Tuesday, January 13, 2015

December Round-Up

Image from StuartGibbs.com
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010
9781416987314
Who killed Henry Hippo? If only 12-year old Teddy knew. Unfortunately, most people at the newly opened FunJungle, the most innovative (and profitable) zoo in the world, won’t even talk about the zoo’s most famous animal’s death. Teddy’s parents work for FunJungle, so he knows every square inch and lots of the people who work there, too.  Since the adults won’t take him seriously, it’s up to Teddy and his new friend Summer to crack the case. Suddenly, Teddy’s boring summer is filled with wild animals, narrow escapes, misleading clues, and a two ton hippo carcass.
This fast paced adventure weaves in plenty “did you know?” animal facts into the intriguing mystery. Clues are uncovered at just the right time to keep the plot moving forward, and enough of them are red herrings to keep the final revelation surprising and satisfying. Written from Teddy’s perspective, the narrative is humorous and clever. His voice is casual and slangy, which makes this an easy and friendly read. The endpapers include a tongue-in-cheek map of FunJungle, which readers may find helpful as Teddy and Summer sleuth around the park.

Read more about Teddy in the sequel, Poached.

More by Gibbs:

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




Image from RandomHouse.com
Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits by Michael D. Beil
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
9780385753173
When 11-year-old Henry steps aboard the always prompt Lake Erie Shoreliner in New York City, he expects to spend the trip home to Ashtabula, MI drawing and secretly reading comic books. But when his new friend Ellie suddenly disappears it’s up to Henry, the conductor Clarence Nockwood, and Lantern Sam to solve the mystery. Who is Lantern Sam, you might ask? He’s a calico cat with a nose for adventure, detective work, and sardines. Can this unlikely trio solve the mystery before the train arrives at its final destination?
This thrilling, historical fiction mystery has a wonderful mixture of deceptive clues, dastardly villains, and a wise-cracking feline detective. The chapters alternate between Henry’s narration and portions from “Don’t Call Me Samantha: The Almost Entirely True Autobiography of Lantern Sam.” Set in 1938, there are period references, but the context always provides an explanation. Henry and Ellie are relatable characters, so the story never gets bogged down in it’s historical setting. Recommend this book for your animal and mystery loving readers.


More by Beil:

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



Image from Scholastic.com
Secret Letters from 0 to 10 by Susie Morgenstern, Translated by Gill Rosner
Puffin Books, 1998
9780670880078
10-year-old Ernest lives in France with his silently suffering grandmother. Each day has the same routine, the same food, the same silence. Ernest would have continued his repetitious life, but then he meets vivacious and verbose Victoria and his life changes forever. Victoria brings Ernest to meet her thirteen brothers and wastes no time making Ernest her boyfriend, “We’re getting married in thirteen years, eight months, and three days.” Now, Ernest’s technicolor world is full of surprises, miracles, tears, laughter, and love.
Originally published in France in 1996 this quiet, yet cleverly humorous realistic story has been smoothly and beautifully translated into English. It was named an ALA Notable Book and an Mildred L. Batchelder honor book in 1999. Set in modern day France, the story unfolds over the course of a school year. The characters, eccentric and lovable,  are the heart of the story. Victoria and her thirteen brothers are a force to be reckoned with and they set about invading Ernest’s predictable life with chaos. Ernest is a likeable, reluctant hero who struggles to deal with the new emotions brought on by his expanding world. Ernest’s mother died in childbirth and his father left when Ernest was just a day old. He wonders, is his father dead? If not, where is he and why hasn’t he ever come to visit Ernest? Ultimately, Ernest learns to embrace life, the bitter and the sweet, and to be honest and trusting with those he loves.


More by Morgenstern:

Readalikes:


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

-Amy

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