The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls- John Lekich

June 30, 2012

I am excited. This is an excellent read- funny, witty, and perfect for the young adult group. Henry’s mom has died and he lives with his uncle, who is a thief. His uncle and cronies teach him all the tricks of the trade, so when his uncle goes to jail, Henry takes up residence in an abandoned tree house, and “liberates” what he needs from the neighbours. But because he is essentially a good guy, he often does some cleaning before he leaves or even adds some cash to a birthday fund. When he is eventually caught, he is sent to Snowflake Falls to live with a rather eccentric family. Although his stay does not completely rehabilitate him, he is on his way and you know that the life lessons Henry has learned will earn him a better future. This is recommended for any YA or high school library.

The Anemara Orchid- Laurie Nenson

June 24, 2010

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I rarely review books I do not like BUT this one tops my list of books I wouldn’t choose to buy. Willa Bell is a popular, air-headed teenager, who has a huge crush on a teen idol, as do all the other girls. When she wins the opportunity to meet him and attend his concert with a friend, she has a tough decision to make. Should she take her oldest friend with whom she’s had a falling out, or her new “cool” friend?  Now here is the part I could not get into at all. An otherworld group of spirits, called sages, are aware of this teenage dilemma and decide to help her out. They then transport her to another dimension where she is part of a family that seems to be very odd. Supposedly Willa is to learn how it feels to be part of the ‘uncool’ crowd. Although that premise does not sound all that bad, the story has a trite feel to it, lacking any real substance, and comes across as somewhat preachy. And there will be more in the series, apparently!

Recipe for Disaster- Maureen Fergus

June 19, 2010

This started out as a bit of a yawner and seemed a little cheesy as the main character’s favourite pastime is baking. Although few of our students may relate to that aspect of the book, they will be able to relate to the themes of friendship, teenage angst, learning to value people by more than appearance, and the value of persistence. Luckily, as the book proceeded, the humour of Francie’s quirky character and the somewhat bizarre episodes in the book, lighten it up and made it quite enjoyable. Girls in about grade 6 and up would likely relate to some of Francie’s predicaments, and might even learn something meaningful.

A Hiatus

June 19, 2010

Some of you who read my blog might wonder where I disappeared to. I was dealing with some health issues and just did not have the energy to expend. My hope over the next while is to review briefly the books that we are reading for the Snow Willows nomination for next year. Although I may not give much of a synopsis, I will give you my viewpoint and where I would believe it would fit in your library collections.

Summer of Fire- Karen Bass

January 25, 2010

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Like Run Like Jager, also by this author, Summer of Fire is another excellent blend of historical and realistic fiction. Del is sent to live with her sister Cassandra and husband in Germany for the summer, due to her  behaviour at home. When she arrives, very much against her wishes, she is met by an uptight, controlling woman whom she barely knows. Del’s reaction to any conflict is a to run, and each time she does this, the response of her sister is almost unbearable. The only saving grace is the neighbour, a professor who befriends Del in small ways and asks her to read a diary of one of her German ancestors, who lived during the second World War. Interspersed throughout Del’s story are Garda’s diary entries, pregnant through a rape by an acquaintance. Garda’s mother is a brutal woman who condemns her own daughter and thinks only of her own reputation. Her father is a meek and ineffective man who allows his wife to send Garda away for the baby to be born and then adopted. Garda’s willingness to face the realities of disappointment with her family  and courage in spite of her circumstances begin to make an impact on Del. It is interesting to follow her gradual change of thinking as she realizes that she is not the only one with huge problems. There is some mild language and some sexual innuendoes but nothing of a graphic nature. I would recommend this for your young adult readers right through high school. The protagonist is 16 years old.

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman- Adrienne Kress

January 19, 2010

51xXB0wek8L._SL500_AA240_ Combine a feisty character with fantasy and high adventure and you have Alex and the Ironic Gentleman. Alex lives with her uncle and is dreading the beginning of Year Six in school. Enter Mr. Underwood, new teacher, who makes the start of the year much more exciting. Fast forward the friendship between Alex’s uncle and Mr. Underwood, the death of her uncle and kidnapping of Mr. Underwood by pirates, and you have the beginning of an adventure extraordinaire. Alex decides she will be the one to pursue the kidnappers while being  pursued herself by the wicked Daughters of the Founding Fathers’ Preservation Society. Eventually, after many hair-raising escapades and meetings with outrageous characters, she finds the pirate ship, The Ironic Gentleman, where Mr. Underwood is held captive. There Alex discovers that he has basically given up on escape, and it is up to her to find out how to save the day. This reminds me of one of my favourite series which includes Captain Jenny and the Sea of Wonders by Duncan Thornton. It has the same sense of rollicking adventure, humour, and a strong female character. This would be suitable for readers from grade 5 and up. Luckily, this appears to be the first of a series, so we can look forward to further adventure and fun.

What Happened to Cass McBride- Gail Giles

January 17, 2010

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This is a mature novel with some language and violence, so I would recommend it for high school. Some of the reviews suggest age 12 and up. If you choose to house it in an elementary library, I would suggest you read it first.

