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Friday, July 31, 2009


July 2009

The following reviews, interviews and features are running on for the month of July.

The titles below are also mentioned in the Newsletter Opener, which can be read here:

THE LION & THE MOUSE by Jerry Pinkney
SAVVY by Ingrid Law

Reviews and Excerpts
WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead
By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda begins receiving mysterious notes --- notes that will change her life forever. Reviewed by Norah Piehl and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt from WHEN YOU REACH ME.

SKELLIG: 10th-Anniversary Edition, by David Almond
Ten-year-old Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister is ill, his parents are frantic, and Doctor Death has come to call. Michael feels helpless. Then he steps into the crumbling garage…. What is this thing beneath the spiders' webs and dead flies? A human being, or a strange kind of beast never before seen? The only person Michael can confide in is his new friend, Mina. Together, they carry the creature out into the light, and Michael's world changes forever. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt from SKELLIG.

DORK DIARIES: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life, by Rachel Renée Russell
Eighth-grader Nikki Maxwell has just moved to a new school, one in which she doesn’t fit and where she definitely feels unwelcome. But that’s nothing compared to what she really wants: an iPhone. As this “dork” makes her way through the travails of school life, writer and artist Rachel Renée Russell introduces us to a lovable character along the lines of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim. Reviewed by John Hogan.

When Troy White proved his remarkable "football genius" to the Atlanta Falcons, they brought him on board as a team consultant. Now, thanks to Troy's ability to predict winning plays, the Falcons are pulling in victories. Troy is thrilled to have NFL star linebacker Seth Halloway (who's dating Troy's mom) to coach his own Duluth Tigers team on their way to a state championship. But then Troy's perfect world comes crashing down. Reviewed by Joy Held.

MERCY WATSON: SOMETHING WONKY THIS WAY COMES written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
In Kate DiCamillo’s latest Mercy Watson adventure, the Watson family and assorted guests attend the drive-in to watch a movie with the intriguing title When Pigs Fly. Here, our favorite "porcine wonder" is a little too enthralled by the buttery scent in the air, which tempts her into calamity and excitement galore. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

FAITH, HOPE, AND IVY JUNE by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Beloved author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor turns her perceptive, compassionate eye to the heart of Kentucky coal country in FAITH, HOPE, AND IVY JUNE, a thoughtful novel about how a simple student exchange program results in profound new insights about oneself and others. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

EXTRA CREDIT written by Andrew Clements and illustrated by Mark Elliott
Abby Carson has far more important things to do than homework. At least she thinks she does, until the school threatens to hold her back to repeat the sixth grade. Determined to pass, Abby agrees to work hard the rest of the year, including taking on an extra credit project --- writing to a pen pal in Afghanistan. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

THE DRAGON DIARY: The Dragonology Chronicles, Volume Two written by Dugald A. Steer and illustrated by Douglas Carrel
Apprentice dragonologists Daniel and Beatrice Cook eagerly await the hatching of the dragon’s egg in their care. But just as the shell begins to crack, their mentor, Dr. Ernest Drake, is called off to India to look for their missing parents and tend to the gravely ill naga dragons they’ve left behind. Meanwhile, the siblings receive a tip that the secret to curing dragons may lie in an age-old Dragon Diary --- if only they could decipher it. Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts.

SLUGGERS #4: WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE by Loren Long and Phil Bildner
Ruby, Graham and Griffith Payne accompany the Travelin’ Nine as they barnstorm across the Midwest. In Game 4, the Travelin’ Nine arrive in Minnesota, where they are tricked into playing a winner-take-all game against a professional team --- the Minneapolis Millers. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt.

