Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects...

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes. Lenore Look. 2010. September 2010. Random House. 192 pages.

My name is Alvin Ho. I was born scared, and I am still scared. I never thought I'd live to see myself in another book, on account I could've very well died camping in that last one.

Last year I discovered a wonderful, wonderful character named Alvin Ho. The first book: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. The second book: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters. I love so many things about Alvin. His shyness. His awkwardness. His charm. There is something vulnerable and adorable about Alvin that I adore. I love how he relates to his brother, Calvin, and his sister, Anibelly. I love how he relates to his parents. And then there is his best friend, Flea, even if she does happen to be a girl.

What does the third adventure bring? Two birthday parties. On the same day. One for his best friend, Flea. The other for one of the boys in his class. Conflict. You know there has to be conflict, right with two conflicting birthday parties scheduled the same day. Flea sent him an invitation. He said he'd go. He even (with his mom's help) picked out a birthday present for her. But. The day before the party, he gets invited to the other birthday party. And it sounds like fun. The guys will all be dressing up. (Alvin really, really wants to dress up as an Indian chief. I wish he wasn't so interested in dressing up and "playing" Indian.)

Of course, that is just a part of the conflict. Not taking into account the field trip with all the dead authors walking around. And Calvin's science project. And Alvin having a big talk with his dad on how to talk to a girl. That is found in chapter ten.
How to Talk To A Girl:

1. Listen with both ears.
2. Look her in the eye.
3. Nod or smile to show that you are doing no. 1.
4. Use your indoor voice.
5. Don't scream.
6. Don't carry a concealed weapon.
7. Don't carry a weapon period.
8. Don't wear a mask.
9. Don't burp.
10. Don't fart.
11. Don't do anything you think might impress her. (See 5 to 10)
12. Just be yourself.
13. Show no fear.
While I didn't love this one as much as the first two, I still enjoyed it. Well, parts of it at least. There were scenes that were just hilarious. Scenes where the humor really worked. And then there were other scenes--some of these being shown in the illustrations--that were just uncomfortable and disappointing.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beyond the Grave

Beyond the Grave: The 39 Clues #4. Jude Watson. 2009. Scholastic. 192 pages.

If Amy Cahill had to list what was wrong with eleven-year-old brothers, their habit of disappearing would be numero uno.
Or maybe the fact that they existed in the first place.
And then there was the whole burping the alphabet thing...

The search for the 39 clues has taken this loosely-supervised brother-sister team to Egypt. How much trouble can Dan and Amy get into while exploring tombs, shops, and museums? Quite a bit as you might guess.

Beyond the Grave has a good bit of substance--much more than I was expecting. Dan and Amy explore their feelings about their grandmother Grace's death. They talk about her. They talk about what she meant to them. About the memories. About the legacies. I know an adventure book that explores emotions! I wasn't expecting that either. But I must say I liked seeing the human side of the team.

There is plenty of action and adventure within this fourth adventure.

The first three: The Maze of Bones, One False Note, The Sword Thief.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dogs Don't Do Ballet

Dogs Don't Do Ballet. Anna Kemp. Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie. 2010. June 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.

My dog is not like other dogs. He doesn't do dog stuff like weeing on fire hydrants, or scratching his fleas, or drinking out of the toilet. If I throw him a stick, he looks at me like I'm crazy. So I have to fetch it myself. No, my dog likes music and moonlight and walking on his tiptoes.

I loved this book. I just loved it. It's got an adorable dog who thinks he's a ballet dancer. It's got an adorable heroine who loves her dog and loves ballet too. A little girl who can't quite convince her parents that her dog is special. It's a cute story, a fun story. I found it irresistible.

I loved the illustrations. I thought they were practically perfect. I thought they complemented the text well. And I think they definitely add to the charm!

