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The Wedding Officer: 03/31/13
Read nearly any review of The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella and you'll get a description of a 20-something British officer being sent to Italy to discourage British soldiers from bringing home Italian brides. While, yes, James Gould is a major character in the novel, saying it's all about him is misleading.
Instead, the book is about the occupation of Italy by German and British forces and Livia Pertini, a cook in the foothills of Mt. Vesuvias trying to keep the family afloat. James Gould, wedding officer, doesn't show up until much later. Really and truly, this book should have been titled, The Wedding Officer's Cook.
It's not that I didn't like reading Livia's story, but it's not what I went into the book expecting to read. The wedding officer bits of the book feel forced into the plot. There's also a tacked on romance at the end that I can only guess was there to appeal to "women readers."
Wednesdays in the Tower: 03/30/13
Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George is the sequel to the delightful Tuesdays in the Tower. Princess Celie's family is home and her brother Bran, the Royal Wizard is busy trying to catalog rooms full of exotic things that have appeared on unexpected days.
Then on a Wednesday, a typically quiet day, a new tower appears. In the tower is an egg. In the egg is a gryphon and a key to Castle Glower's history.
Celie wants to tell her parents. The castle, though, doesn't. There's a mystery locked up in the ancient traditions of Castle Glower. Celie and Rolf, begin to track down all the clues they can — gryphons in books, in tapestries, old pillows, etc. As they do, they piece together the story of their castle.
Wednesdays in the Tower, thus, manages in about two-thirds the pages, to tell a far more compelling and interesting version of The Pinhoe Egg. Unfortunately the book ends on a cliffhanger and I'm eager to know what has happened and if things can be set to rights!
The Pinhoe Egg: 03/29/13
target="_blank">The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones is the sixth of the Chrestomanci series. Near Chrestomanci's, there's a pair of feuding families — both secretly magic users. Things come to a head when the matriarch of the Pinhoes is forced out of her home and into a retirement home. Uprooted from her home, a long lost egg is found and ends up in the care of those living at Chrestomanchi's manor — whilst he (as always) remains oblivious.
Coming off the excitement of reading the very satisfying and tight Conrad's Fate (book five), I couldn't wait to jump into The Pinhoe Egg. But the lengthy (and seemingly never ending) open scene of the Pinhoes trying to remove the matriarch soured me to the rest of the book.
I had a feeling these Pinhoe scenes were supposed to be funny — as so often baddies of lower socio-economic status are played up to be. But these sorts of baddies — who are always invariably bumbling but somehow super resilient — end up being forced caricatures, rather than being either funny or fully realized characters. The Pinhoes are the worst of the worst of this sort of character type.
So every scene involving either the Pinhoes or their rivals ended up being an excruciating chore to read. Eventually I got to the point of skimming / yelling at the Pinhoe scenes (as my husband can attest to).
Woven around all this Pinhoe padding, is a novella of Cat and his friendship with a couple of the more normal members of the rival families. They help clean out the old Pinhoe home which has layers upon layers of hidden magic, hiding even darker secrets. Among all this, they find an egg. It hatches under extraordinary circumstances and that helps them to finally piece together the long lost history of a terrible tragedy that had befallen the valley centuries ago.
Frankly if Jones had started with that tragedy and played it straight up, rather than trying for comedy, the book would have been a fantastic ending to an otherwise charming series. As it stands, though, it's by far my least favorite of the books even though it has some of my most favorite characters in it.
Shadow Hills: 03/28/13
Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus is a YA paranormal mystery. Persephone "Phe" Archer leaves Los Angeles to enroll in an uptight Massachusetts boarding school. She goes, plagued by grief over the death of her sister, and haunted by dreams that might be clues to her sister's death.
Devinish Prep is situated in a rather secluded town (aren't they always?) with a checkered past. A plague of some sort killed off a large percentage of the population, leaving a small set of survivors who all have something in common. That event is continuing to effect events in both the town and the school.
Phe quickly makes friends — the wealthy, alcoholic, shopoholic and fashion obsessed Adriana Dolski and the mysterious, Marty-Stu named Zach. It was in the initial introductions of these characters that I lost interest in the book. Whilst there is a mysterious hidden library and a creepy old hospital on the hill, Phe instead drinks cocktails and goes on a shopping spree with her new buddies.
