Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Diamond of Darkhold; lists of books for children

Finally worked my way to the 4th in the City of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau. Things are wrapped up neatly, so this must be the end.

Having gotten a mere eight pages of a book entitled "For the People of Em", Doon and Lina want to return to Ember, so take off without telling anyone. When they make their way back, Doon is waylaid by a strange family squatting in Ember, and Lina must find a way to save him. During all of these adventures, they find a blue diamond, which eventually gets broken. SPOILER ALERT: They find more diamonds, and they turn out to be a power source that runs on solar energy. After an initial difficult winter, the people in the new settlement get used to life outside of Ember, and begin to prosper.

This was a fine book, but there were some things that bothered me. The prose seems somehow... inelegant. I don't usually notice these things, but it bothered me with the other books as well. Then there are things that make me cringe: the strange family has adopted names of ancient cities: Scawgow, Washton, Minny-Apple. Then there was the fact that the people couldn't seem to do without resources from Ember, and do sofas really last hundreds of years? I don't think students will notice these things, and the story line certainly is interesting, but it just wasn't my favorite.

Okay. Anita Silvey is all right, even though she is a professor. 500 Great Books for Teens is definitely more of a high school suggestion list; I need to finish off the book on recommendations for children tonight. Still, I did pick up some suggestions, although I have at least looked at most of the books she's mentioned. This is worth a perusal for middle school librarians, because Silvey is good about discussing if there is language, sex, etc. in the books. The one thing that would have helped, however, was to indicate whether the book was fiction or nonfiction.
Another book of suggestions that is worth looking at is Deanna McDaniel's Gentle Reads. Deanna works at another middle school in my district and personally read all of these books. Going from the assumption that good books don't need to be depressing, she assembled these titles that are uplifting. Our tastes differ a bit, ( readers of my blog will know my lowbrow tastes and general dislike of books that are "good for me") but this is a great collection development tool worth delving into.

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