Recommended for those that love dogs. Recommended for those that love dance.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Daddy's Little Scout

Daddy's Little Scout. Janet Bingham. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. 2010. Scholastic. 32 pages.
Little Fox was making music. "La, la, la!" he sang. "Shhh! said Daddy Fox. "Listen!" Little Fox stopped singing. "Tweet-tweet-tweet," sang the tree, sweetly.
Daddy's Little Scout is a companion to Mommy's Little Star. In this adventure, Little Fox and Daddy Fox are exploring nature. Daddy is teaching Little Fox about the world around him. Together they are meeting different animals. Daddy Fox teaching him, showing him, where different animals live, where they make their homes. It's a book celebrating spring too.

I didn't love this one. If I hadn't read Mommy's Little Star, then I might have liked this one better. But after knowing that there is a Mommy Fox. It's sad (at least sad to me) that she doesn't make an appearance in this one. One small appearance would have made a difference to me. But the book closes with Daddy Fox and Little Fox making a new home together, all cozy and affectionate.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Fathers Are Coming Home

The Fathers Are Coming Home. Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated by Stephen Savage. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
It is nighttime and the fathers are coming home.
The fish father swims home to his little fish that live in the gurgling brook.
The bug father flies home to his little bugs that live under the log.
I didn't love The Fathers Are Coming Home. Not at much as I'd hoped anyway.

The book is a traditional, old fashioned. Readers see different fathers coming home; these "fathers" are drawn from nature--ladybugs, spiders, fish, pigs, dogs, birds, etc. The book closes with a sailor coming home to his son.

There is one example that didn't quite fit with the others. And that is the case of a lion.
The lion father lives alone, so he comes home to himself.
This example doesn't match the premise, and it seems out of sorts with the rest.

I did enjoy the illustrations by Stephen Savage. They have a very traditional, very nostalgic look that complements the text well.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Father Knows The Names of Things

My Father Knows The Names of Things. Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch. 2010. April 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
My father knows the names of things,
Each bird that sings,
Their nicknames, too.
He knows the names of dogs
And cheese
And seven words that all mean blue.
A little boy celebrates his father in Jane Yolen's newest picture book. What makes this little boy's father so special, so great? Read and see for yourself!

What I liked best about My Father Knows the Names of Things is how poetic it is.

He knows which mosses are the fuzziest,
He knows which insects are the buzziest,
And when we're sailing on the sea
He tells the names of fish to me.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Daddy Loves His Little Girl

Daddy Loves His Little Girl. John Carter Cash. Illustrated by Marc Burckhardt. 2010. May 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
Daddy loves his little girl,
with arms spread open wide.
He cherishes the love you give
and holds it deep inside.

Daddy loves his little girl,
deep as the ocean blue.
Wide as the mighty river,
forever he'll love you.
I think you can get a good idea of what this one is about without me saying much. A case of what you see is what you get. If you're looking for a sweet, affectionate story--with poetic touches--then you'll enjoy John Carter Cash's Daddy Loves His Little Girl.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

I Love My Dad

I Love My Dad. Anna Walker. 2010. April 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
My name is Ollie. I love my dad.
We make banana bread--yum, yum!
Hot cocoa for everyone.
I ride my bike.
"Dad, look at me!"
This is a simple book about Ollie and his father. Ollie is sharing just why he loves his dad so much. If anything, this book celebrates the simple, the ordinary, the small moments in a family's life.

I didn't love this one. I didn't hate it either. It just was. (If that makes any sense.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 21, 2010

Daddy Is A Cozy Hug

Daddy is a Cozy Hug. Rhonda Gowler Greene. Illustrated by Maggie Smith. 2010. May 2010. Walker & Company. 32 pages.

Daddy is a fish with fins when summer heats the air. We splish and splash in crashing waves--a wiggling, wriggling pair.
Daddy is a tap-tap hammer, building things with me. We work tap-tap and make a house for birdies in our tree.
Daddy is a Cozy Hug is the perfect companion to Mommy Is a Soft, Warm Kiss. It's a sweet celebration of fatherhood. It celebrates the ordinary moments of life, of parenthood, of family life--through each season of the year. One of my favorite lines?
Daddy is a sneaky fox when playing hide and seek.
He makes himself so hard to find...I sometimes have to peek.
The story is told through rhyme, but it's good rhyme so it works well! I also liked the illustrations. I thought they worked well with the text.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Daddy Calls Me Doodlebug

Daddy Calls Me Doodlebug. J.D. Lester. Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata. 2010. Random House. 26 pages.

