Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend Reading

Mull, Brandon. The Keys to the Demon Prison. (Fablehaven #5)

It's funny when you read the publishers description of a book (here: "Kendra, Seth, and the Knights of the Dawn race against time and face dangers as they try to stop the leader of the Society of the Evening Star from possessing the final artifact needed to release evil from the great demon prison.") and you think "Yeah, but what is the book about?" Unfortunately, I won't be the one to tell you, because while I enjoyed this tremendously, I finally surrendered to the wave of details and just floated along the current of the prose. There are so many magical minutiae, adventures, schemes, and back history that I didn't try to keep everything straight. Students who can tell me what color socks each character had on in chapter 7 of Harry Potter and the Interminable Sequel and the significance of each of these colors will be able to keep the details straight. Any middle school library that doesn't have these books is missing out. Mull's pacing and sense of humor (the satyrs are encouraged to fight against the demon uprising so that they can continue to enjoy their newly found favorite snack food from Hostess and Frito Lay) is wonderful, and I respect how he has brought the series to an end. The afterword of this book hints at a sequel to The Candy Shop War, which I found to be the creepiest book ever-- children taking candy from strangers to control their parents' minds!!! And I'll quote my favorite bit, from the Reading Guide, in case you don't get that far: "13 Who's the coolest author ever? Is it the guy who wrote Fablehaven If not, what's the matter with you? Explain." Enough said!

Senzai, N.H. Shooting Kabul.
Fadi's family decides to leave their home in Afghanistan when his father realizes he can't cooperate with the Taliban. Luckily, the family is able to leave in time, but the in the crush of people, Fadi's six-year-old sister Mariam is left behind. Fadi thinks it is his fault because he let go of her hand. The family decides to continue on their journey, knowing they won't make it out of the coutry otherwise. They hire detectives to try to find Mariam. Once in the US, it's difficult for Fadi to settle in. His mother is ill and depressed, his older sister too quick to adopt the ways of her new country, and his father must drive a taxi. There is a good deal of family support, but times are difficult. Fadi, who loves photography, wants to join the photography club and enter a competition for which the prize is airline tickets to India. He thinks if he wins, he can have a chance at finding his sister. Then September 11th occurs, and things become even more difficult for the family. Fadi is bullied, and chances of finding Mariam fade.
This was an important descriptive work about the immigrant experience. If we ever want the wars to end, we need to have our students read about people in other parts of the world. I will recommend this to the teacher who does the unit with Ellis' The Breadwinner, and any students who read Clements' Extra Credit.
McGhee, Alison. Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing.
Even though I could tell right away that this book was too young for my students (Julia is nine, and a young nine at that), I kept reading. The mixture of the Drazen Kozjan illustrations (reminiscent of... the Krushes mixed with Hilary Knight?) and the quirky character kept me intrigued, and Picky Reader would have loved this at age 7, but it's just too young for her now. That said, I really, really want to read Julia Gillian and the Quest for Joy.
Bateson, Catherine. Magenta McPhee.
Magenta is worried about her divorced, unemployed father. Her mother is getting married soon, but she thinks that her father is slipping further and further into depression. With the help of a quirky friend, she creates an online dating profile for her father and corresponds with a woman who has a teen son. In the end, she is found out and made to apologize to the woman, even though she and her father become friends, and the two families go camping together. Once her father develops an interest in another woman, however, Magenta realizes that trying to fix her father up was not a good idea. Other complications keep this book moving along. Perfectly fine book, even though the subject has been covered before, but I do not know what they were thinking with the cover art. It looks dated already, and may very well prevent me from buying the book, and the audience for this particular type of realistic fiction care deeply about what the book looks like.


  1. i'm glad you posted about fablehaven. i love the series, but with all the books i have to keep track of, i forgot the new one was out! i'll see if my children's department has it in yet.

  2. Fablehaven is one of the hottest series at my son's elementary school. His fourth grade teacher read the first two books aloud to the class last year, and every child in the class was hooked. The librarian couldn't keep the shelves stocked!

  3. My book club read the first Fablehaven book. A few day of passing it out I knew it was a hit. Many of the advance readers had finished the first one and had moved on to the second and in some cases the entire series. I had many parents get into the books as well. Brandon Mull is a talented writer. The Candy Shop War is creepy, but makes a great read aloud.