Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Down the Rabbit Hole

by Peter Abrahams

This mystery had some immediate appeal to me, as an Alice lover, but also features a 13-year-old girl who is a Sherlock Holmes fan and starts to do a little sleuthing herself. She kind gets herself into a funny situation and does one weird and ill-advised thing after another to try to get out of it, diggin her way further in, in fact, while trying to stay on top of school, soccer, the lead in a play, and a possible blooming romance.

It's a fun ride, and has just the right note of suspense - a little menacing, but not too much so. Though it's a longer book, it moves along quickly, too, and I quite liked how it built to the finale. I even found myself guessing, which I don't do often, and it tells me this novel really reeled me in.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007


Teen Idol

by Meg Cabot.

Yup, it's another chicklit book by Meg. In the same voice as her Princess books and pretty much all of her teen chick books. But you know what? I like the voice. Maybe it's because I can relate to it - and everygirl voice, the voice of someone who feels kind of awkward, but isn't that badly off, the voice of someone who is neither popular nor unpopular. A voice I bet thousand of young girls can totally understand, because they hear it in their own heads, too. Sometimes it's nice to have company.

Anyhow, Jenny Greenley is the Girl Next Door. The Nice Girl. The Smoother Over of Problems. And she is entrusted with not only the anonymous school advice column, but also being the student guide for the undercover visit of movie star Luke Striker. Things go awry, but before he takes off, he tells her he thinks she could be more. Be less passive, and use her position as everybody's friend to make high school less vicious. In the end, it turns out he's at least as astute as she is, and shows her some things about herself. And of course, since this is chicklit and all, there's a boy and a happy ending for everybody. The end.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007


The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues

by Ellen Raskin

The author of my favourite kids mystery (The Westing Game) may have topped herself with this one. It's an oldie, nearly unknown, and totally overshadowed by the Newbery bestowed on her aforementioned, more famous work. Still, I loved it.

Art student Dickory Dock finds herself the apprentice of a strange artist, a man obssessed with disguise and detection, who teaches her the art of keen observation. The two of them solve a handful of mysteries for an NYPD detective, while some mysterious activities are going on in the artist's own house. Dickory, in the end, solves some older riddles, putting things to right as they should be.

Raskin's usual deft touch for telling detail left me guessing all the way through, as does her Westing Game, no matter how many times I read it. That, more than anything, tells me how much she draws me into her mysteries, because I don't do that with any other mysteries, adult or children's.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


How To Eat Fried Worms

by Thomas Rockwell

This is one of those books I know I read as a child, but couldn't quite remember. One of those books that centres around the capers of madcap young boys long ago, in a less decidedly urban setting. I sort of lump it in with Robert Newton Peck's Soup books, hilarious and full of mischief I'd never find myself in. So I had to reread it so I could recommend it to some boys who I was pretty sure would love it. I mean, if nothing else, it has that gross-out factor, which is pretty cool with the young and masculine.

And indeed, it was funny and full of getting into trouble while trying to avoid even more trouble. The schemes on the one side to cause the worm-eater to lose are wild and full of imagination, while his stout resolve is fascinating, maybe even a little admirable, but certainly entertaining as the battle of wits and wills rages on. It's the very ending, though, that capped it off for me. I totally didn't expect a little twist!

Great stuff for the grade 3-6 set, I would say.

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Monday, August 06, 2007


Cassie Loves Beethoven

by Alan Arkin.

This book would make a wonderful read-aloud for a child maybe 5-10 years old. Why the wide range? Well, it's gentle enough for a younger child who can sit still long enough for a chapter or two a night but needs light themes, but is fun and has enough depth of feeling and discussable ideas to suit an older kid, too.

It is, in short, about a cow who discovers classical music and the awe of Beethoven. Well, I certainly can relate to that, because he is my favourite, too. She becomes determined to learn to play his music, to feel it deeply, to taste what it might have been like to be him, to have the soul she hears in the notes. The book writes beautifully about music and its power to move the spirit - you can really hear the author's own love for it. Cassie the cow does, in the end, learn a valuable lesson, too, but the lesson is not that harsh, and the book never takes on a lesson-giving tone. While not as funny as I had been led to expect, this was nonetheless a great read, and one that I will keep in mind for a couple of years from now.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

by Kate DiCamillo.

I am a big fan of DiCamillo, in general. I loved Winn-Dixie, and was wholly captivated by the magical Tale of Desperaux. I had, as such, high hopes for this, as it seemed to have that same fairy tale character about it. It was, though, not quite there. It was shorter, which is not always a problem, but I still felt like it was longer than it had to be, that it didn't really say anything the way her others did. It seemed like it might go on a real Velveteen Rabbit bent, but that wasn't it. It just didn't seem to have a point, though it does wrap back onto itself nicely at the end. And, of course, with DiCamillo, the ride is lovely anyhow, so it's not something I would avoid reading. I was just sort of lukewarm on it.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by - oh who am I kidding? You know who wrote this.

So what did I think of the final installment? I won't give away the ending for those who haven't read it, because I hate that. I'd be annoyed.

But what did I think? Well, to be honest, any time there is lots and lots of hype, I have a hard time being impressed, and it would be well nigh impossible to live up to the buildup this number has received, so I was expecting to be not totally thrilled. And yes, I was right.

it does wrap up loose ends and make plenty of references back to other volumes of the series, and the ending is wrapped up in a fairly satisfactory, if quite cliched, fashion. It does everything it should do and is supposed to do. Yet it just didn't grab me the way some of the others did. It felt a bit slow, it seemed like it didn't have the level of suspense some of the earlier adventures held. It just felt a little flatter than one would hope for such a big finale.

All in all, it was... okay.

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