Friday, March 7, 2014

February Round-Up

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Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Skottie Young
HarperCollins, 2013

His kids thought he was just going around the corner to get some milk for breakfast. Let’s face it, cereal just doesn’t taste right with orange juice. But then he was gone. He was gone a really long time. What could be keeping him? What indeed! When he gets home, Dad tells his son and daughter about the fantastic, time-traveling, potentially-world-ending, stegosaurus-in-a-hot-air-balloon, kitschy-aliens-in-a-UFO, pirates-on-the-high-seas adventure. It could have ended so very badly, but fortunately, the milk saved the day!

This short and ridiculous book is packed with thrilling and humorous adventures. The story moves at a lightning pace from one narrow escape to another. The text is manipulated (bold, squiggly, etc.) to convey meaning and spice up the story. Young’s black and white pen and ink fanciful and exaggerated illustrations, reminiscent of Dr. Seuss and Alan Snow, are a great fit for Gaiman’s larger than life, did-Dad-make-it-all-up? story. Gaiman weaves a wholly unbelievable, yet intricate and entertaining yarn that will appeal to readers of all ages. This is a great story to read aloud for the whole family or classroom.

Additionally, I highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by the author. The whole book is only one hour long, perfect for a short road trip. Gaiman is a fantastic reader with a flair for comedic timing and dramatic pauses. Get an idea of his narrative flair by watching the book trailer.


More chapter books by Gaiman:

Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 7+/Grade 2+

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The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
(Reviewed based on an advanced reader’s copy)
Kathy Dawson Books an Imprint of Penguin, 2014

Plucky heroine Mo LoBeau is back in an exciting follow up to 2012’s Three Times Lucky. Mo and her best friend Dale are flying high on their murder mystery solving glory, but they have their work cut out of for them on their newest case. Grandmother Miss Lacy Thorton and Miss Lana are the accidental owners of an old, and possibly haunted, inn. Once again, Mo knows there’s something fishy going on in Tupelo Landing and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it! Can Mo, Dale, and their new friend Harm Crenshaw solve this paranormal mystery before the inn’s official grand opening? More importantly, can Mo get an interview with the ghost? Because if she doesn’t Miss Retzel’s going to give her an F on her history paper!

It’s wonderful to jump back into the world of Tupelo Landing. From the first page I felt like I was back among friends. As in the first book, Mo’s voice is clever, observant, and hilarious. Although this is story is also a murder mystery, the ghostly and historical aspect provide a fresh plotline for familiar characters. Unlike many sequels, this one stands alone quite well even as Mo and Dale grow up and learn more about themselves and one another. Throughout it all, themes of community support and friendship are explored and celebrated.


Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 10+/Grade 5+

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Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood
Katherine Tegen Books, 2014

This sequel to 2013’s Jinx continues our reluctant hero’s quest to save the trees of the magical and dangerous Urwald. Strange things are happening and Jinx needs to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late. His quest takes him beyond his beloved Urwald to the Keylands where he learns surprising things about his traveling companion Reven, to the desert land of Samara where he must learn KnIP magic (Knowledge is Power), and once again to Bonesocket to negotiate with the chillingly evil Bonemaster. Can Jinx discover and put right all the pieces of this magical mess in time to save his friends, his guardians, and most importantly, the Urwald?

In this second installment (clearly the middle book of three), readers will be happy to see old friends and meet some enchanting new ones. Readers will also love the opportunity to learn more about Samara, a kingdom only briefly explored in the first book. More is uncovered about the rules of magic in Samara and the Urwald as Jinx learns that his ability to talk to trees is more unique and important than he first thought. Although the story has a slow start, once Jinx begins his quest the plot snowballs to an exciting, yet cliff-hanging conclusion. Reading this series sequentially is recommended as much of the plot is based on information revealed in the first book. 


Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 10+/Grade 5+