Friday, October 8, 2010

Chapter Book Mini-Reviews

Our "to-review" pile is beginning to take up way too much space on our desk and in our brains, so today we are offering several mini-reviews of YA and Middle Grade Fiction books. Some of these (not all) have been nominated for Cybils awards this year - have you nominated your favorites yet?

Change of Heart
Sheri Maurer
Westside Books
978-1934813362
Borrowed from the library

     Emmi, 16, is focused on soccer and a new crush, when she discovers a recent virus has affected her heart - to the point that she now needs a new one. We follow her through the wait for a transplant, medical procedures, her frustration at the limitations it has placed on her, and how it effects her relationships with those around her.
     We got to know Emmi's character well, and many of the feelings and experiences she had rang true. Having vicariously experienced a major organ transplant recently through some friends, and having had a terminally ill child, some parts of the story jarred. To a reader without similar experiences, however, those parts would probably not be noticeable.
     We loved Abe, and the scenes he was in were definitely the best. We have to ask publishers/editors/authors everywhere, however, WHY must there always be a love interest??? The character of Sam could have been left out entirely, and the story would have been all the better for it. There was a lot of character development that could have been much more interesting if it weren't constantly being sidetracked by the obligatory boy trouble. 3 out of 5.

Only the Good Spy Young
Ally Carter
Hyperion
978-1423128205
Borrowed from library

     See here for our earlier review of the Gallagher Girls series. The main theme of this one seems to be not knowing who you can trust. The usual fast pace and funny lines. Boy trouble. Good friends. Some surprising revelations at the end. (Note to self: when giving the book to your teenage daughter, be prepared for the "What??? No!!! squeals, or you will spill your coffee.) A fun way to spend an afternoon, and sure to please those who have been waiting for the next installment. If you provide books for teens and haven't purchased this series, you need to catch up quickly. 4 out of 5.

Noonie's Masterpiece
Lisa Railsback
Chronicle Books
978-0811866545
review copy provided by publisher

     Noonie, age 10, is a slightly eccentric, undiscovered artist. When an art contest is announced, she is thrilled, until she hears the topic: a family portrait. Since her mother's death she has lived with her aunt, uncle, and cousin ("Just because they're related doesn't make them family"), while her archaeologist father travels the world. Noonie misses her father terribly, and comes up with creative diseases (such as Purple Principal Pneumonia) to bring him rushing back to her side, but he never stays for long. Can she paint a family portrait of just herself? Her focus on what she doesn't have almost causes her to miss what she does.
     Noonie isn't always completely likeable, but that adds realism to a character who is going through a lot of personal growth. While some other characters are less three-dimensional, and we usually complain about that, it works here because Noonie is at an age where everything is all about how she is feeling.
     Noonie's constant companion is her copy of Masterpieces of Art, and information about various famous artists is sprinkled throughout the story. Complimenting the theme nicely are Sarajo Frieden's pen-and-ink drawings (very 1960's) and some font changes here and there. Might be a good read-aloud for an elementary school class, or a good gift for a misunderstood artist. 4 out of 5.

Tune in next week for more mini-reviews, and don't forget your Cybils nominations!

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