Monday, June 13, 2011

Sports Illustrated Kids (Magazine)

Published since 1989. Published by Time Warner.
Description: This version of the popular sports magazine began being published for a younger audience in 1989. The magazine features interviews with famous athletes, comics, other information about sports.
Review:  Sports Illustrated Kids is an ideal magazine for tweens, especially boys, who are interested in sports or athletics. The magazine often includes interviews conducted by other tweens of famous athletes, which readers are sure to enjoy. The funny photos of athletes with clever captions are also very entertaining. Overall, and excellent publication for tweens.
Genre: Magazine
Interest level: Grades 4-8
Similar titles: N/A
Personal thoughts: Although I am not a sports enthusiast, I do like this magazine quite a bit, especially for its appeal to tween boys. I think it is very clever and amusing and covers a lot of topics that readers are sure to enjoy. For latchkey tweens who come into the library after school, I often recommend picking up a copy of this magazine for browsing until their parents pick them up.   
Themes:  Sports, athletics, interviews.
Awards/Reviews:   Published since 1989.
Series Information: N/A
Character information: N/A
Annotation:   Do you like sports? Want to learn more about your favorite athletes? Then this is the magazine for you!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Girls’ Life (Magazine)

Published since 1994. Published by Girls’ Life Acquisition Co.
Emma Watson - Girls' Life Magazine [United States] (August 2007)Description: Since it was first published in 1994, Girls’ Life has focused on issues facing real-life tweens, like school, self-esteem, and peer pressure. Also included in the monthly publication are fashion tips, advice, quizzes, horoscopes, and games. The magazine often features celebrities on the cover, along with information and interviews about their lives.
Review:  Girls’ Life is an ideal magazine for older tween girls who are just on the cusp of wanting to pick up teen magazines like Seventeen or Cosmo Girl. The topics featured in the magazine are more mature than children’s magazines, and include a lot more celebrity gossip and advice about the opposite sex. According to the magazine’s website, the publication prides itself on guiding tween girls without making them grow up too fast. This is accomplished well and the magazine is very age appropriate as well as entertaining. Tween girls will undoubtedly want to read through each issue, especially those featuring celebrities they admire.
Genre: Magazine
Interest level: Grades 5-9
Similar titles: American Girl Magazine
Personal thoughts: This was not a title I read as a tween, but I have often looked through issues that have come through my library. I am always impressed with how the magazine covers important topics but in an age appropriate manner. Although I do prefer American Girl magazine for tweens, I think Girls’ Life is another really good publication as well.  
Themes:  Celebrities, advice, fashion, real-life issues.   
Awards/Reviews:   Published for 17 years. Recipient of many Parents’ Choice Gold Awards and the Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media Awards. Official magazine for Girl Scouts of the USA. Official book for Take Our Daughters to Work Day.
Series Information: N/A
Character information: N/A
Annotation:   Want to learn about fashion, celebs, boys, and real-life issues facing girls just like you at the same time? Girls’ Life magazine features advice columns, horoscopes and fun quizzes that are sure to entertain you.  

American Girl (Magazine)

Published since 1992. Published by American Girl, LLC.
Description: Published by the same company responsible for the American Girl dolls and fiction series, American Girl magazine is issued bimonthly and contains a variety of regular articles and special features for the modern American girl age 8 and up. Regular features include advice columns, including “Help!” and “Heart to Heart.” In addition to these columns, the magazine features fiction stories, games, and ideas for parties or crafts.
Review:  Published for almost twenty years, American Girl magazine has been a breath of fresh air in the world of magazines available for tweens. Too old for children’s magazines and too young for teen publications, American Girl is completely age appropriate for tween girls who aren’t quite ready to dive into the world of fashion, make-up, and celebrity gossip. Much of the fiction included in the magazine is actually quite well-written and interesting. The advice given is sound and appropriate for tweens. Overall, this magazine has been serving its target audience very well for almost two decades, and has the readership to prove it.
Genre: Magazine
Interest level: Grades 3-6
Similar titles: Girl’s Life Magazine
Personal thoughts: I used to read this as a tween and it still puts a smile on my face every time I see an issue pass through my library. It is a very wholesome but interesting and completely age appropriate publication. I am often impressed by the caliber of the fiction included in the magazine. I hope that this magazine continues to be published for years to come.
Themes:  Self-confidence, advice, creativity.  
Awards/Reviews:   Published for almost twenty years to over 500,000 readers.  
Series Information: N/A
Character information: N/A
Annotation:   Read the magazine that has been enjoyed by girls for almost twenty years! Included in this bimonthly publication is advice, craft ideas, party planning, and interesting fiction stories.

