I remember being really excited after reading reviews of this book. It's a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, set in present day a...moreI remember being really excited after reading reviews of this book. It's a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, set in present day and focusing on a girl named Hazel and her best friend, Jack. Everything about this book says I should like it - constant nods to classic fairy tales and current children's fantasy (Coraline and When You Reach Me are two that pop into mind). It's got a spirited girl as the central character. The writing is strong and can be funny, sweet, sad, and reminiscent of traditional fairy tales. Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to work.
The pacing of this story just dragged. We spend so very long in the real world, hearing about how awful school and life in general is for Hazel. The fantasy elements were introduced too late - I would've liked them interspersed earlier in the book so that we had a clue that that's where the story was going. And the sentences, which were beautiful on their own, got clunky and repetitive. I get that you want to sound like a fairy tale, but there's a reason most fairy tales aren't a full-length novel. After awhile I imagined what this would look like as a graphic novel - it would reduce the long sentences, the flowery descriptions, and be able to sum that all up with pictures. I think it'd make a great graphic novel.
Hazel's relationships with her mom and Jack also bugged me. She's incredibly dependent on Jack, which got to the point of being awkward. I understand that he's her best friend and that he was the one person she felt she could count on, but this girl fell apart when he disappeared. And if I step away and say "This happened over the course of a few days", it doesn't feel nearly as dramatic and soul-crushing as it did hearing directly from Hazel. And then there was her mom, who just seemed so... unappreciated. I wanted to shake Hazel a lot and say "Hey, you've got a nice mother and potential friends and you're really just living in your own world." And that would be fine, because that's a set of issues Hazel has to work out. But really, they don't get resolved by the end of the book.
I wanted to like this, but the further I got into the book, the more I just wanted it to end. And even the ending was unsatisfying.
If you're looking for a mix of Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Roald Dahl, then you'll find The Kneebone Boy to be a good fix. It features the Hardsc...moreIf you're looking for a mix of Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Roald Dahl, then you'll find The Kneebone Boy to be a good fix. It features the Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, three oddball British kids who live with their father, an artist who paints portraits of deposed royalty. Their mother mysteriously disappeared when Otto, the oldest, was only eight, and the other two children barely remember her. Rumors fly around their small town about the missing mother - was she murdered? Strangled by her own son? Or did the father kill her? Or has she just perhaps abandoned her family?
Regardless, it's been many years without their mother and the children have accepted life as it stands: Otto doesn't speak and constantly wears a scarf, Lucia speaks for Otto and fights to keep order, and Max is a quiet daydreamer who spends time on the roof, thinking. When their father is suddenly called to a job, the children are sent to London to stay with an aunt. But she's not home... she's out of the country. Suddenly the children find an adventure thrust upon them. They discover a mysterious great-aunt, who lives in a folly castle, a mysterious creature called the Kneebone Boy, a 25-toed cat, and the secret behind their missing mother.
The writing for this book is clever... sometimes a little too clever for its own good. While I enjoyed reading it, the language often made me want to take a break after a chapter or two. It's snarky and very conversational, often taking the time to tell us how the story should be composed (and why it isn't written that way) or reassuring us that it may sound like a ghost is in the chapter but, because it's a book about real stuff, there wouldn't be any actual ghosts. Except there would be, but in a later chapter. The pacing was also a bit slow, with a lot of build-up on how boring their town is and their family history. There's a point in the book where a short chapter is used to apologize for the slowness of the plot line, with promises that, since the reader was already hooked and wouldn't be stupid enough to put it down, the next part would be even more exciting. Well it was, but it all came very quickly, particularly compared to the start of the book.
