Oliver Nocturne, hero of Kevin Emerson's The Vampire's Photograph, is your typical 13-year-old vampire. At least that’s what he always thought. He’s the youngest in his family, which consists of a businessman father, a sophisticated mother, and a bossy older brother.
Early one evening, while having trouble sleeping; Oliver hears a sound upstairs. Sneaking out of his coffin because his parents and brother are still asleep, he creeps upstairs into the decrepit human house that serves as a decoy above his families vampire crypt. There he encounters Emalie, a human girl around his age. She is snooping around the house and taking photographs. Oliver knows he should turn her in, but he's too enthralled by her presence to do more than watch her. When a careless misstep alerts Emalie to Oliver’s presence, she snaps a picture of him and runs off.
In Peter McCarty's Henry in Love, magic can be found in the simplest pleasures of an ordinary school day. The main character gets ready for school and decides that this is the day that he is going to talk to the loveliest girl in the class. Perfect cartwheels, games of tag, and the sharing of afternoon snacks follow.
The look of McCarty's characters is quite special. The illustrations are reminiscent of two children's classics. Henry and his classmates, all animals, recall the characters from Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby books, but with smaller eyes and a less cartoony demeanor. They look sweet without treading into cutesy territory. The wide margins and very selective use of color reminds one of Ian Falconer's Olivia books.
Fans of the Artemis Fowl series will immediately notice something is different with Artemis in this seventh installment in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, The Atlantis Complex. First off, he obsesses about his lucky number five, even going so far as to count words in his sentences to make sure they conform. He is deathly afraid of the number 4, generally out of touch with reality, and paranoid to the extreme, even doubting Butler’s unceasing loyalty.
It turns out that Artemis is suffering from the Atlantis complex, a degenerative mental disease brought on by guilt caused by his criminal activities and dabbling in fairy magic. The disease even spurs his gallant alter-ego named Orion, determined to woo Holly Short, tough-as-nails LEPrecon officer, with flowery accolades. Artemis, as always, has a plan that sets the plot in motion – but his plan this time is not to make money, but to save the world from global warming. However, there are nefarious forces working against him and things immediately go wrong when a deep-space probe piloted by enemy forces crashes Artemis’s meeting of the minds with Holly Short, Foaly, and Commander Vinyaya.
As The Strange Case of Origami Yoda begins, Tommy has two questions and two questions only. Those questions? Is Origami Yoda for real? Not real as in he exists, but for real as in can this seemingly wise finger puppet predict the future? And secondly, is the advice Yoda has given Tommy (despite Origami Yoda being voiced by Dwight, the strangest kid in school) good advice or will it result in school wide humiliation? With these two questions in mind, Tommy begins a case study of the Origami Yoda - how he got his start, the kid behind it, and all the situations in which Yoda has been used for aid at McQuarrie Middle School.
The book has cool illustrations and little details throughout – think Diary of a Wimpy Kid format – and they really capture the personalities of the characters in the book. There are more than a few funny Star Wars references that fans will delight in as well. The writing and story really drew me in because the reader is able to ponder each situation and draw his or her own conclusion on the wisdom being dispatched by Origami Yoda. The author, Tom Angleberger, has captured the unique personalities and challenges faced by the middle-school crowd in a realistic and humorous way.
Ever since he was a small boy, Will, hero of The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (Book 1 of The Ranger's Apprentice series), has dreamed of Choosing Day and the moment he can start training as a knight. Will, along with Horace, Alyss, Jenny, and the other castle wards raised by Baron Arald’s generosity, is now 15 years old, and about to leave the familiar confines of the castle to start his career apprenticeship. The other wards have obvious talents that will translate easily into their apprenticeships: Horace, a muscular boy and natural athlete is destined for battleschool; willowy and sophisticated Alyss for the Diplomatic Service; and friendly, food-loving Jenny to Master Chubb’s kitchens. Will’s destination is harder to predict, for where will this tree-climbing, wall-scaling teen fit in?
It turns out that Will is not selected for battleschool, but rather to become the apprentice of Halt the Ranger, part of an enigmatic group of men who use camouflage, superior bow skills, and secrecy to achieve their missions on behalf of the King. Over the next few months, Will’s disappointment over battleschool changes to grudging respect for Halt and the grueling training that the Rangers undergo to become proficient in their craft. He also starts to see in the quietly competent Halt the father figure that he has been without for his childhood.
Meggy Swann can swear with the best of them: “ye toads and vipers,” “gleeking goat’s bladder,” “swag-bellied maggot,” and “bloviating windbag” are some of her favorites. If these sound like strange epithets, mayhap you are not from the late 16th century like 13-year-old Meggy, the heroine of Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman.
Meggy was born with legs that “did not sit right in her hips,” and, as a result, has to use two walking sticks to move around with an “awkward swinging gait.” Meggy calls it “wabbling,” a lighthearted nickname for a condition that has brought her ridicule from her rural village, for she lives during a time when a physical handicap is seen as a punishment for a sinful nature. As a result, Meggy has developed a tough hide and a large lexicon of threats.