Book Review: Lions & Liars

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 1.28.54 PMLions and Liars by Kate Beasley is a story about a boy who discovers who he really is by pretending to be someone else.

Nothing is going Frederick Frederickson’s way. He thought by the time he got to 5th grade, he’d be one of those kids that other kids want to hang out with. Instead, he feels like just as much of a loser as ever. To make matters worse, his family’s cruise vacation has been cancelled because of a hurricane.

Then, he accidentally ends up all by himself in a boat. After floating down the river all night, he finds himself at a boys’ camp. Instead of asking the counselors to help him get home, he sees his chance to get a fresh start and assumes the identity of a missing camper. At first, he likes his new life as Dash Blackwood. But soon he gets more adventure than he bargained for. The camp, as it turns out, is a disciplinary camp, and the hurricane is heading right towards it.

This book is a good end-of-summer read. It has humor and heart. Larrabee and I both enjoyed it.

 

Advertisements

Book Review: How Oscar Indigo Broke the Universe

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 12.55.05 PMHow Oscar Indigo Broke the Universe (And Put It Back Together Again) by David Teague is a light-hearted fantasy about a boy who isn’t very good at baseball and a watch that can stop time.

Oscar Indigo has more team spirit than anyone else on the East Mt. Etna Wildcats, but he’s never gotten a hit. Then, in the final inning of the championship game, the team’s best player is injured and Oscar is the only player left on the  bench. The coach puts him in to hit with two outs, a runner on first base, and his team trailing by one run.

The situation seems hopeless, but Oscar has a special watch in his pocket. When he’s down to his last strike, he uses the watch to freeze the time while he places his ball just over the outfield fence. The Wildcats win and Oscar is a hero.

But it turns out that hitting the game-winning home run is not as satisfying when you know it’s fake. And, to make matters worse, the universe is now out of whack. Oscar will need to figure out a way to give the universe its 19 seconds back and beat the West Mt. Etna Yankees fair and square if he wants to fix what he’s broken.

Larrabee and I both enjoyed this one. It’s a good read for the boys–and girls–of summer.

Book Review: The Rhino in Right Field

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 9.07.54 AMI couldn’t resist this cover. Stacy DeKeyser, you had me at baseball. Throw in a rhinoceros and I’m definitely hooked.

I started to read The Rhino in Right Field without any idea what type of story it would be. It turned out to be a charming historical novel set in 1948 Milwaukee where the kids play baseball in the city zoo (with a rhinoceros named Tank just behind the right field fence).

Twelve-year-old Nick Spirakis is the son of Greek immigrants, who expect him to work hard in school all week, attend Greek school on Tuesday evenings, and then work in his father’s shoe repair and hat shop on Saturdays. He has his own dreams, though, including entering the “batboy for a day” contest at the local minor league ballpark.

According to the author’s note, the main character is based on her father, and many of the period details are true. What fun!

Book Review: Akata Witch

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 3.26.11 PMAkata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor has been called “the Nigerian Harry Potter.” That’s how I convinced Larrabee to read it, but the comparison doesn’t really capture what I liked most about this fantasy that draws from Nigerian folklore.

Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue is an American-born albino living with her parents and older brothers in Aba, Nigeria. The other kids at school bully her and call her a “stupid pale-faced akata witch” (which is extremely rude).

Then, she learns that she is a Leopard Person with magical abilities. Among the Leopards, being an albino, which she’s always considered a weakness, is a rare gift. As she’s initiated into this new world, she discovers that she and her three friends must stop the evil Black Hat Otokoto and the masquerade Ekwensu.

I loved the magical world of this book with its chittim (money that falls from the sky when you gain knowledge), juju knives, and spirit faces.

Although Larrabee read and enjoyed this book, I would recommend it mainly for kids 12 and older. It might be too intense for younger ones.

This book is the first in a series. The sequel, Akata Warrior, is already available, and a third book is planned.

