Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi, 2002

The boy who only knows himself as "Asta's son" has scarcely buried his dead mother before he's branded a wolf's head, one whom anyone may freely kill. Is it because of an overheard conversation between the manor's steward and a nobleman? Or does it have something to do with his mother, and the engraved lead cross which is the only relic she left behind? A meticulously-placed historical adventure. Strongly recommended.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Adventures of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey, 1997

Life imitates art when George and Harold's confiscated comic books fall into mean ol' Principal Krupp's hands -- and a 3-D Hypno-ring falls into theirs. They've created a monster, who thinks he's a hero, and solves crime with bravado and Wedgie Power. But will it be enough to catch bank robbers, thwart Dr. Diaper and his evil robots, and save George and Harold from a life of servitude and/or a pounding from the football team? There's only one way to find out. Strongly recommended -- if you wear underwear.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren, 1950

What's not to like about a child with invincible strength, a fortune in gold pieces, no parents to give her pesky rules, and no social inhibitions? That's what Tommy and Annika think, and everyone who's ever read Pippi is bound to agree. Her unfettered impulsivity, wild exaggerations, and eccentric ways are perfectly balanced by the leisurely, episodic pace of the book -- something I rarely see in contemporary titles. Always strongly recommended for a genial visit to my own childhood, where reading Pippi never failed to satisfy.

Loser, by Jerry Spinelli, 2002

Donald Zinkoff embraces life in a joyful and simple way, but his clumsiness and naievete brand him first as a nobody and ultimately as a loser. His unfolding life and his intrinsic value are painstakingly presented; his ultimate actions made me cry. Slow to start, more character sketch than story, but I came to care deeply for Zinkoff, and will see a bit of him in other so-called "losers."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Holes, by Louis Sachar, 1998

Innocent but faced with the choice of jail, or Camp Green Lake, Stanley Yelnats chooses camp. It's neither green nor a lake -- more of a God-forsaken Texas desert where juvenile delinquent boys dig five-foot holes every day under the Warden's all-searching eye. Destiny, bad luck, broken promises, lipstick, peaches, onions, and foot odor converge and alter forever the fortunes of Stanley, the Warden, and tent-mate "Zero." Modern realism meets wild western mythos; most strongly recommended.