Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
2006 Candlewick Press

It is my firm rule that I read the book before I see the movie. Most times it turns out that I love the book and subsequently hate the movie because it differs too much from the book. That said, I have NOT seen the movie version of The Tale of Despereaux and I am scared to see the movie because I adore this book! It was a great young adults book. The conversational tone was fun and used in an effective way.

The book is about an unusual mouse who doesn’t fit into his mouse community, a wannabe princess with more brawn than brains and a vengeful rat. The mouse, our hero Desperaux, is nothing like his peers and finds himself ostracized by his family and friends. But he also finds himself with a quest to save the Princess Pea, the love of his life, and arch enemy of the rat Roscuro.

This book is a great moral tale that teaches without being preachy. The lesson is, be nice to the different kid, you can never be sure what they will grow up to be. I bet the kids who grew up with Bill Gates wish they had been nicer to him when he was younger. While Desperaux is small, with big ears and an unusual amount of fear Desperaux is also an emotional animal who loves hard and true. Is there a better quality for a knight?

Maybe, I will have to revise my book buying ban and purchase this for my nephews.

Amazon.com Review

Kate DiCamillo, author of the Newbery Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie, spins a tidy tale of mice and men where she explores the "powerful, wonderful, and ridiculous" nature of love, hope, and forgiveness. Her old-fashioned, somewhat dark story, narrated "Dear Reader"-style, begins "within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse." Despereaux Tilling, the new baby mouse, is different from all other mice. Sadly, the romantic, unmouselike spirit that leads the unusually tiny, large-eared mouse to the foot of the human king and the beautiful Princess Pea ultimately causes him to be banished by his own father to the foul, rat-filled dungeon.
The first book of four tells Despereaux's sad story, where he falls deeply in love with Princess Pea and meets his cruel fate. The second book introduces another creature who differs from his peers--Chiaroscuro, a rat who instead of loving the darkness of his home in the dungeon, loves the light so much he ends up in the castle& in the queen's soup. The third book describes young Miggery Sow, a girl who has been "clouted" so many times that she has cauliflower ears. Still, all the slow-witted, hard-of-hearing Mig dreams of is wearing the crown of Princess Pea. The fourth book returns to the dungeon-bound Despereaux and connects the lives of mouse, rat, girl, and princess in a dramatic denouement.
Children whose hopes and dreams burn secretly within their hearts will relate to this cast of outsiders who desire what is said to be out of their reach and dare to break "never-to-be-broken rules of conduct." Timothy Basil Ering's pencil illustrations are stunning, reflecting DiCamillo's extensive light and darkness imagery as well as the sweet, fragile nature of the tiny mouse hero who lives happily ever after. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to the
Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3 Up-A charming story of unlikely heroes whose destinies entwine to bring about a joyful resolution. Foremost is Despereaux, a diminutive mouse who, as depicted in Ering's pencil drawings, is one of the most endearing of his ilk ever to appear in children's books. His mother, who is French, declares him to be "such the disappointment" at his birth and the rest of his family seems to agree that he is very odd: his ears are too big and his eyes open far too soon and they all expect him to die quickly. Of course, he doesn't. Then there is the human Princess Pea, with whom Despereaux falls deeply (one might say desperately) in love. She appreciates him despite her father's prejudice against rodents. Next is Roscuro, a rat with an uncharacteristic love of light and soup. Both these predilections get him into trouble. And finally, there is Miggery Sow, a peasant girl so dim that she believes she can become a princess. With a masterful hand, DiCamillo weaves four story lines together in a witty, suspenseful narrative that begs to be read aloud. In her authorial asides, she hearkens back to literary traditions as old as those used by Henry Fielding. In her observations of the political machinations and follies of rodent and human societies, she reminds adult readers of George Orwell. But the unpredictable twists of plot, the fanciful characterizations, and the sweetness of tone are DiCamillo's own. This expanded fairy tale is entertaining, heartening, and, above all, great fun.Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NYCopyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

by Rick Riordan

It’s no secret that I enjoy young adult books a little too much. For th most part there is a minimum of romance drama or sex that can drive a story down. As I have said before and probably will continue to say until I have no breath left I love Rick Riordan. All of his YA books are fun, fast and expect the reader to have a good vocabulary. There is no annoying attempt at slang or kiddie language that changes by the week. That said I found a new Rick Riordan book that I read cover to cover when I should have been sleeping.

