Archive for May, 2010

Barnaby Grimes: Phantom of Blood Alley by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Daniel Fickling Books, 2010)

Barnaby Grimes, a tick-tock lad, gets paid by delivering anything and everything anywhere in London as quickly as possible. Tick-tock lads save time by ‘highstacking’ or running over the city’s rooftops – a dangerous game. The adventure begins when Grimes is employed by Clarissa Oliphant, a fencing teacher, to follow her brother who is secretive and is behaving strangely. Indeed, Laurence Oliphant has developed a fascination for “painting with light” or what we today call photography and stealthily running out at night. Grimes observes Oliphant deliberately trip an old woman and steal an apple. Finally, Oliphant produces a key to let himself into a filthy hovel in the seediest part of town known as Blood Alley. A short time later Oliphant is found murdered by his sister’s sword. It is up to Barnaby to discover the real killer and free Clarissa. Barnaby is helped by a huge dog, the first skateboard ever invented, and his own considerable skills. This is a grand adventure tale that also manages to include the history of early photography.

J Fiction, Recommended—Lillian Hecker (PEL)

May 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm Leave a comment

I Fooled You: Ten Stories of Tricks Jokes and Switcheroos edited by Johamma Hurwitz (Candlewick Press, 2010)

Ten children’s authors have ten original takes on fooling people. The cleverer tales are the graphic story by Matthew Holm showing two chimps outwitting their scientist handlers. In The Prince of Humbug a boy expects a land legacy from his grandfather but receives a lesson in human relationships instead. Sweetie Pie features a brilliant parrot that knows where the pirate treasure is buried. There are enough twists in this anthology to keep new readers reading.

J Fiction, Recommended—Lillian Hecker (PEL)

May 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

Mokie and Bik Go to Sea by Wendy Orr, illustrated by Jonathan Bean (Henry Holt & Co 2010)

Mokie and Bik are twins who live on a ship called the Bullfrog. There are so many interesting places to visit on board, like the rope ladders, the kitchen, the engine room, etc. It’s no wonder the kids hear, “Get out from underfoot,” from everybody. And they do, but they in the water after their dog falls in. The author loves to make up words, like “Mokie swished her net through a cloud of tiny fisk, but the fisk all swicked away.” There’s a place in literature for made up words, but an easy reader probably isn’t the best place for beginners to decode them. The adventures are tame. The best thing about this book is the fabulous, imaginative black and white drawings. There’s plenty of action in story and pictures, but  action does not hold the story together.

J Fiction, Not Recommended—Lillian Hecker (PEL)

May 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez (Little Brown & Co. 2009)

Lena, a middle school Latina girl, lives with her dad in South Texas. A year ago her mother died and life became difficult. Her dad who teaches English in college is more engrossed in his books than in his daughter. Her best friend Vanessa Cantu has a new boyfriend and that causes strains. And Mrs. Cantu can hardly talk about men without fireworks since her husband left her. Lena is a likeable protagonist who has moods but the dark ones don’t last long. She is crazy about socks and sorts them into categories when she isn’t wearing them around her neck. She is also crazy about a Luis, a boy with his own issues. Each chapter starts with a Spanish proverb that is translated into English. The title Confetti refers to the endless hollow eggshells Vanessa’s mom makes and fills with confetti that should bring everyone luck. Happily, Lena, her dad and friends figure out how to create their own happiness using cascarones (hollow eggshells) and their own emerging social skills. This coming-of-age story is perfectly attuned to middle school readers.

J Fiction, Recommended—Lillian Hecker (PEL)

May 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little Brown & co 2009)

Minli and her parents live in a tiny shack in the corner where Fruitless Mountain and Jade River meet. The villagers struggle hard to coax rice out of the almost barren land.  Mud and poverty are everywhere. The only bright spot is a young girl Minli. She has an adventurous spirit, is always smiling and has a quick mind. Her Ma constantly sighs over the lack of food and other amenities. Minli loves the stories her Ba, father, tells her about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. If someone finds the Old Man of the Moon, he can change one’s fortune.  Mimly goes on her quest and is helped by a young dragon who is unable to fly, a young boy who has only a water buffalo for companionship, and villagers where two children must be sacrificed every month to avoid annihilation by a fierce tiger. Her parents worry about her absence. Minli faces many tests during her odyssey. She learns about true wealth and friendship in her quest. This is a sweet adventure story based on Chinese folk tales and folk wisdom. Beautiful Chinese art and woodcuts add additional interest.

J Fiction, Recommended—Lillian Hecker (PEL)

May 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven by Graham Salisbury (Wendy Lamb Books, 2010)

What I Want So Badly I Can Taste It’ is the writing prompt in Mr. Purdy’s sixth grade class. Calvin thinks about wanting a skateboard or a bike, but what he really wants is a dog. His mother says ‘no’ to dogs because of the work involved and also because Stella, a teenage helper in the family, may be allergic. Calvin gets unexpected help from Ledward, his mother’s boy friend. Ledward is a dog lover and takes Calvin and his sister Darci to dog heaven aka as the animal shelter. There is Calvin’s dog – a spirited, licking puff of energy that promptly licks Calvin’s face and acquires the obvious name of Streak. By using psychology and smarts, Calvin plots the means of achieving his heart’s desire and writing an excellent persuasive paper at the same time. This is the latest episode in the Hawaiian series of Calvin and his gang. It’s a winner!

J Fiction (Series), Recommended—Lillian Hecker (PEL)

May 11, 2010 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Double Trouble by Cathy Hopkins (Kingfisher, 2009)

This story is cute but I consider this book fluff.  It is one of a series about “zodiac girls.”  Pre-teen girls will totally enjoy this story especially if she happens to be a Scorpio.  This story has a message in which the “zodiac crew” helps the young lady work through her problems.  One of which is being afriad of the dark and that by discussing this with your family/friends they can support and assist you — and most of all — to be yourself.  I do recommend the book but it is a lightweight story.  If your library has budgetary constraints, this would not be my first buying choice.

J, Additional— Mary Ann Minozzi (Yon-Will)

May 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment


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