MoonShadow: The Nightmare Ninja by Simon Higgins – Giveaway

Today is clear the shelf day. I’ve had Moonshadow: The Nightmare Ninja (Little, Brown, 2011) on the shelf for quite awhile and, while it might be a great book, I’m just not hearing it call me. So, no review today – just passing it on to someone else who might be interested. On the related note of not judging a book by its cover – that’s really what I’m doing here – even though I KNOW that is often a way to miss out on a great story.  However,  I don’t particularly care for martial arts combat and the cover just yells that out to me – what do you think? Nightmare Ninja is the second book in the Moonshadow series. The first is titled Rise of the Ninja.

At any rate, it may be a great book, especially for kids who are into the action/thriller type of drama – and all those ninja-o-philes out there. It garnered some nice review blurbs from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

So, to win this ARC, leave a comment on this post by October 31st and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it.

The Amulet of Amon-Ra by Leslie Carmichael: Review and Giveaway

Today, I’m giving away fellow CBAY author, Leslie Carmichael’s midgrade fantasy, The Amulet of Amon-Ra  (CBAY, 2009). I actually read this awhile ago and it makes a  quick and pleasant read for the third through seventh grade set.

Summary: When Jennifer receives an ancient scarab with a hidden compartment, she travels through time and space to the era of the great female pharaoh, Hatsheput. She uncovers conspiracies and tomb robbers, but can she find her way home?

Genres: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Things to like about this book:   Egyptophiles will like this story. It includes a great deal of history and it could be included in a unit on ancient Egypt.

Audience:  Upper elementary,  MidGrade

Reviewed from: Paperback  provided by publisher.

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by October 24th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it.

The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerilizzi – Review and GiveAway

For your consideration today is The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerilizzi (Simon & Schuster, 2010).  This post apocalyptic science fiction fantasy held my interest through the entire 468 pages. It is definitely a sophisticated step up for DiTerilizzi’s SpiderWick Chronicles fans.  Random tidbit: I could not get the Wizard of Oz out of my head as I read this story.

The story centers around Eva Nine, who is raised by her robot “muthr” in her own safe underground cocoon. Eva’s idyllic, if lonely and artificial, childhood comes to an end as she matures and begins to question the authority of her robot guardian. As it must be in a story like this, her world comes crashing down and she is thrust out into the harsh realities of life to fend for herself.  She is driven to search for another human by an old picture showing another girl, adult, robot, and the magical word “Wondla”.  Her struggle for survival and search for identity make for a good story. Wild imagination gives birth to some memorable creatures in this story – which has been marketed with an interactive component online at wondla.com. The artwork goes a long way in helping to visualize the story. (more…)

Hero by Mike Lupica – Review and Giveaway

Mike Lupica is a favorite author of the middle school set, especially boys. He’s gained a big following with a number of sports related books that always seemed to stay checked out in my library. Sports books aren’t my favorite but his baseball novel Heat impressed me a great deal.  It was so much more than a “sports” book.

His action fantasy Hero was released in November 2010 by Philomel Books. I am guilty of keeping the ARC I picked up for a looong time, but I’m tossing it up today because it is a quick, fun read that will please Lupica fans, in my humble opinion. I liked it anyway!

I’m cheating today with a blurb from Lupica’s website instead of my own:

“Fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman can feel the changes. The sharpening of his senses. The incredible strength. The speed, as though he can textmessage himself across miles. The confidence and the strange need to patrol Central Park at night. His dad had been a hero, a savior to America and a confidante of the president. Then he died, and the changes began in Zach. What Zach never knew was that his father was no ordinary man, he was a superhero, battling the world’s evil. This is a battle that has been waged for generations and that knows no boundaries. (more…)

Smells Like Treasure by Suzanne Selfors – Review and Giveaway

Today I have a quick review of Suzanne Selfors’ midgrade Smells Like Treasure , Little Brown, May 2011. It took me a while to get into this quirky novel about Homer Pudding and his treasure sniffing dog but I think it will have a good following, especially among upper elementary and middle school boys. Smells Like Treasure  is the sequel to last year’s Smells Like Dog and I feel certain there are more of Homer and Dog’s adventures on the horizon.

In Treasure, Homer’s time has come – his time to take over his deceased uncle’s spot in L.O.S.T – Legends, Objects, Secrets and Treasures – a secret society that seeks out those oddities in the world – but never for personal gain. Of course, his right to his uncle’s chair is challenged by his (former) friend Lorelei. She’s an orphan just trying to get ahead in the world – even if it means stomping on Homer. A quest is set and the contest begins. Selfors’ imagination leads to some terrific inventions – such as the cloudcopter, great discoveries -like musical crystals, and amazing characters, including daft Honorable Lord Mockingbird XVIII. (more…)

13 Curses by Michelle Harrison – Review and Giveaway

Much as I love fantasy, I am woefully ignorant of fairy lore. So when I pulled 13 Curses (Little Brown, 2011) by Michelle Harrison out of a box of ARC’s I received from Hachette Book Group, I found I was in for an education. I really enjoyed this book! The backstory kept referring to so many events I realized I must be missing something, so I did a little research and discovered 13 Curses is #2 in a trilogy by this British author. The first was 13 Treasures (Little Brown, 2010). Harrison fills in very nicely, so the reader can enjoy the story on its own.

Red is a loner, and a fugitive (owing to her involvement in the fairy foundling trade in the previous book). She is determined to find her own young brother who was snatched by fairies from the orphanage. Her story is intertwined with that of Tanya, who can see fairies (a rare talent), and has had her own dealings with their realm (again from 13 Treasures).  The girls and Tayna’s friend Fabian  come together to hunt for the titular 13 Curses, represented by the charms ripped from a bracelet given to Tanya by her grandmother. Finding these cursed charms is the only chance Red has of recovering her stolen brother – and their time is running out. The fairies don’t seem too concerned about playing nice and the hidden charms become more perilous as the seconds tick by – Red and her friends are in serious danger.

The suspense is great and the fairy lore is rather dark. I stayed up till the wee hours reading this one. Hachette has a nice PR campaign going and a neat website devoted to the trilogy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the final installment 13 Secrets. I smell a movie …

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by midnight on August 28th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it. It’s a great book to have on your to-be-read pile. Share the contest with anyone who might be interested.

Genres: Midgrade, YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tales

Things to like about this book: It is very good fantasy! The story is suspenseful and I enjoyed the mythology very much. Rowan grows tremendously as a character and she embraces her positive characteristics – choosing a place to belong and learning to love those around her.

Audience: Middle School and early YA. The real and described violence, seriously menacing tone, kidnappings, and loss of family would make me hesitate before putting it into 3rd grader’s hands.

Reviewed from: ARC provided by publisher.

Dry Souls by Denise Getson – Review and Giveaway

Long overdue, I’m posting my review of fellow CBAY author Denise Getson’s debut midgrade Dry Souls. I met Denise at the TLA Conference in late April and I thoroughly enjoyed her novel. As a fan of dystopia, I found her future world where the lack of usable water resources creates a society in crisis is well written and very believable. It is somewhat gentler than the YA dystopias of the last few years – which I think middle school parents, librarians, and teachers will appreciate.

The heroine, Kira, is a lonely orphan who discovers she can call water forth from the earth. The book follows her as she sets out to discover her past and how she might be able to use this skill to help her dying world. But it wouldn’t be a dystopian novel if the powers that be left Kira alone to save the planet. As she journeys through her own self discovery, she learns how to be a friend and whom not to trust. Well done, Denise. I’m hoping the sequel is on the editor’s desk!

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by August 10th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it.  It’s a great book to have on your to-be-read pile. Pass the contest on to anyone who might be interested.

Genres: Midgrade, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Things to like about this book: It is well written and the characters are believable. Their struggle is compelling and I wanted to stay up late and finish it – it takes alot for me to read late into the evening – so that’s saying something!

Audience: Middle School and possibly upper elementary. Give to those 6th graders who aren’t yet ready for the bigger YA dystopias.

Reviewed from: Paperback provided by publisher.

Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice – Part Deaux – 6th-8th Grade

The LYRCA sponsored by the Louisiana State Library Center for the Book gives awards in two age categories. Yesterday I highlighted the 3rd through 5th grade ballot. Today it’s the 6th through 8th grade turn. My two favorite so far are Schooled and Peak – but I haven’t read the entire list yet. I’m anxiously awaiting the announcement of the winner this weekend at the Louisiana Library Association State Conference.

Here they are:

Chaos Code by Richards, Justin.  388 pages.  Bloomsbury Publishing 2007. Join Matt on an action packed modern-day treasure hunt that takes him across the globe in search of a code fabled to have brought down Atlantis.

Cracker:  The Best Dog in Vietnam by Kadohata, Cynthia.312 pages. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing 2007. Cracker is a female German shepherd who is trained to sniff out booby traps and other dangers to the US troops in the Vietnam War.  The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Cracker and her handler.

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Hahn, Mary Downing.  187 pages.  Houghton Mifflin Company 2007. In this chilling ghost story Ali goes to spend the summer with her aunt and learns about a girl who disappeared and was presumed dead thirty years earlier.

Diamonds in the Shadow by Cooney, Caroline.  228 pages.  Random House,  2007.  Jared’s family takes in a refugee family fleeing a   war in Africa.  Unfortunately, there was one more person that made it to America from Africa.  He is looking for something the refugees have and will stop at nothing to get it.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons by Kinney, Jeff.  217 pages.  Harry N. Abrams , Incorporated 2007. Through both text and pictures, Greg chronicles his hilarious first year of middle school.  Greg would like to be cool, popular and impress girls but nothing ever seems to work out the way he wants. (This is book 1 in the series, red cover)

Dragon Slippers by George, Jessica Day.  324 pages.  Bloomsbury Publishing 2007.  All Creel wants to do is move to the big city and become a seamstress.  Her fortunes change when she meets her first dragon and is given a magical pair of blue slippers.

Elijah of Buxton by Curtis, Christopher Paul.  395 pages. Scholastic Incorporated 2007.   Eleven-year-old Elijah was born into freedom in Canada but witnesses the cruelties of slavery when he takes a perilous mission into the United States.

Fire From the Rock by Draper, Sharon.  240 pages.  Penguin Group 2007. Sylvia is chosen to be one of the first black students to integrate Little Rock’s all white Central High School, chronicling first hand one of the most volatile moments of the civil rights movement’s history.

Football Genius by Green, Tim.  256 pages.  HarperCollins Publishers 2007.  Troy has the amazing ability to predict football plays before they happen.  If he can get anyone to listen to him perhaps he can help his favorite NRL team pull themselves out of their loosing streak.

Gabriel’s Horses by Hart, Alison.  224 pages.  Peachtree Publishers 2007. Gabriel, a slave on a Kentucky plantation that breeds and trains thoroughbreds, is determined to do whatever it takes to protect his beloved horses while the Civil War raging around him.

Kimchi and Calamari by Kent, Rose.  220 pages. HarperCollins Publishers 2007.  Joseph is bewildered when he is given a family ancestry assignment.  Ethnically Joseph is Korean but he has been raised Italian by his adoptive Italian family.  This is the beginning of a quest in which ultimately Joseph comes to reconcile and accept his various ancestries and establish his own identity.

Night of the Howling Dogs by Salisbury, Graham.  191 pages.  Random House Children’s Books 2007.  Taken off guard while camping on a remote beach in Hawaii, Dylan’s Boy Scout troop struggles to survive after they are separated by a tsunami.  This account is based on a true story.

