Recommended by CATS April 2012 – older readers

And the highlights of fiction this month.  Full list here.

Excellent writing! Everything sounds like how people actually talk to each other. August is a funny, wry young boy with ideas and likes and dislikes and also, as it happens, a rare facial deformity. This is opposed to August being a deformed boy who starts school for the first time in fifth grade due to his deformity. I’d give this to anyone who likes Gennifer Choldenko books. The dynamics among kids, between kids and adults, and between characters and real life is superb

How can you resist a book that begins, “He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms”? There is no reason to. The word play and language is wonderful, smart and silly. The story is one full of action and mystery.
Skilley is an alley cat with a secret. After hatching a plan to install himself as the mouser at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a London inn, life is good. An encounter with a mouse named Pip, who guesses his secret, threatens that stability. A pact is made between cat and mouse and, again, everything is good. The arrival of a second mouser, a bully of a cat known as Pinch, brings danger to all the (animal) inhabitants of the inn.
There is a mysterious guest in the attic, cheese in a locked room that is disappearing, and a visit from Queen Victoria herself.
Mr. Dickens, a frequent visitor, is an observer of life at the inn. As he struggles to write A Tale of Two Cities, he is inspired by what he sees. References to the works of Dickens and the appearance of several fellow writers adds to the wide appeal of the story. Adults wishing to share a novel with the children they love would find much to entertain them here as well.
 This Western adventure story tells the tale of a young boy named P.K. who has his life turned upside-down when he discovers his own foster parents murdered in his home by the notorious Whittlin’ Walt. Whittlin’ Walt and his desperado gang are out to find P.K., who soon learns that he holds the deed to a million-dollar piece of land. Although P.K. faces a dangerous obstacle, he does have one blessing going his way; he is very smart and can memorize almost anything he reads. But a blessing comes with “a thorn in your side” his ma told him, and P.K.’s thorn is that he can’t read people very well and has a hard time determining emotions. Will P.K. reclaim what is rightfully his while at the same time, save himself from an untimely murder?

Dead End in Norvelt

I found this latest by Jack Gantos to be creative and funny and well written. The combination of autobiography and fiction is daring and seamlessly executed. Others may warn that kids should not read about nose bleeds and Hell’s Angels and death, but young readers will take to this character named Jack Gantos. The town of Norvelt is as much a member of the cast as any of the humans. We learn about its founding, what life was like in the 1930’s and the philosophy of the New Deal that made places like Norvelt a reality. In addition to the Newbery Award, Gantos’ book also received the Scott O’Dell Award for best historical fiction.

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