Childrens book reviews by StorySnoops, judge a book by more than its cover, serving fresh scoops of new books for you every day
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Archive for February, 2013

Is it the hormones, or what?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Okay, so I’m happily reading along in a nice little tween book, and I’ve read quite a few of these now, so the general direction of the plot is usually not a surprise.  But before long, when the cute little troubled girl protagonist finally gets adopted by her former step dad, who, as it has been made abundantly clear, can offer her a better life than her unstable mother, I find myself sitting in my car with the book in my lap, sobbing—complete monster tears dripping down the face, nose running…sobbing!  At this point, I am really, really hoping that I don’t see anyone else I know in the school parking lot who might notice that I look like a puffy-eyed crazy woman!  And do I carry Kleenex in my car for just this sort of occasion?  Of course not.

Anyway, once I was able to collect myself, it occurred to me that I was completely losing myself over a book for a ten year old.  Yikes!  I am a forty-something gal, to whom these plot twists are rather predictable.  Books in the 9-12 year old category rarely have a truly sad ending (consider the audience—plenty of time for those books later), and yet, here I am crying my eyes out (and it’s really not the first time, actually).  Why???  In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a tendency to get a bit weepy sometimes in a nice coffee commercial, and I do love a good, trashy teen movie now and again, but I digress.

Maybe, to make myself feel better, I think that I’m crying because with my older, wiser view of the world, I can cry for the happy life that little girl will get a chance to have.  I can cry for the beauty of the step-parent who went above and beyond for a child who was no longer his.  I can cry for that poor mother, who even though she made a lot of mistakes, was still going to lose her daughter to another family.  None of these are thoughts the intended audience of ten year olds is likely to have, so maybe I have some adult insight that makes me cry.  Or maybe I’m just a sap.

-Eden, StorySnoop

Is it just me, or would you cry too? Waiting for Normal

Super Scoop — Legend and Prodigy, by Marie Lu

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

The Legend trilogy, by Marie Lu, is my latest dystopian obsession. I recently finished the second installment, Prodigy, which may be even slightly better than the first.

In Legend, two very different fifteen-year-olds have grown up in the Republic, a plague-ridden nation that is unceasingly at war with the Colonies and led by the Elector Primo, who is in his eleventh four-year term as president. At the age of ten, each citizen must take the Trial, a test that determines the path of the rest of their life. June is the only person who has ever received a perfect Trial score and has spent the past five years being trained as an elite military leader. Day failed the test and, rather than face the labor camps, has spent the past five years living on the streets, waging his own private rebellion against the Republic. During a desperate attempt to protect his family from the plague, Day breaks into a hospital lab and June’s older brother Metias is murdered. Now June will stop at nothing to track down the infamous Day and avenge her brother’s death. But when their paths finally cross, the two begin to realize that they are not as different as they once believed. In fact, they may even share a common enemy.

In Prodigy, June and Day, the Republic’s two most wanted fugitives arrive in Vegas in search of the Patriots. This group of rebels is more than happy to repair Day’s injured leg and rescue his brother. But in return, Day and June must help assassinate the new Elector Primo, Anden, who just came into power after the unexpected death of his father. The plan is a good one but lots could go wrong, especially for June, who has to turn herself in and get close to Anden. When she does, she realizes that this new Elector wants to make changes that will actually help the Republic. Now June must decide where her loyalties lie and, ultimately, what is best for her country.

These two books are sure to captivate both teen boys and girls, especially those who are already fans of the dystopian genre. In both cases, chapters alternate between June’s and Day’s perspectives, adding tension to the story. An unlikely team–one a military prodigy and one a fugitive rebel–the two find themselves allied romantically and by their principles. Readers will root for these intelligent, capable, and extremely likable characters as they fight for their beliefs. The combination of action, suspense, and romance give this series broad appeal. It would also be a good choice for tweens who like to “read up” as the content is not overly mature. A surprising revelation at the end of the Prodigy will leave readers eager to get their hands on the final installment in the trilogy, and disappointed that they have a long wait ahead.
Happy reading!
- Jen, StorySnoop

Super Scoop: Drama by Raina Telgemeier–What’s the big deal?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

You gotta love those well-written graphic novels for middle schoolers. They are crowd-pleasers: attractive to those who don’t love to read, and gobbled up in one sitting by those who do.

Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, about growing up as an awkward adolescent with braces, was well-received by critics and readers alike. She now has a new book out called Drama, which also depicts the very real ups and downs of middle school. Like Smile, the writing is good, and it’s a darn good book.

However, I am disappointed in what I have been reading about it. Critics seem to like it (well, it IS a good book!), but others are not so open-minded. Bloggers and other reviewers have condemned this book because there is a gay character who is open about his orientation. No one in the fictional school has a problem with it. There are a few gay characters in the book’s theater production, but honestly – can you tell me a theater production that does not? Or for that matter, can you name a middle school that does not have gay students? This book is not about sex, it’s about young teens (gay and straight alike) figuring themselves out and accepting who they are. More importantly, it is about others accepting them (which is not a problem in this book as everyone is open and being gay is not a problem).

My daughter, also a seventh grade theater chick, read this book and really enjoyed it. We talked about the characters, gay, straight, bi – whatever. It was not shocking to her. She told me that it very accurately depicted her middle school life.  I applaud the middle school kids of today, really. They can read a book and say, “He’s gay, lots of kids are. So what?” Not so for many parents and other critics of this book. Why is that?

Let’s just stay focused on the positive. Finally we have a book that is perfect – PERFECT – for the young theater crowd. Those kids, male and female, who know all of the words to Les Miz, and say things like “Break A Leg!”, and “The Show Must Go On!”: here is a book just for you.

Happy Reading!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Getting My Reluctant Reader to Read, Plan B

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Who am I kidding? I must be up to Plan G by now. I love my reluctant reader but he is tough. Just when I think I have him well on his way to reading bliss, BAM, we hit another wall. I’ve tried fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, graphic novels, fantasy, adventure, dystopian, bribery — you name it. To be honest, it’s hit or miss. There is no formula for success.

But, I have recently struck upon something that is working — for now — so I had to share. Audio books. Yup. I get an audio book version of something I think my son would like and, for some reason, I don’t get the eye-roll or the wrinkled nose. Instead, he disappears into his man cave of a room every night (WITHOUT BEING ASKED) and listens to his book. Granted, I picked a really good one — a slam dunk — to start with, but now he is actually enjoying “reading.”

So what follows is a list of books I’ve listened to that are particularly engaging for boys, starting with the one that has captured the attention of my fourteen-year-old son, Carter Finally Gets It, by Brent Crawford. These are all terrific stories paired with terrific narrators. Hopefully there is something for everyone — all ages and interests. Click on the book cover to get the details. And please let me know if there are any books I should add to the list. I’m always looking for the next great read (or listen).

Happy reading!

- Jen, StorySnoop

Yahoo! It’s here! YALSA 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults!

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Oh happy day! The ALA Midwinter conference in Seattle just ended, and as is traditional, several awards were announced. That’s all well and good, but really, the announcement I like best is the annual list of Best Fiction for Young Adults. I love to see how many of the 100+ books my Snoops gang has read, and I find it extremely validating when such an esteemed group of judges also likes something that I really enjoyed :-) (sometimes we all need a little reminder that we aren’t crazy, right?!)  Of course, if I am placing so much weight on external opinions, maybe there are a couple of books that I need to go back and revisit with different eyes, since I personally might not have put them on this list–ha! Check out the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (the asterisks are for the Top 10) and add a few to your to-be-read pile. Here are a few of our particular faves off the 2013 list:

Which ones did you like the best?

Happy Reading,

-Eden, StorySnoop