Book Review: Six of Crows

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 1.38.25 PMSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is an excellent book for the upcoming holiday weekend. It’s an absorbing YA fantasy about six outcasts tasked with a seemingly impossible rescue mission.

I always love a good heist story and this one has all the elements: a diverse team with complementary talents, a complicated and ingenious plan, and a bunch of unforeseen obstacles.

Six of Crows is darker than the books I usually review on Imaginary Friends, but I didn’t hesitate to give it to Blaine. He’s always had a bloodthirsty imagination for his age, though. I’d recommend it for teens and adults, not for younger kids.

This book has multiple viewpoint characters and a complex setting. If you find yourself a little confused at the beginning, keep reading. Once you get into it, you won’t be able to put it down. Best of all, if you finish it before the long weekend is over, the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is equally captivating.

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Book Review: Stormbreaker

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 3.26.40 PMIf you like spy novels and movies as much as Blaine and I do, then you’ll enjoy Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. It’s the first book in a series featuring 14-year-old Alex Rider, pressed into service by MI6 after the death of his uncle.

An Egyptian millionaire has promised to give tens of thousands of his company’s revolutionary new computer to schools across England. The Prime Minister is thrilled, but the offer may be too good to be true. MI6 sent Alex’s uncle to investigate, but he was killed before he could report his findings. Now Alex must go under cover to complete his uncle’s mission.

Stormbreaker is a fast-paced story and a quick read. Like a James Bond movie, though, it requires the willful suspension of disbelief. Alex’s incredible bravery, the villains’ incredible dastardliness, and the outlandish action sequences are all part of the fun. Another part of the fun is trying to figure out how Alex will use his cool teen spy gadgets (such as a Game Boy that is also a fax/photocopier, x-ray device, bug finder, and smoke bomb). And I’ve written about Chekhov’s gun before, but this book has the first Chekhov’s Portuguese man-of-war that I’ve ever seen. Pretty cool.

There are ten books in the series so far, and the 11th book is due out in October.

Scary Stories

5EA4357D-6396-4989-8548-2F0B9AD0777BWe have just one week of summer vacation left. Time for a few more late nights reading scary stories under a blanket…

This summer, Larrabee has discovered the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine. They’re horror/thriller stories for kids ranging from the mildly creepy to the downright terrifying.

There are 62 books in the original series published in the 90s and dozens more in the later spinoff series. Some are still in bookstores, and you can find the rest in libraries, used bookstores, and on your brother’s shelves.

Larrabee says both The Haunted School and Ghost Beach will make you break out in cold shivers. And I think It Came From Beneath the Sink! still gives Blaine nightmares. Do you have a favorite Goosebumps book? Or another scary story that keeps your kids up at night?

Book Review: Fuzzy Mud

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 9.50.31 AMFuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar is a suspenseful story about middle school friends and enemies and about biotechnology gone awry.

Tamaya always walks home from school with her older neighbor, Marshall. Then, one day he insists on taking a shortcut through the woods to avoid a boy who has challenged him to a fight. Tamaya knows that the woods are off limits, but her mother has forbidden her to walk home alone, so she follows Marshall. And she comes across some fuzzy mud…

Interspersed with the compelling kids’ stories are excerpts from the Senate’s secret hearings on the technology that led to the fuzzy mud. In addition, Sachar uses equations to show the ominous doubling of the population of microbes.

Larrabee and I both enjoyed this one, although neither of us would rank it as our favorite book by Louis Sachar. That honor goes to Holes for me and Sideways Stories from Wayside School for Larrabee.

Storytelling with Rory’s Story Cubes

IMG_6150When my kids were little, we used to make up stories in the car all the time. Blaine’s stories featured a ghost named Spookella with poor impulse control. (She always had to push the red button!) Larrabee’s had a penguin named Ping and a python named Pi who would travel through a portal to a faraway place or time and find themselves with new and useful superpowers.

Larrabee and I have recently rediscovered the fun of car stories thanks to the Rory’s Story Cube app. We have a set of physical cubes too, but the app is perfect for stories on the go. You just shake the phone or iPad to roll the cubes, look at the nine random images, and let your imagination take over.

Sometimes the juxtaposition of images gives us a funny idea for a character. For example, a clock followed by an eye became a one-eyed clock — or Cyclocks.

A lot of the resulting stories have a crazy dream logic. “And then the arrow went through a keyhole. And then it slid down a rainbow. And then…” The best ones, though, have a little more structure. Inspired by images of a turtle and a smiley face, Larrabee told an Are You My Mother?-style story recently about a turtle who asks, “Why do people smile?” I hope he’ll write it down.

Book Review: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 9.48.12 AMI recently finished reading Jonathan Auxier‘s Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes aloud to Larrabee. It’s a long fantasy adventure–just right for lazy summer evenings.

When the story begins, ten-year-old Peter Nimble is a blind orphan forced into a life of thievery by his cruel master. One day he steals a box from a mysterious haberdasher. The box contains three pairs of magical eyes: gold, onyx, and emerald.

The gold eyes transport him to the Troublesome Lake of Professor Cake. There, he learns that he’s been chosen for a quest. Sir Tode, a knight trapped in the body of a cat and a horse, is to be his companion. His only clue is a message in a bottle–a call for help that may come from the Vanished Kingdom.

So, the two sail away into a marvelous adventure. Larrabee enjoyed trying to predict the plot’s many twists and turns. He also appreciated the battle scenes.

Thank you to Anne-Marie for the recommendation!

Book Review: Ghost

Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 3.19.42 PMGhost by Jason Reynolds is a great book. I raced through it in a single sitting. But I haven’t convinced either of my boys to read it…yet.

They should read it, though. They’d like the narrator and main character, 7th grader Castle Cranshaw (aka Ghost). He’s funny, flawed, observant, and big-hearted. His father is in prison. His mother works long hours in the hospital cafeteria while also studying to be a nurse. Despite his best efforts, he often gets into trouble at school. He loves sunflower seeds and world records. He can tell a compelling tale. And he can run.

They’d also like it because they like sports stories. Even though the sport in question is track (and not baseball), they’d enjoy the descriptions of the practices and the interactions between Ghost and his teammates and coach. Like the best sports stories, this one has its inspirational moments.

At one point, Ghost asks his coach what he hoped track would do for him. His coach replies: “Show you that you can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.”