Daddy calls me Doodlebug...it's time to play! Yippeee!!

What you see is what you get...this little board book celebrates fatherhood. The language is very playful, very imaginative.

For example,
Daddy calls me Goo-and-Go...we make some mucky messes.
Daddy calls me Mini-Me...we're swinging right along!
Daddy Calls Me Doodlebug would be a nice companion to Mommy Calls Me Monkeypants.

I really enjoyed the illustrations by Hiroe Nakata.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Kisses for Daddy

Kisses for Daddy. Frances Watts. Illustrated by David Legge. 2010. April 2010. Simon & Schuster. 26 pages.

I really liked this one. I thought it was cute and playful. I loved the text. Here's how it starts off,
Baby Bear was grumbly. He didn't want to go to bed. He didn't want his bath, and he didn't want to kiss his mom and dad good night.
"Come on, grumbly bear," said his dad. "A big bear kiss for Mom, a big bear kiss for Dad, then bath and bed."
"No," said Baby Bear.
Is this night destined for a fit? Or can Daddy Bear turn things around? As the two prepare for bed, Daddy Bear keeps trying to sneak in kisses--giraffe kisses, koala kisses, crocodile kisses, bat kisses, tiger kisses, monkey kisses, etc.--but Baby Bear is stubborn yet. No kisses for Daddy. (Mom got a big bear kiss early on soon after the drama started.) Is there a happy ending in store? Will there be peace yet? Read and see for yourself in this little board book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Brand New Baby Blues

Brand-New Baby Blues by Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. 2009. December 2009. HarperCollins. 32 pages.

Once upon a time
I was the only one,
I was the cat's pajamas,
I was the moon and sun.

It was me and only me--
I was the icing on the cake.
I was the royal pooh-bah,
the chocolate in the shake.

But everything changes when this little girl gets a baby brother. Now our little heroine has a case of the brand-new baby blues. While her life may never be quite the same again, can she find a way to count her blessings? Can she even learn to love him?

I liked this one. It was good to see this little girl learn to love--if not like--her little brother day by day, week by week.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, June 18, 2010

Toy Story 3: A Read-Aloud Storybook

Toy Story 3: A Limited Collector's Edition Read-Aloud Storybook. Adapted by Christine Peymani. 2010. Random House. 72 pages.

Sheriff Woody was in the middle of another exciting adventure.

Where does Woody fit into the picture now that Andy, his owner, is all grown up? What does Andy's going to college mean to his oh-so-loyal toys? Is the best case scenario a box up in the attic? For better or worse, that is not where Andy's toys end up. No, these toys are "destined" to leave the house once again on a wild-and-crazy adventure. An adventure that introduces them to plenty of new friends--and perhaps an enemy or two! What will become of them now? Will these toys get their happily ever after?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Toy Story 3: The Junior Novelization

Toy Story 3: The Junior Novelization by Jasmine Jones. 2010. Random House. 128 pages.

"Okay, places, everyone. Get in position," Woody the cowboy said in a hushed voice.

Now that Andy is all grown up and getting ready to go to college, some difficult decisions have to be made. His mom tells him that he needs to decide what to take to college, what to store in the attic, what to give away, and what to throw away. What does this mean for Woody, Buzz, and all of Andy's other toys that we've come to know and love?

Woody is single-minded in his devotion. No matter WHAT happens, Woody always believes the best, thinks the best. When all others doubt and question, Woody is there to remind them of the truth. That they are Andy's. That they will always be Andy's. But Woody may just have to make a few tough decisions of his own...

