By Eric Berlin
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Copyright © 2007
Move over Encyclopedia Brown there is a new detective on the block, Winston Breen puzzle genius.
Winston Breen is a 12 year old puzzle aficionado. He breathes, eats, and sleeps puzzles. He sees puzzles in the oddest places like on a piece of wrapping paper or on a pizza. Oddly enough the biggest puzzle he has ever come across is one that he did not know was there.
Winston buys a last minute birthday gift for his 10 year old sister at his favorite store, Penrose’s Curio Shop. Used to his puzzling ways Katie assumes that there is a puzzle hidden in her gift. Even though Winston didn’t provide a puzzle this year Katie still finds one. This puzzle created by a local inventor decades ago, is going to send them on a wild goose chase with an odd group comprised of two treasure hunting enthusiasts, the town librarian, and an ex-policeman. Can a puzzle that is very intricate and very old be solved by this group? With Winston and Katie’s help it can.
I really enjoyed this story. It was fun and mysterious from the very beginning. From the beginning it demonstrated that the best way to solve a problem is through teamwork. In addition it is chock full of puzzles for you to solve. I like crosswords, word searches, and I’ll do the occasional number puzzle so it gave me the opportunity to test my smarts. Some of the puzzles were easy and others were hard. I’ll be honest and admit I couldn’t solve some of them and others I didn’t even try. However I tried enough of them that it really did get me into the puzzling spirit of the book.
While I recommend this book for pleasure reading, the connection between puzzles and school is obvious. Puzzles help teach logic, reasoning, and observation; they fit in well in math and language arts classes. Here is a little puzzle of my own, see if you can find the Encyclopedia Brown connection as you read this book. While the writing style and story lengths are different, both Brown and Breen rely on knowledge and deduction. I think Eric Berlin has written a timeless character, maybe not quite on par with E.B., but a nice homage to him.
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.
By Natalie Babbitt
Published by Michael Di Capua Books
Copyright © 2012
Renowned children’s author Natalie Babbitt has given us a simple yet charming story about being true to yourself even when someone offers you the world to change.
Twelve year old Joe Casimir lives inWillowickwith his Grandmother, and he is going to spend a few weeks this summer with his Aunt Myra down in the Southwestern corner of the state in a town called midville. He isn’t sure if he is going to have a good time being away from his friends, but that thought disappears when he meets Beatrice, the girl next door who just happens to be the same age.
While Beatrice is showing Joe around town she takes him up to High Street which is where all the rich people live. By chance Joe and Beatrice meet the richest man in town, Mr. Boulderwall, who turns out to be pretty nice. It isn’t long till Joe’s summer is turned upside down, because Mr. Boulderwall is going to make him an offer that will leave him set for life. Joe isn’t sure what to do and he is hoping that someone else will know. Somehow the answer to his dilemma seems to be hung from the moon.
“The Moon Over High Street” is simple tale in that it isn’t complicated with a multitude of characters, complex historical backdrops, or magic and fantasy. Babbitt just sets up a nice realistic fiction story, for children 10 years old and up, about a young boy fromOhioin the early 1960’s with a tough decision to make.
What I enjoyed about this book was that while Joe’s life must have had some sadness, the sadness isn’t the focus. In addition, the choice Joe needs to make isn’t a dire life or death, good or bad, kind of choice, but a “what do I want my life to be” kind of choice. At 12 years old Joe is forced to give serious thought to what he wants to be when he grows up, as compared to what Mr. Boulderwall wants him to be and what he thinks might be more helpful to his grandmother. Lastly, I love books with lessons and this one has a good one. Money is necessary, but is it the most important thing? This is a lesson that all people, not just children, need to learn.