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Author Archives: lharper2015

Short

Title:  Short
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Series:
Recommended for: 5th grade and up
Pages: 304
Call Number/Link: Short

Synopsis: Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn’t ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive–one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins. With her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn’t want to fade into the background–and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!

Okay, a book involving a short person and Wizard of Oz.  How could I resist?  This is another awesome book by Holly Sloan (Counting by Sevens).  I’m usually a scifi/fantasy reader instead of sweet realistic fiction.  But this is a book that’s sweet but not syrupy. It has a message but doesn’t beat you over the head with it.  Fans of Smile, Out of My Mind and those type of books will love it.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Juv, Realistic, Uncategorized

 

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Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World

Title: Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World (right now only available as e book or from other libraries)
Author: Bill Nye and Gregory Mone
Series: Jack and the Geniuses
Recommended for: 3rd grade and up
Pages: 256
Call Number/Link:  Jack and the Geniuses

Synopsis:  In the series opener, Jack and the Geniuses: At The Bottom of The World, readers meet Jack and his foster siblings, Ava and Matt, who are orphans. But they’re not your typical kind of orphans—they’re geniuses. Well, Ava and Matt are, which sometimes makes life difficult for 1twelve-year-old Jack. Ava speaks multiple languages and builds robots for fun, and Matt is into astronomy and a whiz at math. As for Jack, it’s hard to stand out when he’s surrounded by geniuses all the time.

When the kids try to spy on Dr. Hank Witherspoon, one of the world’s leading scientists, they end up working for him in his incredible laboratory. Soon, Hank and the kids travel to Antarctica for a prestigious science competition, but they find that all is not as it seems: A fellow scientist has gone missing, and so has any trace of her research. Could someone be trying to use her findings to win the contest? It’s up to Jack, Ava, and Matt to find the missing scientist and discover who’s behind it all—before it’s too late.

This was pretty much what I would expect from a book influenced by Bill Nye:  A  fast paced story with lots of science facts thrown in.  Sometimes I get tired of all of the ‘stem’ based books that are coming out but I found this one to be entertaining and fun.  I liked the fact that Jack turns out to be a very important member of this trio even though he isn’t a genius.  He’s the one with the practical knowledge and street smarts that get his adopted siblings out of trouble.

 

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Adventure, Mysteries

 

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The Great Trouble

Title: The Great Trouble
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Series:NA
Recommended for: 4th grade and up
Pages: 272
Call Number/Link:  The Great Trouble

Synopsis: Equal parts medical mystery, historical novel, and survival story about the 1854 London cholera outbreak, this introduces Eel, a boy trying to make ends meet on Broad Street. When he visits one of his regular employers, he learns the man has fallen ill. Eel enlists the help of Dr. Snow, and together they work to solve the mystery of what exactly is causing the spread of cholera and how they can prevent it. Steeped in rich fact and detailed explanations about laboratory research, Hopkinson’s book uses a fictional story to teach readers about science, medicine, and history—and works in a few real-life characters, too. Eel serves as a peek into the lower class of London society and offers readers a way to observe—and, hopefully, ask questions about—the scientific method. An author’s note provides readers with a look at the real story behind the novel, making this a great choice for introducing readers to science and history.

This would be a great choice for those historical fiction genre assignments.  She gives a great description of London in the mid 19th century and makes you grateful for indoor plumbing and modern medicine.  My only complaint is that the pacing is a little slow.  It picks up around the middle when the cholera epidemic breaks out.  But I wouldn’t recommend it for reluctant readers.

 

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Historical

 

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Series:
Recommended for: 9th grade and up
Pages:  317
Call Number/Link:  TEEN FICTION NESS

Synopsis:  In this highly satiric exploration of the “chosen one” genre, an incredibly normal group of friends are approaching the end of high school and their parting of ways. Mikey is just trying to get through the year and hopefully ask his longtime crush to the prom. Similarly, each person in Mikey’s close-knit circle of friends is battling a myriad of highly relatable issues: jealousy, various insecurities, and dysfunctional family relationships. The beginning of each chapter also contains an update in the concurrent story line centering on the “indie kids.” These are Mikey and his pals’ extraordinary peers, those from exceptional families who are exclusively chosen whenever there is a supernatural occurrence. They’ve fought off zombies and fallen in love with vampires, and now they’re being targeted by the Immortals, a mysterious group looking for a permanent Vessel. In the end, Mikey and his friends come to grips with the ways in which they are both ordinary and extraordinary. 

I picked this book because I really liked the premise.  What DO the ordinary kids do while the chosen ones battle monsters?  Unfortunately the story fell flat for me.  Maybe it was because I listened to it as an audio book, but I found it very hard to enter the story and really care about the characters.  It’s written in kind of a stream of consciousness style that really didn’t work for me.  Each chapter starts with a brief description of what’s happening with the ‘indie’ kids followed by a chapter about the ordinary kids.  It all felt disjointed and disconnected and I got to the point where I really didn’t care what happened to the characters.  Kids who are fans of this kind of narrative (like ‘Going Bovine’) might like this and it’s gotten lots of praise from reviewers, but not from me.  Sorry.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in Dystopian, Fantasy, self-esteem

 

Thieving Weasels

thieving-weaselsTitle: Thieving Weasels
Author: Billy Taylor
Series:
Recommended for: 8th grade and up
Pages: 250
Call Number/Link:  TEEN FICTION TAYLOR, B.

