Reviews

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

Mass, Wendy. The Candymakers. Little, Brown, 2010. 453 pages. Hardcover  $15.44, ISBN 978-0-316-00258-5 ; PLB $13.86, ISBN 978-0-329-89179-4 ; TR $8.54, ISBN 978-0-316-00259-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Mystery

Part of a series? Yes –the second book is The Candymakers: The Great Chocolate Chase

Plot Summary:

Logan Sweet is super excited and a little bit — make that really — nervous. The big candy making contest has arrived, and now Logan is one of 32 twelve-year-olds competing to have their candy be chosen as the next “it” candy. Being the grandson of Samuel Sweet, candy innovator and founder of the Life is Sweet candy factory means that Logan feels he has a lot to prove. But to win, he needs to beat every single other child competing, and as we are soon to learn, the other three contestants from his region also have a reason to win. Logan is also excited, however, to have the chance to spend time with people his own age — he has grown up inside the factory and has seldom gone into the outside world. Will Miles (a bit of a strange kid who has a tendency to talk about the Afterlife), Daisy (a bubbly girl with a weirdly heavy purse and a tendency to read out loud by herself), and Philip (a world-class snot) turn out to become his friends? Or are they simply competitors? (And is everyone exactly who they seem to be?)

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book was AMAZING. A student recommended it to me, and once I started it, I could not put it down. This book is told through each child’s point of view, and as soon as we get up to the night before the big contest, we switch from Logan to Miles (who relates all of the action up to that point as he experienced it) to Daisy (who does the same) to Philip (who does the same), finally back to Logan. Each child has secrets that they do not share with each other, and each child is motivated by something beyond simply making the winning candy. (Do all of them even want to make candy? I’ll leave it to you to find out!) Deliciously, this book utilizes unreliable narrators, leaving kids to find out as they read whether or not we know who these people are.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This is definitely a great read for anyone, particularly fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

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Reviews

ARC Alert (with a book birthday today!) — The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

Thank you to Disney/Hyperion and NetGalley for the ARC. Below is my honest review.

Bracken, Alexandra. The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding. Disney/Hyperion, 2017. 362 pages. Hardcover $16.99, ISBN 978-1-48477-817-3

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Horror

Part of a series? Appears to be — no spoilers, but the ending makes me think there’s a sequel!

Plot Summary:

Prosperity “Prosper” Oceanus Redding has had it up to here with his family’s nonsense. His evil grandmonster (grandmother, to most people) runs his hometown of Redhood, MA with an iron fist (it helps that she’s managed to remain mayor for the last ten years). His twin sister Prue (Prudence Fidelia Redding, thank you so much for the names, Pilgrim ancestors) has survived a weak heart and countless surgeries and emergencies, so for her, middle school is nothing to get worked up about. For Prosper, it’s torture. He isn’t successful, popular, or powerful — basically, he’s nothing like the rest of his family. A family dinner at the grandmonster’s house takes a turn for the sinister when Prosper’s parents call from out of the country demanding that Prosper grab his sister and run. A mysterious stranger crashes the party, rescues Prosper from his grandmother and the knife she’s trying to kill him with, and drags him to Salem, MA. The mysterious stranger is none other than Uncle Barnabas, a fellow Redding failure. He and his daughter Nell (an actual witch!) promise to save Prosper from both his grandmother and a much more sinister evil — an ancient demon by the name of Alastor who is currently residing inside of Prosper. How did the Reddings rise to power in the 1600s? Not through their work ethic! Rather, Alastor cut a deal with Honor Redding, the man from whom the town of Redhood got its name. After his rise to power, Honor enlisted a witch to help him get out of the deal, leaving Alastor to curse the family name and promise to return one day to destroy the Reddings once and for all. The time has nearly come, hence Prosper’s near-death at his grandmother’s get-together. Will Alastor succeed in destroying the Reddings, or will Prosper and his friends find a way to elude Alastor’s curse?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book has EVERYTHING. A snarky outsider narrator with a killer sense of humor? Check. A young witch whose first words readers encounter are lines from The Crucible? Check. A haunted house that is both tourist trap and actually haunted? CHECK! Family drama, mysteries, lies, and secrets? YOU GOT IT. A sassy demon? OF COURSE. A tiny black kitten that’s also a super powerful changeling who can fly? YES, FRIENDS! (Maybe I’m the only person who was looking for that? Okay.) Once I picked this one up, I couldn’t put it down. Prosper’s voice is intensely readable. This book delivers on creepiness, action, and humor. One scene can go from super creepy malefactor activities to an action-packed fight scene straight into Prosper’s deadpan reaction to the hoopla. The pace of the book is quick, but it never feels rushed. This is a great autumn read.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would totally hand this one to students looking for a deliciously creepy, funny, and action-packed adventure. It feels like a good fit for fans of Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand, and the Jackaby series by William Ritter.

