Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2013: week 47

Posted on: February 16, 2014

cover image for Hocus Pocus Takes the TrainHocus Pocus Takes the Train by Sylvie Desrosiers and Remy Simard

When a magician and his dog stop to enjoy a treat before boarding their train, the magic rabbit in the magician’s hat peeks out and spies a friend.  While Rabbit is trying to talk to a baby’s stuffed bunny, the magician and his dog have already boarded the train! And so have the baby and mother!  Will Rabbit and the stuffed bunny get left behind, or will Rabbit save the day?

Clear and expressive illustrations make this graphic novel perfect for newer readers.  The humor should appeal to younger children, who will also find it easy to relate to Rabbit’s worries and adventures.  This clever but simple book has me eager to read more by these authors.

cover image for This is How I Find HerThis is How I find Her by Sara Polsky

Every day, when Sophie comes home from school, she immediately looks for her mother.  The days that Sophie finds her mother in her studio  – those are the good days.   Then there are the days that Sophie finds her just as she was when she left for school; the blinds still closed, the apartment dark and silent.  Until one day Sophie finds her mother in her bedroom, unconscious, an half empty bottle of pills beside her.

There was a lot that I liked about this book, particularly the way it explored the relationship between Sophie and her extended family (her mother’s sister, and her cousin, who she used to play with as a child, but hasn’t seen in years), how Sophie’s mother’s illness affected her, and how Sophie struggled to cope with her mother’s suicide attempt.  For some reason it never really clicked with me though, and I can’t really put my finger on why.

cover image for The Spy PrincessSpy Princess by Sherwood Smith

Twelve year old Lilah never gets to do anything or go anywhere.  Stuck in her father’s palace, friendless and frustrated, she sneaks out one night in borrowed clothes in search of adventure.  Instead, she finds a revolution against her own family brewing.  Even more surprising, Lilah begins to think the revolutionaries may be right.

I so wanted to like this book – I love Sherwood Smith’s novels!  But it just wasn’t very well done.   Or, at least, it wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from her.  It’s a rather long book considering how little happens, and at the same time, I felt like the presentation of what was going on was rather shallow.  I felt like she wasn’t trusting her middle graders readers like she should, and that was making everything more complicated and yet less nuanced than it needed to be. (I know, that sounds contradictory, but it’s the difference between running around without much important happening versus really examining the situation.)

cover image for MontmorencyMontmorency by Eleanor Updale

Montmorency is a thief. Not a particularly notable thief, but a competent one. Or at least, he was. Until an accident during a job not only landed him in jail, but also left him seriously injured.  His ailments caught the attention of a Doctor Farcett, who was eager to see if his new treatments could give Montmorency the mobility he once had.  When the doctor’s surgeries meet with the success, Montmorency is then dragged along to lectures for show and tell.  While his fellow inmates grow increasingly jealous of his supposed good fortune, Montmorency plots his escape.

This was a very odd book.  And I don’t mean that it was strange in thought-provoking ways, just that it was unusual and perplexing at times.  Although occasionally fascinating, I kept wondering just who it was meant for.  It’s written at middle grade level, and yet all of the characters are adults.  Including a very annoying and absurd woman who decides to pursue Montmorency at one point.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t really a good one either, and I really don’t know who I would suggest it to. Also, I’d hesitate to give it most middle grade readers simply because of how cliched all the female characters are, especially in light of how unique the main character is.

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