NEW! I recommend some books! REALLY GOOD ONES!

Though I write a lot and read a lot, I rarely write about what I read.  But that’s all going to change!

Every once in a while,  I plan to share some books with you and talk about why I like them (or love, love, love them).  I will not talk about books I DON’T like, mostly because I’m not a paid book reviewer, and there are plenty of places you can go for snarky, harsh or haughty negative reactions.

Lately I’ve been trying to write a middle grade novel.  I’ve never attempted a novel before, and it sure ain’t easy.  As I write, I’m also immersing myself in current books of that genre.  Here are a few of my current favorites:

Okay, so I was drawn to this book — face out in the “new” section of our children’s library — because of the awesome cover, and the even more awesome title.  Flipping to the jacket flap, I read that Camille has low blood sugar.  This interested me because I was looking for books with diabetic characters (Mitzi had just been diagnosed).  While Camille isn’t a diabetic, she is ten kinds of funny.

Camille has a lot to be bummed about.  She has to carry around extra food in a cooler in case her blood sugar bottoms out.  Her best friend moved to Japan.  Her beloved cat is missing.  Her parents are fighting.  She’s cast in the world’s worst school play ever.  But Camille plows through, hilariously stumbling — literally and figuratively — eternally optimistic that her world will, eventually, become a little more fair.  (by Kristen Tracy, Delacourte, 2009)

Okay, another cover that got me.  What could a hamster with a microphone possibly have to do with surviving middle school?  As it turns out, quite a lot.  And no, the picture to the left here is not a video clip, but YouTube plays a big role in this hysterical, fast-paced story about a kid who feels like a real-life dork, but dreams of being a superstar.

David Greenberg’s summer isn’t going as planned.  His best friend becomes girl crazy instead of helping David make his videos.  After a fight, his friend teams up with the horrible local bully, who promises to make David’s first year of middle school a nightmare.   David continues his YouTube posts of Talk Time, mirrored after The Daily Show.  David’s new best friend — a girl! — sends links of his videos to everyone she knows, and it soon goes viral, eventually getting David the fame he’s been craving.  But through it all David has to deal with the threat of toilet swirlies on his birthday, a runaway mom, and the constant bullying.   By his side there’s Hammy, a star in David’s shows and in his heart.  (by Donna Gephart, Delacourte, 2010.  Check out Donna’s website for a super-hilarious Hammy Time video!)

To be honest, I checked out this book for two reasons:  Kurtis Scaletta is a terrific writer, and the premise just seemed to cool to ignore.

When his dad gets a job in Liberia, twelve-year-old Linus is excited to have the chance to remake his image.  The instant he steps foot off the plane he spots a deadly black mamba. Though he’s assured these snakes are rare, Linus soon realizes that he can’t go anywhere without seeing one.  Turns out, the mamba might be a kaseng — an animal which, some people believe, have a mystical connection to a person.  As Linus begins his life in Africa, he finds himself braver and more confident.  Is this a real change, or does it have something to do with his scaly new friend?

Mamba Point isn’t rollicking like the two books above, but it is filled with humor.  Set in the ’80s (the decade in which the author lived in Liberia as a boy), I got a kick out of references to Atari and other period items.  Linus’s story is compelling, the details rich, and the writing engaging.  I had to read it in one sitting — then do it again the next day.  (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010)

What are some awesome books you’ve read lately?