New Book Reviews
Reading Level: Grade 4-6
Jeremy Bender wants, wants, wants to drive his father's boat...the one he is not allowed to touch. Jeremy has been secretly working on the engine of the boat, an antique Chris-Craft, sure that once his father discovers the boat all ready to run in the spring he will let Jeremy take it out on the lake by himself.
Disaster strikes when a grape soda spill and an accidental green paint spray (his pal Slater's fault) ruins the engine. The boys have to raise $470 so they can secretly repair the engine before spring. How can two 6th grade boys earn that kind of money in a couple of months? Jeremy finds the answer on the library bulletin board, the Cupcake Cadets annual model boat race. First prize is $500.
There is one catch...only girls can be Cupcake Cadets. Armed with two of his older sister's used cadet uniforms and a wig for himself (Slater has long hair), Jeremy and Slater disguise themselves as home-schooled twin sisters and join the cadet troop. The $500 is as good as theirs. How hard could it be to earn three merit badges (the entrance requirement) and beat a bunch of girls?
Additional tales of the view from the other side include:
Reading Level: Grade 5-7
Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say 's memoir of his improbable childhood is told in an equally unique manner. The book is part graphic novel with sketches, classic Japanese comics and original photographs.
Allen knew from an early age that he wanted to become a cartoonist, but his father didn't think this was a profession for a proper Japaese boy. The war changed things for Allen and he was able to work at his art. At the age of twelve, he approached Noro Shinpei, the most famous cartoonist in Japan. Shinpei became his sensei, which means "teacher" or "master." It was a relationship that would change Allen's life.
Reading Level: Age 6 - 10
Most children bite someone when they are little. Tony Penrose bit the world famous artist, Pablo Picasso (who bit him back.) Now grown Antony shares his memories of a close family friend. Tony's parents are photographer, Lee Miller, and artist, Roland Penrose which explains the close connectin between the Penrose and Picasso families. The book is filled with artworks by Picasso, old photographs by Tony's mother, and drawings by modern day children.
One the the great joys of this book is seeing the original subject and then Picasso's Interpretation of that subject. The reader can compare pictures of William, the Penrose family bull, Picasso's wife and his two youngest children, and, best of all, Tony's mother with the Picasso's paintings. See if you agree or disagree with Tony's friends at school.
Reading Level: Grades 6-8
This companion book to The Misfits and Totally Joe is a worthy addition to the story of the Gang of Five. Addie Carle is now thirteen and facing the "purgatory of the middle school years." Written entirely in verse, these poems show a softer, more vulnerable side of strong, brave Addie. While Addie isn't reluctant to voice her opinions about everything from gay rights to women's role in history, she also feels the appeal of popularity. She loves having a boyfriend, but finds he doesn't love some of the things she says or the way she says them. A former girlfriend moves back to town and joins her tormentors. While Addie understands that there are those who love her and value her for herself, the turmoil and the gossip are hard to take.
Readers will like Addie and the conclusion she reaches. The first poem is by the author directed to the reader. He asks, "open your eyes, your mind, your heart." Anyone who reads this book will.
Reading Level: Grades 7 and up
When Piotr's parents are killed he is is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw. But Peter is Volksdeutscher, of German blood, and with his blonde good looks he is the image of a Hitler Youth. Newly christened Peter, he is grateful to escape the misery of the orphanage and to be accepted into the home of a prominent Nazi family. The friendly, jovial father is involved with research into racial purity. While Peter is never a strong supporter of Nazi doctrine, he finds that he is expected to participate in Nazi Youth organizations. As time passes he questions doctrine and rebels in small ways. Finally, though terrified, he helps the resistance.
While many books have been written about The Holocaust and this period of history, this is one of the few that explains the appeal of National Socialism. The author has obviously done extensive research into the experiments dealing with racial purity. This is a compelling thought-provoking novel.
Reading Level: Grades K - 2
Elephant struggles with a terrible moral dilemma: should he share his ice cream with Piggie, which he knows is the right thing to do, or should he eat the whole thing himself, which is what he would really LIKE to do.
Reading Level: Grades 8 and up
"I'm about to forget everything I'm going to tell you." So begins the therapeutic statement of Nora James, age 15. Nora and her two friends Micah and Winter, are being held at the Detention Center for Therapeutic Forgetting. In a world filled with ramdom bombings, the authorities find that the people usually want to take the pill that will make them forget all the ugliness. Nora and her friend will be forced to take The Big Pill that will erase all memory of their friendship and everything that happened.
When Nora witnesses the death of a bombing victim, her mother takes her to the TFC for her first pill. But after a chance encounter with Micah, Nora decides she'd rather keep her memories. An unlikely alliance is formed when artists Micah and Winter befriend Nora and the trio creates the comic "Memento." As the three learn more about the forces at work in their world, their rebellion becomes more dangerous.
Reading Level: Grades 3 - 5
Only child Alice and her parents go to the same beach every winter, where they celebrate her birthday and visit with the various vacationers, young and old, who have become their friends. This year is Alice's tenth birthday, but there are some disappointing changes: Some friends can't make it, others have aged, and some newcomers (interlopers?) are unexpectedly included, such as a motherless, annoying six year old. Alice is a sensitive, observant girl,and the various disappointments that arise from these changes are difficult for her, partly because they reveal to Alice unflattering things about herself. Throughout the less than ideal vacation, she relies on the knowledge that she is "alone together" with people who love her.
Reading Level: Ages 12 and up
Joy is a senior in high school who can't accept the fact that her boyfriend, Zan, elected to graduate early and leave for college without saying a word to her. Last year Joy had been the new girl in the boring Mormon town of Haven, Utah. It was to her old hometown in California that Zan decided to flee to escape the conformity and wholesomeness of Haven. But Joy is sure that he wouldn't want to rid himself of her. Although both Mormon, she and Zan were different. With break coming up, Joy convinces Zan's former best friend and golden boy, Noah, to drive her to California to find Zan.
Reading Level: Grade 5-7
Abby Shapiro is an eleven-year-old Jewish girl who desperately wants two things, her first bra and the hot new doll of 1959, the Barbie doll, the one with the bosoms! Her mom says no to the bra and that she can earn her own money to buy the doll. Abby comes up with the idea of designing clothes and sellling her fashion designs to Jackie Kennedy, the "possible future first lady of the United States. Thus Abby begins sending letters to "her friend in fashion."
The book is a lovely coming-of-age story with parts that are laugh out loud funny. Abby learns to deal with complications with her parents, her adored older brother, her gangster uncle, and her neighbors, the witch sisters. Through it all there's her letters to Jackie. A wonderful bonus is the glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew words and expressions.