Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Splendors and Glooms

Schlitz, Amy Laura. Splendors and Glooms.
28 August 2012, Candlewick Press (ARC from Baker and Taylor)
Reivewed at Young Adult Books Central

Clara is entranced by the puppetry of Grisini when she sees a street show in 1860, so she asks if he can entertain at her birthday party. She is also interested in his "children", who are really orphans who work for him, and would like to have them to tea before the party. Lizzie Rose's father was an actor, and she is fairly well brought up, but Parsefall is entrenched in being a street urchin and can only think about what he can steal from Clara's house. Clara is glad to talk to the children because her mother has never recovered from the death, from cholera, of four of Clara's siblings. Every birthday and holiday is spent visiting their tomb and looking at pictures. After Grisini leaves Clara's, Clara disappears. It is thought that she has run away, but when a new puppet shows up looking suspiciously like Clara, Lizzie Rose thinks something more sinister has occurred. Shortly after being questioned by the police, Grisini leaves the house and does not return. Thinking he is injured and not in his right mind, his wards fear for their survival, but are kindly taken care of by their landlady, Mrs. Pinchbeck. After a while of trying to continue the shows to earn a small amount of money, Lizzie Rose finds a letter to Grisini in Parsefalls pocket, and the two set out to the estate of the sender, a Cassandra Sargredo who lives at Strachan's Ghyll. Cassandra worked with Grisini years ago and needs his help, but doesn't want to ask for it. There is more evil at work than the fact that Clara is a puppet, and if Lizzie Rose and Parsefall aren't careful, they will fall under the curse of the fire store amulet that has enslaved Cassandra for so many years. Can they manage to elude this magic and return Clara to her grieving family?
Strengths: This was an enthralling book-- like watching a really good Masterpiece Theater. Schlitz does an excellent job at depicting this time period (or a bit later-- think A Drowned Maiden's Hair), and the wealth of details really made the plight of all the children that much more harrowing.
Weaknesses: As much as I would LIKE Dickens to be the new Dystopia, I have not been able to convince my students of this. I will probably buy a copy, especially if my picky reader daughter likes it, but it may take a bit of selling for students to pick it up.

Legend (Legend, #1)Lu, Marie. Legend.
29 November 2012

Day has been an annoying criminal to the Republic (the government on the west coast of what was once the United States; the east is called the Colonies), since he is stealing money to help the poor and try to make sure that his family stays safe from the Plague, but when he is accused of killing June Iparis's brother while trying to get a Plague cure from the hospital, he becomes Enemy Number One. June is the only person to get a perfect score on her Trial test; Day failed it. June goes undercover and manages to work her way into Day's graces. She hopes to bring him in and make his pay for the death of her brother, but instead finds out alarming things about the Plague, her compatriots in the Republic, and the role that the Republic has in both the Plague and in her parents' death. When she is accused of crimes against the Republic, she has to decide how she will save Day as well as herself.
Strengths: Dystopia is the new Dystopia. The media has done an awesome job at swaying what kids want to read-- all of my 6th graders want to read The Hunger Games. This certainly would be fine for fans of that-- we've got some violence (Day's mother and brother are both violently shot), evil government using the people as guinea pigs and pawns in their plans, and bright youngsters working to overthrow them. There is also a budding romance between Day and June.
Weaknesses: Well written enough, but felt formulaic (see above, checklist for dystopic book), and I didn't really connect to any of the characters. There were also some scenes with elaborate descriptions of June's wardrobe that seem written expressly for the movie, which is supposed to come out in 2013.

Prodigy comes out in January of 2013.

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