It’s Magic!

Who’s up for some magic? I love magic and the endless possibilities it suggests. So we’re doing magical today.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Frankie vs. the Cowboy’s Crew

Frank Lampard

Illustrated by Frank Lampard

“Frankie’s Magic Soccer Ball” leads Frankie, Louise, Kobe and Max-the-talking-dog on exotic soccer trips, this time to the Wild West to play a game of soccer against the fearsome Cowboy Crew at high noon—only an hour away! The Crew has robbed all the towns of all sweets, including sugar, and is gunning for Sweetsville. Frankie’s team must defeat them before the next shipment of sweets arrives in town. To make matters worse, Louise is the spitting image of Sue-Ann, a member of the Cowboy Crew. Sue-Ann is wanted all over the place for her nefarious deeds. The town sheriff hauls Louise off to jail in red liquorish handcuffs. And already it’s 11:20. In ride the Cowboy Crew, led by Tex on a brown stallion. The leader is extremely fond of his lariat. Next in line is the dastardly Sue-Ann, and bringing up the rear is an enormously fat varmint named Sandy, formerly Deputy Sheriff Sandy. Then Tex hollers for his last player to show up—Spike, a tall cactus. The soccer match is delayed when the express train arrives early and Tex plans to rob it of its cargo, enough candy to supply towns for miles around. But Frankie and his team are now locked in a jail cell along with the sheriff. No problem, Frankie knocks the keys of the wall and frees them. The team beats the bad guys at a soccer game and ride the train magically to their home. The good thing about this story is it might encourage boys to read.

BIBLIO: 2014 (Orig. 2013,) Scholastic, Inc., Ages 6 to 8, $4.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-0-545-66616-9

Who wouldn’t want to have a treehouse that grows to fit your needs?

The 52-Story Treehouse

Andy Griffiths

Illustrated by Terry Denton

Andy and Terry live in a gigantic and convoluted tree house with, at the moment, fifty-two stories, occupied by all kinds of games and gadgets with which to amuse themselves. But, at the moment, they are supposed to be finishing work on their latest novel. Usually their editor, Mr. Big Nose, starts nagging them about the deadline, but they haven’t heard a word from him. So they go to his office to see why he hasn’t nagged them. Well, no wonder! He isn’t there and his office is a mess, with lots of broken things, not to mention all the vegetable leaves strewn about. Turns out he’s been kidnapped. Terry and Andy must find him so he can remind them to finish their novel. As the story progresses, they of course end up in one pickle after another. They do, however, solve many mysteries and eventually save Mr. Big Nose, along with discovering they’ve just written their novel. Middle-grade boys in particular will get a huge chortle out of this book and there is enough going on to keep teachers in classroom discussion material having to do with physics, chemistry and other physical sciences. The story is simplistic enough to appeal to reluctant readers, but amusing enough to hold better readers’ interest.

BIBLIO: 2016, (org. 2014,) Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan/Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd., Ages 8 to 12, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Graphic Novel

ISBN: 978-1-250-0269-3-4

ISBN: 978-1-250-08023-3

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [][] [] [] [] [] [] [][] []

This last story has all kinds of appeal, what with the magic and taking place in Ireland and a bit of mystery and a bit of Irish folklore.

The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox

Nigel Quinlan

The Maloneys have a secret, they think. Mr. Maloney is the Weatherman, in charge of keeping the changing of the seasons orderly. Except this year, the magical weatherbox, which, to the untutored eye, looks rather like a phone booth, doesn’t ring for the changing of the seasons. So Summer hangs around not letting Autumn cool off Ireland and other northern hemisphere countries. Then Neil, the heir apparent, still learning the ways of being a weatherman, rescues a baby season, imprisoned by the evil witch, Mrs. Fitzgerald, who wishes to be the Weatherman. Chaos ensues and Neil must save the day. He gets lots of assistance from his family, especially his sister Liz, though younger brother Owen helps in his way by befriending a bog beast. A stranger comes to stay and becomes part of the saving team. In the end it looks as if Mrs. Fitzgerald will win out and the Maloney family will lose the right to be the Weatherman. Liz saves the day by giving the baby season back to its family—the four seasons. She becomes the next Weatherman and the Fitzgeralds are sent far away. Lovers of magic, adventure and utter chaos in stories will get quite a kick out of this story. The characters are well drawn and the plot is fast moving. Though not even close to the realm of reality, this book could lead to classroom discussions about weather, magic and Ireland. It’s a thoroughly likeable read.

BIBLIO: 2015, Roaring Brook Press/Holzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-62672-033-6

ISBN: 978-1-62672-034-3

***********************

So here’s hoping magically good things happened to and for you.

