Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hopper's Destiny

Fiedler, Lisa. Hopper's Destiny (Mouseheart #2)
March 17th 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Copy from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

After the events of Mouseheart, the evil rat emperor Titus has been taken prisoner by Firren, and Hopper offers to take the citizens of Atlantia to the Mus encampment in order to be safe. The Mus, headed by Pinkie, don't agree. To make matters worse, exterminators enter the subway, and things are looking even more grim for the mice, especially when Zucker is killed and Firren is missing. Hopper ends up Upland, flung about like a rag, and is saved by a cat. Ace is no ordinary cat-- he relocates mice that he finds and helps them to survive. When he hears about Felina, he is interested in helping overthrown her reign of terror. Ace introduces Hopper to some of his friends, and Hopper gains some allies, such as basketball playing rodents who live in a sports arena. Hopper tries to make some peace with his past by revisiting the pet shop where things started to go badly for him, but finds other secrets about his past when the fighting comes to a head over Atlantia. Even if Felina can be neutralized, will the kingdom live in peace? Probably not, since Pup has become a psychotic threat, leaving the story open for another book.
Strengths: There is a lot of battle strategy in this book, and the different factions all go through a lot of changes. I liked that not all cats were portrayed as evil; while Felina certainly was, Ace set a good example of how different animals can get along. Even better was his explanation that there is a difference between hunting mice because he is hungry, and hunting them for sport or just to torture them. A lot of the background of the prophecy is explained, as well as Titus' reasons for working with Felina. Pinkie's motivations are discussed, but the most interesting character in the next book with be Pup, who has been badly damaged by all of the various set backs he has had in his life. Brooklyn also plays a large role in this book, and the descriptions of that area are interesting.
Weaknesses: Pup really shouldn't be as damaged as he is portrayed. Yes, Pinkie and Hopper left him for dead at the pet shop, but they thought he was dead. The identity of La Rocha seemed a stretch for me, but students will like it.
What I really think: Talking animal books. Ack! Never my favorite. That said, I have a student who will be thrilled to get the ARC.

21469088Kochalka, James. The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie (The Glorkian Warrior #2)  March 17th 2015 by First Second
Copy provided by the publisher

In this sequel to The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, the Glorkian warrior and his super smart back pack are trying to defeat a space snake before it attacks another pie factory, but Buster Glork, the warriors arch nemesis, foils their plan and the snake escapes. The warrior has a baby alien that he allows to suck his brains because he thinks it's cute, but this causes him to pass out. The backpack and oddly ungrammatical sidekick Gonk try to help, but it is Buster who blasts the alien and saves the warrior, but the two still continue to fight. Eventually, the alien baby is fed energy crackers, becomes huge, and can survive on its own, and Buster and the warrior come to an agreement over pie.
Strengths: This is silly and upbeat, with brightly colored cartoons that will appeal to a variety of young readers. There are fart jokes, Gonk's silliness in repeating phrases, and an evil villain who is finally defeated.
Weaknesses: Even with the plot recap on page 93, the story line is very difficult to follow. My struggling readers, who are drawn to this type of book, may have trouble understanding what is going on. I don't have a problem with this being silly, but I do worry about the disjointed nature of the narrative.
What I really think: This is the only book I have ever read that seems like it would be more amusing under the influence of a heavy duty psychotropic drug. I'm not advocating drugs, but the strange plot and psychedelic colors did make me wonder about the habits of the author.

When I e mailed the publicist at First Second, we talked about some books being like giving children cotton candy for breakfast; this certainly had that feel. I thought this was an odd choice for First Second to publish, but couldn't put my finger on exactly why until my library reserve came in and I read Glorkian Warrior on the same night as I read the book below:

17934457 Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust
 Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano (Illustrations), Greg Salsedo (Ink), Alexis Siegel (Translator)
April 1st 2014 by First Second (first published 2012)

A grandmother tells her young grandmother a story she has kept secret for years; her parents were taken by the Nazis from their home in France, and she spent much of her childhood staying with a neighbor and hiding on a farm. After the war, the family with whom she stayed helped her look for her parents, but her father never came back. Her mother was in very bad shape, but with the help of the neighbors, was able to function in a post war world.
Strengths: Our 8th grade studies the Holocaust, but there are always some students who can't quite handle too much information about concentration camps, for whatever reason. This is an excellent introduction to the atrocities committed during this time, and a good story about one young child's experiences.
Weaknesses: As with many graphic novels, the print is very tiny. This book is smaller than a picture book; increasing its size to those dimensions would make the text more readable, and would be fitting given the age of the main character.
What I really think: This is the quality of work I expect from the publisher. High quality graphics and a high quality, thought provoking story.

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