Definitely a breezy read with some fun bits and pieces. I really like Kelly Jones' portrayal of Sophie, level-headed, with plenty of normal kid concerDefinitely a breezy read with some fun bits and pieces. I really like Kelly Jones' portrayal of Sophie, level-headed, with plenty of normal kid concerns and normal kid courage. Jones included some not-too-heavy-handed tidbits about how others perceive Sophie, being half Mexican American, being viewed as poor, being "presumed" in not-so-flattering ways. The letter-writing device works for most of the book, except for the really really long, as-it-happens climatic sections: not sure when/where Sophie would have been writing to Agnes... ...more
A delightful concoction of implausible coincidences, innocent spying, interconnectivity, and childish pleasures. I can't quite stomach the excessive aA delightful concoction of implausible coincidences, innocent spying, interconnectivity, and childish pleasures. I can't quite stomach the excessive amount of sweets being served as main meals but I imagine my younger self would have been quite fascinated. The candy making process and rules are highly entertaining, and perhaps even informative! As most Wendy Mass books, this one is all about how to appreciate one's life and accept one's lot while still strive to expand understanding of the world around. No wonder my students love it so much and it appeals to both genders and mystery and friendship book lovers....more
This is what outstanding, distinguished, and thoroughly enjoyable children’s books should be! And of course, I had the additional pleasure of listeninThis 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!...more
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, sI 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?...more
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 veryI 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!...more
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 otI 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....more