Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Roxie and the Hooligans

I am a sucker for a good title; so when I saw Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, I was absolutely constrained to read it.   

Roxie Warbler looks forward to every visit from her famous explorer uncle, Uncle Dangerfoot.  She sits attentively while he tells her family stories about the latest adventures that he and his employer, Lord Thistlebottom, have experienced.  Roxie hangs on his every word as well as the words of Lord Thistlebottom's Book of Pitfalls and How to Survive Them.  However, there is nothing in either her favorite book or her favorite uncle's stories to guide her through her bully problem at school.  Helvitia's Hooligans have chosen Roxie, with her large, round ears, as their victim of the year.  Roxie is embarrassed to talk to her parents about it because, as a niece of such a great adventurer, she ought to be able to figure out how to escape them.  One morning, as the Hooligans try their latest bit of meanness on Roxie, she and the Hooligans end up in the dumpster.  And as fate would have it, the dumpster is promptly picked up and dumped into the nearby ocean.  After Roxie and Helvitia's Hooligans swim to a conveniently located desert island, the survival tips Roxie has learned come in handy as she tries to band together with the Hooligans, forage for supplies and outwit two dastardly thieves hiding out on the island with them.  

This book was exhilarating!  My only disappointment was that it was such a quick read because I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The little survival tips were fun and watching Roxie carry them out made them even more so.  I loved watching the attitudes of the Hooligans change as Roxie gradually became their fearless leader.  And I liked the very gentle explanation of why the Hooligans were the way they were and Roxie's realization of how much better her life was.  Above all, her refusal to panic in the face of anything was quite inspiring.

What a deliciously fun book! 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Shakespeare's Secret

Shakespeare's Secret is an example of me picking up a book to read completely because of its cover.  Publishers, take note: if you're having a tough time getting a book sold, have Brett Helquist illustrate the cover.  It worked on me.  Again.

Sixth-grader Hero Netherfield is used to being picked on for her name; it's happened everywhere she's lived.  Although her sister, Beatrice, also has a name inspired by Shakespeare, Hero is the one who always has a difficult time fitting in with others.  However, despite a daunting first day at her new school, Hero begins to like her new home after befriending her eccentric next-door neighbor, Mrs. Roth, who tells her of a mysterious diamond that may be hidden somewhere in her house.  When Hero teams up with Mrs. Roth and Danny, a laid-back eighth grader, she gets completely caught up in the town's biggest mystery.

I thought this book was completely fun from beginning to end!  I liked all the ties to Shakespeare and the Elizabethan era and how the book didn't venture too far into melodrama territory (as it certainly could have).  Hero was very likable; actually, all the characters, from popular Beatrice to Shakespeare-phile Mr. Netherfield were very likable.  The mystery was great and yet it was the little vignettes that I enjoyed the most: cinnamon toast at Mrs. Roth's house, the discussion of Anne Boleyn's seal, the skateboard/bicycle trip into downtown, etc.  And I, of course, loved the happily-ever-after end.  

I am looking forward to reading Elise Broach's newest release!  This book is highly recommended.