Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Books this week

A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Linda Urban, 211 pages, 2007
Twelve-year-old Zoe Elias dreams of playing the piano. She dreams of playing Carnegie Hall in a ball gown and ruby-toed slippers. What has she got to work with? The Perfectone D-60, an organ complete with Rock Beat #3 that her dad found at the mall.

At first, I thought this book was going to be annoying. Zoe's got a downer attitude about the organ. But pretty quickly (once we get to know her dad) things get a lot more fun. What I loved most about this book was that I found myself relating to Zoe -- the no-nonsense attitude, the crazy dreams, the adorable way she deals with the guy who has a mini-crush on her. She was very relateable. And you grow to love the book's other characters, even the organ teacher. The book is written in little chapter-ettes, almost like diary entries, and would work well for ages 9 and up. It's pretty much everything you could hope for in a novel that makes you laugh at life.

Olivia Kidney
Ellen Potter, 155 pages, 2003
Olivia, age 12, and her father have just moved in to a new apartment building. Because she lost her keys, Olivia finds herself locked out of the apartment one day -- to make matters worse, her father is the apartment superintendent, and he's off fixing who-knows-what in some unknown apartment. Unwillingly, Olivia begins to explore the building and finds that its tenants are a little bit loony. But Olivia has a strange secret of her own that only the crazy neighbors can help her figure out.

This was a cute, weird little book. You can't help but get caught up in the narrative from the very beginning. There's just something about sassy Olivia that makes you want to see what's going to happen next. And the neighbors just keep getting weirder and weirder. They, and Olivia's encounters with them, give the book an Alice In Wonderland feel. There are more books in the series, but this one is the first, and works great as a stand-alone.

Crispin: the cross of lead
Avi, 297 pages, 2002
Classic historical fiction. This one is the tale of the boy from the tiny feudal town that finds himself on the road to Great Wexly. About all he's got is a little bit of hope and the new discovery that he actually has a name. The book does a great job of making you feel as if you're in the time period -- I can't help but think that Avi did his job when it comes to research. He also conveys the emotions of his characters very well. Some good swordfights and such punctuate the book at just the right times. Newbery Medal winner.

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman
Louise Plummer, 183 pages, 1995
Kate is seventeen and she's writing a romance novel. The inspiration: her own life and her Christmastime romance this past year. The fallback in case of writers' block: The Romance Writer's Phrase Book, kept at her elbow. You've gotta love Kate's matter-of-fact style and the way she so honestly sees herself. Also, the "revisions" she puts in every once in a while crack me up. Like, should I include this one tidbit? Questions authors stress over, I'm sure. Plus she loves classical music and is way too nerdy about linguistics. The romance is scrumptious, fun, and only as steamy as a teenager's romance should be. Recommended.

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