Friday, May 6, 2011

Where For Art Thou...

Summer is fast approaching so now is the time to begin a summer reading list. You can add the last title I reviewed, "The Brass Monkeys." Although the book I am reviewing tonight is not Shakespearean in nature, "Romeo and Juliet" does play a significant role and it would make a good summer read for a preteen girls. 

“The Romeo and Juliet Code”

By Phoebe Stone
For Ages 9 – 12
A coming-of-age story set during World War II, this tale combines mystery, romance and humor to create an compelling narrative of the era. Rated 4 (mystery, war, romance)

It’s 1941 and the Germans are bombing London. Eleven-year-old Felicity Bathburn Budwig is is secreted out of the city by her parents and taken to her father’s family home in Bottlebay, Maine. There, she is unceremoniously left with The Gram, Felicity’s grandmother; Aunt Miami; Uncle Gideon; and “Captain Derek,” a 12-year-old adopted orphan recovering from polio. Shortly after her parents leave Uncle Gideon begins receiving letters from Felicity’s father, who is now in Portugal. However, he won’t let Felicity see the letters. Why? She teams up with Derek to discover where the letters are and break the mysterious code in which they are written. Throughout the story Felicity uncovers secrets about her family and finds her own place in the world.

Although at times it can be tiring, Stone's lyrical prose is easy on the ears and does a fantastic job of describing America on the brink of World War II. Stone uses humor, romance and mystery well to break the stress of self discovery and war. The characters are well developed and, event though the novel feels a bit old fashioned, readers will identify with Felicity and her scheming ways.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Funky Monkeys

Time for me to make up for lost time and load you up with some reviews. Expect several over the next few days. Yay, book reviews!

“Brass Monkeys”

By Terry Caszatt
For Ages 9 – 12
Think Jake Ransom, Alice in Wonderland, and Phantom Tollbooth all rolled into one. This school fantasy, adventure is a fun and strange trip that makes a great summer read. Rated 4 (fantasy, evil teachers, mild peril)

After being forced to transfer schools; Eugene, an awkward, eighth-grade boy and his mom move to a northern Michigan town in the middle of winter. Strange things begin happening as soon as they arrive in town. Several local kids take Eugene into their ranks, especially after they discover his nickname is Billy Bumpus. Evidently they had been given a message that “B.B.” was coming to town to save the school and all the students. Weird, huh? And things got even weirder on the first day of school. Then he meets his English teacher, Ms. “Ming the Merciless” Mingley – that's right, even weirder. Using a favorite tool of children’s literature, things really get moving when Eugene enters another world; an underworld. He begins and epic journey to save his fellow students and find McGinty, a legendary teacher who can stop Ming in her tracks.

The action is non-stop, the characters are believable and Caszatt develops the underworld of literary allusions and unused school supplies without error. He subtly makes a comment about poor teachers and the misguided education system sucking the life out of students. But he also shows how a few inspired teachers can make all the difference in the world. This is a page turner of a book that even reluctant readers won’t want to put it down until the story is over.