The characters are terrific and the narration sets a great tone for the book. The resolution regarding their mother is not really a happy one, and while it answers a great deal of questions, I feel like it raised more that weren't addressed. The scenery of the book, from the Hardscrabble's house to the folly castle to the foggy beach and forests in Snoring-by-the-Sea are vivid. Overall, I would recommend this book, but wouldn't say it's a must-read. For grades 5 - 9.(less)
Miranda has to write a letter. She doesn't know who she's writing to and she's not sure what she's supposed to write about. But she knows that, if she...moreMiranda has to write a letter. She doesn't know who she's writing to and she's not sure what she's supposed to write about. But she knows that, if she doesn't, a friend's life will be in danger. And that whoever is supposed to receive this letter can predict the future.
Miranda is a 6th grader who lives with her mother and, sometimes, her mother's boyfriend. Her best friend Sal, has just become her ex-best friend, after a mysterious kid punched him in the stomach on the way home from school. She's recently started working at a sandwich shop near school, even though she and her friends only get paid in cheese sandwiches and Miranda can't cut a sandwich neatly to save her life. Her favorite book in the world is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. She's scared of the Laughing Man, a strange homeless guy who sleeps underneath the mailbox on her corner. And Miranda has just received the last of a series of letters, predicting that her mother will be a contestant on the $20,000 Pyramid and instructing that one of her friends is in terrible danger. If she wants to save them, and the letter-writer, she'll need to write a letter of her own.
It's rare to find a book that tackles so many issues without becoming bogged down and cluttered. Miranda is a latch-key kid who is just becoming more aware of who she is as a person, her social status, and just how alone she is without her friend Sal. Her story mixes elements of science fiction, mystery, historical fiction, and explores different types of friendship and how it changes as we age. She also struggles with her mother, often wishing for a more "adult" parent and comparing her with her friends' parents.
The chapters are served up in bite-sized portions, keeping the reading quick, light, and difficult to put down. I really loved the $20,000 Pyramid tribute in each chapter title - as I finished a chapter, I'd turn back to see what the title had been (Things that you hide, Things that bounce, etc.). I also loved the setting. This felt perfect being in the 1970s, raising issues that you might not get in a more current setting, but still very relevant.
I've already started recommending this book to friends and coworkers. It's definitely worth picking up and reading!(less)
What an awesome book! This is the story of Cimorene, a kick-ass princess who doesn't care for princess-y things. When she finds out that her parents h...moreWhat an awesome book! This is the story of Cimorene, a kick-ass princess who doesn't care for princess-y things. When she finds out that her parents have engaged her to boring Prince Therandil, Cimorene takes off and becomes the princess of the dragon Kazul. She spends the days organizing the dragon's library and treasure room, making desserts like cherries jubilee for Kazul, and fending off all the would-be suitors who are trying to rescue her. She must also contend with several enemies, including a talking bird, a jinn, and some sneaky wizards.
I think if I had discovered this series in high school, I would've been all over it... I mean, it's about dragons and sassy/smart princesses! I don't know how I've missed it for so long! I'm happy to have read it now and hope to pick up the rest of the series. If you're looking for a quick book that's entertaining fantasy and can appeal to many ages, this is it!(less)
I read this because I remember seeing the movie as a child and being deeply disturbed by it. And yet, I think my sister and I watched it again and aga...moreI read this because I remember seeing the movie as a child and being deeply disturbed by it. And yet, I think my sister and I watched it again and again. Parts of the story really stuck with me, so that once I got to them in the book, they were crystal clear in my memory. While this is a sweet and meaningful story, I'm just not really sure how to feel about it. I have trouble finding it's appeal to children - though I'm a lot older than a child and maybe I've lost touch with what would be an interesting read. This book reminded me a lot of The Phantom Tollbooth in its layers of meaning, but it just didn't have the same sort of magic that caught me up and has made me reread the book. I am glad that I finally read it and made the connection to the movie. And I think I've finally gotten over that donkey getting so brutally smashed... or maybe not. Eep!(less)
Yay! I'm so glad the second Jellaby finally came out. Portia, Jason, and Jellaby come closer to finding out where Jellaby is from, while Portia gets a...moreYay! I'm so glad the second Jellaby finally came out. Portia, Jason, and Jellaby come closer to finding out where Jellaby is from, while Portia gets a chance *maybe* to confront her father, who has been missing for years but seems mysteriously connected to Jellaby's appearance. There's monsters, there's talking pigeons, and lots of carrots!
