In the Stacks: Good books for summer

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2005

There's lots of good summer reading for chapter book readers this week at the Juneau Public Libraries:

"Wolf Brother," by Ed Ferrell. Ben and his grandfather find themselves stranded in the British Columbia wilderness after their small plane goes down. Aided at first by grandfather's knowledge of traditional Tlingit ways, Ben, a city boy, is soon left on his own, armed with bits of memories that he hopes will be enough. Hounded by an enormous grizzly bear and befriended by a lone wolf, he makes his way 200 miles to civilization. Ferrell, a local writer, has used real-life wilderness experiences and documented bear stories as background to this exciting adventure/survival novel.

"Technically, It's Not My Fault," by John Grandits. This collection of concrete poems (poems whose shape is as important as their content) captures the funny side of one boy's grade-school life. From science experiments with gravity and the origins of farts, to why he can't get any more pets (the backyard is full), this is a funny look at special moments in 11-year-old Robert's world.

"The Illustrated Mum," by Jacqueline Wilson. Dolphin Westward's mother, Marigold, isn't at all like other mothers: To start with, she's covered in brilliantly colored custom tattoos, each one commemorating a life event, and she acts more like Dolphin's friend than her mother. Thanks to Dolphin's older sister, Star, the household putts along despite Marigold's mood swings. But when Star's father offers to let the girls move in with him, Dolphin is left alone with a mother who needs more attention than Dolphin ever realized in this sensitive story about the inner workings of families.

"The Giant Rat of Sumatra, or, Pirates Galore," by Sid Fleischman. Fleischman delights readers again with this rollicking tale of a boy plucked from the remains of a whaling ship by the notorious pirate Capt. Gallows, who sails the Giant Rat of Sumatra. When they come ashore in San Diego of 1846, Mexico and the United States are at war and Shipwreck, an American, cannot go home. So he accompanies Capt. Gallows, who has given up his life on the seas for the life of a ranchero, but still yearns for home. This completes the California history trilogy begun in "By the Great Horn Spoon!"

"Fat Boy Swim," by Catherine Forde. What do you do if you are 14, obese and cursed with a talent for cooking? If you're Jimmy Kelly, you wallow in comfort food and let yourself feel as miserable as the bullies at school want you to feel. Until, at any rate, Jimmy meets two new people in town: Ellie, whose hair makes him think of rich chocolate, and GI Joe, the new swim coach. One thing leads to another, and he finds himself confessing his most secret desire to GI Joe: He wants to learn to swim. And once in the water, his whole life twists into a delightful new shape.

"The Dragons of Spratt, Ohio," by Linda Zinnen. Seventh-grader John Salt is the proud caretaker of a clutch of nine baby dragons who live at the International Center for the Preservation of Wildlife. He thinks they are fantastic beasts that have changed his life. His classmates think they bring new meaning to the word "stink." And John's aunt, who works for a major cosmetics company, thinks dragons (and their nigh-immortal DNA) are just the ticket for a new line of anti-wrinkle creams. When one of the dragons disappears, it's up to John and his friends to save the others.

•As always, placing a hold on our material is easy: Call the Juneau Public Libraries at 586-5249, or, if you have Internet access, your library card, and a PIN, you may place your own holds by going to our Web site ( and looking at our catalog. Placing holds on items featured in this column is now even easier. The new columns are hyperlinked to the catalog: Simply look up the column on our Web site, click on the title you want and you will be ready to place a hold.

"Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society," by Adeline Yen Mah. Set during World War II in Shanghai, this historical fantasy owes much to Mah's favorite childhood books: kung fu adventures. CC, or Chinese Cinderella (the English equivalent of her Chinese name, Ye Xian), has run away from home at a bad time. Japanese soldiers occupy Shanghai and life is changing rapidly. She is taken in by grandmother, Wu, who runs the Secret Dragon Society - a group of kids who are learning kung fu and other skills that will help them aid the American soldiers in throwing out the Japanese. Adventurous, patriotic and steeped in Chinese culture.

"Come, Llamas," by Jennifer Morris. JT is 9 when his grandfather declares him old enough to start helping out out on the llama ranch and gives JT his first baby llama - the start of his own herd. But things aren't going well for the ranch, and between his grandfather's declining health and the all-too healthy grizzly bears, JT discovers that sometimes hard work isn't enough to keep things from changing. Set in Alaska's Interior, this is another story about strong families in flux.

"Night Gate," by Isobelle Carmody. Twelve-year-old Rage has a big problem: Her mother is in a coma as the result of a car accident, and the neighbors keeping an eye on Rage have forbidden her to visit the hospital. So, with her four dogs (and a neighboring goat who tags along), she sneaks off for a visit on her own but ends up going through a magical gate into another world, seduced by the promise of healing her mother if she will only complete an errand for the firecat. But the firecat's errand is not what it seems, and something about the gate has transformed Rage's dogs (and, yes, the goat) into human-like beasts. Great fantasy from one of Australia's best writers.

The Summer Reading Program is in full swing for kids! Book clubs started yesterday, readers are earning books and bead by keeping track of their reading, and everyone is having fun with books and crafts at story and toddler times. Look online or come on in for more information.

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