Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Publisher Review: Wave

by Eric Walters

Eric Walters, it seems, is finding his niche in writing sensitive takes on major disasters and making a plausible story of one family's experience in that setting. He takes that same direction here, writing the story of a family vacation in Phuket, Thailand, that is turned quite literally on its head with the massive tsunami that wreaked havoc on the Indian Ocean in December 2004.

The writing is believable, and while he does take on some difficult moments, he carefully treads the line between allowing some of the tragedy to occur, making the story truer to life, versus bringing too much to his main characters, which the reader has come to know. It's a balance, and mostly he does it well, though I do sometimes think the happy ending is not always the best for the story.

Walters' level of detail is strong, and he has clearly done his research, both in how tsunamis happen and in what it was like that day, as he writes compelling description that meshes with what video and photos of the day show, as well.

If you have a child who is fascinated by disasters or wants something with a little true-to-life action and danger, this would fit the bill nicely.

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Friday, July 23, 2010


The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline

An Enola Holmes Mystery

by Nancy Springer

This is the fifth installment of the terrific Enola Holmes series of mysteries, which I have been enjoying enormously.

Enola is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, who is on the run and living on her own in Victorian London, depending on her wits, facility for disguise, and her intimate knowledge of society.

When her landlady, who she has grown close to, is kidnapped, she leaps into action, trying to discover who has kidnapped her, and why. Once she discovers the root of the long-ago misunderstanding that led to this, she takes on the baddies to rescue her landlady, and ensure her future safety.

None of this is cut-and-dried, however, for she also risks exposing herself, and her brother is tangled up in the case, being a famous detective and all. She manages to escape her brothers again, but by the end, finds she will have to change her living situation to stay one step ahead of them. (This is, for the record, not a terrible spoiler about the mystery itself!)

One additional twist is added in this story - Springer has included a figure from history, blending truth and imagination in equal measure to create a likeable character. She notes at the end how much is real and how much invented, but it's a fun bit of speculation to engage in for the sake of the plot!

These books are terrific fun and a great read for someone who likes a spunky female heroine.

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Maybelle - Cockroach With Ambition

Maybelle in the Soup
Maybelle Goes to Tea

by Katie Speck

Maybelle is a cockroach. She lives in the apartment of a couple who like everything Just So - no dust, no mess, and no bugs. There are rules that help keep a cockroach alive in this kind of situation, and she knows them, but, well, she really, really wants to taste food that isn't a leftover crumb, you see, and that ambition tempts her into some dangerous situations, along with her friend, the flea who occasionally hops onto the cat for his own snacks.

Whenever Maybelle's wishes overtake her good sense, the two find themselves off on an adventures of some sort, precipitated by an urgent need to flee (heh, heh) when they are noticed by a human and must hide in a hurry and find safe shelter while the humans try to make sure there can be no bugs left in their apartment.

These predicaments are fast-paced, funny, and easy to read, making these books a great pick for an early chapter reader.

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Ottoline and the Yellow Cat

by Chris Riddell

Ottoline lives in an apartment on her own, except for her very odd little companion, Mr. Munroe, who is of unknown species, found in a bog in Norway. She has a cute, spunky little haircut, absent parents off hunting things down for collections, and several collections of her own, as well as several agencies who take care of everything in her apartment that might need taking care of, including the making of beds and plumping of pillows, the cleaning, the cooking of meals, and the shining of door handles.

She also has several costumes and a diploma from an academy of subterfuge, as well as a healthy curiosity that she isn't afraid to pursue. Which, of course, is how she gets herself and Mr. Munroe involved with the yellow cat.

You see, she had been noticing that several lapdogs were disappearing, and then an advertisement appeared offering help in finding lost lapdogs - isn't that odd? Ottoline thought so, too. And of course, she and Mr. Munroe sort things out with a little extra-special assistance from some of those many agencies and their specialties.

This book is an unusual little mystery, with a touch of the eccentric upbringing of Eloise thrown in for good measure. What pushed it past somewhat amusing and into the thoroughly charming, though, is the mix of story told in text and the many drawings that accompany it, making it one part graphic novel to two parts early chapter book.

It really is a fun, quirky little number for the child who likes something a little different.

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The Voyages of Dodsworth

Dodsworth in New York
Dodsworth in Paris

by Tim Egan

This pair of cute, quirky books about Dodsworth and his friend's duck and their travels is a great addition to the Beginning to Read level of short, simpler books.

Start with New York - order matters here, as they set out on their adventures and we see that the duck is along for the trip because a) he stows away in Dodsworth's luggage and b) Dodsworth feels responsible for getting his friend's duck back home safely to him. Which means that his time in New York is mostly spent chasing the crazy fowl around the city and seeing sites incidentally along the way.

Which is also sort of how he gets to Paris - he and the duck were about to get on a train back home (having let his friend know they were okay), when he spots the duck boarding a boat, follows him, and finds the boat pulling away, Paris-bound.

In Paris, though, he and the duck make their peace, and manage to have a good trip together, even though the duck can't seem to help but get into trouble. By the end, all is right again, and they board a hot air balloon - which seems to be headed for England. I smell another installment!

These are great fun, a little offbeat, and especially suited for a kid who is curious about the world or likes a little adventure. They're going on the reading pile here, without question.

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