Libri Dilectio: May 2011

31 May 2011

Book Review: Forge

Forge, Laurie Halse Anderson
(Gr 5-8)
Atheneum, October 2010. Reviewed from library book.

Readers were first introduced to Curzon in 2008’s Chains which was the story of Isabel, a slave girl living in a loyalist house during the American Revolution. In Forge we switch perspectives from Isabel to her friend Curzon. Isabel and Curzon have just escaped from New York City and gone their separate ways – Isabel to find her sister and Curzon to find a place to settle and live free. Curzon passes for free and ends up as a soldier in the American army, stationed at Valley Forge. His path once again crosses with Isabel’s when he finds that she is also at Valley Forge, but not of her own choosing. Not only will these two have to struggle to survive the harsh winter conditions, but also to hide who they really are, and to find a way to trust each other again.

Forge was a wonderfully well written, fascinating novel. Laurie Halse Anderson has given readers a character who they will feel an instant connection with in Curzon. It will help to have read Chains first, but it really isn’t necessary, but then again, why would you want to deprive yourself of such a fabulous book? Curzon is a strong character who knows that freedom is the most important thing in life. Even so, he is not the kind of boy who can ignore another person’s trouble. After saving a young soldier’s life, Curzon finds himself back in the army he thought he’d left for good. He’s a good soldier and is well liked by the rest of his troop, but he has to constantly lie to them. If they knew he was really an escaped slave, they’d turn him in for sure.

This story will give readers an up close look at what it was like to live during the American Revolution and what it was really like to be a Patriot fighting for freedom. The descriptions are vivid and, at times, discomforting. Young readers will get a sense of the bravery it took to be a soldier and be shocked by the young age of many of them. This book would be great for history teachers who need a way to make the Revolution come to life for their students.

Forge is not just a vivid depiction of historical events, it is also a fast paced, entertaining story. Readers will be on the edge of their seats wanting to know what will happen to Curzon and Isabel. Anderson has woven a story that will make young readers frantic for a third book in the series. Beware of paper cuts, this book is a serious page turner.

27 May 2011

Book Review: Squish Super Amoeba

Squish: Super Amoeba, Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
(Gr 3-5)
Random House Books for Young Readers. May 10, 2011. Reviewed from library book.

Squish is a grade school amoeba with a soft spot for comic books and twinkies. Lately he’s got a lot on his plate – his friends are either too naive for their own good, or sort of spacey and moochie. What’s a blob to do when the biggest baddest bully in school threatens to eat his friend if Squish won’t let him copy off of him on a science test? It’s Super Amoeba to the RESCUE! …Probably.

Jennifer and Matthew Holm are the brother and sister masterminds behind my FAVORITE graphic novel series, Babymouse! When I heard they were putting out another series geared more towards boys, I immediately put a copy on hold. I did read Babymouse: Mad Scientist first, which is where readers are first introduced to Squish, as he becomes Babymouse’s science project. He’s cuter than she expected, more interesting, and he sure does love to eat! Readers can follow him home to the pond after Babymouse sets him free and get to know a fun new friend.

Squish reminded me a little of a rounder, maler Babymouse. She loves books, he loves comics. She eats cupcakes, he eats twinkies. They both have very healthy imaginations that help them and get them into trouble. Squish’s world is a little grosser than Babymouse’s, but also filled with interesting scientific facts. I actually learned some things about amoebas that I didn’t know before reading this. Not that I really knew anything about amoebas…

This is another great graphic novel from a hilarious brother sister writing team. I was lucky enough to see them when they were in town (and get some of my favorite Babymouse books signed!). They are a wonderful pair for kids to see and realize how great a sibling relationship can be! I definitely recommend Squish for boys and girls looking for a new, fun graphic novel. If you pick up a copy, take notice of his hat, it changes faces depending on his moods! Sometimes the hat even seems to be a little exasperated with our microscopic hero. Check out this new series, you’ll love it!

26 May 2011

Book Review: Withering Tights

Withering Tights, Louise Rennison
(Gr 6-9)

Coming 8 July 2011
HarperCollins US
HarperCollins UK, July 2010. Reviewed from purchased UK edition.

