Archive for June, 2008

Review of Peeled, by Joan Bauer

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

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Peeled,

by Joan Bauer

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008.  248 pages.

Hildy Biddle is a girl with an obsession.  Hildy’s obsession is to report the news, to let people know the truth, to make their high school newspaper shine.

But when a scare starts at the old Ludlow house, with a death and rumors of haunting, the town newspaper only seems to want to fan people’s fears.

Can Hildy and her high school friends stand up for what’s right against the interests of powerful adults?

In many ways, this feels like the same story Joan Bauer has told in her other wonderful books, like Hope Was Here and Rules of the Road.  A teenaged girl with an obsession stands up for what’s right against powerful interests.  However, I can’t complain — This story Joan Bauer is telling is a good one, makes fun reading, and does stick with you.

I do think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t had the vague feeling I’d read this before.  However, I will still highly recommend it to young teen readers.  Joan Bauer tells a good story, and Hildy Biddle joins her cast of strong young women who stand up for what’s right and entertain the reader while doing it.

http://www.joanbauer.com/

www.penguin.com/youngreaders

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This review is posted on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/peeled.html

Review of Why War Is Never a Good Idea, by Alice Walker

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

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Why War Is Never a Good Idea

by Alice Walker, illustrations by Stefano Vitale

HarperCollins, 2007.  32 pages.

Starred Review

Though War has eyes

Of its own

& can see oil

&

Gas

& mahogany trees

& every shining thing

Under

The earth

When it comes

To nursing

Mothers

It is blind;

Milk, especially

Human,

It cannot

See.

Though War is Old

It has not

Become wise

It will not hesitate

To destroy

Things that

Do not

Belong to it

Things very

Much older

Than itself.

Here is a haunting and poetic, artistic and beautiful book. 

The language is simple.  The author talks of things that War cannot understand, but that it can destroy.

The artwork is haunting, memorable and symbolic.  On one page, the words are: Picture frogs beside a pond holding their annual pre-rainy-season convention.  They do not see War. Huge tires of a camouflaged vehicle about to squash them flat.  The illustrations show a close-up painting of frogs on the left, with a photo of a rusty wheel on the right side, wadding up pages of peaceful villagers falling underneath it.

The portrayal is not graphic, but symbolic, making it all the more striking.

Don’t read this book to your child if you want to make apologies for War, if you want to explain about necessary evils. 

However, if you think you can use some convincing, or want to express an unambiguous idea to a child, this book makes a powerful and persuasive case for why War is never a good idea.  The language is simple enough for a child, yet something that will linger in the mind of an adult.

http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/

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Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/why_war_is_never_a_good_idea.html

Review of Larklight, by Philip Reeve

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

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Larklight

Or:  The Revenge of the White Spiders!

Or:  To Saturn’s Rings and Back!  A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space!

by Philip Reeve

Performed by Greg Steinbruner

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2006. 400 pages.

Audiobook:  Recorded Books, 2007. 8 CDs, 8.75 hours.

Starred Review.

Imagine for a moment that outer space is not a black emptiness, but really the “aether,” and full of living things.  Imagine that there’s life on Mars, life on Venus, life on Saturn, and even “ichthyomorphs” floating in the middle of space.

Now imagine that instead of just discovering gravity, Isaac Newton used alchemy to figure out how to make spaceships.  Imagine that in the 1800s, the British Empire wasn’t just an earthly empire ruling the seas, but ruled the solar system.

Art and Myrtle Mumby grew up on Larklight, a large old house that orbited the moon.

At the start of the book, their house is attacked by space spiders the size of elephants.  Their father is captured by the spiders, but they manage to escape and land on the moon.  On the moon, their life is in danger from giant moths, but they are rescued by space pirates.  The captain of the pirates is a teenage boy, but the crew are all aliens.

The pirates don’t want to obey Myrtle’s demands and take them to a British Embassy, and the children’s adventures are only beginning.  The book presents narrow escape after narrow escape as Art and Myrtle travel the solar system and end up saving the world.

This story is indeed a “rousing tale of dauntless pluck.”  I was put off at the beginning because I hate the thought of giant spiders, but before long I was lingering in my car to listen.  Even though I knew Art would surely escape, several times I found myself wondering how on earth he would get out of the latest tight spot.

Once again, I was enchanted by the delightful accents of the British narrator.  This audiobook would be a fabulous adventure to listen to for a family traveling on summer vacation.  Although there are some fearsome situations, Art and Myrtle emerge unscathed from them all.  Great fun!

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Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/larklight.html

Review of The Prophecy, by Hilari Bell

Sunday, June 1st, 2008
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The Prophecy
by Hilari Bell

Reviewed June 1, 2008.
EOS (HarperCollins), New York, 2006. 194 pages.
Starred Review.

I loved this book! The Prophecy is exactly the sort of book I would love to write. A well-crafted, light fairy tale type story, it still packs a punch. I was completely charmed.

Prince Perryndon’s father is the forty-fifth warrior king of Idris. Perryn would rather study than learn to fight.

However, when the king is home from the wars with the Norsemen, the master-of-arms makes a show of teaching Perryn to fight. The show only makes Perryn look like a fool and a failure and makes his father despise him all the more.

Then, studying in the library, Perryn discovers something that he thinks can win over his father after all: A prophecy that tells how to defeat the dragon! All they need is a true bard, a unicorn, and the Sword of Samhain.

The king scoffs at the prophecy, and scoffs at Perryn for believing it. However, his work does get him some attention.

When Perryn asks a magic mirror to show him any more writing about the prophecy, it shows him Cedric, the master-of-arms, writing a letter. In the letter, Cedric tells the Norsemen that Perryn has discovered the prophecy. He writes:

The sword was lost long ago, but magic often finds a way to raise itself. The boy is too weak willed to do anything on his own, but if he convinces his father to go looking for that sword, the dragon might be killed. 

If Idris were prosperous and well manned, it would be almost impossible to conquer — it is proving hard enough, even with the dragon eating away their strength from within.

So I will kill the boy. It can be made to look like an accident.

Now, knowing that Cedric will kill him at his first opportunity, Perryn decides to prove he is not too weak willed to do anything. He will assemble the pieces of the prophecy himself. If he can kill the dragon, surely he can win his father’s approval.

I love the way Hilari Bell shows us a prince with plenty of strikes against him, yet who is desperate enough to find a way to do something and help his people.

A truly wonderful book. This is my favorite of all the books I read for this year’s summer reading program.

This review is posted on the main site at: 

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/prophecy.html

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