by Raina Telgemeier
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
I love me some Raina Telgemeier, though there have been some pretty scathing reviews about the cultural appropriation in this one. If Telgemeier had gone in a slightly different direction and left out that part, this would be a tidy 5-out-of-5-stars book.
Telgemeier has a knack for the sisterly relationship, tender and frustrating at turns, and this one was no exception. Catrina and her family have just moved from sunny southern California up to foggy, damp Bahia de la Luna (based on Telgemeier’s recollection of Half-Moon Bay). The cooler weather is supposed to help Cat’s little sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. It seems that being in a town with more of a Hispanic presence helps Cat’s mother get in touch with her Hispanic heritage. When they first move there, Cat and Maya go out exploring and meet Carlos, who turns out to be their neighbor. He tells them about the ghosts that live there and come out mostly on El Dia de los Muertos. Shortly before the holiday, Cat lets Carlos take them to see the ghosts who live at the mission, but Maya gets too excited (or the ghosts take her breath) and she gets very, very sick. By the time Halloween and Day of the Dead come around, she is better, but still can’t go out trick-or-treating, and Cat refuses to speak to Carlos. But all ends well (and even with a little romance). The drawings are definitely indispensable and graphic novel is the only appropriate medium for this story, to actually show the ghosts.
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
This one gets a nostalgia boost, in all honesty. I remember reading it when I was younger and loving it, back in my time-travel phase. I had forgotten that this story is presented as you would a campfire ghost story, by claiming that it happened to someone you know – Avi claims a kid on one of his school visits pulled him aside to tell him this one. 12-year-old Kenny Huldorf had just moved to Providence, RI, from California and was still adjusting to all the colonial history in New England when he discovers his new house is haunted. The ghost was a slave boy who used to live there and who was murdered, though the official newspaper report says he appeared to have committed suicide. Kenny gets swept up in helping avenge Caleb’s murder, but there’s a twist in the story that I had forgotten and almost made me gasp out loud! It’s very clever, even though some of the storytelling is a bit sloppy (Kenny talks a bit like an adult most of the time, there are some very 1980’s conventions with the narration and dialogue, etc), but after all, Avi had been writing for over 10 years at the time it was published. Overall a solid time-travel story with a good twist even nearly 30 years later, and a quick read. Might be good for a high-interest, low-level reader as it’s short, compelling, and lots of space so not too intimidating-looking.
by Wendy Mass
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
I am a huge Wendy Mass fan, but was surprised to re-read my review and remember that I was quite unimpressed (3 out of 5 stars) by the original Candymakers book. The four friends return for this adventure, which takes them on the road in search of mysterious, magical, blue cocoa beans. The beginning of the story rotates in perspective among the four; the middle section is told as one story but omniscient, jumping from person to person even within the same paragraph; and the end section is separate again. All in all, this made for some confusion – particularly in the beginning, when you experience the same day through each person’s eyes but jumping over the events that have already happened. For example, Logan tells how he came to be in possession of a box of his grandfather’s old letters and notebooks, and how he told Miles about it. Then during Miles’ account of the day, we skip right over that and go to him going through the box. It left me confused at points about what exactly the new narrator was reacting to, but then again, I have the attention span of a flea. Or a ten-year-old (which, it should be noted, is Mass’s target audience). This jumping around is the reason for the 1 star deduction – well, that and the fact that there were SO many threads to the story that I had a lot of trouble keeping them straight. Even now, I’m not sure that they were all wrapped up, but maybe that’s on purpose and there is a third book in the works. Who knows!
What I did like was the imagination in the story, and also that some of Mass’s other characters came together. Mia and her family from A Mango-Shaped Space, the eponymous Jeremy Fink, and the crew from Every Soul a Star all pop in at various points, and then are also together at the end. Even the group from Willow Falls gets a shout out. It was really nice to see them all again! There was a plot line of secret relatives coming out of the woodwork, about which I feel a bit wishy-washy. Having more than one felt contrived, and there were THREE to make seem realistic. I did like Daisy and AJ’s tricked-out RV and the vid coms, and also the eventual revelation of the origin of the magic beans / Paradise. The closing scene of the book has an unnamed (but male) character planting a magic bean in the tropical room at the factory, and I did not like that we don’t know who that was, only that it wasn’t Daisy.
One final note: There is much referring to things that happened in the first book, but just vaguely enough that I wasn’t sure exactly what had gone down. Definitely read them in close succession, or give the first one a re-read before picking this one up!
The Knife of Never Letting Go
by Patrick Ness
Something about the combination of the reader’s voice (Nick Podehl, if you’re interested) and the whiny opening had me hitting the eject button after just a few minutes. The concept is intriguing: a boy escapes from his world where everyone can read minds (“noise”) to one where there is privacy but at a cost. However, the opening scene has the boy interacting with his dog, who can also talk but is very unintelligent, in such a mean way that really ruffled my feathers. It’s possible there was something about the boy’s home life, or maybe just that society in general, that made him be so mean and annoying, but I wasn’t about to stick it out to find out. (I do suspect it was the words and not the voice, so apologies to Mr. Podehl.)
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This is the second book in The Missing series. The first one, Found, was incredible! But, as I suspected, because the first one was all about solving the mystery, and then it was solved, I did not like the second book. Spoiler alert: the trick was time travel, so in the subsequent books, the kids go back in time to 1453. Could be a good way to learn about different eras of history, and definitely good to have in a librarian’s toolbelt, but I wanted to free up that CD player space for something new.
Onward! So many books, so little time.