Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Attack Ninjas and Kites

Vernon, Ursula. Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs.
Nominated for the Cybils by Debbie Nance

Danny is appalled when his best friend Wendell loans the Japanese exchange student his comic book-- she's a GIRL and they could both get cooties! And what if Wendell sits on the bus or eats lunch with Suki instead of him? Once Danny finds out that Suki is being followed and attack by Ninja frogs, however, his tune changes and the trio head to Mythical Japan on the bus to consult Danny's great grandfather about how to stop the Spurtongue clan from kidnapping Suki and making her their queen. To do this, they must enlist the help of the Geckos of the Golden Chysanthemum, fling themselves into volcanoes, and get help from a crane that they had previously rescued. Then, of course, they have to go back to school, safe in the knowledge that Suki does not have to be a ninja queen, but can become a veterinarian.

Strengths: Nose snorting laughter on every other page. While this book, which is heavy on the pictures, flits back and forth across the Pilkey Line (the divider between elementary and middle school goofy humor), it has many, many adult moments as well. For instance, Danny assumes that since Suki is a girl, she is interested only in ponies and unicorns. When he asks her if she likes unicorns, she replies " 'I've never met one... Given that they're imaginary and all.' ...Danny had met one once-- she'd come to his second cousin's wedding and had a trained helper monkey that fed her canapes." (page 17) Just goofy and wonderful, and oddly enough, Danny does grow as a person, er, dragon.

Weaknesses: I need to go back to number one to read about the boys' nemesis the potato salad!

Messer, Stephen. Windblowne.
Nominated for the Cybils by B. Wells

Oliver can't fly a kite without crashing it, whcih is a problem in his kite obsessed village, especially with the annual festival approaching. His remote parents tell him to consult his great uncle, who was a master kitesmith before becoming a strange recluse. When Oliver does seek out his relative, he finds that there is just not ONE Windblowne-- there are a number of alternate worlds. In one, he finds a duplicate of himself, as well as a duplicate of his uncle. This man is trying to build a machine to facilitate travel between worlds, and is also draining the giant oaks of their power to run his machines. He hopes to hook up conduits to get the power from the other worlds as well, not believing that the oaks are dying in every world. Oliver has managed to travel between the worlds by means of a kite, which is much safer, and he tries to stop the evil Gilbert from taking over the various worlds.

Strengths: Nicely formatted book with coherent, nicely paced plot. Imaginative setting and time travel/ alternate dimension mechanics.

Weaknesses: A lot of information about kites, kite building and kite flying that broke up the action. Also, I never got a good feel for Oliver; he's portrayed as rather a sad sack in the beginning and even though he saves the world, I didn't feel that he became any more interesting. Since I didn't care for any of the other characters, either, this made it hard to get invested in the story.

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