Tag Archives: Fiction

POSTED: “Sticky notes were the weapons and words were the ammunition.”

by David Anderson, author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day

Lexile 750L; recommended for ages 8 to 12

Summer 2017 Kids’ Indies Next List, Top 10

This will resonate..

Cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School.  One could say that things had gotten out of hand.

Inexcusable“, the teacher had said regarding a certain post.

The students,  masterful at getting around things, devise a  plan to connect and paper “text”, which you’ve already guessed by the state of the locker above.  In all fairness, the idea was started by Frost and his friends, Deedee, Wolf, and Bench. The posts get personal, mean and vicious, and matters intensify all round.

The novel covers a lot of what goes on in a Middle School, about the hard stuff at home and on school turf.  It’s about finding “your people” and then trying to keep it all together.  It’s about a newcomer, Rose,  who threatens to derail  life itself, and it’s about words going viral.  Events escalate and the pressure mounts on every front.

This is a great read and like all great reads, teaches something important.

 

 

 

 

If Willy Wonka had a Library

Lemoncello

I have been meaning to post about this award winning Junior fiction novel for some time, but other books kept getting in the way.  But No More!

Welcome to the insane world of Mr Lemoncello and his Library.  This was one of the books you could earn at Barns and Nobles for completing their Summer reading challenge.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (June 24, 2014)

This is the quintessential fun novel about a group of kids who are dumped into a puzzle quest inside a crazy library with the promise of a great reward if they solve it first.  It is a story about bullies, games, redemption, trying your best, and unlikely friendships.  Yes yes, I have read criticisms of this novel about how characters cheet, or lie, or there are too many book references (honestly though, it is inside a Library…). My son has enjoyed it so far, and I love this book.  It is not deep.  It will not probably be remembered as a thought provoking serious story.  And why should it be? It is fun, entertaining, and filled with whimsy. While there are elements reminiscent of Charlie and the a Chocolate factory, it is by no means a copy.

Kyle Keeley is a seventh grader who loves video games.  Especially one from the gaming genius of Luigi Lemoncello.  So when Mr, Lemoncello builds a library in their town that has been without one for more than ten years Kyle just has to be one of the first to see it.  There is a contest announced, and the best essay writers will win a chance to spend the night in the library before anyone else.  Kyle is the last selected because he found a way to show Mr, Lemoncello that he should go despite turning in his essay late.  With much fanfare and balloons, the children are escorted inside. The library is everything Kyle had hoped for with games, food, and interactive displays.  However, when morning arrives, and the kids try to leave they discover they are trapped inside one giant literary game.  First one to escape before time runs out wins a big prize.

Be prepared to learn about puzzles, the Dewey Decimal system, computers, and teamwork inside Mr. Lemoncello’ amazing library…

Parental note.  I did not find anything problematic with this story for the age group.  (there is a puzzle the author asks you to solve and email the solution to him as a fun challenge)

Crenshaw

Crenshaw

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (September 22, 2015)

EGalley provided by Feiwel and Netgalley free in return for an honest review.

So this story showed up in my inbox at Netgalley and it is by an award winning author so I said Ok and went for it. I finished the story in under two hours and then sat on a review for two weeks. This is a tale of an unusual friendship between a boy and a large cat creature named Crenshaw. Fans of Japanese animation will find many similarities between Crenshaw and Studio Ghibli stories and characters (Totoro, fantastic mr fox etc) And while I did think Ms. Applegate’ earlier acclaimed novel about a gorilla named Ivan told a story that fostered good dialogue, this novel seems to be trying to force an issue into it rather than letting the tale tell itself.

Jackson knows something is wrong in his family. His Dad can’t get work since getting ill, and his Mom works two jobs and there never seems to be enough food to eat. Then there is this latest yard sale, where absolutely everything they own is being sold to make some money.  Leaving Jackson and his sister with just what they can put in a trash bag. Along comes Crenshaw, Jackson’ imaginary friend to help him out and get him through this hard time.

I am not a huge fan of a stories written -with an agenda- however, a great novel dealing with relatable kids going through becoming homeless is relevant. My problem is less with the subject and more with the execution. I could never tell if this was supposed to be a serious story, or a flight of fantasy. And the ending was a little too fairytale for this subject as well. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the story is actually pretty light on well, a story. It felt like a junior novella not a complete novel. If the cover and Crenshaw were more relevant to the story and a little less cartoony then possibly I would rate this higher. I also might be suffering from a bit of expectation letdown. I expected a fantasy, but got a completely different story.

All that said though, it is a story that brings up something worth talking about, and that is homelessness, and its effects on families.  So, be prepared to have an honest discussion with your children about what we tell them and why as parents we feel the need to shelter our kids from hard truths.

And the winner is…

The Selection By Kiera Cass
The Selection
By Kiera Cass

 

The Selection, by Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection (Book 1)

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; Reprint edition (March 26, 2013)

 

This is a good teen series with some problems, but mostly it has to do with the story being a hunger games for the romance set. There are some very obvious foreshadowing and hand holding which I do not like in my books, but for many of my teen readers is just fine.
I have learned that in a school library the goal is to get the largest number of kids reading, and this book series is one that does that. There is just a smidge of action, but any death and destruction are off screen with tertiary or unknown characters. The plot is just what it looks like : hunger games alla Princess Diary meets the Bachelor, but the characters are not going to shoot each other with bows, just mean glances and a well aimed verbal barb. There is a love triangle, and like I said I don’t like books that lay out plot devices so blatantly with the intention “Giant Neon Sign… This will be important… Can you see how she is going to get into trouble in book two?!” But it is a teen romance. And for a teen romance not a bad book.
Parental note… Well, here is where I get a little squiggly. There is no sex. There is no drugs. But the whole arranged marriage at such a young age always makes me uncomfortable. And this entire story is very patronizing to young women. If your teen loves Cinderella stories with a dash of romance and a splash of danger then go for it.