Tuesday, December 16, 2014

November Round-Up

Image from TaraDairman.com
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2014

11-year-old Gladys Gatsby's secret love of gourmet cooking is put to a stop by her greasy-fast-food-loving parents after a mishap with a blow torch and some creme brulee. Gladys harbors the hope that one day she'll be a famous newspaper food critic. A hope that might actually come true when she receives an email offer from the New York Standard newspaper. But how can Gladys get to the restaurant to taste and review the food without her parents knowing? Maybe, just maybe, with the help of her best friends Parminder and Sandy, Gladys can pull it off. 

Written in third person from Gladys' point of view, this story of friendship and food features mouth-watering descriptions of foods from cultures around the world. The characters are quirky, yet lovable, and even the mean girl ends up having a good side, in the slightly rosy world of this realistic fiction title. 

Read more about Gladys' gourmet adventures in the soon to be published sequel (May, 2015), The Stars of Summer. 

Bliss by Katherine Littlewood
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 8+/Grade 3+

Image from Macmillan.com
The League of Seven by Alan Gratz, Illustrated by Brett Helquist

"Thirty days hath September. Seven heroes we remember." Archie's parents are researchers for the super secret Septemberist Society. Unlike most people who live in the United Nations of America, Archie has always known about the society and it's legendary heroes. Whenever their is the threat of the Mangleborn monsters breaking loose of there Septemberist society prisons, a group of heroes. They are called the League of Seven. These heroes have included Theseus, King Arthur, Heracles, Hippolyta, Maat, and Anansi. When everyone in the Septemberist Society is possessed by the Mangleborn, it's up to Archie, his family's faithful tik-tok Mr. Rivets, and  his new friends Native American Hachi and Scottish-American Fergus to defeat the monsters. Could this ragtag band of friends be the new League of Seven?

The first in a series, this alternate steampunk history is a thrilling adventure with daring escapes, airship chases, and action-packed fight scenes. There's a great map that reimagines the US as the United Nations of America, which shows greater Native American influence on culture, politics, and power. (It would be fascinating to have a discussion comparing this map with the ones in The Glass Sentence). This title is also notable in its inclusion of a Native American main character. 

More by Gratz:
Samurai Shortstop

The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove
The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey

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

Image from Scholastic.com
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Press, 2014

13-year-old Benji lives in Buxton, originally a settlement of runaway slaves. He's a master prankster with a heart of gold. He desperately wants to become a newspaperman and all of his chapters end with made up headlines, usually proclaiming his greatness. On the other side of the woods is the Irish-Canadian settlement of Chatham. This is the home of Red, who is passionate about science and looks to the logical scientific method to figure out his world. In alternating chapters the two boys tell their stories that eventually converge in the woods. The woods, known by those in Buxton as the Piney Woods and as South Woods to everyone in Chatham, is said to be inhabited by a mysterious mad man. But Benji and Red are beginning to think the stories have some truth in them. 

Set in 1904 in Ontario, Canada this taut, tightly woven, spellbinding historical fiction story pulls the reader in from page one. The story and text are so carefully and deliberately constructed that not one word is extraneous. The text, both dialogue and narrative, is humorous and touching in just the right amounts. The character development is strongly built as the boys finds out more about the people in their communities. This is the second book in a trilogy that started with Elijah of Buxton, however it works well as a stand alone title. (The third book is untitled and does not currently have a publication date.) In fact, the connection to the first book is not revealed until very late in the story. 

More middle grade fiction by Curtis:
Bud, Not Buddy
Mighty Miss Malone
The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

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