The first of the flash reviews

671338_14461703I’ve been meaning to catch up on some reviewing backlog, because the to-be-reviewed pile doesn’t seem to be  going down. I was saving some books for thematic reviews but the stacks have been driving me crazy, and  I’m way off my target for this year, hence I’ve decided to write some flash reviews for the quick reads.

Here’s how it works: I give a summary of the book, my take on it, plus a rating.

Deep breath. Here goes:

flash1All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (hardcover with dust jacket, 1979 edition)

The 411: Classic Americana, the first of a series of books about a low-income Jewish immigrant family in 1912 New York, featuring five sisters: Ella, Charlotte, Hennie, Sarah and Gertie. Chapter episodes deal with the girls’ everyday adventures, such as chores, overdue library books, simple treats, the family business, Jewish holidays,family outings, and the arrival of a new baby brother.

My take: I first read this in our school library when I was  in grade school, and was glad to find a mint hardcover in a bargain bin. A charming, old-fashioned family story, similar to The Penderwicks, and  a good introduction to Jewish culture.

My rating: 4/5 stars

flash2The Spiderwick Chronicles: Care and Feeding of Sprites by Tony di Terlizzi and Holly Black (hardcover with dust jacket)

The 411: A Spiderwick handbook that details the types of sprites and how to care for them, including their natural habitat, movements, disposition and special abilities. Lots of diagrams and illustrations reminiscent of Mary Cicely Barker’s fairy art, and dust jacket folds out to a full-sized glow-in-the dark poster.

My take: A book from the Spiderwick canon, for serious Spiderwick fans, much like Harry Potter’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Wasn’t so much into Spiderwick so I was in it for the art, which was awesome. I’m now sending the book to a Spookky, a new bookmooch friend in Israel :)

My rating: 3/5 stars

underpantsCaptain Underpants and the Big, Bad, Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets by Dav Pilkey (trade paperback)

The 411: George and Harold get into another mischievous adventure when their arch-nemesis Melvin Sneedly morphs with a robot and boogers and becomes the Bionic Booger Boy. Of course, as the Bionic Booger Boy wreaks havoc (and a whole lot of snot) during the class field trip, the boys have no choice but to snap their fingers and summon Captain Underpants!

My take: Another hilarious adventure. Captain Underpants came way before the Wimpy Kid books and are way funnier. Alternating between comics, straight narration, and awesome flipbook action (I love this part!), Captain Underpants embodies mischief and mayhem that millions of readers have enjoyed for years now.

My rating: 4/5 stars

3invThe Three Investigators – Mystery of the Fiery Eye by Robert Arthur (hardcover)

The 411: The Three Investigators Jupiter, Pete, and Bob stumble across another mystery as Jupe’s Uncle Titus brings home a truckload of old plaster busts that links them to the legacy of a boy named August August. Ominous messages, sinister characters, and good old-fashioned boy-detective ingenuity lead the team to another thrilling adventure, and a treasure beyond compare.

My take: Fiery Eye is one of my favorite titles in the Three Investigators series. Reading a Three Investigators book always takes me back to fifth grade when I worked my way through the series, borrowing the books three at a time from the school library. This book also has one of my favorite Jupiter Jones moments in the series — when he attempts to reason his way through the agreement with the car rental agency for Worthington’s services.

My rating: 4/5 stars

c20235The Worst Witch at School by Jill Murphy (trade paperback) — 2 books in one: The Worst Witch and The Worst Witch Strikes Again

The 411: Mildred Hubble is the worst witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, forever getting into scrapes, mixing up spells, and fumbling with flying lessons. She means well, but inadvertently gets into trouble and the series chronicles her (mis)adventures at Miss Cackle’s. This  series has been loved by generations since 1974.

My take: I actually watched The Worst Witch tv series back in high school, broadcast on a local channel and dubbed in Filipino on a local channel on Saturday mornings. The show was quite engrossing, especially as I was reading the Harry Potter books then. I was delighted to find that it was based on a book series, and I was finally able to mooch this 2-in-1 compiled volume from the UK this year.

Miss Cackle’s is like Hogwarts and I love its quaint little witching world, with the flying familiars, witching lessons, and very endearing characters. Mildred is like a female version of Neville Longbottom and the potions teacher Ms. Hardbroom is much like Snape and McGonagall combined! The characters are a delight to read too (awesome witchy names, like Maud Moonshine, Enid Nightshade, Ethel Hallow!). It’s a great series for the pre-Harry Potter bunch and I am now hunting down the next books in the series.

