Monday, October 18, 2010

Artemis, Zombies and Houses... Oh, My!

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex (Book 7)
Nominated for the Cybils by Brandon.

Having just read Colfer's story on how Artemis is based on his brother's dealings as a child, I picked this up with new interest, but I've always struggled with this series and still have a hard time reading it because there really isn't any good side. Granted, Artemis does seem to be weakening-- he's spending his entire fortune on an ecological project to save the world, and the fairy Holly thinks it is because he is suffering from a condition that usually afflicts fairies who are evil. There are a lot of characters brought into this story whom I thought I should know and didn't; it's been a while since I read the other books, and avid readers will have a better handle on the back story than I do. This didn't have quite the action and adventure (nor the travel) of the previous books, and it seems like a lot of ground work was being laid for the next book, which will be the last one.

Strengths: Artemis certainly is given a lot of room to grow and develop here, which was somewhat lacking in the other books, and I like him a little more since he isn't as evil.

Weaknesses: Okay, Disney Hyperion. Really? We're on book seven of eight and you redesign the covers? Like I'm going to go out and replace the other 10-12 books I have with the old covers. Grrr. Yes, the new cover is pretty, but really annoying! Oh. The writing. Younger fans may complain about not as much action.

Bolger, Kevin. Zombiekins.
Nominated for the Cybils by D.M.Cunningham.

When Stanley picks up a Zombiekins doll at a tag sale held by the town witch, he thinks it will be a pleasant change from his sister's sickly sweet toys, but he fails to heed the witch's warning that he should follow the instructions. Stanley also doesn't pay enough attention to the fact that the zombie doll eviscerates his sister's other stuffed animals, and takes the toy to school, where it goes into overdrive and starts turning the other students and teachers into zombies. Luckily, the witch provides an antidote, tragedy is averted, and the stage is set for the zombie doll's other adventures in an upcoming sequel, They Came from Under the Bed.

Strengths: The illustrations add to the story nicely, and younger students will enjoy the worm eating and other grossness.
Weaknesses: This goes over that cartoony, goofy line and makes it too young for my middle school students, and it's like Captain Underpants with zombie dolls. I love Captain Underpants, but I would not consider it Great Literature. Maybe we will call it The Pilkey Line. Thoughts?

Llewellyn, Tom. The Tilting House.
Nominated for the Cybils by Amy Baskin.

Because Josh's father doesn't make a lot of money working in an art museum, and because he is drawn to the weird decorations of an old creepy house, Josh's family moves in to the Tilton house even the the floors are uneven and the place is infested with rats... that talk. In a series of anecdotes, we find out more of the mysteries of the house, which include a light switch that makes the house invisible, a box of powder that makes a neighbor dog grow huge, and a hidden statue that brings all of the mysteries together and allow the family to stay in the house.

Strengths: Stays on the middle school sidegoofy, even with the father buying a duplex next door for the talking rat. Stories are pleasantly creepy, and definitely original and fresh. The woodcut-like illustrations add a nice touch.

Weaknesses: I wanted a creepier reason for the house being the way it was, and expected either more mystery or more blood and gore, somehow. Something darker.

Horowitz, Anthony. Bloody Horowitz.

This is worth buying if only for the one story, The Man Who Killed Darren Shan! There are 14 short stories in this, and several share a common theme of obnoxious children who meet bad ends. The thing that I liked most about them was that they had some very unexpected, twisted endings: My Bloody French Exchange was brilliantly creepy, and The RoboNanny was fun because I did not see the ending coming at all. There is enough blood and gore to make R.L. Stine fans happy, and Horowitz even comments on what most adults think of that sort of thing in the first story Why Horror Has No Place in Children's Books. These would make some excellent read alouds for Halloween!

Strengths: Anything by Horowitz will be picked up, and readers will not be disappointed in this offering.

Weaknesses: Blast you, Penguin Putnam!! Why the horrible paper-over-boards binding without a dust jacket! This is why my Horowitz Horror and More Horowitz Horror are being held together by tape. If you are going to publish good stories, at least put them in a binding that will last a year or two. And what's with the horrible cover?

1 comment:

  1. I gave one of our boys an ARC copy of Zombiekins on condition that he review it. (see my next-to-latest post) Interesting timing after all the kidlitosphere discussion on ARC's. Thanks for mentioning me in the discussion!