 

Synopsis: Cameron Smith attends an elite boarding school and has just been accepted to Princeton University alongside his beautiful girlfriend, Claire. Life for Cameron would be perfect, except that Cameron Smith is actually Skip O’Rourke, and Skip O’Rourke ran away from his grifter family four years ago…along with $100,000 of their “earnings” (because starting a new life is not cheap). But when his uncle Wonderful tracks him down, Skip’s given an ultimatum: come back to the family for one last con, or say good-bye to life as Cameron.

“One last con” is easier said than done when Skip’s family is just as merciless (and just as manipulative) as they’ve always been, and everyone around him is lying. Skip may have given up on crime, but there’s one lesson he hasn’t forgotten: always know your mark. And if you don’t know who your mark is . . . it’s probably you.

I enjoyed this book.  Ally Carter’s Heist Society books are some of my favorites and this book has some of the same feel.  It’s not quite as fanciful as the Carter books (where they talk about cons with names like Rapunzel or Big Bad Wolf with a twist).  This seems a bit grittier but still very entertaining for lovers of heist and con artist books.  Light and fun with no teen drama and angst to slow things down.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in Funny

 

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The Underdogs

underdogsTitle:  The Underdogs
Author: Sara Hammel
Series:
Recommended for: 5th grade and up
Pages: 320
Call Number/Link:  J FICTION HAMMEL, S.

Synopsis: The big reveal in this mystery is not who murdered golden girl Annabel Harper at an exclusive Massachusetts tennis club—though that’s startling enough. No, there’s actually a far bigger surprise. In alternating chapters, narrator Chelsea fills readers in on all that happened the weeks before Annabel was found dead by the side of the club’s pool, and after, as a local detective examined motives and opportunities among rising teen tennis stars, rich kids, and club personnel. Annabel was a fixture at the club, where her older brother was a lifeguard, and was especially nice to Chelsea and her best friend, Evie. Beautiful and sweet, Annabel attracted a great deal of attention and jealousy. But who could have disliked her enough to murder her? As with most good cozies, the suspects are numerous and the detective is tenacious. He has to be—as Evie and Chelsea follow him around and make dangerous discoveries on their own. Meanwhile, Evie, who is teased for being overweight, discovers she has a natural gift for tennis, though her tennis pro father seems not to notice. Readers learn more about Chelsea’s mysterious and abusive past before the club’s manager adopted her. The plot is well-thought-out, and though there isn’t a great deal of character development, except in Evie’s case, there doesn’t have to be for this mystery to score. VERDICT Once they get to the end, mystery lovers will want to go back and read it all again to find the hidden clues.

I wasn’t sure about this book at first.  It took me a while to get into it.  It might be because there isn’t a lot of character development except for Chelsea and Evie.  I hung in there through the first couple of chapters to learn more about them.  It was worth it.  I really didn’t see the twist at the end coming, and that doesn’t happen very often.  I would recommend this for mystery lovers and for kids who like books with puzzles and problems to solve.  There aren’t individual puzzles, the book itself is one big puzzle.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in Juv, Mysteries

 

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The Last Boy at St. Edith’s

last boyTitle: The Last Boy at St. Edith’s
Author: Lee Gjertsen Malone
Series:
Recommended for: 5th or 6th grade and up
Pages: 260
Call Number/Link:  J FICTION MALONE, L.

Synopsis:  There used to be 27 boys at St. Edith’s Academy, but one by one they all left, leaving seventh grader Jeremy with 475 classmates—all girls. His best friends are sarcastic Claudia and prim Emily. He even lives with all girls—two sisters and his single mother. Jeremy becomes desperate to find out how his life could be different if he had even one guy friend. But to do that, he needs to go to another school. How can he get kicked out of St. Edith’s without completely damaging his chances of getting a good high school scholarship? Claudia has the answer in one word, pranks. Soon Jeremy is caught in a web of lies and pranks gone awry. Ultimately, he realizes that although he doesn’t have a single male friend at school, he has wonderful friends (who just happen to be girls) and St. Edith’s might actually be pretty great. Set in western Massachusetts, this realistic novel is grounded in the relationships between the convincingly flawed but emotionally and intellectually compelling characters. The clever dialogue is humorous yet believable. Several characters belong to a film club, and there are frequent references to films and filmmaking, which are accessible to cinema buffs and newbies alike. Short chapters and growing urgency as the pranks and stakes rise keep the plot moving quickly.

I really liked this book.  It’s funny, the characters are really well developed and it examines middles school relationships without being serious or preachy.  Jeremy’s mom is a single parent and because she works at St. Edith’s, her children get a tuition break.  Jeremy understands why his mom wants him to stay at St. Edith’s instead of going to a sketchy public school, but  the odds are definitely not in his favor.  He feels that the only way out is to get expelled.  When his pranks cause damage and injury he eventually sees who his real friends are.  This is not as goofy funny as ‘Wimpy Kid’  but the kids are funny and snarky and yet still realistic.  I would really recommend it for fans of the funny middle school ‘genre’. It rises above the rest of the pack.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in Uncategorized