Mischievous Derek is twelve and excited about beginning a summer vacation full of new pranks and adventures. Lessons will be learned: we all mess up, we all struggle, we all have stories. This one is about friendships and family, a heroic dog, a special monkey, a girl who drowned and the friend she left behind.
Why I picked it up: I noticed the doodles on the cover. The funny doodle on the first page, which shows Derek’s mom vaulting over a laundry basket, let me know I’d enjoy it.
Why I finished it: Derek finds a newspaper clipping from ten years ago about a girl, Susan James, who drowned saving him. Her best friend still blogs about Susan on a web site, and Derek contacts her to find out more about Susan. But what he learns doesn’t match the account in the article and Derek sets out to uncover the truth.
I'd give it to: Raymond, one of my students who reminds me of Derek. He’s a Calvin with his own Hobbes, too, so I know he’ll enjoy Derek’s relationship with his dog, Bodi.
Hatter M, royal bodyguard, continues to search our world for Wonderland’s missing princess. As he teaches a young boy to defend himself, he remembers being trained to fight by his brother. He then travels to the American South and looks for Alyss among the members of a carnival. He faces servants of the Red Queen capable of damaging his deadly, multi-bladed hat. After being wounded, he’s imprisoned in an insane asylum, weaponless.
Why I picked it up: Judging this year’s Pimp My Bookcart contest made me want to return to Wonderland, plus I read the first volume last month.
Why I finished it: I didn’t think anyone could successfully follow in the footsteps of Ben Templesmith, who illustrated Volume 1. But when the Hatter first appeared in the book, in the burst of texture and shadow that are Sami Makkonen’s tools, I knew he had pulled it off. And that was before the knives came out.
I'd give it to: Jess, who really liked Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and who would probably enjoy something a little darker. Hatter M may open her mind to Wolverine, so it could very well lead to an X-men book down the line.
Turning eleven years old on 11/11/11 is a big deal to twins Andrew and Evie. But they don’t have their mother to share it with -- she disappeared a year earlier and they don’t know if she is dead or abandoned them. Then they receive a package that they soon puzzle out is from their mother. It tells them to trust no one except the strange neighbor lady, who might have an inkling of where their mother has disappeared to. The camera and key in the package help them defeat a bully at school and learn more about why their mother (code name: Spy X) had to leave.
The nanny can’t be trusted, or can she? And what about their Dad? He works for the Company, and it wants to get to Spy X as badly as the twins do.
It will take misdirection, a chase inside a cable car museum, code-cracking and common sense to be reunited with their mother.
Why I picked it up: Lerangis wrote two of the 39 Clues books, a series wildly popular at my middle school library. Also, I was tipped off about this series by Unshelved reader Robert Leone!
Why I finished it: It was like The Da Vinci Code for younger readers, complete with ciphers, mathematical problems, intrigue, and chapter-ending cliffhangers. I especially liked that the siblings had the math and educational background to solve difficult puzzles.
I'd give it to: Darin, who reads at night with his kids -- I’ll warn him to be prepared because his kids will whine for another chapter before lights out. Ben, who would put the book down and try to decipher each code before picking it back up again.
Teen friends Lila and Ecco decide to take a crack at making their own comic books after getting inspired at a convention. They start out with some great advice from the pros they met. Ecco adds techniques from his art class. Lila provides tips on the writing and editing process. During a day of babysitting, they go through all the steps to create their comics.
Why I picked it up: I've been looking for a good teen-level comics how-to (older than Adventures in Cartooning but younger than McCloud's Understanding Comics). This book is complete enough to be used in a class or on your own.
Why I finished it: The techniques that Lila and Ecco use are demonstrated in the book itself in a way that didn't seem textbook-y, the topics and the art isn't all about muscly heroes in spandex (not that there's anything wrong with that). Best for me were the tips on how to make the art work well on a regular copier and ways to staple books even if you don't have an extra-long stapler!
I'd give it to: The teens in the Redmond After Hours club, because I think some of them don't realize that even professionals need to plan, rewrite, revise, and otherwise take a lot of time to get to a polished-looking finished product. I think they'll feel better about making comics if they know they don't have to be perfect on the first try. Plus I'd love to make comics with them!
