Review: 3 Below

Cover © Scholastic Press

Number three in my “Week in Review” is a book by our old friend Patrick Carman. It’s the second book his new Floors series, 3 Below.

If you haven’t read the first book, here’s a quick overview: Leo’s dad is the maintenance man of the Whippet Hotel, a strange, eclectic, and very expensive hotel on a piece of prime real estate in the big city. It was created by Merganzer Whippet, an inventor and mostly-sane-person-with-crazy-ideas. The hotel is in danger of being taken over, and with Merganzer missing, it’s up to Leo and his bellhop friend Remi to save the day. With some help from the ducks that live on the roof.

Yeah, it’s pretty wild.

Book 2 has the hotel yet again in danger of take over (that real estate really is prime), Merganzer once again absent, and Leo and Remi once again tasked with saving the day. However, this time the answers lie below, in previously undiscovered basement floors–the heart of this crazy hotel.

Floors reminds me a lot of Roald Dahl. It is wild, crazy, and a lot of fun. Each of the floors have different features and rooms. There’s a farm room, a pinball room, a cake room, a cave room. Down below is a jungle, a mad scientist, and a strange system of gears. Everything is very creative and fantastical, which makes Floors a great series worth reading.

As you know, Patrick Carman writes some interesting books, featuring online videos and such. Floors is just a regular book. It’s great without the extra media, and it also shows Mr. Carman’s creativity and versatility as a writer.

I liked Book 2 just as much as the first one, and Mr. Carman definitely leaves us hanging a bit, so I’m sure a Book 3 is in the works.

I’ve got Books 1 and 2 in Room 3. Check ’em out!

Book 1 book trailer!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACId2VzTT9s]

Keep reading!

3 Below [Floors #2]

By Patrick Carman

240 pages

Genre: Fantasy; mystery; wacky

Source: NetGalley, and then a librarian friend picked me up an advance copy at ALA

On shelves September 1 , 2012

Review: Amulet 5 (+ the rest)

Cover © Graphix

So, after just reviewing Zita and comparing it to Amulet, here I am reviewing the latter for the second of my “Week in Review!”

First off, if you haven’t picked up Amulet, by Kazu Kibuishi, it needs to be on your list. It and Bone are the epic fantasies of the graphic novel realm.

Amulet centers on a young girl, Emily, who discovers a powerful, magical stone and is suddenly thrust into a strange parallel world. Then, she finds out she is the one who is supposed to save it. The series is action packed and mysterious, full of deception and grudges, a true good-versus-evil story, but one where it is quite unclear who (or what) exactly is good, and who’s evil.

Volume 5 fells very much like a connector story–like the calm before the storm. It reminded me of Harry Potter 6 in that way. Or the beginning of HP7. Not much happening, but a huge build up for what comes next.

I think Amulet is one of the most beautiful graphic novels written for kids. There are some stunning, sweeping layouts that will knock your socks off. The colors are amazing and the detail shows what a great talent Mr. Kibuishi is.

I would say to go out and find Volume 5, but what I really want to say is that if you haven’t read Amulet, you MUST. It is an absolute must-read for any graphic novel fan, for any sci-fi/fantasy fan, and, I think, for any kid. It was pretty popular during our graphic novel month last year, and I’m sure it will be a hit again during Graphic Novelember.

Mr. Kibuishi plans eight volumes in this series. Can’t wait for the next one. You can find Books 1-4 on the graphic novel shelf in Room 3, and I’ll be picking up Book 5 in the first Scholastic Book Order.

Keep reading!

Amulet, Volume 5: Prince of the Elves

By Kazu Kibuishi

208 pages

Genre: Science fiction

Source: NetGalley

On shelves September 1, 2012

Review: Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

Cover © First Second

I didn’t quite meet my goal of a review a week this summer. Ah well. However, there are a ton of good books coming out in the beginning of September, so I’m dubbing this week my “Week in Review,” and trying to get you a review a day Tuesday through Friday. So, off we go!

Here’s another great futuristic, science fiction, kid-pulled-out-of-this-world-and-thrown-into-another adventure, a la Amulet.

Ben Hatke‘s first book in this graphic novel series, Zita the Spacegirl, was really entertaining. Lots of humor, a clever story, and a healthy sense of adventure. The second book in the series, The Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, is just as funny, just as clever, and maybe even more adventurous. Just what we’re looking for in a second book!

I think it’s inevitable that Zita will be compared with Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series. But I think there’s something that sets them apart. I think Zita is lighter, though darkness does creep in at the corners, sometimes. But Zita as a character is different, lighter, as well. She is a very kind girl, who sacrificed herself to save her friend. She finds herself a sudden celebrity, causing all sorts of problems, though all she wants is to get home. All of the friends she picks up along her journey are castoffs, rejects from a futuristic society. They haven’t known much kindness, but Zita accepts everyone for what and who they are, confident that no harm can come from being kind.

I like that.

As graphic novels become more and more popular, there will be many great ones, and a few duds. Zita definitely fits into the “great ones” category. It seems set up for a long run. I’m looking forward to Book 3!

You can find Book 1 on the graphic novels shelf in Room 3.

Keep reading!

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

By Ben Hatke

224 pages

Genre: Science fiction, adventure

Source: NetGalley

On shelves September 4, 2012.

Review: Liar & Spy

Cover © Random House Children’s Books

Though I love reading, there aren’t many books that I want to start again as soon as I finish. Rebecca Stead‘s When You Reach Me was one. We’ve read it for Guys Read. Actually, I practically read it twice the first time, since I was constantly flipping back to reread parts. So, when I saw that Ms. Stead has a new book coming out, I was pretty excited.

