Archive for May, 2015

KING OF FIFTH GRADE

Myth Catchers: Book 1 Dad’s Pants

Written by Alan Riehl

MythCatchers

This short book of less than sixty pages is the first in a series exploring the trials and tribulations of a ten year old boy named Curtis Armstrong. Curtis misses his father so much that he desperately hangs on to the one thing remaining to remind him of his dad, a pair of worn jeans. To make matters worse, his divorced mother works long hours and his older sister has a roomful of unicorns that he hates. To make matters worse, Christy loves to use her imagination and is considered “Miss Popularity” at school.

But now Curtis has an opportunity to start fresh with a move to Myth, New Mexico. He is determined to be the king of his new fifth grade class. Of course that dream does not materialize. On the first day he gets into trouble with the principal when he breaks her picture frame decorated with unicorns, his most despised symbol. A new threat appears in the form of the school’s most popular and clever student, Darla.

Curtis cannot understand what is happening to him as his usually logical and stable personality becomes overwhelmed with strange dreams and incidents that he cannot distinguish as real or imagined. Lots of twists and turns in the plot as Curtis struggles to figure out what is really going on, and how his father’s pants are suddenly the vehicle to catch some very scary things.

This first book does contain a few editing errors, but is filled with the kind of humor and absurdities that tweens love in their fiction. Short length makes the book a good choice for a reluctant reader. I must say that I was disappointed in the abrupt ending which left more questions than answers. No doubt that many readers will be waiting to see Book 2 in the hopes that their curiosity will be satisfied.

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HITTING THE LOTTERY

Catnapped

Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Illustrated by Daniel Weatheritt
Catnapped,pic

Charming early chapter mystery book of less than fifty pages that is perfect for the beginning reader. Jenna bemoans the fact that her Nanna has moved from a bustling Australian city to a quiet house on Wattle Drive. Well, actually not that quiet, Nanna has adopted several pets: Oscar a large orange cat, Goliath, a large Great Dane, Cleo, a black and white cat, Albert, a python snake, and Polly, a chatterbox parrot, who enjoys watching police shows. One night while watching TV, Nanna screams with joy when she finds out that she has just won the lottery. Nanna quickly decides that after setting some money aside for Jenna’s education and a trip to Disneyland; she will use the rest to take her friend Alice to the Sydney Opera House, but give the bulk of the money to build a special home for cats that nobody wants.

Cass Snatchit and her lazy teenage brother Jack read of Nanna’s good fortune in the newspaper. They live in a run-down trailer and quickly decide that they will kidnap Nanna’s cat and demand a large sum of money for ransom. The author details their plans to spy on her and break into her house. Will they succeed in their plan to swindle Nanna and foil her generous plan for the lotto winnings?

The six chapters are short and the text is easy to read and conversational. Characters are fun, and the black and white pencil illustrations are charming. I do think the illustrations might have been more effective if they were larger and in color. This book has lots of elements a child age six to nine will enjoy: animals, the good guys and the bad guys, and a touch of humor. Recommended as an independent reader or read aloud at home, in the classroom or for siblings to share with one another.

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DETECTIVE DEBUT

Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar

Written by Tommy Davey

CoraFlash,pic

Cora is a spunky preteen who is traveling alone for the first time on a overnight train from the city to Topaz Mountain to spend some time in the country with her Uncle Andre. She meets a colorful cast of characters including a single woman, Mrs. Bronwyn, and her dog, Calvin. Almost immediately she notices a man named Mr. Sloane, who is being overprotective of a silver briefcase that he does not let out of his sight. It turns out that he has good reason for that because Mr. Sloane is carrying a valuable gemstone. The stone disappears from his sleeping car; Cora, a honeymoon couple, Mrs. Bronwyn, a college student, and the railroad porter will all be suspects interrogated by an undercover detective on the train.

The inspector is determined to solve the mystery by interrogation, but Cora has a few plans of her own. Will they be able to unravel the mystery to find out the identify of the thief? Cora proves her cleverness and keeps her cool. All the action takes place in less than two hundred pages before the passengers disembark from the train. Certainly this is a first ride that Cora will long remember and the beginning of her interest in solving many mysteries to follow.

Great story for tweens. It has the elements of a good mystery, colorful characters, and a respectful, intelligent strong female role model. This is a quick, fast moving read that will appeal to reluctant readers. Recommended highly for boys and girls eight years up and older.

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21st CENTURY FAIRY TALES

Three Little Pigs Get An Extreme Home Makeover
Written by Caprice Hokstad
Illustrated by Richard Svenson

3pigsmakeover,pic

Hokstad has done a marvelous job of putting a modern day setting and spin on classic fairy tales. Adult readers will find themselves smiling at the innovative settings and modern day language. The three little pigs live in Florida and must contend with a hurricane instead of a wolf. Goldilocks becomes the home invader and the Three Bears a model family. Hansel and Gretel are the victims of a nanny instead of a witch, and the gingerbread house meets an unlikely demise. Jack’s beanstalk is genetically modified, and an unscrupulous salesman meets his fate. Rapunzel is not the timid captive held in the tower. What will happen to those gorgeous locks of hair? Finally, in the Pied Piper story, students in an elementary school must face the music when one of their science experiments goes amiss and rats overrun the school. The principal demands a humane solution to solve the problem.

