Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Cardturner/ Incarceron

Sachar, Louis. The Cardturner.

Alton has always been told that his great-uncle Lester is his "favorite uncle", because the family hopes to get some of Lester's vast fortune when he dies. When Alton gets a job helping his newly blind uncle play bridge, the family interest in the money increases, but Alton finds himself more interested in his uncle, the game, and a "crazy" cousin Toni his own age. Lester's dream is to win a big tournament, something he would have been able to do if it hadn't been for complicated family issues back in the 1960s. Alton and Toni both try to help with this despite new complications.

It is admirable that Sachar is trying to bring bridge to a new generation, but I found the long descriptions of game strategies and plays very tedious. If the book were rounded out by more action elsewhere, this might have been forgivable, but the family problems also are more philosophical. The addition of a supernatural element at the end doesn't help. I know that everyone will feel compelled to buy this one because Holes was so popular, but it's not the sort of book that my students will ask for, and not the sort of book that would have been published if it weren't for Sachar's past glory. For some reason, this reminded me of Paul Zindel's The Amazing and Death-Defying Diary of Eugene Dingman; good author, good premise, but a book no longer popular.

Fisher, Catherine. Incarceron.
Claudia's father is the Warden of Incarceron, a prison that people outside of it deem Utopian. This is far from the truth-- Finn is a resident, and has to put up with brutality from every angle. When both characters find crystal keys, they are able to communicate and learn about the other's world. Claudia is trying to escape an arranged marriage to the brother of Giles, whom she was supposed to marry, but who died under suspicious circumstances. She suspects that Finn, who can't remember anything that didn't take place in the prison, is really Giles. There are evil doers on both sides, lots of intrigue, and many unique fantastical elements. I also wonder if there will be a series.

Picked this up at a book look because one of my teacher's had heard that this was "the new Harry Potter". While this had a slight Steampunk ring to it (the prison is "alive" and people and animals are created with some mechanical parts), this futuristic dystopian novel is dense enough that readers will need to be hard core fantasy fans to get into it.  I kept comparing it to The Hunger Games, which had dystopia, brutality, and evil characters. Somehow, The Hunger Games had more likable characters and a sense of hope that this title lacked. Still, worth buying.

Nothing has been done on the library renovation at all, and last night I had a nightmare about it. There was no tile, just light beige carpet; the circ desk in the middle of the room; a fireplace complete with tools (like those wouldn't become weapons in the hands of 6th grade boys); and bibelots. Seriously. I dreamed that word. It was a pristine, breakable library totally unsuitable for a middle school setting.

Of course, when I open the first day with a scanner attached to a netbook working from boxes of books in the center of the carpeted but unshelved library, this may sound good! At least my wonderful custodian has alerted the proper authorities to the lack of progress!


  1. ooo, library nightmares = nasty. When I was setting up our new teen area last year, I was forced to shelf-read every night....

    Cardturner is one of my two bugbears right now. It's got all those glowing reviews, and I have a parent who's bugging me to purchase it "Why don't you have that new Louis Sachar book? He's such an amazing writer!" But I really, really don't think any of my teens will check it out - or enjoy it if their parents check it out for them! I'm tempted to tell them if they want it ask the director to purchase it for the adult fiction...

    And now can you please review Grisham's new series, Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer and absolve me of responsibility for buying it? That same parent is bugging me about that one too and gave me a disbelieving look when I kindly explained to her that I had been unable to find a really positive review anywhere. I think she's been reading all the publisher's publicity.

  2. Hmmm.... I really enjoyed THE CARDTURNER and I think I'll have an audience for it. No doubt 8th or older, but I think I can sell it.

    When reading the bridge sections, I convinced myself not to feel guilty skipping to the summary box at the end. Not really a card player myself, I still got the hang of what was going on with the game and I applaud Sachar for including his personal passion in his book.

    I'll let you know how it "sells" in the classroom.