Friday, September 30, 2016

Gertie's Leap to Greatness

Gertie wants to be great and for the most part her two best friends go along with her missions.  But when Gertie finds out that her mother, who left a long time ago and whom she never sees, is moving out of town Gertie ramps up her mission.  But a new girl in town threatens her plans and she finds out that friends can be fickle, feelings can be hurt, and maybe things aren't what they seem.

I liked the beginning of the book but the ending fell flat for me.  There was a whole subplot about her father's job that was never resolved at all.  In fact, the last time she saw her father in the book they left each other on bad terms.  While Gertie did learn how to handle some disappointment and learned aa lesson about her mother it still was a downer ending with no real resolution.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Freedom Over Me

Using documents from 1828, Ashley Bryan creates a stunning collection of free verse poems and illustrations that depict what those 11 slaves lives and dreams might have been like.  So well done - loved this.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Strudel's Forever Home

Strudel remembers his old life and owner but doesn't remember the catastrophe that caused him to end up at the shelter.  Jake, a boy who comes to read to the animals at the shelter, decides to adopt Strudel.  Everything should be great right?  But a gang of cats, Arnie - his mom's boyfriend, and a neighborhood bully threaten Strudel's new forever home.  Can a little dachshund stand up to all of that?

This was a cute enough story but there were aspects I didn't like - the girl smoking and the bullying and illegal behavior that really didn't get addressed.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Ship to Nowhere

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I was familiar of the plight of the Exodus which attempted to get Jewish refugees into then British controlled Palestine.  I have seen the movie Exodus and also the book by Leon Uris.  I was curious to see what this book, intended for young readers, would have to say about this event.

While I did find the book interesting and factual I wish it have been more of a narrative of the characters that were portrayed.  This was done to some extent but I think it may have been more powerful to pursue that method of writing more actively.  As interesting as this is, I am not sure my particular readers will gravitate towards it.  For schools that already study the Holocaust and its effects I think this would be a great addition.

Full of Beans

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This book is a companion to Turtle in Paradise which I know I read but don't really remember.  And that's okay - this title is not dependent on knowledge of the other books.

This book focuses on Beans Curry who lives in Key West during the Depression.  His father is looking for work and has to travel to New Jersey in his search.  His mom is trying to make ends meet with taking in laundry and sewing.  Beans tries to help but rummaging through garbage for cans is not very profitable.  When one of his neighbors offers to pay him a good deal more, Beans jumps at the chance even though he feels guilty about what he is doing.

Meanwhile, the New Dealers in their Bermuda Shorts are trying to turn Key West into a tourist destination.  

Can Beans make the right decisions and help his family and his town?

I thought this was well done.  Beans is a great character.  At just under 200 pages it is a satisfying read and would be great for my library.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Our Teacher is a Vampire...

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This book started out as I expected.  Alexander thinks his teacher, Mrs. Penrose, is a vampire.  He starts passing around a blank book he got for his birthday so he and his classmates can share evidence about this problem.  Of course, they quickly realize that Mrs. Penrose is not a vampire but is... pregnant.
By then the students are hooked on writing and want to enter a contest.  But they can't agree on an idea.  They decide to write to an author for advice.  With the contest deadline approaching they wait for the advice but then something happens to Mrs. Penrose that threatens to stop their writing once and for all.
Like I said, the book started out as I expected and then took some awesome turns.  The students had conflict but learned how to resolve their differences and learned how to accept advice as writers.  The end result was a book with a lot of heart.  I really enjoyed this!

The Biggest Poutine in the World

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Originally published in 2013 in Canada this book has now been translated from French into English and is available in the US.  I have never had poutine and had really never heard of it until recently.  I know they serve it in Old Orchard Beach and probably other areas in Maine with strong French Canadian connections.  Pretty sure my daughter tried some this summer.

First impressions - paperback copy, black and white images - meh.  Only 159 pages - could be good or not.

I was actually surprised by how much heart was actually packed into this little book.  Thomas' mother abandoned him and his father years ago.  The only thing he remembers is the poutine she made for him for his 5th birthday.  Now he wants to make the biggest poutine in the world, be in the Guinness Book of World Records, and get the attention of his missing mother and his out of touch father.  

Like I said, a lot of heart in a small volume - funny, hopeful, and might be a good pick for a reluctant reader.

Irena's Children

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Irena Sendler, a "Righteous Gentile" who helped save around 2500 Jewish children out of Warsaw during World War II.  I have read many accounts of her life and work - picture books and some others.  All tell of her work and accomplishments.  For some reason though none seem to hit just the right note for the audience I particularly read for.  This book was factual and informational but not sure how many kids would be drawn in by the way the material was presented.  If kids were really invested in the topic they would stick with it but...

It's a shame because Irena's story is fascinating.