Review: Through fantasy tropes and beautiful images Neil Gaiman has crafted a set of instructions to help children navigate the strange and unknown jo...moreReview: Through fantasy tropes and beautiful images Neil Gaiman has crafted a set of instructions to help children navigate the strange and unknown journey of life. Gaiman addresses his audience directly, giving them sage advice such as, "Trust your heart, and trust your story." The beauty of Gaiman's instructions is that they are rarely this straightforward. Most are pulled directly from fantasy tropes and must be interpreted by readers. Every reader will likely interpret the old woman beneath the twisted oak differently, and will understand the warning not to trust the youngest princess in their own way. Charles Vess' illustrations match the fantastical theme perfectly, with images that hearken back to classic fairy tales and folk tales. It is a beautiful compilation for young readers to ponder over and enjoy for many years.
Opinion: I love Neil Gaiman and I have yet to be disappointed by anything he has written. This picture book is an amazing example of how well he knows his craft and the genre of fantasy. Through the simple phrases and instructions he transforms the well-known tropes and scenes of fantasy novels into metaphors for life and the journey to find oneself.(less)
Review: Fritz is a master storyteller in his small German town, but one night, on the eve of the town's clockwork celebration, his story begins to com...moreReview: Fritz is a master storyteller in his small German town, but one night, on the eve of the town's clockwork celebration, his story begins to come to life. The tale is a horror story of an automaton posessed by the devil, and a prince who has given his heart -literally- to save his automaton son. Both clockwork creatures appear in the night, blurring the lines between reality and fiction for the townsfolk who must survive the consequences of science and art gone wrong.
Opinion: This was a short and quick read but it was actually pretty scary. I love the idea of a story coming to life, and the blending of steampunk tropes with horror. The writing is very simple and it is aimed at younger readers but older tweens will likely still enjoy the mystery and suspense and the spine-tingling proposition that stories might be more than mere fiction.(less)
Year of the Jungle is an autobiographical picture book of the year author Suzanne Collins' father went enlisted in the army and was sent overseas to V...moreYear of the Jungle is an autobiographical picture book of the year author Suzanne Collins' father went enlisted in the army and was sent overseas to Vietnam. The story portrays the confusion and fear of a young girl struggling to understand where and why her father is going; and learning the meaning and horrors of war. Much like the story and Suzanne's childhood self, the images begin innocent and happy, full of life and color. As the story progresses and young Suzy begins to understand where her father is and why he is there, the images become darker and more frightening. The simple language used in this story along with the imagery and emotions expressed by Suzy provide an age-appropriate outlet for young readers to read about war and the way it effects soldiers and their families.
This was a very simple story but it was also very tragic and profound. As an adult reader, I cringed at Suzy's naivete when she states early on in the story that she wishes she could go with her father because her favorite television show is also set in the jungle. Gradually, Suzy begins to realize the truth of the matter and it becomes all the more difficult to read her thoughts and see the pictures transform from cartoon dreamscapes to nightmarish scenes with guns and helicopter. It is a poignant read for anyone whose family has been effected by war.(less)
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is not a hero, at least that's what everyone (including Hiccup himself) believes. Living in a viking tribe that va...moreHiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is not a hero, at least that's what everyone (including Hiccup himself) believes. Living in a viking tribe that values heroism and bravery above all else, Hiccup has acquired the nickname "Useless." When Hiccup reaches initiation he must learn to demonstrate his heroism by acquiring and training a dragon. Hiccup develops some very unique and strange methods for communicating with his dragon, but when a very large dragon threatens the safety of his tribe, Hiccup proves that thinking outside of the box might be just what his tribe needs to survive.
This was a hilarious adventure that readers of all ages will love. I listened to the audiobook version narrated by David Tennant and his narration had me laughing nonstop. Tenannt was a perfect choice for this story as his energy and animation really bring the story to life. Tennant developed unique voices for each character, accentuating their personality and delivering the punchlines perfectly. I would recommend grabbing a copy of the printed book at the same time as listening because the text includes illustrations that add another layer to the story. (less)
Only Neil Gaiman can transofrm the seemingly mundane task of buying a bottle of milk into a hillarious adventure in time travel. When their father hea...moreOnly Neil Gaiman can transofrm the seemingly mundane task of buying a bottle of milk into a hillarious adventure in time travel. When their father heads out to the corner shop to buy milk for their cereal, the children in this tale begin to wonder why he is taking so long. When he finally returns it is with an unbelievable tale of aliens, dinosaurs, pirates, and of course milk. While it is an easy read for younger readers, all ages will enjoy the wit and wordplay of Gaiman, and the bizarre illustrations add to the hillarity of the story.
