November 23, 2018

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle written by Leslie Connor

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:26 pm by suebe2

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle
written by Leslie Connor

There’s a notebook that Mason is supposed to be writing in and it is way worse than school work.  School is bad enough.

Mason is the biggest kid at school and he sweats a lot.  It is so bad he brings an extra shirt to school.  And school work is a struggle.  Letters seem to swim around the page.  He can tell a story well enough but reading and writing are tough.  And that’s what the detective wants him to do – write.

Fifteen months earlier, Mason’s best friend Benny is found dead in the Buttle family orchard.  He’s laying beneath the tree fort where he and Mason spent so much of their time.  Mason knows that its important but he doesn’t know what the detective wants him to say.  He tried to tell about seeing pink when he is especially happy, like he was when he left Benny in the fort, but the detective thinks Mason is making things up.

Now the detective stops by every now and again and asks to see the notebook. He’s always disappointed and tells Mason that people are counting on him.  Don’t Benny’s dads deserve to know what happened to their boy?  Benny agrees, yes, they deserve to know but he doesn’t know how he can help.  The two  men act so sad and disappointed when they see Mason.

Then Mason’s other friend disappears.  They split up to run through the orchard and Mason thought Calvin went home.  But he isn’t there and now the police are looking for him.  And they are once again looking at Mason Buttle.

I’m not going to tell you how the book ends except to say that Mason figures it out.  He figures out what happened to Calvin and what happened to Benny.  And it isn’t the story the police expected to hear but they hear it anyway.

As a mom, this book was really hard to read.  It bothered me that the adults in his life didn’t seem to be tending to Mason’s needs.  Yes, they were hurting too but they didn’t seem to see how bad things were for him.  Fortunately, by the end of the book, they had come around but until then it was so hard for me to read.

Still Connor has created a vibrant world with a character you can’t help but love.  Mason had a good heart and is painfully honest even if not everyone sees his vision of the world.

Add this book to your library, at home and at school, and share it with the young readers in your life.  Be prepared to discuss bullying as well as creativity and belonging.  A top-notch book that begs to be read, appreciated and discussed with fellow readers.


November 3, 2016

Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 3:47 pm by suebe2

last-in-a-long-line-of-rebelsLast in a Long Line of Rebels
by Lisa Lewis Tyre
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin

When one of the “in” girls asks Lou what she’s doing that summer, Lou panics.  She doesn’t want to admit that her plans consist of nothing more than long Tennessee summer hours spent with her best friend Benzer, her cousin Patty and her friend Franklin.  The foursome spend as much time as possible together, much of it at Lou’s run down old house.

Lou promises that she has something exciting in the works.  Desperate to make this so, she gets out an old family Bible and gets Benzer to pray with her.  If God grants her an exciting summer, she’ll start going to church.

But the excitement she finds isn’t something she would wish on anyone.  The town is going to tear down her home unless she can find a way to save it.  The problem is that her parents don’t know that she knows so she and her friends have to take care of things on the sly.

Franklin’s is working on his American Heritage scouting badge.  Because of this, he’s read up on the National Register of Historic Places.  If they can get Lou’s house on the registry, the town can’t tear it down. That means that they need to find a nearby Civil War Battle.

Lou and Benzer like Franklin’s plan but they have a back up plan.  Find the long-lost Confederate gold that Lou’s ancestor was accused of stealing.

As the kids dig and explore, they find out some ugly truths about their community.  The art studio used by Lou’s mama?  It’s more than just an outbuilding.  It was a slave cabin.  And all the hidey-holes in the house?  They may have been used for more than hiding valuables from the Yankees.  Lou is in agony over what is true and what isn’t and what it all means for who she is.

I don’t want to say anything more about the plot of the book and I refuse to give away the ending.  Sorry!  This is something you really need to read for yourself.  Tyre does a top-notch job, tying everything together but also creating an ending that is both surprising and inevitable.

Tyre’s book may be set in the 1990s but it is a story that is as relevent now as it was then. It deals with race issues past and present while exploring personal and community growth and responsibility.

Expect this book to lead to some very deep conversations with no easy answers.  I wish I had had this book as a tween with both Confederate and Union roots.


September 9, 2016

Poison Is Not Polite by Robin Stevens

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:15 pm by suebe2

poison-is-not-polite-9781481422154_hrPoison Is Not Polite
by Robin Stevens
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

It’s the holidays so school is out.  Instead of heading home to Hong Kong, Hazel goes home with Daisy. After all, it is also going to be her best friend’s birthday.  What fun!

