Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book: Legend of the Ghost Dog

Legend of the Ghost Dog by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. Scholastic Press; 2012. 208 pages.

Moving to Nome, Alaska for two weeks is not high on the list of exciting things for any twelve-year-old - especially when you move there with your dad and your eight-year-old brother. Anita's dad had this idea to go on location so he can interview the locals for a book he's writing, so both the kids were taken along since their Mom had to go on a business trip to Japan. At least for this trip, "Tee" as she is sometimes called, was able to take her beagle, Henry to keep her company; it was on a walk exploring the wilderness that Henry got Tee into trouble when he led her to the ruins of an old cabin. Tee soon learns the local legend about what happened at that cabin and along with her new friend, Quin, daughter of the assistant her dad hired to help work on the book, she goes out to discover the truth. What sort of trouble can two girls, a dog and a little brother get into out in the wilds of Alaska while on the trial of a ghost dog?

Readers are treated to both sides of the story - one set in the past, laying out the events and one in the present, trying to solve the mystery of the ghost dog and missing girl. Elizabeth Cody Kimmel did a good job twining the story seamlessly between the past and present. The friendship between the girls is like any other when kids are thrown together by adults - hesitant at first then closer as some sort of test is passed and similar interests are discovered. Kimmel does a wonderful job inserting the character of Jack, the little brother, who like any younger sibling gets in the way and yet must be watched over.

Overall, I enjoyed this book because of its believability - the setting in Alaska made it seem as if you could be there along with Tee exploring the woods, and the ties to Nome's history with the diphtheria epidemic and need for dog mushers to bring the medicine along what is now the trail for the Iditarod was a very nice touch. The way the mystery of a local family's tragedy and search for answers was interwoven with Tee's struggles with her own family in present day made Tee seem more real. Finding out what the ghost dog was trying to tell them really sends chills down your spine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. Wendy Lamb Books; 2012. 192 pages.

Georges (named after Georges Seurat, a famous French Post-Impressionist painter) and his parents are forced to move out of their suburban Brooklyn home into a small apartment when his father loses his job. Georges mother works as a nurse and has picked up additional work shifts in order to support the family, something which Georges understands but has a difficult time comming to terms with as he doesn't get to see his mother as much. Things are also difficult for Georges because his once best friend has left him for the "cool" table at school - the same cool table at which the kids who bully Georges sit.

At this apartment buiding, Georges meets Safer, a boy his own age who has some very strange habits. Safer corrals Georges into joining him in spying on Mr. X, the mysterious neighbor who dressed in black and is always with a briefcase. Safer's schemes to keep an eye on Mr. X get more extreme, to the point of breaking into his apartment, something Georges isn't too sure is a good idea. All of Georges' interactions with Safer leave him questioning what it means to be someone's friend and what it means to lie.

While the book started out in a way that was engaging, the plot turned rather confusing about 2/3 of the way through. When Georges' mother becomes ill, it didn't really fit in with the story whatsoever and felt as if it didn't need to be there. The idea behind the plot is a good one as Georges is a boy who has to discover what it means to be friends with someone who is a little different, but overall there are parts that could be improved, like the big reveal about Mr. X, which felt as if it was a bit of a let-down. Much of the intent behind the plot will most likely go over most reader's heads, leaving them confused as to why things ended the way they did.

Book: The Pirate Girl's Treasure: An Origami Adventure

The Pirate Girl's Treasure: An Origami Adventure by Peyton Leung. Illustrated by Hilary Leung.

A pirate girl receives a letter from her grandfather, telling her of an amazing treasure. The pirate girl sets off on her journey - crossing mountains, exploring caves and sailing on the high seas. The brave pirate girl isn't afraid when the seas and weather get rough and toss her onto a deserted island. This original story is more than just an advernture tale, it celebrates origami.  Hilary Leung's illustrations are whimsical and cleverly include the steps to folding a paper boat and turning it into a shirt.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review of Just a Dog

Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer. Scholastic, Inc; 2012. 144 pages.

When Corey was just a little toddler, his parents allowed him to choose which puppy he wanted out of his uncle's litter of dalmatian-mixes. Corey, being so little himself, was overwhelmed by the herd of pups that ran his way, so instinctively he pointed to the one that was the "mostly" white one and was calmly hanging back. The name Mostly stuck - though when one is only three years old, pronouncing certain letters isn't the easiest of things, so Mostly was dubbed Mosely, had a Mister attached to his name and became a very dear member of the family and was not just a dog.

Mister Mosely, like many dogs has his own quirks, like being afraid of thunder but he also has a big heart, one that was too big for his chest which is why he has a heart-shaped mark. Mosely puts up with a lot and is the gentlest of creatures, allowing Corey's sister to dress him up, color him and cover him with glitter. Corey is very close to his dog learning a hard lesson about life when Mosely gets injured and he has to take care of his special friend. Just a Dog is a wonderful story about a boy and his dog.

This is a very sweet and moving book that is perfect for dog fans of all ages, though some content may be difficult for readers under 8 years of age/3rd grade since the book does deal with the death of a beloved pet. Bauer's writing style draws readers into the story of a very remarkable dog with an uncanny sense of what those around him need and paints a picture in the reader's mind with his descriptions written from the perspective of an eleven year old boy. The book also deals with rather difficult family dynamics as the relationship between the Corey's parents does face several bumps in the road and he is witness to some of those situations, giving readers a glimpse of how an eleven year old interprets and reacts to his parents behavior.

Michael Gerard Butler's Blog