Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: 13 Hangmen

13 Hangmen
By Art Corriveau
Expected publication April 1, 2012 by Abrams

Tony DiMarco loves solving mysteries. So shouldn't he be more excited when a real-life mystery just waiting to be solved arrives on his doorstep? Tony soon finds himself moving across the country to live in the house his great-uncle mysteriously left to him right before he died. And the mystery only gets bigger and more complicated from there...

Okay, I must admit, I picked this up at Midwinter because it takes place in Boston and has got a picture of a kid in a Red Sox uniform on the cover. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the Sox. Anyway, to the book itself - I thought this book was great. It is a very compelling story with tons of different elements sure to appeal to a wide variety of middle-grade readers, including that ever-elusive population - the boys. There is baseball, history, murder, revenge, ghosts (maybe) and a fantastic mystery tying it all together. Sometimes, a story composed of so many elements loses itself in trying to make them all work. I think Corriveau did a great job. Everything blends together and flows and the story makes sense (in its own way). No one element seems to have lost from being part of this complicated story. I think all the boys in this book are great characters - they have wonderful stories to tell and distinct personalities. I think Tony is a hero that kids will want to cheer for. There were a few points in the story where the plot got dragged down by the explanation of some bit of history but overall, the pacing of the novel works really well. I started it and was almost immediately hooked, wanting to keep reading. I think this is a great new book from a promising author.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Picture Book Saturday (9)

It's the end of the month and I have a lot of picture book reviews piling up, so how about a double dose?

Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom
By Shane W. Evans
Published 2011 by Roaring Brook Press
I picked this one up because I was intrigued by the cover but also because it recently won a Youth Media Award. This is a very simple tale of the Underground Railroad and the slave's road to freedom. I think even young children could understand the story because it is told simply yet effectively. The illustrations are simple as well but they suit the story perfectly. I can see this being easily included in storytimes and I think this book is very well-done.

The Camping Trip that Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and the National Parks
By Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
Published 2012 by Dial Books
As stated numerous times before, my attention is always being grabbed by non-fiction picture books for kids. This one caught my eye because I recently watched the Ken Burns' documentary on the creation of the national parks. This book details the beginning of conservation and preservation efforts in America by describing a camping trip Teddy Roosevelt took with John Muir. The author provides a historical note at the end that explains that not all the details of this trip are known so this book is a blend of fact and fiction. It's well-written and interesting and I really like the pictures.

As Good As Anybody
By Richard Michelson, illustrated by Raul Colon
Published 2008 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
This is a very moving picture book about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Heschel supporting each other and both seeing the need for equal rights for all people. This is a welcome book in this world where religion is often such a divisive force as it shows that occasionally religious folks in positions of power do good in the name of social justice. I think everyone would do good to remember Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message. Even though we celebrate and honor him each year, do we really think about what he was trying to achieve? The illustrations have a softness that is appealing. This was a nice surprise to find among our new books.

Rosie Sprout's Time to Shine
By Allison Wortche, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Published 2011 by Random House Children's Books
Violet is the best at everything in their class and Rosie is not happy with this. When the class starts a new project, could it finally be Rosie's turn to be the best? This is a sweet story about the buddings of competition among children. Rosie is quiet in her quest to be the best at something and the illustrations are nice and gentle. Just a sweet little picture book.

Questions, Questions
By Marcus Pfister
Published 2011 by North South Books
This is an interesting book - lots of questions but no answers. I see this book as a great jumping off point for exploring non-fiction - pair this book with non-fiction titles to answer some of the questions that Pfister poses. The illustrations are bold and striking but also simple. There is plenty of white space on each page and a fun little metallic piece of each illustration that kids will enjoy looking for. A very interesting and thought-provoking book.

Too Shy for Show-and-Tell
By Beth Bracken, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Published 2011 by Picture Window Books
This is a perfect little book for a large percentage of the population. Sam is very quiet and would rather not draw attention to himself. No one knows very much about him and he likes it that way. Because of this, Sam does not like show and tell day. He becomes very worried about having to share. When the day finally comes, Sam watches his other classmates share and discovers that maybe he was worrying a little too much. This is just a sweet book with lovely illustrations.

Duck, Death, and the Tulip
By Wolf Erlbruch
Published 2011 by Gecko Press
This is perhaps one of the strangest books I've ever encountered and, as a matter of fact, it caused a bit of controversy when it arrived in our collection. We had it classified in the "Easy" section (what our picture book section is called) and many staff didn't feel this was appropriate. Some staff actually wanted to get rid of the book altogether. My opinion is that this is a very weird book in which Duck befriends Death. It asks some questions about what happens after death and there are some small comforts present (though almost nothing about the tulip). It is hard for me to imagine who might read this book and not be disturbed or confused.

Randy Riley's Really Big Hit
By Chris Van Dusen
Published 2012 by Candlewick Press
I was so excited to see a new Van Dusen on our book cart! I love that he sticks to his retro style and sensibilities even in today's increasingly modern world. He uses such bright colors and has such a unique style; it's easy for me to imagine kids latching onto him and his books. This is a nice rhythmic story about Randy Riley, who loves baseball and science. Consequently, I can see this book being a big hit in storytimes about either baseball (or sports) or science. It's fun and very appealing.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: Fake Mustache

Fake Mustache: or, How Jodie O'Rodeo and her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Guy) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind
By Tom Angleberger
Expected publication April 1, 2012 by Amulet Books

Okay, longest subtitle in the history of the world, so do I really need to provide a summary? Lenny Flem, Jr. is surprised one day when his best friend, Casper, insists on buying the Heidelberg Handlebar #7, the greatest fake mustache ever invented. Soon, Casper starts acting weird and before he can get anyone on his side, Lenny is watching as a handlebar-mustachioed "man about town" begins robbing banks and even plans to run for President! Can Lenny, with the help of tween cowgirl queen Jodie O'Rodeo, show everyone who that "man about town" really is?

