January 2005 Reads

Kira Kira

author: Cynthia Kadohata
audience: 6th and up
historical fiction

This is 2005 Newbery Winner — I did not read it prior to the announcement of the award, so read it with a mind-set of finding worthiness of this winning title, so I was probably more critical than usual. Still, I could not really figure out why it was an award winning book. There are incidents in the book that show sloppy writing/editing: after stating that a “couple” of years past without much going on, the next “going on” happens 4 and a half years later. A couple never equals 4.5. The narrator’s voice also shifts from the young and naive tone and old and sophisticated tone constantly. Unlike the masterful handling in Spinelli’s “Milk Weed” in which the narrator also goes in and out of “understanding” of his situation, both as a character IN THE MOMENT, and as a narrator REMEMBERING those moments, Kira Kira’s narrator shifts tones without showing such “designed” inconsistancy. Instead, it is jarring. Someone says that this reads more like a memoir, and I agree — there is little plot structure. However, even as a memoir, there should be consideration of momentum. The meandering nature of side-stories and family narratives may make it a less appealing read for young readers. I do think that readers who love SAD STORIES will really like this really DEPRESSINGLY SAD story… it does have a somewhat hopeful ending….


Godless

author: Peter Hautman
audience: 7th and up
realistic fiction, YA

I can’t believe this book won the National Book Award for Young Readers this year… On the prose level, it is nothing outstanding; on the philosophical level, it does not leave the readers deeper understanding of religions or the teens who are struggling with their beliefs; on the plot level, it is a shapeless mess with a sloppy ending. I admit that it did keep my interest up because the premise is an interesting one and I do enjoy reading the “Genesis” of the religion of the Water Towers. However, there is such detachment from all the characters (the ones that SHOULD be sympathetic are not really so) and there is NO character growth or development at all. I am shaking my head in disbelief, again, that the NBA’s judges would have chosen this piece of work as the BEST book of the year… so weird…


Peter and the Starcatchers

author: Dave Barry and Ridley Peterson
audience: 4-6
fantasy, adventures

I enjoyed the inventiveness of this story and the fast pacing, for the first 4/5 of the book. The last 1/5 got quite tedious with very short chapters, switching perspectives, and not that much happening for quite a few chapters… all with one goal in mind: covering as much Neverland Cast as possible and spiraling toward the conclusion that allows the “beginning” of Peter Pan and the Never Land… Unfortunately, this Peter is in no form or shape resembling the TRUE Peter Pan. He, (the one here) is simply too nice, too noble, and too friendly. There is no trace of the devious and a-moralistic nature that makes Peter Pan (the real one) so charming and unusual. This should still be a fun read for many children.


Brilliance of the Moon

author: Lian Hearn
audience: 7th and up
fantasy, YA, series

Although this 3rd installment in the Otori tales is no where near the quality, intensity, and beauty of the first one, I still enjoyed reading the conclusion of the story. The battle/war scenes, the pirates, and the suffering of Kaede all have huge impact on this reader. It drew me into a world to lose myself and I did willingly. I did not want to leave that make-believe land and time. (But, I don’t need another volume, unless it possesses the same sparkling prose as the first one…)


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