This book is a novelization of the movie. (A movie I haven't seen yet.) It includes a handful of colored scenes from the film.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

House of Dolls

House of Dolls. Francesca Lia Block. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. 2010. June 2010. HarperCollins. 61 pages.

Wildflower, Rockstar, and Miss Selene lived in a house from another time, a white house with a red roof and red shutters and a red front door. In the garden was a real bonsai tree and a reflecting pool made from a pocket mirror tucked into a lawn of real moss. The floors were tiled with black-and-white parquet or softly carpeted, and the walls were covered with floral paper, foil mirrors, and paintings in gold doily frames. Above the dining room table was a silver chandelier fixed with birthday candles. Silk and lace curtains hung at every window.

Sometimes presentation matters. House of Dolls by Francesca Lia Block is a lovely example. It is beautiful inside-and-out. It is a small little book, but great attention has been paid to detail.

Wildflower, Rockstar, and Miss Selene are dolls now owned by Madison Blackberry, a very unhappy, quite lonely little girl. These dolls don't get played with very often--but the dolls don't mind. These are older dolls, and they enjoy keeping their own company. (And Madison's grandmother hasn't forgotten them completely--these dolls still get the occasional treat of a new dress.) Two of the dolls have boyfriends.
Wildflower was a celluloid doll with long black braids of real hair, pale skin, and big brown eyes with painted-on eyelashes. Guy was a dark-skinned plastic doll in army fatigues. It did not matter that they looked nothing alike.
The first time Madison Blackberry lay them down next to each other in the white lace canopy bed and their arms brushed, Wildflower and Guy knew they never wanted to be separated. Because Wildflower had lived so long and seen so much of the world, she would have been content just to sit beside Guy for the rest of her existence. (7)
Rockstar also has a boyfriend. But her boyfriend isn't a boy at all.
B. Friend was a devastatingly handsome stuffed bear with button eyes, an embroidered nose, and jointed arms and legs. He was a studious fellow with round wire-rimmed glasses with lenses made of clear dried nail polish. B. Friend wore a red crochet beret and a red flannel vest and britches. (9)
Miss Selene is a fairy doll. Since she doesn't have a soul mate, she spends her time trying on dress after dress. That is when she's not feeling sad about something she can't quite remember.

Why is Madison so unhappy? What will she do in frustration, in anger, in boredom? Well, you'll just have to read and see for yourself...

House of Dolls is about dolls. But it is about more than dolls. It is about a very real little girl struggling with some darker emotions. It is about a little girl very much in need of love and affection. It is an emotional story about a family learning just how much they need one another.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The 39 Clues: The Sword Thief

The Sword Thief (The 39 Clues #3). Peter Lerangis. 2009. March 2009. Scholastic. 160 pages.

They were toast.
Amy Cahill eyed the battered black duffel bag rumbling up the airport conveyor belt. It bulged at the corners. The sign above the belt said THANK YOU FOR VISITING VENICE! RANDOM PIECES OF CHECKED-LUGGAGE WILL BE SEARCHED in five languages.
"Oh, great," Amy said. "How random is random?"

The search is on in this third novel in the 39 Clues series. Amy and her brother, Dan, are still pursuing the clues with the "supervision" of their nanny. But things aren't getting off to the best of starts. And these two might just have to trust one of their enemies--a family member of course--if they're to continue in their quest. Will trading secrets with one another be enough motivation to stay a team for a whole clue? You'll just have to see for yourself.

I actually liked this one better than One False Note. I'm not quite sure why. (It could be a timing issue. It could be I knew more what to expect since I'd just read the second book.) While I don't love this series, while I don't even really like this series, it does have a few good things going for it. The books are short. The books are well-paced. They're packed with action and adventure and mystery. And for the target audience--kids--I think the series has plenty of appeal.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Orangutans are Ticklish

Orangutans Are Ticklish: Fun Facts From an Animal Photographer. Steve Grubman and Jill Davis. 2010. June 2010. Random House. 40 pages.