I read and enjoyed Angleberger's first novel and then I was harangued into being a life-size Origami Yoda at Midwinter during a session with his publisher (there's probably a Youtube clip of it somewhere). Angleberger was a great author to meet - he has lots of personality and he's very down-to-earth and, most importantly, he really seems to be having fun with what he does. So, he told us about his forthcoming book (the one this review is eventually going to be about) and I thought it sounded brilliant. I happily stopped by the Abrams booth (Amulet is an imprint) and snagged an ARC the first chance I got. I don't know what more I can say about this novel that I didn't say about his first - it's absolutely perfect for its intended audience. The chapters are short, the plot is ridiculously funny, it's fast-paced and action-packed and the characters are interesting. I think this book will make a great discussion book - in the classroom or among friends. There are so many things to talk about! Angleberger has given us a very clever satire - kids won't even realize it's making such a statement while they're reading. The book is funny - so much of what happens is completely absurd? But it also makes for a number of great opportunities to get kids asking what they would do, even if the situation is very unlikely to ever occur to them. I think this is going to be a huge hit - funny books are the one thing we can't seem to keep on our shelves (for kids anyway; teens might be another matter). I think kids will really like the characters, too - Lenny is just your average kid, very easy for them to relate to. And girls who've grown up watching Hannah Montana will get a kick out of Jodie O'Rodeo, while boys will see that she's not your typical girly-girl starlet. This book is delightfully entertaining, but with lots of thought-provoking moments.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus, book 2)
By Rick Riordan
Published 2011 by Hyperion Books

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the first book and most likely spoilers for this title as well. If you'd like to read my review of book one, go here.

Percy Jackson is seriously confused. He's just woken up from an epically long nap and he doesn't really know where he is and he's not even entirely sure of who he is. All he knows is that this old hippie lady wants him to carry her across a river and he feels compelled to do it. Can he find some answers on the other side? Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she was alive before, she made a huge mistake and now the future of the world is at risk. Can she figure out if there's a way to make it right? Frank is pretty much a disaster. Even though his mother and grandmother have told him he's descended from heroes and he can be anything he wants, he has a hard enough time just being himself. When he finally finds out who his father is (and it's NOT Apollo, like he hoped), will Frank be able to really become who he's meant to be?

This is another "of course, I HAD to read this" book for me. I love the original series but I didn't feel as excited after reading the first book of this series. I was, however, very much looking forward to this one because of course it had to be about Percy with a title like that. What I didn't love so much about book one was the lack of characters I loved from the original series. This is rectified a bit in book two, as Percy makes a return to the series. However, the majority of the action takes place at Camp Jupiter or on the quest, so we still don't get a lot of the other Greek characters. BUT, I did find the new Roman characters here more intriguing than those introduced to us in book one. I think Hazel and Frank had much stronger voices that Jason, Piper and Leo. And I liked watching the action at Camp Jupiter and finding out how things are run there. Like I mentioned in my review of book one, Riordan has crafted a much more complex and involved storyline for this series and I think it is fantastic. Even as an adult, I am learning a tremendous amount of things I didn't know - and I was obsessed with mythology as a kid. I can only imagine what this reading experience must be like for the kids who love these books. I was most thrilled, however, when my favorite character showed up again (how can you not love Tyson??). Once again, I can't praise Riordan's sense of pace and storytelling enough - these books continue to fly by with alarming speed. As expected, I cannot wait for book three!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: After the Snow

After the Snow
By S.D. Crockett
Expected publication March 27, 2012 by Feiwel & Friends

What would your life be like if you were living in the new Ice Age? It might look something like Willo's - a teenager who lives with his father as a "straggler" - someone who chooses to live in the wilderness rather than the city. But when Willo returns one day to find his family missing, he's going to have to figure out how to survive on his own. And his decisions are made even more complicated when he discovers a young girl, nearly starving to death, whose family is also gone...

I picked this book up at Midwinter, where the publisher was giving it some good praise. I had high hopes for this one - I like survival stories and thought the idea of a new Ice Age was definitely something new in YA. Unfortunately, this book just did not work for me. In fact, this was a book I actually contemplated giving up on. I didn't, but I think I should have. Like I said, this book has a really interesting concept - global warming was, in fact, actually a real thing and now the Earth is living in a new Ice Age. However, for such an interesting concept, this is an incredibly boring book. It is not really the survival story I thought it was. For me, this reads like a book about a mentally ill person and I definitely don't think that was Crockett's intention. And, while I can understand why Willo talks and behaves the way he does, it doesn't make me like him as a character. As a matter of fact, I found him incredibly irritating and naive and I really didn't care to find out what happened to him. Like I said, this doesn't really read like a survival story - Willo doesn't ever seem to actually struggle all that much. I guess that just means he was prepared, but it doesn't make for a compelling read. I was a little more intrigued when they arrived in the city, but I quickly lost interest again as the pacing of the novel deteriorated (Willo's journey to the city takes the whole of part one but then he spends several months with the old couple and it passes in a matter of paragraphs). Some of the more interesting storylines were never fully explored (why is China seen as holding the key to ending the Ice Age? what happened to Willo's sister, who had gone to live with evil old Geraint? what is the deal with Dog?) and the big surprise was, in my opinion, not much of a surprise. I don't generally have an issue with novels written in dialect (see my upcoming review of The Knife of Never Letting Go) but this was painful to read. It just made Willo an even less likable character for me. I wanted so much more from this novel; it just didn't deliver for me.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Program: beTWEEN the lines

I wanted to come up with a regular, monthly program for the tweens, so I decided to start a book club (plus, I love book clubs). I set up a consistent day and time and provided some copies of the books before the club. Our first book was Frindle by Andrew Clements.

Honestly, I didn't expect this to be very well-attended. My supervisor had tried a book club before and had only ever gotten a handful of kids. So, even though in my first two weeks of work I had multiple parental requests for a book club, I expected to have very low attendance.

