Wednesday, July 29, 2015

As if Being 12 3/4 isn't Enough, My Mother is Running for President by Donna Gephart

As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!Vanessa Rothrock is a typical seventh grader, except that her mother is governor of Florida and is running for president. Vanessa makes it to the regional spelling bee, and she's very upset when her mother doesn't show up. It seems like her mother is more concerned with becoming president than she is about caring for her daughter. Vanessa feels a little bit of sunshine when she starts receiving sweet notes from a secret admirer, but then something frightening happens. She starts getting notes threatening to kill her mother and her! The notes warn her not to tell anyone, but they also say July is a good month to die. July is when the Democratic National Convention will be held, and her mother will officially be chosen as the Democratic candidate for president. It's also the month Vanessa lost her father, and she doesn't want to lose her mother too.

This book probably has more appeal for girl readers. Vanessa deals with issues experienced by all middle grade girls. She's embarrassed by her slow physical development, except for her over-sized feet, and she's wants the cutest boy in class to like her, except that he's a jerk. She also has less common problems, such as having a bodyguard follow her everywhere and having to worry about being on the national news. The early part of the plot deals with Vanessa's obsession with spelling and boys, but it becomes much more serious once the threats appear. After that, the plot becomes more of a mystery as readers anticipate an attack on her mother.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Classroom #4: When Nature Calls, Hang Up by Robin Mellom

The Classroom When Nature Calls, Hang Up!It's the last week of the school year, and all of the students at Westside Middle School are heading into the woods for a camping trip. Trevor is very nervous about the trip and does all he can to get out of it. After he finally decides to give it a chance, he's paired with the class bully who's been tormenting him for a year. The bully has plans for some epic pranks that all have Trevor as their target. Also, Trevor's best friend, a fanatically organized girl, is in charge of the last day's social event, and her lack of ideas has her very anxious. To top things off, Molly, a girl Trevor likes, will be moving away after the school year ends, and she can't find a good time to tell him.

The book is told from the points of view of several students and staff members, and it's written like a documentary. Different characters are able to share their thoughts and feelings about the events in their own chapters, while the plot is told in the other chapters. The feelings and insecurities are typical for middle school students, and the author is able to share them in amusing ways. Several of the bully's pranks backfire, and one of the characters smuggles her finicky pet cat into the camp. This book is the fourth in the series. I feel like I've read one of the earlier books, but it didn't seem necessary to enjoy this one.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

Catch You Later, TraitorThe setting is in the 1950's, and the fear of Communism is spreading across the country. Pete is living a normal life in Brooklyn, until the day after open house. The teacher announces to the class that Pete's dad is a Communist, so everyone starts to ignore Pete or treats him like an enemy. His best friend, Kat, is being spied on by another student, so her father can make sure they aren't talking anymore. The FBI is even investigating Pete's dad, and he could be put in prison if the government thinks he's Communist. His crime? He told the teacher that schools should teach more about the history of black people and the common man. However, Pete thinks there's more to it. Is his father a Communist? Did his father or grandfather do something that could get the family in trouble? How could an innocent young boy's life go so wrong, so quickly?

I hope young readers give this book a chance. Although, the fear of Communism isn't as rampant today, an analogy can be made to way some Muslims were treated after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Pete's character battles huge internal and external conflicts. The teacher's verbal attacks and being shunned by kids who were his best buddies the day before present challenges. Pete is confused by things his father said, and he's not sure what to do about an FBI agent. Kat is challenged by the whole situation too, because she doesn't want to abandon her best friend. Pete treats the whole situation like it's a mystery, and he's the detective who will solve it. Sections of the book are written in italics to mimic the tone of old, old mystery novels and movies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney

The Face on the Milk Carton (Janie Johnson, #1)This book is the first in the series; I actually read the third book first! Janie is a typical sophomore in high school and sits down to have lunch with her friends. She picks up her friend's carton of milk carton and notices the face of a three-year-old girl on the side. She freezes and thinks, "I remember that dress." Is it possible that she could have been kidnapped? Janie becomes obsessed with finding out about this little girl, and memories start to pop back into her head. Smiling faces, ice cream, twin brothers, and a sister. Janie has two loving parents, but they couldn't have stolen her from another family, could they? With the help of her new boyfriend, Janie sets out to discover the truth. A missing birth certificate, a sister her parents won't talk about, and all of those memories. What IS the truth?

