January 28, 2010

Juvenile/YA Book Reviews, Pt. 2

Posted in 1 tagged , , , , at 9:03 pm by suepenkivech

Dead is the New Black and sequels) by Marlene Perez

Can’t get enough of Twilight?  Check out the Dead is a New Black series.  No traditional vamps so far – but it’s got werewolves aplenty, a ghost, dopplegangers, and an energy vamp – and a mystery in each book, which psychic Daisy Giordano and her sisters have to solve.  This is what Twilight could’ve been – action and adventure mingled in between the romance.  You don’t want to miss it!

Recommended:  Middle and High School aged girls, but content appropriate for lower ages as well.

Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

This one was recommended to me this week by one of my fifth graders, and is a great book for historic fiction fans.  Mattie Cook lives in Philadelphia in the late 1700’s, during the yellow fever epidemic which decimated the city.  The book begins with one of Mattie’s friends dying of the fever, which everyone considers a fluke – until more and more people fall ill and die as well.  I was fascinated by the accounts of quarantine, of then-contemporary medical treatments, of the death carts reminiscent of the black plague in Europe – and by Mattie’s story and how she tries to keep up hope, even as life as she knows it disintegrates.

Recommended:  4-8 grades.  Despite the female protagonist, boys might just like this one as well.

Bobby vs Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee

Poor Bobby.  Being in fourth grade is tough – especially when your best friend is a girl (and is starting to act like one!), your father’s a former football star turned stay-at-home Dad (who calls himself a PTA mom and who insists on baking inedible cupcakes for your bake sale) and your sister sets your hair with rollers while you’re on a nebulizer (petting that dog was not a good idea) and you can’t escape.

It only gets worse when your best friend comes in while you’re being tortured with curlers – and tells one of her friends.

Who tells all her friends.

This means one thing.  War. 

Unfortunately, the war escalates into a full blown battle of the sexes, with Bobby and Holly caught in the middle.  Will one of them cross the lines and save their friendship?  Only time – and a class president election – will tell.

Recommended:  3-5 graders, both sexes.  Wonderful, amusing story of friendship and misunderstandings – and overcoming the latter when the former’s at stake.

December 11, 2008

Review – “The 39 Clues”

Posted in 1 tagged , at 11:44 am by suepenkivech

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – The 39 Clues is the coolest concept in juvenile literature that I’ve ever encountered.

What is The 39 Clues, you may ask.  Is it a book series? A new collectible card craze?  An on-line game?

Actually, it’s all of the above.

The 39 Clues is a brand new book series by Scholastic.  The first book, “The Maze of Bones”, was written by New York Times bestselling author Rick Riordan (of the ever popular Percy Jackson series), who is also responsible for the overall plotting of this ten book mystery/adventure series.  It’s newly released sequel, “One False Note”, is written by kid-favorite Gordon Korman, who will also be writing other installments.

Reminiscent of the movie “National Treasure”, The 39 Clues takes its main characters on a tour of the world, garnering clues from historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, Marie Antoinette, and others, all of whom are purported to be members of the infamous Cahill family.  The protagonists are seeking the secret to the family’s fame and fortune, while dodging other, less scrupulous family members intent upon sabotaging their efforts. 

What’s unique is that the readers are invited to be part of the plot.  Each book contains clues in the story, as well a set of six collectible cards (more cards are available in a separate packet).  The readers collect clues along with the characters while they read, and get others from the cards and the 39 Clues website.  They can then create their own characters and play along on the internet, becoming part of the story. 

And, incidentally, learning a whole lot about history, geography, and science in the process.

Intended for ages 8-12, “The 39 Clues” will appeal to a much broader audience, in the same manner that Harry Potter did.  It’s fun, it’s exciting, and the online component attracts the “reluctant readers”.  In addition, given that the writers are rotating, new installments are being released at three to six month intervals – short enough that the average pre-teen reader won’t lose interest in the series.

The next book, “The Sword Thief” by Peter Lerangis, is scheduled for release on March 3, 2009.