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Bicycle Madness
Bicycle Madness
by Jane Kurtz
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 BICYCLE MADNESS is funny, poignant and thought-provoking., July 1 2004
This review is from: Bicycle Madness (Hardcover)
Lillie's world is looking rather grim these days. Her father is struggling to cope with the death of Lillie's mother. He gives her very little of his time and goes around looking like a thundercloud. Lillie misses her mother so much that it hurts. She also has to deal with a daunting spelling bee and a teacher whom she doesn't care for all that much. In fact, as she puts it, "Sometimes Miss Twombley had such a tight voice, it made me wonder if her shoes were squeezing her feet." Pile on to this the fact that Lillie and her best friend Minerva have a fight, and you have a classic recipe for unhappiness.
But then someone very peculiar moves into the neighborhood, a Miss Frances Willard. Before she knows how or why, Lillie becomes friends with this fascinating and incorrigible woman. Miss Frances is determined to learn how to ride a bicycle, a symbol of freedom for women. Meanwhile, Lillie wants to do well in the spelling bee. So the two stubborn friends support one another in their struggles and in other ways as well.
BICYCLE MADNESS is a funny, poignant and thought-provoking story. Beautifully written in Lillie's own 'voice,' we celebrate her victories and suffer her losses along with her. Jane Kurtz has found a wonderful way of conveying to readers how difficult it was to be a forward-thinking woman in the late 1800s. In her lifetime, Miss Frances was considered to be a revolutionary for her behavior and ideas.
Charming black-and-white illustrations that capture Lillie and her world can be found throughout the book. Readers will find a very interesting author's note in the back that describes Kurtz's journey in writing the book, in addition to historical information about Frances Willard and her work.
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At The Sign Of The Sugared Plum
At The Sign Of The Sugared Plum
by Mary Hooper
Edition: Hardcover
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A book I highly recommend., July 1 2004
For Hannah, going to London for the first time and living there with her sister Sarah is the most wonderful adventure she has ever had in her happy but rather sheltered life. Sarah owns and runs a sweet shop, The Sugared Plum, and Hannah has come to help her make the candies and sweetmeats sold in the shop.
Even before Hannah arrives at the Sugared Plum, she receives warnings that all is not well in the great city, warnings that she chooses to ignore. Even after she finds the shop and is reunited with her sister, Hannah chooses to brush off the disturbing remarks that her sister makes about the possibility of a plague spreading through the city. Hannah insists that there are only a few cases of the illness in the more distant slums, and she is determined to stay in London and become a city lady.
However, this state of affairs does not last, and Hannah and Sarah watch and listen with fear and horror as the plague begins its terrifyingly rapid spread through the city. In this time of great misery and suffering, Hannah discovers a good deal about herself and others, about the cruelty and compassion that can lie in the hearts of both friends and strangers. Somehow, Hannah and her sister have to survive this terrible calamity and escape the monster that threatens both their lives.
Beautifully written, gripping and able to transport us into a London of 1665 complete with its sounds, smells and people, AT THE SIGN OF THE SUGARED PLUM is a book I highly recommend.
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Dear America: All The Stars In The Sky: The Santa Fe Trail, Diary Of Florrie Ryder
Dear America: All The Stars In The Sky: The Santa Fe Trail, Diary Of Florrie Ryder
by Megan McDonald
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 21.90

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A thought provoking picture., July 1 2004
Florrie Ryder is having a hard time leaving everything she has ever known behind. Her best friend, her grandparents, and even the grave of her father must all remain in Arrow Rock, Missouri. Florrie, her younger brother Jem, her mother, and her mother's new husband are going to travel down the Santa Fe Trail to begin a new life in New Mexico in the town of Santa Fe. Unlike the Oregon Trail and others that went towards the west coast, the Santa Fe Trail was used mostly by traders rather than by settlers.
Nevertheless, it was still a grueling journey and Florrie witnesses more than her fair share of suffering and hardship. She develops friendships that come to mean a great deal to her and that sustain her. We are drawn into the story as Florrie and her family battle their way down the trail, and we are charmed by Florrie's likable and determined personality. Florrie sees things with a clarity that can be quite startling at times, even to her. For example, she comments early in the journey that she feels lost "like a stick figure drawn in the dust, erased by wagon tracks." Later she remarks, "I am lonely and have fallen under the cloud of my own bad weather."
Written in a style that suggests Florrie's own speech, Megan McDonald has created a wonderful character and has gone to great lengths to study the times and the people she writes about. Her inclusion of Spanish words, as Florrie begins to learn the language, is a particularly effective device. Both sad and at times humorous, Florrie's story provides us with a thought-provoking picture of a time and place not often written about.
--- Reviewed by Marya Jansen-Gruber (mjansengruber@mindspring.com)

