In the middle of book 112 and just can’t bring myself to read another page — I really do want to read on because there are the promised twists and turns and horror and freakiness (from the reviews) — but this book has something that always goes against my reading taste: grossly exaggerated and blatant meanness of school children and adults that reads like a really really bad episode of something from Nick Jr. or Disney Channel. I don’t think I mind the meanness as much as how NOT inventive these behaviors/dialogs are. I can only take that many pages of these unpleasant and cliched behaviors/dialogs before I simply stop trusting the author and his/her ability to weave a quality tale. Moving on…
Tag Archives: 2012 Reads
This tale started off dealing with one aspect of sibling relationship meandered into a slightly more complicated story that deals with some tough decisions that many young people have to face: friendship and the pressure that comes with it — when choosing the morally correct path is in conflict with securing a strong bond with someone you admire. I think the book succeeds in preaching the “right way” but the problem is also that a young reader can sniff that obvious intention a mile away and might not believe in the perfect, one-sided resolution at the end of the story. The rapid loss of power of the morally questionable but charismatic child just does not ring true.
Speaking of pulling one’s compass the wrong way: book 111 has emerged recently as one of the top praised books in the field of children’s books and I finally got to read it. And I had to put aside all my ingrained political upbringings and sensibilities to appreciate the truly distinguished aspects of this title. I hate to, but I will, go back and re-read and re-look at this outstanding volume and appreciate it on its literary and artistic strengths — and to keep telling myself that this experience presented within the book is also a valid portrayal of a historical and political scene that I, like anyone who is not a trained historian of any given period or region, have only seen from a limited angle.
I thoroughly loved the gentle tone and the overall homeyness of book 109. Such a little gem. But, I definitely wonder about the “presentation for a child audience” aspect of it: who will care enough to read through the entire book which has little to no plot and almost no conflict/resolution. I do see it as a lovingly shared book from an older generation to the younger. Perhaps it can inspire the adult readers to recall something special in their youth to share with the younger listeners. There is a part of the book that gave me pause: my 2012 political sensors were called into action although I don’t fault the author for including faithfully what were true of a yesteryear practices. I just wonder if the young readers/listeners will pick up on the fact that things are or should be different in 21st century… Will it affect how I evaluate this book’s literary achievements? Should it? I know it should not — but it is hard when something pulls at one’s interior compass the wrong way!
Book 108 is overall a fun read and much of the world building kind of works — although the explanations for many of the “phenomenons” are not necessarily satisfactory. This seems to me one of the many new speculative fictions that are published now that wouldn’t have had a chance to see the light of day a few years back prior to the success of books such as Hunger Games or Twilight. There are some holes that the author (and the editors) never addressed and one in particular that really troubles me and that makes the book much less successful in my mind.
In some ways, 107 and 106 are similar: unlikely scenarios and characters thrown into a highly imaginative world. This one, I like! Much more. Just because it fits my taste better — there is the slightly dark, somewhat melancholy tone blended with a lot of very ironic and somewhat cynical humor. Unlikely and reluctant heroes tend to also win my heart. First book in a series, this book did not end happily but that is oddly satisfying and also quite in keeping with the rest of the book. It promises a great series… I do hope the sequels are planned out, being written, and will maintain the same literary quality as this first title!
The things I really like about book 106 (105 was a half-finished, meh, kind of book… so, no entry) are the blending of unlikely elements (time, place, events, characters, elements, etc.), the excitements during certain vivid scenes, and the potential of a really grand storyline with murky and difficult moral choices. It definitely kept my interest high the entire time. I’m not so sure that I appreciated how the book ends, though — it is set up to take the readers into the second volume but it did not quite resolve several threads that I’d have liked to see rounded up. A couple of surprising twists felt more for convenience sake than well thought out plans by the author. No matter what, this is a FUN read!
Have been reading, finishing, or half-finishing several books since the last blog update. The best of them, for me as a reader, is book 104, which, for a little while, I thought it perhaps too “sophisticated” in its tone and style to be appreciated by most children so I put it aside to sample others. But it kept staring at me from my desk in that enticing way: the great title, the beautiful book design, and the intriguing premises and characters I already encountered from reading just the first few chapters. I went back to the book and was rewarded with one of the best reading experiences this year: the tension of the main “mystery thread” kept me interested throughout, the just right amount of details in the setting kept me immersed in this world, and the effective presentation with both dialogs and events of a theme that is relevant to every young person growing up regardless of time or place definitely delighted me. Toward the last few chapters, I kept quietly “begging” the author, “C’mon, make sure you don’t mess up the ending. Make sure it is hopeful, satisfying, and not cloying or unbelievable.” It did not fail my plea! Now, I have to think hard again about the few plot points that perhaps push the book toward the 14-as-youngest-reader direction…
There is a very deliberate “presentation of the theme” here — a bit too deliberate for my taste: you can see the pieces of the pattern that come together really really well. I feel like I’m looking at a mosaic path, but the grout lines are too wide and too obvious to be truly beautiful. Definitely not a seamless delineation here! Not that the theme is not a worthy one, or that the characters not endearing, or that the setting or the telling not convincing. It’s just that the book never rises above the “one revelation” level and that kind of brought down the distinguishing quality for me.
