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September 27, 2012 Edition

Masters of Disaster

Written by Gary Paulsen

Henry (a literary cousin to Tom in The Great Brain stories) is convinced that he and his pals Reed and Riley don’t have enough adventure in their lives. So, he persuades Reed to try breaking a world record by somersaulting off a roof on a bicycle (it takes Reed seventeen showers before he stops smelling like dirty diapers) and then tests their courage by planning a spontaneous weekend of camping with just the clothes on their backs and the contents of their school backpacks (this time they meet a tiger). Convinced of their courage, Henry perseveres, coming up with ever newer and more awful experiments and tests for the others to perform. Somehow, Podehl manages to read this aloud without messing up by laughing uncontrollably. Don’t try this at home, kids!

NERDS: M is for Mama’s Boy

Written by Michael Buckley

The group of six elementary school kids we met working out of their school’s basement in the first book is now only five: Simon, a.k.a. Heathcliff, has abandoned his friends to work on his goal of taking over the world. Together with Captain Justice (a computer genius who lives in his mom’s basement), Simon confronts his old pals and strips them of their superpowers. Disheartened at first, the Five almost give up before some clever moves make them question whether their superpowers have really been more like training wheels. Nerdy stereotypes abound, as does the idea that no one should be counted out, ever. Here’s a fast-paced, funny story for older elementary readers.

Icefall

Written by Matthew Kirby

Winner of the 2012 Edgar Award for best juvenile mystery, this is truly enchanting. Set in Viking times, it is the story of teenage Solveig’s very long winter spent sheltered between the frozen sea and craggy mountains with her siblings and their father’s soldiers. A battle is raging to the south and the king’s daughters and heir have been sent away for their own protection in a great hurry. Though the king promised a ship with supplies, it never came and everyone is cold, hungry, and miserable, but things get even worse when it becomes obvious that there’s a traitor in their midst. As their hidden fortress becomes an icy prison, and supplies and camaraderie dwindle, Solveig and her brother and sister work together to comfort and protect each other and to ferret out their enemy before he or she strikes again.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King

Written by William Joyce

Light on character, strong on action, this is a story of how Santa Claus came to be. First of all, in the beginning, he was called Nicholas St. North, and he was an excellent thief and swordsman, not really qualities we think of when we think of Santa, right? But when Nicholas ventures to the town of Santoff Clausen, rumored to be rich with treasure, he finds himself distracted from thievery by the threat of invasion by Lord Pitch, the Nightmare King. With the help of a little girl named Katherine, Nicholas begins to change his wicked ways and realizes that it may be he alone who has the ability to defeat Lord Pitch. Read breathlessly by Doyle, this will hold listeners spellbound. This is the second in Joyce’s Guardians of Childhood series (the first was the picture book, The Man in the Moon).

Enchanted Glass

Written by Diana Wynne Jones

Professor Andrew Hope spent a lot of time with his sorcerer grandfather when he was growing up. Unfortunately, by the time he inherits his grandfather’s estate, he’s forgotten most of what the elder magician taught him and is completely unprepared for the young boy who shows up in dire need of magical help. Twelve-year old Aiden Cain is following his grandmother’s instructions to find a great sorcerer when he meets Professor Hope, and he’s completely dismayed to find such an incompetent in charge of Melstone House. But it’s soon clear that it’s not only Aiden who’s got problems, but that the whole countryside is being drained of its magic and that the best course may be to join forces and plunge ahead. This is a delightful stand-alone fantasy from a master of the craft, heavy on quirkily believable characters and strange events which, no matter how complex, are easily kept track of thanks to Crossley’s able narration.

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