Tag Archives: school

Big Nate: Revenge of the Cream Puffs by Lincoln Peirce

It’s baseball time for the sixth graders and the Cream Puffs want revenge. This time they are going to be champs, they have just one more game to win, but their star player is sick. Going through their entire pitching bench it is up to perennial screwup Nate to close the deal.

All our favorite characters are back at P.S. 38 in Big Nate: Revenge of the Cream Puffs as clever, smart aleck Nate Wright muddles through besting the teachers, acing detention, showing up the know-it-all girl at chess, and helping his team win the above championship, all reflecting the humor of Lincoln Peirce. Middle schoolers will relate and so will their parents as they relive the highs and lows of life in sixth grade.

Nate has his picture in the local paper after hitting a triple, becoming the hero who led his team to victory, but they can’t quite get his name “Wright” with each subsequent retraction containing yet another embarrassing misspelling.

Panels include details where Nate writes a romance novel and films a movie. Other themes deal with being lucky, prank day, and summer vacation. When at the end of the school year it is announced that all outstanding detentions have been cancelled, Nate quips “I like to think all of my detentions are outstanding”. Such are the yucks found in the pages of the Big Nate series!

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Big Nate: Silent but Deadly by Lincoln Peirce

You know those little “f” bombs that sneak up on you when you least expect it, then “poof” they make themselves known, catching you unaware. That’s what Lincoln Peirce does in his latest comic edition, Big Nate: Silent but Deadly, where the jokes catch you off guard, not quietly this time, but with a force which causes an explosive, deafening laugh that the reader can’t quite hold in.

It’s 6th grade (again) for Nate and his friends (there’s even an inside joke about an endless loop of repeating sixth grade, over and over!) and they are at it again with Nate combating his nemesis, teacher Mrs Godfrey, and trying to find ways to outsmart teacher’s pet & know-it-all Gina, such as a Fact Town Smackdown between her and Francis. Of course Nate and his friends are rooting for Francis – “You’re a geek, but your OUR geek!” With a look at Detention (Note on pass given to Nate: The Usual), Class Picture Day (Where Mr Galvin is asked to show us his teeth, and his dentures accidentally fall out – Response: “These scientists are so literal.”), and Romance (Gina has a crush on Chad whose C.Q. – Cuteness Quotient – is off the charts). Holidays are a hoot, from Halloween to Christmas (After taking Nate to buy a present for his sister, his dad quips – “And this is why gift cards were invented.”), to a Monopoly Marathon on New Year’s Eve playing by Nate’s Rules.

School is in the fun zone and there’s lots of chuckles when Nate attempts to be Student of the Month, interviews a teacher for the school paper, and finds himself outmatched at a school basketball game. Chad is able to outsmart a bully by opening Nate’s locker, knocking the jerk over with all the junk unexpectedly spewing out. Nate’s retort: “I might have to start charging a user’s fee.”

Nate’s talents as the Great Nose-Ini are explored as well as his ability to irk all the adults leaving them shaking their heads and lamenting, “I hate my life”, with even the Principal wondering “If could trade jobs with another” once he’s done dealing with Nate.

The one two punch of each cartoon is enhanced by the descriptive illustrations with facial expressions, or lack thereof, lifting the comedy up to the next level.

To sum it up is the line – “He’s confusing me.” To which I respond “Welcome to my world.” But in a good way.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Mutts Spring Diaries by Patrick McDonnell

Mutts created by Patrick McDonnell is one of those comic strips that pleases people of all ages, one which parents can read even to the youngest child without worrying about the content.

In The Mutts Spring Diaries, McDonnell has gathered various strips appropriate for Springtime and put them in one volume. Intended for children, these colorful comics are drawn with yellow lined paper in the background, reminding the reader of a school’s legal tablet.

We have two best friends who are often found together – Earl, a sweet little dog, and Mooch, a cat with a speech impediment. Together they regularly visit the butcher and the local school as well as spend time outdoors or, on rainy days, stare out the window. Sometimes the adorable little birds nesting in a nearby tree make an appearance and even the threatening guard dog (despite his chain) gets some loving from a sweet little girl who visits him on her way home from school. Mooch is featured affectionately playing with a little pink sock and also makes an apoearance as the see it all, know it all – The Mighty Shphinx, demonstrating wisdom with wit:

You will never schmake any progress until you get over all your phobias
I was afraid you’d say that

The humor tends to be the groaning type:

I’m a snapping turtle.
I didn’t even know turtles had fingers!

