Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June Round-Up

Image from HarperCollinsChildrens.com
The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni
Harper, 2014
9780062272157

One morning 13 year old Jax wakes up and the house is empty. The electricity is out, the streets are deserted, and the sky is a strange shade of pink. Jax is terrified, until he finds out that this is actually Grunsday. It’s a magical eighth day smooshed between Wednesday and Thursday created centuries ago by the great Merlin himself! Things get even stranger when Jax realizes there is a mysterious girl named Evangeline imprisoned in the house next door. What’s more, she’s locked in the eighth day. The other seven days of the week don’t exist to her. She even ages slower! The more Jax learns about Grunsday the more he begins to realize it’s not just magical, it's dangerous.

This action packed adventure is built around the modern day descendants of Merlin, Arthur, the Lady of the Lake, and others from the Arthurian legends. Chapters alternate between Evangeline and Jax’s perspectives, allowing for revelations, suspense, and a fast-paced narrative. The implications of an eighth day are well thought out and revealed throughout the story. There is some violence, but nothing explicit. The first in a series, this an excellent recommendation for kids who are clamoring to read dystopian stories, but aren’t quite ready for the graphic content.

Readalikes:

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


Image from HarperCollins.com
Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
Harper, 2014
9780062274625

13 year old Margaret’s father is sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. But he has been labeled a whistle-blower by the Victory Corporation and since they pretty much own the town of Victory, AZ there’s not much hope for her father. Especially because the judge on the case was none other than Lucas Biggs, son of Elijah Biggs former president of Victory. But Margaret’s hope is restored when her best friend Charlie and his Grandpa Joshua come up with a plan. A plan that involves time travel, disguises, split second timing, and lots and lots of luck. Will the plan work? Will Margaret save her father’s life? Or will history resist?

This time traveling mystery looks at the consequences of changing history. The book opens dramatically as Margaret’s father is sentenced to die by the seemingly heartless Judge Lucas Biggs. The suspense continues through this action packed story  told from three first person perspectives (Margaret, Joshua, and Charlie) in two different times (2014 and 1938). The multiple narratives keep the story moving forward even as it bounces between times. Although the stories from the different time periods overlap and intertwine as Margaret time travels, the threads of the narrative remain clear and easy to follow. De los Santos and Teague are at their best when writing from a child’s perspective and the characters they have created are compelling and heartfelt. Margaret is a thoroughly modern girl and she has a special friendship with Charlie. Although the eventual change of heart from the title character seems a bit saccharine, this shouldn’t bother young readers. Only the chapter written from the elderly Grandpa Joshua’s perspective that seems out of place because it is so informal. But these are two minor flaws in a wonderfully told story.

Readalikes:

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


Image from RebeccaBehrens.com
When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2014
9781402286421
(Reviewed based on an advanced reader’s copy)

Being the daughter of the POTUS (President of the United States) would be awesome, right? You would get to meet famous people, travel around the world, and live in the White House!  But 13 year old Audrey Lee Rhodes is here to tell you that being the first daughter isn’t always a walk in the park. She hardly ever sees her scientist father and presidential mother, she’s followed everywhere by her secret service bodyguards, and she can’t even think about the possibility of a boyfriend. When her 13th birthday party is canceled due to a security breach, Audrey feels like her world is being pulled out from beneath her feet. Luckily, that’s when she meets the former first daughter Alice Roosevelt. Well, she doesn’t met her in person, but she does find her diary. When Audrey decides to follows Alice’s advice to “eat up the world” her life at the White House changes forever.

Set in modern day Washington D.C. this book is full of strong female characters and action packed adventures. The narrative is casual and slang-filled, which is appropriate as it is written in first person from Audrey’s point of view. The chronologically told story is broken up by Alice Roosevelt’s diary entries. This is a fast, breezy read, but it also has a moral as Audrey learns about responsibility and believing in herself. She accepts that there are somethings she can’t change, instead decides live fully, happily, and gracefully within her boundaries, rather than fighting against them. She also realizes she can use her celebrity status to make important issues heard, prompting her to write an essay on the importance of equal rights. An author’s note provides more info on the real Alice Roosevelt and notes that although the Alice in the book is based on a real person, she has been modified to serve the story and so her character is largely fictional. Behrens includes works cited, as well as suggestions for further reading. There’s just a touch of kid-friendly romance as Audrey has her first kiss at the White House, which makes this an excellent recommendation for tween girls looking for a fun beach read.

This is Behren’s first book, but look for the upcoming middle grade book, The Summer of Lost and Found, in the spring of 2016.

Readalikes:

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

-Amy