Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Sisters Grimm

The Sisters Grimm
Book Two - The Unusual Suspects

Michael Buckley (2005)

Fairy tale characters in the real world, where kids have problems like giant spiders and Rumpelstiltskin (sp?)... adventure/mystery with lots of humor, but also some serious angst over missing parents... reminded me of the HP emotional anger and magical loss of the folks, tone of the story reminded me of that movie with LRRHood and the X-games Grandma (and a singing Goat?) from a few years ago (I liked it, no one else did, but can't remember the name)...

gets the "race" tag for some racial profiling involving fictional vs real characters... could be an interesting discussion...

Dear America

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl

by Joyce Hansen (1997)

Coretta Scott King Award Honor

So far these books have all impressed me, they don't seem too hokey or preachy; they must get good writers who know the historical period, although in this one the language was sometimes a bit much* for a slave girl who secretly learned to read and write from children's books... but I liked it, cared about the character, complex/believable storyline, great message of determination, self-awareness, personal strength...

*I started reading Flowers for Algernon this morning and thought of this book, in that it must be hard for a writer to present the story as if coming from a 6 or 10 or 15 year old, or a retarded man, and have the voice adhere strictly to how that person would be able to communicate... unless you're Faulkner, you have to bend the rules (suspend disbelief) to communicate to your readers through your characters, but not exclusively by/from your characters...

hmmm, not sure that makes sense...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting

by Natalie Babbitt (1975)

Someone has found the fountain of youth... the spring of eternal life, actually, which leads to a kidnapping, blackmail and real estate deals, and a jailbreak... I liked the beginning of the book better than the end, it seems some of the potential from the first half was lost -- the issue of living forever, as well as the mystery surrounding the man in the yellow suit, was washed over in the safe conclusion...

Monday, April 14, 2008

back from vacation, but forgot to take any of the books I'd started...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Here, There Be Dragons

Here, There Be Dragons

by James A. Owen (2006)

came highly recommended, I just started it... fantasy adventure starring the young Oxford lads Tolkien, Lewis, and Dodgson (were they alive at the same time? -- suspend disbelief?) saving our world and Arthur's... fully expected the allusions and references to the classic works, but so far way too much borrowing: Capt Nemo (League of Extraordinary Gents)? viciously evil dog-men (Book of Lost Things)? c'mon...

>apparently, this is a popular title for all kids of stuff...

>and this one too is a movie, or will be soon...

The Journal of James Edmund Pease

The Journal of James Edmund Pease

from the Dear America series

by Jim Murphy (1998)

A Civil War Union soldier keeps a journal chronicling his troops' personalities and activities, and his fears regarding fighting and leadership... very well done, historically accurate and reads authentic, great sense of the confusion and senselessness of battle ...reads like a much longer/deeper book...

connections: Civil War, Red Badge of Courage, Harriet Tubman, The Valley of the Shadow (civil war letters)

Only You Can Save Mankind

Only You Can Save Mankind

(If Not You, Who Else?) The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy

by Terry Pratchett (1992)

The first book in Pratchett's trio, although having already read the 2nd book they aren't connected story wise... Johnny enters a video game to help the aliens reach safety, all while dealing with his tough home life and the Gulf War on tv... many pop culture and "Stormin' Norman" references, but they're not as awkward as in the next book... a little confused in parts, but so is Johnny -- dreaming, dieing, going crazy? -- but ends with strong anti-war/violence message, and good for discussion of who and when is it right to fight? And just who will save mankind?

the thrid book is Johnny and the Bomb (1996)

connections: video games, un-popular kids, divorce, perception of reality, pacifism vs war

Here Lies the Librarian

Here Lies the Librarian

by Richard Peck (2006)

Peck's editor must have gone on vacation: the title and the book's beginning have nothing to do with the story... maybe he started writing when spooky stories were all the rage, hoping to capitalize with a graveyard scene, but unless I missed something, the tombstones (in the book or the title or the cover) have nothing at all to do with this tale of an orphaned girl who likes working on them new-fangled automobiles and some of her issues/adventures growing up... cute story, spunky female characters, but...

connections: female roles, cars, libraries, WWI

A Friend Called Anne

A Friend Called Anne

by Jacqueline van Maarsen (2004)

Recollections from a childhood friend of Anne Frank... good story for the closeness of friends, the decisions families must make, with an insight into of the passive helplessness surrounding the Nazi Occupation...

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Wall

The Wall

by Peter Sis (2007)

nothing to do with Pink Floyd... an artist's story of growing up in Communist Czechoslovakia, the suppression of individual rights and the government's efforts at mind control... I found it strange that it's out now, 10-15 years after it would be more timely/relevant, and that it's designed like a children's story ("oh look Timmy, here's a pretty book about a baby suffering from ideological crimes")... but the art and the info inside is very cool, and it would be a nice quick companion to a history or art lesson... also talks about 60's rock and roll...

connections: Adolf, Anne Frank, The Giver, the Berlin Wall, contemporary government/race issues (E. Europe, Africa), artistic freedom of expression

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century

Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century

by Osamu Tezuka (1995)*

A real graphic novel, not just a thick comic book... just started reading, son #1 found the whole series at the library and snagged 'em for me... serious war/race thriller/drama set in Japan and Germany, mostly 1936-45 (the chapter tacked on to the end showing the characters still fighting each other in the Middle East 10 years later was a little contrived...)

It's fictional, the search for and hiding of secret documents showing Hitler was Jewish, and a circle of Japanese and German characters that continuously stretch the limits of "Hey, it's you again, whatta small world!" but very realistic in the historical events surrounding WWII and the treatment of the Jews... the characters are very passionate and sometimes quite torn by twisted loyalties, such as the half German-Japanese boy who falls for a Jewish girl...

Interesting to talk about divided loyalties in a classroom, explore the different messages the students get from parents vs teachers vs coaches vs pop culture vs the playground... who do you listen to? who do you follow? how could you possibly know what is right?

from the introduction to book 5, by Gerard Jones:

(discussing the lies/reasons we have wars): "...Nation -- the deadly sentiment that an arbitrary and invisible political definition has some bearing on human relationships and is worth killing and dying for..."


connections: Anne Frank, Number the Stars, All Quiet on the Western Front, the Middle East, Viet Nam war

*originally serialized/published in Japan 1983-85

Red Badge of Courage

Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage

adapted by Wayne Vansant (1895/2005)

The text is sometimes too late 1800's for basic readers, but the images keep the story flowly smoothly and clearly... appendix in the back shows some "behind the scenes" how it's done details, good for those kids interested in the art angle...

connections: Civil War, war, Brother Sam is Dead

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

Bette Bao Lord (1984)

A girl goes straight from China to Brooklyn in 1947, with no stops in between to learn how to speak english or play baseball... autobiographical, told sweetly but not too cute, I had a real sense of the lonliness and lost-ness of the girl thrust into a strange new culture...

connections: ESL, Bat 6