These scenes of Phe and her new friends highlight the weaknesses of Shadow Hill. The BIG events are lost in an endless stream of minutae — descriptions of Phe doing completely mundane things are given the same emphasis (and sometimes more!) than the key pieces of the book (like discovering the history of the town or investigating the hidden library).
Two starsComments (0)
The Locket: 03/27/13
The Locket by Stacey Jay is a YA time travel story. Katie wants a way to fix things after her long time boyfriend breaks up with her on her birthday. He accuses her of cheating on him with a mutual friend. In her moment of despair, her Grandmother's locket begins to burn and hurdles her back in time, giving her a chance to change things.
Beware of wishes that are too easily granted. The locket is a cursed object (as the author discusses in her interview on The Hate-Mongering Tart blog). Every decision Katie makes in the past has consequences.
The time travel mechanics of The Locket are well thought out. The timelines work and there's enough drama and action to keep the pages turning.
Characterization, though, left me wanting more. Katie is too self obsessed. I get that she's a teenager but listening to her whine about how everything has to be perfect got old fast. Likewise, Isaac is too demanding, in a scary and potentially abusive way — making (at least to me) Katie's indiscretion at the start of the novel logical. Finally, Mitch, is a bit of a Marty Stu.
The Shadows: 03/26/13
The Shadows by Jacqueline West is the first of the The Books of Elsewhere series. It also won a CYBILS in 2011.
Olive and her math professor parents have moved into a decaying Victorian mansion. It's fully furnished with the furniture and paintings of the late Ms. McMartin. As Olive soon discovers, it's also inhabited by her cats — and they can talk.
As her parents are so focused on their new jobs, and their careers, Olive is left to herself and to the house. She begins to notice things like shadows moving in the paintings. Later, she discovers a way to travel through the paintings. What at first seems like harmless fun, though, quickly becomes something dangerous.
As others have pointed out, there's a similarity to Neil Gaiman's Coraline. But the experience of moving into a house is a pretty standard set up for fiction — especially for horror and fantasy.
As a fan of houses with creepy histories, and with the surrealism of traveling through artwork, I loved this book. Although it's written for readers still new to chapter books and longer works, it held my attention. It also has some wonderful black and white illustrations.
Soulless by Gail Carriger is the first of the Parasol Protectorate series. It's a paranormal mystery romance mashup with some steampunk thrown in for good measure. The original series has spawned a graphic novel adaptation and a YA series.
The book like a parody of Crocodile on the Sandbank (assuming, though that Amelia Peabody and Evelyn are one person). Of course Elizabeth Peter's book is in itself a parody of the H. Rider Haggard books Peabody is such a fan of reading. Anyway, like Peter's book, Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster with a deceased father. Her father was Italian, a fan of improper but enlightening books. Alexia, has inherited from him — her looks (not a popular thing in Victorian England) and her soullessness.
The proper term used in the book is preternatural. A person's amount of soul determines how attractive they are to various paranormal groups — the two big ones in the British Empire being werewolves and vampires. Alexia can't be changed into either because when she's in physical contact with a paranormal, they temporarily lose their paranormal abilities (and become human).
Soulless introduces the reader to an alternate Victorian London where paranormal creatures live openly and are regulated. There's also the alternate technology — akin to the devices described by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne but expanded to fit the paranormal world. Finally, Queen Victoria has her own group of agents to keep watch on illegal paranormal activity. Think Torchwood, but call it BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry).
Although this book is primary about Alexia learning how her powers fit into the world of paranormals and BUR, and her finding romance, there's also a mystery. Paranormal creatures who are neither vampires, nor werewolves are rampaging in London. Therein is the true heart and soul of Soulless.
So although the series has been out for ages, I'm only now become a rabid fan. I have Stephanie, bookseller extraordinaire, at the Hayward Bookshop for that. See, I don't like the cover — I still don't. Bustle or no bustle, I want to realign Alexia's broken spine every time I look at it. Stephanie, though, patiently wore me down by asking every single time I stopped by the store if I had read the series yet. Eventually, I gave in. I'm glad I did. I'm about to start the third book, Blameless.
Plant a Kiss: 03/24/13
In Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a girl plants a kiss and after patience, frustration and hope, reaps the rewards in the form of a long, sparkly flowering vine.
