Monthly Archives: April 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Charlie Woodchuck is a Minor Niner

Middle Grade Author Shannon Whitney Messenger began Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays a while back. If you love middle grade literature, check out her blog for a list of other sites featuring MG books.

Today I’ll talk about Charlie Woodchuck is a Minor Niner by Dalya Moon.

From Goodreads: It’s 1988, and Charlie Woodchuck is the most minor of niners. At thirteen, she’s the youngest girl at Snowy Cove High School, and so clueless, she wore leg warmers and acid-wash jeans on her first day. Big mistake! Almost as big a mistake as signing up for a boys-only shop class. Doy.

Just when she thinks the first week of high school can’t get any more weird, Charlie discovers she may be adopted. According to her Science textbook, her eyes should be blue, not brown.

Now the girl with the boy’s name will have to use her detective skills to uncover the mystery of her identity. She’ll need the help of best friend Stacy, expert blackmailer, and new friend Ross, expert class clown.

Before the year ends, Charlie will face down the biggest bullies of all: the all-powerful members of Snowy Cove’s School Board. The Board doesn’t like what Charlie’s been up to, and they’re all out of doughnuts.

From Vicki: Not sure why this was set in 1988, which is when I went to high school. (Oops, did I really say that out loud?) It wasn’t necessary to the story except that certain classes were only for girls or boys. I don’t remember that situation in my high school, but there’s a lot I don’t remember from those days, despite having been a goodie-goodie. (Oops, there I go again, ruining my exciting, world-weary reputation.)

Anyway, that aside, this was a heart-warming and well-told story. The ‘80’s details were subtle and didn’t detract in any way. Charlie was an easy-to-like main character trying to find herself in a more literal way than usual, in a situation providing some mystery elements. I do appreciate some mystery.

Dalya Moon self-published this (and a few others, I’ve noticed) and apparently, she did it the right way. Definitely worth a look.

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My Kids and Books

Here are some excerpts from a post I wrote on the blog in 2009.

My six-year-old son started reading this Spring. We started with the basics – Dr. Seuss. He was so proud when he finished Green Eggs & HamThe Cat in the Hat took about three nights. He picked and chose pages in One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

But he kept coming back to Green Eggs & Ham. He read it to my parents at Passover. He read it during a family camping trip to all his big cousins. He takes it out on the deck in nice weather to read to himself.

For a school assignment, we raided the little one’s bookshelves for Eric Carle and PD Eastman. Now we have moved on to the easy to read section at the library.

That six-year-old was later dubbed A-Read and is now about to turn 9. He has moved from Dr. Seuss to Shel Silverstein, from Eric Carle to Brandon Mull.

“The little one” is now 6 and reading, and raiding A-Reads bookshelves. This year at Passover he read my parents Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems and last night he started one of his big brother’s favorites from that summer after kindergarten: Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot by Dav Pilkey.

As an avid reader, a writer and a mom, I am so excited by his interest in reading. His ability to read has grown exponentially in such a short time.

We can barely get his nose out of the new book. Just like his mother!

How cool that I can now say this about my youngest son! He’s going to need his own reading-related nickname now. Any suggestions?

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Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Dust

Middle Grade Author Shannon Whitney Messenger began Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays a while back. If you love middle grade literature, check out her blog for a list of other sites featuring MG books.

Today I’ll talk about Dust by Arthur Slade.

From Goodreads: Seven-year-old Matthew disappears one day on a walk into Horshoe, a dust bowl farm town in Depression-era Saskatchewan. Other children go missing just as a strange man named Abram Harsich appears in town. He dazzles the townspeople with the promises of a rainmaking machine. Only Matthew’s older brother Robert seems to be able to resist Abram’s spell, and to discover what happened to Matthew and the others.

From Vicki: In short, creepy, well-written, intriguing. I was interested in this one because of its Saskatchewan setting, thanks to a bestie who lives there. I wasn’t sure I’d like the whole dust bowl, Depression thing, but it worked so well with the story. The setting enhanced the ambience.

The story flowed beautifully and the mystery unfolded effortlessly. The creepy factor was up there with Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I may never think of butterflies the same way again. Ooh, my spine is tingling just remembering that part!

Like any good middle grade mystery, the main character has everything to do with whether the mystery is solved, whether the town is saved, and whether Robert ever sees his younger brother again.

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Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Skulduggery Pleasant

Middle Grade Author Shannon Whitney Messenger began Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays a while back. If you love middle grade literature, check out her blog for a list of other sites featuring MG books.

Today I’ll talk about Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

From Goodreads: Meet Skulduggery Pleasant. Sure, he may lose his head now and again (in fact, he won his current skull in a poker match), but he is much more than he appears to be—which is good, considering that he is, basically, a skeleton. Skulduggery may be long dead, but he is also a mage who dodged the grave so that he could save the world from an ancient evil. But to defeat it, he’ll need the help of a new partner: a not so innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. That’s right, they’re the heroes.

Stephanie and Skulduggery are quickly caught up in a battle to stop evil forces from acquiring her recently deceased uncle’s most prized possession—the Sceptre of the Ancients. The Ancients were the good guys, an extinct race of uber-magicians from the early days of the earth, and the scepter is their most dangerous weapon, one capable of killing anyone and destroying anything. Back in the day, they used it to banish the bad guys, the evil Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, in the way of bad guys everywhere, the Faceless Ones are staging a comeback and no one besides our two heroes believes in the Faceless Ones, or even that the Sceptre is real.

So Stephanie and Skulduggery set off to find the Sceptre, fend off the minions of the bad guys, beat down vampires and the undead, prove the existence of the Ancients and the Faceless Ones, all while trading snappy, snippy banter worthy of the best screwball comedies.

From Vicki: This was a really fun, but slightly dark, read. Stephanie is a kick-tush heroine who gets involved in a world she doesn’t know and doesn’t understand, but can’t stay out of. This world has skeleton-detectives, evil magicians, minions made of paper, vampires, sword-wielding troll-busting girls, and rich uncles with secrets. Who wouldn’t want to read about that?

One of my favorite lines: “Being a detective isn’t all about torture and murder and monsters. Sometimes it gets truly unpleasant.”

This is one of those books that, even though I barely have time to keep up with what’s current, I really want to read the sequels (5 or 6 of them).

Anyone read one or more of these books? What did you think?

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