The coolest part about writing this column is, of course, the books. The next best part is sometimes getting to read the books before the release date. There is something extra special about an early edition of a good book. Three of these books are just being released this month.
And it makes me feel good to be able to say to you: Read this book. I liked it and I bet you will, too.
THE WRIGHT 3, by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Brett Helquist, Scholastic Press, $16.99; ages 9-12.
What do a classic old movie, a classic old book, a historically significant house, a famous dead architect and a not-so-famous dead mathematician have in common? Add in pentominoes, pansies, fish, stained glass and famous works of art. Are you confused?
Petra and Calder, the heroes of Balliett’s first book, the blockbuster Chasing Vermeer, are back and Calder’s friend, Tommy, has returned to Hyde Park. The kids, along with their art teacher, Ms. Hussey, have a new mission: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House is going to be taken down and donated to museums.
Our sixth-grade heroes must come up with a plan to save the house. In the process they (and we) get to learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright, H.G. Wells, Fibonacci and friendship.
THE BRIDESMAID, by Hailey Abbott, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $17.99; ages 12-14.
Abby’s family is in the wedding business. When Abby was 7, she and her older sister, Carol, made a pact to never get married and never turn into a bridezilla.
Summer vacation is about to begin and 15-year-old Abby can’t wait for Carol to come home from college. But Carol has a surprise. Carol shows up with Tucker and announces they are getting married. The family members, who should know how to throw the perfect wedding, turn into the worst wedding customers ever. Abby, the bridesmaid, ends up being the only level-headed person and the only one who can keep this family together.
Is someone you know about to get married? Don’t bother giving her a copy of a bride’s magazine. Give her this book instead and save yourself from a horrible bridezilla.
DAIRY QUEEN, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Houghton Mifflin, $16; ages 12-14.
D.J. is 15 and it is summer vacation, but there is no vacation in D.J.’s summer. D.J.’s family owns a dairy farm. D.J.’s dad hurt his hip moving the manure spreader. (Insert your own manure joke here; D.J. says everyone does.) D.J. is left to run the farm.
D.J. lives in a small town in Wisconsin where everything revolves around football, especially the Friday night high school game. So the girl who milks cows, bales hay, spreads manure and paints barns also plays football. Oh, and one more thing, she has a huge crush on the guy who is the quarterback on the other team.
Dairy Queen is so Midwestern and very delightful. I’m surprised you can’t hear a cow moo every time you open the book.
JUMPMAN RULE NO. 1: DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING, by James Valentine, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, $14.95; ages 10-13.
Jules is just about to ask Genevieve out on a date when, poof, Theo appears in the middle of Gen’s room, with his electric neon hair and talking coat. Jules’ mind is thinking a million things a minute. Besides the standard—Who is this guy? and Where did he come from?—there is the ever important—How will I ever be able to ask Gen out now?
Theo is from about 3,000 years in the future. With the help of a faulty JumpMaster, (think GameBoy times 1,000) Theo is stuck in Mil3 (the 21st century) and isn’t sure how to get home. Theo learns about the joy of pizza and ice cream in spite of the "no good" nutrition warnings issued by his coat.
Jules and Gen get to time jump to the land of dinosaurs and the building of the Great Pyramid. We get to hear Theo’s version of how Bill Gates made his millions.
This book is fast paced and fun. I’m going to jump ahead immediately and read JumpMan Rule No. 2: Don’t Even Think About It.
SAMMY KEYS AND THE DEAD GIVEAWAY, by Wendelin Van Draanen, Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17.99; ages 9-12.
Sammy is a seventh-grade detective, and in this book the first mystery won’t be too hard to solve because Sammy committed the murder herself. But, there is more. What should she do about the forged ballots? What is the dog trying to get to on the other side of the fence? Who really threw those rocks? What is the real deal with that nutty Council Queen? What exactly does eminent domain mean? Would you wear high tops to the dance?
Even more importantly, did you already know about this series? Have you already read a Sammy Keyes book? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then why didn’t you tell me so I could have discovered these books sooner?
Sandi Pedersen is the mom of four and the Web mistress for Chicago Parent.