I really loved this one. You could say it had me at hello. Who could resist a book with a cover (front and back) like this? I *wish* you could see the back cover! This is a very fun, very playful, yet very informative picture book. Steve Grubman is an animal photographer. And Orangutans Are Ticklish features some of his photographs. Accompanying these photos are a collection of animal facts.
A hippo's yawn doesn't mean she's tired. It means she wants to fight.
These fat, fleshy feet are holding up a lot of hippo! That's why each foot has four webbed toes. They splay out like fans to share the heavy weight of the body.
See the eyes and nostrils high atop the hippo's head? That's so the hippo can see and breathe while she sits in water all day long--just like a frog.
If you enjoyed this one, you should definitely seek out Animal Faces by Akira Satoh and Kyoko Toda. Also Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How To Clean Your Room In 10 Easy Steps

How To Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps. Jennifer LaRoue Huget and Edward Koren. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 40 pages.
Welcome to my room. You will notice that it is very clean. I'm going to show you how you can clean yours, too. The first thing we need is a messy room. The messier, the better.
How To Clean Your Room In 10 Easy Steps is one very silly book. It may just make your little ones--if they're messy--laugh out loud. What's the first step? Can you guess? It is
"Always wait until your mother hollers, "GET UP THERE AND CLEAN YOUR ROOM--NOW!" using all three of your names."
It continues,
"You can pretend you're too busy to hear. Or you can answer her. Say, "But my room isn't messy. I know exactly where everything is!" When she hollers again, you'd better get moving."
The second step?

"Pull everything out of your drawers and closet and shelves. Every Single Thing."
I won't tell you ALL the steps. After all, I want to give you plenty of reason to pick up the book for yourself. My favorite step would probably be #5.
"Carefully arrange all your stuffed animals on your bed."
It goes on to add,
"It's very important that you stop to remember ever single animal's name."
It's easy to relate to this one--as either the kid or the grown-up! I would definitely recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Barry The Fish With Fingers

Barry The Fish With Fingers by Sue Hendra. 2010. June 2010. Random House. 40 pages.

Sea Slug liked to lie on the ocean floor and watch the fish swim by.
He did this every day.

One day the Sea Slug is surprised by what he sees. (This is a guy who thinks he's seen everything.) What's so amazing? This Sea Slug sees a fish with fingers. Yes, readers are introduced to a unique fish named Barry. A fish that thinks fingers are the BEST thing ever. What can a fish with fingers do? Well, he can entertain the other fish--the perpetually bored fish--with finger puppets, or he can tickle them, or do more productive things like type a letter or knit a scarf. He can even use his fingers to communicate--in this instance--danger. With fingers like these, Barry is popular. Everyone wants to know how they can get fingers too...

Can you guess how that might happen?

Barry the Fish With Fingers is one of the oddest books I've reviewed this year. Right up there with Lawn to Lawn. Though it is a different kind of odd. This is more silly. Would children giggle at the idea of a fish with fingers? I may have to try it out and see...

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Best Friend is As Sharp As A Pencil

My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil. Hanoch Piven. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 40 pages.

When Grandma comes to visit, she asks so many questions about school. What is your teacher like? What's your favorite part of the day? Who is your best friend? Who is your favorite teacher? Who do you play with? Who is your second-best friend? Who's in your class? This time, instead of giving her the same old boring answers, I have an idea...I'll show her!

I enjoyed My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil. I liked the expressiveness of it. How the text and art work together to create descriptions. For example, the young boy on the cover--the best friend, Jack--is described this way:

Jack knows everything about every country in the world.
Jack is as sharp as a pencil,
as curious as a magnifying glass,
and as precise as a microscope.
The art shows a boy with globes for eyes, magnifying glasses for glasses, a pencil for a smile, and a microscope as a nose. This book--in many ways--all about the art, the illustrations. The way you can use objects--everyday objects--in art. I also liked the language--the text is just as rich as the art in some ways. I like the way the librarian is described:

Listening to Mrs. Sheila, the librarian, is as exciting as rubbing a magic lamp.
She is as interesting as a book full of stories.
When she reads them, her eyes shine like marbles.
She can be as funny as a clown or as scary as a monster.
© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Phoenix and the Carpet

The Phoenix and the Carpet. E. Nesbit. 1904. 224 pages.

