Friday, July 24, 2015

June Round-Up

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Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr
Translated from Norwegian by Guy Puzey
Candlewick, 2015
9-year-olds Trille and Lena are neighbors and their adventures take them all over Mathildewick Cove in Norway. They string a ropeway between their windows, recreate Noah’s Ark, save a horse, and sled down a mountain, all with hilarious results. Although their adventures never go as planned and Lena usually ends up with a concussion, Trille is never happier than when he’s on an adventure with his best friend.
Originally published in Norway in 2005, this realistic fiction story set in a rural community follows a year in the life of Trille. In addition to a series of high-spirited adventures, Trille also learns about loss when Lena moves away and his beloved Auntie Granny dies. Set in modern day Norway, each of the episodic chapters ends with a humorous or touching punchline. Puzy’s translation is smooth and suited to Parr's style of writing. Unfamiliar cultural markers and terms are explained easily within the narrative or through context. The characters are wonderfully unique, including Trille’s moped driving Grandpa, his  waffle-making Auntie Granny, and, of course, the vibrant and thrilling Lena.

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

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Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Random House, 2015
Astra and her family are on their way to start a new life on the planet of Nova Mundi. With three moons, singing mountains, and herds of floating air sheep Nova Mundi sounds amazing! Unfortunately,  the planet is 199 years away from Earth! That’s why all the passengers on the gigantic space ship will sleep in  pods until they get there. Everything is going according to plan until Astra gets hungry and asks the Nom-O-Tron in the Cafeteria for a bedtime snack. “Oh, just make me the most amazing, super-fantastic cake ever!...I want something so delicious it’s scary!” Nom-O-Tron doesn’t seem able to make the cake, so Astra goes to sleep. But when she wakes up it hasn’t been 199 years and they haven’t arrived at Nova Mundi. Instead, crazy, evil, highly evolved cakes have taken over the ship!

This silly adventure of spoon-loving aliens and friendly robots is complemented with whimsical orange and grayscale illustrations. They provide context for new words and add even more humor to the story. The short chapters that end with cliffhangers are great for new chapter book readers. This is a great recommendation for a laugh out loud family read aloud.

More books by Reeve and/or McIntyre:

Recommended Age/Grade Level: Age 6+/Grade 1+

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The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
(Reviewed based on an advance reader’s copy)
What do lightbulbs, foil, mirrors, pieces of wood, glass bottles, coffee cans, and cardboard have in common? They’re all items on the list of “The Seven Most Important Things” that Arthur T. Owens must collect for James Hampton (aka the Junk Man). 13-year-old Arthur thinks the list is weird and nonsensical, but he has no choice. This is his probation for throwing a brick at Mr. Hampton. Eventually, the heavenly, spectacular, brilliant artwork in Mr. Hampton’s garage and the seven most important things help Arthur find forgiveness and peace.

Based loosely on the life and art of American folk artist James Hampton, this story features a sensitive, but tough protagonist learning to understand his emotions. Arthur not only deals with the consequences of his brick-throwing actions, but also the sudden death of his father and his mother’s new boyfriend. Strong character development and a believable plot ground this quick, yet thoughtful read. The tight narrative unfolds without fanfare or unnecessary suspense.

More books by Pearsall:

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