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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I Nearly MIssed This One! YA Pick: Trouble Is a Friend of Mine

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
by Stephanie Tromly
Kathy Dawson Books
334 pages
ISBN: 9780525428404

Watch a teen review


Praise for Trouble Is a Friend of Mine:
“In what reads like a combination of Veronica Mars and The Breakfast Club, debut author Tromly creates a screwball mystery with powerful crossover appeal.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This is one of those rare books that promises something unique and actually delivers beyond expectation. At least one copy belongs in every young adult collection—maybe even two or three. Once the word gets out, this book will fly off the shelves.”—VOYA, starred review

“Fast-talking, suit-wearing Digby is an exasperating teenage Sherlock—sharply observant, impatient with social niceties, and unafraid of authority figures….Fans of Veronica Mars and Elementary will find much to like here…Zoe’s sarcastic first-person narration is fresh and funny…an offbeat and entertaining caper.”—Kirkus

“With snappy prose and wry humor alongside the gritty crime, this nod to noir moves as fast as Digby talks… An engrossing and satisfying read…[that] encourages readers to dig between the lines and see truths that even Zoe and Digby, in all their sardonic observations, can’t quite spell out.”—BCCB, starred review

“A fast-paced story….Readers will find a sharply drawn character in the irrepressible Zoe, who’s as dubious about Digby’s methods as she is curious about whether or not she can live up to his daredevilry.”—SLJ

“With acerbic banter and a healthy dose of high-school high jinks, screenwriter Tromly weaves together traditional elements of teen stories to create a Breakfast Club for a new century.”—Booklist

My Review:

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine was marketed as a cross between Veronica Mars, Sherlock and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," so I was intrigued right away and had high hopes for a great read. I wasn't disappointed and readers won't be either!

Philip Digby is that weirdly cool nerdy kid who everyone knows but isn't exactly close friends with probably because they couldn't keep up with his intellect. They admire his aplomb, his ability to finesse a situation, his benign smile, his ability to tell tall tales and get away with them, and his audacity to fight authority and win before authority  even knows they were in a fight.Whip smart, ever so random in his observances and utterances, Sherlock Holmes smart, utterly devilish,  charming, and dazzling in his brilliance, Digby befriends Zoe. Actually befriends is not the right word. He wiles his way into her life and Zoe, a little bored and a lot friendless, is confused as to why she's suddenly Digby's sidekick and a willing if confused  Dr. Watson to his witty and biting Sherlock Holmes. A cute football playing jock named Henry joins the two and soon the  trio are searching for a missing girl.  Eight years  earlier, Digby's younger sister vanished, and he's hoping if he finds what happened in the recent disappearance, he can find his sister.

I can't say enough about Digby;  he is an enchanting fellow. He is masterful at controlling the situation and keeping things on a strictly need to know basis. He has a plan to bust a drug ring and find out where the missing girl or girls are. Digby is he master of the understatement and a genius at linguistics. He takes jibs at Zoe, aka Princeton, teasing her for her clothing choices, her lack of friends, her boring life, and her wanting to attend an expensive private school. Readers later learn that Digby's home life is...well...strange!

As Zoe crushes on cute Henry, who has a mean girl cheerleader girlfriend, she realizes her feelings for Digby are more than friendship. Zoe has her share of funny lines. When she sees Henry's toned stomach, she says, "Who knew a sixteen-year-old boy who wasn't a werewolf fighting sparkly vampires could have a six-pack of abs?"

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine has a great trio of characters and lead "actors"  Digby and Zoe are sheer comic gold. After finding the bad guys, not alerting the cops, getting taken hostage, being thrown into a cellar, being held at gunpoint, finding tons of explosives and Zoe coming face to face with her biggest fear: her mother's new sleepover boyfriend, Zoe and Digby make a plan to free themselves from a car trunk. When bad guy Ezekiel opens the trunk, Zoe will stab him with an epi-pen and Digby will take the gun. While that plan sounds like it will work, what really happens is: the trunk opens, Zoe stabs the bad guy, the bad guy screams, Zoe screams, Digby screams and the trunk is slammed shut again. Zoe tells Digby that he was supposed to get the gun, but Digby says that Zoe grossed him out and he froze. Zoe hit Ezekiel directly in the eyeball with the epi-pen. Laugh out loud funny!

More surprises at the end will leave readers speechless but wanting more of Digby and Zoe.  It's great news that this book is only book one of a trilogy. Readers will have to wait until November for book 2, Trouble Makes a Comeback. What are you waiting for? Grab a copy of Trouble Is a Friend of Mine.

