I love anything to do with fairytales, so I really really wanted to love Breadcrumbs. The story is based on Andersen's The Snow Queen, and revolves ar...moreI love anything to do with fairytales, so I really really wanted to love Breadcrumbs. The story is based on Andersen's The Snow Queen, and revolves around a girl named Hazel who embarks on a quest in search of her missing friend Jack. Hazel and Jack used to be best friends, but then Jack suddenly becomes cold and distant. And then he just vanishes.
The main reason I couldn't fall in love with the book was Hazel herself. Maybe it's because I tried to identify with her too much. When I was her age, I loved reading books - fiction and nonfiction - and coming up with my own stories as well. I feel like that was strongly tied to the insatiable curiosity I had about everything. I was equally happy reading about Narnia as I was reading about rare diseases. So for me, Hazel's disinterest in anything to do with science just felt really weird. In the very first scene, where she is enthralled by the first snowfall and then immediately tunes out her mom telling her about snowflake patterns - that made me furrow my brow. I get that one of the themes in the book is rational thought vs creativity and imagination. But I really don't like it when the relationship between the two things are presented as a dichotomy. They don't have to be incompatible.
Also, Hazel's friendship with Jack seemed extremely one sided. She came off as a bit obsessed. I used to be extremely attached to my friend at that age, but still I couldn't really empathize with her slightly crazed emotions concerning her friend.
I did enjoy the fairytale bits of the story a lot. I thought they were done very well, with just the right touch of shadows lurking in the corners.
PS - something about the illustrations rubbed me the wrong way as well. They seemed too artificial and computer generated. Not really what you expect from a fairytale story.(less)
The trend for children's fantasy these days seems to follow a set formula: write long, lengthy books that turn into a sprawling series where the plot...moreThe trend for children's fantasy these days seems to follow a set formula: write long, lengthy books that turn into a sprawling series where the plot is full of OMG! and WTF!. Make sure that is complicated enough so as to span several fan wikis where characters and plot points are lovingly and painstakingly detailed, and fans can get into fierce and heated arguments over which characters should hook up and which shouldn't and how some chance dialogue in Book 1 was a cleverly hidden bit of foreshadowing in something that happens in Book 12.
The charm of the Chronicles of Prydain is that it manages to have complex characters and gripping storylines without spanning hundreds of pages per book. The plots are fairly straightforward and don't require that you remember minutiae from previous books in the series. In fact, each books stand pretty well on its own.
The Black Cauldron is the second in the series and possibly the best. It follows Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper, as he joins the effort led by Prince Gwydion to find and destroy the Black Cauldron, which is being used by Arawn (the bad guy) to create undead warriors called the Caudron-Born. It is a satisfying adventure story, but it also does a great job of exploring the grey area between good and evil, and what it means to be a hero. Taran desperately wants to be a hero, but throughout the story he has to face his own weaknesses - vanity, pride, and a desire for greatness.
Lloyd Alexander does an excellent job of writing a story simple enough for younger readers to easily follow yet creating characters that invite readers to think about their own desire, prejudices and weaknesses. His endings are never perfectly happy, but they are always satisfying.(less)
I'm not sure what the point of this book is. Everything is black and white and none of the characters seemed particularly interesting. I wasn't sure w...moreI'm not sure what the point of this book is. Everything is black and white and none of the characters seemed particularly interesting. I wasn't sure why Ellen was considered to be so bloody special. The only remotely complex character was Otto.
The kids seemed to like it, but there really wasn't much to discuss.(less)
This is an odd sort of book. It starts off rather dark, with the narrator recounting his grandfather's seemingly wild flights of fancy about his past...moreThis is an odd sort of book. It starts off rather dark, with the narrator recounting his grandfather's seemingly wild flights of fancy about his past and then his grandfather's grisly death, and then somewhere in the middle it sort of switches to YA novel mode, as Seong puts it. I actually enjoyed the first half better than the second half - the ambiance created by the creepy photos and the vivid descriptions were wonderfully eerie. But once you actually meet Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children, the weirdness fades and they all become sort of disappointingly normal.
I think I would have enjoyed the story more if the characters had been portrayed as darker and more messed up in the head - surely the kind of life they live lends itself to some sort of twistedness. And the narrator also seems to fall a bit flat. It didn't seem like he had much of a presence, despite the fact that he was the one telling the story.
I did enjoy the book overall, and will definitely read the next one when it comes out.(less)
I loved reading this book - epic adventure, full of all the traditional elements of a good fantasy: trolls, dragons, warriors, bards, and magic. But t...moreI loved reading this book - epic adventure, full of all the traditional elements of a good fantasy: trolls, dragons, warriors, bards, and magic. But the adventure is made better by the complexity of the characters. There are no clear-cut lines between good and evil in this book - only characters that are very human in their imperfection. I think this book does a good job of pushing young readers to think about cultural relativism - or at least introduce them to the concept.
I was annoyed by the fact that Lucy still remains a brat to the bitter end. The scene where Jack gives her the necklace from Thorgil made me want to reach into the pages and give that girl a good slap. You'd think that the ordeal she went through would have changed her somewhat. I wasn't quite sure what the author's purpose was in leaving her as a spoiled and selfish child. On the other hand, I suppose she is still quite young (6?).
Anyway, some Chase notes: I would recommend this book be bumped up to E710. The language is deceptively simple but there is a lot that goes on - too much for our E610 kids to keep track of. Another solution would be to reduce the amount of reading per week, but then we'd be doing this book for two months.(less)
Very unconventional science/fantasy - urban, gritty, and absolutely mesmerizing. I had to stop after some chapters and take a minute to breathe becaus...moreVery unconventional science/fantasy - urban, gritty, and absolutely mesmerizing. I had to stop after some chapters and take a minute to breathe because I'd actually been holding my breath for so long. The descriptions are vivid enough to make you cringe, and while the story drags in certain sections (the parts where they talk about scientific theories - I confess I skimmed those sections, but they aren't terribly vital to understanding the plot and there's not a lot of them) the overall plot moves along at a dizzying pace.
I don't even know how to describe this book. It's a world where humans mingle with other sentinent beings in the shapes of bugs, cactuses, and birds; where a mother who kills her child is punished by having her dead baby's arms attached to her head; where spiders and moths take the form of the most frightening nightmares. The world takes some getting used to, but definitely worth the effort.(less)
Trash like no other, but highly enjoyable trash. I suppose it's pretty much like Buffy, if Buffy raised zombies for a living as well. And had lots of...moreTrash like no other, but highly enjoyable trash. I suppose it's pretty much like Buffy, if Buffy raised zombies for a living as well. And had lots of sex with vampires and werewolves.(less)