Category Archives: Love/Romance

The Missing Book 3: Sabotage

By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Published by Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2010

Another Dare-ing adventure through time with JB, Katherine, and Jonah. Our time traveling trio will try to solve the history mystery of the Roanoke Colony.

Jonah and Katherine are set to take Andrea back in time to merge with her tracer and do what needs to be done to repair the timeline. Their destination is coastal North Carolina around the end of the 16th century where, and when, the Roanoke colony suddenly disappeared. There seems to be a change in the travel plans though when an unknown stranger causes a problem with the elucidator and they don’t get dropped where they should on the timeline. Not only that, but they lose the elucidator and they have no contact with JB. Does he even know where they are? Jonah, Katherine, and Andrea are going to have to figure out how to fix time on their own if they are to have any hope of escape.

Haddix has found a way to mix science fiction and social studies education together in a neat package with “The Missing” series. Many kids aren’t that interested in history itself, but what happens if you time travel and get dropped into the middle of history? Now that is interesting! I commend Haddix because she researches her history well and feeds the story pertinent information about it as needed to move story along. Nowhere does she add a history lesson for the sake of a history lesson. Kids would sniff this out in a heartbeat. Social Studies education is sorely lacking in American primary education today, and I applaud anyone who can include it in the creation of entertainment.

From a pure enjoyment stand point, children 8 years old and up will enjoy this series. They will love the time travel plot where it takes a couple of kids to save time. They will also enjoy its main characters. Haddix does a good job of writing the sibling interaction between Jonah and Katherine so children with brothers or sisters will really feel it. The author also helps the tone of her plot by not making the book too humorous. Part of the fun of time travel sci-fi is the childlike belief that it is just within reach of the realm of possibility, even though we know it isn’t. Too many laughs would probably keep pushing the story out of that realm.

For me personally, I loved the first book but I couldn’t latch on to the second and third wholeheartedly. This third book at 360 pages just moves too slowly for me with all the questions of what the characters should and shouldn’t do and explanations of time and tracer movement.  What keeps me going in this series is the history. I was interested in knowing how the author explained the Roanoke Colony’s disappearance, and I was quite pleased with that. I understand, however, how all the explanations help young readers to wrap their mind around the story and take it seriously. I would definitely recommend using this book in conjunction with language arts to bring more attention to history in our classrooms. Stories like this just might grab a child’s attention and make them want to learn on their own.

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Filed under Action, Adventure, Families, Fantasy, Historical, Junior Fiction, Love/Romance, Mystery, Native American, Science Fiction

My Life in Pink & Green

By Lisa Greenwald
Published by Amulet Books
Copyright © 2009
Who knew that the words makeover and green went so well together? “My Life in Pink & Green” shows us that you are never too young to look good and save the planet, at least in a small way.
 
Young Connecticut tween Lucy Desberg loves her family’s pharmacy and she loves the makeup and beauty products they sell there. But Lucy’s life isn’t all lip gloss and nail polish; the pharmacy and her family are struggling to make ends meet. It looks like they are going to lose their house and their business if things don’t change. Lucy isn’t sure what she can possible do to help until two fortuitous events happen. One, she helps the most popular girl in school with a major hair dilemma, and two, she joins Earth Club with her best friend Sunny. Soon she realizes that the way to save the pharmacy is to go “Pink & Green,” or in other words, focusing on beauty and environmentalism. The only problem is her mother, and grandmother, don’t take her ideas seriously, so Lucy is going to have to make them take her seriously.
 
“My life in Pink & Green” is a great story that relates how even young people can be proactive and ambitious and maybe even play a small role in saving the world. It is great to read a young female protagonist that knows what she wants and knows what she needs to do. It is also great that even though Lucy and Sunny do have crushes that boys are not the thrust behind their plans. Having a first crush is just a secondary theme and plot line.
 
Lisa Greenwald has written a story with realistic people and places, and realistic problems. Now, do I believe that the solution to the story’s problem is realistic? No, as an adult it seems just a little far out on the limb for me, but not utterly impossible. I also think that Lucy acts and talks more like a sixteen year old than a twelve year old, but what do I know, I’ve never been a 12 year old girl.  Those things being said I liked Lucy’s story. Whether farfetched or not, it is encouraging youths, especially young girls, to make a difference, to have ambitions, and to shop locally. This is a must read for tween and teen girls everywhere.

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Filed under Elementary/Middle School, Environmental, Families, Friendship, High School, Junior Fiction, Love/Romance, Single Parents

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs

By Ron Koertge

Published by Candlewick Press

Copyright © 2010

“Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs,” the sequel to “Shakespeare Bats Cleanup,”  gives new meaning to the phrase “Poetry in Motion” with its fluid use of poetic styles to tell the story of Kevin Boland and his mixed up life of baseball, poetry, grief, and love.

Kevin Boland is a baseball player who, just like his dad, loves to write poetry. However, his friends don’t seem to be too interested in this new passion of his. His girlfriend Mira is especially uninterested in Kevin’s writing talent, the only things on her mind seem to be looking good, saving the planet, and annoying her dad. Sometimes Kevin wonders why he is with Mira considering her apparent disinterest not only in poetry but also in his first love, baseball. But of course his friends happily remind him that it is because she is really cute.

