Saturday, October 20, 2007

Educating Villains


Walden, Mark H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education, 309 p. Simon and Schuster, 2007. One day Otto is saving his orphanage home from eminent closure - the next he finds himself in a helicopter, headed towards a secret school for nascent villains. Already placed at the top of the class, an Alpha Villain, Otto is determined to gather a team of liked minded Alphas, find his way out off of the island and back to his life. I was surprised to find a villain book that can buck the trend and create a villain (maybe) worth rooting for. EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

This Gym Candy is dandy


Deuker, Carl Gym Candy, 313 p. Houghton, 2007. Mick Johnson - 9th grader and destined to be a starting running back on the varsity team. His initial dedication , speed and skills convince the coach and his father. But then Mick doesn't feel big enough or strong enough, and turns to artificial means to enhance his performance. I love the fact that Mr. Deuker can write such an honest book about such a difficult subject without resorting to swearing. The material and writing are enough to hold your attention - no titillation needed. Thank you Mr. Deuker for your fine writing! MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

Not a Freak


Pixley, Marcella Freak, 13 p. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2007. Every day Miriam must endure the harassment of her fellow students, especially Jenny, the seventh grades budding hottie. Her sister Deborah has turned into a full-blown fashionista, obsessed with Artie, the hot senior who has moved in with their family for the year. Miriam is close to breaking under the pressure and no one seems to be listening. But maybe lashing out isn't the way to solve her problems. Similar to Larger-Than-Life Lara, but on a more appropriate age level for the middle school crowd. The intensity is powerful, without feeling contrived. MS-ESSENTIAL

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Standard Hero Behavior


Anderson, John David Standard Hero Behavior, 273 p. Clarion, 2007. Mason has discovered that the only hero left in his town has actually been bribing the monsters to stay away. Now the monsters want more money than anyone has and it is up to Mason and his friend Cowel to find a hero to save the day. With the help of a book Mason's father wrote, the two set off and encounter a series of incredible characters. Awfully cute and a load of fun to read. El, MS - ADVISABLE

Yellowbelly and Plum


Hale, Nathan Yellowbelly and Plum go to School PICTURE BOOK. Putnam (Penguin), 2007. Yellowbelly can't go off to school without his best stuffed friend, Plum. The duo has a great time, until Plum wanders off to "visit" some other children. Yellowbelly is worried, until Plum is back in his arms. Then the two embark on new adventures with their new friends. I love the mixture of human characters interacting with "alien" figures in a bright, busy atmosphere. Yellowbelly is adorable and really needs to be made into a toy! A great book for younger students. EL -ESSENTIAL

Into the Wild by Sarah Durst


Durst, Sarah Beth Into the Wild, 261 p. Razorbill ( Penguin), 2007. Julie has always known that her mother and her mother's friends fought a great battle and escaped from The Wild, a relentless force which forced them to replay their roles in fairytales, not matter how disastrous, day after continual day. Now someone has made a wish in the Wishing Well and the Wild not only is trying to reclaim all of the escapees, but also Julie's hometown and the surrounding countryside. Julie may be the only one capable of defeating the Wild, but even that is no sure thing. Once a student has had their fill of Disney movies and classic fairytales, point them straight at this fine story. EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

Fearless by Tim Lott


Lott, Tim Fearless, 257 p. Candlewick, 2007. Little Fearless has lost her name and the system has tried to strip her of her dignity, but she refuses to concede to the demands of the Controller at the girls' prison that masquerades as a school. Her daring plan to seek support from the outside world alienates her from even her best friends and when she is sent to the Pit, she may be doomed to be forgotten forever. This extremely powerful story would be well-served as a classroom read. I'm not sure how much casual use it will get, but you need to get this into the hands of your teachers. It would make an excellent basis for a look at dystopias. MS - ADVISABLE

Mr. Gauguin's Heart


Croteau, Marie-Danielle Mr. Gauguin's Heart, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault; translated by Susan Ouriou. PICTURE BOOK Tundra, 2007. Paul Gauguin's father died during the family's journey from Denmark to Peru. In explanation his mother tells young Paul that it was his heart that took him away. In Peru, an older man teaches Paul the skills he needs to express his feelings on canvas, where he makes his first great painting of what may look like a big read ball, but is really his father's heart. This evocative book is a wonderful lok at the power of art to express emotion and to heal. It is certainly well worth adding to any library collection. Make sure you share this with both your art teachers and your English teachers. There are so many good picture biographies with which to pair it. EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE

Remembering Raquel


Vande Velde, Vivian Remembering Raquel, 137 p. Harcourt, 2007. Late one night Raquel, 14, is hit by a car in front of the movie theatre. The police say that it was not suicide. Now her father, her best friend and the strangers at school ar left wondering who Raquel was and how her being gone affects them. Short ruminations from the people involved in Raquel's life weave together an interesting look at life and death. Some surprises wait in store. Thank Ms. Vande Velde for writing this. MS - ESSENTIAL