Posts Tagged ‘Kid’s Fiction’

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

October 10, 2014

The Strange Case of Origami YodaDwight, a 6th grader at Ralph McQuarrie Middle School has created an Origami Yoda that seems to know the future. At least, that’s what it seems like to Tommy, another boy in Dwight’s class. Tommy, however, needs to know for sure whether Origami Yoda can really know the future. Why? Tommy’s asked Origami Yoda advice on what to do about a girl he likes, named Sara.

In order to satisfy his curiosity, he collects stories from other students at school to see what advice Origami Yoda gave them and what happened as a result of said advice. The result is a binder full of stories, illustrated by Tommy’s friend Kellen, with commentary from his other friend Harvey, who is an unbeliever in the power of Origami Yoda.

The casebook proceeds to tell the stories of kids who ask Origami Yoda advice. It includes some practical advice, such as: Kellen gets water on his pants and it looks like he wet his pants; Yoda’s advice, get your shirt wet as well, and that way no one notices the wet pants. Some of Origami Yoda’s advice seems crazier, like learn the Twist. What’s the Twist and why should Tommy and his friends learn to do it? Well, what happens at the next dance? The DJ plays the Twist.

The various stories of Tommy and his friends are a reminder of traps and trials of middle school. Told as an interwoven collection of stories this book and its illustrations are a fun look at middle school with an unusual Star Wars twist. Five more books follow in the series.

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Join us on Saturday, October 11 from 3-5 p.m. for Star Wars Reads Day when we’ll have fun crafts, trivia, books, and more in an event for all ages to celebrate all the reasons why we love Star Wars.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

October 8, 2014

Star Wars: Jedi AcademyJeffrey Brown brings the heavily cartoon illustrated middle-grade novel popularized by Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series to the Star Wars universe.

The story features a young boy, very reminiscent of Luke Skywalker, named Roan. Roan dreams of being a fighter pilot like his father. His dreams are crushed when he finds that he has not been accepted into pilot school, but must instead begin training to become a Jedi.

Yoda, as the headmaster, is one of the only characters from the movie world, but there are plenty of familiar alien species and droid types. One of the most entertaining was his unintelligible female Wookie gym teacher, often pictured wearing head and wrist sweatbands like a furrier Bjorn Borg. Others include the tutor droid T-P3O, the Mon Calamri Librarian Lackbar and a school bully who looks remarkably similar to Darth Maul. This book documents an eventful school year where Roan learns to make friends, duel with a light saber and use the force. Anyone who has experienced middle-school will empathize with Roan’s experiences and root for him to find the Jedi Path.

Jedi Academy is not to be confused with author Tom Angleberger’s equally laudable Origami Yoda series, which takes place in a realistic Earthbound setting featuring characters who are fans of the Star Wars mythos. I would recommend this series for upper-elementary and older Star Wars fans. It is filled with many Star Wars puns and movie references. For example, the kids go to Ralph McQuarrie Middle School and a couple of the origami villains are named Jabba the Puppet and Darth Paper.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Join us on Saturday, October 11 from 3-5 p.m. for Star Wars Reads Day when we’ll have fun crafts, trivia, books, and more in an event for all ages to celebrate all the reasons why we love Star Wars.

The Castafiore Emerald by Hergé

August 8, 2014

The Castafiore EmeraldMany years ago, on a cool autumn eve, a young foreigner walked the streets of Paris, France. Outside a bookstore, adults – a long line of them – were waiting to be let in, even though the shop had been closed for hours. It turned out that Hergé’s unfinished comic book Tintin et l’Alph-Art would be released the next day – thus the crowd.

In many countries around the world, The Adventures of Tintin are shelved with children’s literature. This makes perfect sense, as many youngsters love these strong stories that are populated with captivating characters and wonderful use of language. However, as the crowd outside the Paris bookstore showed, the books are for adults too. For Hergé was one of the great storytellers of the 20th century and if there is perfection in art it can be found in the graphic novels of Hergé and his staff.

The Castafiore Emerald (1963) is part of Hergé’s late, mature work, and while children and adults alike can adore this “comic opera” for its humor, it is also filled with adult elements. It is, in part, an anti-narrative, riddled with misunderstandings and communication breakdowns, and the plot is an exercise in creating suspense out of next to nothing. But while Hergé finds plenty of traction while toying with the reader’s expectations, he simultaneously offers a complex and revealing exposure of bigotry.