A Cinderella Story (Film)

Release date: 2004. Performers: Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, Chad Michael Murray, Dan Byrd, Regina King. Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures. Director: Mark Rosman. Screenplay: Leigh Dunlap.
File:Movie poster a cinderella story.jpgPlot summary: Samantha Montgomery lives with her loving father, Hal, who owns a successful diner. Wanting Samantha to have a mother, her Hal marries Fiona who moves in with her two daughters, Brianna and Gabriella. One night, Hal is tragically killed during a large earthquake, leaving Samantha to live with Fiona, who is actually cruel and hates Samantha. Since Hal had no will when he was killed, Fiona inherits the house and diner, and turns Samantha into her and her daughters’ personal slave. Eight years later, Samantha, Brianna and Gabriella are in high school. Fiona spoils her daughters rotten and they are bumbling idiots who are trying desperately to be popular. Samantha is forced to work long hours at the diner, but still manages to get straight A’s. Samantha takes refuge online, where she has a pen pal named Nomad who she shares her aspirations with. It is revealed that Nomad is actually Austin Ames, the most popular boy at Samantha’s high school, quarterback of the football team, and recent ex-boyfriend of popular cheerleader, Shelby. When Nomad suggests that he and Samantha meet in person at their school’s Halloween dance, Samantha is distraught when Fiona forces her to work, missing the dance. The loving employees of the diner, however, are determined that Samantha go, and get her dressed up beautifully. When she arrives in costume at the dance, Austin doesn’t realize who she is, and the two immediately fall for each other. But when Austin learns that Samantha is actually a poor diner employee, will he still love her?
Review:  This modern take on the classic Cinderella tale includes a lot of twists and turns from the original story that make for a wonderful movie for tweens. Instead of Samantha’s beauty, the “prince” falls for her kindness and intelligence. The evil stepmother is actually a Botox’d, plastic surgery obsessed woman who is too self-centered to love anyone but her own offspring. The stepsisters are wannabe popular girls, who believe they are talented and desirable, but are, in fact, perpetually making fools of themselves. The prince is a pensive and intelligent quarterback who doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed into the life his father has set out for him. All of these changes make for a very interesting film that shows that popularity isn’t all it’s cut out to be. True to the original tale, the ending of the movie is very satisfying with all the loose ends tied up and the characters getting what they deserve. A Cinderella Story is an idea “chick-flick” for tween girls with a good message behind it as well.
Genre: Fiction
Interest level: Grades 4-9
Similar titles: Ever After (1998)
Personal thoughts: I really enjoyed this modern take on the Cinderella story, especially because it showed that brains can take a girl much farther than just beauty. Jennifer Coolidge as the evil stepmother almost stole the show for me with her goofy Botox’d face. The interactions between Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray are very sweet, and tweens will definitely enjoy watching the beautiful couple fall for eachother.
Themes:  Cinderella, intelligence, following your heart.
Awards/Reviews:   Box office success.
Series Information: Sequels: Another Cinderella Story (2008) and A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song (In production)
Character information:
Samantha Montgomery – The “Cinderella” character. An intelligent and caring girl who is orphaned after her father is killed in an earthquake. She meets her “prince” in an online chatroom where she impresses him with her intelligence and aspirations.
Austin Ames – The “Prince Charming” character. A kind but misunderstood high school quarterback. He is the most popular guy at school, but longs for something outside of the life that he sees laid out before him.
Fiona Montgomery – The “Evil Stepmother” character. A cruel, self-absorbed woman who cares only for her own daughters. She treats Samantha very poorly.
Brianna and Gabriella Montgomery – The “Evil Stepsisters.” They try very hard to be popular, but always end up making fools of themselves.
Annotation:   In this modern version of the classic tale, Samantha meets her prince, the most popular boy in her school, in an online chat room where she impresses him with her intelligence and aspirations in life.

