Monday, June 30, 2008

Deep Down Popular

Deep Down Popular

by Phebe Stone


Jessie Lou is part tom-boy and part wild child, but the one thing she is not is popular. Conrad Parker is popular though. He's the most popular kid at their school and a soccer star at their small school, that is until his leg is injured and he has to start wearing a brace. Suddenly Conrad is unpopular, but Jessie Lou, who has always liked Conrad, doesn't care. She still likes him anyway. Then their teacher asks Jessie Lou to help Conrad take his things home from school. Gradually they, along with Quentin--a fourth grader, become friends as they try to solve a local mystery. When Conrad is selected for a special operation that could heal his leg, Jessie Lou is afraid that she will lose her new friend.

This simple story of friendship and crushes is told in an almost lyrical fashion. The small town, country setting is beautifully captured throughout, as are the several outlandish characters, such as Jessie Lou's mischievious grandfather and the rascally Quentin. Stone does an exceptional job of capturing the attitudes and typical behaviors of sixth graders.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kissing Brendan Callahan

Kissing Brendan Callahan

by Susan Amesse


Sarah is determined to be a great writer just like her idol the romance writer, Antonia DeMarco. However, Sarah's mother keeps upsetting her plans. First her mother gives the job of summer intern at the local paper to Sarah's arch rival. Her mother hires a snoopy nanny. Then her mother makes Sarah work with Brendan, the jerk, preparing for a local fair. And if all that weren't bad enough, her mother plans a writing contest that she won't let Sarah enter. When Sarah finds out that Antonia is going to judge the writing contest, she is over the moon. Her friend Brendan, who maybe isn't such a jerk after all, encourages her spunkyness and helps her deal with the problems that Antonia creates for Sarah.

Despite the title, this book is as much about mother-daughter relationships as it is about first kisses. The first kisses though are very sweet. Sarah is a fun and imaginative character. Each of the supporting characters has something to contribute both in the way of entertainment and in helping Sarah. Loved the slogans for Brendan's T-shirts!

Monday, June 9, 2008

His Majesty’s Dragon (Book 1 – Temeraire Series) by Naomi Novik

Ms. Novik started this series back in 2006, and is still going strong with book five, coming out in July 2008. The book is set during the Napoleonic wars, and it is alternative history/fantasy, because in this universe the history is given a new twist – with dragons existing and even being used in warfare by England and other European nations. Will Laurence is a Captain in the British Navy, but his station changes when his ship captures a French ship carrying a dragon’s egg. Dragons are matched at birth with their “trainers” and the fledging dragon chooses Laurence. Now he’s forced to become a member of the British Aerial Corp, but he finds his new status more than acceptable once he realizes what it’s like to be a dragon trainer, an “aviator”. Although the flying is exciting, Laurence’s principal gain is finding out how creative and endearing dragons actually are, and soon he can’t imagine being without Temeraire, as he has named him. Novik does a wonderful job of sustaining our interest both in Temeraire’s development and in the plot, which is predictable only in its unpredictability. I am hooked on the series, having started on Book 3, and am now reading them in order. Novik is enamored of history, particularly this period, and has woven the details of dragon warfare to mesh skillfully with the actual mechanics of war at that time. I’d love to hear from others regarding your reaction to the series.