Juvenile Literature Reviews, October 2013

Posted on November 16, 2013 by

These reviews are written by volunteers from the community who read and review new books.

Arclight cover   Arclight written by Joslin L. McQuein
The first person to cross the barrier that protects the Arclight from the Fade, teenaged Marina has no memory when she is rescued but when one of the Fade infiltrates Arclight she recognizes it and begins to unlock secrets she never knew she had.
This book was pretty predictable but still intriguing. I liked this book just because of the twist in the plot. I would recommend this book to 14 year olds who like science fiction.
Arclight written by Joslin L. McQuein
A lost girl who was found must go through the challenges of finding where she belongs and how to pick where seems right. I loved the book—it grabbed me right away in the first 3 chapters and kept me hooked. It made me laugh and smile, also mad and frustrated. It tugged my heart and was sad. I would recommend this to everyone. Five Stars*****

Boy Porch coverThe Boy on the Porch written by Sharon Creech
John and Marta find a young boy—about six—on their front porch one morning. He doesn’t speak but happily taps all the time. A very strange note was left with him saying his name is Jacob and which implies that someone will come back for him. John finds no information about the boy in the small town near which they live. So they gradually take him into their lives.
John and Marta have a small farm: two cows and a calf, some goats, a dog and kittens with which Jacob is obviously communicating. He rides the cow and the rest of the animals follow them around. John buys Jacob a guitar which he is soon playing. John takes Jacob fishing but he prefers swimming. Jacob explores the water colors John buys until there is no paint left. Then Jacob’s father appears and takes him away.
Marta and John and the reader are devastated but the author is not finished. The story is beautifully written which touches the reader as author Sharon Creech does so very well.

Call me OK cover   Call Me Oklahoma written by Miriam Glassman
A fourth grader wants to leave behind her stage fright and self-consciousness.   As the title indicates, she changes her name.  With an inspiring teacher who teaches Vivid Vocabulary and welcomes the new name saying, “Each one of you has many possible selves inside you and discovering those possible selves is an adventure that will last you a lifetime.” This is a story of friendship, popularity, and learning. With promises made and broken a visit from a boisterous cousin that inspired her last summer, and the challenge of public performance, our heroine lives through a year of change.
This is a good chapter book well suited for small group reading in fourth of fifth grade.

dark between coverThe Dark Between written by Sonia Gensler
Orphaned Kate finds herself at the center of murder and mystery in early 20th century Cambridge. For different reasons, Kate, Elsie and Asher all find themselves at Summerfield College as guests of a professor who is involved with the Metaphysical Society. The story reveals much about the beliefs and investigations of the mind and the supposed after life that exist during this time.
Gensler uses a bit of romance and lots of intrigue to spin this tale which pulls us in from the beginning to end even though some of the events are a bit farfetched. Kate is a likable and trustworthy character. Her yearnings to belong somewhere are as strong as her instincts for self-protection. Elsie is also easy to root for, with her “spells” and lack of truly being seen by her family. Asher, at first a dashing playboy, becomes more substantive through the hardships and intrigue he encounters. The unusual trio care for and protect each other.

Dead River cover   Dead River written by Cyn Balog
A weekend rafting trip turns deadly when ghosts start turning up—and want something from high school senior Kiandra that she isn’t sure she can give them. This is a fabulous book. I really like the author’s writing style. This book gave me the chills for the scary stories and just basically I fell and was snagged—hook line and sinker all through the book.


  Dualed coverDualed written by Elsie Chapman
Kill your Alt to keep your life. People are trained to kill their alternate before their 20th birthday. This was an extremely suspenseful and surprising book. I would recommend this book to almost anyone because this is a great book.



Every Day After cover     Every Day After written by Laura Golden
This is a Great Depression story, set in small town Alabama 1932. While the Depression is a great backdrop for the story and contributes to the hardships in 11 year-old Lizzie’s life (Dad runs off after losing his job and mom reacts with severe depression) the focus is really on Lizzie. She is a self-reliant, stubborn, self-focused girl which are unusual traits in a protagonist. Her best friend Ben seems to be a shadow reflection of Lizzie—kind, non-judgmental almost to his detriment and gentle.
As Lizzie tries to hold life together at home but a new girl at school, Erin, creates all kind of havoc as she comes between Ben and Lizzie. She is drawn as just plain mean. By the time we get her back story and the cause of the meanness, we are beyond compassion for poor Erin, who tries her best to get Lizzie’s dysfunctional mom sent away and Lizzie carted off to the orphanage.
While Lizzie is portrayed as a bit unfeeling and self-centered through her interactions with peers, the fact that she tries so hard to protect her mother through extremely difficult odds, gives her points in my book. The fact that she learns to self-examine and work on changing gives her even more.
This book is a fine read for middle grade readers; it moves along at an inviting pace, places the reader in the heart of the Depression without actually talking about The Depression. It demonstrates that we can change those behaviors that aren’t serving us well.