It began with the day when it was almost the Fifth of November, and a doubt arose in some breast--Robert's, I fancy--as to the quality of the fireworks laid in for the Guy Fawkes celebration.

The Phoenix and the Carpet is the sequel to Five Children and It. It stars Robert, Anthea, Jane, Cyril, and Lamb. (Though Lamb isn't a big star in the novel, he does manage to steal a few scenes in this one!) If you thought the magical adventures for these children were over--now that they've returned to the city and are far from their Psammead--you'd be wrong. (The Psammead is the "It" from the previous book.) For the delightful-sometimes-dangerous adventures are just beginning. After an "accident" in the nursery ruins the carpet, the carpet is replaced with a magical one. And this magical carpet holds another secret--for within it was an egg. Not just an ordinary egg. No, the Phoenix hatches from this egg--once another "accident" lands it in the nursery fireplace. The children now have THE Phoenix and a magic carpet--so you see the adventures are just beginning. Do you think these children are any wiser this time around? Do you think their wishes will lead them into trouble? Or into trouble that they can't think themselves out of?

Some of my favorite passages:

On this particular Sunday there were fowls for dinner, a kind of food that is generally kept for birthdays and grand occasions, and there was an angel pudding, when rice and milk and orange and write icing do their best to make you happy. (52)
Mother was really a great dear. She was pretty and she was loving, and most frightfully good when you were ill, and always kind, and almost always just. That is, she was just when she understood things. But of course she did not always understand things. No one understands everything, and mothers are not angels, though a good many of them come pretty near it. The children knew that mother always wanted to do what was best for them, even if she was not clever enough to know exactly what was the best. (73)
There were many things I loved about this one. I loved the trouble that comes about when the wishing carpet makes its own wish--and brings back one-hundred and ninety-nine Persian cats. Of course, that is only the start of that particular mishap...

I also LOVED Lamb's scenes in this novel. In particular when this little one crawled onto the wishing carpet and started babbling. The carpet, of course, understands all languages--even baby ones--and Lamb and the carpet vanish. This puzzles the children, how will they get their baby brother back?! How can they ever explain to their mom what happened?! I won't tell you how this one resolves, but I just loved it!

I loved this one. I don't know that I love it any more than I do Five Children and It. I just know that I love E. Nesbit. I love her narrative style. I love her descriptions. And I am so very thankful I've discovered her! And I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.

Have you read any Nesbit? Do you have a favorite book? Which do you think I should read next?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 7, 2010

Five Children and It

Nesbit, Edith. 1902. Five Children and It. Puffin Classics. 237 pages.

The house was three miles from the station, but before the dusty hired fly had rattled along for five minutes the children began to put their heads out of the carriage window and to say, 'Aren't we nearly there?' And every time they passed a house, which was not very often, they all said, 'Oh, is this it?' But it never was, till they reached the very top of the hill, just past the chalk-quarry and before you come to the gravel-pit. And then there was a white house with a green garden and an orchard beyond, and mother said, 'Here we are!'

Robert, Anthea (Panther), Jane, Cyril, and Baby (Lamb) have come (along with their parents, of course) to spend some time in the country. But circumstances being what they are--parents in general being more a nuisance in a children's adventure story than anything else--the children are often all on their own except for some slight interference by Martha their nurse-maid. It is while they are exploring the gravel-pit that the children--much to their surprise--discover a sand fairy, a Psammead. (He is quite a character!) The children are granted a wish a day (thereabouts)...and thus the adventures begin.

