I would like to give Just Ella 3 1/2 stars but alas no fractions are permitted. A very quick read, I was not overly enamored with the writing style. I...moreI would like to give Just Ella 3 1/2 stars but alas no fractions are permitted. A very quick read, I was not overly enamored with the writing style. It is age appropriate but lacks the carefully crafted quality that sets apart the children's books I really love.
Just Ella presents the classic story of Cinderella and is set in the "happily ever after". Only it turns out not to be so happy; and unlike traditional fairy-tale heroines Ella does not play the damsel in distress card and hope for a prince or fairy god-mother to save her. This princess has learned to take her fate into her own hands and won't let domineering tutors, an idiot prince or even being locked in the dungeon stop her.
The book explores Ella's transition from passively (if not quietly) slaving away for her step-mother to deciding and acting on making her own decisions and, eventually, facing the consequences. On a slightly deeper level "Just Ella" explores the differences between infatuation and love and presents the novel (for children's books) idea that the two do not always go hand-in-hand. The most relevant and satisfying "message" I took from the book is that happiness is not always found where everyone thinks and says it should be. Ella learns that a life of hard work and immense challenges can be more satisfying than one of leisure which is a lesson I would love for more people to understand.
I did not like that the prince (along with pretty much all of the characters other than Ella) was so extremely one dimensional. This is consistent with traditional fairy tale telling but really limited my engagement in the story. (less)
Nice art and beautiful coloring but weak storyline and character development. The story moved too quickly for me to develop any attachment to the char...moreNice art and beautiful coloring but weak storyline and character development. The story moved too quickly for me to develop any attachment to the characters or investment in their problems. I'm interested to read the next volume for the art and to see if the story bulks up any, but would not spend money to purchase it.(less)
Genre: Fantasy Age Group: Children - Young Adult Characters: Nobody Owens, Silas, Scarlett Perkins, The Man Jack, Liza Hempstock, Mr and Mrs Owens, Moth...more Genre: Fantasy Age Group: Children - Young Adult Characters: Nobody Owens, Silas, Scarlett Perkins, The Man Jack, Liza Hempstock, Mr and Mrs Owens, Mother Slaughter, Caius Pompeus, (Incomplete and possibly misspelled due to not having the text and a truly massive cast) Locations: Small Town in England (Might be named, again no text to reference) Critters: Ghosts, Ghouls, The Sleer, Night Gaunts, Solitary Types. Randiness: A kiss on the cheek is as much as you get here kids! Fright Factor: Murder, ghouls, and ancient crypts. Might need to leave the night-light on after this one.
*I listened to this book as an audio recording so my perspective may be slightly different than if I had read the text.*
I loved this book despite my normal difficulty connecting to very young characters. The gorey elements of the story did not phase me personally, though if you are very squeamish the first scene may be a bit difficult to read. That bit is the worst of it, I found very little after that to be disturbing. For a book starting with a murder and taking place in a graveyard it is actually quite lovely.
The Graveyard book was a highly enjoyable read/listen. As a young adult/children's fantasy romp it had enough fresh and unusual elements to be captivating and memorable while still remaining familiar so that readers do not feel lost. Gaiman's prose is accessible and comfortable enough for a young audience to absorb but remains lyrical and flowing. Older readers with more refined tastes will still be able to enjoy it. Though few characters get a lot of page-time alongside Bod (Bod's enigmatic guardian Silas is one of the exceptions) all had well developed personalities that made me enjoy meeting each one rather than becoming overwhelmed or bored by the large cast.
As much as I enjoyed Bod's adventures and the unique route the book took with the young adult fantasy genre, I enjoyed even more the deeper themes skillfully woven in by the author.
Each chapter is a short story depicting Bod's life in the graveyard as he grows up. The vignettes skillfully portray the various stages children go though as they age. The fact that Bod grows up in a graveyard allows for a unique backdrop and unusual adventures highlighting this growth. Bod's path thorough childhood is juxtaposed against the residents of the graveyard who, being dead or un-dead, are forever unchanging.
Unsurprisingly, The Graveyard Book focuses a great deal on death. In Bod's eyes death is nothing to be feared, after all everyone who loves and cares for him is dead. Since death, rather than life, is the norm in Bod's world he explores and discovers something that we readers often take for granted: what it means to be alive; to be able to change oneself and the world, to have unlimited potential.
The end of the book focuses on a death of a different sort. Like the death at the end of life, in The Graveyard Book the death of childhood is not something to be feared. Both difficult and exciting it is one of the transitions we all share in our journey through life. Though most of us do not face as literal a departure from childhood into "the real world" as Bod does, I finished the book thinking about my own transition into adulthood, what adventures life still holds for me and, of course, my unlimited potential.
I recommend this book to kids with good imaginations who delight in unusual adventures and exploring unique perspectives. For adults I would suggest this book to anyone who wants a small taste of childhood and isn't phased by a young boy falling through ghoul-gates and taking unusual revenge on the school bully.
The largest perk to to listening to the audio version was that it was narrated by the author. Neil Gaiman is an excellent narrator, captivating yet easy to listen to. Each character is given their own voice but it is subtly done, enough to distinguish them from each other and to add depth but not overdone as is easy to do when narrating. And of course the biggest advantage to having the author as the narrator is that it is read exactly as the author intended it to be heard.(less)