What Happened to Cass McBride is a harrowing and riveting tale of vengeance told with a variety of voices, which seems to be a growing trend. Change of font helps the reader in separating the voices. Cass is popular and knows how to get exactly what she wants. When one of the school dweebs, David, asks her out, she can hardly believe his temerity, but responds with relative gentleness. She then proceeds to write a note for her best friend, but it falls into David’s hands instead. David subsequently hangs himself in the front yard of his home. Kyle, older brother and David’s protector, responds by drugging and kidnapping Cass and burying her alive in a wooden box. He then proceeds to torment her, but is eventually drawn into conversation with her, as Cass is a master manipulator. She comes to understand the extent of what she has done as Kyle draws her into David’s world of stark physical and emotional abuse by his mother.

The other world is found in the confines of the box Cass finds herself in, and you find yourself gasping for breath along with her, you feel the thickness of her tongue as thirst takes over, and you hear the rasp of her voice as she continues to engage in dialgue with Kyle, grimly aware that he holds the key to her survival. But does she survive? You will be kept guessing until the very end.

Fast-paced and gritty, this is a novel that would engross any reader. I know that I found it difficult to put down.

Dreamfire- Nicole Luiken

December 9, 2009

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Dreamfire is another novel which is part of the growing trend towards novels which have a supernatural bent. Brianne, the protagonist in this story, dreams the future, and the future is always dark. Having recently moved with her family in order to escape the troubles associated with her dreams,  Brianne is hopeful that she may have left the dreams behind as well. But this is not the case, and when her waking dream of a giant spider happens during a school lab, she realizes that her struggle is not yet over. Two other important characters take part in this story; Ben who seems to have a past of his own and tries to be understanding, and his counterpart, Rex, who appears to be bent on bullying and humiliating her. Her beloved Aunt Elise has recently died, and it becomes increasingly clear that this death was not innocent. When Rex reveals to Brianne the existence of the wulfdraigles, she begins to realize that it will take all of her courage and strength to find a way to prevent a disaster from decimating her family and community.

Although this story had a fine build-up and a satisfying conclusion, I did not find it as memorable as Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard, reviewed here. I do believe though, that it would find many readers among your students and would be appropriate for grade seven through high school.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie- Alan Bradley

December 7, 2009

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is one delightful read! But once again, I am slightly confused as to who the audience for this book might be. Reasource Links suggests it is an adult book suitable for high school students. It was sent to our Snow Willows committee by the publisher to review for the grade 7-9  awards. The protagonist is an eleven-year old budding chemist, sleuth and all-around enchanting character. Although I might not have picked this up because of that, I truly enjoyed this and would be most willing to read others with this heroine. It reminds me somewhat of Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes (not one of her fabulous Richard Jury novels), which also sports an adolescent main character.

Flavia finds herself caught up in a most astounding mystery. A dead bird on the doorstep and a dead body in the cucumber patch. A father who is inexplicably afraid, several indifferent sisters and an enterprising inspector combine to make this an unforgettable read. Richness of language and a beautiful flowing plot captivate the reader.

So my recommendation is; adult readers, give it a try. High school readers looking for something a little more challenging but a whole lot of fun, give it a try! I don’t think any of you will be disappointed.

The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

November 29, 2009

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I took a brief hiatus from my reading for the selection committee for next year’s Snow Willow awards to read The Hunger Games, the first in a trilogy.This occurred partly because of the fabulous reviews this novel generated and partly because it arrived as a mature read with my Scholastic Book Fair, and I wanted to see if it was appropriate for an elementary library.

This is probably one of the most riveting, gripping science fiction novels I have ever read, and I absolutely look forward to reading the next one. In a post North American society, the Capitol maintains control over its populace by choosing two young people each year from the 12 districts to participate in the Hunger Games. This consists of an ornate preparation time and culminates in the young contestants being thrust into a hostile environment, where only one is meant to survive. Katniss and Peeta, both from District 12, are forced to become enemies and yet it becomes clear that Peeta has feelings for Katniss. If it comes down to it, one of them must kill the other. Twists and turns make this an exciting reead and one where you can hardly bear to stop reading. Catching Fire is the sequel. I have it- I can’t wait to read it!

I recommend this highly for all high schools and I believes this is also suitable for your stronger grade 7&8 readers. Adults, worthwhile for you as well.

    I Love Kids’ Books
    I have the privilege of being a teacher-librarian in 2 elementary schools. That means I have the best of all worlds; I teach and work with children from Kindergarten through grade 8; my job encompasses the management of the libraries as well as developing the collections. And my homework? Reading and more reading! What more could a life-long bookworm ask for? The point of this blog is mainly for my own use- to make myself some notes about some of the many books I read- to prompt my failing memory, to use as the basis for book-talks or newsletter inserts and to provide information for others that may be interested. These will not be formal or lengthy- but just some of my thoughts.
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