I daresay you have often thought what you would do if you had three wishes given you, and have despised the old man and his wife in the black-pudding story, and felt certain that if you had the chance you could think of three really useful wishes without a moment's hesitation. These children had often talked this matter over, but, now the chance had come suddenly to them, they could not make up their minds. (17)
They may have their wish a day, but their wish ends at sunset. And as they discover, this is a VERY good thing!

This one is a funny adventure novel starring brothers and sisters who know how to get in and out of trouble and then some! I'm so happy I finally read this one. It was such a joy to read.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The 39 Clues: One False Note

One False Note. Gordon Korman. 2008. Scholastic. 160 pages.

The hunger strike began two hours east of Paris.

One False Note is the sequel to Rick Riordan's The Maze of Bones. In the first book, readers are introduced to Dan and Amy Cahill. These two children are just two of the people who accept the strange challenge set forth in Grace Cahill's will. They are just part of the mad clan dashing frantically around the globe trying to unearth the family secrets and piece this puzzle together. Time matters. Loyalty does not. Can any person be trusted?

In this second adventure, the two are trying to puzzle out how Mozart figures into the family secret. Where is the clue hidden? And why do they need to go to so many boring--at least boring-to-Dan--museums to solve the mystery?

I'm not the biggest fan of this series--well the two I've read so far. But I am not the target audience for this one. I think they are quick reads. I think they're well-paced. I think there is enough action and adventure and mystery involved to keep readers reading. (At least if readers are initially hooked.)

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones

Riordan, Rick. 2008. The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones.

First sentence: Five minutes before she died, Grace Cahill changed her will.

So, if you're like me, you're probably wondering...how does MAZE OF BONES compare to The Lightning Thief and the rest of the Percy Jackson series? Better than? Worse than? Bout the same? I'll try to answer that question in my review of this first book in a new series.

One of the things that first struck me about Riordan's writing way back when--before Percy Jackson became the ever-so-popular series that it's become--was how great he was at crafting sentences and hooking readers. The Lightning Thief impressed me because almost every single chapter began with a great first sentence. Something so clever, so witty, so catchy, so intriguing that you wanted to keep reading.

Here are a few of the first (chapter) sentences in The Maze of Bones.

"Dan Cahill thought he had the most annoying big sister on the planet. And that was before she set fire to two million dollars." (4)
"Amy Cahill thought she had the most annoying little brother on the planet. And that was before he almost got her killed." (21)
"Dan felt a dizzy rush, like the time he ate twenty packs of Skittles." (35)
"Amy could've lived in the secret library. Instead she almost died there." (47)

Of course, those are just the first few examples, and the pattern doesn't always hold up later on in the book...but by this point if you're not hooked in the story, then chances are you won't be.

The book is all about mystery and adventure. Dan and Amy are a brother-sister team who have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to discover the family secret and perhaps save the world. True, the premise is a bit of a stretch. Two kids from a crazy-wild-dysfunctional family--orphans, but what else would you expect--set out to prove themselves worthy of the challenge set forth by their grandmother's will. The Cahill family, the clan, has the secret of all secrets. And it's a secret that some feel holds the key to the world's fate--for better or worse.

Dan and Amy aren't the only ones looking to discover this secret--revealed one clue at a time--there are teams from within the Cahill family. And they're all in a race to be the first. There can only be one winner after all. And most teams will stop at nothing to win--even if it means turning evil and trying to kill the competition.

This first book reveals the first clue and its focus is on Benjamin Franklin.

There will be ten books in all. The second book, One False Note, will be out in December 2008, it is by Gordon Korman. The third book, The Sword Thief, will be out in March 2009. It is by Peter Lerangis. Seven more books will follow. The tenth one is *supposed* to be out in the fall of 2010.

