Posts Tagged 'review'

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.

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

The Year of the Book. By Andrea Cheng. Houghton Mifflin, 2012. 146 pages. $5.99
Many of us have taken solace in books during times of trouble. The same is true for Anna. As elementary school friendships and alliances shift, she finds refuge in classics such as A Wrinkle in Time and My Side of the Mountain. While the books provide some insights into her world, ultimately, it is up to Anna to find out what makes friends, friends. Delightfully illustrated by Abigail Halpin, Anna will find many friends among the elementary school set. Suitable for 3rd to 5th grade readers.

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.

Rope Burn by Jan Siebold

Rope Burn. By Jan Siebold. Albert Whitman & Company, 1998. 82 pages. $5.99 (paperback)
Recently re-released, Rope Burn, is certainly worth another look. Richard’s not especially fond of writing. Especially when Mr. Best assigns writing about proverbs and how they reflect on student’s lives. There is too much material in Richard’s 11-year-old life. His parents have recently divorced, he’s moved to a new neighborhood and school, he’s just made friends with James, and he’s trying to conquer his fear of rope climbing, and that’s just the beginning. Through the series of assignments, Richard begins to address the uncertainties in his life. Like Siebold’s Doing Time Online, this short book quickly engages readers, making it perfect for those who struggle or who would prefer not to read. Each chapter begins with a proverb and can stand on its own as a short story allowing for contemporary connections to traditional literature. Suitable for grades 4-6.

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli. Balzer & Bray, 2012. 352 pages. $15.99
Growing up is awfully hard to do and especially so if you are twins. Jake makes the first move to expand his social circle outside of his twin, Lily, leaving her adrift and bereft. Lily turns to her beloved grandfather Poppy for company and consolation. He encourages Lily to build her own life separate from her twin and she proceeds with fits and starts, and ultimately succeeds. Meanwhile, Jake, under the influence of peer pressure, allows Ernie, the new kid in town to be bullied. Jake realizes that he has hurt people he cares about and sets out to make things right with both Ernie and Lily. With Jake and Lily alternating the narration, readers get both sides of the challenges of their growing up, but not apart. Newbery winner, Jerry Spinelli, has created memorable characters and a credible story line. Suitable for 3rd-6th grade readers.

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