Veni vidi Oinki – Pig Latin

(When talking to a chicken): Pardon the fowl language.

Cute as a button, what’s not to love. Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Ice Wolves (Elementals, Book #1) by Amie Kaufman

Through the use of two rugrats, Amie Kaufman has found the means to introduce a new world. In Ice Wolves, Book One of the Elementals Trilogy, twelve year old orphans, Anders and Rayna, are swiftly making their way over the garden-like rooftops, avoiding the increasing number of check points on the streets, to the town square where a large group has assembled, perfect for their daily antics. Pick pocketing is an indispensable lifestyle to ensure survival on the streets where Rayna distracts while her twin brother extracts some coins from the victims’ pockets. Unfortunately, circumstances necessitate a change of plan and the two find themselves amongst others their age reaching for the staff which will determine their fate. So far none that day had been successful in their quest to become a part of the Wolf Guard, so Rayna, without a family history (at least none of which she is aware), is stunned when she shape-shifts into the enemy, a Scorch Dragon. Anders, beside himself, reaches for the staff, expecting to follow her as the same, but instead he shape shifts into one of the revered, an Ice Wolf.

How can this be? The role of Ice Wolf is inherited while only traitors become Scorch Dragons. Anders must muster up all his courage and find his sister who he knows is not the enemy, even though as an Ice Wolf he is required to destroy the evil dragons. Assigned to Ulfar Academy, full of the luxuries (like food, clothing, and a warm place to sleep) his former way of life lacked, the shy Anders must learn all that he can to find a way to rescue his beloved sister. He develops some friendships in his pack where loyalty and obedience are a key requirement. Yet, where should your loyalty lie when you discover that there’s more to the story and the fight against the Scorch Dragons might be based on politically motivated disinformation and prejudices? All Anders knows is that his fealty will always be with Rayna, and his number one goal must take precedence over his role as Ice Wolf.

Ice Wolves follows the basic formula for preteen readers – youngsters (after discovering the deceit of adults) take it upon themselves to save the day. Kaufman has a talent for bringing the characters alive and connecting them to the readers who find themselves rooting for a successful outcome. This will definitely appeal to the middle school crowd, including some advanced elementary aged students, as well as those in high school. Its short length is a plus with an ending which will draw them into the next book of the series. Adults, once they accept the premise that twelve year olds rule, might also appreciate this well written tale.

Four stars and a thank you to Edelweiss for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

If The Story of Arthur Truluv was a movie, you’d find it on the Hallmark Channel. Elizabeth Berg has created one of those melodramatic, heart wrenching, over the top dramas filled with the angst of loves both lost and found as three disparate characters find comfort as they form an unusual sort of alliance.

You have the teen girl who doesn’t know where her life is headed living with a father who has been disconnected from his daughter since the tragic death of his wife. Maddy doesn’t seem to fit in with anyone at school and even the new boy indicates he is not interested. Since everywhere she goes her peers whisper and mock, she skips school to spend time reflecting at a local cemetery. She’s not the only one who finds the locale soothing. It is here that Maddy meets octogenarian Arthur Moses, an elderly gentleman who every day brings a bag lunch to his wife’s gravesite to enjoy a meal with his long gone mate. Somehow the two form a connection and Arthur lets Maddy know that he’ll be there for her if she ever needs a friend. Then there’s Arthur’s elderly neighbor, Lucille, who spends her days sitting out on her porch keeping track of all the doings, collecting gossip the way some people collect stamps. Her opinionated manner is excused by her skill in the kitchen, freely sharing her creations with Arthur. Arthur, who mostly eats canned beans and franks (which he divvies up with his cat), sympathizes with the lonely woman as he eats her mouth watering butter orange blossom cookies. Somehow, through a series of events, the three end up facing the future together finding comfort and even happiness as they create a unique sort of blended family transcending the usual mother, father, child homelife.

Add in a kind hearted teacher who reaches out to his artistic, though lackluster student, a lost love who finds his way home, and a skeevy boyfriend who just wants a good time without any commitments, and you have a charming little story perfect for a rainy afternoon.