Tallulah Casey is Georgia Nicolson’s younger, but equally mad cousin. Tallulah has been bitten by the acting bug and is off to Dother Hall performing arts college to hone her craft. Her cousin Georgia has even given Tallulah her old “comedy mustache” for use in emergencies. Tallulah is ready to leave home and see the world, but it turns out that Dother Hall is right smack in the middle of nowhere. Now she’s spending her days romping in the forest with her new friends, dancing about like a loon, and scouting for BOYS! Oh…and acting…of course.

I have to start by saying that I lovelovelovelove Georgia Nicolson so ridiculously obnoxiously much. Seriously, I sometimes find myself slipping accidentally into “Georgia Speak.” When Georgia’s story ended in 2009, I was so sad to see her go, but now I get to fall in love with her equally ridiculous cousin! Tallulah is both very much like Georgia and very much NOT like her. She is much younger than Georgia, less experienced, and less fussy. She actually reminded me a little of Georgia’s best friend, Jas. Tallulah is much more willing than Georgia to go for a walk in the woods, or spend hours watching a nest full of baby owls.

The best thing that Tallulah does have in common with her cousin is that she is also hilarious! It took a few chapters for me to get comfortable with the new cast of characters, but once I was, I was laughing out loud again. There are aspects of Tallulah that were so familiar to me, it made me love her very quickly. She frequently laments her height and the scrawny ganglyness of her legs, especially her knees. Also, unlike her busty cousin, she is not well endowed in the “corkers” region. Ahhh, long scrawny legs with knobbley knees AND a small chest. Tallulah is my soul sister!

This story does follow the Rennison formula, so fans of her previous books will not be disappointed. Wacky school filled with friends and rivals, check. Even wackier staff of teachers at said school, check check check times ten. A devoted and bonkers collection of friends, check! More cute boys than a tall girl well endowed with knees can shake a scrawny leg at, CHECK!

This book will be released in the US on July 8th, from Harper Collins. If, you are like me and can’t wait, you can always order it from Book Depository. That way you’ll also get the super adorable UK cover, which I do prefer to the US one. If you have more patience than I do, then mark July 8th on your calendar and get ready to fall in LOVE with another bonkers girl brought to us by the fabitty fab Louise Rennison.

25 May 2011

Book Review: A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles, Gail Carson Levine
(Gr 4-6)
Harper Collins. May 10, 2011. Review copy from publisher.

Elodie is ready to strike out on her own. She dreams of becoming an apprentice to a Mansioner (an actor), but she doesn’t have any money to pay for an apprenticeship. Shortly after arriving in the town of Two Castles, Lodie finds herself alone, without any friends, and to top it all off, she’s been robbed…by a cat. Not the kind of girl to wallow in her troubles, Lodie gets a job as a Dragon’s Assistant to the dragon Meenore. Meenore expects Lodie to learn all about inducing and deducing, which will help her as she works to solve a mystery involving an ogre, a princess, a rogue, a dog, a king, and a lot of cats.

This is the third of Gail Carson Levine’s books that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. Levine knows how to write a smart, spunky girl who also seems very normal. Elodie doesn’t have any special powers or strengths, she’s just an observant girl who wants more from her life. I suppose her acting skills are pretty unique, but even that seems to come from her own inner strength. She is the kind of character I wish more girls would be drawn to. She is resourceful, independent, and determined. Even when she is alone in a new place without any friends, family, or money – she finds a way to survive.

The secondary characters in this story are interesting because the reader never really gets much of a sense of them. Elodie’s mother has warned her against the “whited sepulcher,” a person who seems good but is bad on the inside, and she is ever vigilant for people who are not what they seem. When she is drawn into a mystery, everyone is a suspect. It’s interesting to note that the only characters Elodie trusts are the only two who are not human.

I liked that this novel had the feel of a fairy tale, but no romance. Sorry mushy love fans – just feisty girls, dragons, and ogres here. Elodie does get a little bit of a crush at one point, but she doesn’t moon around about it and it’s over pretty quickly. It’s nice to know about this book for reader’s advisory. Sometimes I’ll get girls in (especially 4th/5th graders) who are sick of kissing and romance in their fantasy stories. This will be the perfect story to put in their hands!

Overall, this is an entertaining story that will appeal to girls (not so much cross gender appeal here). I’d recommend it to fans to Levine’s other works, Shannon Hale, or Patricia C. Wrede. It is a little easier to read than some of those authors’ books, so it would also be great for girls who aren’t quite ready to dive into their longer stories yet.

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