Tag Archives: genre:school stories

Bad Machinery Vol. 3: The Case of the Simple Soul Review

bad-machinery-3Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101933

Synopsis: The Tackleford gang is back with a new case that demands solving! When Tackleford’s derelict barns begin going up in flames, Linton and Sonny are on the case with a moderately mysterious new friend. Paths cross, however, when Lottie and Mildred meet a terrifying yet misunderstood creature living beneath a bridge! Throw in an overly enthusiastic Fire Brigade, a transforming skate ramp, and a new French teacher and you’ve got the kind of charming genius that can only be found in John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This was a splurge purchase at a book sale after trying (and failing) to remember the name of the comic.

Why I finished it: I was hard pressed to find the actual mystery in this installment of the series. The mysterious barn fires start out as a prevalent plot point, but it sort of fades into the background behind the other plotlines. Granted, the case does get solved in the end, but it doesn’t seem like our sleuths really have much interest in solving the case that they seem to have happened upon. Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, and Sonny all spend a significant amount of time trying to fill the void left in their groups by Shauna and Jack, who are now dating (and they are totally my OTP of this series). So in that aspect, Simple Soul is more about transitions than it is about finding an arsonist. Allison has found a different rhythm for his characters this time around, showcasing their struggles with the end of the year at a new school, changing friendships, new romances, and the general angst that comes from being an almost teenager. Yet, the comedic timing and the offbeat humor continue to shine through which is what makes the comic so likable. The volume also includes another edition of Charlotte’s explanations of British Idioms and a collection of hand-drawn husbands by Charlotte and Mildred. Overall, it’s a great, fun read that continues to see our characters growing up and learning more about life – which, it turns out may or may not be hazardous to your health.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy Review

bad-machinery-2Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101148

Synopsis: Toddlers are going missing all over Tackleford and witnesses report they are being carted off by a mysterious beast. Meanwhile, another mystery beast appears in Mildred’s backyard – but at least this one appears to be friendly…and polite…and able to drink tea from a cup? Is it in any way related to the ‘dogs’ the girls drew with Mildred’s supposed magic pencil? Can Jack and the boys find the beast before Jack gets too beat up by the school bully? Will Shauna and Jack ever have a date?

Why I picked it up: I loved the first volume and was eager to read more about Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, Jack, and Sonny’s mystery-solving exploits

Why I finished it: Allison has created a wonderfully diverse world filled with marvelously fleshed out characters whose interactions remind us of our own adventures and misadventures. Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte, Jack, Sonny, and Linton could all very well be people we know, and the reader is instantly drawn into the group, looking for clues about what currently plagues their small town. There’s somewhat less interaction between the girls and the boys in this volume, since each of them seems to have stumbled upon their own separate mysteries. The bit with Jack being bullied is poignant without detracting from the main plot. Bullying is a big deal no matter your age group, and Allison addresses the issue in a way that seems to spark something in the reader. We can get called out on the fact that we’re in trouble, but it’s often hard to admit that we need help, that we can’t handle it ourselves. I also appreciated that the adults are just as snarky as the teens, walking a fine line between being a disciplinarian and being an advocate. It gives us a different look at our own lives and our own world without detracting from the fun and quirky nature of the comic itself. And again, there’s a helpful glossary in the back of the book to help readers with the idioms of British English.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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The Quikpick Papers: The Rat With The Human Face Review

rat_with_the_human_faceThe Quikpick Papers: The Rat With The Human Face by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang

Harry N. Abrams, 2015. 978-1419714894

Synopsis: Lyle isn’t a bad kid. He’s a good kid that happens to find himself in bad situations. Like when he and his friends Dave and Marilla go to a shut down research lab in search of the rat with the human face. It sounded too cool to pass up, and the Quikpick Adventure Society was looking for something else to explore. Plus, this could potentially top the poop fountain. But then they get caught in the lab and trouble ensues. Big time.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to read more about the (mis)adventures of Lyle, Dave, and Marilla.

Why I finished it: It sounds funny to say that the story is action-packed, but there seems to be quite a bit going on in a short amount of time. Lyle wants to tell things like they are, to explain what happened and how everything got so blown out of proportion. Don’t get me wrong: he makes his case pretty well, but the reader can’t deny that while what they did was totally gutsy, it was also pretty reckless. I mean, yeah, the consequences were pretty bad, but things could have been a lot worse. The report reads like a letter from a friend, complete with Dave’s doodles, some photographs, and personal notes from Lyle that give us a little bit more meat to the story. The plot is paced well; Angleberger keeps the reader moving at a pretty fast clip up until the very last pages. But what really sells it for me is the wit and the humor. If the story had been just what was told in the report, that doesn’t feel like enough justification for what the Adventure Society did and how they inevitably got disbanded. The additions of the Rhyme-Jitsu, the slow-startup camera, and the sort of tongue in cheek commentary on consumerism is what makes us really engage in the story. We feel like the Quikpick Adventure Society could be us and our friends trying to do something exciting in a town that is anything but. It’s a fun and funny story about friendship, danger, and how some adults just don’t get it that readers of all ages can enjoy.

