Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I"m Giving Away My Signed Copy of Guys Read: Thriller

Yup, I'm giving away my copy, signed by Jon Scieszka himself. The fun is happening over at PROJECT MAYHEM. So, as the Don would say, Andiamo. (I would add, Vamoose!)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: WOLF STORM

Isn't this one HECK of a COVER?!!

Dee Garretson is one of my pals over at Project Mayhem, yet I had never read her novels. But WOLF STORM was nominated for the Cybils by Dean Oester, and I plowed in.

I'm very happy I did. The story was gripping from the get-go. A snowy movie set in the Carpathian mountains. Child actors who have to act alongside (tame) wolves. And the possibility of wild and hungry wolves prowling about--I tell you, several times, the hair at the back of my neck stood up, things were so tense.

Opening Lines: "Snow lay thick in the ruins of the castle walls, drifting over the best hiding places."

The Characters: It's Stefan Andris's first movie role, but the pressure to perform is taxing. It doesn't help that his co-star, Raine Randolph is such a diva. The third child-actor, the much-younger Jeremy Cline, is already "showing too many signs of latching on to (Stefan)," and has asthma and a lot of fears. When the children are marooned in the ski lodge in which they're staying, with only the elderly and ailing actor who plays their grandfather, they have to deal with avalanches, injuries, and wild wolves who are so starving that they shed their innate fear of humans and begin to stalk them. The kids have to come up with a plan to escape, or else their very lives will be in peril.

Verdict: This is one thrilling book. I can see it being popular with boys as well as girls. I couldn't stop turning the pages to see if the kids would in fact make it safely off the mountain without loss of life. My hat is off to Dee for creating such a fast-paced and engrossing story.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Callie Be Gold

I still have a mound of Cybils homework to read. But I don't mind it. When else would I have steeled myself to read so many novels in such a short space of time?!!

This week's find was a debut novel by Michele Weber Hurwitz: Calli Be Gold. It was nominated for the Cybils by Jennifer Wharton. (All opinions are my own and are not meant to reflect the opinions of the entire judging panel.)

Opening lines: "The way I look at it, you can divide all the people in the world into two categories: the loud ones who shout about who they are and what they do, and the quiet ones who just are and do."

The Story: Calli Gold is in 5th grade, the youngest of three siblings. Her brother is a basketball star. Her sister is in a highly competitive synchronized skating team. And her parents live vicariously through their successful children, because the are GOLDS!!

Callie can't find her place in this family. During the past two years, she's tried "gymnastics, ballet, soccer, baton twirling, violin, and even origami... (and been) a big disappointment in everything." Her dad says she'll make her mark (after all, she's a Gold), but Callie isn't sure.

It turns out that Callie's special talent is for friendship. She teams up with Noah Zullo, the second-grade pariah, in her school's Peer Helper Program, and together they have the most successful booth in the show. Callie has made her mark, after all.

Why I Loved This Book: Callie's voice. First person present is hard to pull off, and Hurwitz does a masterful job. And the humor. This book is funny, but also has loads of heart. If you have a tender-hearted 5th grader of your own, this would be a super-duper novel for them to enjoy.

Michele Weber Hurwitz has a great website, where you can learn about her favorite color, her family, and her road to publication. Check it out HERE.

(I do plan a Thanksgiving post, but just in case the Don makes me cook dinner for the entire clan, I'll say an early HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you all now. Thanks for making Middle Grade Mafioso part of your reading life.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

YAY!! C. Alexander London's Got A Book Birthday Today!!

A while back, the Don and I were captivated by C. Alexander London's We Are Not Eaten By Yaks. (See my interview with the author HERE.)

Now, to paraphrase the Goodreads blurb, siblings Oliver and Celia Navel are on another adventure, We Dine With Cannibals, traveling from the ruins of ancient temples to the shadowy forests of the Amazon. They'll need all their reality TV survival skills when they ride a llama, race the rapids, and even fly an airplane! If that's not enough excitement for you (it is decidedly too much excitement for Oliver and Celia), they'll be forced to learn the proper etiquette for a cannibal feast and confront the strangest and most brutal rite of passage ever devised by human imagination: dodgeball.

