Thursday, January 28, 2010

Catching up...

And here I am, catching up on my to-review pile with three short reviews of books I've picked up lately. 

Epitaph Road by David Patneaude. (Grades 5-8.) Egmont USA, March 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

In 2067 the virus came. Elisha's Bear. It only affected males and it was deadly. Almost every male on earth was wiped out. Now, thirty years later, Kellen is one of the few boys on earth. When Kellen hears that there might be another outbreak of Elisha's Bear near where his father lives, he knows he has to warn him... whatever the cost. But what he'll discover on his journey will change everything. 

It's an interesting premise and usually post-apocalyptic teen novels are right up my alley, but this one didn't do it for me. I liked the author's device of explaining the changes that brought about the current government through newspaper headlines. But it just took forever for the plot to get to where it was going. By the time Kellen undertook his journey and started figuring out the hidden truths, I had long lost patience. Plus, I understand from other Good Reads reviews that the premise has been done (and possibly done better) in The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper. 

Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed. (Grades 4-6.) Philomel Books, September 2009. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 

This is the story of Sam the Lion, a pedigreed dachshund with a rare Duuglitz tuft. Meant to be a show dog, he soon escapes the clutches of the overbearing Mrs. Nutbush and elects to follow an orphan named Heidy who is going to live with her uncle. But when Sam steals the attention away from the champion standard poodle Cassius, Cassius will get his revenge. What ensues is a wild and wacky adventure as the flawed dogs decide to claim what is rightfully theirs. 

Now, this one I didn't expect to like as much as I did, but once I started it I found myself getting into it. The book reads like an animated feature and I could really see everything happening as the story unfolded. Plus, the voice of Sam, the scrappy dachshund, is hilarious. I'm not totally sold on the kid appeal because I've had a hard time selling books with animal protagonists to middle-graders, but parts of the book might be a little disturbing to younger kids. This might make a good family or classroom readaloud, though. 

The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin. (Grades 2-5.) Scholastic Press, April 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.  

Before there was the Baby-Sitters Club, there were four girls - Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey. This is the story of the summer before they got together to form the BSC. That summer they were all going through things. Kristy was missing her dad and rebelling against her mom's new boyfriend Watson. Mary Anne was struggling with her father's strict rules. Claudia was discovering boys and feeling much more mature than her two best friends, Kristy and Mary Anne. And Stacey was dealing with her former best friends who dumped her. 

The Summer Before is exactly what you'd expect from a Baby-Sitters Club prequel. It definitely matches the tone and writing of the series and fans will be glad to get some more insights into their favorite characters. I don't know that it will necessarily attract new fans to the series, though. What I loved about the BSC books is the friendship between the girls and their babysitting stories, both of which are somewhat scarce in this prequel. That said, it'll please current fans. And I guess I'll hold off on weeding out BSC books just yet... ;)