Fortunately the M coverFortunately, the Milk written by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Skottie Young
What a wonderfully frothy tale! The illustrations are delightful. The story is that Dad went out to get milk for breakfast and takes a while to get back home. When the children ask what happened, he spins a tale of time travel, aliens, and adventure.


Beast Beauty coverOf Beast and Beauty written by Stacey Jay
When 19 year old Gem, of the Desert People, called “monstrous” by the smooth skins, becomes the prisoner of the 17 year old smooth skin Queen Isra, age-old prejudices begin to fall aside as the two begin to understand each other. This book was a lot like Beauty and the Beast movie. I liked the changes that were made so it wasn’t the same but all in all it wasn’t a bad book. I would recommend this book to 14 year or older.


Revenge coverRevenge of a Not-so-Pretty Girl written by Carolita Blythe
14 year-old Faye, an African American living in 1989 Brooklyn, New York, copes with her mother’s abuse by stealing with her friends, but when robbing an elderly woman almost turns to murder, she gains an opportunity to learn new truths about life. This was a really good book. I loved the way a truant was turned into a respectful person. I would recommend this book to everyone.


Sammy cruise coverSammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise written by Wendelin Van Draanen
This book is very amusing with our headstrong heroine coping with a new setting in which Marissa is the knowledgeable one and dressing up is expected and the nurturing adult is her dad. The mystery includes family dynamics, chemistry and details about cruise ships. The personal story shows Sammy coming to trust her loving relationships, even as change happens.


Teacher Screecher coverTeacher Screecher written by Peter Bently with illustrations by Chris Harrison
The idea behind Vampire School, Teacher Screecher, has promise, but the execution disappoints. The word count is probably not much higher than Frog and Toad or Little Bear series but many of the jokes and references will be over the heads of the 1st grade or possibly second grade reader for whom it is intended (reference to “the square of the hypotenuse,” for instance). Really? There is a lot of anti-math dialogue in the text, an assumption that all kids hate math and groan when forced to study it. The accents written into the text will make kids laugh when read aloud, and would be funny for the more accomplished readers, but for newly independent readers, which this slim volume seems to target, decoding this language is likely to confuse. Also, copy editors apparently missed a name change. Page 18 retains “Mr. Batty” but elsewhere the school principal is Mrs. Garlick. More confusion for early readers.
There are so many better choices out there for new readers. A second book is referenced in what is apparently intended as a new school series. Perhaps it will offer what this one lacks.

Thrice Upon a Marigold coverThrice Upon a Marigold: a Royal Kidnapping Caper written by Jean Ferris
This is the third volume in a fairy tale saga: we have a newborn princess, a word-loving librarian, a literate black smith, a wise kind, a misunderstood dragon, returning bad guys and many elephant jokes (the queen’s favorites). The good people are kind and the descriptions sometimes read as prescriptions, such as how to apologize. This is a great book to read for pure enjoyment and maybe a few new words.


Trick of Light coverA Trick of the Light written by Lois Metzger
This is a story of a young boy who tries to make sense of his life and take back control. This is very gripping and will grab hold of you with the first few chapters. It was very hard to put down. So many parts turned different ways than I expected it to. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a book that will hold them till the end.
A Trick of the Light written by Lois Metzger
15 year old Mike desperately attempts to take control as his parents separate and his life falls apart. I personally didn’t like this book just because there was no point to the story. He didn’t solve the problem himself. He had to get help and still he struggled with it.

under Light coverUnder the Light written by Laura Whitcomb
Not realizing this is a companion novel, I struggled to enter this story. The first chapters, when Jenny becomes so upset with her parents that she leaves her body and finds herself–someplace else—floating freely through the universe, were hard to buy into. Eventually we learn that Helen, who died over 450 years ago, inhabits Jenny’s empty body and gets her into a great deal of trouble with a boy she doesn’t really know but who has also left his body which is now inhabited by James, Helen’s lover.
Reading A Certain Slant of Light first must certainly help the reader slip more easily into this ghostly story. Once there, it is an interesting place to be; however, I find even more interesting the last half of the book as Jenny and Billy (the boy who left his body and met Jenny in the alter-universe) learn to deal with problems not necessarily of their making.

The Warrior’s Heart: Becoming a Man of Compassion and Courage written by Eric GreitensWarrior Heart cover
Stories about Eric’s life and how he handled it—his good parts and his bad parts. He opened himself up. Great book. Inspirational, moving, capturing, and all around a fantastic read. I would recommend this book to everyone.



Billy Miller coverThe Year of Billy Miller written by Kevin Henkes
This early chapter book traces Billy through second grade and shows us how he acquires confidence. Mr. Henkes has a deft touch. The story involves summer vacation, second grade, his dad’s artistic process, and struggles to be smart and kind. Billy is not someone who finds it easy to talk about what matters, but he is thoughtful and his parents and teacher help him communicate. He struggles with a mean-spirited class mate as well as with his own doubts. I recommend this as a book to read aloud with a child.