Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pick 6: New Kids

Moving to a new town or a new school is a classic set-up for a youth novel, and with good reason. Finding yourself in a new situation, adjusting to new schedules and a new peer group; these are a solid framework for addressing personal and family issues. Here are six books published in the last six months that feature kids who recently moved to new towns as a primary character.

6 New books with kids new to town:

1. Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

2. Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

3. Lemons by Melissa Savage

4. Bang by Barry Lyga

5. All Things New by Lauren Miller

6. Sidetracked by Diana Asher

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Non fiction book review - Torpedoed!

Torpedoed! by Cheryl Mullenbach

This book is the perfect combination of narrative and historical fact. Mullenbach explores the full historical context of the sinking of this ship. The portrayal of the sinking itself is almost clinical, allowing the reader to absorb all of the facts with very little emotional manipulation. This means that what we feel reading about these tragic events is genuine. While Mullenbach's book presents a fairly in depth exploration, it's scope is fairly narrow. Hopefully that will mean that readers finish this book hungry for more, leading them to read more about naval warfare and World War II.

More information: Torpedoed! releases September 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book review - Ban This Book

Title: Ban This Book
Author: Alan Gratz
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: I Kill the Mocking Bird by Paul Acampora
                      Lunch Money by Andrew Clements (or really any Clements book)
loads of fun

Summary (provided by publisher): An inspiring tale of a fourth-grader who fights back when her favorite book is banned from the school library—by starting her own illegal locker library!
It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read.
Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned books library out of her locker. Soon, she finds herself on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read.

My opinion: The plot of this novel may reach some ridiculous extremes. But it's ridiculous in the same way as the beloved Frindle. It is altogether compelling and charming. We see Amy Anne learning about censorship and freedom of expression. We see an exploration of the way we judge others without knowing their stories. Gratz subtly explores value judgments. And most importantly, the message of the novel is clear without becoming exceedingly repetitive. Gratz leads us to the desired conclusion without beating us over the head with it. I would easily recommend this book to any 3rd-6th grader.

More information: Ban This Book releases August 29.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book review - Hit the Ground Running

Title: Hit the Ground Running
Author: Alison Hughes
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: #16thingsithoughtweretrue by Janet Gurtler
                      The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman
nothing to write home about

Summary (provided by publisher): Sixteen-year-old Dee and her seven-year-old brother, Eddie, have been on their own for six weeks. Their father has seemingly vanished into the baking Arizona desert. Their money is drying up and the rent is coming due, but it's a visit from a social worker and the prospect of being separated from Eddie that scares Dee enough to flee. She dupes her brother into packing up and embarking on the long road trip to Canada, their birthplace and former home. Lacking a driver's license and facing a looming interrogation at the border, Dee rations their money and food as they burn down the interstate in their ancient, decrepit car.

My opinion: This book delivers exactly what it promises: a teenage girl hits the road for Canada with her brother and precious little money when their father disappears and social services is knocking at their door. And that's exactly what happens. They go to Canada. Along the way, they see some stuff and have a close call or two. But that's it. It's a quick read but not a particularly compelling one. There's no real underlying tension. We have no clear idea of what Dee thinks she's running towards. While the voices and characters are fairly strong, that's not enough to combat the slow drag of the plot.

More Information: Hit the Ground Running releases August 29.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Books on screen

Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card's book is a slow moving, contemplative exploration of the nature of war and loss of childhood. The movie version is a majestic exploration of the morals of war and space exploration. Both of these stories, viewed separately, are successful. The movie isn't a particularly accurate representation of the novel, though. While many of the plot elements are present in the movie, there is an issue of scope. At the start of the novel, Ender is 6 years old. The book follows him through several years of training and the way each step of that training steals a little more of his innocence and humanity. The time frame of the movie isn't 100% clear, though it seems to be a matter of months. While Asa Butterfield portrays the 12 year old Ender well, his age by nature means that a great deal of that innocence and childhood is lacking. Butterfield's Ender has less distance to fall. And therein lies the problem. Card's novel hinges on the idea that those in charge have determined that the only way to defend the planet is to utilize the innocent creativity of a child. In the process of getting their solution, they essentially destroy Ender. It's a process that takes years of progressively chipping away at his soul. The movie version, while it has beautiful graphics and a fantastic cast ( Harrison Ford and Viola Davis and Graff and Anderson blew me away), it lacks the impact and depth of the novel. All of that to say, in and of itself Ender's Game is a decent movie. But, if you're familiar with the book, it may be a bit of a disappointment.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book review - Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw

Title: Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw
Author: Todd Calgi Gallicano
Genre: fantasy adventure
Similar books: The Eye of the North by Sinead O'Hart
                      The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
A fun adventure

Summary (provided by publisher): A new action adventure series set in our famous national parks! Enter the world of the Department of Mythical Wildlife, where our protagonist, Sam London, is tasked with protecting legendary animals that secretly live amongst our treasured wildlife.
    Haunted by a dream of a mythical gryphon, Sam London uncovers an ancient secret that will change the way he sees the world forever. Recruited by Dr. Vance Vantana, an eccentric zoologist and park ranger sent by the government, Sam is whisked away on an adventure that takes him to the farthest reaches of the globe. Along this journey, Sam learns an incredible truth: mythical creatures are real and living among us in our national parks. A special department in the U.S. government ensures that their existence remains hidden.
   But Sam’s dream is an omen that the secret may now be in danger. Someone seeks the power to expose these creatures and overthrow humankind—and that power can only be found in a magical talisman known as the gryphon’s claw.

My opinion: On the one hand, this book has all the necessary adventure plot elements, especially for a mythology basked book: a sympathetic and unassuming protagonist, who finds himself enmeshed in a wild adventure, plenty of mythological beings both familiar and obscure, quirky characters, betrayal, and interesting settings. So its a fun read. Its also fairly expected. It doesn't push a lot of plot boundaries. Also, because there's a great dal of world building, the characters aren't particularly complex. Some of the plot points are sort of vague, floating between events without clear cause and effect. So to sum up: entertaining but will feel familiar.

More information: Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw releases August 29.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.