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More Fun in the Magical Car

posted by: August 15, 2012 - 7:57am

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies AgainIn Frank Cottrell Boyce's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, we meet The Tootings, your average twenty-first century British nuclear family: there's Dad, recently laid off from his job assembling tiny things; Mum, who works at Unbeatable Motoring Bargains; black-clad teenage Lucy; Jem, who tries to keep his head down; and Little Harry, the baby. Dad's sudden joblessness is a bit worrying to the rest of the family, but not to him. He's a very optimistic type, and rejoices in all the time he suddenly has on his hands to fix things around the house. He's a something of an inventor, like Caractacus Pott, the dad in Ian's Fleming's original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, published in 1964. And like the original dad, his inventions do not work very well.

 

He's driving the family crazy, in fact, and so, to distract him, Mum brings home a decrepit pop-top 1966 camper van for him to fix up. A real rustbucket, but a vehicle from back in the days when any reasonably careful adult could figure out how to fix his or her own car. Dad and Jem take the whole thing apart, assess their needs, and then hit up the local junkyard for parts.

 

What they find at the junkyard, and the effect it has on the camper van when they install it, plus the brief wink to Fleming's original inspiration for the story, are pleasures this writer would not dilute for any reader.

 

Although the story is inventive and picturesque, with billionaire crooks and a visit to Madagascar and a guest appearance on a French reality show called Car Stupide, most of the humor in this very funny novel is a result of the family's interactions with each other. Occasional British terms (lift, motorway), while initially puzzling for young readers, are quickly made clear by the context. Joe Berger's lively cartoon illustrations depict each phase of Chitty's reincarnation in loving detail and bring the resourceful Tootings to life.


 
 

Forecast: Adventure with Chance of Danger

posted by: August 15, 2012 - 7:55am

The Storm MakersJennifer E. Smith’s first middle grade novel The Storm Makers begins on a deceptively peaceful morning on a farm in Wisconsin. It was early when 12 year-old Ruby McDuff spied the tall, disheveled stranger in a wrinkled blue shirt with silver buttons. With her nosed pressed to the glass of her bedroom window, she watched him yawn before strolling out of the family barn and away toward the main road.

 

Miles away from the nearest town and a day’s journey from the blissfully normal suburb where they used to live, the McDuff‘s tiny farm isn’t exactly walking distance from anywhere. So what could explain the stranger with the long legs and bright buttons ambling away down the lane?

 

Once, Ruby would have leapt to wake her twin brother, Simon. Once, they would have made up stories together about where the stranger had come from, or searched together for clues. That was all before, though. Before they had turned 12; before their parents left their jobs to live off the land; before, when Simon and Ruby had been two parts of one whole. These days Simon has been distant in a way he never was before. Alternately restless and sullen, teasing and resentful, Simon’s moods seem as changeable as the weather lately. Even the dogs seem to avoid him.

 

Yet even as they seem to drift apart, avoiding each other this summer seems impossible. An oppressive drought has settled in and boisterous, heated winds toss dust from one end of the farm to the other, coating all who venture outdoors in a fine, powdery grime.  Little can the twins imagine how this drought, the stranger in the barn, and a coming storm will change everything they have known, about their world and about themselves. For Simon is a Storm Maker, one of a group of incredibly rare individuals with the power to influence the weather. And he just may have flared up in time to stop a disaster of untold proportions. That is, if Ruby can protect them both from the dangerous ambitions of the most powerful Storm Maker.

 

A spirited read, The Storm Makers is recommended for readers who enjoy a blend of adventure, magic and mystery.


 
 

Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the WorldIn Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World, eight-year-old Iva Honeycutt has a thirst for adventure. Her summer plan is to make her first big discovery and earn membership into the National Geographic Society. First she has to ditch her girly-girl double cousin, Heaven. Iva’s mother and Heaven’s mother are sisters. They married brothers and planned their families so their children would grow up as best friends. This is great for Iva’s older and younger sisters, who were paired with cousins they liked. Iva is stuck with bossy Heaven, who lives next door and tattles on her constantly. 

 

Iva sets out to find the lost treasure of General Braddock. She finds a treasure map from her great-grandfather Ludwell, changes her name to Iva Honeysuckle and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. Unfortunately, Heaven gets her cousin signed up for Vacation Church School, where Iva earns the distinction of being the first child ever expelled. Will her summer improve? Will Iva join the National Geographic Society? Enjoy finding out the answers in this quirky, fun read by Candice Ransom. The author peppers her story with eccentric characters like Mr. and Mrs. Prindy, who had a falling out thirty-five years ago and have only spoke through third parties ever since. Euple Free is patiently covering his truck in used tinfoil, and Swannanoah Prindy spends her time picking through the trash to offer up as treasures to others.

 

Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World is a light, funny read for the elementary school crowd. Young readers will enjoy the adventure and the freedom Iva has as she sets out to make her mark on the world.  Ransom’s original storytelling is engaging and fun. Illustrations by Heather Ross add to the charm of the story. This one is perfect for summer reading.


 
 

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