Lily's Ghosts
Lily's Ghosts
by Laura Ruby
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Gripping and beautifully written., July 1 2004
This review is from: Lily's Ghosts (Hardcover)
For what feels like the hundredth time, Lily and her mother Arden have moved. This time, though, they are really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Having very little money, they are forced to stay at Uncle Wes's house in the historic city of Cape May.
Lily, full of anger at her lot in life, discovers that something very strange is going on in the old house. Objects seem to move around by themselves, someone puts jam in her shoes, and she receives strange phone calls. Then there are the secrets about her mother's family. How did strange Uncle Max die and why doesn't her mother talk about her family at all?
It isn't long before Lily realizes that, even though Uncle Max may be dead, he isn't gone. There is something that his restless ghost wants from her, and the sooner she finds out what it is, the better.
Laura Ruby pulls you into her extraordinary story from the very first page. There are in fact parallel stories being told: Lily's story and the story of the ghosts who live in Cape May. Both stories are sad at times, with lost souls looking for something that will give their existence (or the end of their existence) some meaning. Ruby keeps the two tales apart until the end of the book when they collide, the ghosts and the living people coming together in a fitting finale.
Gripping and beautifully written with highly visual descriptive passages and a touch of black humor, LILY'S GHOSTS will alternately touch and amuse the reader. It also encourages thought about the afterlife, and there will be times when one might feel compelled to turn on a few more lights or get up to see if the doors are locked.
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Maggie's Door
Maggie's Door
by Patricia Reilly Giff
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 The strength and endurance of the human spirit., July 1 2004
This review is from: Maggie's Door (Hardcover)
Nory Ryan has a dream that one day her family will be together again. They will be in America, standing outside the door of her sister Maggie's house in Brooklyn. Nory's friend and neighbor, Sean Red Mallon, also has a dream. He imagines himself together with his brother Francey and Francey's new young wife, Maggie. Nory will be there with her family and they will all be standing outside Maggie's door.
Nory and Sean share the same dream, but for now they have only hunger and misery in their lives after the potato famine hits Ireland. With no hope left, the Ryans and Mallons have decided to leave Ireland and in small groups have set off on foot for the nearest port to get a ship to England and then another ship to America.
Starving, weak, and not knowing the world beyond their own small community, the straggling travelers lose one another in the chaos of a famine-stricken Ireland. Sean finds himself alone and has to make his own way to America without a ticket or money. In his adventures, he makes a great discovery that leads him to a new goal in life as he decides that he is going to learn how to read and will have a book of his own one day.
Patricia Reilly Giff keeps the children's stories separate, alternating chapters and maintaining a sense of suspense as to whether or not the family members will find one another. Giff's graphic description of the horrors of the famine makes her story very powerful. The poverty is almost beyond our understanding and the suffering of the Irish people is unspeakable. Giff also is a master of imagery. For example, when she describes the potato crop as a stinking "ooze" we visualize a vast contrast to the pretty bluish purple flowers that one sees blossoming in a field of healthy potato plants.
MAGGIE'S DOOR is a book that most readers will find disturbing. At the same time, it reminds us of the strength and endurance of the human spirit and how powerful love can be. No matter how much people suffer, they can rise above their anguish and find what it takes to keep on going and even help others. One note...readers who have not yet read NORY RYAN'S SONG may want to pick that up. It is the pre-quel to MAGGIE'S DOOR and while it is not necessary to read the titles in order, it will give readers an even deeper understanding of the material.
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Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo: A Novel
Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo: A Novel
by Greg Leitich Smith
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 I love the quirky characters., July 1 2004
Elias is forced to participate in his school's science fair. Laid-back Shohei, who can best be described as a slacker, "helps" Elias (and I use that word very loosely) with his project. To understate it a bit, things do not go well. The disastrous science experiment lands Elias in school court, with Honoria acting as his defense lawyer. Honoria meanwhile has fallen in "like" --- not with the boy who likes her, but with the other one.
I love the quirky characters in Greg Leitich Smith's debut novel. Not only does the story embrace intelligence and the joy of learning, it is also funny. The thought of persuading piranhas to go on a vegetarian diet made me smile. But the overly earnest attempts made by Shohei's adoptive parents to acquaint him with his Japanese heritage (and his retaliation) had me laughing out loud.
I had some minor quibbles concerning believability (in particular, a plot point that uses bugs to negotiate with a teacher), but who cares? I'll willingly suspend belief any day to enjoy a zany, brainy romp such as this one.
--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (terryms2001@yahoo.com)

