Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On the Clipboard

It has been a loooooooong time since my last clipboard post (or my last post for that matter!), but here we are again.  For those of you who do not know, our library has an honour system for the times Jen, Jesse or myself are not at the reference desk.  Students write down their name and the barcodes of the books that they are checking out.  It's an interesting way to find out some of the"hot" titles, as well as those books that kids want to check out when the adults are not around!

 The Unsinkable Walker Bean, by Renier
 Jack Blank and the Imagination Nation, by Myklusch
 President of the Whole Fifth Grade, by Winston
 Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror, by Boylan

What are your tweens reading?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pies & Prejudice, by Heather Vogel Frederick

The girls are back, and this time they are tackling some Austen as well as a cultural exchange of sorts!

The girls are 15 now and everyone seems to know what they want to do with their lives except for Jess. She’s throwing herself into her life at the Academy, and things are better since she no longer has to room with snotty Savannah (who is turning out not to be so snotty after all). She’s singing in the MadriGals and now her mom has her enrolled in a cake decorating class. It’s not really her thing, but she feels like she has to do it since she doesn’t really get to see her family as much as she used to.

Cassidy is still into hockey but her nice surprise is that she’s bonding with Stanley more than ever. Who knew her dorky step-dad would be such a sports nut and go to bat for Cassidy with her mom so that she can play with the elite girl’s team in the area? He’s even getting up at the crack of dawn to drive her to practice.

Megan’s passion for fashion is going strong, and she’s adding an anonymous blog to her resume. “Fashionista Jane” is a helpful yet snarky commentator on the world of fashion at her school. Not only is she showing readers how to rework their wardrobes, she also has a fashion faux pas section which is super popular. Too bad it bruises a few egos along the way.

The biggest change is in store for Emma and her family who up and leave for England for a year. At first Emma and Darcy aren’t thrilled with their parents’ announcement. They only got 2 weeks notice! But the allure of England and Jane Austen territory in particular is thrilling for Emma. Yes, she’ll miss Stewart, but it is only for a year.

Vogel Frederick has written another installment that is fun filled yet more grown up than the previous titles. She has managed to keep the girls innocent yet believable, and bringing the Hawthornes to England was a great way to introduce new characters and switch the focus a bit. Romances abound and will keep readers titillated without resorting to choosing “teams”. I don’t want to give too many plot points away, but suffice it to say that the laughter that came with the reading was familiar, while the tears were not. Fans will be delighted, and new readers will be able to jump right in.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Danger Box, by Blue Balliett

Zoomy is a special little kid who lives with his grandparents Gam and Gumps in the same house where his dad was raised. Zoomy’s never met his dad, since he was left on the doorstep, but his grandparents knew without a doubt that Zoomy was theirs by the note taped to the cat carrier that held him: “Buckeye Chamberlain Is My Father My Name Is Zoomy Kep Me Please”. Even though Zoomy looks nothing like his grandparents they have raised him and try to help him manage.

Zoomy’s got a couple of issues. If he doesn’t keep his lists, his days fly apart and he can’t stop tap, tap, tapping at this chin. His eyesight is so bad that Gumps keeps a running commentary of bumps and curbs when they walk to their shop, "Chamberlain’s Antiques and What Nots" in the heart of their small town of Three Oaks Michigan.

Zoomy lives for his summertime routine involving laundry, the vegetable garden, trips to the public library and his grandparent’s shop, but now there is Lorrol – the firecracker girl who doesn’t live in town, but is in the library this summer trying to avoid going to camp. Zoomy has never been too comfortable with other kids, but Lorrol is different. She doesn’t think he’s weird, she actually thinks that he is smart!

Three Oaks isn’t the kind of town that is ripe for mysteries, but this summer isn’t a typical one. Lorrol isn’t the only person who comes to town unexpectedly. Buckeye comes back, driving a truck and bearing a box that he wants his parents to keep. Zoomy is terrified of his father, who seems random and unpredictable and not exactly loving. Shortly after Buckeye, another stranger shows up who is very interested in the box in Gam and Gumps’ shop. And there is also the journal that Zoomy found wrapped in the quilt that was in the box that his dad brought. It’s peaked his interest with the old dates and the strange words, and all of the lists within.

Blue Balliett has written an extraordinarily atmospheric story, with layers and layers to dig in to. It’s not just a mystery, or a story about a special boy. It’s has friendship and family, history and loss. Readers will not be overwhelmed with Zoomy’s unnamed special needs status (outside of the Pathological Myopa) which Balliett presents as a matter of fact. When I closed The Danger Box I was amazed at how Balliett could seamlessly weave all of the components into the story without it feeling disjointed. In lesser hands, the story could easily have fallen apart.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Nice and Mean, by Jessica Leader

Whenever I am in the mood for some tween realistic fiction that is fun yet solidly written, I know that I can reach for a title from Aladdin Mix. I have yet to be disappointed. This time I read the title Nice and Mean by Jessica Leader, and I know I’ll have something to hand off to my tween girls this September.

Marina is mean. There’s no real getting around it. She’s not quite queen bee material, but at Jacobs Middle School she decides what category kids fall into, especially regarding their fashion choices. She does read Seventeen and watch all of the fashion shows on television after all!

Sachi, on the other hand, is a nice girl. So nice, in fact, that she got voted “Nicest Girl” in nasty Marina’s poll of kids in their school. By why do people think Sachi’s so nice? Sure she lends out enough pencils that she has to dip into her own allowance to replenish, but she doesn’t have too many friends who really know her. She’s all about school because that is how her parents want her to be. They moved from India and sacrifice to stay in Manhattan for Sachi and her two sisters, and they expect the best.

Ironically enough, Sachi did something not so nice in order to get into video class. Her folks want her in Test Prep to give her a leg up in a couple of years to get into Stuyvesant (Manhattan’s super competitive academic high school). Sachi forged her parents’ signatures and now finds herself paired of with Marina of all people for her video project. A video based on the fashion show Victim/Victorious was not was Sachi had in mind when she was going to all of the trouble of getting into the class.

Marina does have a knack of getting her way, but at the last minute Sachi lets her video teacher know that she is interested in another angle of the fashion question. Namely, why are some things in and some out? Who decides? In fact, why are some cultures considered cooler than others? Their teacher lets the girls work separately in the name of getting things done, but when Marina breaks some rules and brings a copy of her rough cut of video home to work on and some of her friends see the way that her fashion victim Rachel is treated, everything hits the fan.

Marina’s actions have lots more consequences than she ever could have foreseen. One being that she needs Sachi more than she ever could have imagined. Will Sachi be able to find her own voice and speak up for what she needs?

Jessica Leader has gotten the multiple worlds of the middle schooler down pat. Seventh grade tends to be a time of big changes…of kids figuring out who they want to be and where they are going to fit in. Marina and Sachi, while seemingly opposites, illustrate this beautifully. Round out the cast of their satellite friends and many types of kids are shown without seeming like Leader simply lined up types and put them in. Nice and Mean shows readers that most likely, the kids they think of as mean aren’t all mean, and the kids who seem nice definitely have some back story of their own!