Friday, July 14, 2006

Vrettos' Skin/Censorship

There has been a lot of discussion in the local papers about censorship. A local high school had The Lovely Bones and The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night on the recommended reading list. A parent complained; they were taken off. More parents complained. Since I am rather sensitive to bad language in books, this has caused me to think even more.

I have decided that one of the big motivating factors for me is MONEY. I can only afford to buy so many books. I can't buy everything. So if there is a book with a lot of bad language, chances are good that there is another equally good book out there that doesn't have it. I will choose that one. Such is the case with Vrettos' Skin. A very compelling story of a boy whose sister struggles with(and loses to)anorexia. Would this book circulate well in my library. Yes. Any title about anorexia does (notable exception The Bigger Book of Lydia, which is just weird.). Since Skin uses the f-word more times than I can count, I really don't need it. I have no problem with the public library having it-- they can afford to buy more than I can.

Now, that said, there are books that are so compelling that I excuse the language. Volponi's Black and White is the prime example here. But in the case of Skin, the language was gratuitous. There was really no point. I think that using obscenities repeatedly is the sign of someone who is lazy in his writing.

There is also the school of thought that says that the books students read in school should reflect our expectations for their writing. We wouldn't allow language like this anywhere in the school. Why should it be in the books?

Finally, the other reason that I steer away from language like this is that I don't have time to fight with parents about it. If someone challenges a book at my school, I would pull it. I would probably, however, suggest that the parent pay the $20 I spent on the book so that I could buy another one. I don't make purchases lightly. If there is bad language, it's somehow justified, and rest assured I have read the entire book and thought it through very carefully.

*Sigh* Why couldn't Skin have been written without the bad language? It would only have made the story better.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Grooves/Hit the Road/Love Curse of the Rumbaughs/King of Mulberry Street

Brockmeier's Grooves was a fast paced, funny mystery that must be very popular at my local library-- they have about 8 copies, and it was hard to track one down. Much of the plot defied belief (how would someone encode messages in the twill on jeans and the ridges on potato chips, and why would they think anyone would ever discover this?) and the premise for the evil was pretty lame (stealing the light from people's eyes makes the villain more likeable when his rhinestone jacket didn't work? Huh?), but I found myself liking the characters, the pace, and the book in general. So, there is another good mystery to have on hand.

Caroline B. Cooney's Hit the Road was quirky and may be a hard sell, but it was so personally satisfying that I'm going to have to buy a copy. 15 year old girl gets roped into taking her grandmother to a college reunion, and they end up getting into all sorts of scrapes that make the book rather thrilling and fun. I didn't quite believe that the one lady's son was as evil as he ended up being, at it was too bad that we all didn't get to go to the reunion in the end, which I really, really wanted to see by that point, but it was a FUN book. Since this author is really popular, I think the book will circulate.

Not so with Gantos' Love Curse of the Rumbaughs. I went to middle school with a Rumbaugh (hi, John!), and Gantos has done such a good job appealing to middle school boys with his Joey Pigza and also Jack Black series, but this one was, ah, odd. It lost me right after the discussion about selling feminine protection items at the drug store and the discovery of the drug store owners mummified mother. The ick factor without the interest. Didn't read it all; maybe it becomes fabulous later, but I no longer cared to stick around that long.

Donna Jo Napoli's King of Mulberry Street was FABULOUS!!!! I had to get it from a library in Toledo; no idea why my loval library didn't have it. Based on her grandfather's immigration to this country, it is an intriguing story of a 9 year old boy sent to America by his mother... by himself. Using his wiles and keen observational skills, he manages not only to survive, but to prosper. I've begun to think that Napoli can write anything beautifully. Her Stones in Water is another boy-pleaser, and her back story of fairy tales (Spinners, Sirena, The Magic Circle, Bound, Breath, etc.) are very popular as well. This is one author who makes me feel definitely like a reader rather than a writer!

Naylor and Nixon

When it's rainy, the house is cleaned, and the children are occupied, it IS possible to read a whole lot of books! From Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, I read One of the Third Grade Thonkers (not as young as the title would indicate; actually a pretty good story); The Keeper (about mental illness-- an early effort); Walker's Crossing (about white supremacy in the western states. Good, but I don't know what the audience would be.)

From Joan Lowery Nixon, I read Land of Hope, Land of Dreams and Land of Promise, all of which I liked. A somewhat connected immigration series. Good for fans of pink books who have to read history. Also Candidate for Murder and The Kindnapping of Christina Lattimore, which were both good mysteries and, oddly enough, struck me as the sort of thing that girls who like romance books would like. Who knew? Reading a lot of books by the same author can sometimes become wearying, but both of these authors are so consistently good that I haven't minded.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Assorted titles, good and bad.

As much as we need comedies for boys, I have added a new item to my "Won't Buy if it Has..." list. Won't buy books wherein the boy names his, uh, distinctly male parts. *Sigh* Shades of Judy Blume's Forever. So, I won't be adding Garfinkle's Storky. Also will skip Stephenson's Dancing With Elvis, since it is very long, only vaguely interesting, and too much of a historical novel for a time period we don't cover. Waltman's Learning the Game had way too many instances of the f-word; why do baseball players not swear while basketball players do?
Thinking about Sedgewick's Witch Hill-- I wasn't sure, but my ten year old son liked it. Also got mixed reviews on Gates' Dusk, about a genetically modified girl who has hawk DNA and eats rats whole; there's a lot of adventure and running and fights, but something about it left me cold. Did really enjoy Nield's Plastic Angel, about a girl who forms a rock band with her best friend. The students love reading about bands, but so often the life style and language choices ruin the books for me. This one was intriguing and just fun-- my "pink" book readers will love it, but it will enjoy a wider circulation. Whew. Caught up for now!

One More Garth Nix

Shade's Children seemed awful when I read the cover flap-- mutant monsters, children in "Meat Factories". Yuck. But it was intriguing for science fiction, and I liked the adventures that the children had while trying to stop all of the devastation. It was not an easy read, and there were several instances of the f-word, which I don't see a reason for at all. Still, it's circulated well (the fact that it's 11 Accelerated Reader points and a 6.4 rading level helps there, I'm sure), and reads quickly. It will be good for fans of Card's Enders's Game and Colfer's The Supernaturalist. Sci Fi with an evil, adventurous twist. Could do much worse.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Garth Nix

I thought I would not make it through Sabriel, but I did, and Lirael was pretty good. By the time I got to Abhorsen, I was hooked and really wanted to see how the story would end up. It almost seemed like there would be another, but I don't think there is. Now I have to see how I feel about tackling Shade's Children and maybe the Seventh Tower series. Sabirel is a good, solid fantasy series about a battle between good and evil, with lots of clever subplots. It was not esay reading, but I can now heartily recommend it to my fantasy fans. And yes, I have been reading; I just haven't been near a computer to post my musings.