First Person Fiction: Finding My Hat
First Person Fiction: Finding My Hat
by John Son
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A wonderful story., July 1 2004
One of Jin-Han Park's first memories is of the time he lost a hat that his mother had knitted for him. The wind carried it off and somehow, though he has worn many hats since then, he remembers that particular one best of all. Perhaps it is because his mother can no longer knit him a new hat.
We follow Jin-Han's memories from the time he lost his hat to when he lost his mother. These two points of reference are tied together for Jin-Han, connected forever in his heart. But there are some wonderful stories that lie between them. We can enjoy hearing about class photograph day when Jin-Han was in kindergarten, his first kiss, what it was like to become a big brother, and the many other times he shared with his family and friends.
Author John Son has created a collection of stories that will make you smile. It will also make you stop and think about the life of immigrants and the many hardships they have to face. There are so many things that need to be learned and understood. Jin-Han and his family undoubtedly must have felt isolated at times, like a small island in the vast sea of American life. We also see how the second generation can become separated from the first. Jin-Han wants to be as American as his friends are, while his parents still hold on to the Korean ways. As we watch Jin-Han grow up, we can see the divide between the parents and the boy widen; it is both interesting and sad to watch.
John Son involves us in the life of his Korean family and proves he can tell a wonderful story.
--- Reviewed by Marya Jansen-Gruber (mjansengruber@mindspring.com)

Aleutian Sparrow
Aleutian Sparrow
by Karen Hesse
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Aleutian Sparrow emphasizes destructive power of violence., July 1 2004
This review is from: Aleutian Sparrow (Hardcover)
It's 1942 in Alaska, just seven months after the Japanese navy destroyed Pearl Harbor. They have now just attacked the Aleutian Islands. Before this, the Aleut people had lived happy and successful lives. But now, all lives are on hold as they are sent to relocation centers in Southeastern Alaska.
Throughout her life, Vera has lived close to the sea with her family. But when the Japanese attack her home, the entire population is evacuated and crammed into crowded barracks. Everyone is stripped of their own lives. People now have to endure horrible conditions, look for food and work, and pray that the Japanese will surrender. Will things ever get better? Will the Aleut people be able to return to their normal lives?
ALEUTIAN SPARROW emphasizes the destructive power of violence and what it can do to victims and their communities. Hopefully, when people read this book, they will be reminded that violence only makes problems worse. If you like reading dramatic stories, read ALEUTIAN SPARROW to find out what happens to Vera and her community.
--- Reviewed by Ashley Hartlaub

Blue Wolf
Blue Wolf
by Catherine Creedon
Edition: Library Binding
6 used & new from CDN$ 19.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Be sure to read BLUE WOLF., July 1 2004
This review is from: Blue Wolf (Library Binding)
Life has been difficult for Jamie Park since his mother died. While he finds some level of comfort running on his track team, the absence of his workaholic scientist father only makes life more complicated. Then one day Aunt Louise, a relative whom Jamie has never heard of, invites him to spend the entire summer with her in her isolated mountain home in the Pacific Northwest. Jamie accepts the offer, and his adventure of a lifetime officially begins.
Upon his arrival, he quickly finds out that life is going to be quite different. Louise's dwelling place is a one-room cabin with no plumbing or electricity. Despite this, Jamie excitedly listens to his aunt's nature and survival lessons. A number of peculiar events soon transpire, causing Jamie to be conscientious of an alliance he feels with a neighboring wolf pack. He then learns the truth behind the visit and a major secret about his family. Will Jamie return home, or will he stay with his aunt?
If I were Jamie, I would have decided to come home because I would have missed my family and friends. If you enjoy reading books with animals and a plot containing elements of mystery, be sure to read BLUE WOLF to find out what happens to Jamie and his family.
--- Reviewed by Ashley Hartlaub

Chig and the Second Spread
Chig and the Second Spread
by Gwenyth Swain
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 16.75
11 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A book packed with charm, lovable characters., July 1 2004
For Chig Kalpin, being small is just about the biggest trial there is. Her real name is Minerva but she has always been called Chig, short for Chigger. It was a name her father gave her, a name given to her with affection because she was such a tiny baby. Unfortunately, some of the boys in school latch on to her nickname and persecute her until she feels as small as small can be. She wishes she was big and tough and able to show those boys a thing or two. With every passing day, her lack of inches becomes more and more of a worry. Chig looks into whether or not she is eating the right types of food to encourage growth. She asks her teacher and family about her problem. Surely, she isn't going to stay under five feet tall for the rest of her life.
Chig gets so caught up in her own problem that she almost misses seeing what is happening to the people around her and to her town. It all begins when Chig realizes that some of the children in her class have only one spread on their sandwiches for lunch. It had always been the norm to have two. Clearly, things are getting very bad indeed if the children's parents can only afford one spread. She then notices that there are more and more men sitting and standing around the stove at the store. There is no work to be had. The Depression has come to her little town and the hollows around it. Chig decides that there has to be something she can do to help the people of Niplak put a second spread on their children's sandwiches.
What follows is an extraordinary, often funny, and quite delightful series of events that Chig uses to bring about her hopes and dreams for her town. In the process Chig realizes that there is much more to being big than she ever dreamed, and the people of Niplak discover that they have a truly remarkable person in the midst, a person with courage and conviction, despite the fact that she is very short of stature.
Gwenyth Swain has written a book packed with charm, lovable characters, and a real understanding of what it was like to live through the Depression. She gathered stories from family members and other sources and put them together in a way that shows us how she loved the telling of this marvelous tale and how much she enjoyed being able to honor those who lived the stories she used.
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