“The Ice Cream Machine” by Adam Rubin

My favorite summer treat as a young girl was piling in the car with all my cousins and driving to their favorite ice cream kiosk to order whatever was the exotic flavor of the month.

When I moved to Frankfort, I heard of the strangest reference to ice cream. It was one of those quirky, out-dated ordinances that stated it is illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your pocket. Though it sounds strange now, the original intent was to prevent a horse thief from luring away a horse. I couldn’t imagine anyone wasting good ice cream by giving it to an animal, but then I didn’t know the value of a horse.

Summer and ice cream just go together. Check out the long line outside of Hoggy’s on Main Street — everyone waiting patiently for what will obviously be a most gratifying 15 minute treat.

Adam Rubin has written a number of very popular children’s picture books, including “Dragons Love Tacos.” This is his debut novel for the middle school audience. It consists of six short stories all with the title of “The Ice Cream Machine,” each with a different subtitle in a bizarre imaginative setting. Plus, each story is illustrated by a different award-winning artist.

In “The Ice Cream Machine” (the one with the five-armed robot) the children are able to travel to countries around the world and indulge in their iced specialty. It’s very easy if the robot can fly you there and also teach you the local language. In the small Tuscan village, they eat pastel colored fruity gelato. In India, they speak Hindi, and sample caramel-mango kulfi. The search for ice cream is relentless. But could there be ice cream in the jungles of Africa or only monkeys and pythons?

Another story (the one with the evil ice cream man) features Cromulous Blotch, the worst ice cream man ever. Mostly he would speed past the kids waiting to buy ice cream. If he stopped, and sold you a cone, he would first dip it in used coffee grounds. His favorite trick was to “accidentally” drop the cone just as the child reached for it. So, how does one get rid of the meanest ice cream man ever?

The final chapter (the one that hasn’t been written yet) suggests that now that you’ve read Rubin’s ice cream stories, it’s time to write one of your own. And Rubin offers some helpful suggestions to assist the writer. These tips would be beneficial to any writer, but Rubin keeps it simple for middle school kids. He even gives his address so the writer can send him their story.

You could be tempted to read more than one story in a sitting, such as the one with the alien space lab or the one with the genius inventor. But don’t forget to watch out for the brain freeze! And of course, he includes a simple recipe to make your own ice cream.

Review by Lizz Taylor, Poor Richard’s Books

“Daughter of the Deep” by Rick Riordan

Teachers, librarians and booksellers have been so grateful to Rick Riordan over many years for introducing middle school readers to mythology, with his series on Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Dubbed the “storyteller of the gods” Riordan has portrayed the Greek, Roman and Norse gods in multi-volumes, and children, especially boys, have devoured them. Now, Riordan addresses a female audience with a re-telling of Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” utilizing a female lead character.

Ana Dakkar is a freshman student at the Harding-Pencroft Academy, which graduates the very best marine scientists, explorers and warriors. Two years earlier, her parents died while on one of their scientific expeditions, and she is alone except for an older brother at the Academy. And, we all know how well little sisters get along with older brothers.

Ana’s year will end with a weekend secret trial at sea. However, on the way, the students witness a terrible tragedy. Plus, her professor announces that the Academy has long been involved in a 150-year-old war with a rival school. Now, Ana and her freshman classmates are in danger of becoming “fish food” for the enemies.

Ana steps up at every turn during the crisis. But even though Ana cracked the code, managed the crew utilizing everyone’s talents and kept them focused on their purpose, she still has self-doubts about her own leadership skills. Ana’s family heritage and innate abilities are put to the final test in this race against a deadly enemy. And, one wonders if her brother will finally acknowledge that she has the talent and skills of their parents.

Riordan has created another successful book for young adults, and perhaps like the Percy Jackson series, this revitalization of the Jules Verne books will continue with more adventures for Ana Dakkar.

Review by Lizz Taylor, Poor Richard’s Books

“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig

Nora Seed has decided she wants to die. She’s miserable and doesn’t feel like she or her life matter to anyone. After drinking and taking pills, she awakens to find herself in The Midnight Library, the place between life and death.

The Midnight Library is filled with endless rows of books that each contain an alternate life that Nora could have lived had she made different choices. Mrs. Elm, her school librarian and old friend who helped her through a traumatic time in her life, is there to help her.

When Nora opens a book, she is dropped into that life, and she must figure out if it is the one she would like. She can also return to the library to choose another book. Each life contains unforeseen consequences and choices, and Nora has to decide if the grass is always greener. It’s easy to imagine there are better and easier paths, but are there?

As Nora goes through various scenarios, it becomes clear what made her so unhappy in life, but also what was out of her control … and what she shouldn’t feel guilty about. This one will stay with you for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

Review by Paul Sawyier Public Library staff

“Run Rose Run” by Dolly Parton and James Patterson

The queen of country music teams up with the king of thrillers for this entertaining novel about AnnieLee Keyes, a young woman with a mysterious past, who hitchhikes to Nashville, determined to write and sing songs that climb to the top of the Country-Western chart. With no money and no guitar, she convinces a bartender to let her borrow an instrument and takes to the stage during an open mic night. Ruthanna Ryder, who is officially retired from the country music business, takes AnnieLee under her wing and sets her on a path to success.

As AnnieLee struggles to get to the top, she is also determined to outrun her past, which is catching up with her.

Much of this book is centered on the talent and rising career of AnnieLee, so much of the thriller aspect does not come to fruition. When she finally decides to take a stand at the end of the book, readers will recognize Patterson’s flair for the dramatic. More of a light mystery with romance thrown in, this book will, nevertheless, entertain the reader.

In the end, the unlikely duo of Patterson and Parton won us over. Fans of Dolly Parton will be pleased.

Review by Paul Sawyier Public Library staff