Book Review: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve

36960177Little League tryouts were this weekend, so I have baseball on my mind. One of the best baseball books I read last year was Al Capone Throws Me a Curve

This book is the fourth in Gennifer Choldenko’s terrific Tales from Alcatraz series.

Like the others, it’s set during the 1930s on Alcatraz Island and stars Moose Flanagan. In this book, Moose is thirteen and a half, and his father is the assistant prison warden.

Moose just wants to spend the summer before 9th grade playing baseball, but his life is never that easy. The captain of the high school baseball team demands Alcatraz souvenirs as the price of allowing Moose and his friend to play. The warden asks Moose to keep an eye on his willful daughter Piper. And his parents often make him responsible for his 17-year-old autistic sister Natalie.

For a good-hearted kid who tries to do the right thing, Moose ends up in some crazy predicaments. His story has both humorous and touching moments. It also has fascinating historical details, but they never bog down the fast-paced plot.

It’s possible to read this book without reading the other three first. Larrabee did. But for me, part of the fun of this book was revisiting the characters and setting that I loved so much from the earlier books in the series.

I’d recommend reading them in order–and then taking a field trip to Alcatraz.

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.

Book Review: Wings of Fire

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Hopefully the birthday boy will take time out from reading Wings of Fire to eat some cake!

In honor of Larrabee’s 9th birthday, I decided to read and review the first book in the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland: The Dragonet Prophesy.

Larrabee is a big fan of this epic dragon saga. He devoured the first eight books in the past few months, and he’s eagerly waiting for the next two. He talks all the time about the characteristics of the different types of dragons: MudWings, SeaWings, SandWings, SkyWings, IceWings, RainWings, and NightWings.

I figured I’d borrow The Dragonet Prophesy so I could see what all the fuss was about… Well, now I’m hooked. I’m still a little behind Larrabee, having only read the first five books, but I can see what he likes about them.

Clay, Tsunami, Glory, Starflight, and Sunny are the Dragonets of Destiny. These young dragons from five different tribes have been raised in a secret cave by the Talons of Peace in the hope that they will grow up to fulfill the prophesy and end the war raging in Pyrrhia. The trouble is that no one can tell them how they are meant to do it.

Three things I like about these books:

  • The dragon characters. Each book is told from the point of view of a different dragon, each of whom has a distinct personality. Larrabee often laughed out loud at the humorous banter among the dragonets.
  • The prophesy. I’ve written before about how much I like an intriguing prophesy that comes true in unexpected ways.
  • The action. These stories are action-packed as the dragonets try stay one step ahead of all the dragons who want to capture and control them. I’ll warn you, though, that these stories are not for the faint of heart. The dragons fight to the death. But kids who’ve enjoyed the Warriors or Shark Wars series will like these books too.