Adorable, precocious narrator? Check. Lovable canine companion? Check. Wacky road trip full that takes unexpected turns? Check. A family secret discoveAdorable, precocious narrator? Check. Lovable canine companion? Check. Wacky road trip full that takes unexpected turns? Check. A family secret discovered? Check. A cast of quirky supporting characters? Check.
I have seen every major element of this middle grade novel's plot before. What sets it apart is the style - the entire book is like a transcript of audio recordings. Ironically, I did not think the audiobook was good. The format required the narrators to not just narrate but act. The main narrator (who sounded like an actual kid) did a good job, but the other narrators... not so much. My theory is that they were never in a room together but recorded their parts separately, so the interacations didn't sound real. The recording won an AudioFile Earphones Award, so I suppose I'm in the minority opinion on this. I generally dislike "full cast" style audiobooks.
It's hard for me to let go and enjoy books like this because I find myself keeping a checklist of every cliche. At the same time I recognize that this book has a lot of heart and will connect with a lot of readers. Alex is over-the-top naive for an 11-year-old sometimes, but dang it if he isn't super cute. His singular preoccupation with rocket science (especially Carl Sagan and the Jodie Foster movie Contact) lend the book a nice science hook and provide the conceit for the format: Alex is making a "golden iPod" recording to send to aliens to explain life on Earth. This theme sort of mashes with the family theme. Alex is suddenly inspired to go find his long dead father after he discovers on Ancestry.com that he might be alive after all. It's a big inelegant, but it makes for a packed story. Even with Alex summing up the story way too many times, it still flies by. ...more
I think if I'd read this when it was first published six years ago I would've liked it a lot. But now it's 2017 and I'm hyper-aware of the cultural doI think if I'd read this when it was first published six years ago I would've liked it a lot. But now it's 2017 and I'm hyper-aware of the cultural dominance of white male voices. So I was distracted from the story by how white-cis-male it is. I probably would not have finished it after the part where Wade listed Halliday's 1980s cultural touchstones. I rolled my eyes so hard at that list. Not because it was so nerdy, but because it was so white-cis-male. (No Madonna? No Michael Jackson? Eddie Murphy? Cosby?) To be clear, there's nothing wrong with this per se (I'm certainly not arguing that Halliday would've been super into Whitney Houston). I'm just not interested in these kinds of stories. I'd rather be reading something else. White male voices have dominated my reading for most of my life and I'd prefer to broaden my literary horizons.
But my sister said I *had* to read this book because it's my niece's favorite. And so I finished it. It was entertaining. It had some issues.
I thought Art3mis was too much the manic pixie dream girl. She is basically perfect. She fills a stereotypical role in a fantasy: the object of the hero's desire. She is smart, yes. She is a force to be reckoned with in the OASIS. But she is defined by her relationship to Wade and therefore a flat character. How can you have a powerful female gamer character and not explore *at all* the issues female gamers face?
I thought Aech's true identity was problematic. Spoilers ensue: (view spoiler)[On the surface it is nice to include diversity in the cast. But what does it mean when a self-described "gay fat black chick" could pass as a straight while male, even to her best friend? It probably means Wade doesn't actually know her that well. It probably means Ernest Cline doesn't really know how to write a three-dimensional black lesbian character. He wrote a dude-bro white guy character and then assigned that character a different identity. Possible in a virtual world, yes. But not satisfying to this reader. It was frustrating that Cline throws out this idea that women of color have power in the OASIS to pass as white males, but he doesn't explore the ramifications. Sure, Wade is a teenage narrator who is credibly clueless. But couldn't someone clue him in? Or is Cline sort of clueless himself? (hide spoiler)]
This is a fun ride, but pretty shallow. It follows a classic white male quest. Call it retro sci-fi?...more
This is a great audiobook. (I liked the narrator so much, I'm likely to listen to another of his books in the future, regardless of what the book is aThis is a great audiobook. (I liked the narrator so much, I'm likely to listen to another of his books in the future, regardless of what the book is about.)
