Saturday, August 2, 2014

July Round-Up

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The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Random House Children’s Books, 2014
(Reviewed based on an advance reader’s copy)

Ellie never spent much time with her grandpa, until the day he shows up at her house as a 13 year old boy. Melvin (formerly known as grandpa) has the mind of a scientist, but the body of a teenager, acne and all. Thanks to his study of jellyfish, he has found a way to reverse aging, but Melvin looks like a kid so he can’t get into his laboratory to share his discovery with the world. At first, Ellie is willing to do anything to help her grandpa who believes he should be in all the science textbooks, but as her curiosity about science grows she begins to second guess herself. Is a “cure” for old age really a good thing?

Set in California’s Bay Area in present day, this quick read encourages readers to make scientific discoveries and connections in daily life. Written in first person, present tense from level-headed Ellie’s point of view, the story is told chronologically. Using a cast of diverse and unique characters (Ellie’s drama teacher mother, her actor father, and her new best friend Raj) Holm explores the double-edged sword of scientific responsibility. She also looks at life cycles and how change, although difficult, is important to personal growth and happiness. Short chapters and humorous, yet thought provoking situations make this a great choice for a book club. Back matter includes online resources for continuing the conversation on scientists mentioned in the text, such as Jonas Salk and Oppenheimer.

More books by Holm:


Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 9+/Grade 4+

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Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Clarion Books, 2014
(Reviewed based on an advance reader’s copy)

Milo thought winter vacation was going to be quiet and cozy, just him and his parents. Unfortunately, he lives in the Greenglass house, an inn for smuggler’s set on the top of a hill on the coast. From the moment the first guest arrives, Milo knows something strange is going on. And as more eccentric guests arrive, he sees his lovely holiday escaping. Fortunately, Milo meets Meddy the cook’s daughter and soon the two have begun a fascinating game of Odd Trails, a sort of role playing game come to life. Milo takes on the personality of Negret, a blackjack who can pick locks, convince others to spill secrets, and discover clues, while Meddy becomes the invisible scholiast Sirin. As the winter storm rages, the two friends must use all their abilities – real and make-believe – to put together the clues from the suspicious guests, stolen items, a hidden treasure, and a long-dead smuggler. Can the two friends solve the mysteries surrounding the Greenglass House before it’s too late?

This mystery is set in Nagspeake, a small smuggler’s haven somewhere on the East Coast. The narrative is written in third person from Milo’s perspective. Milo was adopted as a baby by Mr. and Mrs. Pine, a fact that he is reminded of every time he meets a new person. He can just see them thinking, “They can’t be the real parents of that little Chinese boy.” Although Milo loves his adoptive parents, he can’t help but wonder (guiltily) about his birth parents. Mystery fans will love this character driven story that slowly reveals layers of the complex secrets hidden in the Greenglass House. Each of the guests at the inn has a distinct personality and character quirks that play into the story. Quiet Milo dislikes disruptions to his orderly life, a character trait that frustrates him, but ultimately helps him notice even the smallest unusual detail. These details and observations start to add up and eventually lead to an eleventh hour revelation. Lengthy chapters and complicated clues make this a great book for advanced readers looking for a satisfying, immersive read.

Milford has created a companion website, Check it out for some transmedia interaction that takes the readers beyond the book.

Also by Milford:


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

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I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora
Roaring Brook Press, 2014

Lucy and her two best friends didn’t really mean to become literary terrorists. They really just wanted more people to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” because it was their English teacher Mr. Norwak’s favorite book. And since he suddenly passed away at the end of the school year, the three friends thought it would be a fitting legacy. And what’s the best way to get people to want something? Make it disappear! With the help of social networking and the public transit system, the I Kill the Mockingbird movement grew. And grew. And grew. And then these nearly 9th grade literary terrorists wondered how to make it stop!

Set in present West Glover, CT this witty romp full of literary references will delight young bookworms everywhere. The short chapters, written from Lucy’s point of view, propel the story at a swift clip. The dialogue between the three friends is especially clever and humorous. The characters are intelligent, funny, and vividly 3D. Although Lucy and Michael become romantically involved and Lucy’s mother has battled cancer, Lucy never wallows in angst or despair. She’s a smart, capable protagonist who is an active participant in the story. Although the story features teens the content is clean; the romantic encounters never progress beyond hand holding and a quick first kiss. The supportive relationships between friends and family are ultimately what make the story so endearing. This is a wonderful contemporary story to pair with To Kill a Mockingbird for a book club or classroom discussion.

More books by Acampora:


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