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Crunch, by Leslie Connor


 

The Story

It's crunch time for fourteen-year-old Dewey Marriss in more ways than one. It seems that fuel supplies have run dry right in the middle of his parents' annual anniversary trip, which means they are stuck far away from home. So, Dewey and his older sister Lil are in charge of their three younger siblings, and all of the chores around the house. Because of the fuel crunch, there's also a crunch at the family's bicycle-repair shop, because bikes are the only way to get anywhere these days. Dewey creatively manages to keep the shop running smoothly, except that he can't seem to keep track of some of the bike parts. Concerned that the missing parts reflect badly on him, Dewey is reluctant to tell anyone… until the night when he catches the thief red-handed.

The Scoop

Crunch is a wholesome read about a lovely family whose five siblings are extremely responsible, self-reliant, and charming. In their parents' absence, the children are surrounded by supportive neighbors and members of the community. The story provides a subtle environmental message about the dangers of our dependence on fossil fuels. Some people behave badly during the shortage -- bikes are stolen from the youngest Marriss children and their father is beaten up by a person who steals his fuel ration cards. This book would make a great read-aloud for families with younger children who may particularly enjoy the escapades of the five-year-old Marriss twins.
 

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Flush, By Carl Hiassen



 

The Story

Noah's dad gets real mad when he finds out that the owner of the Coral Queen casino boat is illegally flushing raw sewage into the marina basin and polluting nearby beaches. He is so mad that he sinks the boat and winds up in jail. When the Coral Queen is quickly repaired and back to business, sixteen-year-old Noah decides to take matters into his own hands. With the help of his sister, Abbey, and a few local characters, Noah formulates an ingenious plan to catch the polluters in the act.

The Scoop

This award winning book is filled with valuable messages about caring for the environment and standing up for what you believe in. Noah's mother is angered by the actions of his father (the possibility of divorce is mentioned), but the family comes together and supports one another in the end. The siblings' plan to catch the polluters involves some sneaking out and trespassing, but Noah is very thoughtful about the environment, refusing to litter and even wading into contaminated water to scare a sea turtle away from the area. There is some bullying by the casino boat owner's son, who beats up Noah. Language is mild (harda-s, jacka-s).
 

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My Life in Pink and Green, by Lisa Greenwald

 

The Story

Twelve-year-old Lucy's mom and grandma own a struggling small town drug store. When the homecoming queen shows up with a hair disaster, Lucy is able to help with a quick fix. After word gets out about her hair and makeup talents, Lucy has a line-up of makeover clients that she hopes can help boost sales. Her small success inspires her to her look everywhere for ideas to save the family business, and to help the environment at the same time. But will her squabbling family take her seriously enough to really listen?
The Scoop
This is a wholesome and optimistic story. Tweens may be inspired by twelve-year-old Lucy’s tireless fight to save her family's business from foreclosure, and her idealistic desire to do it in a “green” way. The overriding message is about the difference that one individual really can make in a daunting situation. Much of the activity centers around the makeovers that Lucy does in the pharmacy, but she makes a clear point that the makeup she applies doesn’t change the way a girl looks, but rather how she feels about how she looks -- perhaps a good mother/daughter discussion topic for this age group.
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Standing for Socks, by Elissa Brent Weissman
The Story
Fara had no idea when she put on mismatched socks one day that it would change her life in so many ways. Surprisingly, the sixth grader becomes somewhat of a celebrity at her school and in her town. Soon, more attention is paid to her socks than to what Fara stands for. The message she wants to send, and her dreams of becoming student council president and serving her community, are in jeopardy.
The Scoop

Standing for Socks is a worthwhile and entertaining read. Social activism is important to the main character, who is a strong personality with a positive message. Fara embodies standing up for what you believe in, making a difference in the world, and being a unique individual. Some mean girl behavior takes place, and one character’s presidential campaign is sabotaged. The overall message is a very positive one, and the main female characters are excellent role models.



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Yuri's Brush with Magic, by Maureen Crane Wartski
The Story
Tammy and Ken's mother is in the hospital and has an uncertain future. "Mean" Aunt Yuri, who they have never met, arrives from Japan to take care of the children while their father attends to their mother. She takes them to a beach house for the summer, but the kids don't support the plan and try to make her life as difficult as they can so she will take them home. But Yuri has some tricks up her sleeve, and in addition to teaching them a thing or two, she has a magical talent that Tammy in particular wants to figure out. In the meantime, there is a nest of sea turtle eggs on the beach in front of their house that provides the kids with an intriguing distraction while they try not to dwell on their mother's fate. It might just turn out to be a great summer after all.

The Scoop
Yuri's Brush with Magic is a lovely and multi-dimensional story about family, hope, love, and a little bit of magic. In an age-appropriate way, it tackles many issues that a young person might encounter, including a serious illness/injury, an estranged family member, and bullying behavior. It also celebrates family relationships, conservation, Japanese folklore, and the arts (one character is a writer, one is an artist, and one wants to be a photojournalist). Ken and Tammy's mother has been left in a coma after a car accident that happened prior to the story. Her storyline ends on a hopeful, but not neatly-wrapped up note, which is reflective of real life. Along the same line, the turtle's nest is raided by local crabs, and not all of the eggs hatch. There are several nice little nuggets of wisdom delivered by adults: "There are two sides to every story," "Pick your battles," "I've said things in anger that I don't feel good about now," etc. There is a bully character who is the summer charge of an equally small-minded adult. This adult makes one brief ethnic slur ("I've always said you people can't be trusted"), but it is not the focus of the conversation, and it will likely go over the heads of most young readers. This book would be a good choice for an elementary school book report, or a children's book club.



 

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Seizure, by Kathy Reichs
 

The Story

Tory Brennan and her friends Hi, Ben, and Shelton are not your ordinary teenagers. That's because they were infected by an experimental strain of parvovirus that forever altered their DNA so that they can tap into the physical power of wolves. They've spent the last few months learning to control their abilities and becoming as close as a wolf pack. Now, state-wide budget cuts are threatening to shut down the Loggerhead Island Research Institute and put all of their parents out of work. To prevent the pack from being separated, they have to come up with a plan, and fast--but they'll need millions of dollars to save the Institute. So when Tory learns of an old legend about a buried treasure that's never been found, she rallies the pack to search for clues. Along the way, they draw the attention of some more ruthless treasure hunters. Will their special powers be enough to keep them ahead of the competition?

The Scoop

Written by the author whose books inspired the hit television series Bones, Seizure blends superhero thriller with pirate lore, and a hint of Indiana Jones thrown in for good measure, making this second installment in the Virals trilogy even more entertaining than the first--though the series is definitely best read in order. Animal lovers will relate to main character Tory, who is bright and independent. Each of her friends is highly intelligent and capable, and they work well as a team. Readers will enjoy the banter between the characters and the authentic dialogue. The story line involves bits of science and history that are interesting and accessible. In the process of hunting for treasure, the kids do a fair amount of breaking and entering and stealing. Their motivations are purely altruistic as they intend to use whatever booty they find to fund the veterinary research and animal behavior studies institute where their parents work. In spite being grounded, Tory sneaks out quite a bit to do research and search for the treasure. The kids lives are threatened on occasion by various greedy treasure hunters wielding guns, and two of these shady characters are killed. There is some strong language (sh-t, b-tch, a-s, pr-ck, b-stard, do-che) scattered throughout the book. Fans will look forward to the final book in the trilogy.



 

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