Brezenoff, Steve. ALLEY
OF SHADOWS. Illus. by Cynthia Martin. Mankato, MN:
Stone Arch Books,
2008. 103p. ISBN 13: 978-1-59889-856-9, hb. $17.95. Gr. 2-3, JUV.
adventure, and action are packed into this Stone Arch Mystery book.
The Alley of Shadows catches the reader’s interest when the main
character, Ben, moves to the big city with his dad and brother.
A new apartment, and no friends set the scene as Ben meets a
“mysterious” girl named Kaya. Who is Kaya and why can’t his dad or brother
see her? She only seems to appear
to Ben. Is she for real?
Ben sets out to make friends at the local church where he discovers there was a mugging and money was stolen from the youth center. A young girl was left in a coma and in the local hospital. Was this Kaya? Ben follows the mysterious Kaya to an abandoned building and is soon immersed in danger from the two “preacher bandits.” Find out if Ben escapes and how it may be possible for Kaya to have an out of body experience.
Stone Arch books offer discussion questions and writing prompts, which make good tools for preparing book reports. This book, geared toward the reluctant reader, is fast paced and would appeal to higher reading levels also. The illustrations are graphic and attractive. I would recommend this book to school and public libraries.
Jana Aho, Media Assistant, Gladstone School and Public Library
Bill. MUTTKETEER! The Adventures of Wishbone Series;
# 8. Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens, 1999.
139p. 0-8368-2304-4 lib.bdg. $21.27. 0157-642729; pb., $3.99 97-73288 Gr. 3+ FIC
Two stories unfold in this book within a book.
The modern day story featuring Joe Talbot, his friends and his dog,
Wishbone, leads to a classic tale told by Wishbone. While the transitions
between the two stories are an annoyance, the two stories work well together.
The modern story finds Wishbone trying to capture a rat that has escaped
from a cage in a science class at Joe's school. While involved in his adventure,
Wishbone relates the Alexandre Dumas story of THE THREE MUSKETEERS.
The classic tale, set in 17th Century France, introduces D'Artagnon, a
brave young man whose only desire is to serve in the king's elite guard,
the Musketeers. D'Artagnon has several adventures, mostly involving sword
fights. A helpful glossary of sword fight terms and French words is also
included. Those who have seen the PBS television series will visualize
the scenes with ease as they read through the book. This book will be popular
with late elementary schoolers and will introduce classic literature to
Tami Seavoy; Volunteer school library coordinator,Father Marquette Catholic Schools, Marquette, MI
DeFoe, Daniel. ROBINSON CRUSOE. Illus. by Julek Heller.
Eyewitness Classic Series.
New York: DK, 1998. 64p. 0-7894-3625-6 hb., $14.95 Gr. 3+ JUV FIC
Unlike some cola, this classic story is not the real
thing. It depends on which taste pleases readers most. It may
satisfy the palette of the younger reader and hopefully it will be an enticement
them to continue on to read the unabridged version. This Eyewitness
Classic presents the major incidents in Defoe's own words, but does so
in very abbreviated and concise chapters. It obviously is designed
to capture the essence of the 18th century classic for the young reader
and it does precisely that. Heller has done an outstanding job with
compelling scenes, diagrams and sketches as well as illustrated annotations.
The book features a map of Crusoe's imaginary island and also gives related
background material on Defoe's life. This popular novel of adventure
has a most attractive format and should help keep this classic alive for
another upcoming century.
Patricia Fittante, Children’s Librarian, Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, MI
George, Jean Craighead. CLIFF HANGER. Illus by Wendell Minor. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
32p. ISBN0-06-000260-3; hb., $15.95 ISBN0-06-000261-1 lib.bdg., $16.89. K-Gr. 4 E
This picture book is a cliffhanger in title, story
content, and actuality. Because of an impending storm, two mountain
climbers do not have time to go back up to rescue a dog that followed them up
the mountain. The dog belongs Axel and his father, the leader of a
mountain climbing school. Grits is up on Cathedral Wall in the Teton
Mountains and Axel and his father set out to rescue the dog despite the storm.
Tension mounts as Axel literally “came to the end of the rope. The
planned route was still ten feet below.” This story is a cliffhanger not
to be missed and readers learn how to count the closeness of the storm by
counting between lightning flashes. The illustrations, many of them
double-spreads, are an integral part of the story and flow seamlessly from page
to page. The dog looks suitably pathetic and the rescue is scary.
There is just enough mountain climbing jargon integrated into the text to make
it authentic. The master of fiction and Newbery award winner for JULIE
OF THE WOLVES (Harper, 1972) has created a special picture book that belongs
at the top of the order list in school and public libraries. This title
will also be popular for gift giving.
Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI
Hobbs, Will. WILD MAN ISLAND. New York: HarperCollins,
2002. 184p. 0-688-17473-6; hb.,
$15.95 0-06-029810-3; lib.bdg., $15.89 2001-039818 Gr. 3-9 JUV FIC
On the last day of a kayaking trip in Alaska,
14-year-old Andy leaves the group to take a token of his love to the island
where his archaeologist, paleontologist, and flintknapper father died years ago.
But a storm comes up and he is lucky to be alive on another island.
