Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Tween Tuesdays! 

Tween Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fabulous GreenBeanTeenQueen over at her blog.  Bloggers use the meme to highlight awesome reads for tweens. 

Adam Gidwitz

You've heard about Hansel and Gretel before right? With the witch and her crazy house made of candy and cake?  Well, then, you haven't heard the whole story.  The real story of Hansel and Gretel is a much darker,  bloodier, and more Grimm adventure than you might imagine. 
So don't say we didn't warn you. 

What a delightfully Grimm novel!  Gidwitz weaves together several of the Grimm brothers' tales into one witty and darkly funny story held together by our brave young protagonists, Hansel and Gretel.  The very involved narrator interjects sly and wry comments throughout the story and kids will greatly enjoy this hilarious commentary.  Additionally, readers who like creepy and bloody tales or fairy tale retells will be quickly hooked on this story, which combines both subgenres into one twisting and eventful adventure. 

As I have said before, I am a big fan of fairy and folktale retellings.  I had heard good things about this particular fairy tale-inspired novel but wasn't quite sure what to expect when I turned the first page.  What I found was a very unique re-imagining of the now iconic Grimm tales.  Gidwitz draws on the darkness and the gore of the original tales; instead of white-washing them, he highlights their scary qualities.  He finds overarching truths embedded in several separate stories: grown-ups are unreliable, the world is a frightening and unsafe place, and no one is truly innocent.  Through these common themes, he crafts a new story that will likely appeal to many children for the ways it acknowledges how very scary the adventure we call 'growing up' can be.    

5/5 STARS 


Sunday, May 15, 2011

In My Mailbox #6

This week's In My Mailbox is actually a bit of a mish-mosh of my library acquisitions from the last two weeks. Some of these I've already read (and loved!) and others I'm eagerly awaiting finding the time to start.  IMM is a fantastic meme in which bloggers list the books that they received over the last week via mail/bookstore/library.  It's hosted by the lovely Story Siren over at her awesome blog and you can go here to get more info about joining in!

Ten Things I Hate About Me

Randa Abdel-Fattah

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

Sun and Moon, Ice and SnowSun and Moon, Ice and Snow
Jessica Day George

The lass has grown up without a name, in a world of constant winter.  But when a mysterious white bear shows up on the doorstep, the lass' special gift of speaking to animals offers her an opportunity to help her family.  So she agrees to travel with the bear back to his strange castle and remain with him there for a year in exchange for her family's wealth.  However, neither the bear, his bizarre servants, nor the lass herself are what they seem.  

Now, I've got to put it out there that I am a sucker for a fairy or folk tale retell.  So, with my bias out in the open, I can say that I genuinely enjoyed this particular retelling of the Norse story, 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon.'  Despite remaining nameless for nearly the entire novel, the main character is admirable and sympathetic.  Within the first few chapters, the reader is able to gain a good picture of her family and her background as well as her individual personality; so when she goes on her strange journey, the audience is happy to follow her.  

The plot has pretty steady action and the mystery is revealed slowly, keeping the reader hooked until the final chapters.  The romance is sweet and generally satisfying.  The story feels a little unoriginal at times and the conclusion was somewhat rushed but overall, this novel is fresh pick for lovers of fairy and folk tale retellings and romantic fantasy. I read Edith Pattou's version of the same tale, East, a few years ago and think that I might prefer it.  However, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow might work better for a younger teen audience. It could match well with novels by Gail Carson Levine, Robin McKinley, or Donna Jo Napoli.

3/5 STARS   

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel

Matt Cruse has only wanted one thing in life: to fly.  As a cabin boy on the  Aurora airship,  Matt is living his dream.  But then he helps the crew rescue a lost and injured balloonist and suddenly Matt's carefully planned life is pulled off course into an adventure far beyond any of his dreams.  

Whew, what a fast and fun read! This steampunk adventure can truly be described as rollicking and swashbuckling.  Airborn has a fast moving plot, relatable but interesting characters, and great fantasy world.  Matt simultaneously introduces us to the general mechanics of his world and his own passion for the Aurora.  

From the minute I began reading Airborn, I could not put it down.  The story keep moving from exciting event to exciting event. The world building happens naturally in the flow of the story. Matt and Kate, the rich young passenger and explorer, make excellent partners and appealing protagonists; both are tough, determined, and loyal.  Airborn has all the elements of a great adventure story: pirates, romance, suspense, fantastic creatures, and nonstop action.  And the best part? There are two more books in the trilogy, Skybreaker and Starclimber.  

This book will definitely appeal to lovers of adventure stories.  Airborn could be sold to readers who enjoy classic science fiction and pirate stories like those by Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson as well as lovers of most recent fantasy adventures.  It could also be paired with other steampunk style novels like Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series

4/5 STARS 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier
Raina just wants to get through sixth grade.  Then one night she trips and smacks her front teeth into the pavement.  Now, Raina has to deal with a succession of crazy dentistry drama on top of the everyday confusions that seem to come with growing up.  

Delightful-that's my gut one-word description of this great graphic novel.  Based on her own experiences, Telgemeier's story will resonate with a lot of young readers; it's  both funny and painful-like any heartfelt and honest recollection of middle school must be.  Raina's thoughts, worries, and reactions will be very familiar to any other middle schooler; she is a spunky but reassuringly average protagonist.  The illustration style fits the characters and the age group.  Telgemeier uses clean lines and bright colors; the characters' figures and faces clearly express a range of emotions, supporting the story's focus on Raina's feelings and personal experiences.  

Smile has been one of my first forays into the graphic novel genre and it definitely made a very positive impact. Its subject and style could attract a range of readers, including some that might normally be less likely to pick up a graphic novel.  Also, Smile is great example of the diversity within the graphic novel genre now; it doesn't fit into the stereotype of a comic book that springs to mind for many adults, and some teens, when you say 'graphic novel.'  

Overall, Smile is delightful graphic novel with wide-spread appeal for a variety of teens sixth grade and up.