THE IMMORTAL FIRE: The Cronus Chronicles, Book Three by Anne Ursu
In the final book of the Cronus Chronicles trilogy, cousins Charlotte and Zee face their biggest test yet. After strolling through the underworld to stop a shadow army and living it up on Poseidon’s yacht afloat with deadly sea creatures, confronting Zeus at Mount Olympus should be easy, right? Right? Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

In this gripping and poignant page-turner from Jen Bryant, Lyza tells her story in a series of poems set in 1968 during the Vietnam War. When her grandfather dies, he bequeathes Lyza a mysterious envelope, which leads her to a quest for pirates’ treasure. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

Ever since her brother died, 10-year-old Annie Richards spends every moment being extra careful to keep safe in this dangerous world. She even gives up her favorite activities, like racing bikes and obstacle courses. But then she meets a new neighbor who helps her to see that by worrying so much, she may be missing out on life. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

BORN TO FLY by Michael Ferrari
Eleven-year-old Bird McGill loves airplanes and flying with her father. But when the United States enters World War II, Bird’s father leaves to join the military and a Japanese-American joins Bird’s school. Everyone turns against the new student just because of his ancestry, but when Bird gets to know him, they quickly become best friends. Soon after, they discover a real enemy in town, one who threatens the very safety of the entire country. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

THE BROOKLYN NINE: A Novel in Nine Innings, by Alan Gratz
What happens when you combine America’s favorite pastime with a journey through history? You get a compelling look at how baseball can unite a family. Nine generations of one family and their love of baseball are told in nine innings that any sports fan will appreciate. Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

Graphic Novel Review
JOEY FLY, PRIVATE EYE IN CREEPY CRAWLY CRIME written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Neil Numberman
A six-legged detective and his scorpion sidekick set out to find a stolen pencil box in this clever spoof of private-eye movies. While some of the references may go over kids' heads, the humor in this book is broad enough to appeal to all readers. Reviewed by Brigid Alverson.

Manga Reviews

DINOSAUR HOUR!, Volume 1 written and illustrated by Hitoshi Shioya
Who would have thought that Jurassic Park could be such a fun-filled playland? If dinosaurs really were as wacky as the ones featured in Dinosaur Hour!, it's no wonder they went extinct! Reviewed by Casey Brienza.

LEAVE IT TO PET!, Volume 1 written and illustrated by Kenji Sonishi
Nine-year-old Noboru does the responsible thing and recycles a plastic bottle. But little does he know that the bottle is about to come back to life as PET, a robot with a mission: to pay Noboru back for recycling him! The only problem is that PET's sense of "helping" isn't quite in touch with reality. Reviewed by Casey Brienza.

SWANS IN SPACE, Volume 1 written and illustrated by Lun Lun Yamamoto
Corona is just your average overachieving sixth-grader until the day she is recruited to join Space Patrol. Now she flies around in a swan-shaped boat, scooping up spilled Martian papayas and straightening out slacker aliens in this colorful, supercute kids' manga. Reviewed by Brigid Alverson.

Author Interviews
Rachel Renée Russell
John Hogan, the Editorial Director for (the newest site in The Book Report Network), recently spoke with Rachel Renée Russell, author and illustrator of DORK DIARIES: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous-Life. While primarily a prose novel, this first installment in the series is accompanied by comic art throughout. In this interview, Russell discusses the "dorky" qualities of the book's main character, Nikki Maxwell, and the real-life inspirations behind some of the things she experiences. She also shares a few memories of her own awkward middle-school years and names the authors and illustrators who have influenced her work.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Jarrett J. Krosoczka is the author and illustrator of such books as GOOD NIGHT, MONKEY BOY, MAX FOR PRESIDENT, and the newly released Lunch Lady graphic novel series --- which so far consists of LUNCH LADY AND THE CYBORG SUBSTITUTE and LUNCH LADY AND THE LEAGUE OF LIBRARIANS. Bridget Alverson, a contributor to (the newest site in The Book Report Network), spoke with Krosoczka, who talks about what inspired him to create this rather unusual character and explains what sets her apart from your average superhero. He also discusses how he decided to tell her story in comic form instead of through picture books or even a television series, elaborates on the books' color scheme, and shares when we can expect to see the next two Lunch Lady adventures.

Special Features
Meet Mackenzie Blue, aka Zee.

She has it all --- smarts, talent, humor and style. Is it enough to survive middle school?

Countdown to a 7th Grade Meltdown:

1. Your BFF moves away.
2. Someone steals your diary and reveals your deepest secrets --- to the ENTIRE class.
3. You have one chance to become a rock star and one chance to totally blow it.

