Aliens on a Rampage Book Review

Aliens on a Rampage by Clete Barrett

In this sequel to Aliens on Vacation, David is returning to his grandmother's Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast, an off the beaten road tourist destination for aliens. Hoping to pick up where he left off with Amy, David is rather shocked to see that things have changed a lot in nine months and not necessarily for the better. A new employee, Scratchull who is of the creepy alien persuasion is not all that he appears to be, Amy is avoiding his, and somehow he ends up with a new alien pet that can quite literally eat a house. Then he stumbles onto a secret that doesn't just threaten the B&B, but rather the entire world and he may be able to do something if only the adults would listen.

Often in middle grade literature there are very few adults, as it should be considering adults often get in the way of a rolicking adventure. Aliens on a Rampage suffers from too many adults. Or to an even greater point, too many adults who refuse to listen. Even though David is trustworthy and has not proven himself to be a liar, no adult will believe his tales of an alien takeover by the seemingly docile Scratchull. At first this was understandable, but when the plot really gets thick, the adults begin to come across as imbeciles. Perhaps the intention was to make David appear to be smarter, which is difficult because David never really has to use much brain power. Scratchull is intentionally rude and antagonist to David, but only to David, which of course says that someone is up to no good, David stumbles into a soupy un-earthlike swamp that nearly swallows him whole, he gives his taxi driver some tainted pastries, and his pet is the true hero of the story.

Although the plot rolled along at a good pace, I am afraid David did not come off as very heroic and neither did the adults in his life. Kids may enjoy the story for its simplicity and the aliens, but the first volume in the series was definitely better.

Books With Camping Book List

A Camping We Will Go

There is no shortage of books about camping. In almost every series from Katie Kazoo to the Berenstein Bears, Little Critter to Candy Apple. There are books about how to camp, why to camp, where to camp. Novels about camp, whether it be a typical sleepaway camp or a music camp. Outdoor handy books on how to build fires and survive in the wilderness. There even books about hating camping, I presume these to be a reverse psychology didactic effort to alleviate a child's worries concerning camping. A general search brought over 1400 books. So for this list on books with camping I decided that rather than have a list of books with just camping, I would include books in which camping is important in the story, but the story is not about camping per se.

Of course I will need your help dear readers. I have wracked my brain and perused my bookshelves, but either my memory is failing or I am just too tired this week, but I only came up with a few, which means I need your help to flesh out this list.

What other books need to be included on my list?

Illustrator of the Week Dan Santat

Dan Santat

Chances are you have seen Dan Santat's artwork around. Perhaps you have watched the hit Disney show "The Replacements". His fabulous book  OH NO! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) and it's companion picture book OH NO! NOT AGAIN! (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History) being my two favorites. He has illustrated picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels all with a fresh eye that sees art through a child's perspective.

Rock of Ivanore Book Review

Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes

Every year, as a test of manhood, the young boys of Quendel are sent on a quest by the Wizard Zyll. Marcus, an orphan and wizard in training, apprentice to Zyll, is allowed to go on the quest. He and the other boys must return with the Rock of Ivanore, but none of the boys knows what, where, or how to obtain this rock. During their quest they run across conspiracies that threaten kingdoms, secrets that devastated families, and Marcus finds that a key may be the very thing that can unlock magic.

Although there is nothing original about this novel, full of the usual fantasy tropes of quests, magic, wizards, betrayal, and fighting, I was refreshed anyway. It was nice to read a good old quest fantasy that didn't pretend to be anything but what it was. So many fantasies these days try to hide the fact that they are a quest story, refusing to use the word or even trying to name it something else in order to convince its readers that it is in fact something new and different. I don't think there is anything wrong with a quest story though and really embraced the idea of it.

The pace at the beginning was a little slow, but once the story really began, it was quick and to the point, always leading the reader one step closer to the truth. There were some things that were a little predictable as in the truth concerning two of the boys in the story, but that may have come from being too familiar with this type of story. For young readers, especially if this is one of their first introductions to a quest fantasy, will find it entertaining and surprising. There were a race of creatures that were enslaved that for some reason helped fight for the kingdom, which made little sense to me and felt very much like the slaves either had a very bad case of Stockholm syndrome or were confused as to what freedom was. I'm pretty sure when your shackles are removed and someone gives you a weapon, you can do whatever you want, including walking away from the people who have enslaved you. There were good reasons for them to help of course, but it was the one place where the logic didn't quite pan for me.

On the whole an entertaining middle grade fantasy which is nothing more or less than what it claims to be--an adventure.

Page by Paige Book Review

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

This week's illustrator of the week is both a collection of illustrations and a book review. Page by Paige is a Teen graphic novel focusing on Paige, who has moved to New York and is at that age where a teen begins to discover who they truly are. As with all teens, her relationships with family, friends, and romance reveal parts of herself and examine the inner thought life that many teens can relate.

I absolutely loved how Gulledge used boxes and white space to tell her story. The boxes contained, quite literally, the action of the story, the here and now. Outside the boxes though, in corners and sometimes taking up entire pages, where Paige's inner thoughts. For example, Paige's mother is talking to Paige within the frame, a small version of Paige hangs outside of the frame commenting on how fake her mother seems. The art and use of various visual mediums reminded me of Persepolis and American Born Chinese. This is the perfect book for all of those who live inside our heads.