Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does) by Ruth White

When I'm reading I love a really good surprise - and this book has one. You don't have to wait until the end; it's right at the beginning and I can't give it away.

As our story opens, Meggie Blue and her family seem quite ordinary. Actually the whole family seems a little back-to-earth, old hippie-like; but, hey, that's normal for some people. There are a few strange people . . . and strange events . . .and strange ideas . . . but not too strange. Except for the electric blue hair. Then something happens and quite suddenly, the Blue family needs to go somewhere else. I know I'm being very vague, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. Really.

The author of You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does) is Ruth White. You may remember another book she wrote, Belle Prater's Boy, which was a Newbery Honor book. This is a very different story.


Monday, June 27, 2011

The Dark Zone by Dom Testa

"Life on Earth is over - and only 251 teens sent into space can save mankind."

Earth was doomed when the tail of a comet swept through the atmosphere, sparking a new virus that struck the adult population. In their dying days, scientists and engineers determined to give humanity a chance by building a ship to make the journey to a new world. The crew that ran this ship would need to be young enough to survive the very long journey, yet trained to carry out all the needed jobs and responsibilities. Two-hundred and fifty-one highly intelligent and gifted teens were located and quickly educated for this desperate mission.

The Dark Zone is book 4 in the Galahad series. Not only does the Galahad's crew face dangers from space, they battle a mysterious threat from within. Conflicts and romance both develop in the crew.

Galahad's Council runs the ship and they are intriguing and attractive characters. Triana Martell is the leader, Gap Lee heads engineering, Bon Hartsfield oversees the food domes, Channy Oakland runs Activities and Nutrition, and Lita Marques is their Medical Doctor. They have the assistance of almost sentient or intelligent computer system nicked Roc. I enjoy reading stories about multi-generational spaceships because I really think that's what real spaceflight to other planets will be like - very long journeys to travel the vast distances of space crewed by people who will view the ship as their long-term home.

The Galahad series is good space opera - interesting and strong characters involved in a long and dramatic story. You can find out more about the characters and the science behind the stories by clicking here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Jack and his mom had spent the night at their campground in Acadia National Park in Maine. At least that's what Jack thought, but when he crawled out of his tent in the morning he found his mom, their camping gear and their car all gone. At first he tried to be logical. Maybe she found a better campsite and moved nearby. Maybe she went to buy food for breakfast. Maybe . . . Jack didn't know but he tried not to panic. After all, he had lived with his mom and her wild mood swings all his life. She would be back; he knew she would.

But she didn't come back and Jack got hungry and within a couple of days he began to seriously search for her in nearby towns. Eventually he knew he had to get himself home, from Maine to Boston, without attracting the attention of anyone who would call the child welfare authorities and take him away from his mom. With only a small plastic elephant to give him courage, Jack set off.

This is a different kind of survival story. Instead of the wilderness, Jack needs to travel the roads to home, finding food and shelter, without looking like an abandoned child. Sometimes I really wished that Jack would trust some of the adults he meets, but I knew he was too afraid of what might happen. Small as an Elephant is story that makes you care so very much about the main character that you simply can't put it down. Jack is a character you won't forget.

Click here to listen to a portion of Small as an Elephant

or watch this video book trailer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Warp Speed by Lisa Yee

OK, I admit it, I'm a Trekkie. Which is the reason I could not pass up reading the new novel by Lisa Yee about another Trekkie - Marley Sandelski. Marley is entering seventh grade and he is a member of the A-V Club, whose other members are also dedicated to Star Trek, Star Wars, and Batman. To the other kids in school they are most definitely misunderstood and probably perceived as a little strange.

Much of what happens to Marley and his friends is funny and I found myself giggling at what he wrote each day in his Captain Log journal. And I found myself identifying with the way he perceives life going on around him as he tries to be logical and cool like his favorite character, Spock.

Marley's parents own a old run-down movie theater that shows classic movies to mostly empty seats. Marley and his parents live upstairs above the theater, although Marley has a secret hideaway downstairs in an old prop room full of costumes.

Unfortunately, Marley has also attracted the attention of some big-time bullies. I must confess, I found these bullies particularly troubling. Although they were seriously physical in their bullying, I think we have more trouble with emotional and cyber bullying in school. I was also distressed that Marley's parents and teachers weren't more aware of what was going on and that he never felt safe in telling them.

Marley and his friends go to the same middle school featured in author Lisa Yee's other novels - and the same characters weave their way in and out of the stories and this one, as well. Millicent Min, Girl Genius; Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time and So Totally Emily Ebers all tell the story of the same summer - but from three different points of view. You don't need to read them in any particular order at all. To get a preview of the other three books in this series, watch author Lisa Yee describe each title in the video below. I do know, after you read Warp Speed, you will want to know more about these characters.