Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gilda Joyce: The Dead Drop

Oh, Gilda Joyce. How I love you and your wonky ways.

It's summertime and Gilda has moved to Washington, D.C. for a summer job at the National Spy Museum. How perfect is that? She is sharing an apartment with Caitlin Merrill ( a recent college graduate) who is more than a bit surprised when she takes in Gilda's appearance. She is decked out in her 60s spy chic outfit complete with flipped hair and Jackie O pink suit.

Once Gilda gets to the spy museum, she is in heaven. After getting settled in Gilda gets to go on a field trip with the museum's historian to acquire some new spy paraphernalia from an Russian former spy. On meeting Boris, Gilda immediately notices some of his left over spy habits...like gazing over her shoulder to see who is coming down the street and she notices that her psychic abilities kick in when she is around him.

Soon after the museum acquires Boris' lipstick gun and red glass brooch, Gilda starts having dreams. Dreams that she is certain are a message. And these dreams are peppered with D.C. locations, and well as a blond woman and Abraham Lincoln! Gilda wonders what is going on. Funny things also start happening in the museum...things that cannot be explained or blamed on faulty technology. Is Boris really and ex-spy? Is the Spy Museum haunted? Will Gilda be able to solve any of these mysteries in her new role as spy camp counselor?

Jennifer Allison keeps this series going strong with the familiar (yet growing) character of Gilda in a new location. She is on her own, but Wendy is present in Gilda's letters to her, and Gilda's mom comes in with phone calls. The Washington contingent is fun, and the appearance of a certain author is well placed. D.C. itself becomes a character, as readers see it through Gilda's eyes. Descriptions are rich and detailed, yet don't go on too long. A personal favourite is the description of the crazy hotel where spies and celebrities go when they don't want to be bothered! Though Gilda is 14, she is a young 14. I feel like she gets a bad rep in some circles as unbelievable, but trust me...working in a MS shows that there is certainly a range when it comes to maturity levels and young teens.

For fans of the series, of mysteries and of quirky characters! On shelves May 09.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dork Diaries

"Sometimes I wonder if my mom is BRAIN DEAD. Then there are days when I know she is. Like today." So begins the diary of Nikki Maxwell, 8th grade, Westchester Country Day School.

Nikki's mom just doesn't understand that Nikki needs an iPhone, and entry into the CCP (Cute, Cool & Popular) group...not a diary. Unfortunately, the closest Nikki is getting to entry into the CCP, is having her locker next to uber popular Mackenzie Hollister. Mackenzie is a classic mean girl who wields her lip-gloss, and shoots off zingers about everyone else's fashion faux pas. School is a bit tortuous for Nikki, who cannot afford designer duds, techie gadgets, and fab vacations.

So Nikki is excited when she sees signs for the Random Acts of Avant-Garde Art contest. She is an artist, and the $500 prize could be used for her phone! But when Nikki hears that Mackenzie is entering the contest, she freaks out and ends up signing up to be a LSA (library shelving assistant) instead. Why bother competing against Mackenzie? She always wins.

What Nikki doesn't expect, is to make 2 great friends in the LSA program. Chloe and Zoey are book fiends who are geeked about having the chance to get to NYC to attend National Library Week. Maybe Nikki's artistic talent can help her new friends out.

Readers will *love* Nikki's illustrations in this diary format book. With a slight manga style, pictures of everyday school life are hilarious and engaging. Nikki has a fresh voice, and while I was reading Dork Diaries, I couldn't help but hear the voice of Six from the show Blossom! There is plenty of current slang, name dropping of celebs, and techno speak. It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in the final product especially in regards to a certain celebrity who is in a bit of legal trouble!

Today's tweens will eat this one up! The combo of illustrations and diary format is sure to please . In this age of Wimpy Kid, the format is a winner, and Nikki is so entertaining. A perfect beach read.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I am happily getting into a ritual of biweekly visits to the public library with my daughters. While they are off perusing the picture book shelves, I head on over to fiction to find some more tweeny titles. Hummingbird, by Kimberly Green Angle ended up in my pile this week.

March Anne lives on her family's watermelon farm with her dad, brother Kevin and Grenna. March Anne's mom died when she was quite young, so Grenna has been like a mom to her ever since. Daily pieces of March Anne's life are taken up soaking in Grenna's advice and particular sayings.

Then right in the middle of the watermelon harvest, Grenna collapses in the field. March Anne knows that her life is about to change forever. Even though Grenna comes home, the doctor's words of "irreparable damage" stay with her.

March Anne tries to keep on. She has her friends Meg and Laverne, of course, and there is the daily grind of school to follow. Her Daddy tells her that cooking is now up to her, and with disastrous results, March Anne is feeling a bit more useless than she would like.

Hummingbird is a slow, simmering family story. To be honest, the pace at first made me consider putting this one aside, but I am glad that I kept on. The characters are refreshingly honest and humble, and when the inevitable happens at the end, tears are sure to come. Give this to thoughtful readers who like quiet stories.