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Book Reviews

May 7, 2010
Times Observer

By Valle Blair
 
Pre K-1st
MY GARDEN
by KEVIN HENKES (Greenwillow, 2010)
***
A young girl talks about helping her mother in the garden and how much work it is.  But then she takes off on a flight of fancy dreaming about what her own garden would be like.  Her garden would never have weeds and the flowers would bloom and bloom and never die.  In her garden, she could just think of a color and the flowers would turn that color.   In her garden, the tomatoes would be as big as beach balls and the carrots would be invisible (she doesn’t like carrots!)  And anything she planted would grow in her garden.  That night after a hard day’s work in her mother’s garden, she goes out and plants a seashell in the dirt.  Do you think she might grow a seashell bush?  It doesn’t hurt to dream.
 
2ND – 4TH
KABOOM! EXPLOSIONS OF ALL KINDS
by GILLIAN RICHARDSON (Annick Press, 2009)
***
Explosions happen all around us.  There are the big explosions like volcanoes and geysers and supernovas.  There are dangerous explosions like methane gas in mines and gunpowder.  Plants use explosions to shoot their seeds and spores into the air.  Some animals use explosions to catch prey.  How else would a mantis shrimp be able to eat the meat of a crab?  And man has created many explosions, both constructive and destructive, like carving Mount Rushmore and making bombs for war.  Some are even just for fun.  Are you thinking fireworks?  Read all the fun facts about explosions in this colorful book.  Did an explosion get rid of the dinosaurs?  Read and find out!
 
MIDDLE SCHOOL
THE SUMMER I GOT A LIFE
by MARK FINK (Westside Books, 2009)
***
No vacation in Hawaii!!  Instead, Andy and his older brother, Brad, have to spend two whole weeks with their crazy aunt and uncle in Wisconsin.  Dad got promoted to vice-president and Mom is going to a conference with him.  This is the worst thing that could ever happen.  Wisconsin will be so boring especially compared to Hawaii.  Brad runs away and tries to go back home the very first night they are there.  Andy, who has never been cool and athletic like Brad, always has to be the mature one when his brother gets like this.  But Uncle Jim and Aunt Karen have an interesting way of handling things.  The trip takes a turn for the better when Andy sees a girl sitting in an SUV outside the ice cream store.  She is the most incredible looking girl he has ever seen.  Trying to look cool, he walks down the sidewalk and slams right into a lamp post!  Ice cream all over him!  But she does the most amazing thing as she drives by; she just smiles and waves.  Uncle Jim tells him almost all about her; she’s a nationally famous concert pianist and will be on his radio show the next day, if Andy wants to meet her.  What he doesn’t tell Andy is that she is in a wheel chair.  But over the summer, a special friendship develops between them.  She is incredible!  And through this amazing summer even Andy’s relationship with his brother turns around.  This is the summer Andy got a life.
 
HIGH SCHOOL
BUG BOY
by ERIC LUPER (Farrar, Straus & Giroux., 2009)
***
This riveting action story is set at Saratoga Springs Race track in 1934.  The fast and furious world of horse racing is magnified in the person of Jack Walsh.  This gripping tale sheds light of the life on the track through the eyes of a young teenager whose dream is to be a jockey and who endures the hardships of living in the stables tending the race horses and working his way through the ranks to apprentice jockey a.k.a. “bug boy”.  His encounters with cheats, bookies, rich horse owners, ruthless jockeys all serve to educate him in the ways of the trade. You will feel the force of how the time period during the Great Depression takes its toll on people and the choices they make to survive. Through it all, Jack’s character traits are very well developed as he learns to deal with his own personal tragedies and triumphs.

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