Review: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Pest
by Beverly Cleary
Rating *****
Read 7/31/2013

Stockard Channing does a great job narrating this classic. Ramona is going to kindergarten, and that’s such a gigantic event it overshadows everything. Until she decides she’s never, ever going back. Ramona’s so real, so exactly herself that even when she’s at her most annoying she’s entirely believable. Some of the classic Ramona moments are in this book, including the dawnzer confusion (with which I identify entirely) and the drama of the lost tooth. Lovely rendition.

Review: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and Ramona
by Beverly Cleary
Rating *****
Read 7/31/2013

I love the book, so naturally I wanted to try the audio. Stockard Channing makes Ramona very annoying indeed, which is just right. Ramona is perfectly herself while at the same time she is everyone who was ever four years old. Her parents in this book are just right, alternating between fond annoyance and overt annoyance. Beezus suffers long but gives as good as she gets. Highly recommended.

Review: Wednesdays In The Tower by Jessica Day George

Wednesdays In The Tower
by Jessica Day George
Rating: ***
Read 7/22/2013

After the first book ended so nicely, so tidily, I was not expecting a cliffhanger. And this is a cliffhanger worthy of Roger Zelazny. Which is to say that this review is colored by my annoyance and pique at dangling from this cliff. By my fingernails.

It was, right up to the end, very sweet and fun and interesting. I like the characters and want to read more about them. I love what happens to Celie and her surprise. Great fun, really. If only I had Thursdays XXX to read RIGHT NOW.

Review: Tuesdays At The Castle by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays At The Castle
by Jessica Day George
Rating: ****
Read 7/21/2013

Sweet, cute and amusing. If this had been around when I was, oh, ten, I would have fallen madly in love with it. As it stands, I really liked it, and think it’s a fun addition to the genre. I was a fan of the plucky children right off, naturally. And the over-the-top prince with the dogs. And who doesn’t love a sentient castle? Moving right on into the sequel.

Review: Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick

Zen and the Art of Faking It
by Jordan Sonnenblick
Rating: ***
Read 7/19/2013

I thought this was a wise little book, and could be an interesting jumping off point for kids interested in Taoism. It’s heavy-handed in parts, and one sees the train wreck coming from the very beginning but it’s satisfying just the same. I liked San a lot, and was rooting for him the whole way through. Any book with a Zen basketball game is worth picking up.

The switch to present tense at the end (which seems to be a thing for MG/YA books lately) is annoying. I get it, but it’s intrusive and feels like the author not trusting the reader.

Review: The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley

The Prairie Thief
by Melissa Wiley
Rating: *****
Read 7/18/2013

Wholly delightful. I found it impossible to put down and read it in one great gulp. I don’t think I could have loved it more, had I read it as a child. The characters are lovely, each and all. The story, while never veering from the path to a happy ending, had plenty of dips and bobbles and surprises. I grinned my way through much of it, and am not ashamed to tell you my eyes filled with tears at the end. It’s wholesome without being smarmy, and fun without being arch.

Forgive me if I’m seeing Betsy-Tacy things that aren’t there, but the fact that Pa’s middle name is Warrington made me chortle.

Recommended without reservations.

Review: The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline by Lois Lowry

The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline
by Lois Lowry
Rating: ****
Read 7/10/20013

I’m putting this one on my Burton-browbeating shelf, even though in truth I had to drag this recommendation from the Burtons with barbed hooks. And wow, I’m glad I did. Unfailingly hilarious, Caroline observes life through her own special lens. She’s an entirely geeky dinosaur-lover who has a wanna-be journalist best friend, a mostly obnoxious brother, a wry and observant mother…oh, the whole cast of characters here is a delight. I chortled and guffawed my way through this, little realizing that while I was laughing I was also being drawn ever deeper into Caroline’s world.

A few bits, too good not to share:
Parsnips! Mom! Nobody makes their kids eat parsnips! Listen, before you do another thing, Mom, call the Hot Line for Child Abuse. Confess to them that you were planning to feed parsnips to your children. They’re there to help you, Mom.”

and

“Maybe by then I will have married a millionaire,” said their mother. “In the meantime, do either of you want another sandwich, bearing in mind that this bologna cost $1.89 a pound?”

Review: Falcon by Tim Jessell

Falcon
by Tim Jessell
Rating: ****
Read 7/7/2013

Simply lovely paintings of a falcon doing falcony things- soaring, diving, perching, flying. The text is spare and clean, the real strength here is the art. It’s quite obvious that Jessell has spent a lot of time in the company of falcons, and his ability to depict them in motion is breathtaking. I wish I’d had this book to read when my son was small, he would have adored it. I think he will adore it now, just not from my lap.

 

Review: Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters
by K.G. Campbell
Rating: ****
Read 7/7/2013

Oh, this was a fun book! I am in love with the dog who is drawn with the cutest expressions. The drawings are whimsical and weird, the story is odd and inventive. I could read this one out loud over and over again. From the beginning, where Lester measures his socks to make sure they are even, to the end, when Cousin Clara finds her people, it’s just an unmitigated delight. There is also plenty to look at on every page, which practically guarantees success at bedtime. Lester is a quirky and interesting kid who clearly has enough backstory to support several more books, and I hope K.G. gets right on that.

 

Review: Playing with Fire by Bruce Hale

Playing with Fire
by Bruce Hale
Rating: ***
Read 6/10/2013
Reasonably engaging middle grade book that seems designed to appeal to kids hooked on adventure/spy stuff. Fairly predictable to me, but funny and fresh enough to hold my interest throughout. Spy school with interesting twists. No kissing! My free review copy came from ALA Midwinter.