Thursday, November 29, 2007

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf

Ginny is just going into 7th grade, and she has a plan. From getting a new dad to looking good in her school photo, her list runs the gambit.

Through a series of lists, letters, IMs, report cards, post-its, detention slips, brother-drawn comics, and overdue slips, readers get a real sense of what's going on in Ginny's life.

While the format is super-cute, Jennifer Holm (yes of Babymouse and others) tackles some meaty issues. Ginny's dad was killed by a drunk-driver, and now her older somewhat delinquent brother seems to be on the same path as the teen who killed their father. Ginny is also dealing with more typical middle school issues. Mary Catherine Kelly still has Ginny's sweater, and she stillhasn't spoken to Ginny since she got the prime part at their ballet school. Ginny is also on a quest to make her nose seems smaller, and is wondering what to do about the fact that Brian Bukvic keeps bugging her.

Ginny's got a great relationship with her mom and her Fairy Grandfather, which is evident through artifacts like long-distance phone bills (Grandpa is in Florida), and the notes that her mother leaves for her. Even though readers get a sense of family distance from the sheer volume of notes to each other, the author has managed to develop the character of the family itself so that the reader really can feel the love they all have for each other.

I am going to be recommending this to reluctant readers, and also to the students looking for a super fast, yet thoughtful read.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Vampire Island

The Lyvingstone's are relatively new to New York City. At least by Old World standards. Their family traded in immortality a while ago, and now are existing as former fruit bat, hybrid vamps with band member parents. They are now vegans, living above a fruit shop, and trying to survive middle school.

The thing is, how do you fit in when you used to be undead?

Lexi is pining away for veritable cutie Dylan Easterby. Even his less-than-skilled performance in karate class cannot sway her need to quote dead poets (ranging from Shelley to Shakur) around him. If only Lexi were less pointy, less pale and, well, less bat-like, maybe Dylan would do more than just send her a text. Lexi's best friend Pete simply does not understand Lexi's need for Dylan, and wishes that Lexi could open her eyes and see that they are meant to be together!

Hudson, is the only child that has retained the ability to transform. After sleeping the night upside-down in his closet, he goes to the window, drops, and becomes a bat once more. His parents made him promise to only fly a certain circle and then return home. Hudson's good looks worked for him once more when his parents believe him! They don't know about his flying adventures with other hybrids in the area. And they don't know about the source behind his current quest to save the environment, either.

Maddy, the middle child, is still hungry. She prefers protein to fruit, if you will. There is something slightly scary about her and her quest to rid her neighbourhood of the pure-blood vamps that she is sure moved in across the way. Maddy loves to feel that she is powerful, and anyway that enhances her abilities is OK with her. No need to tell her folks!

This is a smart and fun read. Adele Griffin sinks her teeth into readers, and keeps them reading until the end. I am assuming (and hoping) that this is going to be a series. There are lots of unfinished story lines, and lots more opportunities for action. This is a great book for the kids who are not quite ready for the scary vampire stories, but want something cooler and more sophisticated than Bailey School Monsters and Bunnicula (and I cannot believe that these are the only vampire titles that come to mind when thinking of younger readers!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Robert's Snow - Let's Get Bidding!

It's time for auction one! Can you stand it? Check out the links to the previews of the snowflakes, and start the bidding, folks!

Auction 1 will begin accepting bids on Monday, Nov. 19 at 9:00 a.m. with a starting bid of $50 for each snowflake. All bids must be placed before the close of Auction 1 on Friday, Nov. 23 at 5:00 pm. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and that all but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible.

Read about all the illustrators who contributed to this auction at the sites linked below. (The order presented is the same as on the auction page.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Guest Blogger - Mouse Guard

Jesse Karp is back with a review of Mouse Guard, by David Petersen!

You could hardly ask for a faster-paced and exciting adventure featuring mice with swords than you will find in Mouse Guard. Channeling Brian Jacques' Redwall stories, author/illustrator David Petersen has crafted a small world of populated mice and deadly foes for them to battle (snakes and crabs, naturally). Between narrow escapes, epic battles and furious duels, he has packed in secret plots, mysterious hooded conspirators, stolen maps and the exceedingly clever device of the Mouse Guard itself. Selected from the mouse population to guard secret mice towns and patrol the perilous lands between, they are sort of a medieval special forces group of rodents who fight with all the courage and gusto of Errol Flynn.

What Mouse Guard lacks as a novel (strongly defined characters, for instance), it more than makes up for with its' graphics. Painstakingly detailed, every color selected for its atmospheric tone, with rough-hewn figures that suggest the toughness of these scrappy critters, the sense of reality sells this work of high fantasy.

Low on the serious quotient, but very, very high on the fun, mark my words: this is going to be the next big thing for 8 - 14 year olds (especially boys).

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Quite a cover, yes? I picked this up since I have some mythology obsessed 4th graders in my hands this year.

Dussie, named after her aunt Medusa, awakes in the middle of the night to her first period. She is not pleased. But she manages to sort everything out and get back to sleep. Then when she wakes up in the morning, there is a new problem. Snakes. On her head. And yes, they're alive and no it's not a dream.

Now a few things make sense. She has always thought that her sculptor mom just dressed the part. Turbans and long flowy gowns are de rigeur. Now Dussie knows what lays beneath her mom's garb. Dussie cannot believe that her mother never prepared her for any of this! But her mom was hoping that since dad was mortal, Dussie would be different.

So how does a girl who is already worried about being pretty enough, figure out how to exist at school with a head full of snakes? What will Troy think when he sees her snakes? And even more, how can Dussie get these snakes off of her head?

A few life lessons are served up by Nancy Springer in Dussie regarding fitting in, family, and loyalty. Filled with a NYC cast of characters, reader's will delight in getting to know Dussie's snakes, and feeling her growing pains along with her.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ten Ways to Make My Sister Disappear

Have you ever made one of those lists? You know, the ones that will get you kicked out of school these days?

Sprig is working on one about her sister Dakota. Sprig and Dakota used to get along, but now Dakota thinks that since she is older, she has all of the answers. Just because Sprig is quick to tears, and misses her dad more than anything when he goes away on business, doesn't mean that she is the baby in the family.

Now dad is talking about going to Afghanistan! Sprig knows that he is going for a very good reason (to build schools for girls) but she has looked online, and it's dangerous over there!

And school is getting confusing too. Sprig's best friend Bliss keeps siding with big old Russell, who Sprig thinks is nothing more than a bully. Are Bliss and Russell becoming more than friends? To top it all off, Sprig's teacher is off on maternity leave and Mr. Julius is subbing. Nothing is like it was!

Norma Fox Mazer has written a story about growing pains, and change. Kids with family in the military will appreciate her references to those in service, without making the whole book about the war. Sprig is learning that wishing Dakota away may not be the answers to her problems. After all, during rough times, sisters end up needing each other.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

And the winner is...

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read about the fabulous Adam Rex!!!

Please head on over to the Robert's Snow auction site and decide what you want to bid on!