In The Castafiore Emerald, Hergé turns his back on international adventures as Captain Haddock and his friend Tintin enjoy some downtime in Marlinspike, the captain’s grand estate. Low-key, domestic adventures rule the days at Marlinspike. Most disturbingly, to Haddock who only wishes for peace and quiet, is a letter from his acquaintance Bianca Castafiore, the very loud opera diva of Milan. When she announces her immediate arrival to Marlinspike, Haddock decides that this is a good time to leave for Milan. But in his hurry to leave Marlinspike he slips and sprains his ankle. Leaving the estate is now out of the question, and soon enough the old sailor finds himself in a wheelchair, trapped in the company of the uninvited opera singer. Haddock’s problems grow worse when two Paris Flash reporters announce to the world that Haddock and the diva intend to get married, and when – to his horror – a TV crew invades the castle to interview Castafiore.

In the meantime, Tintin is busy solving the mystery of Castafiore’s lost emerald. Who is behind the disappearance of the gemstone? Could it be Castafiore’s secretive pianist, Wagner, who sneaks off to the village and make clandestine phone calls when he’s supposed to be practicing his craft? Or is it the Romani that have camped on the estate? Or does it have something to do with the ghostly footsteps that can be heard in the attic at night?

The story lines of The Castafiore Emerald are weaved together in the most wonderful way, and even if this book offers low-key adventures, the cliff-hangers will last till the very last panel.

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The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

June 20, 2014

The Wind in the WillowsKenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859. His father was a lawyer. He lost his mother when he was just five years old, and his paternal grandmother raised him. Living with her, he became acquainted with the river Thames and its river rats (or water voles, as they are not rats), and there – on the river bank – The Wind in the Willows begins.

Winter has passed, and the lightness of the northern Europe spring has arrived. Mole – very much a hearth and home kind of creature – has had it with spring-cleaning and takes the day off. He ends up by the river, which he has never seen before, and meets the water vole Ratty. In his rowing boat, the Rat teaches Mole about life by the river; they are about to embark on many adventures.

If this sounds idyllic and pastoral, that’s because it is. The rural landscape of Grahame wants nothing to do with the Industrial Revolution that had transformed the Great Britain in his time. The quiet adventures of Ratty and Mole are filled with a love for the wonders of the natural world and peak in the chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn;” here the divine essence of nature is revealed.

Enter Mr. Toad.

Mr. Toad is a spoiled aristocrat who gets obsessed with one thing after another: sailing, rowing, caravan travel, whatever. Possessions are his thing. One day, when a motorcar passes Mr. Toads caravan, the car scares the horse and upsets the Rat. Toad, however, is delighted. He has found a new obsession. Before long, his friends learn that he has wrecked six cars and even has been hospitalized on several occasions. Toad pays no heed to the rules of traffic or other’s safety, and his friends decide to protect Mr. Toad from himself.

Mole, Ratty, and Mr. Badger (who was a friend of Toad’s late father) try to convince Toad to change his ways, but he will not listen. They then decide to put Toad under house arrest, with themselves as guards, till he changes his mind. Toad is clever, though. He pretends to be ill, tricks the Rat, and escapes. However, his escape, like most of his triumphs, is short-lived. He steals a car, drives like a maniac, and is caught by the police. Justice has no patience for him. He is sentenced to twenty years in prison.

And this is just the beginning of Mr. Toad’s mindless adventures. The quiet parts of The Wind in the Willows are magical – in nature’s own way – but the outrageous mishaps of Mr. Toad turn the book into a brilliant comedy.

The Wind in the Willows is a tale for children – Grahame originally wrote it for his son – but it’s a story readers can return to throughout the span of a lifetime.

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Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

April 29, 2014

Moon Over Manifest by Clare VanderpoolMoon Over Manifest is a children’s fiction novel that appeals to all readers who enjoy adventure in a true American historical setting. This first novel written by Clare Vanderpool won the John Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature in 2011. However, adults, too, can savor the first-person account of young Abilene Tucker literally jumping from a life of riding the rails with her father into intrigue and challenge in Manifest, Kansas in 1936. With eccentric characters like “The Rattler,” a menacing spy; Miss Sadie, a mysterious Hungarian diviner; or Pastor Shady Howard, who takes Abilene into his home at her father’s request, there is much for the reader to relish as the story unfolds.

There are several storylines in the novel. Besides Abilene’s story, there is one of a boy named Jinx who faces bigotry and prejudice in 1917 Manifest. Another is the rise and decline of Manifest itself. Miss Sadie, whose home lies at the end of the “Path to Perdition,” over time discloses the story of Jinx and Manifest to Abilene. Abilene’s discovery of letters, mementos and newspaper clippings also lead to the recognition of who Jinx becomes.

I enjoyed the book very much for its rhythms and pacing, its historical atmosphere, and its unfolding mysteries. There is hope and humor as Abilene perseveres in her efforts to understand her father. She thinks he has abandoned her, and she yearns to feel connected to family. Abilene makes friends, accepts people in all their diversity, and treasures what she discovers. She, as well as Jinx earlier, begins to belong to Manifest, this tired, but worthy, town.

