How is it that a novel that illustrates a brutal practice can be one of triumph and hope? How can one recommend a book about human poaching to childreHow is it that a novel that illustrates a brutal practice can be one of triumph and hope? How can one recommend a book about human poaching to children?
Easy. Just read Tara Sullivan's GOLDEN BOY and you'll see.
In this stunning debut novel, Habo is a 13-year-old Tanzanian boy with albinism. As such, he is in constant danger, because witch doctors in that country pay top dollar for body parts of such people. And Habo is hunted by just such a poacher. Habo's journey from frightened child to a boy who takes control of his own fate and creates a new future is a stirring tale no matter what the circumstances, but his specific situation ratchets up the tension in the story at the same time it horrifies the reader in her comfortable American living room.
This is Sullivan's great triumph: that the story which seems so far removed from us can feel so real and immediate. Instead of dwelling on gruesome details (as one could), or getting preachy about what needs to be done to stop these atrocities (for which one could be excused), Sullivan personalizes Habo's story. I had not even heard of this horrific problem in Tanzania, and I've never been to Africa. But I could identify with Habo all the same. He feels isolated in his own family; foreign in his own skin; desperate to find a place of his own in the world. These feelings are universal, and Sullivan brings them so expertly to life that I forgot I was reading about a foreign land. Habo was not just a symbol of suffering; he was a friend.
Young readers are the best audience for such a book. They will be motivated to help, to change. And they will see a little of themselves as well. The next time they judge someone by his odd appearance or her isolation, they might remember Habo and act differently. I know I will not forget him.
DISCLAIMER: This review was written after reading an advanced reviewer's copy (ARC) kindly loaned to me by the author. I received no compensation for the review....more
The last book of 2012 for me, and a great note to end on. I hate to sound clicheed--because this book ended up on so many "Best of" lists--but it trulThe last book of 2012 for me, and a great note to end on. I hate to sound clicheed--because this book ended up on so many "Best of" lists--but it truly is a fantastic read. One might ask if the subject matter alone--a love story about two kids with cancer--is in itself ripe for greatness. But quite the opposite is true. There are so many pitfalls, so many ways such a novel could go wrong. It could be maudlin; it could be pithy; it could be just ... nice, but not great. But if a writer writes about people, not diseases, not prototypes, not archetypes, then greatness can shine through. That's what John Green has done. And it doesn't hurt that he is gifted with the written word itself, the creation of prose.
So yes ... one of the very best books I've read in this, or any, year....more
A fabulous seafaring tale in which a proper young lady becomes part of a sailing ship's crew in 1832. Told with a strict attention to detail, this griA fabulous seafaring tale in which a proper young lady becomes part of a sailing ship's crew in 1832. Told with a strict attention to detail, this gripping story is a taut page-turner and great fun for anyone who loves a good yarn. Some reviews have faulted its realism, but hey, it is fiction, and women did serve on some of the old sailing vessels. I loved the gritty descriptions of life aboard ship and the transformation of Charlotte from a meek and yet somehow pompous 13-year-old girl to a real sailor. Avi's writing shines, as always....more
This is a real page-turner by that master of the Victorian mystery, Anne Perry. I always enjoy the Monk-Latterly banter, and the plot twists were enjoThis is a real page-turner by that master of the Victorian mystery, Anne Perry. I always enjoy the Monk-Latterly banter, and the plot twists were enjoyable, if not always surprising. I zipped through this book in two days, which isn't often the case. Highly compelling and great fun to read! ...more
This is a great read for kids. I sat down and read it in about an hour--it's quick, fun, hilarious, and any kid could relate to it. I couldn't help wiThis is a great read for kids. I sat down and read it in about an hour--it's quick, fun, hilarious, and any kid could relate to it. I couldn't help wishing I'd had my own Origami Yoda to help me through some of middle school's more perplexing problems. The fun illustrations, breezy style, and feel-good ending all contribute to making this a favorite. Read it! And make a Yoda of your own!...more
As someone who’s always been intrigued by the power of names, I love the story of Rumpelstiltskin. He’s an enigmatic, lonely figure. So I was thrilledAs someone who’s always been intrigued by the power of names, I love the story of Rumpelstiltskin. He’s an enigmatic, lonely figure. So I was thrilled that Liesl Shurtliff’s book fractured his fairytale in such a charming way, telling the story of a young Rump in search of his own name and a way to control the gift of magic that is his birthright.
Shurtliff’s writing is engaging, pulling you into the story from the start, when we meet Rump, who is literally the butt of his schoolmates’ jokes. As Rump learns of his power and struggles to discover his destiny, the story moves along so quickly I forgot I was turning pages. Stock fairytale characters like the Witch, the Troll, and the Evil King are rendered with such detail and uniqueness that they rise above their usual personas. The story flows naturally from Shurtliff’s easy style, and Rump is a scrappy hero who’s fun to root for. A great story.
