Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Garden of Eve

Evie is so angry with her father. They are in their truck, freezing cold, moving to a place that she has never seen, and her father is lost.
Her mother would know exactly where to go. She seemed to have a sense about her.
But she's not here. She's buried back home. And Evie cannot believe that her father wants to leave to move to a dead apple orchard.
When they finally get to Beaumont, they drive past a funeral. Evie is forced to remember the day of her mother's funeral. It was dark and gray, just like today. Evie notices someone who steps away from the crowd.
"The figure was a boy who looked to be about her own age, and he was
the palest boy Evie had ever seen. His skin was ghostly white against
the black of his coat and his pale hands were ungloved, making him
appear as if hands and face were all there was to him." pp. 16-17
Who is this boy, and why does Evie keep seeing him in the cemetery behind her house?
What follows is a heartbreaking story filled with magical realism and poignancy. Evie is on a quest of sorts to work through her own grief and salvage a relationship with her father. The town of Beaumont itself is broken as well. Can Evie's belief in magic help the people she hasn't yet met?
This is a very special book for deep and thoughtful readers. You have to be willing to delve into a fairytale of sorts, or it most likely will not work for you. Personally, I found this title staggering in many ways.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Babysitting Wars

Kaitlyn, Maggie and Liesel are best friends. They have lived in Marshfield Lake forever, and each are known for something special. Maggie is a super athlete, Liesel is a great artist, and Kaitlyn is a fantastic babysitter, who just happens to have a bit of a competitive streak.

One day at lunch, Maggie invites new girl Nola over to their lunch table. Nola's from L.A. and you can definitely tell. Her clothes are always perfect and there is something competitive about her that Kaitlyn doesn't like.

Kaitlyn definitely decides that Nola is not to be liked when she not only starts taking over Kaitlyn's babysitting gigs, but is also seen nose to nose with resident hottie Topher Walker.

How far will Kaitlyn go to one-up Nola? How long can her friends stand her blowing them off in the name of competition?

This is a super cutie patootie title that is a breeze to read. It's chock full of tween girl issues like crushes, being grounded, and friendship. Candy Apple seems to be Scholastic's latest tween series. And with a cover like this, how can it miss? Each title is written by a different author. This one is by Mimi McCoy, and there are others by Laura Dower, Francesco Sedita, Lisa Papdemetriou, and Lara Bergen. Perhaps you've heard of a couple of them?

I know come the fall, these will be in the hands for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at my school.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Summerhouse Time

Do you remember what it was like to be eleven? Truly in the middle.

Sophie is so excited that it is almost Summerhouse time again. That is when Sophie and her extended family make the trip to the Jersey Shore. She gets to be with her cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, and just "be". Last year Sophie's older cousin Colleen gave her pedicures, and they spent so much time was great!

This, however, is a very different year. Colleen doesn't want to share a room, paint her nails, or anything. She wants to be alone. Sophie's little cousin Tammy is delighted to be sharing with "Soapy". Sophie is not so sure about all of this change.

Nor is she sure about the changes she is noticing in her dad. Or the changes between her aunt and uncle. Nothing is the same.

Summerhouse Time is a dreamy little story about change and family. Told in free verse, Spinelli must be calling to her own childhood. Sophie's voice is so authentic, and her feelings are right there on her sleeve. From her first real crush to her lingering resentment of her family's less-is-more philosophy, Sophie is a character that stays with the reader, and we are priviledged to share her eleventh summer with her!

A great choice for the thoughtful reader.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star