Other related materials: The Quikpick Papers: Poop Fountain! by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; The Quikpick Papers: To Kick a Corpse by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall! by Tom Angleberger;  Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger; Star Wars: Jedi Academy books by Jeffrey Brown;  How to Eat Fried Worms by Judy Blume; Freckle Juice by Judy Blume; Diary of a Sixth-Grade Ninja books by Marcus Emerson; The Ninja Librarians books by Jen Swann Downey; The Creature from My Closet books by Obert Skye; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Guys Read books edited by Jon Scieszka; The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Review

absolutely_true_diary_of_a_part_time_indianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, art by Ellen Forney

Little, Brown books for Young Readers, 2007. 978-0316013680

Winner of the 2008 National Book Award

Synopsis: Junior isn’t like most people. Born with water on the brain, Junior often suffers from seizures; he wears glasses that don’t fit his face, his feet are too big for his body, and he speaks with a lisp. The one thing he seems to have going for him is his art. It’s how he makes sense of the world. It’s how he’s staying even a little bit sane when he becomes the only Indian at a high school full of white kids, when his best friend won’t speak to him, when his sister runs away to live the life of a romance novel. It’s what gives him hope during a year that seems hopeless.

Why I picked it up: This is another title that came highly recommended to me by my librarian colleagues and I thought it was time I pulled it off my shelf.

Why I finished it: I found out in the first few pages that Alexie wasn’t going to be pulling any punches. He told it like it was, and he didn’t shy away from any of the scary, awkward, gruesome details that come with growing up on an Indian reservation. In a lot of ways, Junior is a stereotype, and he’s willing to acknowledge this to a point. When it is proposed he leaves the reservation, it’s not only a way for him to help fight the stereotype, but a chance for him to make something better than himself, to be the person his parents could have been had someone believed in them. And really, I think everyone needs that: one person in our lives that is willing to believe in us, to help push us away from our comfort zone into the breech. And yet, Junior still feels as though he is living two separate lives, one much more surreal than the other. But despite the tragedies he faces and the challenges he overcomes, Junior finds a way to make sense of it all…well, mostly. Forney’s art is a delightful mix of realism and cartoonish humor, largely to reflect Junior’s mood or state of mind while he is drawing. It’s a way for the reader to truly experience how Junior is making sense of the world and how he is perceiving those around him. It’s a funny, heartbreaking story about how we face life’s challenges and how we learn to control the elements we can while coping with those we cannot.

Other related materials: Flight by Sherman Alexie; If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth; Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Lori Earley; Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell; My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson; Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz; Winger by Andrew Smith, illustrated by Sam Bosma; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine; American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang; Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina; The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina; Mexican White Boy  by Matt de la Peña; When I Was Young and Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago; Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa  Abdel-Fattah

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Teen Boat!: The Race for Boatlantis Review

TeenBoat2cover_fnl2.jpgTeen Boat!: The Race for Boatlantis by Dave Roman and John Green

Clarion Books, 2015. 978-0547865638

Synopsis: Teen Boat and his friends are back, this time in an epic competition of nautical proportions. When the Principal announces that a highly prestigious boat race is being reinstated, Teen Boat is determined to win the prize – especially after he learns that the trophy could lead him to a place called Boatlantis where boats determine the hierarchy. Sounds like the perfect place for a half boy/half boat, but is Boatlantis where Teen Boat really belongs?

Why I picked it up: I met Roman and Green at a library convention where they were promoting The Race for Boatlantis and they told me to read the first one before I picked up the second – so I did.

Why I finished it: If you keep some track of this blog, you know that I have a tendency – through no fault of my own – to jump into series without often having read the first book. There’s not a lot of recapping that happens in Boatlantis, so it does behoove you to have read Teen Boat! before you move on to this one. So that’s my little PSA: trust the authors when they say go back to the beginning and don’t just jump in wherever. But I digress. In Teen Boat’s second voyage, we find him still struggling to truly find a place where he belongs. And it is somewhat appropriate that our hero is approaching graduation, about to go off into the world and make a name for himself. The story is filled with pop culture references that add to the humor of the story and help to deepen the characters and in some cases, their relationships. There’s also some origin stories that help to give the reader a little bit more background about how Teen Boat became Teen Boat and the mystery behind Joey’s big secret. It entails that the reader suspend disbelief – that is, if you try to think too much about the logistics, then really you’re taking the story a little too seriously. Mystery, action, and thrills about in this exciting conclusion to the Teen Boat journey, which proves that in both fair and fowl weather, friends will find a way to stick together.