I was right. I had five kids registered for the club - three showed up. All girls. I provided snacks and had come up with a list of questions beforehand, so I felt prepared. Even though I only had a couple kids show up, I think it went well. The girls were all enthusiatic about the book (they all loved it) and they all seemed pretty eager to answer my questions. They had lots of opinions about the different aspects of the book and they weren't afraid to let me know. However, we blew through all my questions pretty quickly. I was a little nervous when I reached the last question and checked the time, but I shouldn't have worried. I planned on doing an extension activity: having the kids make up their own words (with definitions) and then checking the dictionary to see if they actually came up with new words. The girls each come up with at least 10 words (sadly, I only managed 3) and, though we ran out of time to check them all, the ones we did check were totally new words. They laughed a lot during this part and I think they enjoyed the chance to be creative. At the end of the program, I reminded them that we'd be meeting the first Wednesday of April at the same time. I told them what we'd be reading next (City of Ember) and offered copies if they wanted to sign up right then. I also promoted my upcoming programs (two during spring break week). Two girls took the next book and all 3 promised to come back. Hopefully they will tell their friends!

I would welcome any advice, especially on how to get more kids to come!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Picture Book Saturday: 2013 Bluebonnet Edition

This year I'm going to try to read the Bluebonnet nominees before they are impossible to catch on the shelves (because every child in the state of Texas is trying to read them). So here's my first installment of the picture books.

Scarum Fair
By Jessica Swaim, illustrated by Carol Ashley
Published 2010 by Wordsong
I thought this one would be right up my alley - a collection of scary poetry for kids. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by the whole thing. None of the poems really add anything to what's already been done before - I don't really think this book does anything that hasn't been done before. The illustrations are creepy and colorful but still, overall, not that impressive. This one was disappointing for me.

Just Being Audrey
By Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Julia Denos
Published 2011 by HarperCollins
This is a very nice and informative picture book biography of Audrey Hepburn. Whenever I read a picture book biography, I'm always amazed by how much they teach me that I never knew before - of course, I don't know everything, but these books sometimes make me feel like I really know a minuscule amount of things. Some things I learned about Hepburn from this book: she wanted to be a ballerina; she had to hide from the Nazis; she was a UN ambassador and received the President's Medal for her humanitarian work. The illustrations are whimsical and beautiful in a lovely pastel scheme. This is a really enjoyable book and includes notes from the author and illustrator talking about Audrey's appeal even after all these years. Two little things I wonder, though: how many kids today know who Audrey Hepburn is? And - her children are mentioned but not her marriages; I think kids are going to pick up on that and find it a little strange. But overall, I really liked this.

Ruth and the Green Book
By Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Published 2010 by Carolrhoda Books
This is a wonderful fictionalized picture book about a piece of history that is probably long forgotten and/or unknown. The narrative unfolds rather simply in a way that I think will be easy for kids to understand (though perhaps not the youngest ones). There is a nice historical note at the end that gives the facts about the Green Book - which did, in fact, exist. This might sound weird but the illustrations look like a memory - they are kind of misty and faded, which actually works really well for this story. This book will certainly raise some questions for young readers but I think deals with an important topic that deserves to be discussed.

Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog
By Adrienne Sylver, illustrated by Elwood Smith
Published 2010 by Dutton Juvenile
See, I told you that you could write a non-fiction picture book about anything! Well, this is more like a traditional non-fiction title for kids, just with more modern illustrations and a more unique topic. There is lots of interesting trivia to be found in this book - which is perfect for me because I love trivia. I really like the layout of this book, something I don't necessarily always notice. The main information is in the center of the two-page spread with interesting sidebars at the edges of both pages. There are some recipes in the back (I know, I know, recipes for hot dogs?) along with a small bibliography. I think this book has great appeal considering the popularity of hot dogs, but I'm not sure how many kids might stumble upon it. It's on the 2012-13 Texas Bluebonnet List, so I know that, at least, the children of Texas will discover this delightful little book.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: Life Is But a Dream

Life Is But a Dream
By Brian James
Expected publication March 27, 2012 by Feiwel and Friends

Sabrina is an artist. She is also, if you believe her doctors, schizophrenic. But Sabrina knows she's not crazy. She's in the Wellness Center because her parents put her there. Soon, she meets Alec. And as soon as she sees him, she knows - he is the boy from her dreams. He is like her. Together, they will find their way to the heaven Sabrina has been seeing. She just has to get all this medicine out of her system...

Okay, I don't even remember picking up this book at Midwinter, but I must have. I am always pleased to read more contemporary YA because I read A LOT of fantasy/sci-fi and it can get tiring eventually. So maybe that's why I picked this up. Anyway, I was not really prepared when I began this book. I always re-read the blurb before I start a new book so that I can remind myself what I'm about to read (especially when I'm picking up one of the ARCs I received at a conference) and this was no exception. So, clearly, I knew that this was going to be a story about a girl with a mental illness. But I was not prepared for how difficult this book was going to be. This is a very hard book to read. Sabrina is our narrator, so we really get no respite from this point of view. This is a taste of what it feels like to be mentally ill and it is incredibly well-done. I don't believe I've ever read anything by James before, but he clearly has a talent. Sabrina's world is completely different from ours but it lays right on top of the world we know. The effect is jarring and disorienting, compelling and complex. However, because we are not actually Sabrina, we are able to maintain some distance from the events in the novel. This distance allows us to see that, from the moment Sabrina meets Alec, things are going to go awry. It's not that Alec reads like a bad guy - it just becomes clear that he has no experience dealing with someone like Sabrina. This is one of the greatest strengths of this novel - even though we can see that Alec is bad for Sabrina, we can understand why he doesn't know that. This book is believable and gripping and totally readable. However, this book totally lost me in the last two chapters. For me, the ending of this book is completely unbelievable and almost ruined the book for me. After everything that we've learned about Sabrina and her illness, this ending just didn't seem right. Otherwise, though, this is an incredibly well-done book that I think will appeal greatly to teens. Definitely recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Program: Family Storytime

At my other new job, I am not Supreme Coordinator of All Things Tween. I am more like Children's Librarian Who Has to Work the Worst Schedule. BUT, I get to do storytimes again - something I have missed while finishing school, working in a paraprofessional position, and then being Tween Queen. Unfortunately, I'll only be required for two storytimes a month, but some is better than none, right?

