Monday, March 27, 2017

HIDEOUT, by Watt Key

The story: Sam hates remembering getting beat up in front of the whole school, so he's taken to cruising the bayou by himself in his fishing boat. When he meets Davey, a kid his age who's hiding out in the swamp all alone, Sam worries about him, even though it's obvious Davey isn't telling the truth about why he's out there. Sam wants to help--but helping means lying to his parents and friends. What he doesn't realize is that helping Davey is also going to put both of them in mortal danger.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG-13; Violence PG; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG-13; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (abusive foster parents; family life of crime) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: Hand this one to boys looking for an adventure story in an unusual location. I liked Key's "Terror at Bottle Creek" better, but if you can get over the dumbness of a kid thinking he can fix everything in a truly dangerous situation by himself without getting adult help, this one is good too. (And luckily, the grown-ups do show up to facilitate a happy ending.)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

CALL ME SUNFLOWER, by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

The story: Unhappy that her mom has uprooted the family (and left father figure Scott behind), Sunflower launches her master plan to reignite her parents' romance and get them back together--and the family back to New Jersey. As each part of her plan goes awry, Sunny is forced to come to the conclusion that sometimes, you just have to play the hand you're dealt. But how do you make it fun?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; Violence G; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse G; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (divided families; cruelty of using animals for fur) PG; overall rating G.

Liz's comments: I eventually found Sunny's inability to ever think about other people's feelings to be really annoying (although maybe that's how 12-year-old girls really are?). Even though each part of her plan eventually fails, that never seems to cause her to reflect; she just bolts headlong into her next mishap. Yikes.

Monday, March 20, 2017

THIS IS NOT A WEREWOLF STORY, by Sandra Evans


The story: Raul is a loner at his boarding school, saying little to anyone and living for the weekends, where he can disappear into the woods and meet up with his mother. People just wouldn't understand about his mother being a wolf (or him either). Little do they know that a notorious hunter of spirit animals is on her trail, and that Raul himself could be the one that leads him to her.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; Violence PG; Sexual content G; Nudity PG; Substance abuse G; Magic & the occult PG; GLBT content G; adult themes (parental abandonment; evil-doing by trusted adults) PG; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: This was an intelligent, interesting story but it's hard to know how to target it, because it really ISN'T a werewolf story--so its usual audience of blood-thirsty boys is kind of a non-starter. Hand it to kids who like the whole Spirit Animals concept and series by Brandon Mull, and to kids who like a story about a boy who does his best to fix his own mistakes.

THE STAR THIEF, by Lindsey Becker

The story: Honorine is an orphaned housemaid at the Vidalia estate until the night that thieves break in and she escapes their clutches only to find herself swept off on an adventure. She's rescued by a mysterious being and becomes a traveler on the Carina--a steampunkish airship piloted by the Mapmaker. He's on a mission to keep the Mordants (living embodiments of the constellations) from being captured by Nautilus Olypant. Little does Honorine know that in reality, the success of his mission depends upon her, and upon the fact that she too is a Mordant...

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; violence PG, Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult PG; GLBT content G; adult themes G; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: I did like this, except that it seemed too long in parts and didn't seem to go anywhere some of the time. Also, Olyphant's reasons for capturing and holding the Mordant prisoner don't seem to have much to do with his ultimate goal of finding Andromeda. It could easily lead to a sequel. Give it to girls who like magic, machines, and a smart heroine.

NIGHT ON FIRE, by Ronald Kidd

The story: Billie Sims doesn't think her little town of Anniston, Alabama is segregated (or prejudiced)--until she sees the ugly reality of events in 1961, when a group calling themselves the Freedom Riders de-segregates a Greyhound bus and tries to go from Virginia to New Orleans. Right outside her hometown, the bus is stopped, set on fire, and the riders are nearly killed. Billie knows things need to change--but is she brave enough to stand up herself?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence PG-13; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (segregation, racial violence, prejudice, civil rights) PG-13; overall rating PG.

Liz's comments: Don't let the front cover fool you: this isn't a book for little kids. They should have made the girls look like teens, not like 8-year-olds, because just the cover will limit its appeal to the middle school readers who are in fact the intended target (I'd say grades 5-8). I liked this a lot--Billie doesn't want to think her family or her town is prejudiced, but when she runs up against hard facts, she has to admit the truth. Her journey, juxtaposed against real-life events in 1961 Montgomery, will give kids a close look at the ugliness of prejudice and the price of making a change.

Monday, March 13, 2017

ONES AND ZEROES, by Dan Wells

The story: The Cherry Dogs have been invited to a world-class VR tournament, and at the same time, Marisa realizes she can use the chance to find and bring down Grendel. But that's before she meets virtual terrorist/freedom fighter Alain, who's plotting to overthrow Sigan, the evil mega-corporation that also happens to be driving Mari's family out of business. Her resulting change of plans could score three out of three goals...or make it so she never finds out the truth about the mysteries of her past.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG-13; Violence PG-13; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content PG; adult themes (extreme VR game action/violence, lots of code talk that will baffle the average MS reader) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: If you're a fan of "Bluescreen", the first Mirador novel, you'll like this one as well, although it's pretty much a stand-alone, discarding the Bluescreen plotline and moving ahead with Marisa's quest to find Grendel. Even if you're not a coding or computer geek (which I'm totally not), you can skip all the techno-speak and still enjoy a kick-butt sci-fi story. And even though it's all girls all the time, boys will still enjoy this one. Best for 8th grade and up.

LABYRINTH LOST, by Zoraida Cordova

The story: Alejandra has spent her whole life avoiding magic--even her own. On her Deathday, the day she should fully embrace her abilities and her life as a witch, she instead performs a counter-spell that sends her entire family into an alternate dimension, captives of the Devourer. The only way to get them back is to come to terms with her own power...and to use it.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence PG-13; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult R; GLBT content PG; adult themes (epic and violent monster-fighting action) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: I found this book, with its "brujeria" brand of religious magic (somewhat related to voodoo or Santeria) creepy and disturbing. I wasn't a fan--but I realize that many will like it, with its strong but flawed heroine and her many battles with and triumphs over evil beings. It's quite clear that a sequel is intended.