Monthly Archives: November 2013

Morse Pond Review: The Forbidden Stone

9780062194473The Forbidden Stone

Tony Abbott

Katherine Tegen Books

$16.99

Available January 2014

The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott is awesome! It is the first book in a six- book series, and I can’t wait for the next one. The main characters Wade, Darrell, Lily, Becca, and Darrell’s father Roald, have to find twelve ancient relics hidden all over the world before the evil villains do. Even though the book is about 400 pages, it seemed to end way too quickly. If you like adventure, mystery, and action, this book is definitely for you!

~ Ryan, 10

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Morse Pond Review: The Lost Kingdom

9780545274265The Lost Kingdom

Matthew Kirby

Scholastic Press

$17.99

Available now

In The Lost Kingdom, Matthew J. Kirby makes you feel like you’re in early America. With just the right amount of suspense, this book kept me wanting to turn the page, and it has a special surprise at the end. If you liked Dormia, you’ll definitely want to give this one a try!

~ Alex, age 11

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Customer Review: The Last Dragonslayer

9780547738475The Last Dragonslayer

Jasper Fforde

HMH Books for Young Readers

$7.99

I loved this book, especially the way it was written and its comedic style. The main character — Jennifer Strange — is a foundling raised by The Blessed Ladies of the Lobster. When she is 12, she, like all other foundlings, gets a job. Her job, however, is a little different then others. She becomes the Mystical Arts Manager for Kazam. Kazam is the home and agency for all wizards. Then out of the blue she is recognized as the last dragon slayer. Can she make it? Can she save the dragons and the people? I would give this book 10 out of 10 stars and recommend it two any one who likes a good story with some humor.

~ Helena, age 11

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Morse Pond Review: Prisoner 88

9781580895606Prisoner 88

Leah Pileggi

Charlesbridge Publishing

$16.95

Available now

Prisoner 88, a great book by Leah Pileggi, is filled with heart and always has you thinking. The main character, Jake, a ten year old boy, wound up in prison by protecting his Pa. Going to prison when he was ten was not the easiest. It wasn’t because he was leaving his Pa, it was because the other prisoners did not treat him right. It took a little while for Jake to settle in. He was a bit unsure of things. He worked with the hogs and, because he was so young, the prison provided him with school. Throughout his few years at the prison he learned things he probably never would have otherwise. For Jake coming from where he had come from, prison gave him good things and bad. This book is well-told and is a great historical fiction book.

~Liadan, age 11

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Morse Pond Review: Prisoner 88

9781580895606Prisoner 88

Leah Pileggi

Charlesbridge Publishing

$16.95

Available now

Prisoner 88 by Leah Pileggi is a great book about a brave boy named Jake. He’s been through a lot for his age, winding up in prison by protecting his Pa. In prison not everyone likes a young boy like Jake around. He makes some friends and some enemies. This book has a surprising end and keeps you thinking what will happen next.

~ Ella, age 11

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Morse Pond Review: Guinea Pigs Online

9781623650377Guinea Pigs Online

Jennifer Gray and Amanda Swift

illustrated by Sarah Horne

Quercus

Available now.

Guinea Pigs Online by Jennifer Gray & Amanda Swift is about a guinea pig named Fuzzy that wants to cook. He goes to a restaurant based on a misunderstanding online and almost becomes dinner for the queen! But then his friend Coco comes to The Meat Cleaver to save all the guinea pigs. When she arrives, she sees the queen after a long time of being apart. I would suggest this book. It is fun and funny!

~ Adam, age 12

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Staff Review: The Scar Boys

9781606844397The Scar Boys

Len Vlahos

Egmont USA

$17.99

Available January 2014

In Len Vlahos’s novel, The Scar Boys, Harbinger “Harry” Jones describes himself as “socially lower than a pariah and only barely higher than a corpse.” As an 8-year old, he was disfigured in a horrific bullying incident and will live with the physical scars for the rest of his life. However, it’s the mental scars that have haunted him ever since.

Harry finds an outlet, and eventual salvation, through music. He and a friend — who is pretty much the definition of a “frenemy” — start a band called “The Scar Boys”, and spend a summer touring. Betrayals, shifting allegiances, friendship, financial difficulties, and a love triangle are all part of Harry’s journey, but the music is what rescues him, bringing eventual self-acceptance.

