“The Running Dream” by Wendelin Van Draanen

Winner of the 2012 Schneider Family Book Award This YA book is about a teenage girl, Jessica, who thinks her life is over when she loses part of her leg in an accident.  She is a runner, on the school track team, and running is part of her identity. Although her best friend encourages her and supports her, other kids at school- and teachers- act like she is now invisible and are unsure how to deal with her or what to say. It is a realistic portrayal of a tragic event (another girl dies in the accident) and a fast read. Recommend for ages 1o and up.

Captain Underpants Returns

Dav Pilkey returns with his newest installment of the Captain Underpants series.  The ninth book in the series, Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, was written after a 6 year break by Pilkey.  Appealing to kids 7 and up, nearly 50 million copies of his books are in print.  In addition, a movie is in development.

In a recent interview, Pilkey explained how he got the idea for the book when he was in second grade.  His teacher used the word underwear in class and everyone thought that was so funny.  She didn’t. “Wow,” he was quoted as saying, “underwear is really powerful.  I should find a way to capitalize on that.”  And he began drawing the character.

As a child, Pilkey said, he had reading problems.  He would have like to read about superheroes who battled monsters in their underwear.  So his target audience is kids who don’t like books.  Another audience that doesn’t like his books are many parents.  He said that every once in a while a parent tries to get his books banned.  He said that audience doesn’t get it; his target audience does.  Actually, according to the interview, he placed No. 13 on the top 100 banned and challenged books of the last decade.  You can be sure that  the newest installment of Captain Underpants will be on our next order.

The Island House

I just finished this novel by Posie Graeme-Evans. Freya Dane, the main protagonist, inherits a a small island off the Scottish coast with a several hundred year old house on the grounds. Her father, an archaeologist, had left Freya the land, along with a letter explaining his finds, and a request for her to carry on his excavation of the grounds. He had believed the lower layer of the house dated back to ancient times, before the first millennium, and the letter ends with the cryptic request for her to ” please search for the grave and the tomb. I am convinced that…” She is left with the mystery of the island and, of course, takes on the challenge, and begins to experience visions of a young girl’s life during the ninth century. The novel alternates between present day and  ninth century life, complete with Viking raids, bloody battles, betrayals and romance. It does contain rather graphic descriptions of violence and is for not the faint of heart.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

We have all read books that were turned into movies and some even into Broadway shows.  But what I have never encountered is a book that was originally an app, then a short film and now a children’s book.

“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” by William Joyce is a recently published children’s book for ages 4-8.  In his review in Sunday’s NYT, Nathan Heller traced the history of this story.    As an app and an Oscar winning best animated short film, it received good notices.  But , according to Heller, although the book is well illustrated, “its wildest elements haven’t survived the journey to the page.”

The story is a parable that has at its center the bibliophile Morris Lessmore.  A storm sweeps through his town and destroys all the books.  But Morris is reunited with his books through the intervention of a beautiful young woman.  The writer says reviewer Heller has written “elegant” prose that reads like a classic.  And yet, because the app and the film had a “dreamy creativity” that the book lacks, Heller believes that that this book points to a belief that storytelling needs a “broader canvas than the hallowed space within the library doors.”  I hope he is wrong.

My latest grievance by Elinor Lipman

This is a comic novel about a smart teenager, Frederica, smarting over the behavior of her parents, David and Aviva, both teachers at a third rate women’s college and dorm “mothers” to one of the halls. They are nit-picking liberals, union activists and “the most annoyingly evenhanded parental team in the history of civilization.”

Things get complicated when Frederica discovers her father has an ex-wife (still adored by his mother) who becomes employed at the same college.

At first this delights Frederica, who daydreams what her life would have been like with Laura Lee as her mother. However, soon LL turns out to be a needy mess.

Frederica begins to appreciate her parents’ tepid liberalism and they in turn acquire the backbone to deal the nutty Laura Lee.

Elinor Lipman is both funny and seriously thought provoking.  I look forward to my next read.