Friday, October 14, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

These reviews appeared in the Stratford Gazette on October 13, 2011 and was written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

The McGillicuddy Book of Personal Records, by Colleen Sydor, 219 pages.
Thirteen-year-old Lee McGillicuddy is all too aware of his many weaknesses and shortcomings. He isn’t good at basketball despite his height; he’s not a runner or a soccer player due to his asthma; he has no musical or artistic ability, and his marks at school are nothing to brag about. Lately, he’s becoming aware that he doesn’t know how to talk to girls either – instead, he gets completely tongue-tied. 
However, Lee suspects that there’s something that sets everyone apart in some way – he just needs to discover what his special quality is! This is why Lee drives himself to set challenging records – his own personal records. Sometimes these challenges are a little goofy. Can he dribble a basketball for twelve straight hours? How many jumping jacks can he do at one time? How many famous sayings can he remember? Achieving these challenges is important to Lee.
On a bicycle ride with his best friend one afternoon, Lee’s friend has a sudden accident, and until help can arrive many hours later, Lee must meet a new personal challenge in endurance, determination and resourcefulness. Unfortunately, there’s nothing “goofy” about this challenge – it’s a life and death situation. It’s the most difficult effort that he has ever had to make. When it’s finally over, many hours later, and his friend is safe, Lee McGillicuddy knows that he has excelled at something in a most unlikely way.
Colleen Sydor’s sensitively-written novel is inspiring and at times, humorous, featuring a very likeable young man who is anything but ordinary. Set in Winnipeg, where the author lives, the story is told as a film, interspersed with set directions such as “Roll camera”, “Fade out” and “Zoom in”. It’s an effective technique, appealing to teens and allowing various points of view and scenes to occur simultaneously.
** Recommended for ages 11 to 14 years.

How to Survive Anything, by Rachel Buchholz, 176 pages.
Rachel Buchholz’s tips and advice to teens and preteens will prepare them to “survive” many situations, such as: mean teachers, embarrassing parents, bullies and cyberbullies, being the new kid at school, surprise quizzes, exams, embarrassing mistakes and gaffes, braces and breakups.... as well as grizzly attacks, snakebites, blizzards, avalanches, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, falling through the ice, being lost in the woods, and even more!
Buchholz’s advice is practical but at the same time, it’s humorous and “tongue-in-cheek”, so the book in no way gives the impression of being “preachy”. Simple “right” and “wrong” illustrations accompany each situation. Serious situations such as natural disasters or predators such as bears are juxtaposed with less-serious tricky situations (eg. exams, mean teachers and embarrassing parents), conveying the message to students that although they may have problems at home and at school, they could be in far worse trouble if facing a tornado or a hungry shark.
How to Survive Anything “addresses the angst of teen and preteen life with wit, humour, wisdom and easy-to-read text”, and would appeal to reluctant readers as well as enthusiastic readers, and to both boys and girls.
** Recommended for ages 10 to 14 years

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