This coffee table book for golf fanatics is filled with beautiful pictures of par three holes from around the world, ranked and grouped by type (long shots, drop shots, water-based holes). The intent of the builder and the physical construction of the holes are explained. The book includes famous shots and the quirks of the holes. (None of the 25,000 books in the United States Golf Association’s library deals solely with the par three, now rectified by this book.)
Why I picked it up: I am a five handicap and a high school varsity golf coach. Given that I am a public school employee, this book is as close as I will get to playing some of these holes, many of which are on private courses, although I have knocked off three of the holes pictured in the book (Bandon Dunes, Torrey Pines, and Coeur D’Alene).
Why I finished it: Longest par three? 630 yards, in South Africa at Legends Golf and Safari Resort, it is accessible only by helicopter. The ball takes 30 seconds to travel to the green, if one is fortunate enough to hit it right. My favorite par threes after reading this book? #3 at Torrey Pines South Course, #13 at Whistling Straits (Irish Course), and Cypress Point’s #16, all water-based holes I love for their heavy bunkering, incredible water carries, and scenery which would be worth a day hike to enjoy.
I'd give it to: My best golf buddy Norm, who has been struggling with his game lately. This will get him fired up to get out and practice. And I would have given it to my now-deceased grandfather, the person who taught me to love the game and stuck with me even after I crashed his golf cart (I was nine).
Middle school student Yukiteru records everything in his cell phone diary. He has no real friends at school, but his imaginary friend, Deus, the King of Space and Time, controls the universe.
But Deus is a real god, and he’s started a game. He gives Yukiteru a phone that contains his own diary from the future. Eleven other individuals are all given their future diaries. If the diaries are harmed, they die. The last survivor becomes Deus’ successor.
Yukiteru must find a way to change his future and survive an encounter with a serial killer. His diary says he will be cornered. The end.
Publisher’s Rating: OT Older Teen 16+
Why I picked it up: I have no memory of requesting it from my local library, but there it was on the hold shelf under my name.
Why I finished it: It’s a fun, fresh take on the “beautiful girl loves loner boy” theme. Yuno, a pretty girl at Yukiteru’s school, also has a future diary. Where Yukiteru’s diary contains the details of his life, that’s not true of Yuno’s. She’s obsessed with Yukiteru, so every ten minutes, she records what he’s doing. This is also the content of her phone’s future diary (which she uses to help and protect him).
I'd give it to: My sister’s kids who would rather text their friends than read books. She told me, “You should get one for your daughter, too.” (No thanks, I’ll just keep buying her books.)
Buddy used to solve mysteries with his person, Kayla. Then she and her father disappeared, and he was rescued from the P-O-U-N-D by Conner and his mom. But his mystery solving days aren't over. First he needs to use his skills to find Conner, who has gone missing. Then he helps a pug named Jazzy, who was switched for a better-behaved lookalike at the dog park. Finally, he goes in search of Kayla.
Why I picked it up: My daughter Rosie loves dogs. She. Loves. Dogs.
Why I finished it: We see the world through Buddy's eyes or, rather, nose. He has a number of endearingly canine traits that made both my kids giggle (every food he comes across is his favorite food, and he can't count past two) but it is his big doggy heart that kept us reading. As he grows more attached to his new family he wonders how he should feel about his original family, a conflict fraught with meaning for an adoptive family like ours.
I'd give it to: Jenni, who will find Buddy's quandary a great roadmap for teaching her daughter Meg about mixed feelings.
Piper is a deaf teen whose senior year is not going as planned. When her parents spend her college money to save her little sister's hearing, she takes on the challenge of managing a band to earn back the cash.
Why I picked it up: I love how the cover captures the atmosphere of the Seattle music scene. The bottom is a wall covered with the remnants of years of concert posters. In the background, a band playing in a club. In front of them squats a girl in faded jeans who is the embodiment of my defiant inner teen.
Why I finished it: The misunderstandings throughout this book with people not really getting each other. Piper's dad has trouble seeing her deafness as anything other than a huge disability. Piper doesn’t understand that her brother is her biggest fan and advocate. And Piper is blind to the fact one of her best friends is crazy about her.
I'd give it to: Mars, my friend and the keyboard player in our band, who would appreciate the hard work of musicians learning how to really listen to each other and perform as a team. (This hasn't happened for us yet, but it’s not his fault.)