Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekend Reading

Buckingham, Royce. The Dead Boys.
Nominated for the Cybils by Mike Schoeneck
What happens when corporations dump toxic waste into waterways for many years? The trees become evil mutants with a taste for humans, especially young boys they can lure into their branches, keep hostage, and drain of their life force for years. That's what Teddy finds when he moves with his mother to the desert community of Richland. Encouraged by his mother, he runs around the neighborhood unsupervised and meets a some of friends-- Walter, Joey, Albert, Sloot, Oliver and Lawrence-- all of whom exist in worlds slightly different from Teddy's. The reason? They all died in a variety of accidents and were taken by the tree. In order to dave himself and put an end to the deaths, Teddy has to help each boy recreate his own demise but save him.
Strengths: Creepy, creepy tale! It was obvious to me that the boys were from different time periods-- Buckingham does a great job on describing their language, interests and dress. This is definitely a fresh tale, and not too heavy on the environmental message, even though it is there.
Weaknesses: A little hard to describe to students, but that should be offset by the great cover.

Harrison, Mette Ivie. The Princess and the Snowbird. (Book 3)
Nominated for the Cybils by Cecil Castelucci
Liva is the daughter of royal shapeshifters. Her mother has decided to keep the form of a wolf to protect her, and her father stays a bear for the same reason. They have a pleasant enough life out in the wilderness, where her father tries to repair damages to aur-magic that occurs throughout the kingdom. Liva meets a human, Jens, who has no magic whatsoever because of the evil Hunter, who is trying to do away with all aur-magic. Jens and Liva feel an immediate connection despite their disparate paths, and end up working together with the hunter's son to defeat him. They are then able to be together.
Strengths: Even though this was the third book, I was able to get into the story, although I was missing a few things. The language is very lyrical, but the story is still fast-paced. Fans of Tamora Pierce or Cashore would like this one.
Weaknesses: I couldn't figure out why the Hunter was so set on destroying all of the magic, but that was probably explained more fully in the first two books.

DiTerlizzi, Tony. The Search for WondLa.
September 21st 2010 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Nominated for the Cybils by Debbie Barr. 

Eva Nine is being raised in a Sanctuary by a robot, Muthr. She is safe, well fed, and amused by the holographic projectors. When the evil Besteel attacks her home, she must flee before she is ready to go into the outside world, with the Omnipod to help her survive. (It tells her how to do things and helps facilitate mechanisms in her clothing that can heal wounds, etc.) Along the way, she meets Rovender, an alien who has a device that allows Eva to understand speech other than her own, and Otto, a behemoth who can speak to her telepathically and saves her on many occasions. Eva is trying desperately to find other humans and understand a bit of photograph that she found (the only words on it being "wondla") but is instead captured and almost made into a museum exhibit by the Besteel's evil boss. After a rather epic battle during which Muthr is destroyed, Eva and Rovender end up at the rare book archives in New York City, where they find partial answers to their search, but also more questions.

Strengths: The pictures are beautiful, and there is an interactive web presence for the book. While this is slightly dystopian, it's not quite as dire as most; there is a feeling of hope to this science fiction.

Weaknesses: This has gotten a lot of positive buzz, so I feel like I'm just not getting something. I thought the aliens looked like Star Wars characters, although the rest of my family didn't see that. I was really irked when Rovender was speaking in his own language and Eva couldn't understand him-- it almost made me put the book down. The quest for another human I could understand, but the picture and the word "wondla" never spoke to me as something Evan really wanted to find out. The ending struck me as really weak and somehow familiar.

It's been interesting being on the Cybils panel. Some titles, like Nanny Piggins are "twee", but somehow I still liked it. I wouldn't buy it for my library. Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising is something my students will love, but other panelists didn't like it.  As a librarian, the struggle is always to reconcile what I like, what my students read, and what is good literature!

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