My rating: 5/5 stars

6thgradeSixth Grade can Really Kill You by Barthe de Clements (trade paperback)

The 411: Helen is a troubled sixth grader struggling to keep up in school because of a misdiagnosed reading problem, causing her to act out in school —  horseplay, playing pranks on teachers, and defacing school property. Helen and her parents face up to the fact that she has a learning disability, and make the decision to get special education for Helen.

My take: The book that preceded this, Nothing’s Fair in the Fifth Grade, was one of my favorites back in grade school, and it dealt with adolescent issues such as weight problems, stealing, and math anxiety. This book focused largely on learning disability and delinquency, although “Bad Helen” doesn’t draw as much empathy as Jenny Sawyer (in NFFG), probably because it was kind of frustrating to read about teachers that don’t look deeper into the causes of problematic behavior, or parents denying that their child needs professional help.  Written in the 90’s, this book has an outdated view on SpEd, but those who loved Elsie and the gang in NFFG will appreciate their cameo appearances in this book.

My rating: 3/5 stars

toysgooutToys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, illus. by Paul Zelinsky (hardcover with dustjacket)

The 411: A book about what happens in the playroom when no one’s around, Toys Go Out features a little girl’s beloved playthings: StingRay, a know-it-all plushy; Lumphy the buffalo; and a mysterious toy known as Plastic. The toys get into funny adventures in discovering Plastic’s identity (later revealed as a bouncy ball); deciding who gets to sleep in bed with the little girl; and going for a spin in the washing machine.

My take: This book is a bit like Toy Story for younger readers, dealing with the toys’ emotional anxiety on their place in a little girl’s life. The tone is tender and honest, stopping short of being twee, and Paul Zelinsky’s black and white illustrations emphasize the gentle touch of this book. A great book to read aloud, or read together at bedtime.

My rating: 4/5 stars

hopeHope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus (paperback)

The 411: This book needs no introduction — who isn’t familiar with Yellow and Stripe’s journey  of discovery towards becoming butterflies? This allegorical illustrated novel published in 1973 has inspired readers of all ages all over the world!

My take: I first read this book back in third grade, because I was wondering why our library had about fifty copies in stock. I got my own copy last Christmas, courtesy of Flipper friend Jan, who gave it to me for our Kris Kringle. Even over a decade after I first read it, it still brings home that inspiring message that gets you through a tough time.

My rating: 5/5 stars

rolesRoles: A Not Quite Unreal Novel by Carlos  Malvar  (paperback, signed)

The 411: A locally-published teen novel revolving around the lives of high school kids in the posh Montessori of Asia and the Pacific, who are gearing up to audition for the reality show  slash talent search “You’re It!”

Roles explores the stereotypes in the high school scene — jocks, mean girls (queen bee + faithful minion), the new girl, the politician’s son, the student leader, and even the long-suffering principal — and gives us a glimpse of the lives they lead outside the stage set in school.

My take: I bought this book after meeting the author at this year’s Manila International Book Fair, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s an engaging read, with surprising twists even in the first few pages and an exciting narrative leading up to a cliffhanger ending. Generous portions of the flash and bang (glam lives of privileged, private school kids) make it a hit for the young adult audience, but it also deals with real-life issues such as popularity, fitting in, and falling in love,  as well as the the not quite unreality of teenage chain smoking, prostitution, and drug use.

I like that it’s a Filipino novel for the young adult market, because there is a dearth of locally-published reading materials for that age group right now, and this new “not quite unreal” series is certainly a welcome addition to the market. I do wish though, that it was better edited; there are awkward phrases and some grammatical errors throughout the book that mar the fluidity of the narrative, easily resolved with more thorough editing. I’m looking forward to reading the subsequent novels next year.

My rating: 4/5 stars


There you have it, books 183-192 of 2009. I expect I’ll have to do a couple more of this until the end of the year so I can start 2010 without any review backlogs.

7 thoughts on “The first of the flash reviews”

  1. wow, what a lot of books! going to list these down for my daughter. i didn’t know that alfred hitchcock had a series! oh, and too bad naunahan ako sa spiderwick … lovely illustrations. the worst witch seems interesting too ….

  2. Hi Aloi, I did see it was on your wishlist, but Ben had another book pending with me and we’ve been looking for an additional mooch for months. If I find another one, will put it up for you.

    :) The Worst Witch is really fun, and a great read for girls!

  3. OMG, Blooey! Thanks so much for the review! Crash is out now in bookstores everywhere, btw.

    Anyway, found a new home in tumblr. Hey, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays! :) Here’s to more books!


  4. Pingback: Timeless Fun

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