Monday, May 5, 2014

April Round-Up

Image from
Hope is a Ferris Wheel by robin Herrera
Amulet Books, 2014

Even though 10 year old Star Mackie isn’t so excited about her family’s recent move to California, she is very eager to start school and make friends. Unfortunately, Star didn’t realize that the other kids wouldn’t be so nice once they learn that she lives in a trailer park. They also insist on calling her layered blue haircut a mullet. But Star doesn’t give up! She’s going to start a club at school and everyone will want to join and she’ll have friends! After testing out the waters with the Trailer Park Club (huge disaster), Star discovers poetry and the Emily Dickinson Club is born. Full of ups and downs, join Star Mackie for a funny, heart-breaking, and hopeful fall in fifth grade.

Written in first person from Star’s point of view this realistic story focuses on school and home life. The story is told chronologically, beginning with the first day of fifth grade. Short chapters are interspersed with Star’s vocabulary assignments, which are cleverly constructed to provide insight into her past and present relationships with her family and friends. Herrera handles sensitive issues in an age appropriate manner, most notably Star’s absent father and her older sister’s pregnancy. As Star uncovers the truth about her family and explores poetry, she learns about hope, realistic expectations, and friendship. Star’s poetry club provides easy connections for classroom or book club activities (bring in a favorite poem, write a poem in the style of Emily Dickinson, etc.). In addition, the back matter includes book club questions and activity ideas.


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

Image from
Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
(Reviewed based on an advanced reader’s copy)
Random House, 2014

Piper has always dreamed of getting out of Scrap Town Sixteen so she can earn her living in the Merrow Kingdom. But there’s not much hope of that when she’s living day to day as a scrapper, salvaging bits of other worlds blown into the fields by terrifying meteor storms. But all that changes on the day Piper saves the mysterious Anna. There’s something strange about Anna’s past. She can’t remember much at all, but she does know the “Wolf” is after her. The girls find themselves stowing away on the 401, a giant steam train bound for the capitol of the Dragonfly territory. Along their journey the girls and their new friend Gee, dodge ruthless slavers, battle raiders, and unravel a conspiracy plot. What’s hiding in Anna’s past? Why does she have the Mark of the Dragonfly on her arm? And what will happen when the 401 gets to the capitol?

Set in a fantasy world, this steam punk-ish story features a strong female protagonist and a richly imagined environment. The fast paced narrative is action packed while providing just enough description to draw the reader into Piper’s world. Although this is the first in a series, the ending wraps up threads of the story in a hopeful way and readers will be left wanting to know more about the characters. Johnson has created a tantalizing peek into the connection between our world and the Merrow Kingdom that one can only hope will be revealed later in the series. Readers who love inventing and fixing things will find a kindred spirit in Piper, who has a unique ability (wrapped in a fair bit of magic) when it comes to machines. A fantastic recommendation for young fantasy fans.

Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 11+/Grade 6+ 

Image from
Operation Bunny by Sally Gardner, Illustrated by David Roberts
Henry Holt & Co, 2014

Emily Vole’s life isn’t exactly easy. For starters her adopted parents, the Dashwoods, are really more like employers. Really demanding and heartless employers. She was enjoying her friendship with her next door neighbor Miss String and her giant talking cat Fidget, but then the evil Harpella showed up and started during people into zombies, and rabbits, and who knows what she’ll do next! To top it all off, Emily is the new Keeper of the Keys and the fate of all the fairies lies on her shoulders! Talking animals, enchanted shops, and dozens of people-turned-bunnies, oh my! She may only be 9 years old, but Emily Vole is determined to carry out Operation Bunny!

The first book in the Wings & Co. series, this fantastical story is filled with witty humor and unique characters. Many of the characters are fairies, but not the glittery Tinkerbell variety. These fairies are individuals who have learned to live in the real world without their precious wings. Reminiscent of a Roald Dahl story, the third person narrative is dryly funny. Fidget’s many sayings, such as “Spot on the fishcake”, are especially droll. The action-packed plot has some fun surprises, but remains clear and easy to follow. The text is accompanied by Roberts’ whimsical and stylized black and white illustrations. The illustrations are humorous and the facial expressions are particularly comical. This fast read is a wonderful choice for an elementary aged book club.


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