Seventh grader Matthew has been struggling with an intense fear of germs and illness for years (he's afraid to leave his house and compulsively washes his hands over and over). Because he's always inside looking out his window, people call him "Goldfish Boy." But when a toddler neighbor is kidnapped he tries to overcome his phobia to help find the missing child.
I think the Kirkus review summed up my feelings: "Thompson strikes the perfect balance, seemingly without compromise, between an issue-driven novel and one with broad, commercial appeal. This empathetic debut is a middle-grade whodunit with a very special heart."
...which is to say this story is both compelling and enjoyable. It had some really funny moments. All of the characters felt fully human. I loved that the book's villains had understandable motivations.
I'm looking forward to booktalking this for 5th and 6th graders. ...more
I didn't actually like this the first time I read it. I started to appreciate it the second time I read it. The third time I read it, I was like, wow.I didn't actually like this the first time I read it. I started to appreciate it the second time I read it. The third time I read it, I was like, wow. This is beautiful.
I think it's because, as a children's librarian, the first thing in my mind when I pick up a new picture book is always: "Will this work for story time?"
The second thing in my mind is: "Will this work for a school visit?"
Finally, my mind comes around to: "Do I like this?"
I listened to the audiobook of The Goldfish Boy at the same time I was reading this. I prefer Goldfish Boy by a lot. So it's hard for me to say how I'I listened to the audiobook of The Goldfish Boy at the same time I was reading this. I prefer Goldfish Boy by a lot. So it's hard for me to say how I'd feel about Someday Birds if Goldfish Boy wasn't so similar and, in my opinion, superior. Both books are about 12-year-old boys who wash their hands compulsively. And both of the boys are kind of desperate to meet a goal (to find a missing boy / to find a bunch of birds). Both books have first-person narration. They are both thematically about the boy being brave in the face of tremendous (though irrational) fear.
Some stray criticisms: - I thought Charlie finding Tiberius Shaw's personal journal was a bit too magical for an otherwise realistic book.
-Ludmila's story felt a bit shoehorned in - as if the author really wanted her readers to know about Sarajevo, rather than it serving the story.
Some stray appreciations: -Charlie is a likable character and his love of chicken nuggets is endearing. Readers will root for him.
-I always love a sweet dog sidekick.
-The Tiberius Shaw quotes at the beginning of each chapter were beautifully written and relevant to the action. ...more
Many years ago, I wrote a love/hate review of The Lightning Thief that to this day attracts a lot of comments. Basically, I said I really enjoyed theMany years ago, I wrote a love/hate review of The Lightning Thief that to this day attracts a lot of comments. Basically, I said I really enjoyed the book but it reads like a Harry Potter rip-off.
I feel pretty justified in that review because this new series reads like a Percy Jackson rip-off. Once again Riordan is enjoyable, but remarkably unoriginal.
The audiobook narrator didn't do the story any favors, either. Meh. ...more
I get that this is funny, but it's not my cup of come-tea (that's supposed to be an admittedly terrible pun on "comedy"). Lawson narrates the audiobooI get that this is funny, but it's not my cup of come-tea (that's supposed to be an admittedly terrible pun on "comedy"). Lawson narrates the audiobook herself at lightning speed (slow down, girl). Like Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, there's a lot of good stuff here about the realities of chronic depression and anxiety. Very enlightening for someone who hasn't experienced it and, I imagine, relatable for someone who has. ...more
Overall, I liked this, but there were a few clunky parts and when I got to the end I felt like I'd read this story before (e.g. Lost in the Sun, BridgOverall, I liked this, but there were a few clunky parts and when I got to the end I felt like I'd read this story before (e.g. Lost in the Sun, Bridge to Terabithia).
I think the first half is stronger than the second half because Standish is good at building suspense for the reader. Why does Ethan feel guilty? What happened to Kasey? It truly reads like a good mystery, even though it's pretty obvious where it's going.
The second half sort of falls into cliche-ville. Still, overall, it's a solid book with emotional depth and great plotting in the beginning to suck a reader in. ...more