For better or worse, my themes for the spring have already been chosen for me. My first theme was basically my worst nightmare: birds. I HATE BIRDS. I don't think I can express accurately my utter disgust of these evil winged beasts. But, for the sake of my young patrons, I tried to overcome my extreme bias and create a fun storytime for them. Here's what I did.

Welcome - this is pretty self-explanatory. This is the part where I introduce myself, remind parents to turn off their phones and participate, and plead with them about keeping the younger ones out of our blinds (why?? Why do people who design libraries put the noisiest accesories in the storytime room?).

Opening - Open Shut Them. This was pretty much the first little rhyme I learned for storytime; it's tried and true.

Book - Birds by Kevin Henkes. I love Kevin Henkes and this is a very simple book that introduces our topic nicely.

Flannel - "Five Birds in the Nest". Can I make a confession? I really don't like flannel stories. Firstly, I hate the feel of felt. Second, I think most flannel is old and boring. So, I only did this because it's basically a requirement to have a flannel in storytime and this was basically the only option at our library.

Book - Bring on the Birds by Susan Stockdale. I found out about this one from reading a librarian blog and read it immediately. It's a very simple non-fiction picture book that might have worked better one on one. The kids were interested in all the different kinds of birds, but the labels for the birds are all together on the last pages and difficult to see in a large group setting. I really wanted to use some non-fiction, though, especially since it's so easy with this theme.

Song - "The Chicken Dance." Yes, that one. I thought this was basically a stroke of genius but, honestly, it kinda went over the kids' heads. The crowd was mostly younger ones and they just watched me do the dance. A couple of older kids in the crowd clearly had done the dance before and were relishing in being little experts.

Book - Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard. I thought the kids would react to this book a lot more than they did. Maybe my grumpy voice needs work (not if you ask my boyfriend, though).

Book - Chicken Little by Rebecca Emberley, illustrated by Ed Emberley. I tried to do my best voices for this one and the kids seemed to enjoy it - however, this version of the story has, in my opinion, a weird ending.

Big Book - A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kazsa. This wasn't my ideal choice for a big book because it's a little long and not all that bird-focused. But I actually think this was the biggest hit of storytime - the kids were totally rapt with attention and really enjoyed it.

Closing - Wave Goodbye. This is a Rob Reid rhyme that I just basically picked at random.

And that is my version of a bird-themed storytime!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Sisters of Glass

Sisters of Glass
By Stephanie Hemphill
Expected publication March 27, 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Maria is the youngest daughter in a traditional family of glass-blowers on the Venetian island of Murano. She would love to spend her days in the fornica, learning how to craft the beautiful glass her family produces. But her father's will has made that impossible. For his dying wish is that Maria marry a nobleman. Giovanna, Maria's older sister, resents her for this. And when a young glassblower arrives to help the family with their fornica, how will Maria's new feelings change the course of her destiny?

Total sucker for verse novels - I fully admit it. So obviously, I was thrilled to score a copy of this at Midwinter, though I admit I was surprised by its short length (Hemphill has written another verse novel about the Salem Witch Trials, which I haven't yet read, that is the length of a typical young adult novel). Regardless, I dove into this tale with high hopes - verse novel, historical fiction, right up my alley. Though this is a short novel, it is not necessarily the quickest read - there is much to linger over in these verses. The descriptions of Murano and its traditional craft are very evocative - I've actually been there and Hemphill's words struck me as accurate (though I wasn't there during the Renaissance). Hemphill's writing is quality - she has a nice turn of phrase and quite lovely descriptions. But Maria is not a character I really wanted to root for - I found her to be kind of whiny and bratty. To me, she seemed to spend a lot of time trying to undo her sister's anger when she probably should have been coming up with a better idea. After all, it is not really her that Vanna is mad at. The romances here are very typical, instantaneous true love but that doesn't make them bad - I liked Maria and Luca's fiery relationship. I don't know, however, if this was an entirely successful verse novel - the poems didn't strike me as they have in other works. So, overall, this was a bit of a disappointment for me with poems that didn't really feel like poems and a main character I didn't want to cheer for.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Program: Jell-O Celebration

When I started this blog, I was still in school. Naturally, the majority of my children's/YA work then simply focused on reading books. Now, I am actually employed (I work A LOT) and my work involves much more than just reading (actually, I don't get to read while I'm at work, except for lunch breaks and picture books). I've intended to include information on the programming I do here on the blog but, due to the aforementioned problem (I work A LOT), I haven't yet gotten around to it. I'm going to try to post about the programs I put on - we'll see how it goes.

My first program as Supreme Coordinator of All Things Tween (this is the title I give myself in my head) happened in February, right before Valentine's Day. Did you know that there exists in this country a Jell-O Week? Yeah, I clearly didn't want to do your run-of-the-mill program and I stumbled upon the wonderful online calendar that lists every obscure holiday and discovered Jell-O Week (you know, I probably shouldn't be writing Jell-O so much in this entry because Kraft doesn't sponsor Jell-O Week and probably doesn't like it when people talk about their product without being told to). But what could I possibly do to celebrate this glorious gelatinous week?

Here is what the program consisted of (it wasn't really that focused on the gelatin):
- A very short Powerpoint presentation showing examples of what you can do with Jell-O (there are a number of artists working in the gelatin medium and every year there is a competition in New York for Jell-O molding)
- Three timed categories of constructing with different materials
- Jell-O eating!

I found (via the interwebs, of course) a science experiment about simulating earthquakes using sheet trays of Jell-O. Awesome. Kids love to build things, so this immediately appealed to me. I decided to try a variety of different materials and get the kids to work in groups and then we tested their various structures on our Jell-O earthquake. Each section was 15 minutes long: first, dry spaghetti and mini marshmallows; second, vanilla wafer cookies and chocolate frosting; and lastly, Jell-O jigglers and any materials left over from previous rounds.

