This is what outstanding, distinguished, and thoroughly enjoyable children’s books should be! And of course, I had the additional pleasure of listenin...moreThis is what outstanding, distinguished, and thoroughly enjoyable children’s books should be! And of course, I had the additional pleasure of listening to Appelt’s narrative voice brought to live by Lyle Lovett: folky, hilarious, tender, with just the right amount of controlled drama. This environmental tall tale set in the swamp land, featuring anthropomorphized critters, caricatured villains, down home, real but also realer than life characters, and mythical beings is perfect for a family and classroom read aloud! One of my favorite 2013 books for sure!(less)
I truly enjoyed Stroud’s narrative tone, characters and world building in this first volume of a new fantasy/horror series. In Lucy we find a fresh, s...moreI truly enjoyed Stroud’s narrative tone, characters and world building in this first volume of a new fantasy/horror series. In Lucy we find a fresh, sharp-minded, slightly paranoid and self-doubting, but in the end completely lovable main character/narrator. Lockwood and George are also interesting and multi-faceted characters who maintain the flavorful exchanges between these young people. The premise also provides a new world for the author and the readers to venture into and explore — The Problem, consisting of ghosts, hauntings, and the solutions of using special child agents trained to deal with them, with all the life-threatening dangers that could befall anyone at any moment. I'm in awe of Stroud's talent.
So why didn’t I absolutely love the book? Probably because I figured too many things out too early so the wait for the reveal seemed a bit long and drawn out? Or perhaps there were just a few repetitive descriptions/scenarios too many? (How many times do the readers need to be told how the first hints of haunting feel or look like?) Do I still want to see what unfolds in book 2? Yes. If the Bartimaeus trilogy is any indicator, the sequels will give us more layers and nuanced interactions. The story will only evolves into something grander and hopefully the ending will be as satisfying — and perhaps unexpected, too?(less)
I was pleased that Holly Black decided to maintain the mystery and the suspense over the paranormal scenario of the story all the way to the very very...moreI was pleased that Holly Black decided to maintain the mystery and the suspense over the paranormal scenario of the story all the way to the very very end. To me, that’s the best part of the whole book. Some other aspects, however, did not speak to me that much. I was told the three main characters’ personalities, a bit of their back stories, and about the fact that they had been best friends with such amazing bonds as telling those fantastical stories…. but, as a reader, I never quite “felt” any of these facts. Partly because on their “quest,” most I saw was their bickering and distrust of each other.
For example, when Zach worried about the two girls’ talking about him behind his back, his thoughts are whether they talked about he smelled bad or that he’s stupid. I would hope, that after being close friends with each other for years, there might have been some darker, deeper secrets or concerns that made Zach squirm.
There are also just so many details that do not advance the plot or our understanding of the characters. A list of 27 flavors of donuts that do not carry overt or hidden meanings baffled me.
I was also puzzled by each character’s ability to succinctly explain why have been acting in such a way toward their friends, sounding like what a therapist might present, after listening to 12/13 year olds relating the events and their feelings. Alice revealed that the reason why she couldn’t believe in Eleanor’s ghost was that “There can’t be a ghost, a real ghost. Because if there is, then some random dead girl wants to haunt Poppy, but my own dead parents can’t be bothered to come back and haunt me.” And Poppy’s confession, “I thought that we could do this thing, and when it was over we’d have something that no one else had — an experience that would keep us together.” Even Zach’s father confessed, “But I’ve been thinking that protecting somebody by hurting them before someone else gets the chance isn’t the kind of protecting that anyone wants.”
Don’t get me wrong — I believe in the validity of all of these statements and those are at the heart of this story — that we act certain ways because there are some additional, underlying emotional reasons which are seldom on the surface for others to interpret quickly or easily. I just have a bit of trouble with how all of these ideas are delivered as “statements” by these characters. I wish that readers had chances to perhaps sort some of these out by ourselves. For example, perhaps in one of the shouting matches, Alice could have said something like, “There are NO GHOSTS! If there are, WHY WOULDN’T MY PARENTS TALK O ME???!!!” (haha.. much exaggerated)
I also was not creeped out enough by the book — and I wish I had been — the cover gave me so much hope!(less)
I usually approach books written by celebrities with a bit of trepidation. More often than not, I don’t even bother reading them — just waiting for ot...moreI usually approach books written by celebrities with a bit of trepidation. More often than not, I don’t even bother reading them — just waiting for others’ reactions. But for some reason, I got a positive vibe from the galley. Perhaps because its multi-ethnicity cast portrayed and neatly presented on the cover? My gut feelings proved to be not that wrong. Much like what Spencer enjoyed reading as a child (Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown,) the story is just complex enough to keep the readers’ interest without too many confusing layers and the solutions are somewhat on the easy and happy side — which are thoroughly appropriate for its intended middle grade readership: both entertaining and comforting.
