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The Strange Case of Origami YodaThe Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can see why this one has been so popular at my library: it’s got a great combination of hilarity and depth, it’s short and in an appealing format for more reluctant readers, and it has Star Wars references.

Each chapter is narrated by a different kid, each describing how Origami Yoda helped make a decision. The thing is that Origami Yoda is the creation of one of the oddest kids in the class, the kind of kid that no one would ordinarily listen to. But when he has Origami Yoda on his finger, Origami Yoda gives good advice. One kid wants to figure out whether or not he can trust OY before he (gulp) makes a move with the girl he likes.

I think the format makes this appealing to Wimpy Kid fans – not too many words on a page, illustrations, and lots of jokes, but this has a lot more depth than Kinney’s books, dealing with how the kids treat each other and real consequences to their actions. I’m quite pleased that I talked the bookgroup kids into reading this for June.

Source: my public library system

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The Cardturner: A Novel about a King, a Queen, and a JokerThe Cardturner: A Novel about a King, a Queen, and a Joker by Louis Sachar

I wish I’d reviewed this closer to actually reading it, because it’s an excellent book and deserves a thoughtful review. In short, I loved it so much more than I expected – I even read the optional bridge sections, although I can’t say I always understood them. I loved the narrative style and thought it was perfect for the story, and the characters were just perfect.

The plot took turns I wouldn’t have predicted, and this was mostly successful – there was one thing in the resolution of the story that I enjoyed at the time, but didn’t quite seem to fit in retrospect, and that one plot element is really the only thing holding me back from giving this five stars.

I picked it up when it made SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books this spring.

Source: my public library system

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Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew is one of those character whose short-sightedness never gets pointed out by the author, but who you gradually come to see and flawed but honorable, a man who does the right thing but doesn’t always realize when he’s doing the wrong thing. Through his growing friendship with Mrs. Ali, the village shopkeeper, some of his behaviors and attitudes gradually shift. The humor is dry, the setting nicely vivid, and rest of the cast of characters ranging from horrid to ridiculous to unexpectedly kind. Recommended to people who enjoy relatively slow character and setting-driven stories.

Source: my public library system, picked up after a recommendation from Wallace Books

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The Importance of Being EarnestThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

This hilarious play works remarkably well as an audiobook – the text and the actors’ voices tell you everything you need to know about what’s happening on stage, especially if you’re familiar with the story. I’ve known (and quoted) this play for so long that it’s hard to distance myself from those memories, so newcomers might be confused – I’m not making any promises. But if you aren’t familiar with the play, what are you waiting for? Seriously. “I asked for bread and butter, and you have given me cake.”

Source: my public library system

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Emi and the Rhino Scientist (Scientists in the Field)Emi and the Rhino Scientist by Mary Kay Carson

As always, the Scientists in the Field series provides a fascinating look into the work of scientists – this time, people working with captive Sumatran rhinos. Real-world applications of scientific principles (much more exciting than dry science textbooks) and great photos make the book compelling. Like the others, this book is wordier than many animal books, but the information is mixed in with a narrative that makes the book engaging, and I’d recommend it for fourth grade and up.

Source: my public library

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Clara Lee and the Apple Pie DreamClara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han

This is one of those stories that’s great for kids who can read chapter books, but who don’t want something too long and still enjoy the support of illustrations (which are sweet and straightforward). Although Clara Lee is a third-grader, the content makes it perfect for younger kids as well, those kids who are strong readers early on and enjoy realistic stories. Clara Lee has a great relationship with her grandfather and a not-so-great one with her younger sister, and she starts tracking her Good Luck and Bad Luck as she musters her courage to try out for being Little Miss Apple Pie in the annual festival. She’s got a great, casual conversational tone that engages the reader, and her friendships and relationships with her family members ring true.

Source: review copy from publisher, although I got a library copy to look at the final illustrations.

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Five Flavors of DumbFive Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

I picked this one up after it won the Schneider Family Award in the teen category – for portrayal of the disability experience – and this book is a perfect example of why awards like this are perfect for highlighting books that might not have gotten much buzz but are nonetheless excellent. This one has the hilarious premise of a deaf girl finding herself working as a band’s manager. The first chapter had me hooked – Piper is watching the band play outside her high school, and the descriptions are so fantastic that if you didn’t know the book was about a deaf character, you wouldn’t necessarily notice the absence of auditory descriptions. The set-up provides plenty of tension, as does Piper’s relationship with her family and her baby sister, who’s also deaf but who could have a very different life if her parents can buy her a cochlear implant. Sure, the plot gets a little over the top at points, but the story feels genuine and compelling.

Source: my library system

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I have a new technique for getting myself out of bed in the mornings this week.  It’s not the healthiest technique, and not a good long-term solution, but I actually left the house on time yesterday, so I’m calling it a success.  The name of the technique?  Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants.

Bronwen mentioned them back in March, right before Lent got underway, so I waited until I was doing my “restock on dairy, dairy, and more dairy, oh, and some meat” shopping trip during Holy Week.  Then I snatched them up.  I tried the first one this last Sunday, and I was hooked.  You let them defrost and proof overnight, so it takes a little foresight and commitment.  You can’t defrost one of those puppies and then not  bake it in the morning – that would just be wrong.  So you’re committed to the chocolate croissant.

On Sunday night I thought, what if I made one for breakfast on Monday?  This would require getting up earlier to get it in the oven, but there’s nothing to motivate you at 7 am like the thought of a freshly baked croissant.  It worked!  And today it worked again, giving me a little coffee and a dish of yogurt time while it bakes.  And I’m about to bite into it – chocolately and buttery.  Not quite as flaky as a bakery croissant, but an excellent thing none-the-less.

May 2011
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