themselves in these pages. I'd say it's for sophisticated 6th graders and up.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Gold-Threaded Dress


This book has been staring at me from the stacks at school for a couple of years now. I finally got around to reading it!

Oy and her family have moved to a new neighbourhood, and Oy has had to switch schools. In her old school, nobody bothered her about being Asian. At this school, things are different. Frankie kept saying, "What are you?" He keeps calling her Chinese. In fact, because of Frankie kids on the playground keep calling her China, or Chinita. Oy, in fact, is Thai.

All Oy wants to do is fit in. The cool girls, led by Liliandra, all hang out in her clubhouse under the jungle gym. Oy wishes that she could be invited as well.

One day a photo falls out of Oy's backpack and Liliandra sees it. It is Oy in her traditional Thai dress that her grandmother had brought to her from Thailand. It is a beautiful pink dress, run through with gold stitching. Liliandra decides to invite Oy over to the clubhouse. But there is a catch. She must bring her special Thai dress with her.

Oy is torn. She desperately wants to fit in, but she is also worried about lying to her mother and bringing her dress to school.

********

This is a very young story. The characters are in fourth grade and are quite innocent. The best thing about the story is the honest portrayal of Oy's being "stuck" between two cultures. She has one foot in the Thai world, and one in her American neighbourhood.
Marsden has done a great job of exploring race between children. The majority of Oy's classmates are Mexican American, and her own household is traditional Thai. The insensitivity of her classmates calling her Chinese or from Taiwan, does not get lost on the reader.

I would recommend this to younger readers who are interested in contemporary fiction, and to those readers who may find themselves merging cultures.

4/5

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Magician's Boy


Here's one that I picked up for the younger end of the tweensters and I think it may be just too young.

Susan Cooper has written a lovely story about a magician' apprentice who gets swept into the land of story.

Boy usually simply helps the magician with his act by doing the puppet show. The story is that familiar one about Saint George and the dragon. One day, Saint George has simply disappeared. At his cue, the boy steps around the puppet theatre and announces that the puppet is missing. The magician is very cross, and sends the boy into the story to fetch the errant Saint.

The boy finds himself in a world of fairytale and Mother Goose. Will he be able to find his way home again?

To me, even though marketed to that 8-12 age group, this title doesn't ring "tween". It's not that the story is fantasy...I welcome fantasy. It simply reads young. I think this would make an amazing read aloud to the younger set who can sit for story (1st and 2nd graders.)

4/5 for what it is 2/5 for the tween set

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You are SO not invited to my Bat Mitzvah!


Stacy Adelaide Friedman is having conversations with God. She's trying to make deals, actually. Life has a way of getting confusing when you're turning 13, in love with Mr. hip hop Andy Goldfarb, balancing 2 best friends, and need to be 40% prettier.

Stacy, Kelly and Lydia are working their way through middle school life. It's a combination of boy season and bat mitzvah season. The girls are trying to get into the girl clique - The Chicas, and get the boys to notice them.

When Stacy gets busted in her rabbis office making a call to a boy, he asks her about her life. In a last ditch effort to avoid telling her mom, Stacy tells Rabbi Sherwin what's going on. He advises Stacy to make 3 mitzvahs, instead of wishing ill on people. The first 2 are easy to figure out. Her plus size brother needs some help in the cool department, and face it...mom needs a date. But that third mitzvah...what can it be?

Filled with the trappings of teendom and tweendom (Miss Sixty Jeans, LV handbags, Max Azria dresses), older tween girls should eat up this title. Fiona Rosenbloom has caught the angsty energy of the MS girl no matter what her style.

3/5

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Julep O'Toole: Miss Independent


Julep O'Toole: Miss Independent, by Trudi Trueit


Julep is sick of following all of her mother's rules. She's 11 years old now, and totally capable of making her own decisions. Unfortunately, her mother doesn't seem to get it. She just vetoed her cool SE T-shirt that had "Hot Girl" written on the front in sparkly letters. All the other girls at school got to wear them!

Julep wishes her mom were more like her co-best friend Bernadette's mom. Bernadette gets to wear make-up, whatever she wants, and she even has a cell phone! And if mom can't be like Bernadette's mom, at least she could be like her Aunt Ivy, who bought her the "Hot Girl" SE tee in the first place!

Aunt Ivy is the coolest. She used to be a travel photographer and she's been all over the world. Now she owns an alpaca farm called "Cloud Nine" - a place where Julep feels like she can be herself.

This is a tween girl book if there ever was one. Julep is negotiating the difficult mother/daughter time warp of needing independence and still needing some guidance. I think this is a perfect read for those 4th and 5th graders who think they are ready for Brashares, but really are not!

3/5

Monday, June 19, 2006

Welcome!

Welcome!

This is where I plan on posting tween specific book reviews. Over at Booktopia I post reviews of whatever it is that I am reading. This page is going to have more of a focus for readers between 9 and 12 years of age.

Once I get going, I look forward to hearing from you!