There is lots of action and there are lots of animals: sea lions, whales,
dolphins, ravens, salmon, bears, wolves, and a Newfoundland dog. The dog
leads him to an abandoned cannery with National Geographic magazines and Harvard
Classics and then on to the cave home of someone who lives like a Stone Age man,
the wild man of the title. Who is he and does he mean harm to Andy?
There are choices to be made in the book and there is much to discuss about it.
Hobbs writes in the tradition of Gary Paulsen. Some excellent books by
Hobbs, published by Morrow/Harper, are DOWN THE YUKON (2001), JASON’S
GOLD (1999), THE MAZE (1998), GHOST CANOE (1997), and FAR
NORTH (1996). This would be a good classroom set of books for grades
four or five or remedial eighth and ninth grade boys.
Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI
Lasky, Kathryn. LONE
WOLF, WOLVES OF THE BEYOND. Illus.by
Richard Cowdrey and Lillie Mear.
New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2010. 219p. ISBN 978-0-545-0930-1 hb. $16.99 Gr. 4-8 J FIC
A wolf mother gives birth to a “cursed” pup.
Born with a splayed paw topped with a spiral design, the pup must be
killed of abandoned to die alone. Thus
begins the story of the pup who will be named Faolan by the huge bear who saves
him. The bear derives the name from
fao, meaning river or wolf, and lan,
the word for gift. The wise old
mother bear raises in the ways of both bears and wolves.
When she disappears in early spring after an earthquake, Faolan begins a
journey to find others of his kind. There
is everything to like about this book. It
is well written and has readers longing for more.
Next book, please.
Barb Ward, Retired children’s Librarian, Dickinson County Library
Smith, Alexander. AKIMBO AND THE
CROCODILE MAN. Illus.
by LeUyen Pham.
New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006. 65 p. ISBN1-58234-692-5 hb. $9.95 Gr 3-4 J FIC
This adventure takes place in Africa where crocodile infested rivers
abound. Young Akimbo lives on a
game preserve where his father is a ranger.
A visiting zoologist invites Akimbo to join him on his research outing
where they tag baby alligators as they hatch.
This story line engages the reader as you learn about wildlife
conservation, meeting challenges and being empowered.
Read how Akimbo rescues the zoologist from the jaws of a raging mother
crocodile in this wild and rugged land.
Alexander McCall Smith is a popular fiction writer known for his African stories. His knowledge of the culture and land shines through his children’s books as well. A well thought out story that allows children to identify with being able to accomplish difficult tasks in threatening situations. Simple illustrations do not detract, but add just the right touch to spur the imagination. A good read by an outstanding writer.
Jana Aho, Gladstone School and Public Library, Gladstone, MI
Snicket, Lemony, THE BAD BEGINNING. A series of unfortunate
events. New York:
HarperCollins, 1999. 162p. 0-06044-766-7; hb., $9.95. Gr. 5-8 JUV FIC
"In this book, not only is there no happy ending,
there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle."
The three Baudelaire children are left orphaned at the beginning of the
novel and placed in the care of a relative, Count Olaf, who wants
to use the children to get at their fortune. Violet, the oldest,
likes to invent. Klaus, the middle child, likes to read and studies
creatures in tide-pools. Sonny, the infant, likes to bite and shriek.
They share a small filthy bedroom with only one bed and are forced to cook
dinners and take care of the house for Count Olaf and his theatre troupe.
Through it all, the trio keeps a spunky attitude and survives as best they
can. This is a wonderful story! The events are so awful that
it comes out funny. Students who have experienced rough times will
relate to this book and there are lessons to be learned by all.
Barbara Berry; retired school library media specialist, Kalkaska (MI) Public Schools
Weaver, Will. MEMORY BOY. New York: Harper, 2001.
hb. $15.95 0-06-028812-4; lib.bdg., $15.89 Gr. 3-9 JUV FIC
Sixteen-year-old Miles and his family, including
12-year-old Sarah, leave their suburban home in Minneapolis on a contraption,
the Ali Princess, that Miles built from cannibalized lawn chairs, bicycles, and
a sailboat mast. The wind and peddling provide locomotion because gas is
scarce and the police impound cars that are on non-essential missions. The
family of four is fleeing on July 3, 2008 to their summer cottage because all of
Mount Rainier has exploded into fine ash that has settled over much of the
United States, destroying crops and creating a depression. Tension in
cities is high and their new extravagant home, built after Miles’ father
became a drummer for a famous jazz band, is a target for looters. Also,
the fresh air and water and wood supply will help them live through the winter.
The trip to the cottage is filled with problems but when they arrive they find
Told in the first person by Miles, the book alternates between this trip and a class project in which Miles’ ninth grade class interviews persons in a nursing home. Mr. Kurtz, Miles’ assignment, was an old curmudgeon who lived alone in a state-owned forest and distrusted everyone, especially the government. How Miles’ oral history interview relates to the Newell family dilemma makes for exciting reading.
This plot is a departure from Weaver’s highly recommended baseball books but is even more engaging than his previous books. The characterization, setting, and plot work together to create an exceptional book. Think of this book as a cross between several award winners, and Paulson’s HATCHET (Bradbury, 1987), Lauber’s VOLCANO: THE ERUPTION AND HEALING OF MOUNT ST. HELENS. (Bradbury, 1986), both of which were Newbery Honor Book winners and the O’Brien’s Z FOR ZACHARIAH, winner of the Edgar Alan Poe Award.
Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center