The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Why on earth didn’t I read this when it was first published?! I even checked it out at the time and it didn’t “grab my attention” so I sent it back. Well, I ordered both this and its new sequel for the library and they arrived last week. On Friday morning I had a small group of students and decided to do something a bit different with them-we sat on the carpet and I cracked this open and read aloud. No discussion-just plunging in. The kids loved it and so did I. I took it home to finish it without them. I really don’t understand my hesitation last time, because I was totally caught up in the story and loved seeing the robot seem to have emotions and fit in with the animals and natural landscape and it got very exciting at the end and it was sad and emotional and just all around great. One good thing about waiting until now is that I have the sequel at the ready to read. This was just a lovely, lovely, weird story.

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Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green

A novel in verse and also an award winner this year. I figured that I could read this pretty quickly and that it might be the kind of book that would need a bit of recommending to get students to read, so I brought it home. I really enjoyed this. Macy is a likable character and it’s completely understandable how she feels overwhelmed and confused about her mom’s impending marriage. Instead of it just being the two of them she will be gaining a stepdad and two little sisters and moving into a new house. Macy also happens to be deaf. I liked how the author indicated which words were being signed having them in bold type. The “rainbow goddess” of the title is Iris, her elderly next door neighbor. Iris is also about to move and Macy is helping her pack-mostly her book collections. I, of course, loved Iris telling Macy about Anne of Green Gables and other books I know and love.
Lots of emotions, family issues, and realistic kid behavior.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

I was really looking forward to this as a light romantic romp and while it did live up to that, I just didn’t like it as much as all the good reviews led me to believe I would. I did really like the characters, and I also enjoyed that they were very competent successful professionals-he a doctor, she the mayor of Berkeley’s right hand woman.  The meet-cute (trapped in an elevator, pretend to be a date at a wedding) was charming. There was a TON of sex in this, so much that I actually found it off putting! (have I become a prude? Or did it just detract a bit from the story for me??) I also spent a lot of time wondering how anyone can afford to fly somewhere every other week.

Never Say Die (Alex Rider #11) by Anthony Horowitz

I have a Lot to Say about this book. First, let’s refresh our memories with my reaction to Alex Rider #10, the conclusion to the Alex Rider series. I read that finale when it came out in June 2011 and loved it. Here’s what I had to say. Since that time almost seven years ago I’ve often mentioned that book (“The Final Mission”) as a great example of a series ending. I loved it. It had all the things we liked about the series, it had callbacks, it had drama, and it made some dramatic but very successful choices. It had closure. It went out with a bang.   Then last week I was poking around in Titlewave and saw…Alex Rider #11. What? At first I thought it was another title like the sort of spinoff he wrote about Gregorovich. But nope. It appeared that Alex Rider was back in a new mission. I had a lot of Feelings about this, but had to get my hands on it. And had to read it.  See, here’s the thing. If you finish off a series, why, years later would you say “oops, no, not over, let’s keep going.”? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Did fans clamor for more? Did Horowitz try to write other stories but just couldn’t? Did his publisher say “we need money and these books are successful so please just write another?” And here’s the thing…I loved this one. It was fun, filled with adventure, it was just like a Mission Impossible movie on the page. But I feel like it’s very existence negates book #10 (which I really admired the author’s choices in that one.) It makes much of it seem insincere. It definitely doesn’t feel like this was the plan all along. It feels like a character in a season premiere saying “oh, it was all a dream!” (I’d make a “Who killed JR?” reference, but will you get it?) I feel a bit betrayed by the author. And yet, I know that I will read #12 because I think these books are a lot of fun to read, they are totally preposterous, and I enjoy them very much. (For the record, I think the Stormbreaker movie is a terrific family movie and wish they’d make another one!)

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious

I didn’t even know a second volume of this was out until I saw it on display at the library! I’m not doing a great job of keeping up with sequels lately. I  really enjoyed the first one so dove right into this as soon as I got it. The same humor and same Doreen Green aka Squirrel Girl. As before my favorite parts, like the candy of the book, were the pages of group text between her and the Avengers (no group texts please, asks Black Widow immediately.)  These cameos by Iron Man, Captain America, etc are hilarious. Oh! and Thor. Everything with Thor.

Once again Squirrel Girl and her hearing impaired bestie Ana Sofia are figuring out a Hydra plot when everyone else is oblivious. The mood here is high campiness and amusing commentary about social media manipulation and commercialism and a whole bunch of other stuff made hilarious.

I liked this one just as much as the first and one thing I noticed in here that makes me think of  Hale’s wonderful graphic novel Real Friends, were the bits about Ana Sofia and Doreen trying to figure out how to be good friends (new territory for both of them.)

A real treat.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Oh man, Lisa Jewell is such a good writer. I couldn’t wait to read this, despite it being described as “sad and harrowing” to me. Indeed, as soon as I started it I was feeling very anxious about the possibility of one of my children ever vanishing without a trace. This reminded me a bit of The Lovely Bones. A teenage girl vanishes and yet sometimes she is one of the narrators of the story, telling us exactly what happened to her. The reader knows, but her mother does not. And most of the story is told from the mother, Laurel’s, point of view. Laurel has had a difficult time since her family fell apart from that event, but when she meets Floyd it seems like she’s finally able to find some new happiness in her life. But then….     I wouldn’t call this a psychological thriller or suspense novel, but there were definitely some elements where you were watching everything unfold and wondering what would happen next and there was certainly psychological discomfort.
I think what impressed me most was the way the story unfurled in parts, through different points of view, and how much I really liked and felt for Laurel (who at first seemed, frankly, a bit unlikable to me, but then she had lost her child, so understandable.) I was also fascinated by the character Poppy-a young girl who was inappropriately mature in dress and mannerisms. A delightful child, but at one point described as “entertaining in a gauche kind of way.” [I loved that phrase.]

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

I was really looking forward to reading this and it did not disappoint. I pre-ordered it so we got it the day it was published and Tabby finished it by dinner time. I tried to make it last a little longer for myself.
There was a lot of humor here, but it really was pretty sad (to me). Poor Vera was at a camp she hated, she had trouble fitting in, longed for a friendship and nothing seemed to go right. I was fascinated by the aspects of it being a Russian camp. It seemed like a pretty tough camp, too-no running water?! Boys against girls getting to come up with crazy tasks for the losers?
A great book for fans of Real Friends, Smile, Sunny Side Up.

The ending makes me hopeful that she will write a second book based on her life.
(Don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end!)