This novel has been a selection of both youth and adult book clubs. You may well enjoy this story of loss and devotion set in a captivating time and place in America’s history.

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Jinx by Sage Blackwood

March 18, 2014

Young Jinx knows that the thick forest called the Urwald is full of danger. Anyone foolish enough to leave the path is likely to meet a hungry werewolf or elves or, even worse, an evil wizard. So when Jinx’s stepfather decides that he has too many mouths to feed and leads Jinx off the path, he knows things aren’t going to end well. Sure enough, they meet both a wizard and a troll. But much to Jinx’s surprise, he leaves the encounter alive – and with a new home, with the mysterious wizard Simon Magus.

As time passes, Jinx begins to question what he’s heard about wizards. Simon is short tempered, but he doesn’t seem evil. As Jinx grows up in Simon’s home, he gradually learns a lot more about his world: magic is more complicated than he had thought, there is much more outside the Urwald than he would have guessed, and he himself is more unique than he knows at the book’s start. Jinx is a classic fairy tale character: the orphan with more power than anyone expects. He’s also smart, brave and immensely likeable. Simon is also a fascinating character, far more nuanced than he seems at first.

His motives keep the reader guessing as he tries to balance his grudging affection for Jinx with his ambitions as a powerful wizard.

Jinx is written for a middle grade audience, but would appeal to anyone, adult or child, who enjoys a mix of powerful magic, peculiar wizards and witches, unique fantasy worlds and well-written characters at the center of it all. Even better, Jinx’s world is much bigger and more complex at the end of the book than at the start, and Blackwood‘s sequel, Jinx’s Magic, introduces still more to the story. This is shaping up to be one of my favorite fantasy series in years, and I can’t wait for the third book!

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Dan B’s Picks

December 17, 2013

As the saying goes, “so many books, so little time” – and that is why I’ll never run out of great things to read. My picks for the best new-to-me books that I discovered this year include a classic, a kids book, an Urban Fantasy novel, and two very different science fiction novels. Three of my picks were published just last year, and I’m sure there’s a few books that came out this year that I won’t get to until further down the road, ensuring my continued reading pleasure for years to come.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
I am so glad that I finally read this classic novel, which was published almost 50 years ago. It’s the story of Charlie, a mentally deficient man who is given an experimental drug to make him smart. Charlie turns into a genius very quickly, but has not developed the social skills he needs, and encounters awkward situations. The experiment was also conducted on mice, and one mouse, Algernon, is showing signs of regressing and losing his intelligence. This emotional story is made even more powerful because it is written in diary form by Charlie, and his writing and language skills tell the story as much as the events do.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio
This touching kids novel is one of those books that everyone – adults included – should read. Auggie Pullman has always been homeschooled, but is about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep and he’s understandably nervous. He has a severe facial deformity and kids can be cruel, especially in middle school. Auggie says to us, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” A few kids help Auggie out as gets used to his new school, but its soon evident that most kids are uncomfortable around him, and several are downright mean. In turns funny and sad (yes, I cried), I highly recommend this poignant book!

The Taken by Vicki Pettersson
“Grif” Shaw is a Centurion, an angel who helps souls cross into the Everlast, especially those who died violently – just as he did fifty years ago. One day he comes to collect a soul and inadvertently puts another life in jeopardy. Now Grif must interfere with mortal events and help “Kit” Craig, a newspaper reporter who lives the rockabilly lifestyle. Together Grif and Kit track down who is kidnapping young women and forcing them into prostitution, and it looks like the culprits may be some of Las Vegas’ most powerful movers and shakers. Pettersson gives us a fresh, fun take on a noir mystery blended with urban fantasy and a love story.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Pratchett and Baxter have come up with an intriguing sci-fi concept: what if people were able to “step” across to innumerable, parallel Earths on which humans never developed? Now we have infinite room for humankind to spread out, to explore, and to begin again. Iron can not be stepped, so each new world has pre-industrial technology once humans settle. Some people can “step” naturally, many more can with a small machine, but some can not step at all. A great story with very real characters and truly infinite possibilities; be warned, though that it ends on a cliff-hanger and you’ll need to continue with the sequel, The Long War.