Book Review: My Brother Is a Superhero

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 11.54.33 AMEleven-year-old Luke Parker is an expert on comic books and superheroes. That’s why it’s SO unfair that Zorbon the Decider chooses his older brother Zack to save two universes from the threat of Nemesis AND gives him six superpowers. Now Zack is Star Guy, and Luke is still just Luke.

It turns out that being a superhero’s younger brother is complicated, especially when the girl next door, Lara Lee, is intent on uncovering Star Guy’s secret identity. Things get even worse when Zack loses his powers and gets kidnapped by an unknown villain. It’s up to Luke, his friend Serge, and Lara to save him.

My Brother Is a Superhero by David Solomons is a clever, funny, fast-paced adventure. Some of the things I liked best about this book:

  • The relationship between Luke and Zack: Luke keeps a list of all the things he can’t stand about his big brother. (Zack’s calling him “child” is #47). But he’s also fiercely loyal to him.
  • Luke’s commentary on things: Luke is the narrator of the story, and he has an interesting way of looking at the world. For example, he describes Lara as “wild and fearless, rushing headlong into danger like a video game character who knows that even if she slips off the edge of the cliff, it’ll be OK because she’ll respawn, good as new.”
  • The saving the two worlds part: I don’t want to give any spoilers, but anyone who likes superhero movies will enjoy the action scenes.

Larrabee’s Aunt Kay and Uncle Christian gave him this book. I have to say, it’s a perfect gift for a younger brother. He read it months ago and loved it. I’m just now reviewing it because he left it in his cubby until the last day of school…

There are three more books in the series so far. Larrabee has read the second one, My Gym Teacher Is an Alien Overlord, and recommends it too. And the next two are on his summer reading list.

Book Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time

Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 10.39.01 AMIf you had a choice between (a) admitting to three of your 7th grade classmates that you’d lied to impress them, or (b) lighting a cursed lamp that your mom had told you not to touch, what would you do?

Understandably, 12-year-old Aru lights the lamp— just for a moment. But in doing so, she releases the Sleeper, a demon who will summon Lord Shiva and bring about the end of time. Now her classmates and her mother are frozen, and she has just nine days to stop the Sleeper.

There is some good news for Aru. She learns that she is the reincarnation of one of the five Pandava brothers from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, so she’s not alone. She’ll have the help of one of her divine siblings, a girl named Mini, and mentor in the form of a pigeon named Subala (or Boo for short). The bad news, though, is that their quest will take them into the Kingdom of Death, where they’ll have to obtain the celestial weapons before their showdown with the Sleeper.

This book was published under Disney-Hyperion’s new imprint, Rick Riordan Presents, and it will appeal to fans of Riordan’s Percy Jackson, Carter and Sadie Kane, and Magnus Chase books. Like Riordan’s books, Aru Shah blends features of modern life and mythology. For example, Aru and her companions find the Night Bazaar of the Otherworld inside a Costco. It also has a good mix of high stakes action and humor (including funny chapter titles).

Larrabee and I both enjoyed it and are eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

A Book-Inspired Outing

After Larrabee finished Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles trilogy, we took a trip to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose. I highly recommend both!

The books, The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire, and The Serpent’s Shadow, make great summer reading books. They have action, danger, humor, and lots of ancient Egyptian gods. Carter and Sadie Kane take turns telling the stories. They’re brother and sister, descendants of powerful Egyptian magicians from the House of Life. Fans of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will like these books too.

It’s always satisfying to find connections between books and real life. Some of my favorites from our museum visit:

  • “So that’s what a crook and flail look like!”
  • “That must be Tawaret!”
  • “Shabtis are real!”

We also found an oversized Senet game, scarab amulets, hieroglyphs, a panel depicting the judging of a soul with the feather of truth, a replica of the Rosetta Stone, and statues of many Egyptian gods who make an appearance in the books. It felt like a treasure hunt.