Monday, April 25, 2016
Lost in the Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Spencer Plain always believed his parents were bear activists, but what he didn't know was that they dedicated their lives to creating a secret bear city-Bearhaven. In this hidden world, bears live like humans. They speak, go to school, play video games, and even have their own underground train. When Spencer's parents go missing, he must work with the bears to try to find their captors.
This is a terrific story that works for both younger and older readers. The world of Bearhaven is definitely fantasy, but it's explained in a way that makes it seem entirely possible. I like that it educates readers about animal cruelty (the reason Bearhaven came to exist in the first place) without being scary. The details of this secret city help bring it to life. Great debut novel from this author with the squeal expected this summer. Perfect for 8 years old and up!
When I first started Once Was a Time by Leila Sales, I assumed it was going to be completely set in WWII Germany. Charlotte's father is a scientist working for the London government on a top secret project. After a few pages, I settled in for a nice historical fiction book (I obviously didn't read the book jacket) when WHAMMO- I was pleasantly surprised to read that Charlotte travels through time to the year 2013. Unfortunately for Lottie, she is alone and left to speculate about what has happened to her family and best friend Kitty back in war torn London. As Lottie tries to find her answers, she discovers that life isn't actually all that different in the future. There are still mean girls and tough pre-teen choices to make.
I think this book is adorable. Lottie and Kitty's friendship is a wonderful testament to what true friendship should look like. Also Lottie's attempts to fit in 70 years into the future are really cute. Of course my favorite part is Lottie's passion for books and the library. She continues to be a voracious reader in a world of iPhones and internet, and it's her love of books that leads her to the answers she is searching for throughout the book.
My only criticism is that the end wrapped up a little too neatly (and a bit far fetched). I had to question the actual science, but I can overlook that because it was a satisfying conclusion.
I'm guessing this book is going to be one of the most popular this year!
Monday, April 11, 2016
Space Case by Stuart Gibb is a very exciting book. It's sequel, Spaced Out was published last week, but I had to read the first before I can read the second. I wrote in an earlier post that my son, who is a reluctant reader, liked this book and now I know why. It's got everything little boys love- space travel, robots, science, mystery and quite a few sentences devoted to using the bathroom on the moon.
Dash Gibson's family was selected to be one of the first families to live on the moon in a brand new colony. Unfortunately, living in space isn't as exciting as he had hoped. The base is small, the food is terrible, there isn't really a lot for a 12 year-old boy to do until the colony's top scientist dies, and Dash sets out to prove he was murdered. Of course NASA doesn't want the world to know that the new colony might be dangerous, so Dash must quickly and cleverly discover the truth on his own.
Set in 2040 this book was really neat. Just reading about the technology had me humming The Jetson's theme song. I've sometimes thought about what it would be like to live on the moon and this book gave me a clear picture of what that might look like. Additionally, there was one humdinger of a cliffhanger! I'm glad I read this today so I can buy Spaced Out tomorrow to see what happens next. While the story is quite intriguing, and I would love to recommend this to a young audience, there are some themes that might be a bit scary (the murder mystery being number one). I would have to say this one is for 4th grade and up.
If I suddenly found a magic pencil that could give me all the answers to every question that came to my mind I would simultaneously want to ask it everything and be too scared to ask anything at all! In All The Answers by Kate Messner, Ava Anderson finds a pencil like this and must decide exactly what kinds of things she really wants know. Should she use it for test answers? to reveal who has a crush on her? to discover if her friends and family are all in good health? These are all questions that the pencil can respond to, but Ava, already a natural worrier, gets even more anxious now that she has access to all the answers. Sometimes knowing the outcome is not always a good thing.
This book is very sweet. Ava is a responsible girl who doesn't want to abuse the pencil for silly questions and this makes her a charming heroine. She must learn that pushing through her fears and living through uncertainty offers a more meaningful life than one with automatic answers. This story was easy to read and the mystery of the pencil's origin was very surprising. I think students ages 9-12 will enjoy this book very much.