So, it's been a year since Kendra and Seth have lived at Fablehaven with their grandparents and discovered that their home is really a preserve for all types of magical creatures. School will be out in a week, and Kendra is looking forward to a bit of time off. Everything seems fine until a new boy named Case shows up. All of Kendra's friends think Case is hot, but the kiss of the fairies has left Kendra with the ability to see Case for what he really is...a hideous, deformed magical creature of some kind.
Kendra has to tell Seth. Who else would believe her? Before the two of them can decide what to do, Errol shows up. Errol claims to be a friend of their grandfather, and possesses enough information to make Kendra and Seth believe he is just that. But after Seth and Kendra help Errol provide the means to send Case packing, grandpa calls up and lets them know they've been fooled. And that it's time for them to come back to Fablehaven.
While the first installment of the series was dark, Rise of the Evening Star seems almost more so. When the kids arrive, grandma and grandpa are living with 3 specialist who are supposedly helping to bring down the society. Coulter, who has been grandpa's friend for years, specializes in magical relics. The massive Tanu is a potions specialist. And Vanessa is learned in weapons and magical creatures. Dale and Warren are still on the compound. And soon, it is clear, that there is a traitor among them.
Who can Kendra and Seth trust? Who really wants the best for Fablehaven. Why are the fairies so mean to Kendra? And what new horrors lurk in the woods?
Brandon Mull can write one heck of a scary story. The plot flies along as the kids get into adventure after adventure. These books are truly exciting, and I found myself seeking out quiet spots whenever I could get in a few chapters. It's going to be so hard to wait for the third installment, but in the meantime, I will pick up Mull's stand alone The Candy Shop War to tide me over.
Fans of Horowitz's Alex Rider should love Fablehaven. Fast paced with enough gore to satisfy any reader!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb


I have to thank Karyn for picking this up for me at BEA. I couldn't believe it when I realized that not only had I missed seeing Kirsten Miller in person, but I totally missed picking up the ARC as well. Ugh.

So. Kiki is back. All of the Irregulars are now 14 years old (except for Iris, of course, who is 11). We start the story with a bunch of animal releases in NYC and giant squirrel murals painted around town. The press immediately blames Kiki, but Annanka knows better...Kiki can't even draw!

The main meat of the story is Oona's this time. Oona has been keeping a secret from the other Irregulars. She's not an orphan like they all had thought. Oona knows her dad. He's none other than Lester Liu - crime boss and smuggler. Lester was never interested in having a daughter so he left Oona with some women from one of his sweatshops. All of a sudden, Lester is taking an interest in Oona...and her band of friends. He says he's gone legit. He says that he wants to be a philanthropist. He says he wants Oona in his life. And Daddy's also sending the form of diamonds and designer clothes. It seems that he might just know his daughter afterall.

What do the other girls think of Oona's budding relationship with her dad? Can you say "traitor"?

Another adventure filled with twists and turns, NYC geography and history, wonky families, and girl power! The Irregulars are older now, and the problems get more sophisticated as well. To be honest, this was a bit of a slow starter for me. I was tripping over some language at the beginning. But once the story got into full swing, I was hooked once more! (Stayed up til 3:00 a.m. just to finish!)

I'm looking forward to the next installment! And I think these books would make an EXCELLENT movie. Can you imagine?

Sunday, July 01, 2007


I picked up this gem of a book at BEA this spring.

Floss, a.k.a. Flora, is having a birthday. When she wakes up, her mum, step-dad Steve, and half-brother Tiger (a.k.a. Tim) are in her room, giving her gifts. She gets five gifts, all wrapped in lovely pink and silver paper. Her mum always makes things look so nice. "Hurry up", she is told. Floss receives an outfit (a pair of jeans and a pink top with a koala on it), blue trainers with pink laces, gel pens and stationery, a pink trolley style suitcase, and a cuddly animal (kangaroo with a joey). Sense a theme?

Then Floss' mum drops the bombshell. They are moving to Sydney, Australia for Steve's new job.

The full impact takes a moment to hit Floss. What about her dad? She sees him on weekends and helps out at his greasy spoon cafe. He may not be as successful as Steve, but in Floss' eyes, he can do no wrong. But mum insists that Floss come to Australia, and she even makes Floss do the deed of telling dad about the move.

At the same time, she can feel her best friend Rhiannon pulling away. Rhiannon's not very nice, but Floss desperately wants to remain best friends. Even when Rhiannon is so mean to Susan Potts who seems pretty interesting to Floss.

What follows is a story of parents who don't always do the best thing, friends who aren't so friendly, chip butties, and believing in oneself.

Jacqueline Wilson is such a great writer for tweens. She really gets that stuck feeling that so many kids have. Her characters are authentic, and the story flows along effortlessly.

A fun summer read!