The Maze of Bones is not just a book. It’s a game, too. Like dungeons and dragons was a book series with a matching game component. Only this time there are prizes to win, which because the state decides its workers shouldn't view a lot of really good sites, I don’t have access to and cant tell you what they are. I will be trying later this week to log on at the library so I can try the game myself. Back to the book.

He first book in The 39 Clues series is about the brother sister orphans of Amy and Dan Cahill, who upon the death of their grandmother find that they are part of a long and gloried family with links to most of the major names in history. Their task is to find the thirty-nine clues left around the world and figure out the family secret, which will not only save the family but also, [drum roll!] the WORLD! But the have to fight not only themselves but not so nice family members who see them as a threat.

I read this book in one night and then reread it again this morning at work when I should have been doing something else. What can I say? Its fun. Its fast. Its funny. I loved it. Unfortunately, the whole series will not be written by Riordan so it will be a toss-up if I enjoy each book as much as I enjoyed the first. Oh well.

If I didn’t have to return it to the library I would have given it to one of my nephews for Christmas to see what they thought. Instead I will have to ask for reader feedback.
Did you read the book? What did you think? Hard questions, I know.

Editorial Reviews
From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.

Built around a ripe conceit—wealthy matriarch scatters cryptic clues to a mysterious fortune around the globe—this first installment in a projected 10-book series is tons of fun. Lead-off hitter Riordan (The Lightning Thief) mixes just the right proportions of suspense, peril and puzzles in a fast-paced read (Riordan mapped the narrative arc for all 10 volumes, but other high-profile authors will be writing for the series, too). Likable orphans Amy and Dan Cahill have moxie (plus Dan can memorize numbers instantly) and frailties (Amy hates crowds). As the siblings compete with less honorable members of the Cahill clan, all distantly related to Benjamin Franklin, to win the fortune by collecting all 39 clues (only two are found in this first book), they learn about their dead parents, each other and world history. The humor is spot on—one uncle is credited with inventing the microwave burrito. The only flaw? The story does not end so much as drop off a cliff. (The second book, One False Note by Gordon Korman, is set to arrive in December.) While waiting, readers can collect cards, each of which contains evidence, and play the online game (www.the39clues.com), for which Scholastic is offering over $100,000 in prizes. This ought to have as much appeal to parents as it does to kids—it's Webkinz without the stuffed animals, and a rollicking good read. Ages 9–12. (Sept.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

2008 – Shadow Mountain Publishing

Lately, I have found that I really enjoy young adult books. Especially the series. My current favorites are the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull and the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. I have read quite a few young adult books and I get disheartened when I read ones that are patronizing or try to be hip and current but come off as if my great-grandmother tried to talk slang to me. I can understand why my students didn't enjoy reading if they had to slog through piles of patronizing crap to get to one decently written book. It is with great joy that I read the third book in the Fablehaven series. This book is by far my favorite of the three.

The series centers around a brother and sister, Kendra and Seth, who find out that there grandparents are caretakers of a secret reserve where mythical and magical creatures abound. They are the latest in a long line of protectors of this sanctuary, protecting its inhabitants from both internal and outside enemies. There are centaurs, water nymphs, fairies and brownies as well as other magical creatures that the two have to fight or defend.

I read this book almost without stopping. It was fast – paced, fun and challenging. There are plenty of plot twists and battle scenes to interest even the most reluctant reader. It boasts both a male and female lead character, and this book has a little bit of romance, to lure the girls. My only complaint is that some of the characters do not seem to learn or grow as the story progresses, which is unfair to the reader who is watching the two main characters mature.