This was a fast-paced volume and it was over before I knew it. I really like how Soo shows Portia's strengths and weaknesses... she's so strong, but she's also a young girl who's missing her father and has trouble really keeping friends and letting them get close. Xolotl's story (read the book to find out more!) is also sad, and it leaves me with a lot of questions. I have to think there will be another volume, to reveal more about the masked figure, Jellaby's history, and Portia's father, but the way this was ended made me almost think that this was it. I really really really hope that's not the case! I would've also liked more Jason... because Jason is sweet and funny, and there's obviously something going on there with his connection to Xolotl.
So... more please!
On a tiny note, Kean Soo's note about the Food pavilion was hilarious. (less)
This is a very cool mix of mythology, science fiction, and science, all in a board book for children. It's the story of Icarus, who doesn't fly too cl...moreThis is a very cool mix of mythology, science fiction, and science, all in a board book for children. It's the story of Icarus, who doesn't fly too close to the sun in this version, but rather the edge of a black hole. He is a member of the Proxima's crew, and the families on this ship have left Earth to find other life in the galaxy, knowing that generations will be born and die on their ship before they reach their destination. Icarus is a few generations in and wants to be something more than a "link in a chain," so he ventures out into space and circles the edge of black hole, only to suffer an unusual fate.
This book uses pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope as a backdrop to a fairly short story. A scientific explanation and theories finish up the story. The book is a little misleading - I tend to think of board books as for very young children, but I think the story will appeal more to mid- and upper elementary school kids.(less)
Ooo, I feel badly for reviewing this book this way, but... I really wasn't that impressed with High in the Clouds. I thought it was full of oversimpli...moreOoo, I feel badly for reviewing this book this way, but... I really wasn't that impressed with High in the Clouds. I thought it was full of oversimplifications, that the characters weren't well developed, and things happened in the book because it was convenient for them to happen. From the start, I was put off - for example, Wirral's mother is killed when the bulldozers destroy the Woodland. However, amidst the mayhem and carnage, Wirral is able to get his father's old raft, put his mother on it, and then decorate it with piles of flowers? And even as this is going on, the forest is still being destroyed, with branches falling around him and others begging him to leave? Not only is the story muddled, but the artwork doesn't represent this at all.
I felt that the personalities of the characters were very much stereotyped. While the narrative has some fun asides, they often seemed to leave children out of the loop. It seems that no one settled on a particular writing style for the entire story. I really wish that more detail and revision had been put into this story - lots of the characters are very interesting, but we learn so little about them. For example, what are some of the 101 reasons that Alfredo the flea hates Gretsch? Why does Froggo have a wooden leg? And why on earth would the animals leave their children with Gretsch as a babysitter?
I really did want to enjoy this book, but I felt that it was incomplete.(less)
This book was just wonderful. I'm having such a difficult time finding things to say about it besides the fact that it was amazing. It's sweet without...moreThis book was just wonderful. I'm having such a difficult time finding things to say about it besides the fact that it was amazing. It's sweet without ever being saccharine. There's hilarious moments (I loved the ghouls), sad and scary moments, and the ending is just right, leaving you hoping for another book *please please*. I have to agree with Leila, this book feels very similar to Sandman, but without some of the horror content. Adult themes lurk around the edges of the story - after all, this is about growing up - and there are plenty of frightening characters in and out of the graveyard (mostly out). The characters are all so full of life (forgive the pun) - all around, this book was amazing.