The music in The Scar Boys spoke to me, as it would to anyone who grew up during the 1980s, and I am always looking for books that speak to teenage boys, so I was happy to find this ARC at the NEIBA conference in Providence this year. While I think The Scar Boys is a really really good book, I don’t think it is a GREAT book. Wonder and The Burn Journals both do a better job at describing the pain-filled, lonely journey of an adolescent boy coming to terms with his life. I don’t know too many teenage boys who care one way or the other about the 1980s, and I think the musical references will be lost on them, unless they are hardcore music aficionados. Since music is so integral to this story, the type of music does matter. Nevertheless, the story of being different and feeling like an outcast is universal, and I will certainly add The Scar Boys to my list of YA recommendations.

~ Lysbeth

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Staff Review: The Last Days of California

9780871405883

The Last Days of California

Mary Miller

Liveright Publishing

$24.95

Available January 2014

The road trip novel has been around for as long as people have been writing and telling stories. Ranging from The Odyssey and Canterbury Tales to On the Road and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this theme lends itself to all times and places. People have not changed all that much, just situations and circumstances.

The Last Days of California, by Mary Miller, is merely one of the newest iterations of the road trip. On first glance, I thought it would be something like Little Miss Sunshine crossed with The Leftovers. Wrong. Sure, it is definitely quirky, and there is supposed to be a rapture, but the similarities end there.

The story is narrated by 15-year-old Jess, who is accompanied by Elise, her 17-year-old sister, and their parents. This family is on a one-way road trip from their home in Alabama to California, where they and other faithful followers will all be raptured.

At least, that’s the plan.

Both Jess and Elise are typical teenagers, obsessed with boys and sex, whether they are going to stay in a fleabag motel again, their next meal, and bickering with each other and their parents. Jess realizes early on in the story that Elise is pregnant, but neither parent is aware. Both of the girls seem spectacularly unconcerned about the eventual outcome of Elise’s pregnancy, living in the moment the way only a teenager can. Instead, Elise spends most of her time rebelling against her parents, angry that she was forced to leave her friends behind. Jess spends her time thinking about the fact that Elise has actually had sex, and wondering if she will ever have sex. She veers from these thoughts to being blissfully happy that she has enough money for a candy binge. Elise doesn’t believe in either God or the rapture. Jess is actually in the process of letting go of the faith of her parents, and trying to discover exactly what, if anything, she does believe.

Jess is critical of their mother in that off-handed way that adolescents have mastered. She paints their father as a clueless bumbler. Their father is the only one in the family who believes in the rapture, and even his belief seems somewhat half-hearted. He seems to be hoping for the rapture as a grand solution to all his problems, as we gradually learn that he may have lost his job (again), may have a gambling problem, and is in denial about his diabetes.

Jess talks in the navel-gazing, sharply observant, and often bitingly funny voice of a teenager. The Last Days of California is really about a family’s journey together. It’s always really more about the journey than the destination anyway.

~ Lysbeth

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Staff Review: The Crane Wife

9781594205477The Crane Wife

Patrick Ness

Penguin Press

$26.95

Available January 2014

The Crane Wife, by Patrick Ness, is a loose re-telling of a Japanese folktale set in modern times.

George Duncan is the man who rescues a wounded crane, and Kumiko is the mysterious woman who appears shortly afterwards. Kumiko creates artwork using feathers, and George creates collages with pages from old books, but when Kumiko adds her feathers to George’s cutouts, something magical happens: the artwork is transformed into more than the sum of its parts. People who see the finished pieces are affected emotionally and are willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money to possess one.

There are two other narratives woven into this story, a realistic one involving George’s daughter, and a surreal one involving a volcano, who seems to be another side of Kumiko. Although George and Kumiko fall in love and plan on marriage, she remains elusive, always keeping part of herself hidden, including anything to do with her artwork. The more intent George is on getting a firm commitment from Kumiko, the more she seems to slip away, and this is indeed what happens.

Many of the reviews of this novel have been lukewarm, but I don’t think Patrick Ness is capable of writing a bad word, and I loved it. The Crane Wife has a magical feel to it, where what is real and what is not is never completely defined. Since I like this kind of stuff, this book was right up my alley. George says pretty early on in the novel that, “no one was ever just one thing, no history ever one version”, so the reader should not expect to be entirely sure of the truth of any one version of events. It reminds me of my grandfather telling me that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.

~ Lysbeth

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Morse Pond Review: Fallout

9780763655341

Fallout

Todd Strasser

Candlewick Press

$16.99

Available now

The book Fallout by Todd Strasser is a very exciting book. It is filled with lots of action and mystery. It is the summer of 1962 and there is a possibility of nuclear war. Scott’s dad is the only one who actually prepares for war. He goes and builds a bomb shelter. He builds it to protect his family and stocks it with enough food and water to keep the four members of the family alive for two critical weeks. In the middle of the night in October, the unthinkable happens. I would recommend this book to kids ages 10 to 12.

~ Cole, age 10

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