Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Race to the Bottom of the Sea

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager

race to bottom

Published by Candlewick Press, expected release date 10/17.

Fidelia’s parents are successful scientists studying sharks, and are killed in a freak story when the submarine capsized. Fidelia feels responsible, because she encouraged them to put off coming the the surfaceand the submarine was one she designed. While staying with her aunt, a trio of pirates led by Merrick the Monstrous come to rob her home and kidnap her. In order to earn her freedom, she has to go underwater to a cave with poisoned flowers to retrieve a lost treasure. As they get closer to the cave, Fidelia learns the backstory of the pirates. It turns out that there is more to Merrick than meets the eye. Will they successfully find the treasure? What is Merrick’s secret?

One thing I struggled with was the geography. When I read contemporary books, I try and look at where in the world the story takes place and to be aware of the culture when reading. I had a hard time figuring out where in the world the story takes place. Some preliminary searches of some of the locations in this book produced limited results. The author does a good of blending modern life with the traditional notion of pirates, but it didn’t jive when you look at modern day piracy.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It blends modern life and the folklore that our teens love with “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Quotes:

“Sorry was a blanket that left your feet cold, a thin soup that couldn’t fill the aching hunger in your bones. Sorry was the only thing people could offer, and it was a cruel, false replacement for what she had lost.” (p. 206)

“What’s life without a few scars?” (p. 228)

“people don’t always act the way you expect them to.” (p.268)

*I recieved this ARC from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review. Quotes may change in the final publication.

Book Review: Wizards of Once

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

wizard of once.jpg

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in October 2017

When I was growing up, I was a big fan of Roald Dahl (especially¬†The Witches). I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this book up, but the writing style and illustration style brought me back to intermediate school when I was gobbling these books up.

This is the story of a world where there are two main “tribes,” the warriors and wizards. There was a war where witches were removed from the face of the earth. (witches are not what we think of with broomsticks and hats. These witches are monsters). The wizards control the magic and the warriors control the iron and the groups stay away from each other. We are challenged in the book to find the “unseen” narrator and figure out how they fit in the story. (I have my suspicions, but we’ll see as the series progresses ūüėČ )

Our story follows 2 characters, Xar (a wizard who hasn’t gotten his magic yet and will do ANYTHING to make it happen) and Wish (a warrior who has found a magical object). Both characters don’t fit in in their communites. Xar is trying to catch a witch, even though everyone knows all the witches are dead. He’s hoping he can steal some of it’s magic (knowing full well that he will be cursed forever). Wish has found a magical spoon and a magic sword that says, “There once were witches, but I killed them…”

Wish goes for a walk with her bodyguard and is captured by Xar. It turns out that he has found a feather with some witch blood on it. Some of the blood drops on Xar and his sprite Squeezjoos. It turns out it didn’t affect Xar, but it is affecting Squeezjoos. He will die or turn evil if he can’t get rid of the blood. Wish informs them that her mother, Queen Sychorax has a stone that takes away magic. Can they break into the warrior’s fort to save Squeezjoos? What’s going on with the witches? Are they back? Read to find out!

Quotes:

“That’s the problem with adventures. They bring out parts of you that you never knew were there.” (p. 201)

“The trouble with stories is: you have to know what they mean.” (p. 295)

“Actions have consequenses, you must pay the price of making amends, and some things happen that cannot unhappen.” ¬†(p. 319)

“This isn’t the dark ages you know…’ (well it was, actually, but nobody ever thinks they are living in the dark ages)” (p.327)

*I recieved this ARC from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review. Quotes may change in the final publication.

 

Theme: Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is always a concept that is fuzzy to our teens. As much as we try and relate it to their lives (imagine someone stole your project…), sometimes it’s good for them to see an example in a nonschool setting. Lately, I’ve been reading some great books that hit on intellectual property, copyright, and plagiarism in a way that isn’t preachy.

Girl versus Boy Band by Harmony Jones

girl v boy band

Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens in 2016.

Lark has been dealing with her parent’s divorce, but her mother makes life more painful. Her mother is an agent trying to discover the next big music group. She’s convinced it’s this boy band from the UK named Abbey Road and invites them to move in with her and Lark as they try to make it in the music business. Lark loves music and writing, but is crippled by stage fright. She and her friends are trying to help her overcome that when one of the boys steal her lyrics!

Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabar

sasquatch

Published by Disney-Hyperion in 2015

Theo is a quiet, smart kid who enjoys the “Acalympics” with his friends. In 8th grade, he has a growth spurt and everyone wants him to join the basketball team. The problem is something that many teens face, it’s fun to be involved in many different things, but it’s hard to do something extremely well when you are stretched thin. In addition, Theo also has to deal with his father beginning online dating after the death of his mother. Even though some teens would assume this is just a sports book, there’s a lot of subplots with Theo’s friends and family. The part that stuck with me was about Theo’s cousin, Gavin. His cousin had a mixtape stolen and leaked online by another artist. Gavin is not a likeable character, but everyone admitted that he was good at music. How will our characters set things right?

Slacker for Gordon Korman

slacker

Published by Scholastic in 2016.

Cameron is has one dream…to make it to the East Coast Gaming Championships and defeat his nemesis Evil McKillPeople. He doesn’t care about anything else, and that gets to be a problem when he almost burns his parent’s house down. Now, he is grounded from video games until he can prove that he is doing good for the community. So he and his buddies Pavel and Chuck make a fake page on the school website called the “Positive Action Club” and put themselves as the club’s leaders. Unfortunately, the school and community think it’s a real club and they have to start doing community service to keep up the ruse. Then things get really out of hand when someone else starts editing the page and making the boys do more and more community service. Who could have possibly outwitted our heroes? Then the high school students want to compete with our middle school heroes to see who helps the community more! ¬†This book isn’t as directly related to copyright and intellectual freedom, but it does have a hilarious way of informing that you can’t get credit without doing the work.

Book Review: Ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

ghosts

Published by Scholastic in 2016.

This book took me a long time to get to. It happened to come out during my book fair in November, and I book talked it during our raffle and so many kids jumped on the waitlist for my libray copies! It’s take me this long to for it it be back on the shelf!

Catrina and her family are moving to Bahia de la Luna because the air will be better for Catrina’a sister Maya to breathe. Catrina misses her friends, but is hoping that that her sister can be healthier. As they wander around, they meet Carlos who gives ghost tours. Maya is so excited about the idea of meeting a ghost. Cat is not. Telgemeirer doesn’t shy away from the reality of degenerative conditions.

ghosts page.jpg

Page 72, Dying isn’t pretend. It’s real.

Carlos realizes that Maya’s best chance of meeting a ghost is by going to the mission. Once there, Carlos explains that ghosts need a little encouragement to interact with the living. They love the smell of foods, and need a breath from a living person before they can speak. The ghosts are so excited by Maya’s youthful energy that she’s overwhelmed by their attention. Carlos and Cat have to run her to the hospital.

Months pass, and Cat is still angry at Carlos for endangering her sister. She goes to school as her sister recovers, starts making friends, and worries about when and if Maya will recover. Her mother reminds her that Cystic Fibrosis is something that gets worse over time, not better.

Dia de los Muertos rolls around and Maya has to stay in. Cat ends up going trick or treating with her friends, then they go to the party downtown. Cat realizes that ghosts are not terrible and finds a way to share them with her sister.

I love that literature opens the door for hard conversations. Even in a happy, fun graphic novel, these issues that we really don’t want to deal with can be discussed. In these books Maya’s CF doesn’t define her, but it’s still THERE. Life is like that. We all have¬†a perspective that colors the way we view the world, but it is only a small part of who we are.

My only complaint is that the ghosts are protrayed as constantly happy, like eager puppies grateful for attention. Several others have pointed out that California missions have a complex history and many of the ghosts wouldn’t have been pleasant. I understand that sometimes we are restricted by story length and sometimes it’s hard to add nuance to everything. If we are able to generalize things in stories, (like all ghosts are nice and helpful), it becomes easier to generalize things in real life and encourages stereotyping.

 

 

 

Book Review: Free Verse

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

Free Verse.jpg

Published by G. P. Putnam and sons in 2016

Sasha has experienced more loss than most 8th graders should. Her mother left her years ago. She and her brother were raised by their father, Ben until a mining accident claimed his life. Then her brother puts off college to raise her until he his killed fighting a fire in a bakery. She is moved in to foster care with a lady named Phyllis. Phyllis is patient as Sasha is dealing with all her trauma. Then Sasha discovers that a cousin of her’s is Phyllis’ neighbor. She befriends the cousin’s son, Mikey.

School is a challenge. Meeting with the guidance councelor, having the school bully watch a meltdown, getting invited to join poetry club (which happens to be run by the school bully), and making a friend on the bus.

Since this book is called “free verse” it would be a let down for it not to have poetry in it. The third section is told in poetry as Sasha explores different formats. She also uses it as a coping mechanism when trauma makes speaking too much to bear. These poems are beautiful and move the story along smoothly.

Sasha has a tendancy to run. When an accident causes them to no know if Mikey’s dad is alive or dead, she decides to take Mikey with her. She gets a few towns over, until she’s picked up by the cops, but Mikey stays on the run. Will Mikey be found? Will Sasha have a family that will stay?

This book does a good job of being realistic and making each character 3 dimensional. They are responsive to trauma in their situations. Almost everyone that Sasha gets to know has a backstory and a reason/motivation for their actions. In this polarizing time, this book does a good job of imaging a part of the country complexly without being patronizing or focused on a handful of issues. Mining accidents are mentioned multiple time in this book, but Sasha points out that miners are people with lives outside of work. They are parents, artists, adventurers, and many other things. Huebert, Sasha’s cousin mentions the “smarts” that are necessary to work the incredibly delicate/dangerous machinery involved in mining.

FTC disclosure. I recieved this book from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review.

Quotes.

“Wake me…Before you go running off again…just¬†wake me. Then if you run, I’ll run with you.” (p. 69)

“It’s like haiku opened a door inside me that I’m trying with all my might to shove closed again.” (p. 98)

“You can’t understand what makes a good story if you’ve never starred in one, or at least been a particularly memorable (sometimes tragic) supporting character.” (p. 258)

“I’m secretly awful.” (p. 264)

 

Book Review: The Girl in the Well is Me

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers

girl-in-well

Published by Scholastic in 2016.

Kammie is new in town, attempting to fit in. She tried to be accepted by The Girls, a group of popular kids. After they convince her to cut her hair, she sings for them on a rotting wooden cover over a well. She falls through and is now stuck in the well. The Girls don’t seem to be moving to quickly to get help.

As her situation goes on, she is forced to reflect on why she has to be in Nowheresville, Texas. Her father embezzled from a charity, and is in jail. She is forced to face the fallout that her father caused her. Wondering if anyone would care enough to come find her, she is guided by hallucinations to help her cope.

This story is incredibly layered and beautiful! Middle grade readers will enjoy this!

Quotes:

“We left a lot of things behind, but not enough. It turns out you cna’t get away from yourself. The museum of you is inside you.” (p. 180)

Book Review: Catch You Later, Traitor

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

catch you later

Published by Algonquin Young Readers in 2015.

“I felt like I was looking though a kaleidoscope. Every turn I made, things changed: shape, color, and the connections between them. It’s a strange world when you can’t put names to the colors you’re seeing.” (p. 140)

Avi sends us to the McCarthy years with 7th grade Pete. His teacher begins targetting him because of something his dad said. Then he’s being followed by and FBI agent. This is the perfect chance for him to emulate his favorite radio show. In between action, Pete reflects as if he is a 1950’s gumshoe detective.

In addition to the adults causing grief, Pete’s friends abandon him. He only has his friend Kat left. As a way to get back at them, he decides to rebel by supporting the Giants instead of the Dodgers. The rest of the school is caught up in Dodger fever and can’t understand him.

At home, things are getting complicated. It turns out Pete’s dad DID go to ONE communist meeting when he was young. Pete begins questioning everyone. His uncle, the blind man he reads the paper to, his dad’s friends, and his dad’s coworkers.He tries to learn about his family history, and who is his dad visiting every Wednesday? ¬†But then he wonders is someone following him? Why is there always a car following him? Is it the FBI? Someone else?

This book will keep readers on the edge of their seats and teach them about an era they may not be familiar with.

FTC disclaimer: I recieved this book through interlibrary loan. I recieved no monetary compensation for this review.