My thoughts. The book is entertaining enough. The pacing seems to be about right. The characters don't have as much depth (at least not so far) as I'd hoped. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, some stories are all about the characters and others are all about the action. And if you're looking for action, adventure, mystery, (and plenty of explosions) then this one will satisfy. The series seems a bit gimmicky in all honesty. Not that I think kids will mind that. The books. The trading/collector cards. The games on the website. etc. It's important to keep in mind that I'm not the book's target audience. What is important is if this book--and the remaining books in the series--will appeal to kids and keep them reading. Books need to be exciting to read. And series books feel a certain need. An important one. [It's not that Babysitter's Club had any *true* literary merit, but as a reader at that age, at that time, they felt a very real need. And I think these books can do the same.]


© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dear Teacher

Dear Teacher. Amy Husband. 2010. July 2010. Sourcebooks. 24 pages.

Michael is a little boy who does NOT want to go to school. The book opens with a letter--well, in all honesty, the whole book is composed of letters. This opening letter is a welcome letter from the principal at his school. A letter introducing him to his new teacher, Miss Brooks. Most of the book is then his letters to Miss Brooks. What does he write about? What could he possibly have to say? Well, he's concocting a story--a very elaborate, detailed story--quite the adventure story at that. This story, he is sure, will explain why he couldn't possibly come to school. He'll definitely, definitely be missing the first day of school. Why the nation depends on him, doesn't it?!

Dear Teacher is silly and imaginative. I liked it. Here is Michael's first letter:

Dear Teacher,

I might be a bit late for the first day of school. The weirdest thing happened today. The head of the secret service turned up! They need me for a special secret mission to find a missing explorer. I did mention the math test, but he just said that the future of the country depends on me. I couldn't say no. Sorry Miss Brooks.

From Michael

P.S. Bruno's coming with me he makes a great bloodhound.
P.P.S. The stuff I've told you is Top Secret, so please eat this letter.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Zig and Wikki In Something Ate My Homework

Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework. Trade Loeffler and Nadja Spiegelman. 2010. April 2010. Toon Books. 40 pages.

Wikki, are you playing video games again?
Yes, Zig. I almost beat level ten.
Turn that off! We always get lost when you drive!
It's OK! I know where we are! I think...

Zig and Wikki are aliens. Wikki is falling behind in his schoolwork. His homework is late, late, late. And his teacher is not happy. What is his assignment? To bring in a pet for the class zoo. Fortunately--or unfortunately--these two aliens are close to Earth when they get the call. Can these two find a cool pet on Earth to take back with them? What trouble can these two get into on a strange planet? What can they learn in such a short amount of time?

Readers can learn--alongside two aliens--some cool facts about flies, dragonflies, frogs, and raccoons.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker

Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker. Geoffrey Hayes. 2010. May 2010. Toon Books. 32 pages.

What are you making?
A map! It shows you how to find loot.
Oh, loot!
What's "loot"?
Benny and Penny are upset to hear that Cousin Bo has come to play. Why? Well, Bo is a toy-breaker. And the two don't trust Bo at all. Can these two find a way to play nicely? A way to play where everyone is happy and no one is crying? One thing is certain, there is plenty of drama to be had by all...

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Just What Mama Needs

Just What Mama Needs. Sharlee Mullins Glenn. Illustrated by Amiko Hirao. 2008. Harcourt. 32 pages.

On Monday Abby wore a red-striped shirt, raggedy pants, and a black patch over one eye. She swaggered around and sliced the air with her sword. "Yo, ho, ho!" she shouted. "A pirate!" said Mama. "Just what I need." So, Abby helped Mama swab the deck. Swish. Swish. Swash.

Abby, our heroine, loves to play dress up, loves to play make believe. Every day of the week readers see Abby at play. And every day of the week readers see just how much Abby is loved by her mom. I loved Abby. I loved seeing how her Mom uses her daughter's creativity--her imagination--to her advantage. I especially loved Saturday when Abby was a queen.
"So Abby helped Mama do the royal shopping. The store doors opened at her command. She rode high in her silver carriage and called out her orders: "Five bananas! Two loaves of bread! One jar of peanut butter!" She helped pay with coins from the imperial treasury. Plink. Plink. Plink."
I've never read a book about chores that was so charming.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers