Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
by Chris Grabenstein

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis:  Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience.
from GoodReads

Review:  This book was enjoyable for readers of various ages.  My children enjoyed this book as much as I did.  The story is about a game inside a library where the goal is to find a secret exit.  There are many kids in the book who show what good teamwork is and how you can achieve more with cooperation.  The story is full of various puzzles that are fun trying to figure out as the characters are trying to figure them out.  The kids who are locked in the library sure know more about the library system and authors than most adults!  This book is fast paced and keeps the reader in suspense throughout the book.  Definitely a book that kids will love!

Rating: 4 stars

The Circuit

The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child
by Francisco Jimenez

Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Memoir

Synopsis:  These independent but intertwined stories follow a migrant family through their circuit, from picking cotton and strawberries to topping carrots-and back again-over a number of years.  As it moves from one labor camp to the next, the little family of four grows into ten.  Impermanence and poverty decline their lives.  But with faith, hope, and back-breaking work, the family endures.
from the back of the book

Review:  This book tells the story of Francisco and his family as they cross the border and move into their migrant worker life in California.  The family has hope that their life will be better in the United States.  Francisco tells an honest story about what it was like to move from one farm to another and live in tents or run down buildings.  He talks about attending school but being uprooted all the time and not being able to understand the language. But he also talks about the bond among his family members.  This book is eye opening to what migrant workers both adults and children live through.  I thought the ending was a bit abrupt and I want to know what happened in the rest of Francisco's childhood.  There are 2 more books so I may have to pick them up!

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Baseball in April

Baseball in April and Other Stories
by Gary Soto

Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Short Stories

Synopsis: In this unique collection of short stories, the small events of daily life reveal big themes-love and friendship, youth and growing up, success and failure.  Calling on his own experiences of growing up in California's Central Valley, poet Gary Soto brings to life the joy and pain of young people everywhere.

The smart, tough, vulnerable kids in these stories are Latino, but their dreams and desires belong to all of us.
from the back of the book

Review: This book is made up of a collection of short stories about Latino kids in California.  The kids are mainly early teenagers which makes this book a hard one to figure out what is the appropriate age for the reader.  The reading level is not too complex but the characters are mature so I would recommend this book for junior high age kids.  None of the stories really grabbed me but as I've mentioned in other reviews, I'm not a fan of short stories.  The characters and language seemed a little dated which makes sense as this book is copyrighted in 1990.  I'm not sure that kids today would relate to the stories.  Some books are written in a way that make the book timeless but this one was not.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Since You've Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone
by Morgan Matson

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis: It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting.  But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just...disappears.  All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try.  But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night?  Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn?  Sure.  Why not?

Kiss a stranger?  Um...

Emily now has the unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list.  Who knows what she'll find?

Go skinny-dipping?  Wait...what?
from the book jacket

Review:  After rereading the synopsis of this book, I'm not sure what drew me to this book as it seems very teenager-y to me.  I have read young adult fiction books before and enjoyed them as some are able to span generations but this was one that I shouldn't have picked up.  It was just far too young for me.  Emily is a painfully shy main character who is so brokenhearted by her best friend Sloane's disappearance without any warning.  It was hard for me to relate to her.  Frank on the other hand seemed to be less of a teenager.  He was very mature and outgoing.  The secondary characters were more teenage like and immature.  I should have just abandoned this book but I needed to know if Emily found Sloane again and if anything happened between Emily and Frank.  I don't think this book was badly written, I just think I wasn't the right audience for it.

Rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Salsa Stories

Salsa Stories
by Lulu Delacre

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis: Salsa music blares from the stereo.  One by one, friends and family, who come from all around Latin America, arrive at Carmen Teresa's house to cook, dance, gossip, and play dominoes.  And the New Year's Day celebration begins...

When a neighbor gives Carmen Teresa a blank notebook as a holiday present, she doesn't know how she will fill it.   The guests all have ideas of what she should do with her book.  They decide she should fill it with stories about their childhoods.  And everyone has a story to tell.  But Carmen Teresa, who loves to cook, surprises everyone with how she will use her beautiful new present.

With energy, sensitivity, and warmth, Lulu Delacre introduces readers to a symphony of colorful characters whose stories dance through a year of Latin American holidays and customs.  And readers will also be treated to recipes for the irresistible foods that appear in each story.
from the book jacket

Review:  This book is tied together by the introduction and final chapter about Carmen Teresa and her family together at a party.  The stories that are in between are about her grandparents and a few other people.  Most of the stories are about their childhoods growing up in various countries.  Perhaps short stories are not my cup of tea or I'm not the target audience but I did not find these stories particularly captivating.  I wanted more out of most of the stories.

Rating: 3 stars

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
by Eleanor Coerr
Illustrated by Ronald Himler

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

SynopsisHiroshima-born Sadako is lively and athletic--the star of her school's running team. And then the dizzy spells start. Soon gravely ill with leukemia, the "atom bomb disease," Sadako faces her future with spirit and bravery. Recalling a Japanese legend, Sadako sets to work folding paper cranes. For the legend holds that if a sick person folds one thousand cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again. Based on a true story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes celebrates the extraordinary courage that made one young woman a heroine in Japan.
from GoodReads

Review:  I've read this book a couple times before, once when I was growing up and once as an adult.  This was my third read of the book but I still enjoyed it as much as I did the first two times.  This book tells the story of Sadako, who unfortunately gets leukemia as a result of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  She is a healthy girl who is full of energy and life and then sadly gets sick.  This story allows kids to read about the effects of the bomb on the people of Japan and get a look into Japanese culture.  The book is very sad but eye opening.  One thing I really like about this book is that it is about a serious topic and about a 12 year old girl but written at a low level.  This makes a perfect book for older students who are reading at a lower level.

Rating: 4 stars

Riding Freedom

Riding Freedom
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Illustrated by Brian Selznick

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Synopsis: Charlotte Parkhurst never acted like most other girls.  She climbed trees and fought with boys and worked in a stable.  She had a way with horses that was like nothing folks had ever seen.

In the mid 1800s, some people didn't think it was proper for a girl to behave like Charlotte, and they tried to stop her.  But Charlotte was smart, and she came up with a plan that would let her live her life the way she wanted-a plan so clever and so secret that almost no one figured it out.

A top-notch horse rider, a legendary stagecoach driver, the first woman to vote in the state of California and probably the United States, Charlotte Parkhurst, known as Charley, was a real person with a larger-than-life story.
from the book jacket

Review:  This historical fiction book gives readers a look at a character who most people would not know anything about.  The story starts with Charlotte growing up in an orphanage where she finds an outlet in caring for and riding horses.  She wants to be free from the unfair treatment at the orphanage so she decides to run away.  Charlotte turns into Charley and learns to drive a stagecoach.  Charlotte is portrayed as a very strong girl and woman who knows her own mind and follows her dreams.  I really enjoyed reading about her life and I wish that this book could have been longer so we would have known more about her!  This is definitely a great book for kids to read!

Rating: 4 stars