Monday, February 29, 2016

Fish in a Tree

Hunt, Lynda Mullaly.  Fish in a Tree.  NY: Nancy Paulsen Books, c2015.  266 pages.

Written in the same gentle and loving way as One For the Murphys, Fish in a Tree is about a 6th grade girl who has kept her dyslexia a secret, one that plagues her and causes her to hate and fear school.  With a father in the military and a brother who finds his dreams thwarted by dyslexia as well, Ally has a lot to deal with.  When she earns the respect and friendship of Keisha and Albert, and gets Mr. Daniels for a teacher, things begin to look up.    There is plenty of bullying, both verbal and physical.  You will cringe, especially if you have ever been guilty of saying something hurtful just to impress the "in crowd."

Ally is a great character and though some readers will be put off because she is only a 6th grader, I’m pretty sure they will recognize the traumatic things that occur at school a lot more frequently than we’d like to admit, even by teachers who miss important clues in behavior.  Celebrate differences.  A quote in the book inspired the title: "... if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid."

Recommended for middle school and above.  Review by Mrs. Belknap

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Westerfeld, Scott.  Zeroes.  NY: Simon Pulse, c2015.  546 pages.

Not superheroes, but zeroes.  Six teens all born in the year 2000 have superpowers.  When they eventually meet,  they form a group and try to learn more about their capabilities.  Their powersnare not your typical ones.  There is no flying or lifting cars.  Their powers are much more subtle and often have unexpected and sometimes disastrous consequences.  This is the first book in a brand new series.

Bellwether, Scam, Mob, Anonymous, Flicker, and Crash are the six teens.  At the beginning, Mob is the only one who is not in the group.  Her dad robs a bank where Scam is depositing money stolen from a drug cartel.  Scam offended everyone in the group a year ago when his superpower of saying whatever would get Scam what he was wishing for, said things that couldn’t be taken back.

Even so, everyone comes to his rescue and Mob eventually joins their group.  The action is fast-paced and takes interesting twists and turns. 

Recommended for junior high and above. 

Review by Mrs. Belknap 

The Wee Free Men

Pratchett, Terry.  The Wee Free Men.  NY: Harper Tempest Books, c2003.  375 pages.  First book in the five book sub-series of Discworld featuring Tiffany Aching.  Other titles are A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight and The Shepherd's Crown (final book published in 2015, finished shortly before he died in March of 2015.)

The Discworld novels (there are 41) take place on a fanstasy world with many similarities to planet Earth, but with magical influence and it's own system of physics.  It consists of a large disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle, as it slowly swims through space.  Many of the novels are standalone stories with the similarity of taking place on Discworld.  The Tiffany Aching novels are geared toward young adults and feature an unlikely heroine by the name of Tiffany Aching.  Tiffany begins as a shepherdess and cheese maker, at which she is very good.  When "someone" steals her little brother, Wentworth, Tiffany decides the practical thing to do is go and get him back, because even if she thinks Wentworth is a pest, no one is going to take anything that is hers.  She becomes aware of tiny blue men with red hair called the Nac Mac Feegle.  They drink and fight and steal, but they also adore Tiffany and together they join in a quest to get Wentworth back.

The Discworld novels have had great popularity, selling over 80 million copies.  If you love fantasy and you love series books, you should give these a try and Tiffany Aching is a good place to start.

Quotes I liked:
"She opened her eyes and then, somewhere inside, opened her eyes again.  She heard the grass growing, and the sound of worms below the turf.  She could feel the thousands of little lives around her, smell all the scents on the breeze, and see all the shades of the night.  The wheels of stars and years, of space and time, locked into place.  She knew exactly where she was, and what she was." (p342)

""The thing about witchcraft," said Mistress Weatherwax, "is that it's not like school at all.  First you get the test, and then afterward you spend years findin' out how you passed it.  It's a bit like life in that respect." ...."I see you opened your eyes," she said." (361)

When You Reach Me

Stead, Rebecca.  When You Reach Me.  NY: Wendy Lamb Books, c2009.  197 pages.  Winner of the Newbery Award for 2010.

If you are a fan of A Wrinkle in Time, you will love this book.  Miranda is in 6th grade and she is looking back at a tragedy, trying to make sense of it all.  She thinks things started to go wrong when her best and only childhood friend, Sal, gets punched by a neighborhood boy.  Sal stops hanging out with Miranda, and bewildered, Miranda turns to Annemarie and Colin.  In the meantime, Miranda's mom is preparing to be a contestant on the 20,000 Pyramid tv show.  When cryptic notes begin to show up, Miranda gets the vague feeling that something bad is going to happen. but as events occur, Miranda doesn't realize that they are clues to the mystery.
Though Miranda is 12 and this takes place in the 1970's, this is an enjoyable read for any age reader who likes a mystery or can identify with the times and the nostalgic things mentioned.

Recommended for anyone junior high and older.