Grade Level: 3-7

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 08/01/17

Publishers Weekly starred 07/03/17

Reviews

Heat by Mike Lupica

Lupica, Mike. Heat. Puffin Books, c2006/p2007. 220 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-399-24301-1; Tr. $5.19, ISBN 978-0-14-240757-8; PLB $13.01, ISBN 978-1-42872-024-4

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Sports novel

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This book is a glimpse into the life of a boy who is hiding something … but not the secret that everyone expects. In all honesty, this is one that was better to read than listen to. While the narrator’s voice was great for Michael’s stream-of-consciousness moments, the speaker could not make conversations clear and smooth, so I had to switch to reading it myself. Michael is a typical kid dealing with things no twelve-year-old should have to. Fortunately, he has his love of baseball to help him get by.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Featuring a wise-talking best friend, a grandmotherly neighbor, and plenty of well-meaning adults, this novel explores what it means to be a kid with a secret…a dangerous secret, one that could ruin his life if it got out. Michael’s anxieties are very real, and while his best friend Manny injects humor into these serious situations, they are also handled sensitively by Lupica. Allowing for real stress and some sitcom-esque hijinks is a delicate blend, but Lupica pulls it off. While many of the baseball terms go over the head of a reader who doesn’t watch the game, it was still an immersive read.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

Book clubs could use this book and create vision boards (much like how Mrs. C plays a game with Michael where they envision his dreams coming true). They can either opt to discuss their vision boards or keep them secret, but they will spend “club” time making their boards. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2007

Booklist starred 4/1/06

 

Reviews referenced:

Berman, M. (n. d.). Heat (Review of the book Heat). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/heat

Kirkus Reviews. (2006, March 1). Heat (Review of the book Heat). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mike-lupica/heat-5/

 

Reviews

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Mullaly Hunt, Lynda. Fish in a Tree. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 276 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-399-16259-6; Tr. $7.69, ISBN 978-0-14-242642-5; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-5811-637-7

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This book is a deep dive into Ally Nickerson’s experience with her dyslexia. Unable to read and convinced that she is just stupid, Ally has worked very hard to prevent anyone from knowing just how much trouble she has with homework. She would rather get sent to the office for misbehavior than have her secret found out. Unfortunately, at her teacher’s baby shower, the principal pulls Ally into the hall to chastise her for the card she gave Mrs. Hall. Ally is perplexed — it had been a card with beautiful flowers on it. To her horror, she learns it was a sympathy card. Now everyone thinks she’s a monster for giving a sympathy card to her teacher who was leaving for maternity leave … hopefully, her substitute teacher won’t judge her too harshly for this mistake. Will Mr. Daniels catch on to her secret? Will anyone be able to help?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is not only a gripping book about dyslexia, but it also explores middle school awkwardness, bullies, and friendships. Ally bonds with Keisha, a girl who is very outspoken, and Albert, a science-obsessed classmate who cuts the backs off of his shoes when they get too small for him because he cannot afford a new pair. The class bully zeroes in on the trio, but Ally’s friendships help her to keep her head high. Teachers are presented as human figures — capable of mistakes but trying to do their best.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic book club book or read aloud. Perhaps this would be a good reading circle book. Students should lead this discussion, as it is the kids in the novel who band together to carve out a place for themselves in the school’s hierarchy. Having students lead discussion and take charge of the topics and activities for this unit would be interesting. (Idea from myself)

 

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 12/15/14

Library Media Connection starred 9/1/15

School Library Journal starred 1/1/15

 

Reviews referenced:
Kirkus Reviews. (2014, Nov. 18). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lynda-mullaly-hunt/fish-in-a-tree/

Moore, T. (n. d.). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/fish-in-a-tree

Publishers Weekly. (2014, Dec. 1). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-399-16259-6

 

Reviews

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

Graff, Lisa. Lost in the Sun. Philomel Books, 2015. 304 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-399-16406-4; Tr. $7.69, ISBN 978-0-14-750858-4; PLB $13.81, ISBN 978-1-51810-658-7

 

TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? Yes

 

Genre: Realistic Contemporary Fiction

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Trent Zimmerman has a lot on his mind. His dad has started a new family with his second wife Kari, and they are expecting a baby almost any day now. Meanwhile, it feels like Mr. Zimmerman is doing his best to tick Trent off. Trent’s fuse is shorter than usual, too, due to the fact that no one wants to talk to him anymore. After a tragic accident the school year before, Trent finds himself overwhelmed with guilt over the death of a peer, and it appears that the town agrees with him that he is at fault for the boy’s death. To make matters worse, Trent can’t try to play sports again to mend those friendships because any athletic activity makes him go clammy, remembering that February hockey game. Friendless and feeling attacked at home (first by his father’s attitude, then by his siblings’ insistence that Trent visit his dad anyway), Trent begins acting out. Fallon Little doesn’t seem to mind, but she’s weird. Could they become friends?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

 

This book is fantastic. Graff does a fabulous job describing Trent’s “fire” that erupts in his chest and forces him to blow up when he is angry. Trent does his best to control his impulses, but sometimes (often, early on, he cannot control them at all) they get the better of him, costing even more trust in the community.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This book would be a great book for a student dealing with anger management issues or who is interested in reading about this topic. It could also be a great book club book — there is a great deal of potential discussion that could be had when considering Trent, Fallon, and their classmates. A fun club activity would be to watch one of Fallon’s movies and look for the continuity errors. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 3/15/15

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 9/1/15

Kirkus Reviews starred 3/1/15

Publishers Weekly starred 3/16/15

School Library Journal starred 4/1/15

 

Reviews Referenced:

Eisenhart, M. (n. d.). Lost in the sun (Review of the book Lost in the Sun). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/lost-in-the-sun

Publishers Weekly. (2015, March 16). Lost in the sun (Review of the book Lost in the Sun). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-399-16406-4