But things don’t go quite as planned.  Daisy’s mother has planned a children’s tea for the girls. The adults get into it much more than the tweens, and the girls are only about to get their own tea when one of the men suddenly gets very sick.  Pale and in with terrible stomach pains, the other adults take him upstairs.

Daisy and Hazel sneak into the library to research his symptoms. Daisy is sure they sound familiar and soon she has an answer.  The violent symptoms he is suffering are consistent with arsenic poisoning.  Has someone used rat poison on Mr. Curtis?

As is so often the case when reviewing a mystery, I don’t want to summarize the events and give away “who done it.”  There’s no spoiler in telling you that Mr. Curtin ultimately dies so Daisy and Hazel finds themselves investigating another murder.  (This much is on the book jacket so I haven’t given anything away.)

The problem is that a storm had isolated Fallingford, the manor where Daisy’s family lives.  That means that whoever killed Mr. Curtis is one of Daisy’s friends or family.  Unless the butler did it.  The problem is that Curtis was disagreeable and dishonest.  Almost every adult present had a reason to wish him ill and half of the adults are acting very suspicious.

Daisy’s mother seems to have been very close, ahem, to the dead man.

Her father was seen arguing with him.

The new governess, though an excellent teacher, is obviously hiding something in the handbag she never sits down.

And even beloved, fun Uncle Felix is obviously hiding something.

Can Hazel help Daisy solve the mystery without breaking her best friend’s heart?

This is the second Wells and Wong Mystery.  Although it occasionally refers to the first book, readers can easily pick up this one without getting lost.  Although this book is primarily a mystery, there is a lot to it as it deals with classism and racism, one of Daisy’s relatives initially makes rude comments about Hazel who is Chinese. Still, the majority of the family doesn’t even blink, quickly accepting the new girl and going on about life.

This isn’t a high action, car chase type of mystery.  But it is an excellent story of friendship, human nature and two girls determined to do what is right even when it may not make them happy.


July 10, 2014

A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:33 am by suebe2

A Hitch at the Fairmont
by Jim Averbeck
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Dazed and lost, Jack just goes through the motions at his mother’s memorial service.  Without a body to bury, all that he has of her there is a photo provided by her acting troupe. Where’s the aunt whose taking custody of him?  Jack expected her to show up at the service but she’s late, pulling up in a convertible with two wooden cases in the back.  Everything that belonged to him and his mother has been sorted and boxed up without any input from Jack who is wedged between these boxes in the back seat for the ride back to San Francisco.

Thus begins Jack’s new life.  Hateful Aunt Edith barely squeezes him into her life at the posh Fairmont Hotel.  She doesn’t even upgrade to a suite with a second bed.  He sleeps on the too-small sofa and takes care of her pet chinchilla, a weasly disagreeable creature named Muffin.  He does his best to do whatever task she gives him but can’t answer the question that she puts to him again and again — did his mother ever give him a string of numbers with no explanation.

One day Jack recognizes one of their “neighbors” in the hotel, a stocky, serious man named Alfred Hitchcock.  He’s in town scouting locations for a new movie and doesn’t really want to get involved when Jack discovers his aunt missing and a ransom note written in chocolates on the bed.   Finally, Jack convinces Hitchcock that he needs the director’s expertise in mystery, murder and mayhem to figure out what is going on before he is an orphan all over again.

Will they figure out what is going on before Jack becomes not just an orphan but a victim?

Although young readers may not know who Hitchcock is when they start reading the book, knowledge of his movies isn’t essential to the plot of the book.  That said, it is interesting to recognize the movie titles used as chapter titles and the locations Hitchcock is scouting.

Through his author’s note, Averbeck makes it clear that the public knew one Alfred Hitchcock, mysterious, dark and brouding, while his family and coworkers often found themselves confronted by his practical jokes and sense of humor.  Averbeck does a great job in bringing both of these figures onto the page to create a Hitchcock that middle grade readers can both identify with and adore.

The mystery is a fast-paced adventure, worthy of any Hitchcock novel and Jack a solid Hitchcock hero as his world is turned upside down even as he struggles to define his place in it.

This book is a bit meatier than your typical beach read but it is an excellent choice both for young mystery lovers and older Alfred Hitchcock fans.





%d bloggers like this: