Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Big Nate

Titles:  Over 20 including In a Class by Himself; Strikes Again; On a Roll; and Friends
            as well as comic strip collections

Author:  Lincoln Peirce (pronounced "purse")

Rating:  *  (1 star out of 3 possible, "C")
             Recommended with Reservations

Audience:  5th grade and up

After lambasting the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, I thought I should check to if the Big Nate series was any better or worse.  I read books 1 and 2:  Big Nate in a Class by Himself and Big Nate Strikes Again.

I'm happy to confess this series is better: a reasonable substitute for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and not only because it's actually clever and funny.  What sets Big Nate apart from Greg Heffley is his sense of conscience and a certain amount of intellectual insight.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Unknowns

Title:  The Unknowns  (A Mystery)

Author:  Benedict Carey

Rating:  **  (2 stars out of 3 possible, "B")

Audience:  7th grade and up

Here is another "You have to read this, Mom!" recommendation from my 11, soon-to-be-12 year old daughter.  I'm happy she still wants me to read her books.  She reads 10 books a week if we don't give her enough chores, so it seems I am never lacking for material.

The Unknowns is an edgy, contemporary math mystery starring a cast of misfit middle schoolers.  These outcasts live in the unfortunate settlement of Folsom Adjacent, next door to the Folsom Nuclear Site and across the bay from the cooler town of Crotona.

Anyone who has ever felt out of place in junior high, or lived 15 miles from a "real" city, or felt inadequate in math class may find their place in this clever story.  And that would be most of us, including Einstein.

Fortunately, the main protagonists Di and Tom have a caring neighbor lady to walk them through the pitfalls of homework and social ostracism.  The real problems begin when a few Adjacent residents, including their math mentor, Malba Clarke, go missing.

Can Di and Tom unravel the math clue Mrs. Clarke left for them?  Is something illegal going on at the power plant?  Will the bullies in Crotona pound Di and Tom before they can find out?  Will you remember enough math and geometry to follow the plot?  When does 3 + 4 = 5?