Silliness, Sweetness, Magic and Math

I felt like talking about silliness, sweetness—in more ways than one—and magic. So I’ve included three diverse books, all of them with a lighthearted twist. They all subtly teach the reader something. Hope you enjoy them.

The first one is the most didactic, but still is a good adventure story, and if it encourages the reader to try a bit harder to understand math and physics, that’s a good thing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bringing Down the Mouse

Ben Mezrich

Charlie Lewis, a.k.a. Numbers, the smartest kid in his six-grade class, is part of a scheme to beat the carnival games at Incredo Land to garner enough points for a chance at spinning the lottery wheel and winning the big prize–$50,000! Using basic laws of physics and mathematics, that’s exactly what he does with the help of his friends, new and old. Mathematics rule Numbers’ life; it’s how he views the world. The new friends are in a secret club run by the exotic Miranda, supposedly a teaching student at a local Boston university. They call themselves the Carnival Killers and swear Charlie to secrecy. This causes problems between Numbers and his best friend, Jeremy. In the end, Charlie does figure out how to beat the wheel, but he also figures out how to keep Miranda from running off with the money—her ultimate goal. The story is fun, but the author gets bogged down in explaining the math and physics, which continually disrupts the flow. It’s hard to keep track of who is doing what and where Charlie is. When, out of the blue, other characters are the focus it’s hard to know where they are. A few more dialog attributions would keep the characters straight in the reader’s mind. Still, the book makes a good teaching tool for discussing the relevance of science for all kids.

BIBLIO: 2014, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster Publishing, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9626-2

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9632-3

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

I love stories told in foreign countries. They tickle my interest in exotic, at least to me, places. The illustrations are delightful and the story is sweet.

Red Panda’s Candy Apples

Ruth Paul

Illustrated by Ruth Paul

This sweet story has lovely illustrations which the illustrator produced with pencil drawings and digital finishing so they look like watercolors. Red Panda sells candy apples to his forest friends, but he’s sad to see each apple go. He’d like to eat them all himself. After he has sold off many apples and mostly filled up his coin jar, he treats himself to one. But then duckling and Bushbaby fight over the one remaining apple, spilling the coins. Red Panda picks up the coins and Duckling gives Bushbaby the last apple. But…it turns out there is one more apple. And Red Panda sells the candy apple he’d saved for himself. Everybody’s happy and Red Panda has a jar full of sticky coins. The story introduces children to the concept of marketing and the moral of sharing, in a playful and easy to understand fashion. Red Pandas and Bushbabies are not normally found running around in the United States, but this story is a good way to show children that there are other creatures sharing our world.

BIBLIO: 2014 (orig. 2013,) Candlewick Press, Age 4 to 6, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6758-0

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was tempted to try this trick, but I was afraid of damaging my old lady bones. Still, it’s a good trick to fool your friends with.

The Incredible Twisting Arm

Kate Egan with Magician Mike Lane

Illustrated by Eric Wight

Mike loves magic and he loves the White Rabbit Magic Shop, but he goes only when his mother can take him. He’s not a good student and he’s forever getting in trouble. Maybe he can show his parents that he can ride to the magic shop by himself. With encouragement from his neighbor and best friend Nora, Mike decides to show how responsible he can be. He tries harder in school and works on not getting into trouble. For an extra credit science project, decides to show how to look double jointed and what that really means. He learns from his friend at the White Rabbit how make it look as if his arm can twist into a complete circle. He does so well with his project, his parents agree to let him go to the store. During the course of the story, the reader learns several magic tricks. The moral of the story isn’t too blatantly presented and most children can relate to a less than perfect person. Plus, aspiring magicians get some new tricks to practice.

BIBLIO: 2014, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 6 to 9, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-250-02915-7

ISBN: 978-1-250-04044-2

ISBN: 978-1-250-06027-3

******************************************************************************

I believe today is the first day of autumn, so I hope you’re looking forward to hot cider spiced with cinnamon and accompanied by a slice of pumpkin pie. Be sure, before or after, to rake up some leaves and leap into them. Please tell me a memory of something special to you about fall weather or activities. Thanks for reading, Sarah.

Happy Summer

This may show up twice because I’m having trouble getting this blog to load on my site.  So just read it once, unless it thrills you so much you just have to read it again.

Anyway, I do hope everyone is having a happy summer and not getting flooded out, dried out, blown away, or burned out.  Time on the beach or in the pool or in the garden or on the golf course or paddling up the river is a good thing, so do try to get some of that in. Ride a horse in the woods and cool off your soul with the beauty of the woods and the serenity of being with a special companion.  Take the dog for a long walk and a swim in the river.  Wherever you are, be sure to have at least on book along for company. 

