Thursday, June 21, 2012

Darth Paper Strikes Back, Tom Angleberger

 I just finished the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, which I blogged about a while ago. This book finds Dwight, Origami Yoda's keeper, in serious trouble. He's up for expulsion from McQuarrie Middle School for "threatening" a cheerleader (which turns out to just be a misunderstanding) and a string of other events that are, well, misunderstood. His troubles all began when evil classmate Harvey began bringing an origami Darth Vader - "Darth Paper" - to school. It seems that Harvey is truly the one behind Dwight's demise.

So, this novel finds Tommy and the gang on a mission to plea Dwight's case with the school board by documenting all of the well-intentioned, kind things that Dwight and Origami Yoda have done for their classmates. 

Written in the same style and with the same humor as before, I enjoyed Darth Paper just as much as Origami Yoda. This book gives you enough background that you don't need to have read the first one to understand it, but I'd definitely recommend reading Origami Yoda first, just because it's a good book! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Three Times Lucky, Sheila Turnage

Three Times Lucky is about a girl, Mo (Moses) LoBeau, who lives in a small North Carolina town where everyone knows everyone. There's one person Mo doesn't know, though, and that's her mother. Mo was found in stream in the middle of a hurricane by a man whom everyone knows as "Colonel." The Colonel is an amnesiac, and has no clue where he came from. I'll let you read the book to find out his story - it was shocking! Anyway, the Colonel and his friend Miss Lana become Mo's adoptive parents and she lives with them happily, working at their town cafe. She is always curious about her mother, though, and sends messages in a bottle to her "Upstream Mother" all the time, in hopes that she'll get a response. 

Everything's great in their town of Tupelo Landing until a resident turns up dead. This brings two big city detectives - Detective Starr and Deputy Marla - into town, but Mo and her friend Dale are convinced that they can solve the crime better than anyone, and they begin to conduct their own investigation. Along the way, there's a hurricane, a funeral, and a kidnapping, but they eventually help save the day and put the murderer in jail.

I could not put this book down. I fell in love with all of Tupelo Landing's quirky characters -  Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton, who acts as the town's mother hen, Reverend Thompson and his son Thes, whose cat goes missing constantly, Miss Lana, who has a room full of wigs (even a Cher wig) and loves to play dress up, and then of course, Mo, who thinks of herself as a bona fide detective, and Dale, who goes along with her every whim. Mo might actually be one of my new favorite heroines - she's smart, tells it like it is, and is a real go-getter. 

This book has the perfect mixture of adventure and mystery that I think could keep any reader engrossed. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Crossed, Ally Condie

I finished Crossed, by Ally Condie, this morning. It is the sequel to her novel Matched, which I read with my sixth graders this spring. Matched is about a dystopian society in which the government (they just call it "The Society") controls all of the important decisions in a person's life. The title comes from the Society's "Match Banquet," in which it matches its citizens, at the age of 17, to their future spouses. I won't give all the back story that's in Matched - read it yourself! - but Crossed obviously picks up where it left off. Here's a quick trailer for Matched

We find Cassia and Ky both at work in the Outer Provinces, in search of The Rising - a group of rebels that are determined to overthrow the Society. The novel alternates between Cassia's and Ky's point of view. Initially, they are separated and are determined to find eachother. Ultimately, they do, and they find the Rising together.

Cassia is still matched to Xander, though, and some of her friends in the Outer Provinces know a secret about him that she isn't privy to. Xander comes to visit her once yet is discouraged by the fact that her heart is still with Ky. I was so shocked when I learned Xander's secret - I can't wait to see how Cassia reacts to learning his secret  in the next, and final, novel in the trilogy.

Overall, this book was a little slow and relatively dull. The situation surrounding Ky and Cassia's journey seemed like it would have lent itself to a lot more adventure and action, but the bulk of the novel was about their feelings and longings to know the Rising and be together - it was, like I said, kind of dull.

However, I really enjoyed Matched, and Crossed ends in a way that I know the third and final novel in the trilogy will be exciting and thrilling, like the first one was. So, I'd still recommend reading it. The third book is titled Reached, and comes out in November. I read this article from the author's website, and it says that the final book will be told from Xander's perspective. Reached is definitely on my to-read list!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Kick, Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman

KickWalter Dean Myers has written a ton of novels for young adults, but what's cool about this one is that he wrote it WITH a young adult. Ross Workman emailed Myers in 2007 thanking him for his books, and from there  a collaborative project began in which they wound up writing this novel, Kick, together. How awesome would it be to email your favorite author and then have them invite you to collaborate on a novel?!

Anyway, Kick is about a boy named Kevin Johnson who winds up in juvie for a string of offenses - grand theft auto and driving without a license, among others. He was driving his friend Christy McNamara's father's car (with her in it) when he crashed into a light pole and was arrested. But, Johnson is the son of a deceased police officer, and a current officer named Sergeant Brown takes special interest in his case, out of respect for Kevin's dead father.

From the beginning of the novel, it's clear that something isn't quite right about the situation surrounding the night of the arrest. There's something mysterious about Christy's father, yet both Christy and Kevin refuse to talk. This mystery and suspense really propelled the novel and kept me reading. Kevin is a pretty talented soccer player, too, and a huge portion of the novel is devoted to his games and practices. I honestly found those parts kind of boring - I was more interested in the court case.

At the end of the novel, there are a bunch of emails between Myers and Workman as they worked on the novel together. I found those really interesting to read. It was cool to see the kind of advice that Myers gave to an aspiring writing, and to read about the kinds of things they had to work through in order to get the novel published.

Some more fun info about Walter Dean Myers...he was recently named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. That's a pretty important post, and means he'll travel the country for two years promoting literacy among adolescents. I found this article about his appointment, and it discusses Myers's childhood - he dropped out of high school, but maintained a love of books and reading, allowing him to get to where he is today.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Insurgent, Veronica Roth

Okay, I finished Divergent and Insurgent in less than a week and couldn't put them down, so it is NOT FAIR that the third book in the trilogy isn't scheduled to come out until the fall of 2013!

Anyway, Insurgent picks up where Divergent left off, with the hunt for the Divergent going strong. Tris (Beatrice) and her Dauntless trainer/boyfriend Tobias ("Four") find themselves going on a wild and dangerous journey, through several other factions' headquarters in order to save the Divergent and the society as a whole.

Jeanine, the evil leader of the Erudite faction (the faction who values knowledge above all else) is hot on their trail, though, seeking to do cruel and dangerous experiments on them to figure out exactly WHAT being Divergent means and what it does to them.

Tris and Four band up with a group of factionless and vow to overthrow Jeanine and her lackeys while saving their society. Along the way, they meet back up with Tris's parents, her brother, Caleb, - an Erudite transfer - and Tobias's family. Will they prevail?

The novel was fast-paced and action-packed. I don't know why I thought about it more with this novel than the first, but I found myself constantly wondering which faction in this society I would align with if I'd had to choose. I'm still not sure. Like Divergent, it did have some more mature themes and scenarios, so I'd still recommend it to older 7th and 8th grade readers.