I’m Back!

Have you ever had to move to a new neighborhood, or change schools, or be set in any kind of new environment?  I don’t know about you, but I find it scary and stressful. How do you deal with changes? I get a bit on the manic side and hide in bluster.  So, I picked three stories that put at least one of the characters in a situation of intense change.

 

The first book is a bit fanciful, but the protagonist is believable and the story is amusing.

 

Clayton Stone, Facing Off

Ena Jones

Clayton Stone is a thirteen-year-old orphan living with his grandmother, Gran, who recruits him into the Special Services in Clayton Stone, At Your Service, where he solves a kidnapping. This time he must change his identity and transfer to an elite private school to protect the president’s son.  To make matters worse, his new school is playing against his old school in a playoff game to see which team goes to the Lacrosse Championship game. Things don’t go swimmingly for Clayton, who has to remember he is now Max Carrington.  He keeps over reacting to circumstances in his new school, but he does finally make friends with First Son, Kyle Hampton.  Together, with the help of two other kids, they figure out who is threatening Kyle, though, in the end, it turns out the bad guys are after another student.  The story is well-written and has plenty of surprises, in addition to humor, especially all the disguises Gran uses. Resourceful teachers will find several topics of discussions in their classrooms.  Loyalty, sportsmanship, patience and thinking through dilemmas are all good discussion topics.

BIBLIO: 2016, Holiday House, Ages 8 to 13, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9780823436484

 

The second book is set on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu, but not in Honolulu. The reader gets a sense of the island without the glitz.

 

Juniors

Kaui Hart Hemmings

 

In the middle of her junior year of high school, Lea Lane moves from San Francisco

back to Hawaii where her actress mother is in a new TV show. Having spent her early childhood in Kailua, on Oahu Island near Honolulu, she knows the area and has kept in touch with Danny, a neighbor boy.  She is enrolled in a posh private school, thanks to her long-absent father, or so she’s been told.  The house her mother has rented for them is shoddy and in a not-so-nice neighborhood, but now they’ve been invited to use the guest cottage of an estate owned by long-standing friends of Lea’s mother. In fact, Mr. West was Lea’s mom’s boyfriend for a brief time, before he introduced her to the fellow who got her pregnant.  Lea feels awkward about the arrangement until she gets to know the West kids who are about her age.  As with all lives, things get complicated and Lea has to sort out what her true desires are.  The story is well told and intricate and has a good ending.  Lea grows a lot during the story.  The down side of the book is the easy acceptance the author has with letting the juvenile characters be promiscuous and happily get drunk and/or high.  A little more regret and the parents being a bit less lax in showing their children how to behave would have been nice. Lea, at least, shows some remorse for having succumbed to the booze and drugs.

BIBLIO: 2015, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Group, Ages 14 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-399-17360-8

 

You must read the third book with the spirit of letting your imagination run wild. There are lots of magical, mythical creatures parading across the pages. If you can’t allow yourself to believe in Unicorns and other such creatures, don’t bother with this book. I loved it, because, at all most 76 years of age, I still believe in Unicorns and Griffins.

 

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

Illustrated by Maggie Stiefvater

Pip Bartlett is spending the summer with her Aunt Emma at the Cloverton Clinic for Magical Creatures. She loves talking with the animals, though no-one else realizes she understands what the animals are saying.  Aunt Emma and her daughter, Callie, and Pip are going to the Triple Trident magical animal show and their neighbor, Tomas, is going with them.  Tomas is allergic to just about everything, but that doesn’t stop him from going places.  Callie, being a prissy teenager, is less than thrilled with going.  But the fun really ramps up when their friend Mr. Henshaw’s Show Unicorn gets a case of jangling nerves and won’t settle down for anyone.  That is until Pip takes the Unicorn, Regent Maximus, into a paddock filled with baby unicorns.  He begins to calm down as he tells the young ones all the trials and terrors that await them. They become his adoring entourage.  It’s a cute story and will certainly get the reader giggling.  Frequently, a page in the book is taken up by a description of some magical creature, with an amusing drawing.  The glimmerbeast subspecies called a rockshine, which turns invisible when frightened, is the first illustration.  It looks rather like a deranged sheep.  The story progresses with lots of mishaps to Regent Maximus and other creatures, but in the end, Regent Maximus wins the Triple Trident championship.  Even though the creatures are all mythical, the story can be used as a way discuss animal anatomy and ways to calm scared creatures.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc. Ages 8 to 12, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-70929-3

Enjoy the post and let me know what’s going on with you.  Thanks, Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Past Books

These books have a bit of age on them, but you can probably find them in your library. Though the first two have some flaws in them, they’re still worth reading and the characters are endearing.

