Hot reads for hot summer days

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Reviews of some of the best and most popular summer reads for kids of all ages

You’re done with school for the year and you just have to pick up your report card. Your mind is filled with thoughts of no work and all play for two solid months. What to do, what to do?

There is only so much reality TV you can watch, so many Wii games you can play and only so many hours you can spend lying on the beach before you get bored. Inevitably, your mind will crave stimulation.

A good book goes a long way to wiling away the days without teachers handing out assignments and warning about upcoming tests. Whether you are a young kid or an older teen, books spark and spur imagination to reach inner depths and great heights. Thankfully, the St. Albert Public Library has thousands of books to entertain and enlighten you.

Here’s a sample of books for children and young adults, just in time for summer to start.

Hooray for Fly Guy!

By Tedd Arnold

30 pages

$6.99

I refuse to think of the Fly Guy books as kids’ reading material. Honestly, I love them in much the same way I love Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or the Olivia series by Ian Falconer. This series is considered easy-primary, which means it’s appropriate for early readers without discounting all of the enjoyment late readers like me can have with it.

In this story Fly Guy wants to play football, but the coach nixes the idea, saying the insect player is just too small to accomplish anything on the field. He and Boy, his friend, are disappointed so Boy makes him a helmet and teaches him a special football move that no one else knows or can do. With one second left in the big game and the team down by a few points and needing someone to replace an injured running back, the coach calls Fly Guy in.

OK, I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, but this is a feel good book about a bug. The pictures are fun and bright too, and that’s all you really need to know.

— Scott Hayes

The Streets Are Free

Story by Kurusa

Translation by Karen Englander

Illustrations by Monika Doppert

48 pages

$11.95

The Streets Are Free is a stirring testimony to the power of perseverance and the spirit of co-operation. But more than that, children’s writer Kurusa has fashioned an excellent multicultural blueprint on how communities and nations across the world can overcome political apathy to create a better world.

Targeted at children six to nine years, this 48-page book offers a unique perspective on South American poverty. It starts off long ago on a lush mountain in Caracas, Venezuela inhabited by birds, butterflies, creeks and forests.

As the decades pass, displaced farmers move to Caracas looking for work. Finding none they settle on the mountain building cramped shacks from scrap. Each year the ghetto town — called a barrio — creeps up the mountain.

Slowly the flowers and animals disappear and the creeks turn into open sewers. There is nowhere for the children to play. A big house is converted into a library and becomes the children’s only meeting spot. The children want a playground, and with the help of the librarian, they create a banner and march it to the mayor’s office. The mayor brushes them aside, but an astute reporter smells a feel-good story and writes about the children’s plight.

Embarrassed by the publicity, the mayor promises to build a playground at the barrio’s one empty lot. He even hosts a ribbon cutting ceremony. But time passes and the city quietly forgets the destitute children.

Meanwhile the playground becomes the talk of the barrio. One uncle frustrated by delays loudly proclaims the people can build a park. This tale is based on a true story of the children of San José de la Urbina who wanted a place to play. At the writing of this story, the playground was still not built.

The Streets Are Free is a story of co-operative triumph in bringing a community together. Devoid of sentimentality, Kurusa has harnessed a beautifully written story of positive energy that reminds us anything is possible when we work together.

— Anna Borowiecki

Mr. Klutz is Nuts!

By Dan Gutman

Illustrations by Jim Paillot

96 pages

$4.99

Oh, that Mr. Klutz! When the principal of A.J.’s school isn’t skateboarding to school or hanging out in his gravity boots, he’s kissing pigs and painting his big bald head orange to motivate his students to do one million math problems or spell 100,000 words correctly.

But now Mr. Klutz has gone too far — if the students read with their parents for one million hours, Mr. Klutz will bungee jump off the school roof dressed as Santa Claus. A.J. and the rest of his Grade 2 friends think Mr. Klutz is pretty cool, but the rest of the students think he might have a “personal problem,” that he’s endangering himself just to get attention. It’s up to A.J. and a group of classmates to talk him out of his wacky plan before Mr. Klutz really hurts himself.

