by Bonnie Bryant
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
The Saddle Club series revolves around three girls who take riding lessons together at Pine Hollow Stables. Stevie (short for Stephanie) has three brothers (one older, one younger, one twin) and is generally a tomboy. Carole has been riding for years and is a horse-lover in the truest sense – she can communicate with them and focus on them in a way she can’t with other people and with the other parts of her life. She is an only child and her father is a Marine. Lisa is the newest rider, and through her the reader learns the basics. Lisa has one brother who is much older.
Personal Evaluation: I loved this series as a kid. I was unable to take riding lessons myself, so I fulfilled my own need for a girl-sized dose of horse with these books. One thing I really liked was all the horse facts that are sprinkled throughout every book; I was always learning something. In addition to all the drama at the stables and the adventures the three best friends go on, there are also good accounts of their riding lessons, so it really was almost like being there.
What might interest children: For readers who have been following the characters, Carole finally gets a horse of her own, which is a sort of vicarious victory. The storylines are kind of moralistic but not in a preachy way. I think kids (mostly girls, probably) will also like all the facts and the way the girls navigate their friendships with each other. There are three very distinct personalities, so chances are a reader will identify with one of them. (These books are great for probably 3rd-5th grades.)
by Lemony Snicket
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars
In the opening scene, Violet, Klaus and their baby sister are playing at the beach when a grownup friend of their parents’ finds them to tell them their parents are dead and they are now orphans under the care of their relative, Count Olaf. The Count’s evil scheme to get his hands on the Baudelaire kids’ inheritance involves forcing 14-year-old Violet to marry him.
Personal Evaluation: I had a really hard time just skimming this one since it was so intriguing. I loved coming across the narrator’s definitions in the text. I thought they were really clever, especially because they were not always words that a reader would need a definition for, so it might make them feel smarter. This was a really quick read and pretty easy to follow since not that much happened. One thing I noticed while skimming is that most chapters do not begin with dialogue or end with cliffhangers. Chapters tend to begin with narration, but you can’t argue with popularity – clearly these books are fun for kids to read regardless. I also found the whole marriage plot to be rather disturbing, but hopefully it’s one of those things that kids will suspend belief for and not think too hard about.
What might interest children: Definitely the definitions, and there’s a sort of schadenfreude going on since most kids’ lives are not as dire as the Baudelaire kids’. But at the same time, as the narrator points out, there may be unfortunate circumstances in some kids’ lives that makes them relate to crying themselves to sleep, for example. Overall, it’s easy to love Violet and Klaus and Sunny and to root for them in all their bad situations.
Which means I finally have a bit more free time on my hands – not to mention 100 reviews to post which I did for my class (Survey and Analysis of Literature for Children Grades 4-8). The assignment was NOT to include a summary, so I will add those to the best of my ability, and then include the class assignment (“personal review” and “what might interest children”). There were 22 categories and I will probably post by category to make it easier. I also may not post the reviews from the non-book categories (video games, magazines, and movies). Stay tuned!