Liar & Spy is about a boy, Georges (silent ‘s,’ like Georges Meliés) forced to move fifteen blocks to a new apartment. A lot of his life is the same. His school, his hangouts. But he’s still in a new place for him. And there’s strange things going on, like a weathered note in the basement advertising a “Spy Club.” Then things really get mysterious.

There are a few things that I really love about Rebecca Stead’s writing. First, I love her characters. They are always layered and deep. Georges meets two kids in his building, Safer and his sister, Candy, who are clever and often quite funny.

Second, I love the little details Ms. Stead includes. The best example is Georges’ bed in his old house, which was built from an old fire escape. I wonder if the author has seen a bed like this, or heard of one. It’s such a fun thing to include.

Last, I love the mystery. When You Reach Me was chock full of clues and cleverness. Liar & Spy is much more subtle. There are definitely some strange things going on, but it’s pretty murky exactly what. I thought I had things figured out, but I guessed wrong. I love a book that keeps me thinking. Of course, I also have a hard time putting those books down, and then I don’t get much done.

If you liked When You Reach Me, or if you like books that are mysterious but not necessarily “detective-y,” then Liar & Spy is a great choice. Check it out!

Keep reading!

Liar & Spy

By Rebecca Stead

192 pages

Genre: Contemporary realistic fiction; mystery

Source: NetGalley

On shelves August 7, 2012 (tomorrow!)

Review: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales

Cover © Amulet Books

Well, I haven’t quite written a review a week this summer. Sorry about that! But there are a lot of really great books coming out in August and September, so hopefully I’ll get more out there for you. Starting now!

We have here a new graphic novel series from Nathan Hale. You might know of him if you read Rapunzel’s Revenge. That one was written by his sister, Shannon, and drawn by Nathan. This new series is sort of a nonfiction/historical fiction mix, and it’s both written and drawn by Nathan.

Two books come out in a few days, and I had a chance to read them both.

The first is One Dead Spy. It is about the revolutionary Nathan Hale. No, not the author. The spy! That’s right. Nathan Hale, author, wrote these books, and the first one he wrote was about Nathan Hale, spy. Confusing and kind of awesome.

In the first book, we are introduced to Nathan Hale, spy, as he is about to be hanged for spying on the British during the Revolutionary War. To delay his execution, he tells his British captor and the hangman the story of his time during the war. The book ends up as a sort of combo biography and informational book.

The second book, Big, Bad Ironclad!, is still told by Nathan Hale, spy, who is still awaiting execution with his British captor and hangman, but this time he tells the story of the iron plate-covered ships first put to use during the American Civil War. Both the North and the South had their versions, and they were fearsome machines in an era when most ships were still made of wood.

Cover © Amulet Books

I really enjoyed both of these books. They do a great job of balancing a lot of history with humor (mostly provided by the hangman–he’s a goofball), a little bit of dramatic license, and a fantasy element that allows Nathan Hale, spy, to know about all of history, and delay his execution by telling the tales.

I also love that Nathan Hale, author, embraced his famous namesake. How funny that it is Nathan Hale [spy]‘s Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale (author). The title of the series has a fun double meaning.

These books would be great for kids who are interested in history. I could see them being a stepping stone to great nonfiction books, such as those by Jim Murphy. I’ll definitely be looking to get these for Room 3.

Keep reading!

One Dead Spy

Big, Bad Ironclad!

By Nathan Hale

128 pages each

Genre: History, biography, historical fiction, I guess a little fantasy, too

Source: NetGalley

On shelves August 1, 2012

Summer reading post

We’ve been out of school for four-and-a-half days. How many books have you read?

I’ve read 5, if you don’t count picture books with my son and daughter. That’s more than a book a day!

If you count picture books, I’ve read 26. That’s more than 5 books a day!

I love summer.

This post is for letting us know which great books you’ve devoured over the summer. I’ll keep you updated here, and I’d love to know what you’re enjoying!

Keep reading!

Review: The Prince Who Fell From the Sky

Cover © Random House Children’s Books

So, here we go with my first summer review. I hope to have one of these up for you guys at least twice a month, but we’ll see how it goes. I already have some scheduled for the end of the summer.

What we have here is the definition of a cool book. John Claude Bemis has done some great work with The Prince Who Fell From the Sky. See if you can resist this brief summary: It is the future. All humans have disappeared from the earth. The forests are ruled by wolves, and the ruins of cities are strange and dangerous. But what’s this? Some relic crashing from the sky? A human boy emerging from the wreckage? Surely he must die. But…

So begins the journey of a boy, a bear, a rat, and a dog as they try to bring to safety one who could upset the delicate balance of this futuristic world.

I really, really liked this book. Everything was written from the perspective of animals, who had been without human influence in their living memory. Descriptions of “relics” and misguided explanations of human technologies where puzzling and entertaining. It was fascinating to try to figure out what the animals were encountering. It was probably equally fascinating for Mr. Bemis to imagine how to describe everyday things from the perspective of a being with no memory or understanding of them.

I think you’ll love this book if you like adventure or science fiction. I could definitely see reading this book in Guys Read when it hits paperback. Lots of topics for discussion. If you’re stuck for a book to read this summer, this would be a good pick!

Keep reading!

The Prince Who Fell From the Sky

By John Claude Bemis

272 pages

Genre: Adventure, science fiction, animals, quests

Source: NetGalley

On shelves now