While the simplistic style fits the subject matter and the rotating point of view between the three main characters gives us a decent grasp of their motivations, I had a problem with the use of present tense to tell the story. Very few are able to use this technique successfully, and Berg, unfortunately, is not one of those authors, at least not in this book. Perhaps modifications were made before publication, since my copy was an ARC provided by Netgalley (in exchange for an honest review). I also felt the ending was too abrupt, I would have liked a little more closure, especially considering the book was only 220 or so pages (and give us some dates, not just clues from the headstones). Of note, however, were the sweet little vignettes from the graveyard, where Arthur was able to relate telepathically with the deceased and share bits and pieces of their life and death with the reader. Three and a half stars.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Calamity! Yes, it’s one calamity after another in the small seaside resort area in Pirriwee, Australia when Madeline sprains her ankle on her way to kindergarten orientation with her precocious daughter Chloe. New resident Jane with her son Ziggy assists the injured woman as they both drop their children off to meet the prospective teacher. Madeline and Jane end up on the beach at the Blues Blue coffee shop where Celeste, the mother of twins, joins them to help the injured party celebrate her birthday. The gift of champagne and flutes are perfect, despite the early hour, because Madeline is now f-o-r-t-y. The party atmosphere continues as they go to pick up their darlings until little Amabelle accuses Ziggy of choking her. Despite the tot’s denial, the parents end up sorting themselves into team Renata (Amabelle’s mum) vs Team Madeline. Amidst the conflict and resulting bedlam, the families deal with the normal chaos of raising children. While behind the scenes each couple has secrets which are slowly revealed, it is the flamboyant, gutsy Madeline who meets life head on, guiding her friends through their individual crisis. She even tries to be “civil” to her ex husband and new wife who also have a daughter attending the same kindergarten program, (although on PMS days, her behavior might not be “quite polite” towards those who have slighted her or her friends).

As the story progresses, bad behaviors escalate until the climax on Trivia Night, a costumed fundraising competition, where an altercation and death occurs. The event is alluded to via short vignettes placed at the beginning or end of a chapter, with various participants giving their take on exactly what happened through the questioning by Investigating Officer Quinlan. The reader is left trying to sort fact from fiction and figure out exactly who the victim might be.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is an amusing, witty romp dealing with societal pressures, spousal abuse, infidelity, love and loss, bullying, blended families, teen angst, working mothers, and fragile egos. Who knew a story about a class of kindergarteners could be so much fun!

Five stars for a “can’t stop reading” book. (For a real treat listen to the CD expertly read by Caroline Lee who makes each character your personal friend or enemy). We will have to wait and see if the upcoming version on HBO retains the flavor of the original novel when the locale is moved from Australia to California.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Timmy Failure: The Book You Are Not Supposed to Have By Stephan Pastis (Timmy Failure, #5)

Timmy Failure is a child detective, or he was until his mother forbad him to continue his agency, at least until the end of the school year. Who knew the teachers would go on strike and the school year would be extended with substitutes filling the vacancies. This all meant that Timmy would have to surreptitiously run his business and find another place to have his office so his mother doesn’t find out and ground him. He discovers the perfect location to run his operation after a visit to Home Despot – one of the sheds for sale in the store parking lot. Complications ensue – his partner is eating up the profits by snarfing down $1.00 hot dogs, his mother decides he needs piano lessons, his mode of transportation is a tricycle with a banner proclaiming “Bras For Sale”, he has to share a bedroom with two “loons” (his female cousins on a protracted visit), and his mom is getting married to Doorman Dave. When his best friend disappears and is presumed dead, Timmy must use his wiles to discover which of his many enemies did the deed. With the help of new assistant, Molly, Timmy goes undercover to examine each of the potential murderers.

Timmy Failure: The Book You Are Not Supposed to Have is the fifth book in the Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis, author of the syndicated cartoon Pearls Before Swine. This book is along the vein of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, not quite a graphic novel, but full of Pastis illustrations using his unique trademark style. There is quite a bit of subtle humor such as Timmy’s roly poly best friend whose last name is Tookus, and some not so subtle plot events where Timmy tears apart the orthodontist’s gift stuffed tooth looking for a microphone (Timmy dodges a bullet there because he is too young for braces). This book is sure to delight the middle schooler as they relate to Timmy’s misadventures and actions which can only be described as stupid or ridiculous. Timmy’s over the top behaviors and the adult responses to his actions are sure to tickle the funny bone of the typical preteen. However, as an adult, it was too many groans and “oh, no – you didn’t” responses to find the plot of this book truly enjoyable. I guess there is a tipping point for some where childish humor is no longer appreciated. Of course, there are many who love this sort of ridiculousness at any age and those are the fans who need to read this series.

Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.