I love Neil Gaiman and this short book was packed with his trademark wit and humor. Even though this book is intended for younger readers, adults will enjoy Gaiman's puns and his clear homages to classic time travel, particularly the show Doctor Who. It is hard to ignore the similarity between the odd time traveling father and The Doctor which Gaiman himself has written scripts for. It is a quick read but it will have readers of all ages laughing and wondering what new exploits the father will land himself in next. As is typical with Neil Gaiman the end leaves you wondering how much was real and how much is in the imagination -and more importantly whether this distinction really matters at all.(less)
Mirror Mirror sets out to prove that there are always two sides to a story, even the classic fairy-tales we all thought we knew. Each page provides a...moreMirror Mirror sets out to prove that there are always two sides to a story, even the classic fairy-tales we all thought we knew. Each page provides a poem focused on a particular fairy tale; ingeniously structuring the poems so they can be read from top to bottom to tell one perspective (i.e. Cinderella), and from bottom to top to tell another perspective (i.e. the wicked stepsisters). Opposite each poem are mirrored illustrations; each half of the image portraying one of the poem's versions.
I loved this collection! The structure of the poems is brilliant; capturing two varied perspectives using the same handful of words really demonstrates the power of language and wordplay. I particularly enjoyed the Cinderella poem, in which both Cinderella and the wicked stepsisters ask in dismay: "Isn't life unfair?" and each attempt to prove why they had a worse life than their competitor. Kids (and adults) of all ages will love the twist on these beloved tales, and enjoy rethinking their opinions of the characters within them.(less)
When twelve-year-old Zane learns that the foster mother of his deceased father haas been located and wants to meet him, he has absolutely no interest....moreWhen twelve-year-old Zane learns that the foster mother of his deceased father haas been located and wants to meet him, he has absolutely no interest. A visit to this long-lost grandmother would mean traveling from his New Hampshire home to the strange town of New Orleans. But Zane's mother insists, and before he knows it Zane is in New Orleans getting to know his father's history when tragedy strikes. Hurricane Katrina is quickly approaching and Zane is trapped. When the floods begin he is separated from his new grandmother and must find help, food, and shelter for himself and his dog Bandy. Amidst Zane's struggle to survive he is faced with the harsh realities of economic inequality and racism in and around the city that lead to further unnecessary death even after the waters began to recede.
While I appreciated the way the book dealt with the injustices that made this tragedy so much more worse than it might have been, I felt that the book may have been playing into the racial stereotypes that led to these injustices in real life. Zane, who is of mixed race, is rescued by two African Americans -an old man, Mr. Tru, and a young girl, Malvina, who is about Zane's age. As Zane gets to know the pair he learns that Mr. Tru is raising Malvina because her mother is in rehab. Matters are further complicated when a drug dealer encounters the trio and attempts to kidnap Malvina in order to ensure silence from Malvina's mom. This plot just seemed unnecessary to me. Things are bad enough already without adding a kidnapper into the mix; and making Malvina's mother an addict just perpetuates the very stereotype that the upperclass characters in the story were assuming when they refused to help the trio. Without this subplot the story would have been more focused on the tragedy itself, which is scary enough to keep a young reader interested and provides a real lesson about prejudice and morality. (less)
Ah Harry, how I will miss you. I have been with you through thick and thin and literally grown up with you, and now your series has ended. Potter fans...moreAh Harry, how I will miss you. I have been with you through thick and thin and literally grown up with you, and now your series has ended. Potter fans be sure to have a box of tissues while reading this one because you will get teary-eyed. This is by far the darkest book of the series and all will not end happily ever after. There will be pain, there will be death, and there will be sad farewells. J.K. Rowling truly shows her bravery as a writer by refusing to keep her characters in a safe little bubble and by taking a children's series to existential extremes. This series defined a generation, and I couldn't ask for a better ending.(less)