You really need to read the books in order, because the next one picks up where the previous book leaves off. The conflict is pretty huge, as Janie is forced to question her whole life. She loves her parents, but has it all been a lie? She doesn't want to believe she actually belongs to another family, but what if it's true? Don't they deserve to know their long-lost daughter is alive and well? As I mentioned, the series will read like one long book, so be prepared to get hooked on the adventure!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

Watch the SkyJory's family lives just outside of town, and they're a little strange. His stepfather holds frequent drills in the middle of the night, so the family will be ready for some unknown emergency. His little "sister", Kit showed up in the backyard one day and hasn't said a word in three years. The stepfather says a meteor shower is the sign he's been waiting for, so he has the family start digging a shelter into the base of the canyon. He won't tell the family what the danger might be, but he says the family needs to trust him. No one can find out what they're doing, and no one can find out about Kit. Jory makes some friends when he returns to public school, but that only makes it harder to keep secrets. Jory wonders if his stepfather is wrong; what if there is no danger coming? But what if he's right.

The plot is a bit unusual. The stepfather is certain that something is going to happen, and he's sure he sees signs of the impending disaster. He looks to the skies when he talks about it, but he won't the danger is aliens. Jory's character is put in a tough spot. He wants to be a faithful son, so he helps prepare the shelter as best he can. However, he likes going to the public school and making friends. Kit is a mysterious character, and Jory discovers a secret about her. I wish there had been more of a resolution to the book, because I'm left with many questions about the family's survival.

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart

Olivia Bean, Trivia QueenOlivia is obsessed with the television show Jeopardy, and she's excited to hear "Kid's Week" is coming up. However, a parent must complete the application to appear on the show, and that's a problem right now. Her father married her best friend's mother and moved to California. He also has a serious gambling problem and isn't very reliable. Olivia's mother just lost her job, and her new boyfriend recently moved in. Olivia is upset with how he acts like her new dad and disturbs her time watching Jeopardy. And then there's the boy living next door. Olivia feels she can't let him beat her at school, but she has no confidence when it comes to geography. She's confused when he starts being nice to her, but then he teases her on the way to school. She's confused by all of these problems, the Jeopardy audition is coming up soon, And she just has to get on that show!

This book had many common problems found in other books. New adult in the house, boy/girl relationships, and trying to impress the divorced, unreliable father. I enjoy trivia, and this book was full of it. Olivia's little brother added a humorous touch to the plot, since he was obsessed with gross trivia. Do you know why an ostrich pees on itself? I enjoyed watching Olivia's character overcome her insecurities and how she discovered the people in her life who were truly special.

The Voice on the Radio by Caroline Cooney

The Voice on the Radio (Janie Johnson, #3)This book is the third in a series, although I did not read the first two yet. Janie is still recovering mentally after discovering she was kidnapped as a young child. She loves the parents who raised her, but she's trying to accept the realization that she has another set of birth parents. Her boyfriend, Reeve, is away at college, and he's adjusting to his new life. However, he makes a big mistake. He wants to make an impression as a radio deejay, so he tells Janie's story on the air. Students and faculty at the college are drawn into his broadcasts, and they expect more. Reeve continues to share Janie's life until two things happen. Janie surprises Reeve when she visits the college, and a mysterious listener calls the station. This listener.can create even bigger problems for everyone.

You should read the first two books in the series, starting with "The Face on the Milk Carton". Reeve is an impulsive character who doesn't think about the consequences of his decisions. Meanwhile, Janie is learning to accept the fact that she has a second family that loves her, but they are all strangers to her. Obviously, it's easy to predict that she's in for a huge conflict with her boyfriend. The plot offers several different issues through Reeve, Janie, and Hannah. Be sure to read the first book in the series to learn a little bit about Hannah!