Monday, November 17, 2014

Balance Keepers: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings

11 year old Albert thinks he's going to have a boring Summer in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. He isn't expecting a super intelligent dog to lead him through the woods, into a steampunk cave and then to a rollercoaster which takes him and some new friends to a magical academy deep within the earth. 

Yes, this is basically the plot of Harry Potter, but there is a lot of invention here. Some wonderful new magical creatures, family connections between the students and teachers and a clever way to link the magical and real worlds. A fun new magical adventure series starts here.

Published by Katherine Tegan Books September 23, 2014

Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

They've been best friends since the age of six but Althea has just realized she's in love with Oliver. Oliver isn't sure he feels the same way, then he falls sick. When Althea goes off the deep end, drunk, high and messing around with a hopeless boyfriend, Oliver leaves town for a special hospital and doesn't even tell her. 

There is so much originality in this story, Oliver's sickness is far from conventional and Althea's downward spiral really doesn't end where you think it will. Yes, this is a love story and so much more.

Published by Penguin October 9, 2014
Review first published in meetYA@DIESEL newsletter November 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn't Fly by P T Jones

Maria is at a tedious family party when a strange 15 year old boy runs through the backyard, climbs a tree and then floats into the sky. The next day, her baby brother starts floating too, Maria knows she has to find the stranger and get some answers. But it's not as simple as that, there's also a kidnapped little brother, a rapidly spreading plague, a little romance, death defying feats of stupidity and some serious snark. 

I have never read a book like this before. This strange story is worth going off the beaten track for.

Published by ChiTeen November 1, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

Three bear brothers live with their mother in a picture perfect house by the ocean. One day these squabbling siblings accidentally break their mother's favorite shell, so the boys set sail to find another. On their big sea adventure, they visit some magical islands and meet some wise sailors, see an enormous whale and a survive a terrifying storm. But they don't find a shell like their mother's favorite one. Will they make it back to the house? And will mother bear forgive them?

This is a truly charming picture book with beautiful and accomplished watercolor illustration by Soman (who is the co-author of Ladybug Girl) . Despite it's nursery-rhyme-like title the book is actually for slightly older children. There are a lot of complex themes here; how families come together in adversity, how a mother will always forgive her children and that there's no place like home. I also think it has an excellent last line.

All of which makes it a perfect holiday gift book for ages 5-7.

Published by Dial May 20, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

The seven young ladies of St Ethelreda's School are somewhat dysfunctional. Nevertheless, none of them is responsible for the murder of their headmistress and her odious brother. The girls are not eager to be separated and return to their families, so they concoct a plan to cover up the deaths. A plan which unravels with hilarious consequences. 

Julie Berry creates a Victorian whodunit with plenty of surprises, twists, slapstick, thwarted love and social niceties. The ensemble cast of characters is really brought to life, by their appropriate nicknames, such as Dour Elinor, Smooth Kitty and Disgraceful Mary Jane. The Scandalous Sisterhood is very silly and a lot of fun.

Published by Roaring Book Press September 23, 2014
Review first published in meetYA@DIESEL newsletter, September, 2014.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rhyme Schemer by K A Holt

Kevin is an aggressive boy, with a difficult life and a lot of anger, which he happily takes out on his classmates. Secretly, he loves to write poetry, but even while he's creating his poems he's destroying the library books where he finds his words. Eventually his poetry makes him a target for another boy out for revenge and Kevin hits rock bottom.
This is a novel in verse and contains some of the best kids poetry I've read. Take this for example:

By the way,
this isn't even poetry.
It's just thoughts
on paper
rapid fire
with not as many words
as usual thoughts

Rhyme Schemer is a great story that really makes you think about the use of language, humor and real life experience in poetry.

Published by Chronicle Books October 2014