Liesl & Po

All sunshine has gone out of the world.  Life is dull and gray for everyone, especially two children, Liesl and Will, who want nothing more than the hope that things will get better…

Liesl spends her days and nights trapped in an attic by her vile stepmother. Her father passed away three days ago, and Liesl feels more alone than ever before. That’s about to change, though. When a ghost named Po–and his ghost pet Bundle–begin to visit Liesl from the Other Side, she doesn’t feel quite so alone. She even begins to hope that her life can change a little and that she can even find some way to reconnect with her father.

Will is an apprentice to an alchemist. He spends his days doing errands, assisting with potions, and never getting anything right. (He’s beginning to think his name is really “Useless.”) The only bright spot in Will’s life is looking at the girl in the attic window and wondering what it would be like if they were to ever meet. As fate would have it, he is about to find out…

When Will mistakenly switches a box full of powerful magic with the box that contains Liesl’s father’s ashes, forces collide that take Liesl, Po, Bundle, and Will on a path that will lead them to each other.  They will fight against evil, cruelty, loss, sadness, and some misunderstandings to get to something better than what they’ve known.  In the process, they will discover friendships that cross the boundary of death.  They may even find a way to make the world a brighter place for everyone.  After all, when magic and hope are involved, anything is possible.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

In The Invention of Hugo Cabret, we are introduced to Hugo, an orphan, timekeeper, thief, and wonderer.  Hugo spends his days and nights in a busy Paris train station, keeping the clocks in working order for his uncle, who has seemingly vanished.  No one notices Hugo, and he does his best to keep it that way so that he doesn’t end up in an orphanage or someplace even worse.  He simply keeps the clocks running, pilfers food where he can, and works on the mechanical man, or automaton, that provides a connection to his father.

In Hugo’s quest to get the automaton working, he steals parts from toys.  As is usually the case, Hugo gets caught in the act by the toymaker.  But the old toymaker doesn’t react to Hugo’s thievery the way one would expect.  In fact, he grows sad when he sees Hugo’s precious notebook, and, after a bit of drama, he even lets Hugo help in the toy shop.  Could the old toymaker be keeping secrets of his own?  Hugo and Isabella, the toymaker’s goddaughter, soon join forces on a quest to find out about the toymaker’s past and his mysterious connection to Hugo’s mechanical man.

Can Hugo and Isabella uncover the mystery of the mechanical man?  What will they discover about Isabella’s godfather?  Join them as they travel through walls, a train station, movie theaters, libraries, and the streets of Paris to unlock the truth.

I haven’t come close to describing how wonderful this book is.  The narrative is as enchanting as the illustrations.  It’s no wonder that The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott Medal.  I just hope the movie is just as awesome as the book.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

After Homer P. Figg’s older brother, Harold, is illegally sold to the Union Army, Homer does everything he possibly can to find his brother and bring him back home. But what can a boy–whose only talent is telling fibs–do to rescue his brother before he’s sent off to fight in the Civil War?

Well, as it turns out, there’s a lot that Homer can do. He can get involved in the Underground Railroad, he can travel on a steamship to New York, he can become part of a traveling carnival act, he can be arrested for treason, and he can stand up to people twice his age. But can he find his brother before it is too late? Join Homer P. Figg on his amazing–and mostly true–adventures to find out!

I am not normally a fan of historical fiction, but I really enjoyed this book, partly because the character of Homer was so over-the-top and likable. Yes, he was known to tell the occasional tall tale, but he had a good heart, and all he wanted in life was to be with his brother.  This book also offers readers a glimpse of the Civil War that they may not have considered before.  If you pick up this book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Slob

Slob by Ellen Potter was an easy, quick read that would be perfect for readers from upper elementary through high school.  Adults will enjoy it, too.  I would especially recommend this book to kids who may be seen as outsiders, particularly those students who are often the victims of bullies.  They will really relate to the struggles of the main character.

In Slob, we meet Owen Birnbaum, a twelve-year-old genius who happens to be the fattest kid at his school.  (I can totally relate…except I’m not twelve or a boy.)  Everyday is torture.  Even his gym teacher seems to enjoy tormenting him.  (I can relate to this, too.  I still shudder when I think about my middle school gym teacher.)  As if things weren’t already bad enough, someone keeps stealing his Oreo cookies, and the new kid, believed to be a complete psychopath, seems to be out to get Owen.

But Owen has even more to deal with that simply being bullied at school.  He’s working on an invention that will change the world and, perhaps more importantly, Owen’s life.  If it works, it will allow him to see something that happened two years ago, something that set Owen on his current course.  If Owen can just get the machine, lovingly named Nemesis, to work, he knows things will be better.  Sure, he’ll still be the fat kids who’s always picked on, but he’ll at least have the answers that have been plaguing him for two years.

As Owen grows more and more frustrated with his machine and the torture of being laughed at everyday, he must decide if he’s going to live in the past or deal with the present.  Only one path can make his life different.  Which one will it be?  Read Slob by Ellen Potter to find out!

I hope you enjoy Slob as much as I did, and if you’d like more information about this book and author Ellen Potter, visit http://www.ellenpotter.com/.