On the surface it doesn't sound like much, but the choice of words, the rhythmic repetition and Peter H. Reynold's delightful illustrations make this something special. The large amount of white space and the limited vocabulary make this book ideal for beginning readers.
My daughter was immediately drawn to the book both for its title and for the little girl on the cover with her long magical plant. She read the book once before checking it out, twice on the ride home and twice more once we got home — and that's just the first day of having it home from the library!
Recommended by my daughter.
Emeraldalicious by Victoria Kann is the fifth of the Pinkalicious picture books and the second one written and illustrated solely by Victoria Kann.
Peter and Pink discover that the local dump has expanded into the old field where they have played and picnicked with their parents. Using a magic wand made from a stick and the pieces of Pink's broken wand, the children transform the dump into a luscious, flowering garden as well as playground — with a castle made from old junk.
The timing of the release of Emeraldilicious couldn't be more perfect with spring just around the corner. At home my daughter and I have been busy transforming our back balcony into a butterfly garden — a process that is still on-going. Like Pink and Peter, we had to remove some old things and reuse some others. Our magic wands, though, were shovels and spades.
Somewhere along in the picture books, the original theme of unintended consequences (too much pink food turning one pink), into something where magic (unicorns, wands and whatnot) is real. Here, it's a magic wand — or rather — an enchanted stick repurposed as a magic wand. Along with the greater emphasis on magic, comes a change in the style of the illustrations — from bold collages (with samples of text and other patterns clearly visible), to an abundance of sparkles. I prefer the older style illustrations of Pinkalicious and Purplicious but my daughter seems taken with the sparkles.
Empire State: A Love Story (or Not): 03/22/13
Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) by Jason Shiga is a graphic novel about first love and first heart break and growing up. Jimmy, who looks like an older version of Jimmy from Meanwhile also by Jason Shiga, now works at a library and decides to follow his heart and go to Manhattan. I can only presume that Empire State exists in the vanilla timeline where Jimmy doesn't get sick and doesn't get a chance to destroy the world.
Like Meanwhile though, Shiga uses color codes to keep two plot threads separate as they intertwine. Blue is present day and red is flashback. The flashbacks show the friendship between Jimmy and Sara developing. She teaches him about coffee and literature. They share walks around Lake Merritt.
But she's a free spirit and in the present day she has realized her dream of working for a publisher. She's in Manhattan and Jimmy is still living at home with his over protective mother. He works at a library in Oakland. He's shown putting protective covers on books and shelving books but it's never stated outright if he's a clerk or a librarian. She has also found a boyfriend and made a life for herself that doesn't include Jimmy in the way he hopes.
While I liked the time travel aspects of Meanwhile, I connected better with Empire State.
Chi's Sweet Home 02: 03/21/13
Chi's Sweet Home 02 by Kanata Konami continues on with these short comedic episodes about Chi and her new family adjusting.
Chi has been taken in by a family who lives in an apartment with a strict no pets policy. With the appearance of a large black cat, the super is on the prowl. This cat knows his way around and has claimed the entire apartment building as his own. Taken in by Chi's curiosity, he decides to show her some of his tricks.
Along with the near misses with the super, there's the more mundane but equally hilarious parts of owning a cat. Specifically, there's a trip to the vet which includes such fun things like trying to get Chi into a basket, the scary car ride and the actual vet visit.
The Chi books are best suited for anyone who has owned (or been owned by) a cat. The pictures are adorable and the language is easy enough that my first grader can read them. There's also an anime series.
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise: 03/20/13
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise by Gene Luen Yang was originally published in three parts over the course of 2012. It has since been repackaged as a 240 page omnibus. Since the endings of parts one and two seemed rather arbitrary to me, I'm reviewing The Promise as one work, even though I read it in its original three parts.
The Promise assumes two things of its readers: familiarity with the original Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series and the more recent one, Avatar: The Legend of Korra. These comics come in the time after the defeat of the Fire Lord and the founding of Republic City.
Most of The Promise centers on a single Fire Nation colony on the outer edge of the Earth Kingdom. While both sides claim sovereignty over it, neither side seems willing to ask the residents what they want or what they think is best for their community. The problem is that a new hybrid culture has arisen out of occupation. There are blended families now.
