Book Review: Second Fiddle by Roseanne Parry

If we had known it would eventually involve the KGB, the French National Police, and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, we would have left that body in the river and called the Polizei like any normal German citizen; but we were Americans and addicted to solving other people’s problems, so naturally, we got involved.

Second Fiddle
Second Fiddle by Rosanne Parry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Berlin in 1990: a city in transition. The Wall has just come down, people have fled from East Berlin in search of better lives, and the Soviet Army is facing some serious problems of its own. For American Army-brat Jody and her best friends, Giselle and Vivian, Berlin is also home. For a while, at least. Jody’s three-year stay is about to come to an end with her family’s upcoming move to Texas, while Giselle’s family is headed to California. The girls are in the final days of preparing for one last competition as a string trio – in Paris! – when their teacher tells them he cannot take them after all. On their way home from receiving that disappointing news, the girls save a drowning Estonian soldier, beaten and thrown off a bridge by officers of his own Soviet Army. He needs to escape Berlin before the Russians find him. The girls need a chaperon to Paris before their parents find out their teacher canceled. What could possibly go wrong?


In Parry’s second book for young readers, she takes us back to a time that seems too recent to really be called historical fiction, but it is. She sketches the reality of teens of the time – no cell phones, no e-mail – with specific details without waxing overly nostalgic (an easy trap when writing historical fiction set in your own lifetime). For today’s tweens, the days of the Soviet Union are ancient history! The story is told through Jody’s eyes, but all three girls are strong characters. Their bond, and the way it sustains them through thick and thin, forms the core of the novel. Parry keeps their madcap antics in Paris just this side of unbelievable, giving both a thrilling adventure tale and a sweet story of friendship, loyalty, and discovering one’s own strength.


Final Word:
Set in the waning days of the Cold War, this is a fine adventure story with a warm heart.


Checked out from my public library.


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Book Review: Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman

Nerd CampNerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Problem: Am I a nerd who only has nerdy adventures?
Hypothesis: No.

Ten-year-old Gabe is finally getting what he always wanted: a brother. His soon-to-be-stepmother has a son, Zack, who is his age. Gabe is sure that he and Zack will be best friends, but their first meeting is less than promising. Gabe quickly realizes that all the things he likes – math team, reading, museums and libraries – Zack sees as “nerdy”. The only thing about Gabe that seems to impress Zack is that Gabe is about to go to sleep-away camp for the summer. What Zack doesn’t know is that the camp is the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment, a gathering of nerdy kids from across the country. Over the course of the summer, in between kayak trips and Color War, logic proofs and poetry writing, Gabe keeps a list of his adventures as evidence for whether or not he really is just a nerd, or if he might be something more.

With an eye for quirky detail, Weissman develops Gabe as a sensitive, hyperintelligent 10-year-old boy. In the first chapter, Gabe recalls staying up on New Year’s Eve with his math team friends, when they calculated the number of seconds from 8:00 p.m. to midnight. He then thinks about calculating the number of seconds until his train in the morning, but he decides that it will just make him too excited to sleep. From his love of math to his cluelessness about girls, we hear Gabe’s perspective on everything. It’s a slyly funny narrative, with humor that even clever Gabe probably won’t pick on until he’s a little older. This is a fabulous contemporary realistic middle grade novel filled with humor and adventure, a great combination. A kid doesn’t have to think he might be a nerd to enjoy this book, although he might finish it thinking that such a thing might not be so bad.

Book Source: Checked out from my library

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Book Review: Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

The truth is, I’ve been waiting for this book to hit my library pretty much since I heard it was coming out. The fact that I sort of had to read it now, since it was nominated for this year’s Cybils was just icing on the cake. A really good cake, I’m happy to say.

Darth Paper Strikes Back (Origami Yoda #2)Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was kind of like that scene where Han and Leia think they’re going to breakfast with Lando. And they’re walking down the hall thinking, “I’d like some chocolate chip pancakes,” and then they get to the dining room and all of a sudden… there’s Vader. (And no chocolate chip pancakes.)

Welcome back to McQuarrie Middle School. Tommy, Kellen, Sara, Dwight, and their old nemesis, Harvey, have started the seventh grade. Dwight’s maybe-magical finger puppet, Origami Yoda, has a new nemesis as well: Harvey has introduced his own origami puppet, Darth Paper. And Darth Paper is on a mission: get everyone to admit, once and for all, that Origami Yoda is just a piece of paper. If Dwight gets expelled from school and sent to the Correctional and Remedial Education Facility along the way, well, that’s just how it is. Tommy is determined to save Dwight (and Origami Yoda), so he is compiling a new Case File of student accounts of how Origami Yoda (and Dwight) helped them since the events detailed in The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.

Angleberger puts the form established in the first book back to good use here. The voices of the different students are clear and distinct, and there is just enough explanation of previous events to bring the reader up to speed. The lively depiction of the drama and humor of middle school life will delight readers from the middle grades on up. While waiting for the next installment (predicted for sometime in 2012), they can work on their own origami skills at Angleberger’s website,

Book Source: Checked out from my public library

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