Are You Looking for Books to Buy?

Okay, here are some books that would NOT make my list for Christmas gifts. There are way too many gifted writers floating around who can encourage readers to aspire to not being just like everybody else. I like the books I read to not fit into formulas and I like the drawings to have some spark of originality.

These don’t, but then, I am a snob and on the arrogant side.

 

Dork Diaries: Tales from the Not-So-Secret Crush Catastrophe

Rachel Rene Russell

Talk about encouraging kids to be vapid, these books do just that. This is twelfth book in the series. Why should eighth-grade girls be portrayed as dorks because they are interested in things other than clothes and makeup? And do young girls really wear high-heeled shoes to school? This book is not to my taste, but then I’m old. Still, the storyline is the old, but useful, lesson for teens and preteens to read. The energy level is high and the story does have a few surprises. This time, Nikki is Student Ambassador for an exchange student from the snobby school in their district. Of course, the exchange student turns out to be a good-looking boy from France who shares a lot of Nikki’s interests. Things get complicated when Nikki spends more time with Andr than she does with her friends and potential boyfriend, who is also a friend, all of whom are expecting her help on special projects. Of course, the mean girls, who seem to hate Nikki, mess things up for her, but she learns some lessons on priorities and saying the hard things first.

BIBLIO: 2017, ALADDIN/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0560-8

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0561-5

 

Why do people seem to think that girls must be in relationships? Why are they always urged to be part of someone else’s persona?

 

My New Crush Gave to Me

Shani Petroff

Charlie is not looking forward to Christmas and especially Noelle’s annual Christmas bash, which has always been a favorite thing about the holiday. But Noelle has decided this year’s theme is about love and dating. Charlie’s boyfriend is no longer in the picture, so she is dateless and doesn’t have a clue how to correct that. But she soon discovers Theo, the hottest guy in school and a football star at that. Plus, he’s very smart and punctual, which are very important traits in her book. So, she sets about to nab him for the party, with the help of her best friend, Morgan, and Theo’s cousin, J.D., Morgan’s neighbor. After much finagling, Charlie gets to know Theo, but she also gets to know J.D., who is sensitive and creative and kind, but always late, which drives Charlie nuts. As we all do, Charlie puts people into niches and decides that J.D. must be messy at home since he’s always late. She also decides that Theo must be neat because he likes to be on time. Of course, Charlie discovers that J.D. really is the guy for her. There’s a bit of Cyrano de Bergerac in the story, because the fellow who is really appealing to Charlie is J.D. by actually being her creative “Secret Santa,” rather than Theo, who has not a creative bone in his body. Charlie is a bit too formulaic, in my opinion, however there are possibilities for classroom discussions about outward appearances not being as important as inner qualities.

BIBLIO: 2017, A Swoon Reads Book/Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 14+, $10.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-250-13032-7

ISBN: 978-1-250-13051-8

 

 

I do tire of formulaic stories designed to follow cartoons or movies. This one fits the bill to perfection, in my view.

 

Spy Toys

Mark Powers

Illustrated by Tim Wesson

At Snaztacular Ultrafun toy manufacturing all the toys are checked for electronic or other malfunctions before being sent to stores. Those with defects are sent to the reject pile, which is what happens to Dan, a Snugaliffic Cuddlestar teddy bear. His hug is entirely too strong. So, he’s rejected. And that’s when his life begins. He meets Arabella, an antisocial Raggedy Ann doll who hates children, and they escape, only to be snared by a rather unpleasant rabbit named Flax. Eventually they’re recruited into a spy program where they are to protect Sam, a U.S. Senator’s son, by pretending to be his especially favorite toys.  They have to learn to overcome their defects, but they do save the day. Silly as the story is, there’s a great deal of humor and a good message in the tale. Dan learns how to control his strength. Arabella learns children aren’t all that bad and Flax comes through in a pinch to help keep Sam safe. The illustrations are very simplistic, but still amusing and the story ridiculous enough to keep the reader enticed.

BIBLIO: 2018, Bloomsbury Publishing, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-1-68119-665-7

 

Sarah, the grinch, has spoken, but most decidedly does not have the final word. Happy gift giving to you all.

 

 

 

 

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

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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

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