Aquamarine (Film)

Release date: 2006. Performers: Emma Roberts, Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Sara Paxton, Jake McDorman, Arielle Kebbel. Studio: Fox 2000 Pictures. Director: Elizabeth Allen. Screenplay: John Quaintance and Jessica Bendinger. Based on the novel Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman.
File:Aquamarine (poster).jpg
Plot summary: Claire and Hailey are best friends living near a resort on the Florida coast. Claire is an orphan who lives with her grandparents and Hailey lives with her single mother, a marine biologist. The girls are devastated to learn that Hailey will soon be moving to Australia for her mother’s job. Claire and Hailey wish for something miraculous to happen so that Hailey doesn’t have to move. One night, after a particularly nasty storm, the girls discover a mermaid named Aquamarine who washed ashore and into the pool at the resort. Claire and Hailey befriend the kind and charismatic mermaid, who informs them that she can take human form on land during the day as long as her legs don’t get wet. Aquamarine has run away from home trying to escape an arranged marriage and prove to her overbearing father that true love exists. In order to do that she needs to fall in love, and tells Claire and Hailey that if they help her they will get to make a wish. Seizing the opportunity to avoid Hailey’s move, the girls set out help Aquamarine fall in love with a handsome lifeguard named Raymond.
Review:  This fun and simple movie is girly to the core, and will delight tweens with its humor and heartwarming message. The relationship between Claire and Hailey mirrors the friendship many tween girls have with one another. They are incredibly close and rely on each other for everything, but things outside of their control seem to be pulling them apart. It is clear that Hailey is the stronger of the two girls, trying to coax the orphaned Claire out of her fear of “living.” Aquamarine is a very wise and charismatic character who helps Claire and Hailey realize that they are both courageous and capable of living happily without one another. The love story between Aquamarine and Raymond takes a back seat to the dynamics between Claire, Hailey and Aquamarine. The end result of the film is an encouraging message to “be friends with life” as Aquamarine says, and Claire and Hailey both grow stronger as a result of their adventures. A very sweet and wholesome film that tween girls will enjoy.
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Interest level: Grades 4-8
Similar titles: Splash (1984)
Personal thoughts: Even though I am about fifteen years past the target audience for this film, I still find Aquamarine to be a very entertaining and heartwarming movie. Sure, there are some goofy, girly scenes, like when Claire and Hailey try to teach Aquamarine about love by having her read through a dozen magazines or when the ladies go shopping and get makeovers. But the overall message of the film is really solid, and I think the characters, especially the confident mermaid, are good role models for tweens.
Themes:  Mermaids, friendships, courage.
Awards/Reviews:  Nominated for two Teen Choice Awards, two nominations and one win for Young Artist Awards. Box office success.
Series Information: N/A
Character information:
Claire Brown – A kind but timid tween girl who was orphaned after her parents were killed in a boating accident. She is very clingy to her best friend, Hailey.
Hailey Rogers – Claire’s best friend, and the braver of the two. She lives with her mother who is a marine biologist, and is devastated to learn that her mother is moving her to Australia for her job.
Aquamarine – A charismatic and confident mermaid who washes ashore during a big storm and befriends Claire and Hailey. She desperately wants to prove to her father that true love exists and is trying to escape an arranged marriage with a merman that she doesn’t like.
Raymond – A handsome and kind lifeguard. He is the object of lust for many tween girls around the resort, and Aquamarine is determined to make him love her.
Annotation:   Claire and Hailey are best friends who are in danger of being split up when Hailey’s mother wants to move her to Australia for a promotion. When a beautiful mermaid named Aquamarine washes ashore, the friends are in for an adventure that will change their lives forever.

