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October 5, 2010 > Footnotes


As promised, here are reviews for readers 5th grade and up:

For 5th graders: How to Grow Up and Rule the World, by Vordak the Incomprehensible (well, actually written by Scott Seegert, at least according to the copyright page). MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Are you tired of being "good?" Grown weary of trying to "do the right thing" all the time, or of being a "playing fair," "caring," and "sharing?" Then this is the book for you!

Vordak, the Incomprehensible has written a vile, nasty, magnificent manual to tell you, oh addlebrained little reader, how to bring out your TRUE self, your evil self, and how to get started on your destiny, to someday RULE THE WORLD! He includes how to create your super-evil costume, your vile and evil lair, and how to gather your minions, and create a top-notch EVIL organization. Once you rule the world, Vordak even includes a few suggestions of what you might do with it!

Of course, I'm not suggesting you follow Vordak's instructions. Neither this newspaper nor Fremont Unified School District in anyway endorses that you make any efforts to conquer our planet. But, in case your weekend has been going slowly... (Egmont hardcover, $13.99)

For 5th graders: Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. Dwight is a little odd. He's always making inappropriate remarks, or wearing odd things. Then one day he shows up at middle school with Yoda, an origami puppet, on his finger. Of course at first people make fun of the thing - it is after all a wad of paper, right? But then Yoda starts speaking, and dispensing advice. The really weird part is that the advice is actually good stuff, good enough that kids keep coming back to Yoda again and again. Dwight insists he's not the one making Yoda say the things he says, and in fact Dwight gives contradicting advice at one point. Tommy, who is Dwight's friend, has to find out the truth about the Yoda; he has an urgent situation that needs solution. When he gets Yoda's advice, should he follow it? Or should he assume that this is from Dwight, and ignore it? A lot of fun, this book is! (Amulet hardback, $12.95)

For 6th graders: Masters of Disasters, by Gary Paulsen. Three friends get together to discuss what they're going to do; Henry announces to Riley and Reed, "Let's face facts: We may be the most boring twelve-year olds on the planet." Why? Well they haven't done anything record-breaking or earth-shaking. Henry devises a truly inspired plan, a series of goals really, for our three heroes to not only become famous but infamous. The first goal involves bicycles, or specifically one bicycle. With someone strapped to it. There will be safety equipment involved, of course. This someone will attempt to do four forward somersaults in a row. To do this, one needs to start from a g-r-e-a-t height; from, say, a very high roof. Does this sound like a disaster in the making? You wouldn't be far from wrong. And to think, this is just the first idea... (Wendy Lamb hardback, $12.99)

For 7th grade and up: Inside Out, by Maria Snyder. Trella lives in a world that is separated into levels, each one 2,000 meters square. Levels one and two are where the 'scrubs' live, the beings that cook, clean, grow food and do all the menial work. Trella has to clean out airways. She much prefers the quiet and isolation of the tubes that she spends each working moment crawling in. She has explored far beyond the bottom two levels; she's even gone where the Uppers live.

It's widely known by the scrubs that Uppers have bigger homes, and live in family units. Scrubs' children are taken from their parents at birth and raised by a common caretaker. Uppers eat better, and probably don't have to work. Scrubs have to work all the time. Trella hates being a scrub, but she has no choice. The consequences of defiance are harsh, to be fed to the "Chomper."

One day her only friend Cog tells her that she must meet a new scrub, the Broken Man. Trella finds out that he says that he used to be an Upper, and claims he knows where 'Gateway' is. Trella scoffs. Gateway is supposedly the escape from this world, the door to the scrubs' freedom. But Trella has been all over her world. She knows there's no escape.

Broken Man makes Trella a deal. If she will just go to the room where he lived before, and retrieve some information disks that he hid, he'll prove to her that Gateway is not only real, but that he knows how to find it. Trella finally agrees; more to show Cog that Broken Man is a fake than anything else. She is surprised when the prophet's old room is on an Upper Level, and even more so when she gets there. What she doesn't know is that this journey will take her far further than she had any right to expect, and will risk far more than just her life. An exciting and tense science fiction. (Harlequin paperback, $9.99)

For high school and up: I am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore. John Smith is what he calls himself now, but that is not his name. He lives with a person most assume is his father Henri, but is actually his guardian. He looks human, from Earth, but he's actually from a planet called Lorien.

Lorien was a planet much like ours, with beautiful seas, advanced culture, lovely cities. There were two kinds of beings that developed on Lorien, the ones with 'legacies' and the ones without. The Legacies are special attributes, such as the ability to become invisible, or to take flight. John's have not developed yet; when they do, Henri will guide him as he learns how to control and use them.

Lorien was attacked by beings called Mogadorians. The Mogadorians laid Lorien to waste, not caring if they killed every living thing on that world. In desperation nine children and their guides were sent to Earth. They are all that is left of Lorien.

John and the others are the last of the legacy laden Garde. They are protected by a spell that binds them in numerical order; they can only be killed when the one before them has been slain. Every time one of the Garde is killed a tatooed circle burns itself into the ankles of the rest. John has three tatoos on his ankle. He knows the Mogadorians are looking for him now, hunting him, for he is Number Four. A suspenseful adventure - can't wait for a sequel! (Harper hardback, $17.99)

For high school and up: Last Child, by John Hart. A year ago, Johnny Merrimon had a normal family life; he had a home, a great mom and dad, and a twin sister named Alyssa. Then one night the unthinkable happens. Johnny's father is late leaving work, and Alyssa decides to walk home instead of waiting for him. Johnny's best friend saw it happen; a van pulled up next to Alyssa and she was gone. With that, Johnny's world was shattered.

Now he lives in a horrible rental. His mother is still around, but she is so far gone on pain-killers and other medications she might as well not be. His father has disappeared, gone after a horrible fight when Johnny's mother blamed Alyssa's abduction on him. Now she has a boyfriend who is abusive; Johnny can't understand why she can't see that. There was a detective who was looking for Alyssa, but the case is old now... old and cold.

Johnny hasn't given up. He is determined to find his sister so that his life can be put back together. He cuts school, going from neighborhood to neighborhood, knocking on doors, searching. He has a map marked with suspicious households, and he goes back to those again and again.

One day, while he and his friend are at the river, a man literally drops at their feet from the bridge above. Dying, his body broken, he whispers to Johnny, "I found her." "You found who?" "The girl that was taken."

Johnny has to find what the man found, he has to find Alyssa. The detective has warned him that he is looking for trouble. Johnny is looking for so much more than that - he's looking for life, or death. A very suspenseful mystery that kept me guessing until the end.
(Minotaur paperback, $14.99)

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