But it's really not until the final third that all the themes come to a head. Aang for instance is horrified at seeing a local fan club wearing the sacred tattoos and clothing of the Air Nomads. It's through his own pain and feeling torn between the nomad life which he so desperately misses, and his new life with Katara (oogies, as her brother puts it), that he begins to see how the war and occupation has changed things for everyone.
For those wondering whatever happened to Zuko's mother, the next set of three books, The Search, will try to answer that question. That series starts in April 2013.
Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians: 03/19/13
Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is the second of the Lunch Lady graphic novels. In this one, the Lunch Lady and her faithful assistant Betty believe something is up with the librarians' morning meetings. What are they plotting?
I read this book at the start of my last semester in library school. Here are librarians driven over the edge by budget cuts and other cutbacks. They've taken all they can and now it's time for revenge. Librarians don't really plot revenge at their meetings — but if they did, they'd have to go up against the Lunch Lady!
It's a short and silly read. If the school lunch crew can be super heros, why can't librarians be super villains? — with magical powers, no less!
Doctor Who: The Forgotten: 03/18/13
Doctor Who: The Forgotten by Tony Lee started as a six issue comic. I read it as a bound graphic novel volume.
Martha and the Doctor arrive in a museum dedicated to the Doctor and his exploits. Someone though is calling the shots. The price is the Doctor's memories. By reliving previous adventures, one from each regeneration he finds he can regain his memories.
The Forgotten was a fun romp through the previous Doctors, though not as imaginative as the webcomic, The Ten Doctors. The end, though, has a nice resolution though that predates Gaiman's writing for the television series.
The artwork is good. The Doctor in all his different forms is recognizable. The oldest ones are drawn in black and white.
Piece of Mind: 03/17/13
Piece of Mind by Rob Reger (and Jessica Gruner and Buzz Parker) is the forth and final book in the Harper Collins series. Dark Horse, though, is now publishing a three part comic about Emily and her cats trying to break into the music scene — from her basement.
In Piece of Mind, Emily is sent by the ghost of a Dark Aunt, back to the seaside town she visited in Dark Times. Her goal this time is to activate her Black Rock summoning powers before the Shady Uncles gain the power.
As this is the last book in this series, the rules of the world are finally spelled out both for Emily and for the reader. We've known about Dark Aunts and we've heard of Shady Uncles since the very beginning. But now what they are and how they relate to each other comes together.
It was a fun ending to the series. Throughout there are little homages to the previous books. But it's in no means a rehash of them.
To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel: 03/16/13
To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel is another memoir told in the format of a graphic novel. As more and more nonfiction is finding voice in paneled artwork and lettering, there should be a term for them that doesn't imply fiction.
Siena Cherson Siegel when she as a young child had flat feet. Her mother was desperate to do anything to get them fixed. She turned to ballet as a way to perhaps exercise her daughter's feet into the right shape. Long story short, the dancing worked. It also became a life long passion for her.
Along with the ballet, To Dance, is about Siena's move from Cuba to New York. There she went to ballet school and eventually danced with the New York Ballet. All of that is laid out, while avoiding the oft-times unhealthy body image aspects of professional ballet.
I read this memoir originally when my daughter was taking ballet. At the tender age of six, she already started becoming aware of the extreme dieting that some dancers do to stay slim. She also didn't want to give up all of her other hobbies to focus solely on dancing to qualify for team competitions. So now as I write this review, she has given up ballet for two other sports: swimming and bowling.
On a Windy Night: 03/15/13
On a Windy Night by Nancy Raines Day is a Halloween book about a boy walking home at dusk. The wind beats up all sorts of different things, made worse by his imagination.
In the wind the boy here's a voice, "Cracklety-clack, bones in a sack. They could be yours — if you look back." Imagining that he's being pursued, he runs on, stopping to examine each possible threat.
The artwork done by George Bates shows in rich saturated colors, and strong lines the things the boy thinks he sees. Then with a flip of the page, the illustrations relax and show what is really there.
For my two, the book is the perfect combination of ghost story and artwork. Each page is full of enough details to warrant a second or third look. We read through the book once for the story and a second time for the artwork.
The Eternal Hourglass: 03/14/13
The Eternal Hourglass by Erica Kirov is the first of the Magickeepers series. Nick Rostov lives with his father in a crappy room in one of the older Las Vegas hotel. He's starting the summer off with a bad report card, and another birthday by himself.