What Kevin soon realizes is that relationships can be confusing and occasionally difficult. His Dad is beginning to date again after the death of his mom, some of classmates are boy/girl crazy, and he meets a girl his age that is into poetry too. He meets Amy at a poetry reading at the Book Bungelow and they hit it off, because they have a shared interest in the written word. This of course doesn’t sit well with Mira, and Kevin has a hard time deciding between the two.

This book is right up my alley. I love baseball. I love poetry. I love the way that Koertge shows not that poetry not only expresses a feeling but also tells a story. In addition, poetry doesn’t have to be serious. The poetry about Kevin’s life is a little more serious, but the monster poetry that Kevin and Amy are working on together are just fun. It is wonderful to show that poetry can be fun.

Though Koertge is in his 70’s he writes the relationships of the young so well. He just seems to have understanding of the language of youth. It isn’t all about slang; it’s about how they think and react. Teens and tweens are constantly falling in and out of love and they can be very dramatic and eccentric. Koertge captures that perfectly, especially with Mira and Becca, however he doesn’t just chalk it up to hormones he gives a nod to the stresses that kids are going under. Some of Koertge’s characters are dealing with fighting parents, death, and bullies. And to be able to express all this in poetic form is just amazing.

This book, and its predecessor, are great books to help spread the joy of poetry with children 11 and up. It introduces readers to various poetic forms without being too stuffy about it, and it tells a story that they will be able to relate to.

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Filed under Elementary/Middle School, Games/Hobbies, Junior Fiction, Loss/Death, Love/Romance, Poetry, Sports

The Son of Neptune

The Heroes of Olympus Book 2

By Rick Riordan

Published by Disney Hyperion

Copyright © 2011

Fans of the original Percy Jackson and the Olympians series will be happy to see that Percy Jackson is back. In book one of “The Heroes of Olympus” we were introduced to a Roman demigod named Jason Grace. He showed up at camp half-blood with amnesia and was selected by Juno to go on a quest, because once again the world of the God’s is in danger. Juno is up to her old tricks again, and she has given Percy amnesia and sent him on a cultural exchange to the Roman Camp, Camp Jupiter. He, along with two Roman demigods, will go on a quest to prove that the God’s really do need the demigods help in defeating their common foe.

The defeat of the Titans has angered their mother, Gaea. Gaea is the earth goddess, also known as mother earth, and she isn’t as friendly as her title makes her sound. She and her son, the giant Alcyoneus, have captured the gatekeeper of the dead, Thanatos, and now anyone that Gaea sees as useful is being freed from death and are wreaking havoc on the gods and demigods. Monsters just won’t stay dead no matter how many times they are killed, and they are being gathered together under the command of Gaea, Alcyoneus, and her other son the giant Polybotes.

This brings us to Percy’s quest. Thanatos must be freed so he can do his job and mighty Alcyoneus must be destroyed. There are problems though, Alcyoneus is keeping Thanatos in a land beyond the reach of the Gods; he is being kept in… Alaska! To make matters worse, Alcyoneus cannot be destroyed while he is in his own land.  Fortunately, Percy will have two demigods with him that will be more than up to the task. Even though Hazel and Frank are members of a cohort 5, a Roman military group at Camp Jupiter which seems to be reserved for losers, they have powers that will be more beneficial than anyone can know. They are the only ones who can possibly help bring Alcyoneus down.

I’m not going to give away who Frank and Hazel’s parents are or what powers they possess; that is half the fun of Riordan’s books. I will however reveal that Hazel has a very close connection to Alcyoneus, and that Frank has one of the coolest powers yet revealed in any of the Olympian/Olympus books due in part to his Chinese heritage.

There is nothing new in Riordan’s plots: A riddle describing a job that needs to be done along with the perils it will bring will be read, and three demigods will go on a quest to defeat some evil God/Titan/Giant/Monster/Etc. There will be battles and one or all of the three quest members will at some point have to make a difficult decision which will in the end help them defeat their foe.

As plain and simple as this may sound, Riordan continues to make it special because he always adds something new. For instance in this book he has delved a little deeper into Roman Myth. He has introduced a new camp and a new enemy. As with Camp Half Blood, the members of Camp Jupiter have gods for parents and they have different powers too. In addition Riordan has set this new quest in the Pacific Northwest; a place very much different from New York or San Francisco. If that wasn’t enough, he throws in the aforementioned Chinese ties and some Amazon action.  Riordan blends these things so effortlessly that you can’t help but be interested.

The Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series are not the most compelling books that I’ve ever read. But there is something to be said for the level of comfort he creates with the characters, while still giving us tons of action, and enough new material to suck us in. Now I’m ready to see how the prophecy unfolds in his next book:

“Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,

To storm or fire the world must fall.

An oath to keep with a final breath,

And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.”

