Monday, April 23, 2012

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III
Translated from the Old Norse by Cressida Cowell

As the viking chief's son, Hiccup is the very opposite of what it means to be a viking.  He loves to read, he's timid, he's small and can barely hold a sword.  While all the other kids his are a vicious warriors in the making, Hiccup has no hope of ever living up to his father's expectations.

The day finally comes for him to get his dragon!  Will he get the most ferocious?  Will he get the scariest?  Instead, he ends up with a small, toothless dragon that can't even scare a rabbit.  How can Hiccup live up to being the chief's son, and when a giant sea dragon threatens the village, can he and Toothless save the day?

This is a hilarious book!  Hiccup is the complete opposite of what a viking should be, and yet finds ways to fit in.  The drawings and the notes from Hiccup are great.  Kids that like "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" would like this too.  While very different than the movie, I would say this is definitely better.  I liked the movie, but loved the book!

If you can find a copy of this on audio CD, listen to it!  It's even funnier read out loud!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hattie Big Sky

Hattie Big Sky
by  Kirby Larson

Teenage Hattie is tired of being shuffled between relatives.  When her uncle dies and leave a homestead to her, she jumps at the chance of having a place to call her own.  She gets to Montana and faces blizzards, and hardships while learning to survive on her own.  Her biscuits don't rise, her water is freezing and her house is filthy!

Gradually, with the help of some new friends, she adapts to her new life.  She finally feels like she is getting somewhere when she learns a hard truth: unless she can make her claim successful, she will have to give it up.  The amount of work she will have to do is simply staggering.  On top of that, her new friends the Muellers are feeling the pressure of prejudice.  Will a tragedy keep her from making it all work?

This was a great book.  Hattie goes through a lot of growth and change in this story.  Lots of teens will be able to identify with her wanting to do her own thing, and not have to be dependent on others for everything.  Hattie has to make choices about who her friends really are, and between the easy way and the hard way.  The writing was great, and the story very personal.  I even cried at times!  I would recommend this to middle school and high school aged students, mostly girls.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Beyonders: Seeds of Rebellion

Beyonders: Seeds of Rebellion
by Brandon Mull

In this second book of the series (following A World Without Heroes), Jason is desperate to get back to Lyrian.  Rachel is still stranded there, Maldor reigns supreme, and the Word that can undo Maldor is fake.  After finding his way back to Lyrian through the same hippo as before, Jason strives to be reunited with his friends, while trying to decide who is a friend, and who is foe.

Meanwhile, Rachel has been on the run for months in Lyrian.  She is starting to learn about her new abilities in magic, hoping to be useful to the rebellion against Maldor.  When lurkers start catching up to her, she must find a way to ditch the lurker and make her way back to Jason.

Reunited with friends and possible traitors, can Jason and Rachel find the key to a successful rebellion?  Will they find the allies they need or be eaten by the undead?

This was a great sequel to the first in the series.  Meant for an older age than Mull's Fablehaven series, this was a riveting book.  There is adventure, action, drama and more.  The writing is very engaging, fast paced and exciting.  This book definitely leaves you wanting the next!  Boys will love the action, but this will appeal to girls as well.

An Elephant in the Garden

An Elephant in the Garden
by Michael Morpurgo

When elderly Lizzie starts telling young Karl of the elephant she once had in her garden, Karl's mom has a hard time believing in it.  Why would someone have an elephant in their garden?  Lizzie goes on to tell a story from her childhood, of Dresden in the bombings of 1945.  Lizzie's mother worked at a zoo, and in order to keep the young elephant Marlene from being shot, she brings Marlene home with her.

This story of war, told from a teenage Lizzie's perspective was sweet, touching and gripping.  The story telling was excellent, and kept me interested.  While it jumps from present to past, the difference is not confusing, and gives a nice frame to Lizzie's story.  Told from a German refuge's point of view, this tale will steal your heart, just as Marlene stole the hearts of all she met on their journey!

I loved this book.  It was touching, engaging, and would help a teen or child understand a war from a new point of view.  The bombing was only seen from a distance, and there wasn't anything really objectionable in the story.  This book would be suitable for late elementary school to teens.  While girls might be more drawn to it, I can see boys enjoying it too.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

    When Nobody Owen's parents are murdered by some mysterious men when he is a baby, he wanders down to the local graveyard.  He is adopted by the occupants of the graveyard: the ghosts, a witch, and his guardian, a man neither dead or alive.  Bod learns their skills, knowledge of their times, and how to live in a graveyard.  As he grows older, he encounters outsiders: a girl in a rain coat, some neighbors, and even tries to go to school!  Follow Bod as he fights ghouls, descends to the underworld, and tries to find out who is after him.
    This was a fun book!  Very different than a lot of other books, but very good.  The read gets to follow Bod through various stages of life, from a young boy, on up to a early teenager.   As he grows, he tries understand the foreign world outside.  His confusion helps lots of kids and teens relate to him, at the same time setting up some humorous situations.
    I really enjoyed reading this and have read it a couple times now.  The book on CD is great, too.  The narrator does a great job of portraying the flavor of the characters.  This book is fun, spooky and mysterious! Great read for boys or girls that like spooky things!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
By Jeff Kinney

Greg Heffley has got a rough life.  He's in middle school, his older brother is a bully, he's a weakling, and his mom makes him join the school play.  And to be clean, this is not a diary, this is a JOURNAL.  Here Greg has a place to record his wacky ideas, his true feelings and his doodles.

This was a great book!  The drawings are essential to the story, and enhance it rather than distract for the story.  The narrative style is kid friendly, especially for boys.  This would be a great book for a reluctant reader, or even one that loves to read.

I enjoyed this book a lot.  It made me laugh, but I also really identified with Greg.  He seemed very realistic, practical and very much a middle school boy.  While great for boys, would also be good for girls as well.