Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective, by Frank Cammuso

Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective, by Frank Cammuso. Syracuse, NY: Nite Owl Comics, 2005. ISBN-10: 0972006141; ISBN-13: 978-0972006149. 208 p.

Plot Summary
Max Hamm is a detective in a noir version of Storybook Land. Populated by characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales, the town is run by Ma Goose and the Grimm Brothers. Hamm (a pig) runs the Hamm & Eggs Detective Agency with Humpty Dumpty. Max investigates the grisly death of his partner and a tale of intrigue involving Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Critical Evaluation
A mixture of comic book and graphic novel, this pick will delight reluctant readers who like mysteries. Written in the style of Dick Francis and the Maltese Falcon, Hamm's terrible puns and jokes will make anyone laugh. Example: "My not so hardboiled partner had an accident. When I got the joint, there he was, sunny-side up." The puns work well with the story and aren't overdone. An enjoyable read.

Author Information
Frank Cammuso graduated from Syracuse University in 1987 with a BFA in Illustration. He has been a political cartoonist for the Syracuse, NY Post-Standard for the past 20 years, and his cartoons have also appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Newsweek. His satire collaborations with Hart Seely have appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, The Village Voice, Slate, and NPR. The comic book series Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective was nominated for the Eisner Award in the category of "Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition." He lives with his wife and family in Syracuse, NY, and blogs irregularly at http://www.cammuso.com/blog/

Graphic novel, comic book, mystery.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Pirateology, by Captain William Lubber

Pirateology, by Dugald A. Steer (from the perspective of Captain William Lubber).  New York: Candlewick Press, 2006. 32 pages.

Ahoy, mateys! The journal of Captain William Lubber, a notorious pirate hunter tracking the legendary pirate Arabella Drummond, was discovered in a treasure chest. Read the ship's log, see the map of his journeys, and learn more about pirate lore, weaponry, tying knots, weaponry, ocean navigation, and the Jolly Roger. This pop-up book, which was designed to look like worn parchment, is chock-full of sidebars, maps to unfold, and drawings of infamous real-life pirates. As Captain Lubber logs his journey around the globe, learn more about pirates from Tortuga and Port Royal in the Caribbean to China, Madagascar, and Nova Scotia.

This interactive, oversized volume offers a wealth of information and facts about pirates that reluctant readers will enjoy. While this book offers some interesting information, it is perhaps best as a first source for information about pirates. Tweens who want more may be interested in books such as Hannah Pritchard, Pirate of the Revolution, Pirate's Log: A Handbook for Aspiring Swashbucklers, or Under the Eagle's Beak: The Search for the Treasure of the Pirate's Pit.

Editorial reviews can be found at Amazon. The book's official website can be found at http://www.biblioweb.co.uk/pirateology/.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Love, Football, and Other Contact Sports, by Alden R. Carter

Love, Football, and Other Contact Sports, by Alden R. Carter. New York: Holiday House, 2006. 192 pages.

This collection of interconnected stories and vignettes follows students at Argyle High as they learn the games of football, love, and life. Is there a brain hidden in that 300 pound linebacker after all? Who has a secret crush? This collection reminds readers that nothing is as simple as it seems.

Readers must leave their preconceptions and stereotypes at the door as they read this collection. For middle school readers who aren't quite ready for the heavy subject matter of Chris Crutcher's books, but who still love reading about sports, Love, Football, and Other Contact Sports is a funny, fast-paced read that most will enjoy.

The author's website can be seen at www.aldencarter.com. Editorial and reader reviews can be found at Amazon.

Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl

Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl. New York: Puffin Books, 1970. 81 pages.

"Nobody outfoxes Fantastic Mr. Fox!" Mr. Fox must steal from the three meanest farmers in the countryside so he can feed his family. But they've discovered his thievery and are out to kill him. They can destroy his burrow, but they can't destroy his brains! Can Mr. Fox come up with a plan to save his family and hoodwink the farmers?

Fantastic Mr. Fox is suitable for tweens at lower reading levels, but can be enjoyed by anyone. Wes Anderson's movie version was a hit last year, which may increase interest in this book.

Reader reviews can be found at Amazon.com. The movie's website can be seen at http://www.fantasticmrfoxmovie.com/.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney. New York: Amulet Books, 2007. 224 pages.

Greg Heffley is a pretty average kid. His older brother is a jerk, his younger brother is obnoxious, his best friend is a dork, and his parents don't understand him. And now that he's started his first year of middle school, everything is changing. His friendships aren't the same as they used to be, and he isn't sure what kind of person he wants to become. When his best friend Rowley gains success and popularity as the school cartoonist, and starts to grow away from Greg, he shares the pranks and funny tricks he plays as he tries to make his friendship the same as it used to be.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books have become a cultural phenomenon in the past few years. In my time volunteering at my public library, tweens ask for these books every day--our most common reference question seems to be "Do you have any of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?" An understanding of these illustrated novels is essential to any public librarian who wants to know what's currently popular. These books capture the self-absorption of middle school kids, and appeal to many middle school boys who see themselves and their troubles in the journal of Greg Heffley. He is neither super popular or a huge loser, the two ends of the spectrum that most teen movies focus on. He's just a regular guy, and his voice comes out in the novel. Highly recommended.

Customer and editorial reviews can be found at Amazon.com. Wimpykid.com is a great site for all the Wimpy Kid books and movies.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate di Camillo

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate di Camillo. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2003.

Despereaux is a very small castle mouse who loves to read and hear the king singing to the princess. But when the princess is kidnapped by a rat and a jealous serving maid, someone must go to the dungeons to save her. Despereaux is so little. Can he complete his quest and become a hero?

Borrowing the rhetorical device of the omniscient storyteller common to novels such as Jane Eyre, Kate Di Camillo is able to make all her characters, even a mouse, relatable to her readers. A starred review in School Library Journal calls the story of Despereaux "entertaining, heartening, and above all, great fun." This is a great story that most readers will enjoy. This book won the Newbery Medal.

Despereaux was made into a movie; visit the film's website to view clips from the movie and get DVD information at http://www.thetaleofdespereauxmovie.com/. Additional editorial reviews can be found at Amazon, and you can visit the author's website at http://www.katedicamillo.com/.

Schooled, by Gordon Korman

Schooled, by Gordon Korman. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2007.

Capricorn Anderson has never watched television, tasted a pizza, or been to school. He has lived on a farm commune since he was little, homeschooled by his hippie grandma, Rain. But when Rain falls out of a tree and breaks her hip, Cap must attend the local middle school. His long hair and tie-dyed clothes, along with his laid-back attitude, draw the ridicule of his classmates. He is elected as the 8th grade class president as a joke--will he be the best president in school history, or the biggest punchline?

Korman excels at portraying middle schoolers as they really are, but also interpreting their behaviors with warmth and compassion. As the reader follows the changes Cap brings to the school, it's interesting to see how just one person can make a difference.

More reviews can be found at Amazon.com. The author's official website is www.gordonkorman.com, where he also blogs.