Except this time, his grandfather appears on his thirteenth birthday with the offer of a new life, new powers, an extended family he didn't know exists and, of course, new responsibilities. He's also moving to another hotel — this one a palace and magic school in disguise, all run by his extended and apparently massive family.
How Nick reacts (or doesn't) to suddenly being thrust into a magical lifestyle is another bone of contention. Harry Potter fans seem to respond with more enthusiasm to Nick just blindly accepting his new life. Personally I have problems with the set up for both books — but here Nick, despite his crappy hotel apartment, does seem to have a good relationship with his father. I find it much harder to believe that he would just happily up and leave for such an extended period of time to go learn magic with relatives he didn't even know existed. Granted, he's still in Las Vegas, but I think he'd be motivated to find a way home.
Here magic is hidden in plain sight by making it part of the Las Vegas kitsch. It's not a separate world of wizards and witches vs. muggles. Instead, it's a world of creative camouflage. Except — and this is such an overused trope — as soon as the main character has begun to come into his or her powers, the EVIL forces come out of the woodwork. As a reader, I'm tired of this plot. Learning to handle a sudden influx of power should be dangerous enough by itself. There doesn't have to be a BIG BAD lurking around every corner; all it does is get in the way of character development and world building.
The Eternal Hourglass did not work for me. Nick was too passive a character. The inky shadows of BIG BAD, while visually interesting, were more of a distraction from potentially difficult character building opportunities or more complex world building. I wanted a better blending of Nick's personal story, the Russian family history of using magic, and Las Vegas's own checkered history. Unfortunately, none of those pieces came together, leaving me wishing I'd spent my time reading something else.
Stuck on Earth: 03/13/13
Stuck on Earth by David Klass is about Ketchvar III doing reconnaissance work in the body of a teenage boy. His goal — decide if Earth should be annihilated. Ketchvar is a snail shaped and sized creature, small enough to slip into the head of Tom Filber.
Tom's isn't exactly happy. There's a lot of home stress — enough so that those who know Tom begin to suspect he's cracking under the pressure. Interestingly, Ketchvar begins to believe this story too.
Ketchvar, though, gets caught up in Tom's life and like Marc Chang of Fairly OddParents, grows to love Earth for all its dysfunction. For this reason, I imaged Chang's booming somewhat surfer dude voice as Ketchvar's.
I found the book a light and enjoyable read. There were a few moments that made me think — Tom's inner dialog with Ketchvar as a stand in for mental illness, and the environmental questions — is the world better off with or without mankind.
Recommended by Charlotte's Library
The Last Suppers: 03/12/13
The Last Suppers by Diane Mott Davidson is the fourth in the Goldy Bear Catering mystery series. If these books were a television series, The Last Suppers would have been the season finale and suffers from the same mistakes that many a season finale make.
Goldy and Tom are finally getting married. Except that when Goldy walks down the aisle, Tom is no where to be seen! Shortly after that, a priest ends up dead. When Tom still hasn't appeared, it becomes painfully apparent that Tom has been kidnapped by the murderer.
I can happily say having read enough of the post-marriage book mysteries, that The Last Suppers is an aberration for the series as a whole. Although Goldy regularly gets herself into trouble by being an amateur detective, usually Tom Schulz stays out of trouble. Yes, he's in a dangerous line of work but he's also a paid and more importantly, a trained, professional. His work as an officer of the law is a means for Goldy to get timely information that most amateur detectives don't have access too.
So while it was interesting to see how Diane Mott Davidson transitioned her series from the caterer vs. police officer set up of the first couple books to the more domestic caterer married to a police officer books, it felt like she was grinding her gears. While Goldy does tend to overly emotional at times, here, she was completely unstrung.
Then there's Tom. He's a professional. He doesn't take unnecessary risks. He just doesn't strike me as the sort of person who would get himself kidnapped and kept prisoner. His continued disappearance to stall the wedding and build unnecessary dramatic tension was a cop out (pun intended).
Had the book just started with their wedding, or immediately afterwards, The Last Suppers would have been a much better — and more in character — part of the series.