I have to say that the audio version of this is just brilliant. I listened to Neil Gaiman read Coraline, and he did a great job there - but this blows that reading out of the water. The characters, the accents, everything is so developed, you forget you're listening to just one person reading. Just listen to the chapter with the ghouls and Miss Lupescu and Bod's adventures through the ghoul gate... you'll be hooked! I know I'm going to have to check out the paper copy of the book, to peak at Dave McKean's illustrations, but I'm going to be recommending the audio version to everyone. (less)
This version of the Cinderella fairytale comes from the Spice Islands. Damura’s mother teaches her traditional dances and to respect the animals. When...moreThis version of the Cinderella fairytale comes from the Spice Islands. Damura’s mother teaches her traditional dances and to respect the animals. When she dies, Damura is tricked into convincing her father to marry another woman in the village, who soon turns on Damura, treating her as a slave for herself and her daughter. When Damura is doing laundry at the river, she loses her old sarong, but Grandmother Crocodile gives her another made of silver. The stepsister tries to repeat Damura’s success, but after spanking a baby crocodile and being short with Grandmother Crocodile, she is given a ragged sarong covered in leeches. When the prince holds a ball to choose a bride, the stepmother and stepsister leave Damura at home, stealing her silver sarong. However, Grandmother Crocodile once again gifts the girl with a beautiful sarong, made out of gold, and matching slippers.
Like other Cinderella stories, she loses a slipper at the ball, but the prince uses it to track Damura down. Unlike most other versions, Damura’s story continues, as her stepmother and stepsister apologize, wishing to be friends. They take her on a boat ride, but then toss her overboard, where a crocodile eats her. When the prince tells Grandmother Crocodile of what happened, she gathers the other reptiles around her and forces the guilty croc to spit her out. Grandmother Crocodile brings Damura back to life and promises her and her children protection forever.
Fans of the Cinderella story will enjoy this Indonesian version. Sierra’s writing is clever and humorous, but also echoes the traditional narration style. The varying details in this story will keep readers fascinated. The author’s note at the end of the book explains the different influences used in her story, including a short history of the Cinderella story itself. Ruffins’ artwork is bold, mixing bright acrylic paints with miniature silhouettes. The illustrations vary between wide, two-page spread landscapes to intense close-ups of characters. The trees, rivers, and figures flow and weave together and evoke the landscape of the story.(less)
The first week of August has brought a terrible heat to the little village called Treegap. 10-year-old Winnie Foster dreams of running away from home...moreThe first week of August has brought a terrible heat to the little village called Treegap. 10-year-old Winnie Foster dreams of running away from home and into the woods her family owns. When she finally dares to go, Winnie discovers the Tuck family and the secret they’ve sworn to protect: a hidden fountain that bestows eternal life. She is swept up in the Tucks’ lives and must decide if she will help them keep their secret from a stranger who threatens their way of life.
Natalie Babbitt’s classic story forces readers to reexamine their own beliefs about life and death. Winnie Foster is forced to make some big decisions and, at times, she thinks and acts like someone older than ten. However, this fluctuation in character voice isn’t as disconcerting as it would be in other texts; the story revolves around characters that are older than they appear. Tuck, the father of the family, speaks with a wisdom and sorrow that will stick with readers after they’ve finished the story. Babbitt uses a great deal of symbolism in Tuck Everlasting and the book can be read on multiple levels.(less)
**spoiler alert** Esperanza and her mother must flee their home in Mexico after her father is killed by bandits. Their home, their riches, all of it i...more**spoiler alert** Esperanza and her mother must flee their home in Mexico after her father is killed by bandits. Their home, their riches, all of it is gone and the only life ahead of them is working in the fields of Southern California. Esperanza and her new family struggle to make ends meet at the onset of the Depression. If Esperanza has any chance of making it in this new place, she must give up her old ways and embrace her family and her new life. Esperanza’s development is often slow and sometimes painful - she doesn’t even know how to properly use a broom. This makes it that more touching when Esperanza is able to make sacrifices and help support the family. This is a great book that incorporates history, the seasons, family, and sharing into the plot.(less)