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Showing posts from 2011

"The Boy at the End of the World," by Greg van Eekhout

I’m very grateful for The Boy at the End of the World, by Greg Van Eekhout. It’s a good, though not outstanding, book. More important, it fills a gap: science fiction for 3rd-5th graders. Because at some point during the school year, a teacher will assign a science fiction book report and I will have a hard time recommending books.
I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy. And we know how much I like dystopian fiction (a lot). I have no problem finding good science fiction books for teens. In fact, some of the other librarians are tired of me telling teens (regardless of the assignment), “You must read Feed. Everyone should.” Or “You have to read Ender’s Game. You'll love it.” But younger kids come into the library looking for science fiction and it feels like there’s nothing very good. Most of them balk at the length of The True Meaning of Smekday (by Adam Rex), no matter how hard I sell it. They shrug their shoulders at The City of Ember (Jean DuPrau), even when I say it ha…

"A Monster Calls," by Patrick Ness

My colleague, the YA librarian at my library, and I are deep in the throes of reading books for Mock Newbery and Mock Printz meetings – and of course just trying to keep up with all the books published this year. Yesterday she handed me A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which she had just finished reading for Mock Printz (the Michael L. Printz Award is given for literary excellence in Young Adult literature). I snuck in a few pages at the reference desk and then read the rest of it in one sitting last night. Is it that good? Perhaps.
Conor, the teenage protagonist of A Monster Calls, is suffering as his mother receives treatments for cancer. He has nightmares, is bullied in school, and has far too much responsibility hoisted on his shoulders. As his mother’s condition deteriorates, he is visited by a monster, a spirit of nature, as old as the earth and as vast as the universe. I love guys like that. The monster and his mother help him learn that her dying is NOT his fault. It can take p…

A Question of Fate

“Everyone is on a path that leads them (sic) to where they belong.”
That’s one of my favorite lines from The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill, a story that looks into the ideas of magic, home and family, and, most important, fate.
Many fantasy novels use the idea of fate as a theme--characters are destined to be something or do something. Often the fate question is nicely woven into the plot; other times, it’s not. In a recent article in Entertainment Weekly Trey Parker and Matt Stone (speaking on how South Park episodes always have a lesson) said, “Plot should reveal the theme, and not vice versa.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case in fantasy books.
Naruto (the manga and anime) deftly delves into questions regarding fate and destiny. At least two of the characters--Naruto and Gaara--have demons (real demons) inside of them. And they must decide if they will let the demons control them or if they will learn to control the demons--in essence, they must decide their own…

"The Undrowned Child," by Michelle Lovric

Ohhh. I found another. I can easily check off all the steps of the first two parts of the Hero’s Quest for Teodora, the heroine of The Undrowned Child. The return part doesn’t follow exactly, but some of those steps are taken. What a surprise, too. I thought it was going to be a tale about mermaids (no pun intended).
Instead, The Undrowned Child is about ancient prophecies and several centuries of the history of Venice. Yes, mermaids play an important role, but Teodora is a human girl, albeit with special gifts. She is the undrowned child of the title and, along with a young Venetian boy, helps to save Venice from an ancient enemy, who is intend on destroying the city. The novel is replete with flying cats, ghosts hoping to redeem themselves, magic spells, statues that come to life, and really wonderful mermaids (who learned human languages from sailors—it’s always “talk like a pirate day” among the maids).
It’s a great read and seems all very new to me (a new twist on the hero’s quest…