Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

I normally refuse to buy books with the movie poster cover or big shiny stickers that say "Don't Miss the Blockbuster..." but I read this because it looked like a cool movie... who can argue with giant armored polar bears? The book and its author also seem to be in the top 3 things to chat about over on LibraryThing as well, and who doesn't love a good religious zealot/banned books debate?

It appears these books (this is #1 of a trilogy) are not only an imaginative fantasy adventure for kids but an attack on the concept of God and a call to destroy all organized religion. Oooh-kay. I have not read any of the details, but it appears Mr. Pullman is outspoken and controversial and has raised the ire of a few special interest groups.

That being said, this is a cool book, with giant armored polar bears! There is magic, witches, gypsies, creepily suspicious adults, castles, zeppelins, and heroic children, all thrown at the reader at a frenetic pace. It does get a little talky attempting to explain details, and the ending was not enough of an end for me, but as part of an ubiquitous series, the cliffhanger aspect should be expected.

It's a thick book, lots to get through, but it would still work well for a reader wanting to take his/her time. Ages 10 - 14. More advanced readers could certainly find a lot to discuss from the religious tones, but for the most part kids are going to read this as Fantasy and will really dig the daemons, as well as identifying with Lyra.

I guess I should start focusing on themes and stuff like that... friendship? honor and trust? bravery? any suggestions...?

postscript 12.03 --Here is a well written and seemingly unbiased article on Pullman and the controversy surrounding his writing and views...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Brother Sam...

My Brother Sam Is Dead by J.L. Collier & C. Collier (1974)

Newbery Honor 1974

A bit on the violent side, with heads lopped off and all, but a quality read; timely for both when it was written, after the Viet Nam war, and now. The reality of war's impact on those left at home, and those left when people begin to die. Battle is not glorified, and both sides are shown as brought down and lessened by war, no matter their ideologies.

I also thought it was interesting how many times it was mentioned that Tim, not even old enough to drive, drinks beer and wine, even gets himself a little drunk to stave off the cold... a product of the time the story was being written (early 1970's -- were the authors laid back hippie types?) possibly. I know kids drank beer, fermented cider, whatever, but it seems a comtemporary author would downplay that aspect in regards to alcohol abuse reaching younger kids these days?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Newbery Medal 1994

Yes, I am man enough to admit tears did flow. I am man enough to confess to my emotional weakness, but only due to the blessed anonymity of the internet -- I doubt I will crash into any of you at Vons tomorrow and need to hide behind the banana and mango display when you announce to all "Hey, you're the guy bawling your eyes out when reading a children's book!"

Seriously, I have to rank this as a great book; the ending was not my favorite style of conclusion (the lady or the tiger?) but overall I was very impressed. I cared about the characters, the writing was clear not heavy, even during the serious parts. It does get serious, and disturbing, so 6th grade and up...

{note from an astute LTer : " I think it was the most appropriate way for The Giver to wrap up, especially because it's a YA novel--in other words, geared toward younger readers who are still learning to think and question information. A concrete ending with a single interpretation would have adversely affected their options to do so.In fact, I like the ambiguous ending so much that I have no plans to read the companion books, because of their potential to limit some of the many (often incompatible) conclusions I've drawn about The Giver's world." -- "Trismegistus" } 1/26/08