Friday, August 28, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Freaky Monday

My two sons and I are big fans of both Freaky Friday movies, so we were excited to hear that a long-awaited sequel was recently published, Freaky Monday. Written by the original author, Mary Rodgers, and the screenwriter for the second Freaky Friday movie, Heather Hach, the new book is just as much fun as the original! We listened to the audio book on a recent car trip, and the whole family enjoyed it.

Hadley is an over-achieving eighth-grader who is so worried about her grades that she hardly has time in her life for anything else, even her two best friends. Her freewheeling English teacher, Ms. Pitt, drives Hadley crazy because she’s not focused on grades; she’s more likely to have her students sit in a circle and talk about the meaning of a book than assign extra credit projects.

During a conflict between the two in the school hallway, they suddenly trade places, and then the fun really begins! They go through all kinds of crises while trapped in each other’s bodies, including a job interview, a family emergency, and even a little romance. The result is funny, engaging, and eventually heartwarming.

The audio book is perfectly read by Jennifer Stone, whose voice kids will recognize as Harper from Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place TV show. Stone did a great job narrating as slightly neurotic Hadley, and we were hooked from beginning to end. This one is sure to be a big hit with tweens, especially girls (though my boys enjoyed it, too).

Listen to a sample audio clip.

Harper-Collins, 192 pages.
HarperChildren’s Audio
Accelerated Reader (AR) Level 4.7

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow

Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow by best-selling adult author James Rollins has all the suspense and action of his grown-up books, with magic and fantasy added to the mix. We listened to this audio book during our recent cross-country road trip, and it helped make the miles fly by!

Jake and his older sister, Kady, are left on their own when their parents, both famous archeologists, disappear while on an expedition. A few months later, Jake receives a mysterious package that contains an artifact that his parents found on their last expedition.

The kids enter their own adventure when the artifact plunges them into a bizarre world where long-lost civilizations live together. They make friends with Mayan, Roman, and Viking kids while they try to find a way back home, but this strange new world is filled with dangers. Besides creatures like T. Rex chasing them, there is an evil Skull King who wants to stop them from finding a way home.

Rollins includes fascinating facts about how each of these ancient civilizations lived, coupled with the enticing magic that brought them all together and allows them to create their own technologies. The gripping story combines elements of science and history with fantasy for a thrilling adventure filled with exciting twists. It’s clear from the ending that this is only the beginning of Jake and Kady’s adventures.

You can listen to a sample of the audio book – just click on the listen button at the link.

HarperCollins, 416 pages.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teen/YA Review: Prism

You know an audio book is good when you get to your destination and don’t want to get out of the car. That happened to me recently when I listened to the new teen/YA novel Prism by Faye and Aliza Kellerman, a mother-daughter writing team (and wife and daughter to best-selling author Jonathan Kellerman). I arrived home and ran in the house to stick the CD into our home player so I could finish listening to this exciting and suspenseful story, and I kept listening until I got to the end. I don’t think I’ve ever finished an audio book in so little time.

The action begins with a class trip to Carlsbad Caverns. Kaida Hutchenson isn’t thrilled to find out she’s been assigned to ride in a van (for 14 hours) with swimming jock Zeke Anderson and smarty-pants loner Joy Tallon. Partway through the long and boring drive, a terrible accident occurs, and Kaida, Zeke, and Joy suddenly find themselves not only stuck together but trying to survive alone in the desert together. During a storm, they take refuge in a cave. Suddenly, there’s a blinding flash of light in the black cave, and the next thing Kaida knows, she’s waking up in her own bed back home.

Did she dream the whole awful ordeal? As Kaida numbly goes through the motions of her school day, she discovers that everything is just a little bit different than she remembers. With no other options, she must again band together with Zeke and Joy to try to figure out what happened and how to get back to the reality they know.

This imaginative thriller is not only fast-paced but also very well-written. The excellent voice talent of reader Jenna Lamia adds to the audio book’s appeal. You can tell that a teen helped to write this novel (Aliza is a junior in high school) because its dialogue sounds natural and true. Plus, the plot and concept of the book are fascinating to consider. I highly recommend this book to teens, young adults, and even older pre-teens (as well as adults!)

HarperCollins, 272 pages

Click here to listen to a sample of the audio book Prism.