Archive for September, 2012

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

One Year in Coal Harbor. By Polly Horvath. Random House Children’s Books, 2012. 224 pages. $16.99.
It’s been far too many years since the last visit to Coal Harbor! Primrose Squarp, whose adventures in the 2002 Newbery Honor Book Everything on A Waffle caught the imagination of young readers, is back. So are Horvath’s other enduring and eccentric characters; Uncle Jack, Miss Bowser, and Bert and Evie. This time around Primrose has a new friend Ked, Bert and Evie’s foster child. Aggressive logging is threatening Mendolay Mountain and many in Coal Harbor, including Primrose and Ked, are protesting. Ked’s troubled past catches up to him and adds to the angst of Primrose’s year. With humor and moments of great insight, Primrose and this cast of characters weather the storm. Don’t miss the recipes! Suitable for readers in 4th-7th grade.

The Puzzler’s Mansion by Eric Berlin

The Puzzler’s Mansion. By Eric Berlin G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. 256 pages. $16.99
Mystery readers love nothing more than the closed room crime. In this third offering in the Winston Breen series, Winston and his friends have been invited for a puzzle-filled weekend at the mansion of a renowned orchestra conductor and puzzle aficionado. A number of strange disappearances throughout the weekend add a real-life puzzle to the weekend entertainment with the only suspects being those in the mansion, including Winston. Students looking for an unusual twist to the standard mystery fare will delight in The Puzzler’s Mansion and quickly devour the other Winston Breen books. Puzzles, and solutions, are included. Suitable for 4th to 7th grade readers.

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean

A Dog Called Homeless. By Sarah Lean. Harper Collins, 2012. 208 pages. $16.99
Do you believe in ghosts? Cally Fisher is beginning to. Mourning the loss of her mother, Cally begins to see her in unlikely places. She’s always wearing her red raincoat and is accompanied by a wolfhound. Given that no one believes Cally when she talks about seeing her mother or the strange appearances of the wolfhound, Cally decides not to talk. It’s a reasonable response since she feels no one is listening anyway. Her newfound friend, Sam, despite, or maybe because of, his physical limitations provides Cally with profound insights. Ultimately though, it is Cally herself who learns to accept her grief and help her father and brother deal with their loss. This intriguing debut novel will have readers looking for Sarah Lean’s next offering. Suitable for 3rd-6th grade readers.

Kepler’s Dream by Juliet Bell

Kepler’s Dream. By Juliet Bell. G.P. Putnam’s Son’s, 2012. 256 pages. $16.99

When her mother is diagnosed with cancer and faces intensive chemotherapy, Emma goes to stay with her paternal grandmother, at what becomes for Emma, “Broken Family Camp.” Challenged to understand the family dynamics, Emma does her best to fit into the household routine. The disappearance of a valuable book, and the resulting search for the thief, unites the family in unimaginable ways. Juliet Bell’s debut book is captivating. Her Emma is a sincere and special 11 year-old heroine confronting believable conflicts with grace and a developing sense of empathy. Teachers will find this book a great tie-in with units on space or astronomy. Suitable for 4th to 7th grade readers.

Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris by Marissa Moss

Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris. By Marissa Moss. Sourcebooks, Inc., 2012. 224 pages. $12.99
A missing mother. An unusual postcard. A trip to Paris. A gargoyle. Due to an unlikely chain of events, Mira time travels to Paris in the late 1800’s and become embroiled in the Dreyfus Affair. Believing she is on a mission to influence the course of history, Mira meets prominent artists and writers of the time including Edgar Degas, Mary Cassett, and Emile Zola. As Mira time travels between Paris of past and present she catches glimpses of her mother providing an incentive for her to complete her task countering anti-Semitism. While Mira is a delightful and engaging heroine, readers need considerable background knowledge to understand the Dreyfus affair, anti-Semitism, and the world of the Impressionist artists. The frequency of Mira’s time travels should rack-up frequent flyer miles and, at times, makes the plot difficult to follow. An author’s note provides much needed historical context and even then might be beyond the reach of the younger readers targeted by the publisher. Suitable for 5th to 7th grade readers.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

Summer of the Gypsy Moths. By Sara Pennypacker. Balzer & Bray, 2012. 275 pages. $15.99

Stella and Angel couldn’t be more different. Both in foster care, they live with Stella’s Aunt Louise who manages summer vacation cottages on Cape Cod. When tragedy strikes, the girls learn to pull together in unimaginable ways. While they don’t always make the best decisions, the girls have the best of intentions, show amazing resourcefulness, and demonstrate that they are true survivors. Sara Penypacker, author of the Clementine books, has elevated creating memorable female characters to an art form and both Stella and Angel will stay with the reader for some time. Students looking for a book in the adventure/survival genre will find this an unlikely, but most satisfying, option. Suitable for 4th- 7th grade readers.

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