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. Some adult situations: Zoe's dad cheated on her mother and leaves her for a much younger woman, no profanity, no sex, a "hint" of romance.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Baseball Pick: The Kid From Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton

The Kid From Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton
by Audrey Vernick
Illustrated by Steven Salerno
Clarion Books
40 pages
ISBN: 9780544611634

What Reviewers are Saying:

    "An engaging story that reminds readers that “baseball isn’t just numbers and statistics, men and boys. Baseball is also ten-year-old girls, marching across a city to try out for a team intended for players twice their age."
–Horn Book

"Salerno's illustrations, variously rendered in charcoal, ink, and gouache, as well as digital color, lovingly evoke the time period and the settings. Much fascinating information about Edith's long and adventurous life is added in an author's note. A forgotten star shines anew."
–Kirkus Reviews

"[The Kid from Diamond Street] should especially appeal to those who enjoyed Vernick and Salerno’s Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team. The compelling story and energetic illustrations make this an excellent addition."
–School Library Journal

"Salerno’s mixed-media illustrations are a lively amalgam of action and scenic panorama..."

"Choice quotations from [Edith] Houghton bring her personality and love of baseball to vivid life, while Salerno’s mixed-media artwork channels the footloose energy of the Jazz Age..."
–Publishers Weekly

"This timely message about playing simply for the love of the game, as opposed to personal glory or celebrity, comes through loud and clear."

My Review:
Fascinating, full of facts, well researched, easy to read and understand, and entertaining this story of a girl who dared to love the game of baseball and break that "grass" ceiling gaining access into an all male sport is an incredible read and fine addition to any sports section or women's section of your collection and is a must read for sports fans and all young girls.  
In the early 20th century, baseball was an all male sport, but that didn't stop ten year Edith from joining the neighborhood games with her brothers and loving the sport. Edith didn't care that girls weren't allowed to play, she loved the game and would do anything to play. When Edith heard that there was a professional women's team being formed in her hometown of Philadelphia, she tried out for the team. Although only ten years old, Edith outperformed other players. She was added to the team roster as shortstop and played with the Philadelphia Bobbies. The team played in Philadelphia and as far away as Virginia, but Edith didn't care where they played, as long as she could play.
Edith's father was so proud. The press was constantly writing about the Bobbies and the talented "kid." By 1925, the team had gained international attention and they were invited to play against a men's team in Japan--halfway around the world! The team set off by train from Philadelphia to Washington, playing men's teams along the way. They boarded a ship in Seattle and set off for Japan. Talk about culture shock! This was Japan in 1925. Kimonos were worn daily and people traveled by rickshaw. The Bobbies played teams all across Japan for two months, becoming quite famous.
They finally arrived home, and Edith continued her love of the game, playing for other teams and later becoming a major league scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, where owner Bob Carpenter was amazed by her encyclopedic knowledge of the game and players. Edith's jersey and cap from her Japan games are displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame in the Diamond Dreams exhibit.
Mixed media art by Steven Salerno captures the era and the game. Ten year old Edith on the cover captivates  as she rests on the bat, glove in hand, suitcase with travel stickers at her feet. Edith has what my grandmother used to call, "gumption," and that's the finest compliment anyone can receive.
Highly, highly recommended for all collections, sports and otherwise. Early readers-grade 4 and up, and sports fans of all ages.
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Magical Storytelling Pick: Wink Poppy Midnight

Wink Poppy Midnight
by April Genevieve Tucholke
Dial Books
247 pages
ISBN: 9780803740488
"Tucholke walks a fine, spine-chilling line. . .  An eerie, tangled story with plenty of questions: Who can be trusted? Who—or what—pulls the strings? . . . The book keeps readers wondering. Nicely constructed and planned, with unexpected twists to intrigue and entertain.”  

—Kirkus starred review
“A dark, unpredictable mystery that . . . shimmer[s] with sumptuous descriptions and complicated psychologies. . . . Occult accoutrements, descriptions of the wild landscape, and a twisting-turning plot create an uncertain atmosphere that constantly shift readers’ perceptions of who is trustworthy.”
 —Publishers Weekly
From the author's website:


Spring 2016 Kids’ Indie Next List


Amazon Editors' Best Books of the month, March 2016
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Teen Vogue’s Best New YA Books of 2016
PureWow's Best of Spring
Wink Poppy Midnight is that rare book: equal parts magic, mystery, romance and intrigue. Textured and rich, the prose sings off the pages. Tucholke is one fine storyteller; she pulls you in, makes you believe in magic, throws crazy plot twists at you, adds a few red herrings for spice, plays you like a fiddle and then leaves you breathless, confused and delighted. "Every story needs a hero. Every story needs a villain. Every story needs a secret." (from the inside cover). Readers will not see this story's ending coming, and believe me, there's no way to prepare for it--any of it.
Wink is a masterful storyteller who believes, truly believes--to the depths of her being--in fairy tales. Poppy is a mean girl; the girl who seemingly has no heart. She cares nothing for any one and she only acts in her own self-interest. She's a true sociopath. She plays with both Midnight and Wink, toying with their hearts and heads until Wink can bear it no more. Wink convinces Midnight of a plan to bring Poppy down a notch or two.