Do I sense that Spencer tried too hard to “balance” the cast with the inclusion of a hearing-impaired Hispanic kid, a black kid, and a Chinese house-keeper/friend? Yup. I sense that. But I’m ok with it because she actually created solid characters whose identities and friendships ring true and whose ethnicities are not the focal point or the plot driving elements. For the most part, the ethnical references are cringe-free. (Except for when Mei-Ling says, “Ni Hao” for a quick morning greeting to those she knows well… instead of the more appropriate “Zao” – for early/morning.) I will have no problem recommending this book to my students and hopefully they will enjoy this mystery with its positive message of community building.(less)
I’m so happy that 1. I didn’t spend time reading this book. Instead, I listened to it on audible. It was LONG, but at least I was walking, or washing...moreI’m so happy that 1. I didn’t spend time reading this book. Instead, I listened to it on audible. It was LONG, but at least I was walking, or washing dishes, and didn’t spend my otherwise precious reading time on this. Paul Michael, the reader, is quite adroit and I enjoyed his voice and inflections — and the subtle but effective switches between characters. But, I cannot say that I enjoyed the book as much as its reader’s voice.
At first, I was somewhat intrigued by the exploration of Symbology, Free Mason history, and some supposedly high-tech science research on harnessing human consciousness…. but it all turned out to be just like Dan Brown’s other books: inserting very elementary knowledge of all these fields and channelling such knowledge through supposedly learned experts in each field to “explain” away the twisted plot and connections between events. The bottom line, however, is that many many words are repeated and wasted to tell a potentially intriguing story that simply didn’t not live to that potential.
(For example: why would Langdon be forced to wear a blindfold to go to the “secret” place and experience pages of claustrophobia and doubts when the destination turned out to be somewhere he completely recognized — and should be recognizable by millions?)
Also, perhaps I’m just too jaded a reader for this — I completely predicted and guessed the identity of the villain a couple of hundred pages before it is revealed in the story.
The only bits that I enjoyed were the gruesome descriptions of tortures and deaths!(less)
The concept of bringing a lot of 19th century literary characters together to solve a mystery is definitely a fun one — although not unique, at least,...moreThe concept of bringing a lot of 19th century literary characters together to solve a mystery is definitely a fun one — although not unique, at least, not any more in an age of mash-up stories. I enjoyed spotting literary allusions and also learning more about characters or original stories that I was not familiar with. The art is superb. The section with all the Chinese dialog is actually fairly accurate. Kudos! I think I’ll go over all the panels more than once just to enjoy the artists’ talents. Another aspect that’s extraordinarily fun is how the whole thing is done in an 1898 serial publication style. All in all, worth my time!(less)
Still enjoyed it very much! The plotting is as adventuresome and surprising as the previous two installments and the tone is as sassy. It's also delig...moreStill enjoyed it very much! The plotting is as adventuresome and surprising as the previous two installments and the tone is as sassy. It's also delightful to read Ananka's TIPS for girls that encourage courage and kindness throughout the story. (less)
I always wanted to read this book — and more than one teachers at school urged me to read it. Since I can’t really read it this year – I downloaded th...moreI always wanted to read this book — and more than one teachers at school urged me to read it. Since I can’t really read it this year – I downloaded the audio book read skillfully by Marc Thompson. Thompson definitely did the story justice with expertly designed and executed voices for the many characters in the tale. The story itself satisfied: a wonderful blend of life-or-death/survival scenarios and the warmth of friendship and inter-generational support. Although there are some really despicable adults in the tale, there are also so many caring ones that eventually made the three children’s lives better.
