Sunday, July 24, 2011

Just Grace and the Double Surprise by Cherise Mericle Harper

Just Grace and the Double Surprise (The Just Grace Series)
     In this seventh installment of the Just Grace series, Grace's best friend Mimi is anxiously awaiting the adoption of a new baby sister.  In the first surprise Mimi's parents bring home Robert, a 3 year-old-brother instead.  Mimi is not happy about this and Grace tries really hard to help prove brothers can be just as much fun as sisters.  The second surprise is that Grace gets something she has always wanted but I don't want to spoil that surprise for readers!
      Harper's illustrations work beautifully with the story.  Grace and Mimi are best friends and it's wonderful to see how they care for and watch out for each other.  Their parents are depicted as caring but not overbearing involved parents.  This series is spot on for young girls especially those ready to move on from Junie B. or Judy Moody.  Just Grace and the Double Surprise is a stand alone but readers will fall in love with Grace as I did and will want to read them all.  (Be sure to introduce fans to Harper's Fashion Kitty too!)  Recommended for girls in grades 1 (strong readers) through 6th grade (reluctant readers) and everyone in between.
     Read as an ebook arc courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Negalley.  Just Grace and the Double Surprise will be published August, 2011.

Nikki and Deja : Election Madness by Karen English

When Deja's teacher announces the school is holding a student body election, Deja is sure she would make an excellent president. She is counting on her best friend, Nikki to be her campaign manager. Although they are best friends they don't always see eye to eye on everything. While Deja wants to spend all their time focusing on getting the nomination, Nikki is worrying that the tension between her parents means they will be getting a divorce. Youngsters will enjoy the relationship the girls have with each other and with Deja's aunt who is raising her. They will see that sometimes friends argue and disagree. Auntie is a loving character who guides Deja rather than telling her what to do. The illustrations by Laura
Freeman are wonderfully expressive and add pizazz to the story. This is a welcome addition to chapter books for primary grade students. Read as an ebook arc courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Netgalley.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

While camping with his mother, Jack wakes up to discover that she has left him. Alone.  Again.  Jack uses his experience with his mom disappearing and his smarts to avoid the police and social services.  Being  far home in Maine (they live in Masachusetts) doesn't hinder Jack's ability to find food (helping an old lady or from trash cans) or finding a place to sleep (in a store or church).  We surmise from Jack that his mom is mentally ill and that she has Jack believing that his grandma is the enemy.  Each chapter begins with a blurb about elephants with a quote from a book or an interesting fact.  Jack has always loved elephants and it is this love that will ultimately save him and help him heal.

A parent with a mental illness is a tough subject for kids.  Being abandoned by a parent is also tough.  Jennifer Jacobson handles these subjects deftly and readers will be cheering for Jack.  While as an adult I find it hard to believe that Jack survived alone as long as he did young readers will not.  Recommended for readers who like survival or adventure stories and contemporary fiction.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Planet Explorers Chicago by Laura Schaefer

If you have read my interview below with author Laura Schaefer then you know she is writing a series of guidebooks for children. I had the chance to review one and chose Chicago because for three years Chicago was my home.

My children would have loved this book when they were young. It is written specifically to intrigue children and to help them understand this large magical city. The trivia facts are interesting by themselves. For instance every man, woman, and child in Chicago eats an average of 23 pounds of pizza a year! And the Brookfield Zoo was the first zoo to use moats and ditches instead of cages. I can just hear a child in the back seat saying "hey, did you know..." and rattling off some cool fact about Chicago.

Are you traveling there? Just want to learn about Chicago? I highly recommend this ebook for everyone.  It is a great overview of the city yet detailed enough to really help you learn your way around.  And although I haven't eaten there for twenty years, Ed Debevics was our favorite family restuaruant!  Read as an ebook arc courtesy of Smashwords.  To purchase this book on click here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Hole in the Wall by Lisa Rowe Fraustino

Strange things are happening to Sebby, his family and around his home.  His dad is out of work and his mom is overworked.  His grandmother has moved in forcing Sebby to share a room with his twin sister Barb.  His older brother has disappeared and the chickens are laying eggs hard as rock.  The hole in the wall is his hide-a-way spot to get away from all his troubles.  Soon though Barb joins him in trying to figure out just what is causing the beautiful colors they see floating around, why a baby chick has attached itself to his belly and why he has had an unnatural growth spurt.

Written in Sebby's voice, Lisa Rowe Fraustino has us believing in the magic (or is it science?)  Though the twins bicker their love for one another shines through as does their mom's.  They act as young children would in their situation even questioning their feelings for their father as he disappoints them continuously.  Sebby has a sense of humor as does big brother Jed that will make kids laugh.

Part science fiction, part mystery, part environmental, The Hole in the Wall will keep readers turning the pages.   Read as an ebook arc courtesy of Milkweed Editions via Netgalley.

Friday, July 1, 2011

True (...sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Delly is such a troublemaker that even she believes she is bad to the core.  She reaches rock bottom though when threatened to be expelled from school and sees her mom cry.  With the help of her younger brother R.B. and their new friend, Ferris Boyd,  Delly just may be saved.  Although Ferris Boyd does not talk, R.B., Delly and another boy in town, Brud, manage to communicate with her.

True (...sort of) starts off as a simple story.  However, like an onion Katherine Hannigan peels away layer by layer revealing little by little the goodness in Delly, the love in R.B.'s heart, the understanding in Brud, and the pain that silences Ferris Boyd.  

Although dealing with the issue of physical abuse, Hannigan makes readers understand that it is not Ferris Boyd's fault.  She is the victim but there is help available.  A tough subject for young children to read about but an important one and written extremely well.  You will fall in love with Delly, R.B., Ferris Boyd and Brud just like I did.  Recommended for 4th graders and up.

Nerd Girls : The Rise of the Dorkasaurus by Alan Lawrence Sitomer


  Tired of being bullied by the popular girls, three girls team up to try to win the school talent show and end the reign of bullies always winning.  Alice, aka Allergy Alice, Barbara aka Beanpole and Maureen aka Mo (the fat girl) find the true meaning of friendship as they nearly become convinced they are losers for ever.
     For most of this book I was reading with a smile on my face and laughed out loud in many spots.  When Alice's tragic background came to light I had tears in my eyes.  Sitomer sure knows how to twist a story.  Recommended for grades 6 and up and all middle school girls who have ever been bullied.
Read as an ebook arc courtesy of Simon and Schuster via Netgalley.  Nerd Girls : The Rise of the Dorkasaurus will be available July 5, 2011.