Baker, Keith. LMNO Peas (2010)

Several thousand alphabet books are currently available and over a dozen new ones are published each year. LMNO Peas by Keith Baker is a fresh and playful addition to the genre. Industrious anthropomorphic peas scurry across each page performing various tasks as the text exclaims that they are alphabet peas. These adorable busy little green peas drive or bicycle or fly around each page that also contains a bright letter that corresponds with their function or task. The rhyming text has wonderful cadence and includes a wide variety of occupations.

I was enchanted with this book. I picked it up several months ago as a gift for a friends daughter and loved it. The little peas are scattered about every page doing all sorts of activities. They look like they are having so much fun. Each time I page through it I notice another little pea doing something different. Keith Baker’s attention to detail is why his illustrations are always such a success. Much like in Big Fat Hen, I liked it without knowing exactly why. I just knew there was something special about it. I highly recommend LMNO Peas to anyone who appreciates zany illustrations, peas, or kids between two and six.

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Dowd, Siobhan. The London Eye Mystery (2007)

This was very interesting to read, in that I am not familiar with many works that feature protagonists who have Asperger Syndrome. I am sure that this is becoming more common, as it is becoming more understood.  If you are not familiar with British slang, it may be a bit confusing at first.
Overall, it was interesting but tedious. At one point I thought I would scream if I read the word esophagus one more time. Most people say throat. It is written in the first person, and you aren’t able to forget the character is different for one minute. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but it gets incredibly frustrating fairly rapidly. I can see value in this, but not something I would pick up on my own.


If you feel like taking the chance of disappearing, you can take a ride on the London Eye…it does exist:

And it does look kinda like a giant bike wheel. Go figure.


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Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games (2008)

While interesting, I couldn’t help but think to myself: I’ve read this before. I know this story. This is so familiar. Then it hit me. I do know this story. Maybe not exactly the same story, there were no districts, it wasn’t the future, in a post-apocolyptic North America, but in a different dimension, in Japan. It was called Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.  The premise: a group of teenagers are ripped away from their families and forced to battle it out until only one remains.  It has been almost ten years since I read it and was incredibly disturbed and intrigued (not only because the translation was awful*). I thought it was a very unconventional choice for a young adult author.  With The Hunger Games, I wonder why something new wasn’t written.   Yes, there are minor differences, but not enough for me to consider The Hunger Games anything new or wonderful.
*Battle Royale: The Novel The translation has been improved since I read it when I was an undergraduate student. They claim the names aren’t as interchangeable as they once were. I am looking forward to reading it again.

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Dixon, Franklin W. The Hardy Boys; The Tower Treasure  (1927; 1959 revised)

I was unable to get a copy of the original 1927 text. I wonder what it was like. The revised edition is quite dated. It would be interesting to see what the unrevised text would be like. I have read that The Hardy Boys books were actually quite inclusive until the revisions took place, and the revisions were really white-washing.  In any case, I digress.

The tower treasure opens with two young men riding motorcycles on a Saturday.  They see a car speeding and weaving on the road heading towards them. Being sensible boys, they pull over, park their motorcycles, and begin to climb the embankment, all before the car turns off the main road? Really? Then, they look at each other and say something along the lines of “Gee Whiz! That car sure was going fast!” “Lets get back on our motorcycles and ride them at a moderate speed safely so all the world knows we are good sensible boys who never do anything wrong!” I am, of course, being quite facetious.  I have no doubt that when this book was written it was the proverbial bee’s knees. I am sure many a cat meowed about it all through the night.  In reality, brothers don’t get along like that. It was something out of Stepford instead of Bayport. Real kids fight and forget to call home and don’t drive off when a girl flirts with them on the side of the road!

I’d think it is need of another revision, maybe one of the brothers can go to rehab. I hear that is in style these days.

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Appelt, Kathi. The Underneath (2008)

I don’t know exactly what to say about this book.  The English major in me wants to gush about how well written it was, how true the characters are, how fantastic the imagery is. I would love to go on about how fantastic the two stories are intertwined to tell a complete tale of redemption, family, love and friendship. Despite all of these fabulous qualities, I never want to read this book again. It was a bit cliche and emotionally manipulative. The only way it could be any more heart wrenching is if Ranger, the dog, also had to rescue orphans from a burning building three days before Christmas.  Abandoned pregnant cat, starving dog, abusive owner, alcoholism, attempted drowning, evil snake, I’m not going to go on here. It just was a bit over the top.

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Rex, Adam. The True Meaning of Smekday (2007)

This is not the type of book I would usually pick up. Even as a child, I wouldn’t have chosen this one. I know they say not to judge a book by it’s cover but, lets face it, when people look for books the cover is the first thing we see.

This book blew me away. It was not at all what I expected. I was expecting a book featuring a boy or young man as the main character. I was surprised when the main character was a spunky eleven year old girl who was retelling how she and her alien friend saved the planet.  While the book focused on the invasion of the planet by an alien species, there was a lot of subtext that can be used to encourage thoughtful discussions on treaty rights, war, and tolerance. Not only that, it was funny! I can only recall one other book* that made me nearly shoot coffee out my nose. As an adult, that is not the same thrill as it would be toJloandpig a 10 year old, but still, three words…”Devastating Eye Lasers.”

This is a great book and everyone needs to read it, especially girls. If you don’t believe me, check out this: 10 reasons you should read The True Meaning of Smekday

I must note that I did take advantage of the audio book version that was available at my local library, which was brilliantly narrated by Bahni Turpin. I had to go back to the book itself to appreciate the details of the small comics that were ‘contributed by J.Lo.’

*The other book that always makes me laugh?  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I have read that a dozen times. I still crack up.

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Philbrick, Rodman. The Young Man and the Sea (2004)

Skiff Beaman’s life sucks. His mom is dead and his dad hasn’t left the couch since. On the last day of school, his dad’s boat has finally sunk. His dad doesn’t even budge from the sofa. Rather than becoming a problem himself, young Skiff Beaman decides to take on the daunting task of raising the Mary Rose from the bottom of the sea and bringing her back to life. Not only does he manage to do this, he manages to bring his father back to life as well.

The title of this book pays homage to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and there are parallels, but to focus on them would diminish the impact of this book in its on right. The Young Man and the Sea is a fantastic adventure and deserves to stand on its own. With just the right amount of technical detail, I was able to understand the ins and outs of the boats without becoming bored or wanting to skip over it.  This book is a fabulous find and something I will encourage my eleven year old nephew to read over the winter break.

That being said, my only complaint: All the talk about tuna, I am desperate for some sashimi!

Tuna Sashimi from Hayashi in Gurnee

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