August 26, 2010

Thriller hard to put down

The Uninvited
by Tim Wynne-Jones

Mimi Shapiro is on the run from a bad relationship. Her artist father offers her the use of his remote cottage, so she makes the trip up north. Upon arrival, she finds someone already living there - Jay, a young musician who turns out to be her half-brother. Jay's been spooked by a few break-ins at the cottage. Someone's been leaving strange tokens for him: a dead bird, a snake skin. Meanwhile, another young man, Cramer Lee, struggles with two jobs while caring for his unstable mother.

These three lives are intimately connected. The reader realizes it before the characters do, and the suspense lies in wondering how it'll all work out. There are some creepy scenes along the way, with a slightly over-the-top ending, but this mystery thriller should keep teens glued to their seats.

August 24, 2010

Heroes book an exciting read

Heroes of the Valley
by Jonathan Stroud

Halli Sveinsson isn't like his brother or sister. While they're both tall and slender, he's short, stocky, and a little clumsy. He doesn't have a lot to look forward to either. His elder brother Leif stands to become Arbiter upon their father's death, while Halli is fated to become a farmer. He'd much rather be a hero like the legendary Svein, who helped drive back the fearsome Trows long ago.

Halli is bored, rebellious, and quick to anger, with no thought of consequences. When he plays a trick on Ragnar Hakonsson, he reignites a family feud, setting in motion a series of events culminating in a dangerous battle.

With a backdrop of myth, superstition, monsters, ghosts, heroes, revenge, and honor, this is a totally engrossing adventure that will captivate boys and girls alike. Girls will especially admire Aud Ulfar's-daughter, who is athletic, smart, and fearless. The battle scenes, which take place in the dark, is wonderfully frightening; it'll be difficult to stop reading.

August 19, 2010

Fun and original animal book

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts
by Fiona Bayrock

Actually, the farts (aka fast repetitive ticks) come from air that the herring gulp at the surface, not from food. They release bubble streams in order to "talk" to each other. This is just one of the fascinating ways that animals use bubbles. Besides communication, bubbles are used for travel (violet sea snails), warmth (otters), protection (spittlebugs), and more. Even humans use bubbles: as curtains to protect fish from the lethal sound waves produced during underwater construction. The book also includes a section with additional facts, a glossary, and a short index.

August 17, 2010

Dangerous animals

Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember
by Steve Jenkins

Most people know that certain animals ought to be avoided - lions, bears, and sharks to name a few. But there are plenty of other animals out there that can inflict serious injury. This book offers warning tips for all wildlife explorers who don't take care. For instance, never pet a platypus (it has venomous spurs), never jostle a jellyfish (its has stinging tentacles), never stare at a spitting cobra (its venom can blind), never antagonize an African buffalo (it has a nasty temper), and never smile at a rhesus monkey (it may think you're showing aggression). Jenkins' paper collage illustrations are a nice touch.

August 5, 2010

Stories for boys of all ages

Guys Write For Guys Read
edited by Jon Scieszka

The foreward, written by Scieszka, encourages boys to read the stories in any order. This is not required reading, but reading to find out what they like. They don't have to like everything, and they don't have to read everything either, which is good because the table of contents is a little scary (all those capital letters). But don't be intimidated! The stories are short (just 2-3 pages). They're also funny, dangerous, stupid, gross, humiliating, and touching. Everything that a guy can relate to, written and illustrated by guys who still remember what being a boy is all about.

August 3, 2010

An Adventure Begins (with poetry)

Black Stars in a White Night Sky
by JonArno Lawson

Nature is a copiously
Hopeful cornucopia
Of protoplasmic organisms
Groping for utopia 

The above poem by E.Y. Yip Harburg is a helpful introduction to JonArno Lawson's collection of deep thoughts, nonsense poems, and what-ifs. 

Why do clouds and hurricanes have names, but not weeks (The Days Have Names)? How can a person stop thinking (Being Thoughtless)? How does the sun climb over the trees (How Without Arms)? And what if Humpty Dumpty hid himself under a chicken? As he puts it:

I'm far from a wall
So how can I fall?
I'll never again be stricken.

(Let's just say that some fates cannot be avoided).

Other verses with tongue-twisting alliterations and bouncy-sounding lines - The Maple Leaves that Mabel Leaves, Merciful Percival,  A Bison in a Basin Playing a Bassoon - are perfect fun to read aloud. With illustrations that are slightly humorous, though not always illuminating.

A reminder at the end should answer any lingering questions:

Consider that, consider this,
consider it on the dot,
that words, however used,
are just the playthings
of a thought.