When their plan goes off the rails, Poppy disappears. Both Wink and Midnight feel guilt, but Wink knows Poppy is still playing a game with them. Wink knows Poppy like she knows herself. Midnight once loved Poppy, and he still smells her perfume in his room. Is she a ghost? Is he seeing things? If she's alive, why won't she come back?

Someone is pulling the strings and someone is lying, but whom? Is it Poppy manipulating others into thinking she is dead? Or is it Wink, the pixie storyteller? Everyone loves Wink, but with her intelligence and creative, whimsical mind, could she be the mastermind for murder? Or is it someone else behind the scenes? Someone Poppy used to love?

Minor characters are drawn into the mystery and add to the suspense. Wink's younger siblings think Poppy has drowned, and Wink might even believe it.

After a chilling séance, an accidental fire burns down the spooky Roman Luck House and the kids escape, everyone except Midnight. Wink fears Midnight is dead, but (spoiler alert) someone or something pulled him from the house. Only Midnight knows what really happened but he's not talking--he has too much to lose.

Heroes and villains are never truly heroic nor truly evil. Sometimes it's hard to tell the good from the bad--unlike most fairy tales where ugly ogres and cackling witches are bad and beautiful princesses and handsome heroes are always good. Wink needs her fairy tales to make sense of her life and she is such a lyrical storyteller, she has all the other kids  believing in fairy magic and heroic quests. When they listen to Wink, they believe in princesses and witches.

Wink Poppy Midnight will haunt you long after you have finished reading. The only thing missing for me was a more gothic setting. This book could have gone southern gothic or gothic romance, but it didn't. Perhaps that is the way the author intended.

Cover art captures magic elements of Wink's stories: a snake, a full moon, a spider's web, an owl, an apple, flowers, a butterfly.
Highly, highly recommended for mature readers. Mature situations. Poppy is quite a seductress.
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Prank Pick: Don't Get Caught

Don't Get Caught
by Kurt Dinan
Sourcebooks Fire
336 pages
ISBN: 9781492630142
Available April 2016

Debut author Kurt Dinan entertains with this prank war book that will keep readers laughing. Max is the normal fly under the radar high school boy who is not the cool kid or the smart kid or the athletic kid or the talented kid. He's the average kid. When he receives an invitation to meet the Chaos Club at the water tower and to "tell no one," he is intrigued and a little excited. Why would the epic and super secret Chaos Club invite him he wonders?

Max arrives and sees other students who received invites. As the kids are figuring out what to do next, they are busted for being on school grounds after hours and for defacing the water tower. Max is not going to take this! He's going to fight back. It's the Chaos Club's fault that he was caught. He bands together with the others to form a new prank group designed to upstage and out prank  the Chaos Club.

The team decides to have a prank off and the loser will pay dearly. Max goes along with the other's pranks, and the team becomes legendary. When the odds are upped, Max gets suspended from school.  Outsmarting the vice principal Stranko is pretty easy, and the kids get away with several hilarious pranks that have the school in an uproar.

Just who is the Chaos Club? Max plans to find out and when he does, he'll be surprised.

Classic bad high school behavior, profanity, mature subject matter.

Recommended grade 9 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Passover Pick: More Than Enough (A Passover Story)

More Than Enough: A Passover Story
by April Halpin Wayland
Illustrations by Katie Kath
Dial Books for Young Readers
32 pages
ISBN: 9780803741263

from the Publisher's page:

"This warm, affectionate story embraces Passover in the spirit of dayenu, and offers a comprehensive glossary—it’s a perfect read for the entire family in anticipation and celebration of the holiday."

My review:

Foods make memories. Your grandma's homemade dumplings, her cat head biscuits (because they were the size of a cat's head), Your aunt's favorite beef stew, potato doughnuts, homemade chorizo. Each food brings back a particular memory. More Than Enough celebrates Passover and how it is celebrated in the Jewish synagogue.

The family gathers at the table, the heart of the home. A song is sung, and father reads from the Haggadah. The children listen to the story of the Jews escaping from Egypt, and the family eats food from the Seder plate, each food symbolizing a part of the story. Children will search for the Afikomen, a hidden piece of matzah, that represents a prize.

Complete with glossary this book not only entertains, it educates. Dayenu is the song that the kids sing and its literal meaning is "It would have been enough." The family counts their blessings at the dinner table as one. This is a sweet story of thanksgiving. Illustrations by Katie Kath bring the characters to life.

For Jewish families tradition is important. More Than Enough will help non-Jews and those who do not celebrate Passover understand the customs, language and tradition.