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Filed under Adventure, Adventure, Fantasy, Fantasy, Friendship, Junior Fiction, Love/Romance, Myths & Legends, Myths and Legends, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

OKAY FOR NOW

Okay For Now

By Gary D. Schmidt

Published by Clarion Books

Copyright © 2011

Doug’s father has lost his job again and he has an offer of a job in a paper mill in a little town in upstate New York called Marysville. Doug isn’t really enthused about moving away from the city and his favorite team the New York Yankees, but it is no use to complain because his father will probably yell at him and pop him in the mouth. Things are going okay for Doug he makes a few friends, learns he has a talent he didn’t know he had, and even gets a job of his own. But if there is anything that Doug knows it is that when things are going too good something bad is bound mess it up. His brother and his dad seem more than willing to oblige and make things worse for Doug. Doug’s father has no problem stealing from his own son, and his brother, who has a habit of making the wrong impression, gets a reputation that unfairly attaches itself to Doug. Can Doug find a way to deal with his dad, and prove everyone in town wrong?

“Okay For Now” is complex tale of survival and betterment. Set in 1968 against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the Apollo space missions, and of course Doug’s beloved baseball player Doug Pepitone playing for the Yankees, Doug not only has to learn to Navigate a new town with new people but he has to navigate his home life with an abusive father and brother and the return of his oldest brother who comes home from Vietnam with life altering injuries. To cope with this Doug throws himself into his job of delivering groceries, learning to draw from the works of John James Audubon, and ultimately taking up his mission to make a special book whole again. In addition to all of this “Okay For Now” tells a tale of how important it is not judge people or places by their appearance, relations, sex, career, or etc. because often the conclusion that we come to are the furthest thing from the truth.

I found this book to be a moving and occasionally funny book of survival, recovery, redemption, and so much more. As I’m reading this book I’m thinking how badly I want Doug’s father to get what’s coming to him, however Gary Schmidt even finds a way to weave some redemption in there for him giving Doug hope for life to improve. This was one of those stories that once I got started I just had know how every thing would be resolved. I finished it in a day; it was that good. I highly recommend this book for children ages 10 and up.

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Filed under Art, Coming of Age, Communities, Elementary/Middle School, Families, Friendship, Historical, Junior Fiction, Loss/Death, Love/Romance, Nature/Animals

The Star Maker

Laurence Yep

Published by Harper Books

Copyright © 2011

Artie is the youngest in his family and one of his older cousins gets great pleasure in picking on him. During one such occasion Artie lets his pride, and his mouth, get the best of him and he promises to get everyone firecrackers for Chinese New Year. The only problem is that he doesn’t have any money, and when he gets money he usually spends it too quickly. Fortunately for him his Uncle Chester steps in and promises to help him. Uncle Chester is a nice guy, everyone around town likes Chester, but Chester isn’t very good with money either. Before New Year Chester falls on tough times with some bad bets and it doesn’t look like he is going to be able to help Artie. Artie is more worried about his uncle than he is about his fireworks.

As usual, Yep’s story takes us inside the Chinese American life informing us on Chinese Culture, lore, and history while telling an enjoyable story.  While I don’t think this is his best effort (I was a big fan of Dragon Road) this is a nice multicultural story for children ages 8 and up that focuses not just on culture, but on such topics as not gambling, not letting your mouth get you in trouble, learning not to pick on others, along with other topics.

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Filed under Communities, Cultural, Families, Historical, Junior Fiction, Love/Romance, Multicultural

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love

By Lauren Tarshis

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2009

“Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love” is the sequel to the successful young adult novel entitled “Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree”.

In the first installment of the Emma-Jean Series we meet a somewhat odd young girl. It wasn’t her appearance which makes her odd, for she is considered by some to be very pretty, but it is her detachment from her classmates. While Emma-Jean thinks well of her classmates in general, she finds them to be quite illogical. In her attempt to mingle with them and be of help she ends up causing a lot of trouble for them and herself.

In this second installment we find Emma-Jean in the company of her 7th grade classmates. To some extent she has come to understand and accept the eccentricities of her teen peers. But now she is coming up against a new problem school dances and boy-girl relationships.

Emma-Jean finds herself having weird and irrational feelings when she is around Will Keeler. She is drawn to him and her heart skips a beat when she is around him. She even considers asking him to the upcoming spring dance. She is not quite sure what it is she is going through though, and she doesn’t seem to like the way it makes her lose her concentration.

Emma-Jeans friend Colleen suffers from self-esteem issues and doesn’t know who would want to go to the dance with her. Then she finds a mysterious note in her locker from a nameless boy who really likes her, and she begins to transform into someone more confident in herself and less concerned with what others think of her. She is only concerned with what her boy thinks of her, and he thinks she is great. But how will she ever find this boy who likes her? Colleen can think of only one person smart enough to figure out who it is, Emma-Jean.  But will Colleen like what she finds out?

While Emma-Jean’s Spock like tendencies (“that is illogical”) seem to be a little unrealistic for a modern teen, she does make for a character that you want to root for. And, while the book does have a relatively agreeable ending (I won’t give it away) I did want the school dance to turn out a little differently. But all-in-all in this second novel Lauren Tarshis presents us with a young girl who is smart, who is confident, who knows what she is ready for, and who is just fine being herself and that is the type of character that more young girls should be exposed to.

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Filed under High School, Junior Fiction, Love/Romance, Psychological