Well-illustrated in black and white with a believable Grade 2 voice, Mr. Klutz is Nuts! is a fun and breezy read with a final twist young kids might not recognize. The ending might even prove beneficial to some parents and teachers to get their kids to do their homework.

— Peter Boer

My Parents Are Sex Maniacs… A High School Horror Story

By Robyn Harding

234 pages

$10.95

The life of a teenager is an intricate web of popularity, clothes, crushes and drama that transcends the very sands of time. Once the fabric of a teenager’s life is unravelled, is there really any mystery left?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. My Parents Are Sex Maniacs delves into the world of a teenage girl who has to deal with her life after everything does a 180 … a change every teenager would absolutely despise if it means losing ground in the familiar, comfortable world.

Louise Harrison is a Grade 11 student at Red Cedars whose world is just the way she wants it. She has her popular BFF Sienna Marshall at her side, future plans to live in New York, start a fashion label and wants nothing more than to have her hair highlighted to land her a spot in the popular crowd.

Everything turns awry after her father and Sienna’s mom are caught in a 40th birthday scandal. All she had now is on a razor’s edge once things start getting difficult. With an already ‘psycho’ brother and now a devastated mother, Louise is forced to grow into bigger shoes and take her life by the reins.

With her parents’ marriage hitting rock bottom, Louise is left in the aftermath of the whole mess with her BFF. However, that doesn’t last long once Sienna hits a downward spiral of drugs, way-too-old men and the strain of lies about their parents’ cheating.

Other then the intricate social web of adolescence, Robyn Harding brings important issues forward for the readers that deal with behind-the-scene problems.

Louise’s character is the clump of clay we all are, waiting for life to mould us — all while trying to determine her identity in a world that is so desperate to look the same. A versatile girl with her mind set on her goals, she won’t let anything get in her way when things start to get hard.

Harding also brings other important issues to light through her characters’ experiences. Gay relationships are always a touchy subject and Harding shows this through the characters in the novel. Russell, Louise’s new best friend, is our medium to understanding the complexities of it all. From the uncertainty of one’s own sexuality to trying to “come out of the closet”, Harding gives readers insight on how difficult it is for gay people to be accepted by society and even their families. From losing a parent, to suddenly having to accept another man into the home, Harding doesn’t skimp on the emotional strain and insecurities Louise goes through.

There’s no denying that Harding has explored many important aspects that play a role in a teen’s life — drugs, sexuality, peer pressure, public image, reputation and our oh-so-wonderful hierarchy. There was only one problem: our lives aren’t a Gossip Girl re-run where every dramatic event happens one after another.

— Christina Zoernig

Today I will fly!

By Mo Willems

57 pages

$9.99

American children’s writer Mo Willems, who previously worked on Sesame Street, wrote Today I Will Fly. The book depicts the tale of Piggie trying to fly and his best friend, Elephant, doubting he can. But with a little help, Piggie proves anything is possible.

I read this book to my friend’s five-year-old daughter, who is a child with special needs. She was delighted by this book, constantly pointing at the pig and yelling “Oink, oink,” and repeating Piggie’s fly chant. In fact, when I was trying to read her another book, she kept pointing at this one, making it clear she wanted to read it again.

It’s a cute book, and the illustrations are simple and easy for a child to understand what is happening. The story is also well written while using easy words for little ones.

— Kristina Jarvis

Scaredy Squirrel

By Melanie Watt

40 pages

$16.95

The tale of Scaredy Squirrel and his fear of life outside his tree was written by French-Canadian author Melanie Watt. This 40-page book is filled with colourful images and tells an amusing tale of a squirrel that dares not leave his tree for fear of what could hurt him in the outside world. Including green Martians.

While I enjoyed trying to read the book to my friend’s five-year-old daughter with special needs, it lost her pretty quickly. I didn’t get halfway through before she started looking everywhere but the book.

I’m sure this book would be better suited to a six- or seven-year-old child. The book’s layout is well used for the story, but I think this was what lost her and would lose any other child under age five.

– Kristina Jarvis

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