No Going Back by Mark Van Name
I don’t usually review later books in a series, and you really should start with One Jump Ahead, but this fifth novel in Van Name’s Jon & Lobo series is his best yet. Jon is a mercenary and the only survivor of an experiment infusing humans with nano-technology. His partner Lobo is an A.I. enhanced warrior class vehicle suited for space, land, or water. When a mysterious woman from Jon’s past contacts him with a job stealing from his quarantined home world, he accepts, but after this mission there truly is no going back. Jon’s secret is revealed and we learn much more about how he came to be who and what he is.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

November 26, 2013

milkThis is Neil Gaiman’s fifth book published this year! The other books include, Chu’s Day: a picture book about a sneezing panda, The Silver Dream: co-written with Michael & Mallory Reaves – the sequel to the teen novel Interworld, Make Good Art: Neil’s commencement speech from the University of the Arts, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane: a magically creepy book that is only for grown ups. Fortunately, the Milk, however, is for kids and for grown ups of all ages. It is the story of an ordinary dad who has a very extraordinary adventure on his way to the corner store and back to get some milk for his kids’ cereal. What makes this fun adventure even better are the illustrations throughout the story by Skottie Young.

You see, when the dad in this story steps out to get some milk for his kids (because who wants to eat dry Toastios?) he is kidnapped by Aliens on his way back home. The dad escapes only to end up on a ship with nasty pirates. He’s made to walk the plank, but at the very last second is saved by a time traveling stegosaurus in a balloon (Professor Steg invented the time traveling device). Soon they are beset by volcano god worshipping islanders who want to sacrifice them, but some finagling with the space-time continuum pops them away. They travel into a dark land inhabited by vampires, who want to have the duo for breakfast. The traveling companions once again manage to escape certain doom only to end up back home and to be captured once again by the same aliens from the beginning. The aliens then also bring the pirates, the islanders, and the vampires on board their space ship to further menace dad and Professor Steg. During each part of this fun and funny adventure dad almost loses the milk, but fortunately, the milk makes it home with dad, so his kids can eat their Toastios, and he can have his tea.

Kids who read this book will grow up to like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series; and adults who love Douglas Adams will really enjoy this kids’ book! Fortunately for the kids in the story, their Dad survives his adventures to bring home the milk, and fortunately for all of us, Neil Gaiman continues writing (and at an amazing pace!) and created this wonderful story about time travel and breakfast cereal.

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The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

October 16, 2013

I had been told that The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin was one of the best juvenile fiction novels of all time. No one could understand how I had never read it, let alone had never heard of it. In this entertaining tale, a group of sixteen individuals are gathered together while the will of their enigmatic neighbor, Samuel Westing, is read aloud.

Unbeknownst to these people, all mysteriously invited to live at the same apartment complex, Westing has enveloped them in an increasingly bizarre mystery. Paired off with unlikely teammates, each duo must attempt to unravel the mystery with the goal of winning the deceased’s fortune. The plot thickens as there are bombings, supposed deaths, and confusing clues.

Each of the sixteen neighbors has ties to one another that far outreach moving into the same building. As the clues continue to be handed out, the plot thickens when they discover that whoever wins also finds Sam Westing’s murderer. Turtle, the main protagonist, is brilliantly clever and loveable, despite her annoying quirks. Everyone underestimates her childish innocence while they blunder through their own interpretations of the clues.

Although it was a very quick read, I felt that I had gotten to know many of the characters–their flaws, strengths, and weaknesses–very well. I enjoyed the complexity to the mystery and the sheer peculiarity of the storyline. Yes, it was intended for children, but it is always nice to take a break from adult books and read a fun kids book every so often.

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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

April 25, 2013

Not only does Grace Lin write Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, she also provides stunning illustrations to accompany the story. It was part folktale, part fantasy, and an all-around great adventure as Minli set off to meet the Old Man of the Moon.

Minli’s family is poor and the only form of entertainment was the stories she had grown up listening to; her father told her about Magistrate Tiger, the Jade Dragon, and the Fruitless Mountain. Stories about fortune and people changing their luck inspire her to use one of her only copper coins in order to buy a goldfish. Instead of bringing her family good fortune, she feels the weight of her family having another mouth to feed.

When she released the fish into the river, the goldfish tells her the story of the Never-Ending Mountain. She learns of Old Man of the Moon, living at the top of the Never-Ending Mountain, whose red thread weaves together everyone’s fate. Growing up in the shadow of the Fruitless Mountain, Minli finally decides that it is up to her to change the fate of her village and the fortune of her family, and she takes it upon herself to meet the Old Man.

Minli meets many different people and creatures along her journey; a flightless dragon, a Buffalo Boy, and a village in which all of its inhabitants know the true meaning of happiness. While many folktales can appear preachy, Lin employs them with ease to provide background information about the story. She ties everything up neatly with a red thread; the missing line that Minli must use to request an audience with the Old Man of the Moon.

It was an enjoyable and sweet tale about a girl’s discovery of what happiness is and the meaning of friendship. Although it was a juvenile fiction novel, I found myself amazed at the depth of the subject matter and, when I finished, I wanted to read it all over again.

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