Thursday, November 18, 2010

Merlin and Milo

Barron, T.A. Merlin's Dragon: Ultimate Magic
Nominated for the Cybils by Barb Langridge

In this third book in the series, DoomRaga, who is serving Rhita Gawr, a wicked overlord, is behind the war in Avalon, and Basil the giant green dragon, with the aid os a magic map he recieves from elves, pins his location to the Haunted Marsh. First, Basil must fight Lo Valdeargh and destroy a seige weapon of the flamelons that traps him in a net, but he escapes with the help of Marnya, a dragon of whom he is very fond. Fighting off a swarm of flying leeches with the aid of Merlin, Basil and he compatriots head off to the marsh where they see that Rhita Gawr is infusing his spirit into DoomRaga by means of a thread of power. While trying to prevent this transfer, Marnya is killed, but the fight does not end well for Gawr once Basil, Merlin, Merlin's son Krystallus the elf, and all of the combined spirits of Avalon gang up to blind Gawr/DoomRaga so Basil can defeat him... at least for now. Maryna is rescusitated, Merlin heads off to earth to help with Camelot, and peace reigns in Avalon, at least for the moment.

Strengths: This was well-written and easy to follow even though I have missed book two. There was a lot of fighting, which many students like, the characters were easy to understand, and the plot was uncomplicated. After reading fantasy for a month and a half solid, let me tell you that an uncomplicated plot is something very rare in fantasy, and I appreciated it.

Weaknesses: The first book is not circulating in my library. The Lost Years of Merlin books are falling to pieces, but I had forgotten I even had Merlin's Dragon. This is a shame, but there must be something about it that's not appealing to students.

Silberberg, Alan. Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze
Nominated for the Cybils by Elizabeth Bird for Middle Grade Fiction (so not my committee, but again, needed a break from fantasy all the time!)

Milo is fitting in pretty well at his fifth school in several years. His neighbor, Hillary, is too friendly but helpful at times; he has a best pal, Marshall; he even has a crush on the gorgeous and untouchable Summer. He knows he's a bit of a dork, and is trying to make 7th grade a successful year despite his bald on purpose math teacher, the fact that Summer doesn't know he exists, and the overwhelming feeling of missing his mother, who has recently passed away.
If there were any justice in this world, this would win the Newbery. Not that it's the most fabulous book, but it's incredibly readable and would make both students and teachers happy. It's essentially a funny book, complete with fun drawings, and Milo gets himself into all sorts of middle school scrapes. But he misses his mom. A lot. These moments are realistically included at random moments of the story in a way that's not maudlin or instructional. I'd almost like to see a series for Milo, and if Mr. Silberberg could get Milo on a sports team, it would be perfect!

Strengths: All over the place. Student appeal, message, writing, format of book.

Weaknesses: The inside cover blurb is instant poison: "Brimming with heart, humor and ultimately hope, [this] is a powerhouse of a novel that will stay with you well after you've turned the last page." True. But that's the way language arts teachers describe Bridge to Terebithia or Jacob Have I Loved. Bleah. Not a way to get kids to read the book!

Think I have fewer than 40 Cybils books to read, but it is getting a little desperate because there are some that are not held by any libraries in Ohio! I have a pile for over Thanksgiving, but am also stocking up on some books that were not nominated for the science fiction and fantasy award just in case. Or maybe I'll clean the basement. Or watch some movies.

1 comments:

Kara Schaff Dean said...

I had not heard of this one until you mentioned it when you stopped by my blog, but now I will definitely seek it out.

Thanks for stopping by!

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