Monthly Archives: August 2012

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

by Brandon Sanderson
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Fantasy / Sci Fi

Personal Evaluation: “Perhaps, even, you have been given books by friends, parents, or teachers, then told that these books are the type you “have to read.” Those books are invariably described as “important” – which, in my experience, pretty much means that they’re boring. (Words like meaningful and thoughtful are other good clues.) If there is a boy in these kinds of books, he will not go on an adventure to fight against Librarians, paper monsters, and one-eyed Dark Oculators. In fact, the lad will not go on an adventure or fight against anything at all. Instead, his dog will die.  Or, in some cases, his mother will die. If it’s a really meaningful book, both his dog and his mother will die. (Apparently, most writers have something against dogs and mothers.)” (p. 49-50)

This is exactly the kind of self-referential humor that made me love this book. The author continues on in this vein, making anyone who’s ever been forced to read one of those “meaningful” books (or made anyone else read them) both grin and cringe at the same time.

Overall, I found it very imaginative, yet oddly reminiscent of Harry Potter (parents are missing, raised by foster family, learns through mysterious gift and visit that he has special powers and is famous in a secret world, etc).  Because the main character makes such a big deal out of librarians being evil, it would be fun to leave it where a mischievous kid will find it and then tell her she can’t have it, wouldn’t like it, etc – and then see if she takes it anyway.

What might interest children: The fast-paced adventure, the suddenly being whisked away to a magical world where you’re not just an average kid… basically, a lot of the same elements that kids liked in Harry Potter. Kids who actually feel that librarians are a bit evil will probably be drawn in by the title.

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure

by National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Copyright 2011

Personal Evaluation: I was intrigued by the many famous authors who contributed a chapter to this story and wanted to see if they could make anything coherent out of it. Having Jon Scieszka write the first chapter was probably one of the smartest moves since he started it off with a bang – and a wacky bang at that. The other authors, many of whom strike me as more mild-mannered than their chapter reflected, showed me that they were able to take up the challenge and contribute to the adventure and whimsical nature of the story. However, they still retained their style and I could tell a difference between authors, and it actually came together at the end. The whimsical parts seemed way over the top, but I think that actually worked in the book’s favor since most readers will know that this was a special circumstance kind of book and most of the authors would not write such a book on their own.

What might interest children: This is one fast-paced adventure story, with a brother-sister protagonist pair at the center. They had believed themselves to be orphans and then find out that their magical parents are alive. There are tons of twists and turns and previously-unknown-but-spontaneously-useful (ie made up to fit the storyline as needed) facts and lots of cliffhangers, all of which are fun and exciting for readers. Maybe if kids don’t know that the premise was for a bunch of best-selling kids’ book authors to each write a chapter of a story, it might fall flat, but if they know then it’s more exciting to pick out their favorite authors’ chapters.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

by Jeanne Birdsall
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Copyright 2011

Personal Evaluation: I ate up these kind of good-kid books when I was little, and this one joins the pack. The absence of technology helps keep the books timeless, which is usually a good thing in my opinion. I absolutely adore all the Penderwick girls. I also loved the first two books in this series.

What might interest children: Even though the girls are squeaky-clean, they’re not annoying like the Bobbsey Twins can be. They can squabble like real siblings and have adventures and play soccer and get dirty, but they also grow as people in believable ways. This is the third book in the series and things tie up quite nicely in each of the books. I think even boys can enjoy these books because there is the opportunity to identify with the girls’ friend Jeffrey, making it okay for a boy to be friends with all these girls.