Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Spooks, spirits and Spinelli-- oh, my!

Delaney's The Last Apprentice series is set in a Medieval time, involes traversing the countryside in search of evil creatures to take care of, and is oddly involving. The Revenge of the Witch was a great start, with Tom Ward starting his apprenticeship with the local Spook, who binds boggarts and witches. We see the further implications of this dealing with evil in The Curse of the Bane-- the townspeople count on the Spook but still fear him. In Night of the Soul Stealer, the two travel to the Spook's winter home at the edge of evil, so they can keep a closer eye on the Golgoth and the forces trying to invade their world. It was interesting to see the Spook in weak moments-- he loves a lamia witch, whom he has kept drugged and docile so that he doesn't have to imprison her in the basement. After an encounter with a stone throwing boggart, the Spook is injured and Tom assumes more responsibility. I zipped through all 486 and was horrified at the end when it was clear that there was another book and it wasn't published yet! Oh, the anguish. This is the sort of reaction I want from books, not "Great, have to slog through yet another sequel!"

William Sleator's The Spirit House was a shorter book, but also a good page turner. Julie is not happy that her family is getting an exchange student from Thailand, and when he arrives, things start going poorly in her world. Is it the fault of the spirit house that her brother builds in the backyard? And is the student really who he says he is? There is enough mystery to make up for the lack of action-- the feeling of impending evil is enough to keep me with the story. I will definitely be recommending this to students. I believe there is a sequel, and I am looking forward to that.

Think I still need to pick up Spinelli's Maniac Magee, but read Fourth Grade Rats (again?) and Crash last night. Crash struck me as a boy related protoversion of Stargirl in some respects. Boys who like humorous books could be enticed to read this one, and it does involve football. It veers away from the earlier books in that it is more introspective, but stops short of navel gazing by the way the "odd" friend is treated in a humorous but not mean fashion. Fourth Grade Rats is a short and amusing book for middle schoolers who need something quick; I imagine that actual fourth graders would find it more meaningful.

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