I wait breathlessly until the fourth installment comes out in April 2009~

A few customer reviews from amazon.com:

Picking up where the last novel left off, Kendra and Seth are still at Fablehaven with their grandparents. Suspicions have been cast on the Sphinx and his loyalties. Kendra has been recruited as a Knight, and the family agrees that she should infiltrate with hopes of claiming the next artifact before the Sphinx can get to it. And Fablehaven is under attack by a mysterious darkness that is spreading extremely fast. Can Seth and the rest of his family and friends discover the cause and stop it before all of Fablehaven is lost? Each installment in the Fablehaven series has been more action-packed and exciting than the next. Grip of the Shadow Plague has a fast-paced plot where danger and intrigue run rampant. New and interesting characters appear. Dark secrets and betrayals are uncovered. And more mysteries unfold. Kendra and Seth are ordinary children who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Fablehaven is full of mystery and wonder that comes alive. Kendra's humility and wisdom is admirable. And Seth's enthusiasm and bravery is inspirational. Fablehaven is easily on par with the Harry Potter series. And if you've been waiting for something to fill the HP loss, look no further.

The Sorenson kids are only a few weeks from heading home and starting school when a new threat to Fablehaven makes the likelihood of going home anytime soon unlikely. Creatures of light on the preserve begin to turn dark. Along with that Kendra's abilities imparted by the kisses of hundreds of fairies in book one seem to be evolving to such an extend that she could be a target of the Society of the Evening Star if she goes home. As if that is not enough, she is invited to become a Knight of the Dawn, an organization pledged to protect magical preserves. Traveling to meet them, then on a secret mission to another preserve, and the growing threat within Fablehaven fill this volume of the the Fablehaven series with some of the best writing, action, and story-telling of the series so far. Valuable lessons for kids and families are deftly woven into this volume, like the others, without being preachy. The action is even more intense so small kids will not be ready for this, but adolescents and teens will love this one, too. I can't wait to see what happens in volume 4! Brandon Mull is becoming a favorite at our house.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

I don’t know what to say about this book. I liked it. That much I can say with certainty. But I don’t know why. Most times I can easily isolate a character or a scene that was the turning point for me. No such luck now.

The book has an interesting, and in these modern times, inevitable, setting; the characters of the book are on a reality show scavenger hunt. Each pairing has the necessary interesting twist that TV viewers demand but unfold, mostly for the reader. I found myself enjoying most of the characters, not so much the ones that the book declared the main characters, but the other contestants on the show. Who doesn’t love ex-gays trying to be straight? Or childhood TV stars trying to reclaim their former glory? In a lot of ways, this book was like watching reality TV but better.

The ending left a little to be desired. Maybe I am the only one who likes neat endings but I really would have liked to learn more about the fate of the other characters in the book, not the mother- daughter team who were the main protagonists.

Lost and Found is a great story, an enjoyable rainy day read.

From the Publisher:
New from the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Dogs of Babel, seven unlikely couples scour the globe searching for love, treasure, fame, family--and themselves--in an astonishing new novel.
Seven oddly matched pairs--a mother and daughter, two business partners, two flight attendants, a born-again Christian couple, two former child stars, and other unlikely couples--are thrown together to compete in a high-stakes, televised contest. It is the new reality show, Lost and Found, a global scavenger hunt whose initial purpose is entertainment, but with each challenge, the drama builds as the number of players is whittled down.
Laura signed on to try to reconnect with her recalcitrant teenage daughter, Cassie. But Cassie knows they were only selected because of a secret she hides, one the show's producers hope will be revealed as the pressures of the competition mount. Justin and Abby aim to use the million-dollar prize to spread their message of faith, but they soon find the game putting their marriage to the test. Juliet and Dallas, deep in the "where-are-they-now" stage of stardom, just hope to spark some life back into their flagging careers.
But as the game escalates, tensions mount, temptations beckon, and the bonds between teammates begin to fray. The question is not only who will capture the final prize, but at what cost?
Author Biography: Carolyn Parkhurst is the author of the bestseller The Dogs of Babel. She holds an MFA in creative writing from American University. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and their son.

Publishers Weekly:
Parkhurst's novel of a disparate group of people traveling the globe on an Amazing Race-like reality game show shines on audio. The alternating points of view work especially well when read aloud: each chapter is told in first person by a different character, and Brown's superb narration makes it feel as though the characters are telling their intimate stories directly into the listener's ear. Brown does not create drastically different voices for the characters; instead, she makes her voice a bit higher or a bit deeper or adds a touch of an accent. The strength of her performance is that she truly acts out the roles, becoming each character and using her voice to convey his or her essence and personality. Characters include Cassie, whose eye-rolling teenage sarcasm hides insecurity and vulnerability; prim, judgmental Justin, a supposedly reformed homosexual preaching how religion has saved him, and his Southern wife, Abby, who's not nearly as convinced that she can leave lesbianism behind; down-to-earth New Yorker Carl; and self-centered, manipulative former child star Juliet. Lost and Found is an entertaining book that works even better in the audio format. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 10). (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe

Lydia Bennet’s Story
By Jane Odiwe

2008 - Sourcebooks Landmark

I must admit that I have been getting pretty sick of the Austen books. I have read all the ones that cross my hand and very rarely, VERY RARELY, do I find one that I enjoy. It seems that some of these authors get so caught up in continuing the story of the Jane and Darcy and Lizzy and Bingley that they don’t take the time to create a thoughtful and entertaining story. At least to me.

On that note, I loved this book.

I fully expected to hate this book. I expected to finish it and thank my lucky stars that I only had one Austen related book on my desk. I was sad when this book ended.

Of all the Bennet sisters I always liked Lydia. She seemed like she would be fun to be around. What young girl doesn’t like to party every once in a while? However, we never really learned much about her. She was given to the reader as a silly, thoughtless and self-concerned girl who didn't warrant much consideration by the original Austen. What Odiwe has given us, in this go round, is a girl like any other. She is young, na├»ve, trusting and foolish. She doesn’t understand consequence at all. At the end of the book the reader is left with a woman, a woman who knows her own heart and goals.

This book started slow. The first thirty pages were torture but once past the introductory pages it picked up pace. The reader travels all over England with Lydia as she straightens out her life and tries to free herself from Wickham. Wickham is everything he is in Pride and Prejudice and a really delicious character to hate.

It is with great reluctance that I pass this book on to a friend. Lydia Bennet’s Story is a book that I would love to be able to revisit whenever I needed a fun book on a rainy afternoon.

Happy Reading!

From the Publisher:
Lydia Bennet is the flirtatious, wild and free-wheeling youngest daughter. Her untamed expressiveness and vulnerability make her fascinating to readers who'll love this imaginative rendering of Lydia's life after her marriage to the villainous George Wickham. Will she mature or turn bitter? Can a girl like her really find true love?In Lydia Bennet's Story we are taken back to Jane Austen's most beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, to a Regency world seen through Lydia's eyes where pleasure and marriage are the only pursuits. But the road to matrimony is fraught with difficulties and even when she is convinced that she has met the man of her dreams, complications arise. When Lydia is reunited with the Bennets, Bingleys, and Darcys for a grand ball at Netherfield Park, the shocking truth about her husband may just cause the greatest scandal of all ..."A breathtaking Regency romp!"-Diana Birchall, author of Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma

Publishers Weekly:
In this pleasant addition to the growing microgenre of Austen knockoffs, Odiwe pays nice homage to Austen's stylings and endears the reader to the formerly secondary character, spoiled and impulsive Lydia Bennet. Odiwe begins partway through the original tale, with Lydia heading to Brighton. Shifting between a third-person narrative and Lydia's first-person journal entries, Odiwe grants readers unfettered access to Lydia as she flirts with her many beaus and falls hard for George Wickham, with whom she elopes. After the pair is married and settled in Newcastle, Lydia has a hard time keeping her jealousy in check as George, a notorious flirt, does not change his ways. Her marital discontent leads to frequent visits to her sisters, and it's during one of these visits that a massive scandal befalls the Wickham household. In a pleasantly foreshadowed if too abrupt conclusion, a slightly matured Lydia finds true happiness in the most unlikely of places. It won't convert anybody who doesn't already worship at the church of Jane, but devotees will enjoy. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.