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Allie has her flaws as we all do, but she’s a likeable kid.

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Blast from the Past

Meg Cabot

Allie is now in fourth grade at a new school and trying to prove herself responsible enough to own a cell phone—after all she’s saved a total of $36 from doing chores and helping her neighbors. Her parents say the rule is she could have her own cell phone in sixth grade, if she’s proved herself responsible by not losing things or not leaving her coat and book bag on the floor. Two whole years away! Plus, she has other things to worry about: her cat, Mewsie, is hiding in a hole in the wall of her brother’s room; her wonderful teacher is probably getting married and moving away; and she has to go on a boring field trip and share the bus with the kids from her old school—including her ex-best friend, Mary Kate, who is now hanging out with the snobby “cool” girls. Turns out the field trip isn’t as boring as Allie thought; her teacher is getting married, but not moving; Mary Kate is now her friend again, sort of; Mewsie leaves the hole on his own; and Mom says Allie may have cell phone in fifth grade. Allie is a spunky girl and her antics are amusing, but she sure is repetitive. I’m not sure we readers need to be reminded in each chapter of how obnoxious Mary Kate has been, or that Allie’s teacher’s boyfriend threw rocks at the school window, or that Allie missed going on the last field trip because of Mary Kate, but the story does have merit.

BIBLIO: 2010, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 7 to 9, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-04048-8

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I reviewed an earlier book in this series, so I was not eager to review another. But Amy’s character has grown on me. I’ve always wondered if another of this series has come out.

Ask Amy Green: Bridesmaid Blitz

Sarah Webb

Another installment in the “Ask Amy Green” series takes Amy and Clover—her teen-aged aunt—on a shopping trip to Paris to pick out clothes for Amy’s mother’s upcoming wedding. Amy is a little less self-centered in this book than she has been in the past. She’s still unhappy with the new mates her parents, Sylvie and Art, have picked, but is beginning to have some sympathy for Dave, her step-dad to be. Her dad’s pregnant new wife, Shelly, is very high maintenance. Amy’s mother is feeling overwhelmed by the wedding Clover is planning for her and keeps pleading that she just wants a simple, inexpensive ceremony. Clover plots to surprise Sylvie with a trip to Paris. When Amy is finally told about the trip, she plans how she’s going to surprise her boyfriend, Seth, who is there on a school trip. In the meantime, Seth’s mother is being tested to see if her breast cancer has reoccurred or spread and the tests results are due back when Seth is supposed to be away. Now he doesn’t want to go. Dave, who is a nurse at the local hospital, comes to the rescue and asks the doctor to put a rush on the tests. To add to the tension, Shelly’s domineering mother comes to stay indefinitely, but Amy’s the one who helps Shelly through labor when the baby comes early. Amy rightfully feels left out after her new brother is born, with Art and Shelly not including her in the new family circle. Her insensitive dad finally comes to his senses though and Amy begins to bond with her youngest sibling. The next installment will undoubtedly focus on Sylvie’s cold feet about her impending wedding.

BIBLIO: 2012, Candlewick Press, Ages 12 +, $6.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5157-2

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I can still remember the drawings in this book. It’s a charmer, especially with the message that we don’t all have to be the same.

The Geese March in Step

Jean-François Dumont

Illustrated by Jean-François Dumont

Originally published in French, this book is a charmer about not marching in lock step just because it’s always been that way. Igor, the lead goose on the farm, insists that all the geese march at his tempo on the daily parade to the pond. He is most distraught when Zita, the newest goose to the gaggle, adds a different beat to the cadence. He kicks her out of the goose parade. At first she’s sad and lonely, but soon the woodpecker and rooster, donkey and cow, sheep and pigs, turkey and frog, plus all the other creatures on the farm, add new beats to Zita’s walk. When the new parade arrives at the pond with its unique sound, Igor is out numbered. From then on, Igor marches his regimented beat to the pond all by himself, but everyone else waits to see what Zita’s beat might prompt them to do. The amusing illustrations add to the off beat tone of this story. Children will enjoy adding their own sounds to the “Parade-to-the-Pond” music. And parents will love the message.

BIBLIO: 2014 (orig. 2007,) Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Ages 4 to 8, $16.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5443-8

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As I age, I need to remind myself that getting older doesn’t mean I’m not as good as I was. Who knows, maybe I’m even getting better on some fronts. At least I’m able to let other people cook in my kitchen, even though my golf game stinks. And though I still can’t sing a lick, my writing improves all the time.

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.