Monday, May 12, 2008

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

Synopsis: It is the year 2194. 13 year old Tendai, along with his younger sister Rita, and little brother Kuda, decide to leave the sheltered compound of their home and explore the city to earn a Scout badge. Almost immediately, they are taken prisoner by a monstrous woman known as the She Elephant and forced to work in a plastics mine. Their beleaguered parents, General Matsika and his wife, decide to hire the only detectives in Zimbabwe, three odd figures with hypersensitive senses known as the Ear, the Eye, and the Arm.

Assessment: What I loved most about this book was Farmer's ability to combine traditional African culture and mythology into a futuristic fantasy book. The characters are just as deep, interesting, and fun as they adventure they all undertake. The non-stop action will have you glued until the end. A wonderful read!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer

Synopsis: It's already shaping up to be a terrible day for Peter Schock when his father has to cancel their grand day out together and instead he has to spend the day with Kate Dyer and her family. When her father shows the children a new anti-gravity machine, it somehow transport Peter and Kate back to 1763. Although they are fortunate to have been befriended by the kindly Gideon Seymour, they discover that their machine, and their only hopes of returning home, has been stolen by a cunning and dastardly fellow known as the Tar Man.

Assessment: With loads of fun, excitement, and details, this book will pull you in from the start. The front of the book says it's for kids who love Harry Potter. This is one of the few times that I actually agree with this comparison. The action is so fast-paced that will want you to keep reading, and the story combines elements of modern and old England with enough science fiction to satisfy every reader. What I especially loved were the details about life in 1673 including the lack of hygiene, methods of transportation, and manners of speaking. I thoroughly enjoyed it all.
This is the first book in a trilogy that does not come to it's conclusion with the first story. I highly look forward to reading the second book and hope to soon.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spotlight on Richard Peck

The Ghost Belonged to Me Summary: Alexander is having a hard enough time being a normal boy in school without his strange neighbor Blossom Culp trying to scare him by telling him his barn is haunted. One night, thinking Blossom is trying to spook him again, Alex goes into the barn and discovers a strange girl in wet clothes with a little dog. When the mysterious girl helps prevent a tragedy from occurring, suddenly everyone far and wide wants to see Alex and his ghost. Now Alex and Blossom must avoid the press and other gawkers in order to grant the girl's one request - a proper burial with her family in New Orleans.

Ghosts I Have Been Summary: When poor Blossom Culp saves the richest girl in town, Letty Shambaugh, from being beaten up, she is rewarded with new clothes and a visit to the Shambaugh home. Only problem is that Letty doesn't want spunky Blossom there. To make her visit more interesting, Blossom pretends to have ESP. But what turns out to be a prank actually unleashes Blossom's real psychic powers. Soon she is able to prevent a boy from getting run over by a motor car, a false medium from swindling the town, and even help a kindly old woman with her ghost problem. But things take a turn when Blossom travels, for a moment, into the past on board the Titanic. And there, she learns the terrible truth about a family everyone had once thought were heroes.

The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp Summary: Blossom is starting out her first year of high school on bad footing. Everyone knows about her psychic powers, but everyone feels she's just lying or is crazy. Never one to worry about what other people think, Blossom agrees to be part of the school Halloween Haunted House as a fortune teller. However, when she goes with Alexander to take a look at the house to be used, she is suddenly transported, not back in time, but to the future. It's a very strange future where people used strange glowing boxes, grown girls wear their skirts short, and even worse, everything she knows and loves about her beloved Bluff City is gone.

Assessment: Without a doubt, Richard Peck is one of the finest writers for children of our day. Typically, he writes historical novels set at the turn of the century, and a few set just before or during World War II, with marvelous details, particularly about the automobiles, Hoosier speech, and way of life is quiet towns, typically in Indiana. However, I was glad to come across these novels because now I could find a reason to include Richard Peck on my blog. Don't expect a lot of suspenseful action; instead, expect rich and wonderful humor such as a great Halloween prank against mischievous boys who want to overturn an outhouse and are instead scared out of their wits by a made-up Blossom. I hope these books will also lead readers to Peck's other wonderful novels.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Description: When each member of the Beaumont family turns 13, each receives a special gift they call a savvy. It's Mib's turn to receive her Savvy, but as she's nervously awaiting to see what it will be, she learns that her Poppa has been in a terrible accident and is in a coma in the hospital. Believing she can revive him, Mibs, along with two siblings and the preacher's kids too, hides on a bus heading to the town where her father lies. Or so she thinks. Nothing turns out the way she hopes, including her savvy.

Assessment: This book is full of good humor, interesting characters, and just plain fun. While nothing works out as Mibs hopes, Mibs tries to work things her way while learning about her savvy and a little about love, for her siblings, for another girl she originally didn't like, and especially for the cute preacher's son. With it's beautiful cover and great characters, I feel this book will soon be very popular among middle schoolers who iwll be able to relate to many of the characters.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Spotlight on Eva Ibbotson

The Great Ghost Rescue

Humphrey and his family of ghosts are in big trouble; their dingy home is being renovated into a movie theater. Forced to move, they travel Britain looking for a new home, but soon realize that dank castles and broken down homes are being turned into hotels, discos, and even motorways. As they search, they meet Rick, a sympathetic schoolboy who wants to help look for a home, not just for Humphrey and his family, but for all ghosts. He takes his case for a ghost sanctuary all the way to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister isn't sure he can help, but a lord says he knows the perfect place - an old remote and desolate estate off the coast of Scotland. Delighted, ghosts from all over come to the new sanctuary. But their happiness is short lived as they quickly learn that they have been lured into a trap. And the helpful lord in actuality wants to rid Britain of ghosts forever!

Not Just a Witch

Hectate Tenbury-Smith is a witch who wants to do good in the world. She has decided to turn all wicked people into animals. She befriends a boy named Daniel who helps Heckie turn a mean nursing home owner into a warthog and a cruel chicken farmer into a fish. But soon a cunning furrier named Lionel Knapsack learns of Heckie's amazing power. Realizing that Heckie's Lionel's ticket to creating rare coats, the rascal begins courting her, promising to marry her if only she'd rid their community of 300 terrible men by turning them into snow leopards. Now it's up to Daniel to save 300 prisoners from becoming snow leopard skin coats for the nefarious Lionel, and even more, to prevent Heckie from having a broken heart.


The Wilkinson family lost their lives in World War II and have just lost their beloved home. Miserably, they are forced to live in an underwear shop until their adopted daughter Addie discovers a strange building called Adopt-a-Ghost, an agency that pairs ghosts with families that want them. At the same time, a young orphan named Oliver has just learned that he is direct heir to Helton Hall, a dreadfully lonely and frightening place. What's worse, his cousins Fulton and Freida Snoddle-Brittle are determined to get the Hall for themselves. Fulton goes to Adopt-A-Ghost asking for the most frightening and ghoulish ghosts they have. The ladies at the agency know just the pair: a horrible couple known as the Shriekers who strangle children in their sleep. Poor Oliver doesn't stand a chance against this gruesome couple! Or perhaps the agency isn't as well organized as it seems.

Assessment: These books are sure to please kids looking for more magical fun. They are filled with magical beings and spells, but are very funny and enjoyable to read. Ibbotson does a wonderful job creating various threads of her story, then weaving them together in various, often funny, complications that tie up to satisfying resolutions in the end. What is also enjoyable is the way the author inserts social commentary into the stories; such as, even though prisoners have done wrong, is it right to turn them all into leopards or is it fair to judge people in death for what they had done in life? Ibbotson is a delight to read and I will certainly look out for her other titles.