How it went: the kids pretty much blew me away with their creativity. I had tried making some examples before the program so that kids could understand what I wanted them to do, but, once they started working, it was clear that my examples were pathetic compared to what they made. Nearly all the structures of the first round held up to the earthquake trials, only two in the second round, and none made of Jell-O. I had about a dozen kids show up and they managed to keep themselves under control for the most part - their biggest issue was wanting to eat the supplies (which I had to remind them a number of times they DID NOT WANT TO DO because like a billion fingers had touched them). I only had one kid who really did not want to work with his teammates; I spoke to him multiple times during the program about how it was a group activity and he needed to be working with others, but nothing got through to him (how do other people handle kids who don't follow the rules during programming? I think he's probably going to come to other programs and I'm not sure how to deal with him if he's not going to participate in the program as intended). In the end, because I had covered our earthquake tray with saran wrap, the kids all got to eat some Jell-O. They seemed to enjoy themselves and I think the program went well.

Anybody have any thoughts or questions? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Review: The Wild Book

The Wild Book
By Margarita Engle
Expected publication March 20, 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books

Fefa has what the doctors call "word-blindness" - the words on a page just won't stay still for her. She is told she will never read or write. But Fefa's mother believes she can overcome, so she presents Fefa with a blank notebook and encourages her to fill it with a garden of words, sprinkling them wherever she sees fit. But when disaster strikes her family, it may be Fefa who holds the key to redemption.

This is a very short and quick read but I really enjoyed it. It's written in verse (Engle is a poet and has written a number of other novels in verse, including The Surrender Tree) and tells a very simple story of a young Cuban girl struggling with what it today known as dyslexia. We find out about Fefa's family slowly, as at first, their names are too difficult for her to write, and I think this slow unveiling works well. It gives readers more time to get to know Fefa herself. I love that Fefa's mother encourages her to challenge the doctors who say she'll never read or write - they even give her an album for her Saint's Day in which admirers are to write poems. Fefa is embarrassed when the only poem she receives comes from a farmhand, but this may be an important clue later on. I like the subtle weaving of Cuban history into the background of Fefa's story. I think kids will be able to relate to Fefa's struggle, even though her circumstances may be radically different than their own. A well-done novel.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Croak

Croak (Croak, book 1)
By Gina Damico
Expected publication March 20, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Well, it's happened - Lex Bartleby's parents have finally had enough. Enough of her out-of-the-blue tirades, enough of her school suspensions, enough of her landing her peers in the hospital. ENOUGH. So, this summer, it's off to Uncle Mort's for Lex - an uncle she barely remembers in a place she's never heard of. But Lex's mind is about to be blown - for Uncle Mort holds the family secret and Lex is about to discover her true calling. And it just might involve a scythe...

I grabbed this one at Midwinter because, HELLO, it's about a teenage Reaper. I was expecting something along the lines of the awesome (and unfortunately, short-lived) "Dead Like Me" television show. Then I saw that my ARC included a blurb from Adam Rex - surely you know by now that I have kind of a teeny tiny MAJOR author crush on him. So I expected a lot from this book. I can't say it really lived up to all my expectations but I can't say it really didn't work either. As a main character, Lex is kind of a pain - I never really felt all that sympathetic toward her and wasn't really interested in her as a person. But I was completely sold on the workings of Killing, Culling, and Reaping that Damico lays out in her novel - it's a pretty complex world she's created and I buy it. I love the science of the Ether, the involvement of the spiders and jellyfish, and the reality of the Afterlife. While this book wasn't as funny as I expected, there's still a good deal of humor, which I think works especially well for books dealing with Reapers or Death. I liked learning about the crazy ways that people manage to die and I liked all the conflict that Lex is feeling inside while trying to come to terms with her new life and all the emotions that come with it. I loved all the secondary characters that populate Croak - they are a diverse bunch that I found very fun to read about. I liked the little bit of romance thrown in - it definitely made for some of the more entertaining moments of the book. My main issue with this book is that, for me, the bad guy was insanely obvious, almost from the first time we meet them. There was still enough interesting stuff going on to keep me reading, especially wanting to find out how Lex would deal with her conflicting emotions about the murders. I don't know how many books are planned in the series but the ending makes it quite clear that there will at least be a sequel. I don't mind the idea of coming back to Croak for another round. I can see Damico setting other books in other Grim cities, as well. Overall, a decently entertaining read, though not quite what I expected.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review: Wonder Show

Wonder Show
By Hannah Barnaby
Expected publication March 20, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Portia Remini has joined the circus. Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. See, the dust made her father leave - in search of a better life for them - and Portia was left behind with her aunt. But she was much too spirited for Aunt Sophia, so off Portia was sent to McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls. But Portia has a faint memory of her father and the circus, so when Mosco's Taveling Wonder Show rides by, she sees her escape and perhaps a way to find her father again...

I picked this up at Midwinter because I'm basically a sucker for the circus (true story: I drove to Cincinnati from Indiana to go to an art exhibit of circus posters). There is something about this book - the chapters are short and episodic and don't necessarily create a narrative, but they have a flow and there is just something about this book that made me not want to put it down. I was completely sucked into this story and spent nearly every free moment I had engrossed in the book, trying to see how it would end. It is hard for me to determine what exactly about this book made it so compelling. I think Barnaby has woven a storytelling spell around the reader - it seems so simple but there is more to the story than one might think. This book is full of fascinating characters - as most books about the circus are - but they are all incredibly easy to relate to. One of Barnaby's strengths here is showing that the circus folk are, in the end, just regular people with desires and dreams that may not be all that different from our own. Portia is a very interesting protagonist and her story is full of new and complicated developments. One thing that I can't decide if I liked or not: there is no indication on the book itself that this is a historical novel. Yet, once you begin reading, it slowly becomes clear that we are in Dust Bowl America. However, this setting never becomes a focus of the novel. I can't decide if I'm annoyed that the setting is so subtle or captivated by the way Barnaby crafts her story in a way that makes it impossible to imagine it taking place in any other context. This was a really excellent read for me, a book I was terribly sad to see end.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Picture Book Saturday: 2012 Bluebonnet Edition

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (according to Susy)
By Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Published 2010 by Scholastic Press
This is a unique picture book biography of Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, told by his thirteen-year-old daughter, Susy. What is most interesting about this is that’s it’s based on actual fact – Susy, during her thirteenth year, did, in fact, write a biography of her father. She wanted people to know him as she knew him, not just as the Mark Twain that the public saw. And Samuel Clemens was so pleased with Susy’s account of him that he included pieces of it in his own autobiography. This is an incredibly fascinating bit of history to me and I think Kerley does an excellent job of teaching readers about it. I really enjoyed the fact that Susy’s personality was apparent throughout the story. Additionally, Kerley provides tips for writing biographies at the end of the book, which I think kids would love to try after reading this story. For me, the major downfall of this book is the illustrations – I just don’t really like the style of them. But overall, this is a fantastic read and an excellent choice of a Bluebonnet.