Young children won’t understand the humor, but many children in the middle grades who are already familiar with the classic tales will love the satire. Their parents will, no doubt, be amazed at the creative twenty-first century scenarios. Each of the story has an original illustration appropriate to the new version. For lovers of fairy-tales, this one is a definite change of pace.

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OPPOSITES ATTRACT

The Rescue Team

Written by Billi Tiner

REscueTeam,pic

The author of this heartwarming tale told from the point of view of a dog and a cat is a veterinarian who understandably has a great kinship with animals. Targeted for children in the eight to twelve year age range, the chapter book has no sex, violence or profanity which makes it a nice choice for a family read aloud. This book will take you on a series of adventures that will put you in their shoes.

The adventure begins when Ellie, who is a one year old Border Collie, suddenly finds herself in an animal shelter when her owners become pregnant. After what seems like an eternity, a kind woman named Anne adopts her. Ellie soon discovers that her new owner loves animals; Ellie begins to bring animals in trouble home. Soon she is sharing her home with Toby, a six-month old kitten who becomes her best friend. Together they will form an improbable but talented rescue team.

When Anne is hurt in an automobile accident, she meets a fireman named Brent and their lives become even more involved in animal and human rescue. They will all face adventures and disasters that hit close to home. The plot is simple and predictable, but the author has a real knack for using first person to get the reader in the head of the animal characters. Text level of difficulty is suitable for middle grade independent readers; younger children will enjoy listening to the story read aloud. Nice book to curl up with on a rainy weekend afternoon.

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THREE’S COMPANY

A Silent Yes: A Novella (A Quiet Life Book 1)

Written by Charlotte Thorpe

Asilentyes,picShort novella of approximately fifty pages that portrays the gentle tale of two orphaned brothers living in Kansas circa 1884. Matthias and his younger brother Justus live a quiet life on their farm. One day Silas Mitchell and his wife drive up in a wagon with a strange request. They have a sick cattle drive cook that they want to drop on their doorstep. They can’t keep her on the drive and have no one to care for her. These two brothers go in the house to discuss the situation when Silas takes off in a hurry. After a few days, the woman named Grace recovers. The brothers stay in the barn to avoid impropriety and treat her with respect. She asks to stay and volunteers her services as a cook, seamstress and housekeeper.

Matthias and Justus quickly acclimate to the new situation enjoying a lifestyle lost to them since their mother died twelve years before. Soon both the boys are attracted to Grace. They learn that Grace has no real family and no one to rely on for help. Will Grace find the courage to marry one of them or will she resign herself to disappear and go back to a life of poverty? Can the two brothers sort out their individual feelings toward their new resident? When the preacher arrives for a visit, they both know the time has come for a decision.

This is a sweet tale with no profanity or sex that alludes back to a simpler time. Kind of a cross between a piece of historical fiction and romance. The book is appropriate for readers age twelve and up. Characters are amazingly well-developed in the simple plot line. Nice well-written feel good kind of book for a lazy afternoon read.

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A RESTLESS SOUL

Jonathan’s Locket

Written by Lorraine Carey

Jonathan's Locket, pic

I was immediately captured by this short work of historical fiction. It is based on an actual shipwreck called The Wreck of the Ten Sails which took place in 1794. Carey has managed to portray the setting of the past and the setting of the future two hundred years later in one enjoyable tale.

At the outset we meet Jonathan Palmer, an orphan living in Port Royal, Jamaica, who desperately seeks to learn the identity of his mother. He has been befriended by a seaman named Peter who assists him in becoming a stowaway on a British merchant ship. Jonathan hopes to get to England to find his birth mother. His most valuable possession is a gold locket with a wisp of her blonde hair that has somehow found its way to him at the orphanage. Once aboard the ship, Peter surreptitiously reveals the truth to Jonathan just before the ship named the Convert strikes a reef and sinks off the shores of the Cayman Islands.

The story shifts to modern times and a new protagonist named Brandon Wallace who lives on Cayman Island. He is a fifteen year old who loves diving, but seems to have all the problems of a teen struggling to grow up. His friend Jason is moving in on his girl, he is in trouble at school and with his parents for cutting class, his sister, Murielle smugly taunts him while remaining the favorite child. But suddenly Jonathan experiences a tugging toward investigating the story of the wreck. Then he begins to feel a choking sensation around his neck, and unexplained physical visions around the site. A sea turtle named Mallock guides him to swim to the old wreck. What is happening to Brandon and why does he feel such a compelling need to solve a two hundred year old mystery?

This book combines the elements of adventure, fantasy, folklore, history and the problems of a teen coming of age. Tweens, teens and adults will all find a unique interweaving of these elements. I could not put the book down and had to read it in one sitting and  could not wait to see what would happen next. One hundred pages that are definitely worth reading!

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