Monday, February 20, 2012

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Peanuts

     I love this title!  It pretty much sums up my life, and the fact that it was a birthday gift from my brother makes it even more perfect.  This book of wisdom pairs up a lesson on the left with an example cartoon from Peanuts on the right. 
     One lesson is "How to Eat Ice Cream" and shows Snoopy and Woodstock eating ice cream together on top of Snoopy's dog house.  Snoopy says, "I always have the vanilla on the bottom and the chocolate on the top."  When Woodstock answers, Snoopy replies, "You like to have the vanilla on top and the chocolate on the bottom?  That's interesting.  It takes all kinds to make a world."  What a wonderful world it would be if we could all see that we like different kinds of ice cream, but it takes all kinds to make a world. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You

     Ignatious B. Grumply is a grumply old man who has had writer's block for 20 years.  He rents a home for the summer so he can finally write the next book in his ghost series.  He discovers he is also living with a young boy, the boy's cat, and a protective ghost named Olive.  They will have to learn to live together or "die" trying. 
     This is a really quick read.  The book is told through letters, newspaper articles, drawings, reports, and advertisements.  Each character has a chance to share his or her point-of-view through the different medium used through the book.
     It is a great book if you have a child in upper elementary that enjoys books or for a read-aloud with mom and dad.  Even though it is short, it isn't a good choice for struggling readers.  Ignatius has a huge vocabulary, and he uses words like "beseechingly" and "conciliatorily."  The change in medium every few pages also makes it a struggle for some readers, but a delight for others.  A cute love story told in an original way.       

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

       The bullies finally push Michael too far and he shocks them with electricity.  Unlike a taser, Michael's electricity comes from the inside.  The cute cheerleader, Taylor, sees what happens and begins to probe  Michael's secrets.  After discovering they both have super powers, they begin investigating their pasts.  They were born at the same time in a California hospital testing new MRI technology.  They are shocked to discover that of the fifty-nine babies born there with them, only seventeen survive.  Taylor and Michael are two of the lucky ones.  Unfortunately, Dr. Hatch has left the information on the Internet to lure in the missing teens.  Dr. Hatch kidnaps Taylor and Michael's mom, knowing Michael will try to rescue the women he loves.
     This book was a little slow to start, but once it got started, it was hard to put down.  The characters were interesting, especially the teens living in Dr. Hatch's laboratory.  The teens powers were all very different, including the way they used their powers for good or evil.  I liked the way the bullies in the story became the ones helping Michael on his mission.  The only thing I didn't like was the almost sadistic side of power being shown at the end of the book.  
     I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to adults and teens who enjoy science fiction/fantasy or action/adventure.  At 326 pages, it is a more difficult book for reluctant readers, but with a great book talk or movie trailer, many would be willing to give it a shot.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Lost Hero

      Rick Riordan is now officially one of my all-time favorite authors.  This man is an incredible writer.  I wish I had written this book!
     The Lost Hero is the first book in The Heroes of Olympus series.  I loved the characters in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, so I was leery of a new set of characters.  I knew from the first sentence that I would love these characters just as much as Percy, Annabeth and Grover - "Even before he got electrocuted, Jason was having a rotten day."
     The story alternates between three characters, which is confusing at first.  I would just get into this character's story and then it would switch the point-of-view.  It took a while, but once I got to know the character's better, I was able to keep them straight.  I liked getting to know the perspectives of the three characters.  I did miss the funny chapter titles that Rick Riordan used in the first series though - like "I Accidentally Vaporized my Pre-Algebra Teacher."
     I loved the new monsters/bad guys.  It was fun to see how King Midas would survive in the modern world.  Of course, with all of our current greed, he fit right in.  I also loved Medea and her department store of gently used items of dead demigods.  I was alternately disgusted, sympathetic, and intrigued by her character.  I also liked Aeolus - the Lord of the Winds.  It turns out that the weather is controlled by the God's whims and their needs to reward or punish mortals.  Aeolus runs a weather channel that updates every 12 minutes and he is literally going insane from updating the weather as the Gods change their minds about the weather patterns. "We'll have a low-pressure system moving over Florida today, so expect milder temperatures since Demeter wishes to spare the citrus farmers..."  He tapped his earpiece.  "Sorry, folks!  Poseidon is angry with Miami today, so it looks like that Florida freeze is back on!  Sorry, Demeter.  Over in the midwest, I'm not sure what St. Louis did to offend Zeus, but you can expect winter storms!"
     It is a long book, but the action, humor, and well-developed characters make it a fun read.  I recommend it to all kids, teens, and adults that love fantasy or Greek/Roman mythology.  One of the best books Rick Riordan has written so far.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

     Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children may not have been the best book to choose while I was sick, but it seemed like a good one to distract me from my fever and coughing attacks.  It has been sitting in my pile for a couple of weeks, bought on the spur of the moment because the pictures and back of the book reminded me of Stephen King.  
     After witnessing the horrible murder of his beloved grandfather, Jacob sets out to understand his grandfather's dying words.  He discovers his grandfather Abe's fairy tales are true.  As a young Jewish boy, Abe is sent to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children to hide from the Nazis.  The orphanage is an ideal refuge until the Nazi bombing September 3, 1940.  The Nazis are soon overthrown, but new monsters take their place.  Abe is the only one who can see the new monsters, and he risks everything he loves to keep the monsters at bay.  Jason has unknowingly inherited his grandfather's gift and must save the children his grandfather leaves behind.           
     It is definitely one of the weirdest books I have ever read.  It has a bit of everything thrown into the mix: romance, horror, mystery, action, time travel, children with "freak show" abilities and the Nazis.  Unfortunately, the book tries to go too many places and loses its focus.  There are so many characters to keep track of, it is hard to feel for any of them, which is too bad because I want to feel for the kids.  The romance between Jacob and the girl his grandfather also loved is too much of an "ick factor" for me to get past, and the random sexual comments are too much for a recommendation to my students.         
     The photographs in the book are supposed to be actual photographs that people donated of peculiar children, and they are fascinating.  
     The book could have made a very cool allegory about monsters and the underlying truth of his grandfather's experience with the Nazis.  It also could have been a cool horror story.  It's too bad it tries to be everything and fails at all of them.  
     Tim Burton has bought the rights for the movie, so it will be interesting to see how it translates to the big screen.