Monday, July 18, 2011

No "mediocre" in the title!

Selznick, Brian. Wonderstruck.
Release date 9/13/11. ARC received from WPL librarian Becky!!

Ben, who is deaf in one ear, is living in Minnesota in 1977 with his aunt and uncle after the death of his mother, the town librarian. One night, while missing her terribly, he goes back to their home and looks around for clues about his father, whom he has never met. He finds a museum program entitled "Wonderstruck", and an address and phone number. He calls the number, but the house is struck by lightning, which travels through the phone lines, and Ben ends up in the hospital, deaf in his other ear as well. Still wanting to find his father, he takes a bus to New York and finds his father is not at the address, but he meets Jamie, whose father works in a museum. Jamie helps him find a safe place to stay while he works out his problems and finds his father.

Another story, told in pictures, in interspersed with this. Rose is the daughter of a famous silent film star, but she is deaf and her mother thinks it is not safe for her to live in the city. She runs away from home and finds her brother, Walter, who works in a museum.This book has gotten so much hype that I hate to say anything to spoil it. Suffice it to say that the two characters, Ben and Rose, meet up and secrets are revealed.
Strengths: Selznick's illustrations are always gorgeous, and he can tell a story through pictures like no one else. Because of all of the hype, and the elaborate mailing boxes (one of which was NOT sent to yours truly. Hmph.), I wanted to dislike it, but I couldn't. Sure to be in the running for a Caldecott and possibly a Newbery, this is a storyline not inherently appealing to children but which will nonetheless be read by everyone because of the sheer force of Selznick's talent.

Weaknesses: Published by Scholastic and 637 pages long. The binding will spontaneously combust in about a week. Maybe I should buy two but only circulate the one so I have a back up when the first is sitting on the back counter with the glue drying. Also, Surly Teen Boy did NOT like it. I knew the answer before he even said it: "Nothing happened." As with so much "literary fiction", the appeal to actual student readers is minimal.

Kraft, Erik P. Miracle Wimp.
High schooler Tom Mayo, nicknamed Miracle Wimp by the kids in his school, is an unassuming kid with a few good friends who is just trying to survive high school. He suffers through shop class, gets his driver's license, has a part-time job, and tries to get along with others as best he can.
Strengths: I'd picked this up before, and liked it better this time. The anecdotal format would be great for reluctant readers, as is the variety of high school situations that Tom finds himself in.
Weaknesses: A lot of vulgarity, and a couple of f-bombs. I was almost willing to forgive this because I could think of a dozen boys to hand this to, but then Surly Teen Boy opined that he thought it was unrealistic and the poor-quality illustrations bothered him.I was disappointed that Mr. Kraft didn't have other middle school boy books out, because I think he does have a knack for this group.

Auxier, Jonathan. Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes.
E-ARC received from
From the Publisher: "Blinded by ravens in infancy and made to steal for the town's beggar-monger (think Fagin), Peter becomes an expert thief and pickpocket. His wretched existence changes when he steals a box containing eggs that are actually three pairs of magical eyes. When Peter drops the first pair into his eye-sockets, he's instantly swept away. Thus begins a perilous adventure wrought from a riddle found in a bottle. After much travail, Peter learns that the mysterious eyes are not always dependable."

Strengths: A differently-abled protagonist is interesting, and there are certainly some finely draw villains. The action is well-paced, and there is a lot of gore.(Yes, for middle school this seems to be a strength!
Weaknesses: The predominate world of fantasy seems to have moved from ancient Celtic tales (think The Book of Three, etc.) to Victorian London. There are so many of these tales, little demand for them at my library, and this particular book didn't have anything that struck me as unusual enough to make it stand out for my average readers. I do see this getting a lot of love in the fantasy world, however, so wanted to mention it. School Library Journal has quite a lengthy review if you want more details.

Yep. Everyone else is liking it waaaaay more than I am. Maybe summer is just making me difficult.


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