The Tilting House (Book)

Author: Tom Llewellyn. Release date: 2010. Publisher:  Tricycle Press. ISBN: 9781582462882.
Plot summary: Josh Peshik’s parents don’t make a lot of money, so when they have the opportunity to purchase an old but spacious mansion they take it. The trouble is, the mansion is tilted. The floors, the furniture, the walls, all slope three degrees inward. Even more strange are the equations, formulas and ideas scribbled all over the walls throughout the house. The Peshiks are determined to make the best of their new house, however, and Josh and his little brother Aaron, along with their mom, dad and grandpa, move in. What follows is a series of adventures and strange occurrences involving the various secrets contained within Tilton House. From talking rats, to a dimmer switch that makes the house disappear, living in the mansion makes for one interesting summer vacation. Despite all of these odd happenings, Josh wants to learn more about the mysterious man who built the mansion and what all of the scribbling mean. Will he be able to uncover the truth about Tilton House and all of its eccentricities?
Review:  Told in a series of interconnected vignettes, The Tilting House is a fun and original tale where the setting, a mysterious old mansion, is a prominent character in its own right. Immediately after beginning the novel, readers will be intrigued by the oddness of Tilton House. The sloping floors, the crazy scientific scribbling all over the wall, and the magical discoveries of talking rats, powder that makes things grow, and a dimmer switch that makes the mansion disappear. Hidden within all the mansion’s eccentricities is a decades old love story that explains the truth behind Tilton House. Tweens will enjoy this quirky novel. The way Llewellyn has organized the chapters makes for an interesting read. There is somewhat of a plot string that continues throughout the novel, but each chapter chronicles a different event that Josh and Aaron experience. The conclusion of the novel is very satisfying but also leaves the story open for sequels.
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Reading level: Grades 4-8
Similar titles: The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone.
Personal thoughts: I found this book to be delightful. The idea of a house that slopes leaves many opportunities for fun storylines, and Llewellyn took advantage of them very well. I really liked the romance that Josh and Aaron discovered that was responsible for a lot of the eccentricities of Tilton House. I wouldn’t be surprised if Llewellyn wrote some sequels to this story and I look forward to seeing them.
Themes:  Science, mystery, mansions, secrets.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Publishers weekly, and Kirkus Reviews.
Series Information: N/A
Character information:
Josh Peshik – A tween boy who moves with his family into the mysterious Tilton House. Josh is determined to uncover the secrets behind the house and is very adventuresome.
Aaron Peshik – Josh’s little brother. He is also interested in learning more about the mansion, but is far more apprehensive than Josh.
Lola – A tween girl who lives on the same block as the Tilton House. She befriends Josh and Aaron and helps them investigate the mysteries behind the mansion.
Grandpa Peshik – Josh and Aaron’s quirky grandfather who is also interested in their investigations of the house. He has a wooden leg, his actual leg was lost due to a fishing accident.
Mr. Daga – A large talking rat that lives in the attic of the Tilton House. He is gruff, but eventually provides a lot of assistance to the Peshiks in investigating the house.
Annotation:   Josh and Aaron Peshik aren’t sure what to make of the new house their parents have just moved them into: all the floors slope three degrees inward and there are crazy, scientific scribbling all over the walls. They soon find that when you live in a tilting house, adventure is definitely in store!

