Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sequels, etc.

A student gave me the third book in Pseudonymous Bosch's series, This book is not good for you, which follows The name of this book is secret and If you're reading this, it's too late. She had loved the series and thought we should have it in the library. It was painful for me to read, because it had that overly precious, talking to the readers, Lemony Snicket feel to it that I despise. But the student has a good point. She loved it. I will buy the series hoping to use it as methdone to wean some of my Snicket addicts. Here is the description from the publisher because I can't describe it without being mean: "Cass's mom is kidnapped by the evil dessert chef, Senor Hugo, who requests the legendary tuning fork as ransom, leading Cass and Max-Ernest to try finding the magical instrument in time."

Even though Teen Boy's favorite book in the world is Neal Shusterman's Everlost, and he like Everwild even better, it was hard to pick up. When I finally picked it up, I became very intrigued, especially with Allie's story. There's a lot going on in Everlost, where places that have died exist as a home for children who haven't yet passed "to the light". It's peopled by confused children, as well as "monsters"-- Mary, who claims to want to keep children safe but who is trying to keep them from the light; Nick, the "chocolate ogre" whom Mary vilifies but who works tirelessly to help children; Allie the Outcast, a skinjacker (someone who can ride in human bodies and interact in the real world) who finds objects from the real world and trades for them; her companion, the former monster McGill, who is made as human as possible by her presence; and Zack/Zin who can rip things out of the real world and learns to put them back as well. Whew. A lot going on, but all intriguing. There is another book coming out at an indeterminate date, and I will want to read it because I would like to see how Allie deals with her circumstances.

Paul Volponi's Black and White is a riveting tale of prejudice, and I was hoping for the same in Homestretch. From the publisher: "Five months after losing his mother, Gas runs away from an abusive father and gets a job working at an Arkansas race track, surrounded by the illegal Mexican immigrants that he and his father blame for her death." What was more prevalent in this tale was anger toward everyone. From what I read, the language wasn't too bad, but it was unrelentingly bitter. I have a more limited readership for problem novels among my boys, and I don't think this is quite what they want.

The same is true of Parry's Heart of a Shepherd. While the idea of a boy on a ranch struggling with his father's deployment sounds good in theory, boys will soon return this with the complaint that "nothing happens". (Teen Boy didn't finish Poster Boy because of this.) It starts off with a long description of vintage chess set and a chess game, and while it does have a few exciting moments, devolves more toward the introspective navel gazing. A very well-written, lyrical sort of book, but as Semicolon put it, the pace is "slow and deliberate". Just not having students request "slow and deliberate" books.

Yes, the Follett web site gives the dimensions of Richard Platt's Roman Diary: The Journal of Iliona of Mytilini, who was captured and sold as a slave in Rome, AD 107, but it somehow doesn't mean anything until you have the 10"x13" book in your hands. It's enormous. The story of a girl sold into slavery in Rome is okay, but this looks far too much like a picture book for my students to check out. I can't even get the very good Sutcliffe Black Ships before Troy into their hands without a fight, and it's smaller and less cartoon like. I was also irrationally bothered by the fact that dates used Roman numerals ("Day XVI of Maius") but not the actual Roman dating system with the Calends, Nones and Ides. That would have been instructive. Maybe for elementary schools who cover Rome, but in Ohio it's in the 7th grade curriculum.

My treat for the evening was Elizabeth Kendall's Autobiography of a Wardrobe, wherein "B.'s" wardrobe describes how it and Elizabeth evolved. Starting in the 1950s with girly pinafore dresses, this book was somewhat amusing, but not as good as Ilene Beckerman's Love, Loss and What I Wore, which I bought immediately after reading. That book managed to cover the pathos of one woman's life through descriptions of her wardrobe, and while this one tried, something about it didn't succeed quite as much for me. It's definitely a book for adults, and fun if you are interested in clothing history.

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