Imogene’s Last Stand
By Candace Fleming, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Published 2009 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Another 2012 Bluebonnet title, this is the story of Imogene, a girl who loves history so much that her first words were “…” Now that she’s a bit older, she has taken over her town’s Historical Society and attempted to return it to glory. But soon, she gets word that the building will be torn down to make room for a shoelace factory. This is a totally unacceptable turn of events to Imogene and she, as the title implies, makes her last stand. This is a really fun and important book about the relevance of history and our duty to preserve it. This book is interesting because it shows how sometimes progress can lead to bad things, a stance not normally taken in popular society. I really enjoyed the use of historical quotes throughout the story – they really made Imogene’s love of history shine through. In my opinion, the illustrations could be better but overall this is a very charming story that I very much enjoyed.

Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott
By Yona Zeldis McDonough, illustrated by Bethanne Andersen
Published 2009 by Henry Holt and Co.
Yet another Bluebonnet title I recently read, this is one I didn’t enjoy quite so much. It’s pretty much just a straight biography of Louisa May Alcott, which is totally fine – not every biography needs to focus on some tiny and unusual facet of a person’s life to be interesting. However, I found this to be rather boring. This is a terrible disappointment because Louisa actually had a rather interesting life. Additionally, I find the illustrations in this one to be rather odd and I don’t particularly care for them. Some facts about Louisa’s family are included at the end, as well as some of her early writings, her life in her own words (briefly) and, surprisingly, a recipe for her favorite dessert. I just wish this had been more interesting.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Axe Cop

Axe Cop: Volume 1
By Malachai Niccole, illustrated by Ethan Niccole
Published 2011 by Dark Horse Comics

File this one under “books I never would have discovered if they hadn’t been thrust upon me by coworkers.” I think it was literally my first day at my new job and my coworker was telling me about how he serves on the Maverick committee (TLA committee for graphic novels). He then tells me that I should check out this one and the premise instantly grabbed me: comics written by a kid and illustrated by his older brother. Okay, I’m game.

This is basically exactly what it sounds like. Malachai was five years old when the brother team started this venture, so you can only imagine how the storylines develop. Apparently, this was initially a webcomic and then became insanely popular. This whole volume is so flat-out absurd that I absolutely could not put it down. What crazy thing would come next? I mean, this is about a superhero named Axe Cop, who uses his axe to kill bad guys. And he works mostly at night because that’s when the bad guys are sleeping, so it’s easier to kill them then. The series just gets crazier and crazier – other superheroes join Axe Cop’s cause but then they sometimes turn out to be evil. But then sometimes we think they’re evil but they’re really good guys pretending to be bad guys pretending to be good guys. You see how this works? This whole book is basically that times 1000. There are dinosaurs and aliens and unicorn people and ninja werewolf crab warriors from the moon. I was laughing so much while reading; I probably looked like a crazy lady. The artwork is nothing to sneeze at, though, and shouldn’t be ignored. Niccole is clearly talented and has used this crazy idea to make a name for himself (there is actually a little bit in the book about how people have accused him of exploiting his brother and profiting unfairly from him but Ethan explains that if Malachai doesn’t feel like playing, Axe Cop doesn’t get written, and also, he shares the profits with him). This was a delightful find that is just the right amount of totally crazy. I would definitely recommend this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: The Difference Between You and Me

The Difference Between You and Me
By Madeline George
Expected publication March 15, 2012 by Viking Children's Books

Jesse is sort of your stereotypical lesbian - she wears manly clothes, she cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife, she believes in freeing the world from gender oppression, and if you saw her on the street, you'd probably assume she plays softball. But Jesse has a secret - it involves the third-floor handicapped bathroom of the library and someone not so stereotypical. Emily pretty much has it all - totally amazing boyfriend, stellar academic career with bonus looks-awesome-on-your-resume extracurriculars, vice presidency of the student council, etc. But she also has a secret - she can't deny the powerful feelings that come over her in the third-floor handicapped bathroom of the library.

I read George's debut novel a couple years ago and remember finding it a bit weird, but beautifully written. I think here, George has told a more easily accessible tale but her writing is not quite as memorable. I love that George chooses to tell this story - of the affair between Jesse and Emily. It is a bold choice and I think it will reach out to a lot of teens (really, in my opinion, there can never be enough well-written GLBTQ lit for young people). And this book is still very well-written; I just didn't find the language as poetic and memorable as her debut. What I find most memorable about this book is Jesse. I described her in that first sentence up there as your stereotypical lesbian - and in many ways she is. But Jesse is also incredibly unique and well-developed - I find her pieces of the book the most fascinating. What's interesting is that George chooses not to tell Jesse's story in first-person, as she does with Emily and Esther. Why does she make this choice? I can't really say, but I still feel like I know Jesse's inner workings better than Emily's or Esther's. But Emily and Esther are great characters, too - I think Emily wonderfully personifies the person in denial. She reminds me a lot of people I've known. And I love Esther's story. I am glad that we don't know exactly where this novel is going to go after it's over - and I feel like there is definitely still more story happening after we finish the last page. This book is immensely readable and I know it will strike a chord with many readers. I definitely recommend this title!

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (Guardians of Childhood, book 1)
By William Joyce and Laura Geringer
Published 2011 by Atheneum

I picked this up recently because I received an ARC of the second book at Midwinter. However, after finishing this one, I discovered that my ARC was actually only a sampler. Color me disappointed. Anyway, onto the review.

