Monday, November 21, 2011

More Cybils Books

Snyder, Zilpha Keatley. William's Midsummer Dreams.
Nominated for the Cybils by Elizabeth.

In 1938, William is glad to be living with his aunt, who adopted him and a couple of siblings after his mother's death. His father and six half siblings, the Baggetts, were all evil and nasty, but the aunt (who is a school teacher) encourages William's interest in school and the theater. William has a chance to a summer theater camp and gets the role of Puck in a production of A Midsummer's Night's Dream. Someone doesn't want William to succeed, however, and starts to sabotage him. He also runs in to some problems with the Baggetts. All stage productions are fraught with mishaps-- how will William's first attempt end up?
Strengths: A lot of information about putting on a Shakespeare play, and a little bit of suspense. The summer theater camp idea is fun-- I feel a need to watch Marjorie Morningstar now!
Weaknesses: The use of an ornate font for any Shakespeare title or quote was somehow annoying, and I often felt that explanations of certain things came too late. Why were the Baggetts so bad? Why was William going to this camp? Waiting for the reasons was oddly distracting. That said, I still have a ragged copy of Snyder's The Velvet Room that I just can't part with!

Strathy, Glen C. Dancing on the Inside.
Nominated for the Cybils by Glen C. Strathy. (Copy received from author.)

Jenny is very interested in ballet and is thrilled when she moves to a new community and is able to take lessons. The only problem is that she is too afraid to dance in front of others, so she forges a note from her mother and lies to get out of dancing. Her mother is obviously irritated by this and cancels her lessons, but Jenny has made one good friend and was learning a lot by taking notes in class and practicing on her own, so she asks to be a volunteer at the school, helping with younger students in exchange for some private lessons. Jenny comes up with an idea for a ballet and works with some of the other students to choreograph and stage the play. She is able to overcome her social anxiety enough to make sure that the ballet is a success.
Strengths: There are very few books that have a lot of details about ballet, and this was very well researched. The dance teachers and students seemed realistically portrayed.
Weaknesses: I would have liked this better had it been about ballet without the addition of Jenny's anxiety. This seemed more like performance anxiety rather than social anxiety, so I was confused by the many reviews that talk about Jenny's "painful shyness". I've had students who couldn't look at me or talk to me, but Jenny was able to boldly lie to her teacher. Just a little confusing.


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