For this post I included books that take place in the summer or include summer time activities.   Hope you enjoy them.

I do not recommend this first book except as a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t let your daughters spend time in ritzy resort towns without supervision.

Beach Lane: Summer Fun in the Hamptons!

Melissa de la Cruz

      If you like books about “Barbie Doll” spoiled brat, teenage girls, this is the book for you. Originally published as The Au Pairs, it is told from the points of view of three girls who take jobs as Au Pairs to a family of wealthy children whose parents really can’t be bothered with them. Eliza Thompson is used to summer in the Hamptons, but only as a member of the elite. Now, thanks to her father’s bank fraud disgrace, she has to take the bus from her new home in Buffalo to be the hired help. Her parents wouldn’t even buy her a plane ticket. Mara Waters is used to scrimping and thrilled to be out of Sturbridge for the summer, even if her boyfriend, Jim, was scalding mad that she was going. Jacarei (Jacqui) Velasco is from São Paolo and is quite used to picking up older men to help her on her journey. The girls get to the Hamptons and meet at their employers’ house. Although the girls do adjust their views of the world a bit during the summer, Eliza and Jacqui stay pretty much the same throughout the book—obsessed with pretty clothes and pretty boys. Mara learns to salivate over the same things. She and Eliza do try to take care of their four charges, but Jacqui conveniently comes up missing when any real work is to be done. This book will do nicely if you want to encourage your teen daughters to drink, smoke and have sex.

BIBLIO: 2013 (orig. 2004,) Simon & Schuster BFYR/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Inc., Ages 14 +, $9/99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7409-3

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0765-2

 

The second book has to do with scuba diving and treasure hunting, which many people do on vacation.

In Too Deep

Coert Voorhees

      Annie Fleet loves scuba diving, history and searching for treasure, which makes her feel even more out of place at the fancy private school she attends in Los Angeles, California. She’s surrounded by very wealthy kids, who, if not actors themselves, are the children of actors. Annie goes there because her father teaches there. She is going on a community service/treasure hunt to Mexico and the hottest guy in school, Josh Rebstock, is also going. The community service bit is hardly worth mentioning as far as Annie’s concerned and since she’s not much of a party girl, she’s bored with the after-work-hours drinking. Finally, they’re done with the community service part of their trip and on to the treasure hunt. Unfortunately, Annie is left for dead by her diving partner after she recovers a clue to the famed Golden Dragon, but makes it to the surface in tact. The rest of the story follows Annie and Josh trying to find the treasure and out wit the bad guys. It’s a rollicking good story with well drawn characters and lots of excitement. Teachers can use it as a jumping off point for history, social values or science.

BIBLIO: 2013, Hyperion/Disney Book Group, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4035-1

     

The last book is a good tale of learning to stand up for yourself and why it’s good not to lie.

The League

Thatcher Heldring

      Eighth-grader, Wyatt Parker, wishes he was macho enough to not be picked on. Plus, he wishes the girl next door, Evan Robinson, would get romantic feelings towards him instead of the hulky quarterback, who seems to be all muscles and self-assurance. Still Wyatt’s at the movies with Evan and the quarterback isn’t. But Wyatt decides he’ll go out for summer football, so he can toughen up. Only problem, his dad has signed him up for golf camp, so they can play golf more often. Wyatt doesn’t even really like golf, but he’s not used to going behind his parents’ backs. And his best friend, Francis, is psyched about going to the golf camp also and hanging out with Wyatt. Wyatt’s younger sister, Katie, is also very excited about going to the camp. Older brother Aaron, introduces Wyatt to the “League of Pain,” a no holds barred, tackle football league that plays in a secluded part of the community’s sports park. His father won’t let him out of the golf camp, so he lies about it, telling the camp he’s going to a space camp instead. Then he hurts Francis’ feelings by not even calling to say he won’t be going to the professional golf tournament they have tickets for. Wyatt does get more muscular and more respected by the end of the two-week long league. Along the way, he discovers that telling lies and being deceptive really aren’t cool. He also learns that he can stand up for himself without giving in or being a bully. This is an engaging story, with good characters and could be useful in classroom discussions about bullying and self-esteem. There could have been a bit more effort to explain why the parents don’t seem to want much to do with their older son.

BIBLIO: 2013. Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Inc., Ages 13 to 17, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-385-74181-1

ISBN: 978-0-375-99025-0

ISBN: 978-0-375-98713-7

Whatever you do this summer have a good time and wear sunblock.  Talk to you soon.  Sarah