Guess what!? All three happened to me! School's a disaster already. Don't get me wrong --- I love Brookdale Academy and I have a fabulous crew of friends. (At least, I think I do.) But, if I'm going to survive, I need all the help I can get!

Now that her secrets are out, Mackenzie’s world is turned upside down. Who can she trust?
- Click here to read a review of MACKENZIE BLUE.
- Click here to browse inside MACKENZIE BLUE.
- Click here to read our interview with Tina Wells.
- Click here to read Tina Wells’s bio.

Few know that Sherlock Holmes was assisted by a band of devoted boys, street urchins who loved to solve mysteries, called the Baker Street Irregulars. When a murder at the circus unravels to reveal another far more treacherous crime, Holmes calls on the gang for help. Can the Baker Street Irregulars solve the mystery before it’s too late?

Casebook No. 2 in this exciting series gives Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars a most unusual case to crack. A young woman named Elsa Hoffman seeks out the detective when her aunt dies mysteriously. As Ozzie, Wiggins and the gang start investigating, seemingly real ghosts suddenly appear and Elsa is followed by shady characters. Holmes must decide if he and his assistants can solve the case without facing mortal danger. Join the Irregulars for a mysterious and fright-filled adventure and decide if this is a case of the supernatural --- or dark con men, thieves and murderers!

- Click here to read bios of Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin.

Series Books
When Geronimo's nephew Benjamin invites him to speak at his school during Career Day, Geronimo has a big goal: to make Benjamin proud. However, things don't go quite the way Geronimo pictured. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.
- Click here to play the updated Geronimo Stilton trivia game.
- Click here to read our Geronimo Stilton series feature.

Siblings Lizzy and Luke are concerned about the 14 Very Special Guests who are in a dangerous situation in HorrorLand. Can they help the kids escape a dreadful fate? (Fair warning: Readers should be prepared to be completely creeped out. Don't say I didn't caution you!) Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

Yes, it's true: In the final book of the Goosebumps HorrorLand series, the kids have been captured by The Menace, the ultimate in Evil, who claims he must terrify them --- and then proceeds to do just that, in the most horrifying ways imaginable. Is there hope for any survivors? Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.
- Click here to play the updated Goosebumps HorrorLand trivia game.
- Click here to read our Goosebumps HorrorLand series feature.

Cool New Books
July’s roundup of Cool New Books includes WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead, a thought-provoking and compelling novel in which four mysterious letters change a sixth-grader’s world forever; MERCY WATSON: SOMETHING WONKY THIS WAY COMES, the latest installment in Kate DiCamillo’s series starring the porcine wonder, who is off to the drive-in --- and driven to follow that buttery smell; Megan McDonald’s THE MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD TREASURE HUNT, a swashbuckling adventure of puzzles and pirates featuring Judy Moody and Stink, who are racing in search of gold; STRAWBERRY HILL, a heartfelt coming-of-age novel from National Book Award winner Mary Ann Hoberman; and MARLEY GOES TO SCHOOL by John Grogan, a follow-up to BAD DOG, MARLEY! and A VERY MARLEY CHRISTMAS that finds the lovable and rowdy dog roaming the halls, looking for Cassie on her first day of school.

New in Paperback
Internal and external struggle, and, eventually, peaceful resolution, are the key ingredients in the heady potion that is HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. The final installment in J. K. Rowling’s classic series is now available in paperback.

July’s roundup of New in Paperback titles also includes ECLIPSE, the fourth installment in Erin Hunter’s Warriors: Power of Three series, in which Firestar’s three grandchildren begin to discover what their prophesied power might mean for the future of the Clans; HAUNTED HIKE by Patrick Carman, the second Elliot’s Park chapter book that finds Elliot and his friends trying to figure out who is haunting the park on Halloween after they think they see a ghost in Camp Canyon; and SPELLBOUND, Anna Dale’s novel about an innocent summer holiday that turns out to be anything but for Athene and her younger brother, Zach, when they find themselves caught up in a skirmish between two groups of gnome-like creatures.

Click here to read the full newsletter.

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