Monday, January 12

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied

Special bonus book review today after a successful chat with the Virtual Book Club (#vbcbooks). The author was able to join in! I learned some extra cool facts that I included at the end of today's post. Come join the VBC every second Monday of the month at 9pm EST!

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied
Jess Keating

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1402297557
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Date of publication: June 3, 2014
Age: Grades 5 - 8
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: middle school, bravery, self-image, friendship, family

Now that her best friend's moved to New Zealand and a her family's temporarily relocated into the zoo research house, Ana is the prey of choice for the Sneerers, a rather rotten group of carnivorous girls at school. Ana finds her courage dwindling and doesn't know how she'll survive--chameleon powers, maybe? But with a visit from her famous TV-zoologist grandpa and some encouragement from her mom, Ana may be able to find her strengths and discover the courage she needs to stand up to her fears.

Yes, junior high and a zoo have much in common, and Keating's zoological experience seems to be the perfect preparation for writing a witty, emotional, drama-filled middle-grade novel. Ana is a very impressive character, with deep-rooted fears and paralyzing doubts that actually make sense. This is because Keating writes in key elements of Ana's past to add great depth and believability to the character. Ana's family also gets little chances to shine, each helping Ana along in a way that fits in with their individual characters.

The Sneerers, however, were super frustrating. Partly because they're designed to be (a shallow, insecure bully with two popularity-desperate cronies--you know the type), but partly because it's a lot of drama. That's more of a personal pet-peeve, however. And the ending may make up for it... The story as a whole, while predictable, was written with such perfect wit and humor that it really was enjoyable to read. Any book that makes me laugh out loud gets a lot of bonus points. Altogether, I think this book could be really enjoyable for the right readers.

I know I enjoyed it more after learning about the author in tonight's Virtual Book Club. Soooo, I'd thought I'd share some fun facts that I learned about Jess Keating tonight on Twitter (you can follow and tweet her, too, with the Twitter handle @jess_keating. Or check out her website!)

-The idea for the title of the book came first, before any of the story had been written down

-Keating, as a former zoologist, has held a crocodile. (And has been bitten by one. And been peed on by one)

-Ana's mom, Jane, is in fact named after Jane Goodall

-Watching Crocodile Dundee definitely provided inspiration for the story (and for Ana's grandpa, Shep)

-One scene that ended up being cut from the book involved Ana waking up with Oscar the python in her bed

-Besides being a zoologist, Keating also enjoys singing and sculpting, and encourages the mixing of art AND science!

-The random animal fact at the beginning of each chapter are, in fact, true and come from Keating's own constant collecting of facts

-Keating's school librarian, Ms. Fenton, was a huge, positive influence in her love of reading

-Some of Keating's favorite animals to work with are baby raccoons

-A wide variety of talents makes for some wonderful books! Check out her books today!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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