Monday, May 9, 2011

James and the Giant Peach (Book)

Author: Roald Dahl. Release date: 1961. Publisher:  Alfred Knopf. ISBN: 9780375814248.
Plot summary: After his parents are tragically killed by an escaped rhinoceros, James Henry Trotter is sent from his serene cottage by the sea to live with his cruel aunts, Sponge and Spiker. The women treat James horribly, beating him for no reason, giving him leftover scraps to eat, and forcing him to sleep in the attic on the bare floor. One day while taking a break from the abuse outside in the garden, James meets a mysterious man who offers him a bag of crocodile tongues which he promises will bring him happiness. James is heartbroken when he trips and spills the contents of the bag at the base of a barren peach tree in front of the home. Not long after, however, a very large peach begins to grow on the tree, growing bigger and bigger with each passing day. James’ aunts invite crowds to view the peach, for a fee of course. One day while cleaning up after the crowds have left, James discovers a tunnel leading through the fruit and into the hollow pit at the center. In the pit, James discovers a group of insects who were also transformed by the magical tongues and can speak like human beings. The insects are kind to James, and the group decides to escape the awful hillside. After the insects chew through the stem, the peach is released from the tree and rolls into a series of adventures beyond James’ wildest imagination.
Review:  This Roald Dahl classic contains the same slightly dark tone as many of his other titles, but is still one of the author’s most light-hearted and fun novels. James experiences living with his aunts are so awful it’s almost cartoonish. They beat him, call him terrible names, and give him only disgusting things like fish heads to eat. Almost from the start, the reader will wish horrible things upon these women. That James is able to find a more loving environment in the company of insects living within an enormous peach is no surprise. The various adventures James and his friends experience will delight readers, especially when the peach gets skewered on top of the Empire State Building. The conclusion of the novel is very satisfying as well, and will likely inspire tweens to pick up another Roald Dahl title, if they haven’t read them all already. James and the Giant Peach would make a great classroom read-aloud as well as an individual option for both tween boys and girls. The film version of the novel, released in 1996, is an excellent adaptation and would make a great companion to reading the book.
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Reading level: Grades 4-7
Similar titles: Other Roald Dahl novels, Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket.
Personal thoughts: I am a huge Roald Dahl fan, and remember tearing through this book as a tween. As an adult, I enjoyed it just as much. There is something so clever in Dahl’s writing style that makes any plot twist, no matter how crazy or odd, seem marvelous. I also liked that the abuse received by James at the hands of his aunts is so over the top as to be cartoonish. It would be unfortunate to try seriously delve into the topic of child abuse in a novel about a giant, magical peach, and Dahl steers clear from making this an issue.
Themes:  Orphans, magic, talking animals.
Awards/Reviews:  Considered a classic piece of children’s literature.
Series Information: N/A
Character information:
James Henry Trotter – Kind young boy who is forced to live with his abusive aunts after his parents are killed. He tries to be happy even if his aunts are cruel, and ends up finding a new family of talking insects living in the pit of a giant and magical peach.
Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge – James’ horrible and repulsive spinster aunts. They are perpetually cruel to James and abuse him frequently. When the giant peach begins to grow in their yard they use it as a money making scheme.
Centipede – One of James’ insect friends living in the peach. He and James become close on their adventures.
Earthworm – Another of James’ insect friends. He is constantly arguing with the Centipede and is somewhat pessimistic, but also kind.
Grasshopper – Another insect living in the peach. He is the most sophisticated of the insects and acts as a father to James.
Ladybug – Another insect living in the peach who takes on a motherly role to James.
Spider – Another insect living in the peach who has a particular hatred of James’ aunts for killing her relatives. She often uses her webs on the various adventures in the peach.
Glowworm – The final insect living in the peach with James. She is kind but very lethargic. She provides light for the insects in the peach pit.

Annotation:   After his parents are killed and he is sent to live with his repulsive and cruel aunts, James is sure that he will never be happy again. Things change, however, when an impossible large peach begins to grow on the formerly barren tree in front of his aunts’ house.