Posts filed under ‘Children and Young Adult’
Did I go into Brian Selznick’s The Marvels expecting some beautifully detailed pencil drawings? Yes.
Did I go into the book hoping for something as whimsical as Selznick’s first such book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret? Yes.
But did I go into the book expecting to break down in desolate weeping about three-quarters of the way through, profoundly moved? No. Not at all. Wow, did I not see that coming. (more…)
It should not be news at this point that I am open to reading YA fiction. Twilight, Matched, Uglies, The Selection, The Hunger Games, etc., all YA fiction with sort of interesting premises and huge fan followings. As a student of popular literature, I figure, if a book has a huge following, it has to be doing something right.
That’s also true of Veronica Roth’s Divergent. This is the first novel in a hugely popular series about Tris, a young woman who takes an aptitude test meant to help her choose one of five “factions,” which will determine her future. Born into Abnegation, the faction defined by selflessness, Tris is used to putting others first. However, when she takes the test, she discovers she’s “divergent” — not so easily sorted or categorized. Though Tris is free to choose whatever faction she wants, in theory, she shows qualities of three of the factions, which is apparently dangerous. Tris chooses Dauntless, a faction defined by fearlessness, and is launched into a world she knows nothing about while trying to figure out why she’s different.
On its face, this is an excellent story. (more…)
Okay. Matched is the story of a teenaged girl named Cassia Reyes, who lives in a dystopian future nation called The Society. We are, apparently, meant to believe that this is as a result of some kind of war, that The Society was created as a place where people can live peacefully and contentedly, without violence, doubt or really any unhappiness or injury until the age of 80, when they die. Yes, it is ripped off from The Giver (a far superior work, but I digress).
The story starts on the night of Cassia’s Matching Banquet, a night sort of like a prom where she’ll find out who she is going to marry. Oddly, teenagers have to decide at this age whether or not they want to spend their lives with someone at all. But the point is, Cassia’s personal information has been run through some sort of database along with the personal information for a bunch of other people her exact age and she’s been matched with — oh boy! — her childhood best friend.
But wait. When she goes to insert a MicroCard into her Port to reveal more information about her Match, a different face appears. Could The Society have made a mistake?
Yes. They could have. But not one bigger than the mistake I made in trying to listen to this book. (more…)
Just to mention a few of my thoughts as I first cracked open The Serif Fairy by Rene Siegfried. Also “my god, how did he make this?” and “at last!” I certainly didn’t actively realize my life was lacking a fairy tale made entirely of fonts, ligatures, alphabets, and ampersands, but somehow, as I read this one, a void in my reading life was filled. At last!
On its face, The Serif Fairy is an inevitably quick read — it is technically a picture book for children, after all — but it is a book well worth savoring and giving a little extra time to. Each page is a masterwork in typographic artistry, complimenting and enhancing the charming story of a font fairy who has lost one of her wings.
As she travels through Garamond Forest and Futura Town, our little heroine encounters beautiful, whimsical creatures and places made up entirely of letters and signs. Each creature, each building, each tree, each and every thing in the book is a stunning creative work unto itself, so the book as a whole just knocks you over. Yes! What?! WOW!
My New York Book Club’s October read was Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. This is a total classic and tells the follow-up story of the famous Alice after she returns from Wonderland. After Alice climbs through the mirror in her drawing room, she finds herself in the world of the Looking-Glass, where all kinds of ridiculousness occurs before she wakes up back home with her kittens.
I honestly can’t say I enjoyed Through the Looking-Glass, even though my favorite poem, “Jabberwock,” is first found in its pages. I just found it too silly, which I realize is sort of the point and I should probably loosen up. All the same, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at Alice.
I read the Books of Wonder edition published by Morrow in 1993, which was terrific because:
a) it had beautiful silver edges
b) it replicated John Tenniel’s illustrations using the original wood-blocks
c) it followed Victorian standards of type-setting and font
It was a great little copy and I highly recommend it.
I recommend taking a page from Alice in Wonderland and having a little tea party. Break out the tea cups, sugar cubes, and loose-leaf! (more…)
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is one of those books I can’t believe I escaped middle school without reading. Not only is it something of a contemporary classic of children’s literature, it’s also just the sort of thing I would have loved as an eleven-year-old (or so): a twisty mystery with a precocious girl and a possible murder at the heart of it. I was all about those sort of books and, accordingly, devoured every single Zilpha Keatley Snyder book at my school’s library.
But for some reason The Westing Game remained unread. I honestly have no idea why since it turned out to be a very enjoyable read. The Westing Game tells the story of multimillionaire Sam Westing. Upon his (apparent) death, his sixteen designated heirs gather in his spooky old mansion to play “The Westing Game,” which will give each of them a chance to walk away with all his riches.
It’s a fun book, although, much as when I re-read The Egypt Game, I was quite surprised at how seriously the book treated certain social issues—and how topical such things still are today. Although published in 1978, The Westing Game openly approaches today’s hot-button issues including racial prejudice, bullying, and even the immigrant experience. It’s an amazingly on-point book that squeezes a lot into a little murder mystery for children. (more…)
Part of my quest to read as many unread books on my shelves as possible before moving.
Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye has a synopsis almost too wacky to be believed: a watchmaker mouse named Hermux is drawn into the sinister world of quack doctor (mole) Dr. Mennus after a daring aviatrix (mouse) leaves her broken watch to be repaired and then disappears. This is a real book. Seriously.
Alas, the synopsis is pretty much the best thing about this first in Hoeye’s series about Hermux Tantamoq’s adventures. Although allegedly a book for children, the plot is weirdly adult with most of it turning on Dr. Mennus’ highly unethical and dangerous quest for a fountain of youth serum. Side-plots include the renovation of Hermux’s lobby by an extreme contemporary artist (otter), the increasingly insane antics of a diva cosmetics mogul (mouse), and the mistaken rumors spread by a gossipy mail carrier (mouse). Not exactly kid’s stuff. (more…)