Holly Hobbie is one of those real life people who has transcended her worldly existence into becoming a fictional icon. This began, of course, with her Holly Hobbbie drawings which in turn became Holly Hobbie and friends — characters whom filled my ever waking thought when I was in preschool through to about second grade. Now as an adult, I have rediscovered Holly Hobbie, the author and illustrator through her more recently published books such as Everything But the Horse and Gem.
Gem is a wordless picture book that is introduced with a letter from "Gram" where she asks her grand-daughter to imagine a spring day adventure, even though it's still the middle of a harsh winter. What follows, all in pictures, is the adventure of a determined toad.
While Everything But the Horse is autobiographical and rather wordy, Gem is just Hobbie's delightful watercolors. They are so intricate and yet whimsical. They capture so perfectly those little moments in a garden. The toad's journey through the garden provides a tour through flower beds, puddles, tall grasses and all number of other scenery.
Keeper by Kathi Appelt is about a ten year old girl trying to fix a day's worth of bad events. It all began with crabs and her overactive imagination. She has a plan to make everything right.
Keeper has been raised to believe her mother is a mermaid. She's been in Signe's care since she was three, living on a tiny road tucked between the Gulf of Mexico and a nature preserve. There are three houses and an old bus that serves as a surf shop.
Keeper's story is intertwined with the stories of the other people living on that strip of beach — Signe, Dogie, and Mr. Beauchamp. Appelt spins her tale in a free verse way, using repetition, poetic allusions, alliteration and the occasional list to create a compelling and quick read.
To everyone I've recommended the book to, I've described Keeper as the inverse of The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan. While Madigan's story is about a girl who is a mermaid but doesn't know it, Keeper is about a girl who believes she's a mermaid but probably isn't.
That isn't to say there aren't mermaids in Keeper. There are but how they play a part in the novel isn't what I expected. It was a delightful twist and one I'm not going to spoil here.
One Of Those Days: 03/09/13
One Of Those Days by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a picture book about a girl having one of those days — over and over again. Her favorite pants are shrunk, her best friend is being beastly, and no one seems to want to listen to her — among other problems.
Rosenthal uses her list making prowess (see her memoir, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life) to humorous ends here. After my daughter and I read and laughed over Rosenthal's examples of "one of those days" we made up some of our own.
One of Those Days is a good reminder for anyone — child, parent or teacher, especially, that it's not always possible to have a good day. One doesn't always feel happy, or have good luck or get the attention they want, and that's okay.
Blueberries for Sal: 03/08/13
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is one of those classics I some how missed during my own childhood. Sal and her mother go out picking blueberries at the same time that a mother bear and her cub do the same.
Sal and the cub, being youngsters, get too caught up in the fun of eating the berries and exploring the mountain to notice that they are wandering away from their mothers. Sal and the cub end up swapping mothers temporarily. As you can imagine, both mothers are horrified at finding the wrong child!
Throughout the book has adorable illustrations of the mother and child pairs. They are done in blue, brown and yellows — an unconventional selection for a children's book but none the less very fetching.
Who's There?: 03/07/13
Who's There? by Carole Lexa Schaefer is about a little rabbit who is trying to go to bed but is being scared by loud noises. Each time he hears the noise, he wonders what horrible monster is making it. In the end, the noise is just his baby brother, dragging along a favorite toy.
Pierr Morgan uses dark, cool colors — saturated greens, blues and violets to give the feel of a room late at night. For the monsters he brings in brighter colors to make the rabbit's imaginary beasts pop off the page. The are s delightful addition to the book.
For anyone planning to read the book aloud, I recommend doing a few practice runs in front of the mirror. The various sounds and made up monster names are tongue twisters. On a first or second run, it's a very tricky book to read accurately while putting in all the emotion needed for a dramatic performance.
Sophie and the Next-Door Monsters: 03/02/13
In Sophie and the Next-Door Monsters by Chris Case, new neighbors are both exciting and a little scary. Sophie's nervous about the dinner party her parents are having to welcome their next door neighbors to the neighborhood.
Sophie is convinced that her neighbors are monsters. Yet, she's supposed to show Charlie her room, and play with him while their parents chitchat. Although Charlie is very strange, she and he do have some things in common. Can they get over their differences and become friends?
As I've said in other reviews, I prefer monsters to stay monsters. Monsters are very popular with young children. Sophie and the Next-Door Monsters follows through. Charlie and his family are, in fact, monsters. But it doesn't matter. They are still the new neighbors and are still welcome. It's a good blend of monstrous fun and a positive message of acceptance and diversity.
Red Cat, Blue Cat: 03/05/13
Red Cat, Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond is the story of two cats grumpily living together in the same home. One lives upstairs, the other downstairs.
For anyone who has introduced one cat to another — cats who aren't siblings and weren't raised together knows how difficult it is to get a pair of cats to accept each other. It's no different here. There's a bit of jealousy between the two and that's what plays out.
Red Cat wants to be Blue Cat. Blue Cat wants to be Red Cat. Each tries to be the other by changing their color. Of course that doesn't work but it does get them to appreciate what they like about each other.
When I wrote the rough draft for this review I was wondering what has happened to my youngest cat. She had gone missing over the weekend and it was extremely difficult to write about a book about two cats so very similar to mine — the old calico who was still here and the young tuxedo who was missing.
Thankfully the tuxedo cat returned about ten days later and hasn't tried to explore the great outdoors again.
Dear Tabby: 03/04/13
Dear Tabby by Carolyn Crimi ended up being fortuitous. In the style of Dear Abby, Tabby D. Cat replies to letters from unhappy cats.
Each letter is written in a unique voice. There is one cat in particular who complains about being too pampered. He's a house cat who wants to see the world and doesn't want to be played with.
Through Tabby D. Cat's responses, though, children learn that Tabby is a stray. Tabby wishes for a "Forever Home." But not every cat wants the same thing. Some like children. Some don't. Some like the indoors, and some don't. Can Tabby help everyone find what they need and find what she needs too?
About two months after we first read this book, we were adopted by Tortuga who desperately needed her own Forever Home. Since then we've talked about Dear Tabby and the different cats, especially Tabby who wanted a home.
Ribbit Rabbit: 03/03/13
Ribbit Rabbit by Candace Ryan is about a frog and a bunny who are best friends. They do everything together until they have a falling out. Trying to go their own way doesn't work out either.
Their actions are illustrated with short i and short a words, most of which rhyme with the title. For example: zip it, zap it. But when the two are squabbling, they swap words.
The book is a good introduction to blending sounds for children who are pre-reading. For children who have moved up to Easy Readers might find the book too simplistic — that was the case with my daughter.
The Honeybee Man: 03/02/13
May in Castro Valley means the start of the farmer's market. And that means fresh honey. Castro Valley is a mixture of urban and rural but honey can be produced anywhere there are flowers. The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi is about a man who keeps bees in Brooklyn, New York.
Two and a half million people live in Brooklyn, Kings County. It's part of the massive urban area that is New York City, a city containing five boroughs. It's not a likely place for a beehive large enough to produce honey, but that's exactly what the honeybee man and his bees do on their rooftop hive.
The book follows both the bees and the man as they do their part to create the honey. The bees find nectar on flowers abloom all around the neighborhood. They also raise their babies, take care of the queen and build wax rooms.
Kyrsten Brooker's energetic illustrations capture the work the bees are doing and the enthusiasm the beekeeper has for his bees.
Son of Slappy: 03/01/13
Son of Slappy by RL Stine is the second of the recently launched Goosebumps, Most Wanted Series. My son and his friends have discovered their school's ratty (meaning, well-read) copies of Goosebumps so I was curious to see how the new series compares to the older ones.
The first Goosebumps series started well after I was out of the target age range but I heard of them through a younger cousin and read a few of the early ones, including Night of the Living Dummy (Goosebumps 7), the first of the Slappy books.
Slappy is an evil ventriloquist's dummy. Honestly, except for "The Puppet Show" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 1, episode 9), all ventriloquist's dummies are evil. But Slappy is perhaps the worst of the worst.
Now for those who are complaining that Slappy was destroyed in a previous book; he's evil enough (and smart enough) to fake his own destruction. Now that he's been laying low in an old man's collection (quick — call for an intervention, this dude's a hoarder), Slappy has picked a Marty-Stu named Jackson who is so perfect no adult believes he's capable of doing any wrong. Little sister, though, with Slappy's help has her sights on his perfect reputation.
It was a fun read and very much in keeping with the spirit and formula of the earlier books.
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