Peak by Smith, Roland.  246 pages.  Harcourt Children’s Books 2007.  Peak Marcello loves to climb, it’s in his blood, but unfortunately he lives in Manhattan.  When Peak is sent to live with his father, who runs a climbing business in Asia, he takes on the challenge to become the youngest person to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Schooled by Korman, Gordon.  208 pages.  Hyperion Press 2007.  Capricorn has lived a completely isolated and sheltered life on a commune with his grandmother Rain.  When Rain ends up in the hospital a local social worker takes Capricorn in and sends him to Middle School.

So Totally Emily Ebers by Yee, Lisa.  280 pages. Scholastic 2007.  Following her parent’s divorce, Emily moves to California with her mom and befriends Millicent Min and Stanford Wong over the summer.

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Road to Tater Hill by Edie Hemingway

Today’s review is again from a fellow 2k9 classmate – I’ve got a theme going here. Edie Hemingway’s midgrade, historical fiction novel Road to Tater Hill was a terrific read.  It stuck with me long after I finished it and I kept imagining the characters and hoping for their happiness. Tater Hill is a book that makes you feel good when you read it – and it does so in a quiet, slow paced narrative that reminded me of sitting on my grandmother’s front porch and rocking away while she told me a story.

In  Road to Tater Hill, main character Annie and her mother have come to the mountains of North Carolina to visit with her grandparents while her father is on assignment overseas with the Air Force. Annie’s mom loses her baby due to a premature delivery and Annie is emotionally shut out by her mom, who is sinking into a deepening depression. Her loving grandparents spend all their time worrying about Annie’s mother so Annie seeks to understand her own pain and loss by spending time alone.  She discovers a mystery woman who has returned to Tater Hill after many years away.  This woman’s own journey through grief and loss makes her a most appropriate friend for Annie during this dark time. The characters’ growth through the story is woven delicately into the narrative and Hemingway’s tender portrayal of a family’s coping with tragedy is beautifully done.

Things to like about this story: Strong characters, loving relationships with grandparents, a great sense of place in the writing, and a happy ending that stays with you for a long time.

Audience recommendations: 4th grade through upper middle schoolers. classroom reading, book club reading.

Road to Tater Hill gracefully portrays our ability to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and rebuild it. Thank you, Edie Hemingway, for this important book.

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

Today I am reviewing another 2k9 classmate’s book, When the Whistle Blowsby Fran Cannon Slayton. I had the opportunity to host Fran for the Louisiana Book Festival in October of 2009 and it struck me that she is as comfortable and easygoing as her writing. Her book reads easy, like you’re sipping tea in a rocking chair on the front porch, but she packs a powerful story behind that casual, southern charm.

Jimmy Cannon grows up in Rowlesburg, West Virginia in the 1940’s, and the story visits him every year on Halloween. We get to watch his growth from young teenager to young man as he and his friends make their way through high school in a small, railroading town. They play pranks, endure school, and compete in football championships. Jimmy’s eyes are set on the day he can work on the big steam engines – like his father and brothers before him – but his father wants a better life for Jimmy. The balance of the story and Jimmy’s self discovery revolve around this conflict. He grows to see himself and his father in a new light with each passing year.

Things to like about this story: It’s funny, well written, and provides a great sense of time and place without being overly nostalgic. Fran’s use of language and her profound insight are superb. The characters are so real – and struggle through their shortcomings to live out relationships with each other. The duel antagonism and love portrayed by Jimmy and his father will stay with you for a long time. And did I say it was funny? It is – which isn’t easy to pull off in this type of book.

Audience Recommendations: independent reading for any middle schooler, classroom reading in middle school literature or history, adults, intergenerational book clubs.

Fran has crafted an exquisite story with cross-generational appeal. It should stand the test of time and will help create a conversational bridge between grandparents and grandchildren.