Other related materials: Teen Boat! by Dave Roman and John Green; Astronaut Academy books by Dave Roman; Drama by Raina Telgemeier; Smile by Raina Telgemeier; Sisters by Raina Telgemeier; Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Sidekicks by Dan Santat; Bone series by Jeff Smith; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel; Cleopatra in Space books by Mike Maihack; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Lumberjanes books by Noelle Stevenson, Brooke A. Allen, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Watters

TeenBoat2cover_fnl2.jpg

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Big Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka Review

bignate_thunkathunkaBig Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka by Lincoln Peirce

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449462277

Synopsis: Sixth grade can be a tension convention for Nate Wright.  His baseball team’s just been given the lamest name in Little League history; he’s on the verge of becoming know-it-all Gina’s personal servant for a day; and Spitsy, the closest thing he has to a dog of his own, is in love with a CAT.  Yup, Nate’s up to his ears in stress.  Luckily, the perfect remedy is close at hand:  an empty plastic soda bottle.  All Nate has to do is drum it gently against his head — thunka, thunka, thunka — and the pressures of dealing with Coach John, Mrs. Godfrey, and the terrifying Kim Cressly begin to fade away.  Who knew an empty bottle could be so therapeutic? – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: What’s not to love?

Why I finished it: This is some seriously funny stuff. The pressures of middle school can be overwhelming sometimes, and this collection really hits on some of the everyday things that can make life seem overwhelming: pop quizzes, trying to deal with a girl who likes you when you don’t like her, trying to get the attention of the girl you like, parents, siblings, friends, classmates…. Sometimes it just seems like the world is out to get you. Lucky for Nate, he’s got the magical power of sheer determination, nerves of steel, and a plastic bottle to beat against his dad’s head. It’s what’s helping him deal with his baseball team being re-named the Cream Puffs and being nice to Mrs. Godfrey for a whole week so that he won’t get detention, not to mention the fact that the school secretary stole his idea to write a fight song for the school. Peirce gets another ‘A+’ for his work, mixing fantasy with reality and a unique brand of humor to get readers hooked for life. So sit back, relax, and relieve a little stress of your own while you follow Nate through his latest series of antics. It’s a book that will have you cheering for more.

Other related materials: Big Nate: I Can’t Take It! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate’s Greatest Hits by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Say Goodbye to Dork City by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: The Crowd Goes Wild! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate and Friends by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Game On! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate Makes the Grade by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Revenge of the Cream Puffs by Lincoln Peirce; My Weirdest School books by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Jim Paillot; Timmy Failure books by Stephan Pastis; Middle School books by James Patterson and Chris Tebbits, illustrated by Laura Park; Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

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Desmond Pucket and the Cloverfield Junior High Carnival of Horrors

desmond_pucket_3Desmond Pucket and the Cloverfield Junior High Carnival of Horrors by Mark Tatulli

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449466282.

Synopsis: New year, same school…or so Desmond thinks. Turns out his arch-nemesis Mr. Needles is now the Principal, Keith Schimsky (y’know, the younger brother of the lovely Tina) grew into a giant, and the annual Carnival of Horrors has been cancelled. But when he finds out that the librarian may lose her job, he hatches a plan that may just be able to save both the librarian and the school carnival.

Why I picked it up: Fun? Check. Funny? Check. Monsters? Check, check. What’s not to love?

Why I finished it: This series has earned a special place on my shelf because of its delightful mix of horror, humor, and heart. It makes me remember what it was like to be a kid pursuing their passions even if they seem to go against what everyone else likes. On the surface, Desmond may seem single-minded and lazy, but as a reader you know that he’s got good intentions. He has the ability to see a need and finds a way to use his talents to meet that need – even if scaring isn’t the optimal solution. Tatulli’s story once again comes alive in the art – whether it be Desmond’s scribbles or the intermittent illustrations between paragraphs. It’s another reason to like this series: the hybrid novel/graphic novel really expounds on the characters and their actions while giving the reader a visual point of reference for some of the tricks Desmond is using to make sure the show goes on. Highly imaginative and humorous, Desmond will continue to make magic with readers both on and off the page.

Other related materials: Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic by Mark Tatulli; Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters by Mark Tatulli; Lio’s Astonishing Tales: From the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors by Mark Tatulli; The Odd Squad books by Michael Fry; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; George Brown, Class Clown by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Aaron Blecha; My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish books by Mo O’Hara, illustrated by Marek Jagucki; Frank Einstein books by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Timmy Failure books by Stephen Pastis

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