(Disclaimer: I read an advance readers' copy of this book) ...more
Another 3.5-star book. It's a fast, fascinating read--I zoomed through it in a couple of days on vacation--and maybe that's why it seemed to lack someAnother 3.5-star book. It's a fast, fascinating read--I zoomed through it in a couple of days on vacation--and maybe that's why it seemed to lack some depth to me. I just wanted more of the characters, more of what was going on with them when this disaster struck. Also, I was a little confused at the end; the plot jumps ahead in time quite suddenly and I'm not sure what happened in the interim. The writing is quite good, though, and the story is utterly gripping. Very close to 4 stars....more
Thank you, Sadie Jones, for this delicious, wonderfully written tale. What begins as an amusing comedy of manners in an English country house becomesThank you, Sadie Jones, for this delicious, wonderfully written tale. What begins as an amusing comedy of manners in an English country house becomes something quite different as an evening birthday party falls apart and lives are changed forever. I love this sort of book, the sort that I'm so bad at writing myself: It takes place in the space of only a few hours in a single setting (ooh, it would make a fantastic play!); and it's so spare, not a word wasted. The characters are real and delightful, from ignored little sister Smudge to the beleagured, overburdened housekeeper Mrs. Trieves and Charlotte, the matriarch in denial. Such fun to read! A lovely diversion for all of the two days I spent with it....more
I really want to go with 3.5 stars for this book. The beginning was slow for me, which was at least partly due to the fact that I was under a deadlineI really want to go with 3.5 stars for this book. The beginning was slow for me, which was at least partly due to the fact that I was under a deadline and had little time to devote to reading when I started it. I hate reading a book in 10- or 15-minute increments. That being said, I found myself dozing off every time I read it (OK, yes, I was tired, too). But around the halfway point, I was hooked into the story and read through the last 100 pages very quickly.
I enjoyed the character of Jason, the 13-year-old hero who finds himself in the magical country of Lyrian after falling through the mouth of a hippo (just go with it). He soon finds that Lyrian is ruled by an evil wizard called Maldor who can be undone only by the utterance of a super-secret word. Jason's job is to hunt down the individual syllables of the word. On his quest, he meets Rachel, another "Beyonder" (aka Our World-er), and the two of them pursue the word together. The action progresses fairly slowly for a while, as I say.
One thing that bothered me about the book is the Rachel character. This book is predominantly from Jason's POV; I accept that. But Rachel, aside from a too-lengthy argument over which of them is going to take a particular risk, often fades into the background. In this patriarchal world, she's not allowed to do a lot of the things Jason is and so is stuck wringing her hands, unable to help him. That seems dated and wearisome. And quite suddenly, Rachel gets her own POV chapter (or two, I can't remember) when she braves a sulfurous lake to find one of the Word's syllables. Actually, that's probably when the book got more interesting, come to think of it. Rachel's POV is promptly abandoned for the rest of the book, which is too bad. I'd like to see more of her. Yeah, I'm a girl, I get it, but I don't mind boy-centric stories. I'd just like to see my gender better represented, is all, especially when Rachel is purported to be an equal partner in this adventure.
Still and all, the story is exciting and there are some satisfying unexpected twists. I'm interested in reading the Fablehaven series, and I would like to read more of this series, though maybe not right away. I think boys ages 9+ will enjoy this book more than girls, but then again, I am a girl, as previously disclaimed....more
From the Goodreads synopsis: Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infFrom the Goodreads synopsis: Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough for 16-year-old Dusty Everhart. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder....
In The Nightmare Affair, Mindee Arnett has created a unique, interesting world that exists right inside our own. There are no wasted pages here. Right away we’re plunged into Dusty’s world as she uncovers a murder plot and struggles with her affection for two compelling heroes. The pace is fast and the characters are interesting. For all their powers, they seem like real, regular teens we can relate to. Arnett’s easy-flowing prose makes this a real pleasure to read, and Dusty is the kind of heroine I love to read about—daring and brave, but also flawed. The story takes an unexpected turn that I didn’t see coming at all, though it felt natural and right. This book is a fun, compelling read that begs for a sequel—and rumor has it that’s just what we’ll get. ...more
Any middle-grader who enjoys a good mystery will love Kristen Kittscher’s fast-paced yarn about two young sleuths who suspect their neighbor is hidingAny middle-grader who enjoys a good mystery will love Kristen Kittscher’s fast-paced yarn about two young sleuths who suspect their neighbor is hiding something sinister. The story is told from the viewpoint of Sophie Young, a seventh grader with an obsession for Chinese culture. Her best friend, Grace Yang, couldn’t care less about feng shui, but she knows FBI procedure backward and forward, and she propels Sophie to push the investigation of their neighbor into a deep and tangled story of violence and shady dealings. (Note to parents: There’s nothing gory in the book, and any deaths take place offstage—this is squarely MG territory.)
What makes Wig so interesting is that the mystery is only part of the story. Sophie and Grace are classic mismatched friends—Sophie navigates the ever-changing rules of middle school while homeschooled Grace enjoys a social ease that Sophie can only envy. This is the age when friendships so often fall apart, and Sophie and Grace’s relationship gets strained to the breaking point. Kittscher weaves suspense not only into her mystery but also into the question of where these two will end up and how they will grow through the experience—apart or closer together?
With an easy, succinct style, Kittscher draws her characters boldly but never burdens them with clichés. I raced through the end of the book to the satisfying conclusion and was left hoping for another case for Young and Yang to solve. Thankfully, Kittscher is hard at work on The Tiara on the Terrace, when the tween sleuths go undercover in their town parade’s “royal court.” Can’t wait!
Note: The Wig in the Window is hitting the shelves in June 2013. This review is based on an advance readers’ copy. ...more