To celebrate his book birthday, C. Alexander London is teaming up with SMITH Magazine’s Six-Word Memoir Project and wants to know about your most accidental adventure. (Further details HERE) He'll be selecting a random mini-memoirist to win a Kindle!! Don Vito's 6-worder: Purveyor of fine Italian concrete galoshes. Oy Vey!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: NERD CAMP

Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum, 2011) Nominated for the Cybils by Jennifer Donovan of 5 Minutes for Books. (All opinions are my own and are not meant to reflect the opinions of the entire judging panel.)
Isn't this a great cover? Letters made from books, protractors, electrical circuits, and a campfire broken into chemical constituents. 10-year-old Gabe loves learning and logic, and he is super excited about going to the Summer Centre for Gifted Enrichment. Until, that is, he meets his hip, cool, and soon-to-be stepbrother, Zack.

Zack thinks kids who want to study over the summer are geeks and nerds. In his desire to impress Zack, Gabe does all he can to cover the fact that he too is spending six precious weeks at "nerd camp." The novel traces Gabe's growth from a kid who is worried about what people think of him, to a kid who embraces his intellect and is proud of his geek-hood.

I loved this sweet story, and empathized completely with Gabe. Too many high-achieving kids endure putdowns like "nerd" and "geek"--but, come on folks, we know who really runs the world after high school. Bill Gates would have thrived at a camp like this.

Elissa Brent Weissman is a writer to watch. You can find more about her at her cool website, HERE.

(Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, the brainchild of Shannon Messenger, makes Mondays truly marvelous. You can find other MMGMers at my sidebar. And Happy Reading!!)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gary Paulsen: Not Just A Hatchet Man

Introducing Two Books by Gary Paulsen:

Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice, and Destructive Properties of Deception
(Wendy Lamb Books, 2011) Nominated for The Cybils by Mary McKenna Siddals. (All opinions are my own and are not meant to reflect the opinions of the entire judging panel.)

Story: Kevin doesn't mean to make trouble when he lies. He's just really good at it, and it makes life so much easier. But as his lies pile up, he finds himself in big—and funny—trouble with his friends, family, and teachers. He's got to find a way to end his lying streak—forever.


Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice, and Destructive Properties of Greed
(Wendy Lamb Books, 2011) Nominated for the Cybils by Kristy.

Story: Kevin struggled to overcome his knack for lying in Liar, Liar, and now he's back for another round of mayhem and misunderstandings in this financial comedy of errors. In Kevin, Gary Paulsen has created an appealing teen boy character who is just as human and fallible as his readers.

The Mafioso's Take: Gary Paulsen could write a shopping list on the back of a brown paper bag, and I'd still pay good money to read it. He has incredible range--from Hatchet to Harris and Me--and these two slim volumes didn't disappoint.

The covers, however, might suggest they are for younger readers. They are not. Kevin, the MC, is an 8th-grader, besotted by The World's Most Beautiful Girl, Tina Zabinski. In order to show Tina he's date-worthy, Kevin concocts all kinds of schemes. In Liar, Liar it's all a web of lies. In Flat Broke, he starts a house-cleaning business, a baking business, and runs several poker games. Kevin's voice is exuberant, and he bases all his strategies on his reading of military campaigns and business books. Of course we readers know he's going to come a cropper, which is part of the fun.

Kevin has a family which is intact, yet flawed, and a best friend, JonPaul, who is a germaphobe jock (funny, even though it stretches credulity.) Kevin also babysits a four-year-old called Markie who calls Kevin "Dutchdeefuddy" which means "best most favorite buddy in the world forever." It's touches like this that make this an ultimately heart-warming series.

Highly recommended for 5th grade on up. (These would be great titles for reluctant boy readers in the middle grades, too.)

For other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, please see the excellent bloggers on my sidebar. Happy Reading!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Come To The Party...

...over at PROJECT MAYHEM today.

I'm joined by five of my fave bloggers: Natalie Aguirre, Robyn Campbell, Barbara Watson, Joanne Fritz, and Brooke Favero, discussing their top historical middle grade reads.

And the post starts off with a bang, in honour of poor old Guy Fawkes. Come on over, the popcorn's popped!