Archive for the 'Just Out!' Category

You Only Die Twice by Dan Gutman

The Genius Files #3: You Only Die Twice. By Dan Gutman. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013. 304 pages.

Having not read any of Dan Gutman’s latest series, The Genius Files, I felt compelled to give the newest addition, You Only Die Twice a try. I have to admit, I made it about half way through the book and had to stop. I couldn’t take any more of the nonstop action, run-ins with bad-guys-maybe-turned-good-guys, undecipherable plot, and crazy (but real) tourist attractions. While certainly not my cup of tea, I can see the appeal for a broad set of readers. Kids will love all the things that drove me nuts reading the book — the fast pace, the plethora of bad guys, local “attractions,” and unfathomable death defying scenarios. This is the perfect recommendation for Gutman fans who have outgrown Miss Daisy is Crazy, but aren’t ready to settle into Honus and Me. The prompt to look up the travel routes mentioned in the book using Google Maps is a plus. For readers in 3rd-5th grades.

Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen

Road Trip. By Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen. Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House Children’s Books, 2013. 128 pages. $12.99

Like dogs? Love a good road trip? On a school bus? Add in a cast of colorful characters and you have the book Road Trip, a joint venture of Gary Paulsen and his son Jim. Dedicated to “all the dogs who make us better people,” Road Trip is in fact a homage to all that is good about dogs and our unique caretaking relationship with them. Narrated in part by Atticus, the family Border Collie, we are treated to a special a dog’s eye view of the goings on complete with his insightful editorial comments. The first person narration of Ben holds up well in the comparison to his beloved canine.  Best read snuggled up next to a furry friend. For 4th to 6th grade readers.

Authors Galore

Its been a week filled with writers and discussions of writing! Thanks to my friends at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL, Clare Vanderpool came to speak to the 4th and 5th graders at my school. Ms. Vanderpool was promoting her recently released book, Navigating Early.

Navigating Early is the quest of two boys, Early Auden and Jack Baker. The boys don’t quite fit in at their Maine boarding school and when a school holiday leaves them to fend for themselves, they set off on the Appalachian Trail to discover the great black bear. A second, parallel, quest is featured in the book. Early, being a math wiz, has created a story of pi. Not the number, per se, but of Polaris, nicknamed Pi. Vanderpool’s ability to weave the two narratives into a cohesive whole is nothing short of masterful. I was spellbound by her practice of the craft — multiple story lines and nuanced characters brought to like with beautiful descriptions and authentic dialogue. It doesn’t get any better than Navigating Early.

Several weeks ago, I reviewed Todd Hasak-Lowy’s novel 33 Minutes. The launch party was held on the weekend at The Book Stall. I wanted to meet Mr. Hasak-Lowy. There were references in the book to locations that I was sure I knew from my high school years in Farmington Hills, MI. Sure enough, Todd graduated from the same high school I attended. Comparing notes on his setting was great fun!  The reasons I liked 33 Minutes still hold and I enjoyed hearing Todd describe the writing process for the novel. Using such a narrow time frame to tell the story is not all that common, maybe even unique.

I enjoyed the week immersed in books and talk of writing. Thank goodness for the lingering warm feelings it created as we settle in for a cold week here in the Chicago area.



33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013. 224 pages.

33 Minutes and counting until Sam Lewis has his date with destiny. Or at least a confrontation at recess with his former best friend Morgan Sturtz. The likely outcome? Sam’s butt will be kicked. But Sam is saved by the bell — actually a food fight followed by a fire alarm, but who’s keeping track? Moments of 33 Minutes are laugh-out-loud funny and yet, there is a certain poignancy to Sam’s dilemma as he navigates his middle school world. Hasak-Lowy creates a nuanced bully/bullied relationship, with Sam understanding he has some culpability in his situation and its resolution. The book will have broad appeal — beginning with readers who have exhausted the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise and are looking for something equally funny, but a little meatier. For 4th to 6th grade readers.

A Smidgen of Sky by Diana Dorisi Winget

A Smidgen of Sky. By Dianna Dorisi Winget. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. 208 pages. $16.99

Piper Lee DeLuna misses her dad. He’s been missing for four years and thought to be dead in a plane crash. Piper’s mom has plans to marry again and Piper will get not only a step-father but a cranky step-sister in the deal. Piper comes up with an ingenious plan to get the wedding called off. A tragedy is narrowly averted and Piper realizes how much she cares for all of the people in her life. A notable effort by newcomer Dianna Dorisi Winget. Suitable for 4th to 7th grade readers.

Son by Lois Lowry

Son. By Lois Lowry. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. 400 pages. $17.99
Readers of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Gathering Blue, and The Messenger will be delighted by the completion of the quartet. Here, the stories of Claire, Jonas, Gabriel, and Kira come together in a most satisfying conclusion. Son is divided into three books – Before, Between, and Beyond. In Before, we learn about Claire’s experience as a vessel, or birthmother. In Between, we discover what happened to Claire in the chaos that resulted in The Giver when Jonas escaped with the baby, Gabriel. In Beyond, Gabe’s special talents are needed to destroy an evil one known as Trademaster in order to restore safety and calm to the community. Readers will enjoy reconnecting with familiar characters and storylines. Lowry’s position as a master storyteller is secure. Suitable for readers in 5th – 8th grades.

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.

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.

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.

The Boxcar Children Beginning by Patricia MacLachlan

The Boxcar Children Beginning. By Patricia MacLachlan. Albert Whitman & Company, 2012. 144 pages. $16.99

Newbery Medal Winner Patricia MacLachlan presents an intriguing back story for the invincible Boxcar Children; Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden. The children enjoy life with their parents at Fair Meadow Farm removed from the dire economic conditions of the Depression. Eventually, though, that changes and the Clark’s including children, Meg and William, and family dog, Joe, stay with the Alden’s after being stranded near the farm. The two families bond and there are many long faces and tears when the Clarks resume their journey after Mr. Clark repairs their car. The Clark’s were only the first of a series of out-of-work families who stay with the generous Alden’s at Fair Meadow. Then tragedy strikes and the scene is set for the long popular Boxcar Children series. MacLachlan’s story is believable up to a point. The children’s transition from happy family to kids-on-the-road is abrupt and seemingly devoid of emotion. Having said that, young readers will enjoy reading about the Alden’s life before the mysteries. Suitable for 2nd to 5th grade readers.

RSS Feed


Twitter Updates

%d bloggers like this: