Each of the following books was published by Stone Arch Books and received by me for review purposes. These three have been nominated for the Cybils Award so I am reviewing them together. They can be used as easy readers for young children and reluctant readers as well as high interest - low reading level for older students.
211. Avalanche Freestyle by Scott Ciencin, illustrated by Aburtov. Aug. 1, 2010, 56 pgs. - Outstanding illustrations by a (former?) Marvel comics illustrator. The book has been professionally drawn and styled and it shows. This is definitely a high-low reader, with a reading level of 0.9 and interest level up to 14 yo. The plot is basic in scope: rich boy & poor boy are both awesome snowboarders but poor boy can't afford to enter competition. Poor kid has aggressive attitude to rich kid. Rich kid is actually a nice dude who is impressed with the other's skills but rich kid is surrounded by "friends" who all want something from him because of his status. Danger happens and the two teens learn about true friendship and good sportsmanship to boot. How the story actually plays out in the book is very well done, and while the "lesson" is obviously there, it doesn't stick out during the reading of the book. The teens are presented very well, speaking and acting just like real-life teens (keeping in mind that Stone Arch only prints family friendly material). I recommend this book and while I still have one more book in the series to review I'll go out on a limb and say the whole series is likely to be worthy of recommendation. (5/5)
212. Hide and Shriek by Sean O'Reilly. illustrated by Arcana Studios. Aug. 1, 2010, 48 pgs. - The Mighty Mighty Monsters series already has six books out and I thought this was very clever and cute. These are the stories of the most famous monsters when they were kids living on Transylmania Street, before they grew up into their infamous roles. Everybody has a part in this book making it feel like the first, though the series is not numbered. Vlad the vampire does take centre stage as he's considered the leader by the children. They have a fun night of playing hide and seek in the neighbourhood, magic has been denied as part of the rules so everyone is on a fair footing. Vlad finds everyone very quickly and complains that no one here knows how to hide properly when he realizes that Frankie is still missing, then the action starts and the book ends with a funny surprise. I found this a lot of fun and the reading level spot on for the target ages (7-9). Boys, especially, will enjoy this series. (4/5)
NB: Sean O'Reily is Canadian (Vancouver) so this book counts towards the Canadian Book Challenge.
213. Princess Candy: The Evil Echo by Michael Dahl & Scott Nickel. illustrated by Jeff Crowther. Aug. 1, 2010, 40 pgs. - Halo Nightly is Princess Candy. She takes special candies her grandmother makes and they give her special powers. We don't really get to know Princess Candy much in this story as the Evil Echo who is a shapeshifter turns herself into PC and steals her candy thus imitating her everywhere, getting the real PC into trouble. The bad guy steals the show in this book. I can't say I'm crazy about this one. Candy giving powers? A bit lame in this day and age and it jumped from scene to scene too quickly. I also wasn't impressed with the art much, same sort of stuff you see on TV, but the noses really irritated me with their strange shapes. Well, enough. I didn't really like it. The book is intended for little girls 8-10 so perhaps some of them may take to it better than I. (2/5)