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Sunday Book Review: “Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe,” by Preston Norton; “The Perfect Secret,” by Rob Buyea; “It Wasn’t Me,” by Dana Alison Levy; and “Inkling,” by Kenneth Oppel

December 23rd, 2018

“Nothing is really so very frightening when everything is so very dangerous”

― Gertrude Stein

Misc., babeee!

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

New classic, just like that… “Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe,” by Preston Norton (Hyperion, 2018, middle school & high school readers, 410 pages, $17.99). Cliff Hubbard doesn’t want anyone to get too close. Nicknamed “Neanderthal” because of his size (6’6″ tall, 250 pounds at age 16), grieves for his dead brother, is ridiculed by the other students at his high school, is damaged daily by his abusive father, while cherished by his mother, who is trying to get a better life for them. In spite of it all? He’s an amazingly good person, who wants better for his mom, himself and those around him.

Chapter One

“There are three rules to high school irrevocably inscribed within the interstellar fabric of the universe.

Rule number one: It’s all bullshit.”

This novel has replaced “Catcher in the Rye” for me as my new favorite teenage angst book. It’s brilliant, well-written, and thoughtful.

“The Perfect Secret” is Rob Buyea’s sequel to “The “Perfect Score.” (Delacorte Press, 2018, ages 9-12, 364 pages, $16.99.) The kids from Lake View Middle School — Gavin, Randi, Scott, Trevor and Natalie — are back for another adventure, this time hoping to patch up the relationship between the mother/daughter duo who teach at their school. Buyea knows kids — he has taught third- and fourth-grade, plus high school biology, and was also a wrestling coach. His dialogue and stories will speak to young readers.

“It Wasn’t Me,” by Dana Alison Levy (Delacorte, 2018, ages 10 and older, $16.99), is a new one on my shelf. A prank goes wrong, a student’s photography project is damaged, and five other students claim, “It wasn’t me.” A la “The Breakfast Club,” we have the Nerd, the Princess, the Jock, the Screw Up, the Weirdo and the Nobody.

“Inkling,” by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 8 and older, 256 pages). Extraordinary children’s book by Oppel and Smith, both Toronto, Canada residents. It’s about an artist father, who has creative block; a son who is faltering because he can’t create the art he needs to for a school project, and a sister, who has Down Syndrome and is needing attention. They all miss Mom.

Reminds me of “Crenshaw,” the Katherine Applegate book, which is an outstanding read, too. Both are good titles for grabbing the reluctant readers.

Bon appetit, babies. Happy holidays, and here’s to a grand 2019!

WM

Misc., babeee!

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Saturday Book Review: Rick Riordan Presents “Aru Shah and the End of Time,” by Roshani Chokshi; plus “The Isle of the Lost,” by Melissa de la Cruz, Robert Venditti & Kat Fajardo; and “Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas: A Petrifying Pop-Up for the Holidays’”

December 8th, 2018

Halloween Books

(That dog loves to be read to. Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Book reviews! Fun stuff.

This is part of the Rick Riordan Presents series. “Aru Shah and the End of Time: A Pandava Novel, Book One” by Roshani Chokshi (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, 355 pages, $16.99). Chokshi, who also wrote “The Star-Touched Queen” and “A Crown of Wishes,” has written a great young adult novel that I’m hoping is turned into a film someday. Oh, wait! Looks like Paramount Pictures landed the rights.

Our heroine, Aru, plays kind of fast and loose with the truth. Her schoolmates find her out when they discover she’s working at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture (where her mother is curator) and not taking a fancy vacation like she told them she was. They don’t believe that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed and here, our story begins. Great to read a book that focuses on Hindu mythology, with an Indian girl as the main character.

The next book in the series, “Aru Shah and the Song of Death” will be released in April, 2019.

“The Isle of the Lost,” by Melissa de la Cruz, adapted by Robert Venditti, with art by Kat Fajardo, and lettering by Leigh Luna (it’s a labor of love, this one) is a very cool graphic novel. (Based on the “Descendants” novel, from Disney-Hyperion, but of course, 2018, $21.99). Nice art — all purples, greens and reds — that rises off the pages and invites you in. The plot is a little all over the place, but I think I’m the only one who’s going to have a problem with that, not Disney fans. A lost scepter; a big cast of familiar characters; Diablo (Maleficent’s evil raven); Dr. Facilier, the strange MC — it’s good fun. The story: Disney villains and their family members are given the heave-ho from the Kingdom of Auradon and sent to the Isle of the Lost.

Things get weird.

Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas: A Petrifying Pop-Up for the Holidays” was just released (Disney Editions, 2018, $65). Matthew Reinhart worked hard on this one, and it’s amazing. Save it for the teenagers and grown-up “Nightmare” buffs; keep it on the shelf and only let the babies admire it under supervision. It’s an outstanding work of art.

Bon appetit, babies.

WM