This is the story of Santa - before he was Santa. He was just Nicholas St. North and he battled the Nightmare King. This is the first chapter book in a new series that Joyce launched in preparation for an animated feature film to be released in 2013. The premise of the series is that there exist Guardians of Childhood - Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Man in the Moon, etc. - who guard Earth's children from the Nightmare King and his evil minions. They were making a huge deal about this at ALA Annual last summer, but then the first two books were released (a picture book came out prior to this chapter book) without much fanfare. I was very intrigued by the story this series is going to tell and I liked the picture book, but this entry fell short for me. I had hoped to be swept away - I think Joyce is one of the most imaginative people workings in children's media today. Instead, I felt bored. This is a pretty short book, but even then, it was difficult for me to keep my interest in it. The Santa connection is really not apparent at all, so I think that will be lost on children. I didn't feel as if the characters were tremendously well-developed. I fear that this whole project is perhaps a little too ambitious. I'll be interested to see how the rest of it fares, including the film.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind
By Meg Medina
Expected publication March 13, 2012 by Candlewick Press

Sonia was born the night of the worst storm her poor town has seen. And when the end of the storm seemed to coincide with her birth, the townspeople imbued Sonia with mystical powers. Now 16, Sonia is bent under the weight of her townspeople's prayers and is not sure how much more she can take. When a young boy for whom she had been praying is found dead, she begins to imagine escaping from the pressure. When an opportunity arises, she takes it. But disaster may await her in the big city...

This was one of the books I picked up randomly at Midwinter. I hadn't heard anything about it but the blurb on the back sounded interesting enough that I thought I'd give it a try. Now, I've read it and I feel decidedly ambivalent about it. I feel like this book doesn't really know what it wants to be - is it historical fiction? It might be, or maybe it just takes place in a remote enough location that the world of the book is untouched by modern conveniences. Is this a coming-of-age story? It could be, though I don't feel like we see Sonia grow enough (more on that later). Is this a paranormal novel? It hints at the mystical, with visitations from Sonia's deceased grandmother and the town's belief in Sonia's supernatural powers. But there is no suggestion that these things are actually happening. In today's literature, genre is increasingly hard to define - more and more books cross the boundaries between the various genres (with varying degrees of success). I don't have a problem with books that are hard to define. But I don't feel like this book was successful enough in any one direction to work for me. Additionally, even though we are treated, for the most part, to Sonia's point of view, I don't feel like we really get to know her enough to care about what she's growing through. And, as I mentioned before, I don't think she grows all that much over the course of the novel. Yes, she learns to stand up for herself and what she wants out of life, but I don't know that this characteristic wasn't present all along - she just suppressed it. I feel like most of what happened throughout the course of the novel was pretty predictable and some of the storylines didn't seem to go anywhere (the bit with Umberto, for instance). All in all, I think this book was trying to be many different things and for that reason, didn't really succeed at being any one. There are moments where I felt pulled into the story, but they were fleeting.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Review: Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems
By Gail Carson Levine, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Expected publication March 13, 2012 by HarperCollins

At the very beginning of this blog, I reviewed This is Just to Say, another book that takes a classic poem by William Carlos Williams as its inspiration. However, this book is a little different. See, Gail Carson Levine is mean. And she is not sorry.

This is a short but wonderful book of poetry inspired by a well-known poem. Levine takes a number of fairy-tale characters and has them write false apology poems, with hilarious results. She also includes some poems written by ordinary folks, apologizing (well, not really) for ordinary indiscretions. I think this book will be a big hit with kids - it's short but it's hilarious. It revisits a lot of things that kids already know about (the aforementioned fairy tale characters) but can also teach them a thing or two. Levine puts her introduction in the middle of the book (for which she writes a false apology to her editor) and here she explains why she wanted to write this book, as well as giving instructions for how to write your own false apology poems. This book would be perfect for the classroom or a book club because it has a built-in extension activity! The illustrations are simple but funny. Levine has a built-in audience from her extremely popular chapter books, so I hope this book is a big hit. I highly recommed it!

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (8)

Hugs From Pearl
By Paul Schmid
Published 2011 by HarperCollins Children’s Books
Okay, I have to start this review by saying OMG, so adorable! Pearl is a porcupine who absolutely loves giving hugs. But she hates it, too, because her hugs hurt her friends. Her friends like getting hugs from her, but they wish it didn’t hurt so much. Pearl tries everything she can think of to stop her hugs from hurting her friends – she puts pincushions on her quills, she tries soaking them to make them soft – but nothing works. Pearl is discouraged. Suddenly, she gets an idea from the roses. This book has a very sweet ending and absolutely precious illustrations – they are soft and pastel and so very cute. A totally adorable read.

Wiener Wolf
By Jeff Crosby
Published 2011 by Disney/Hyperion
I actually read this one a few months ago and forgot about it until I recently saw it again and was reminded of how much I loved it. This is another book that is just insanely adorable. I love dachshunds and I’m pretty sure that anyone else who loves them will really appreciate this book. This book is about believing in oneself and dreaming big. It is so sweet and wonderful with realistic and charming illustrations. I hope Wiener Wolf has more adventures in the future.

Jake Gander, Storyville Detective
By George McClements
Published 2002 by Hyperion Books for Children
I read about this one somewhere while I was working on programming for my new job. This is a fractured fairy tale (Little Red Riding Hood, to be specific). It’s a very nice introduction to detective work, though I’m not sure which age level this would work best for. Very young children know the story but might not get the intricacies of this fractured version and older children might view it as too baby-ish for them. The illustrations are interesting and work well for the story. This is an interesting fairy tale version that I was surprised to discover.

Extra Yarn
By Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Published 2012 by Balzer + Bray
My reaction to this book is hmm...what is this book about? The illustrations are simple and done in an interesting style, which I enjoy, but I don't really get this book. Maybe it's about imagination? Or hope? Or something far more tangible? I'm really at a loss with this one and hope others have had more success than me.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: Cross My Heart

Cross My Heart
By Sasha Gould
Expected publication March 13, 2012 by Delacourte Books for Young Readers

Laura della Scala has lived the last few years in a convent, where her father forcibly entered her when she was young. Her life is about to change in ways she never could have imagined. When she discovers her older sister, Beatrice, has died, she is devastated. But instead of being able to mourn, she is told she will marry Beatrice’s intended – a repugnant old merchant named Vincenzo. Desperate for a way out of this fate, Laura stumbles upon the Segreta – a society of Venetian women that specialize in secrets. For a price, they may be able to help her.