I anticipated a lot more “magic” due to the title and the cover design and felt slightly disappointed when I realized that it’s mostly a tale of young immigrants and their struggles finding their places in the world and supporting their families. All three protagonists’ stories are definitely compelling. Kirby then introduced some magical elements in the form of the golems and the golem’s “heart” for the clockwork man. Being a picky and sometimes narrow-minded genre-purist, I found this mixture a bit disconcerting — although it was quite satisfying to read those fantasy bits. I don’t think any child reader will be bothered by this mixture of historical/realistic story telling and elements of magic.(less)
This is a short and charming caper story with some not-quite-so-believable reconciliations -- especially the incredibly fast and easy resolution of th...moreThis is a short and charming caper story with some not-quite-so-believable reconciliations -- especially the incredibly fast and easy resolution of the mother-daughter relationship which was so extremely strained. I did enjoy the notion of aunt Polly being such a generous soul and that her legacy was felt and practiced throughout the town by those who truly loved her. I think many young readers will find great satisfaction in reading this story but those who came to PIE because they loved So B. It! should be told before hand to not expect the same kind of intensity, originality, and affecting ending as that previous most-beloved tale. (less)
It's really quite an oddly enjoyable weird tale. Some of the images can be disturbing, but effectively and purposefully so. I think plenty of young re...moreIt's really quite an oddly enjoyable weird tale. Some of the images can be disturbing, but effectively and purposefully so. I think plenty of young readers will find this a very interesting read. (less)
Not for the faint of heart or queasy of tummy. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and almost-puke-my-guts-out scenes. Definitely cannot read this and hav...moreNot for the faint of heart or queasy of tummy. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and almost-puke-my-guts-out scenes. Definitely cannot read this and have a meal at the same time! It's quite an intense tale and truly original! Vols. 2 and 3 are on my desk.... looking appetizing... haha. (less)
I really should have heeded the recommendations, enthusiastic and spirited, from many different readers in several grades for the last few years. Why...moreI really should have heeded the recommendations, enthusiastic and spirited, from many different readers in several grades for the last few years. Why I felt reluctant to read this title for so long, I have no idea. Reading this book was absolutely a fun experience! Although some more experienced readers might find the meta-fiction aspect a bit heavy handed or derivative (ala Snicket or Scieszka & Lane,) I think young readers who encounter this type of storytelling format for the first will definitely eat it up with gusto! At the same time, I don't find myself propelled to read on the rest of the series. What is lacking? Perhaps certain genuine emotional bond between this reader and the characters who serve as pieces on a game board and don't quite come through as "real" people. (less)
This fun mystery, full of riddles and puzzles, is a perfect fit for my students who go to school in New York City's upper east side (where the childre...moreThis fun mystery, full of riddles and puzzles, is a perfect fit for my students who go to school in New York City's upper east side (where the children in the book do) and who are familiar with most of the landmarks referenced in the book and yet will be intrigued to know more about the hidden history of them. Do I wish that the sentence-level writing a bit stronger and some of the more far-fetched scenarios handled more skillfully, yes. However, I thoroughly enjoyed following the clues and finally to see the big payback!
It also is refreshing to have a book where three school-aged children are collaborating with a grown up (79-year-old Eloise) who has much to offer, such as her own living knowledge of NYC history.
The major "gripe" I have about this book is in Sherry's decision of featuring racially homogeneous main and supporting characters - Brid (the 9-year-old sister) is described as a "willowy, wiry blond" (with Patrick, the 6-year-old brother, having electric-blue eyes). Their next-door neighbor, Lukas Williamson talks to the main characters while "brushing back his blond hair"... and then, a very minor, but only school-friend character of CJ (the 12-year-old brother,) is described as having "thick blond hair that shrouded his blue eyes." Or, perhaps my issue is the "mindlessness" or laziness of using stock and cliched phrases when one creates and describes any character. I work in a pretty high-profiled NYC upper east side private school, and I KNOW for a fact that well-to-do families in 2011 come in all colors and shades and children do not confine themselves in interacting with same-color/race peers any more. After listening to and reading Mitali Perkin's philosophy on race portrayal in children's books, I am hyper aware of such details.(less)