Monday, December 9, 2013

Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost

Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of WarJames and Anikwa, a young boy in the Miami Indian tribe, are friends in 1812 America. They explore the wilderness together, and they try to teach each words from their languages. The Indians and settlers trade goods they each need, and salt is one of them. The friendships are strained when British and Americans armies start heading to the area. Other tribes want to join the British, because they fear the Americans will take away their lands. The Miami tribe is caught in the middle. They don't want to do anything to hurt their settler friends, but they can't fight against their Indian friends. The clock id ticking as the opposing armies draw closer.

The book is written in prose. This may turn off some readers, but it makes the plot move more quickly. I enjoyed the interactions between James and Anikwa, but I could see trouble brewing between them. The other characters created doubt in their minds and innocent events created conflicts.

The Other Side of Free by Krista Russell

The Other Side of FreeThis story takes in the early 1700's, when the British and Spanish were fighting in what is now Florida. Jem flees from Carolina to a camp outside of St. Augustine where slaves and natives are promised protection by the governor and the Spanish army. He wants to join the militia army, but he's told that he's too skinny and weak. One day, Jem finds a baby owl with an injured wing, and he decides to nurse it back to health. With some rocky moments, they seem to become friends, and Jem sets out to teach Omen to fly and hunt. Jem does many things to entertain himself, but it's not always safe with wild animals and the British army lurking. And unbeknownst to the people in the camp, there's also a spy among them.

The plot offers interesting information about colonial times, and the war supplies the element of suspense. Jem is an adventurous character. I enjoyed the author's description of his relationship with Omen, but she also shared Jem's insecurities and his determination. The conflict between England and Spain before the United States became a country is not a common topic of novels.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Waffler by Gail Donovan

The WafflerMonty is a waffler; he's always changing his mind. For example, he can't decide what kind of pet to get, and he changes its name several times after bringing it home. His twin sister, Sierra, and he split time between their mom's and dad's houses each week. Both parents have remarried, and the twins gained a baby sister and an older sister. At school, his teacher puts three embarrassing band-aids on Monty's arm to help him stick to decisions; no waffling! Monty gets assigned a reading buddy from a kindergarten class, but he offers to take on three unofficial buddies who didn't paired up. The teacher doesn't know about this, and it creates problems for Monty. Is this another example of why he's called a waffler?

Monty's life with divorced and remarried parents, his new sisters, and a demanding teacher should appeal to young readers. He's a nice character and really tries to do the right thing. I liked how everything worked out for him in the end.

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody

Will in ScarletThis is the story of Will Shackley and how he came to join Robin Hood, before he was the famous outlaw, and his merry men. Will's father is a nobleman, but Will is forced to grow up quickly when his father fails to return after a crusade. Another nobleman, Sir Guy, accuses Will of murder and then kills Will's uncle and guardian. Will flees but is found by a band of thieves, so he calls himself Will Scarlet to hide his identity. His life is spared when he says he can guide the thieves into the castle to steal treasure, while Will only wants to return to kill Sir Guy. Will, Rob, John, and Much escape the castle, but they're now criminals wanted by the sheriff, Sir Guy, and Gilbert, the leader of the merry men. Will and the others travel the countryside and steal from the wealthy and greedy, so they may help the poor farmers they find. Eventually, their paths must cross with Sir Guy and the sheriff to settle their conflicts.
I really enjoy these kinds of adventures. The young, brave boy is forced to take on adult problems and becomes a hero in the process. They're underdogs against the armies and forces of their opponents. Much's character also has a secret being kept from the others that you know must eventually come out. Will's character changes and grows as he sees the poverty of the farmers and as he spends more time with Rob, John, and Much. The plot contains a good amount of action and adventure to keep readers entertained..

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cooper & Packrat: Mystery on Pine Lake by Tamra Wight

Cooper and Packrat: Mystery on Pine LakeCooper's family runs a campground by Pine Lake, and a big attraction is the loons that nest on a small island. This year, the water level rises unexpectedly, floods the nest, and ruins the eggs. Cooper and a camper, Packrat, decide to create a floating island where the loons can safely build a new nest. However, not everyone is happy to have the loons around. Somebody intentionally made the water level rise and tore apart the first floating island the boys tried to make. Cooper tries to solve the mystery without the attention of his too-busy parents and his pesky little sister. The lives of the loons and their babies are depending on him.

I like Cooper's new friendship with Packrat and their determination to make things right. Packrat wears a long coat full of all kinds of odd, useful objects that explains his name. Cooper is a nice brother and a loyal son, but he's frustrated that the family business is keeping his parents from spending time with the kids. Broken promises from them causes his little sister to make a possibly fatal decision.

The Short Seller by Elissa Brent Weissman

The Short SellerLindy is in the seventh grade, and she starts feeling tired with a sore throat. It turns out she has mono and strep throat, so she'll be stuck at home for awhile. Her dad asks her to buy stocks, an investment in companies, using the home computer while he's at work. Lindy sees him make hundreds of dollars very quickly, so she gets curious. Her dad lets Lindy invest a hundred dollars in the stock market any way she'd like, and she makes money too. She's starting to get excited about it when it's time to head back to school. However, it looks like things have changed between her best friends, Steph and Howe, and Lindy finds it hard to get used to. Perhaps even worse, Lindy makes a daring plan to make even more money in the stock market, but her parents will kill her if they find out what she's up to.

The stock market may not appeal to most young readers, but I enjoy math. The problem it creates for Lindy is unique, and she manages to make it even worse. The conflict with her friends is more common. Readers who like reading and math may enjoy the story.