Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Squirrels and Futuristic Dystopia

Tellegan, Toon. Letters to Anyone and Everyone.
Nominated for the Cybils by Katie Connor

The Squirrel's Birthday and Other Parties.
Nominated for the Cybils by Derry Wilkins

These very attractively illustrated books do not strike me as fantasy or science fiction, but the animals do talk. They remind me more of Winnie The Pooh or the works of Beatrix Potter. Both of the books include short vignettes. The first book largely involves letters being written between squirrels and ants and elephants, and the second has a variety of parties with the same characters. Both involve a lot of cake.

Strengths: These are very pretty, pleasant books that would make a nice baby shower gift for someone whom you know already possesses the entire Potter collection.

Weaknesses: I don't see any elementary or middle school students picking these up, but they are too sophisticated for the emergent reader category. They seem like the sort of book that parents read aloud to infants. Also, they both seem to have been published in 2009, but I don't know exactly what month.

Anthony, Joelle. Restoring Harmony.
Nominated for the Cybils by El

Molly's family is surviving in British Columbia in a world where only the government has any oil. Her mother is pregnant and not doing well and the only local doctor has died in an accident. Molly and her father decide that she should go to Portland, Oregon to check on her grandparents, because her grandfather was a doctor who could potentially help her mother, and her grandmother may be ailing or dead. Molly starts her perilous and illegal journey to the States armed only with her trusty violin. When she finally finds her grandparents, she finds that they are not doing well, and surviving because of the kindness of a neighbor who feeds them from his garden. Molly tries to earn money by busking in a local market, but finds that a crime syndicate runs the market as well as much of the local economy. Luckily, the nephew of the Boss takes a liking to her. However, when Molly witnesses the syndicate beating up the neighbor who supplies food, she is no longer allowed to leave Portland. Upon reflection, Molly and her grandfather decide that the only option is for them all to leave and return to the farm to take care of Molly's mother, so they take the 1959 car that her grandfather has kept in the garage for years, get help from the nephew, and start their adventure back to Molly's farm.

Strengths: This dystopian view of the future (2041) is a little more believable than some. Oil runs out, food is scarce but available, and people need to fend for themselves. Molly was a fun character, and the brief romance lightened the mood a bit.

Weaknesses: I liked this better when it was mainly the dystopian vision; the introduction of the crime syndicate changed the story entirely, and I didn't like it as much. The cover, with a girl in a tank top with a violin case, makes the book seem like it would be about some other topic.

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