Monday, July 26, 2010

Crunch by Leslie Connor

Fourteen year-old Dewey is in a crunch. Actually his whole family is in a crunch - all because of another crunch - a fuel crunch.

Crunch, the book, is a great read! It is a mystery - who is stealing bike parts from the family bicycle shop? Can Dewey catch the thief? It is a what if story - what if a fuel crisis stranded your parents several hundred miles away from home and left you and your siblings to take care of both themselves and the bicycle shop? And it is realistic fiction - older sister Lil is eighteen, but it is a lot of responsibility for her and Dewey to take care of the family farm, the bicycle shop, and their younger siblings.

Things do start to get a little scary as well. The fuel crisis is causing food and other necessities to disappear from store shelves. Cars stop going up and down the highway next to their home. The highways are filed with people walking and bicycling. Suddenly lots of people need their bikes fixed just to get around. Dewey and his slightly younger brother Vince are swamped with bike repairs. And someone is breaking into their shop and stealing not only valuable bike parts but also the money they make for their work. This is not turning out to be the summer vacation anyone planned on.

I really enjoyed the family story in Crunch as well. Everybody is trying but they are still kids and they are under a lot of pressure. And I really like their small family farm as well - a big garden, fruit trees, chickens, goats and sheep. Hmm - I wonder whose farm that sounds like? Click here to find out!

Leslie Connor is a very good writer of realistic fiction. Waiting for Normal won lots of awards for children's literature and I predict Crunch will as well. Click here to read an interview with Leslie Connor and find out just where some of her ideas for Crunch came from. Meanwhile, I'm going to make sure my bicycle is in good working order. You never know when you might really need it . . .

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka

I've worried about the subject of this book for a LONG time. If there are aliens out there somewhere, we have been sending all our television signals out to space and the ALIENS HAVE BEEN WATCHING! I'm glad that Jon Sciezka, who is a very funny and very good author, also started worrying about this too. If you are wondering about all the CAPITAL letters, you haven't read Spaceheadz yet.

As we all know, good science fiction starts with the question - what if? So, what if the only thing aliens know about us came from our commercials? If you are thinking OH NO right now, you are right! When the aliens send their representatives to Earth, they make contact with Michael K. - yes, there is more than one Michael in the room. All kids know that instantly, but grownups may have forgotten the secret code that reveals that fact.

Poor Michael K. is just trying to blend in since this is his first day in his fifth grade classroom, where he is the new kid. If you were the new kid, the last thing you would want is two aliens following you around. Did I mention the aliens are pretending to be students too? And then there is the alien leader, who has taken over the body of Major Fluffy, the class hamster. This is not a good first day of school for Michael K.

If you want to learn more about the SPHDZ and how you can help SAVE THE WORLD! click here:

Or watch this top secret video:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Flight of the Outcast by Brad Strickland

Space Opera is one of my favorite sub-genres of science fiction. When kids ask me to suggest a good space opera, I usually think of Star Wars or Star Trek. Now I have a new recommendation - Flight of the Outcast by Brad Strickland.

This is a first story in a new series called The Academy and I can't wait for the next book! This series has everything that makes good space opera - lots of worlds and characters set far in the future, lots of exciting action involving spaceships and martial arts, cool technology, and a good story about good versus evil.

Thirteen-year-old Asteria Locke is an orphan. Her father was a veteran of the Royal Spacefleet and a hero, but after his injuries he was given a large farm on a remote world. After raiders attack their farm and kill her father she vows to become a Spacefleet pilot herself and protect others from the raiders. She travels alone to the Academy where she learns to fly and fight and even makes a few friends, especially a boy named Dai, but she also makes some enemies. She also discovers a serious threat to the Fleet and the citizens it protects - one that involves her, the cybots that serve humans and what really happened all those years ago when her father saved his ship when it was under attack from an alien threat. She also has a piece of alien technology that seems to be giving her super-human powers.

This is a fast exciting read that I couldn't put down. In many ways it reminded me of Harry Potter with its school setting and a bad guy as slimy as Draco. And boy, can Brad Strickland write and exciting flight scenes! I especially liked the times Asteria and Dai learned to fly their one-person fighters. Woo - hang on!