I can’t remember if I picked this one up or if a publisher gave it to me but either way, I was happy to delve into it. I’m a big fan of historical fiction, but I don’t read a whole lot nowadays that doesn’t take place in America. Gould does a decent job of evoking the Venice of the 16th century – what’s proper behavior, courtly intrigue, vengeance, secrets, suspicion, and the high value of esteem. It’s interesting because I don’t really think the writing is spectacular, but it had me hooked all the same. I think the atmosphere that Gould has created is the most compelling aspect of the novel – who doesn’t want to read about deadly secrets, intrigue and, yes, forbidden romance?  Laura is, at times, an annoying character, but it’s not hard to believe that a typical Venetian convent girl in the 16th century would probably have annoyed the hell out of me. I like that she is clueless because of her upbringing and not just because she’s a silly little girl. I also like how she eventually finds her voice and stands up for herself – even to her father, something that was definitely not okay at the time. The romance is a bit too convenient – as in, we only met twice but I know that I totally love you forever – so that part of the book fell a little flat. I’m glad to say that I didn’t have the mystery solved before the end of the book and I think the layers of deception and treachery will keep readers engaged. This is not a perfect book but it’s a pretty good one.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader’s copy.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Fairest

By Gail Carson Levine, read by Full Cast Audio
Published 2007 by Full Cast Audio

In the Kingdom of Ayortha, singing is prized above all other forms of communication. This is a blessing for Aza - she is arguably the most gifted singer the kingdom has ever seen. Which is a good thing, because Aza is no beauty. But Aza's voice is about to bring her good fortune - or is it terrible danger?

I downloaded this one on a whim and recently listened to the audiobook. I've listened to, and very much enjoyed, other Full Cast Audio presentations and I actually didn't realize this was one until I started listening. They are always excellently done with well-chosen narrators. In the case of this book, where much of the story revolves around singing, we also get incredibly well-done musical numbers. I enjoyed listening to this, although, at times, I actually got a big sick of all the singing (this is pretty surprising, coming from me). I think Aza is a heroine who is easy to relate to and I think this book would appeal to a lot of young girls. I actually didn't even realize that this was supposed to be a retelling of Snow White until Aza arrived at the home of the gnomes. Once I put those pieces together, I enjoyed the story even more and thought back over bits that I may have missed earlier in the book. This book is populated with interesting characters and the fairy tale elements are incorporated well into the story. I definitely want to read more by Levine now - or perhaps listen!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Judy Moody

Judy Moody (Judy Moody, book 1)
By Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Published 2002 by Candlewick Press

Judy Moody is about to start third grade and she is NOT looking forward to it. Everything will be different and she would rather that things stay the same. But Judy will learnt o express herself when a class project is assigned.

This is a series I've been meaning to read for a long time because it always looked so adorable. Plus, I will read pretty much anything illustrated by Peter Reynolds. I finally picked up the first one and found pretty much what I was expecting - this is a fun and sweet introductory chapter book that I think has wide appeal. The chapters are short and episodic - we get snatches of Judy's life but not a long flowing narrative. I think this works really well, especially for the intended audience. This is an excellent bridge series for those kids transitioning from early readers to chapter books. Plus, the humor will definitely appeal to kids. This is the first in the series and I hope to find time to read more!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (7)

Blue Chicken
By Deborah Freedman
Published 2011 by Viking Children's Books
The cover of this book is so striking that I can't imagine anyone who sees it being able to resist picking it up and exploring what's within. It's a really cute story - the chicken of the title just wants to help and ends up causing a bigger problem. This could easily be used for a storytime about being understanding or making mistakes. The illustrations are bright and beautiful and also sweet. I really just want to be friends with this group of barnyard friends.

By John Rocco
Published 2011 by Hyperion Books
This is a wonderful story about family and community as Rocco shows the city during a blackout. This book is clever because it can just be a fun book about blackouts for kids but it can also be a statement on technology and how alienating it can be for older kids and parents. The illustrations are vivid and incredibly evocative of the city and there is a beautifully sweet ending to this story. I can't really put my finger on what makes these illustrations so spectacular; they are just wonderful and make you realize just how artistic and beautiful children's books can be. Highly recommended, this book just won a 2012 Caldecott Medal Honor.

The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy
By David Soman and Jacky Davis
Published 2011 by Dial
Bumblebee Boy was first introduced to the world through the Ladybug Girl books. Now he has his own adventure. This is a wonderful story about sharing and being a big brother. Bumblebee Boy insists he flies alone, but Owen just wants to play with his brother. This book easily shows kids that sometimes we have to make adjustments for younger siblings. This could be used in a storytime about families and the illustrations suit the story well. Very cute.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: The Moon Over High Street

The Moon Over High Street
By Natalie Babbitt
Expected publication: March 1, 2012

The latest from the beloved author of Tuck Everlasting, this novel tells the story of Joe Casimir, a young boy who lives with his grandmother. The summer of his eleventh year, she breaks a hip and Joe is sent to live with Aunt Myra (who's actually more like a cousin). A strange series of events begins to unfold when Joe arrives in Midville.

I don't really remember reading Tuck Everlasting and I'm almost certain that I've never read anything else by Babbitt, but I figured I'd give this one a go. It's a very small and unassuming book, but for me, this did not equal a quick read. I found this book to be kind of bland and not particularly entertaining. I don't think the characters were very well developed - Joe's particular interest in the moon seemed like a quirk and didn't really give me enough to connect with. A very strange thing happens when Joe arrives in Midville and stumbles upon Midville's resident millionaire and to me, this plot didn't make a whole lot of sense. There was a distinct lack of reasoning for what was unfolding. This book really did not grab my attention. I think it's supposed to be more of a story with a message than a story about these specific characters, but the message didn't really seem all that unique to me. I guess maybe I'm too far outside the intended audience to have enjoyed this. A disappointment.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.