5 enthusiastic stars and my undying devotion. This book is perfect in every way. I thought so the first time I read it in middle school, and I still t5 enthusiastic stars and my undying devotion. This book is perfect in every way. I thought so the first time I read it in middle school, and I still think so fifteen years later....more
Quick read, not much to it. This seems more like a picture book than a graphic novel to me--I can see a parent reading it with their young kid (say agQuick read, not much to it. This seems more like a picture book than a graphic novel to me--I can see a parent reading it with their young kid (say ages 7-9) more easily than I can see a middle schooler picking it up and reading it on their own. I wanted Bess, Houdini's wife, to be more of a person than she was--her sole personality trait in this book is "devoted."...more
Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya have gotten along just fine together in New Orleans' Ninth Ward since Lanesha's mother died in childbirth and her rich extendedLanesha and Mama Ya-Ya have gotten along just fine together in New Orleans' Ninth Ward since Lanesha's mother died in childbirth and her rich extended family didn't want to take her in. Mama Ya-Ya is getting old, but Lanesha can't imagine life without her. Lanesha sees ghosts, and that makes her a bit of an outcast at school. This starts to change when friendship overtures are made by Ginia and TaShon, but soon everything is interrupted by the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. Mama Ya-Ya's dreams tell her that the hurricane will leave the city intact, but there's something else that's not quite right, and the ghosts are unsettled too. Mama Ya-Ya and Lanesha have no means to evacuate, so when the hurricane comes, and the flood follows, it is up to Lanesha to be strong and pass this rite of passage into adulthood.
Lanesha's voice is clear and vivid, but she often comes across as younger than twelve, perhaps reflecting the fact that the author has "dumbed down" her usual adult prose for this, her first novel for younger readers. The book's subject matter is handled very well, and appropriately for the intended audience. The hurricane and the flooding that follows are portrayed as absolutely terrifying without being too graphic. Especially good were the depictions of Lanesha's neighbors' reaction to the hurricane: some evacuated, some went to the Superdome, some stayed behind because they didn't think it would be bad, and some stayed because they had no means of leaving. This accurately reflects the diversity of experiences in New Orleans during the hurricane.
I enjoyed this book for its subject matter--I think the hurricane is an extremely relevant setting, and the book was able to explore some of the issues surrounding it and what it might have been like for someone trapped in the middle. The actual plot and characters I didn't care for so much. I thought the author's portrayal of Lanesha was inconsistent--she often slipped into a characterization that I thought was much younger than twelve. And I didn't find Lanesha's ostracism followed by suddenly appearing friendships to be either compelling or realistic....more
Oh, this book. I am having a really difficult time articulating my thoughts on this one. This is not the sort of book I would normally pick up. It isnOh, this book. I am having a really difficult time articulating my thoughts on this one. This is not the sort of book I would normally pick up. It isn't the sort of book I would normally enjoy. But it was brilliant, and heartbreaking, and lovely, and terrifying, and I am so glad I read it. However, I'm not sure how it would go over with its target middle grade audience. I loved it, but I somehow doubt that your average twelve-year-old would get the same enjoyment out of it.
A Monster Calls tells the story of thirteen-year-old Conor O'Malley. His mother is undergoing treatments for cancer that don't seem to be going so well, his father has long since moved to America and started a new family, and he hates his grandmother's increasing presence in his life. And Conor has been having a horrible nightmare. Then the monster shows up, a giant, menacing yew tree who visits Conor. Conor is unafraid of the tree, since it pales in comparison to his nightmare, but he finds himself frustrated by its insistence that Conor has called him and that the monster must tell Conor three stories in exchange for the tale of Conor's own secret nightmare.
The whole book is accompanied by gorgeous, haunting black and white mixed media illustrations that add depth and mood to the story. This wouldn't be the same book without the illustrations, which is the mark of a great illustrator.
I found the book terrifying. Because really, I have a hard time imagining anything more scary than being a thirteen-year-old only child of a single parent, and watching that parent die of cancer. I happen to be the only child of a single parent, and when I was younger, the only fear that could cause me to totally break down and sob just from my own imaginings was the fear of my mom dying, leaving me totally alone (extended family didn't really count, since they weren't home like my mom was). So this book struck a chord in me because of that.
I didn't really expect to like the story, when I realized how obviously metaphorical everything in the whole damned book was. I'm not usually one for metaphor--I like my books to say what they mean and mean what they say, and too much literary styling drives me bonkers. But for some reason, it worked here. I would love to see this discussed in a literature class (but of course it won't, since books for children are totally dismissed by literary scholars).
I'm not quite sure who to recommend this book to, since it falls into such a genre gray area, so I guess I'll just have to recommend it to everyone. Read this book. It's a slim volume, with large text, huge margins, and tons of (beautiful) pictures, so it's only a couple hours of your time. I don't think you'll regret it....more
3.5 stars. Like Suicide Notes, this is a book that I didn't really find entertaining but am glad I pushed through. One of those books that's not fun,3.5 stars. Like Suicide Notes, this is a book that I didn't really find entertaining but am glad I pushed through. One of those books that's not fun, but important.
I do feel that the author could have made the book much more complex and nuanced. The subject matter was unique, but the story itself was relatively bland. Lots of reviewers have said they bawled while reading this--I didn't really find it to be that emotionally charged. I cry easily when it comes to fiction, and I didn't shed a tear for this one.
But it was a quick read, and I'd still recommend it. This one would probably actually work well with its intended middle grade audience as well (as compared to, say, A Monster Calls, which is brilliant but might be somewhat inaccessible to kids despite the supposed intended audience). The simplicity of the narrative, which bothered me as an adult reader, might be ideal for younger audiences....more