February 10, 2016

Follow my nonfiction blog

Since there are many excellent blogs devoted to so many genres of fiction (picture books, YA, chapter books, etc), I've decided to concentrate solely on my nonfiction book blog Interesting Nonfiction for Inquisitive Kids - http://inquisitive-kids.blogspot.com.



Also see reviews on my Good Reads shelf:
Mary-Esther Lee's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)



August 5, 2015

When humans become prey


Zoo
by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge


For those who don't care for the television series, the book is better. A brief summary: amateur scientist Jackson Oz tries to warn the world about escalating human-animal conflict. The science may be iffy - it involves hydrocarbons and cell phone radiation - but Patterson makes it sound pretty plausible. Oz encounters the usual bureaucratic indifference as the animal attacks increase exponentially. The carnage is confined to short, quick chapters, while the rising suspense will keep readers riveted.

For those who aren't keen on nearly 400 pages, try Zoo: The Graphic Novel.



July 15, 2015

Dear as Salt


Dear as Salt
by Rafe Martin
illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka


One day, a king became angry because he thought that his daughters didn't love him. His eldest daughter said she loved him as dear as bread, his middle daughter said she loved him as dear as wine, but Zizola, his youngest daughter, said she loved him as dear as salt. Incensed, he wants her dead, but Zizola's mother hides her in a giant candlestick shaped like a rooster. 

The similarity to King Lear is obviousexcept that this version is definitely stranger. Yet it's also more delicious, and with a happier ending!

A surprising, enjoyable read.


June 24, 2015

A family of shape-shifters


Aesop's Secret
by Claudia White


Melinda is a ten-year-old girl who one day discovers that she can turn into a horse! She and her family are Athenites, an ancient race of shapeshifters who can take on the form of any animal. Melinda revels in her newfound ability, but her brother Felix wants nothing to do with it. He's more interested in science and goes off to study at the Stumpworthy School of Science in Paris. But things take an ominous turn when Felix falls into a coma, his father disappears, and his mother starts acting strangely. It's up to Melinda to find out what's really happening in order to save her family. She is helped by her pet rabbit Aesop, who is more than what he seems.

White does a good job of blending the mythical with the real, but doesn't allow her story to properly develop. Everything happens too quickly and conveniently, with adult characters explaining key plot points. I find it disappointing that Melinda and Felix are the only children in the story. Another puzzling aspect are the characters' reactions to various situations. They laugh when they should be scared, are reckless when they should be cautious (Melinda makes no attempt to hide her shapeshifting), and seemingly unconcerned at bad news. Part of the problem may be White's attempt to use a word other than "said." So Melinda sneers or drawls or giggles, which often doesn't fit with the serious conversations that she's having. It's also a major letdown that the villain, Professor Stumpworthy, is the boastful type who enjoys revealing his nefarious plans.

Surprisingly, Aesop's Secret has spawned two sequels, Key to Kashdune and Servalius Window, each with beautiful cover art by Larissa Kulik, which is what initially attracted me. 

White has another book on the way, so she does have her fans. But sadly, this reader isn't one of them.




June 17, 2015

Dream of diving horses


The Girl on the High Diving Horse
by Linda Oatman High
illustrated by Ted Lewin


Ivy Cordelia and her photographer father spend summer 1936 in Atlantic City. Of all the sights and sounds, Ivy most loves the Steel Pier and the high-diving horses. She watches the act every day and dreams of being the girl on a high-diving horse. Will her dream come true?

Poetic words and old-fashioned, postcard-style pictures make for a nostalgic, magical read.


May 20, 2015

Summer island adventure


Shack Island Summer
by Penny Chamberlain


Twelve-year-old Pepper and her older brother Everett are spending the summer with their grandmother, who lives on tiny Shack Island. Feeling neglected by Everett, her parents and the knowledge of being adopted, Pepper starts dreaming about her real family and of being special, especially since she seems to have psychic ability. She sometimes has slightly scary dreams that tend to come true. These dreams lead her to Ray, a draft dodger who's hiding out in one of the shacks. Pepper quickly decides that Ray is her real brother and is determined to help him. Her poor judgment leads her into danger, but it somehow works out in the end. Along the way, Pepper gains a new appreciation for her life and her family.

Set in 1969, this is an innocent, almost idyllic novel with a nostalgic feel and a happy ending.

May 13, 2015

Farmerettes


The Farmerettes
by Gisela Tobien Sherman


The Farmerettes are a group of girls who, during the summer of 1943, live and work together on an Ontario farm as part of the Farm Service Forces. Most abled-bodied men have enlisted to fight in the second World War and there's not enough of them left to tend to the crops. It's up to the Farmerettes to pick fruit and hoe vegetables. 

The novel follows the stories of six girls from different backgrounds - Helene, whose wages support her single mother; flirtatious Peggy, who tries to keep her German background a secret; Isabel, pining for her soldier fiancé; rebellious Binxie, trying to escape the constraints of her rich family; Jean, whose family owns the farm; and X, the mystery girl. 

The work is hard and the hours long, but they still have time to laugh and sing and dance with boys. Moments of heartbreak and romance shape their lives, changing them from girls to women. The action ebbs and flows like real life and readers have their choice of characters to root for, whether it's watching Helene gain confidence, Isabel strength, or Binxie a new path. Of all the girls, X is the least mentioned, but her story is the saddest. She gives readers a lot to worry about; thankfully Binxie helps her a lot. Binxie supports all the girls, which is why she'll be a favorite.

Full of caring, heartfelt moments, this is a tender novel that will appeal to girls who like quiet romances and sensitive secrets.