Mesmerizing, fascinating, dark and beautiful — filled with allusions, illusions, and the skillful distillation of language, book 102 is definitely one customized for me! Alas, I don’t feel that it is written with any normal children in mind — the allusions to the historical setting and the characters’ life experiences will be puzzling and quite frustrating for most child readers. I had to put it down and move on to some other titles! But, it will probably be the first book I get back to finish at the beginning of February!
Finished a wonderful book tonight. It’s a perfect kind of book for me, as a reader: mysterious, somewhat magical, slightly melancholy, and the prose sings — and the narrative voices (yup, there are two different narrative forms) flow so naturally, with very distinct “accents.” This would have been one of those perfect fit for me as a young reader of 11 or 12, pondering life’s many mysteries: fate, romance, friendship, family ties, etc. I am unsure which of my students might fall in love with this book but I hope to find some readers that will really appreciate the special quirkiness and slightly ethereal tone. This is probably my favorite book out of many by this author. So pleased to have picked it up and finished reading it.
100 and beyond. Finished book 100 yesterday. It is as fun and enjoyable as the previous volumes in the series and I am looking forward to the continuation!!! I feel like clarifying the number count of these readings: Over the past months, I definitely read more than 100 books — or at least, attempted to read many many more. But, some of them were apparently not at a level to win the Newbery, so after the first few chapters, I simply had to put them down and move on to the next title — just so enough books were sampled. So far, I am feeling all right with “catching” the books worthy of note but still apprehensive — have we, collectively, missed something superb? There are still fall/winter books arriving in boxes. Do we have enough time to get through them all before nominations deadlines in November and December?
Opinions will be very split and strong over book 99! I am in love with this one! There is the beauty of language, the play of language, and the effective use of the language — in telling the story, in portraying the characters, and in creating the worlds and moods within the pages. What a wonderful addition to this year’s already stellar line up of outstanding books for children! I do understand, however, this is not going to be a book embraced across the board by most children. It will take special readers to appreciate its genius but I suspect that there will also be plenty of readers who “get” some parts of the story and still love it for the adventures, and special powers, and the emotional journey of the protagonist(s.)
A prime example of great writing but not a great story or a great contribution to the field of children’s literature, book 98 has such potential, but falls short. So many sentences with wonderful cadences and just masterfully constructed: not complex sentence structures or advanced vocabulary, but you just know that the author took care to write and “listen” to the rhythm of each sentence — to convey humor, to excite, to elicit empathy, and to show character traits. But in the end, the book is just a series of character portraits and vignettes loosely threaded by one central (but not really) character’s “adventures.” There is a gentle and deep theme that I really appreciate and can see it being dissected and discussed and made more meaningful in a classroom setting if the book is required reading — but I don’t know how many young readers will pick it up, read it, and love it. As I write these words — I realized that actually I liked the book more than I had first thought… and that it might just be a book that WILL be loved by children. I’m going to test it out on my young students! (And yes, it is getting closer to that time … nominations…. and I’m second guessing myself every moment these days…. I don’t think I can judge books and their qualities any more… PANIC!!!!)
Oh my, oh my, oh my — book 99 is making my heart tingle. So original and so well written… I’m only starting it and hope for one of my favorite of the year to emerge — please be amazing all the way through the finish line! Book 98 will be written about soon.
Really happy to have found a book that I can easily recommend to my 4th grade girls who are into Lauren Myracles Winnie Years series. Book 97 is a new title by an old hand in creating books for MG girls with a plucky main character, often with funny situations and some wise-cracking observations, who learns some valuable life lessons through the ups and downs of a school year or a summer — mostly about friendship and family, and of course, self-discovery, too. Solid.
I scanned at least half of the book because book 96 contains so much unnecessary internal monologue and repetitive emotional stress that about only half of the words actually matter. There are also some serious gaping holes in the plot — so conveniently working out almost every time for the protagonist even though it really should not have. The concept is quite interesting, and the science seems plausible in this cautionary science fiction of a potential near future, and the strongest part of the book is the convincing descriptions of a world where ordinary activities that we take for granted now have become impossible for those living under drastically changed environments. An example of a good high concept in the hand of an author whose skills in plotting are lacking.
My emotions changed from the incredibly emotional height of appreciating the author’s ability to create empathy and scientific facts and urgency in the first half of the book, to feeling somewhat of a repetitive dullness reading different chapters of similar scenarios on the subject. The ending picks up momentum when the author addresses practical actions that the young readers could be part of. As a whole, it is still an outstanding addition to the world of nonfiction for children: handsomely designed and faithfully documented — and it is evident that the author uses the language and a tone that really speaks easily to the young readers: the technical terms are fluidly embedded and explained within the body of the text and there is a strong emotional tug at the readers’ heart for most of the book.
As Jonathan Hunt pointed out there at Heavy Medal, we are seeing so many sequels and companion books of former Newbery award and honor books. Just finished yet another one. Book 94 is a wonderful addition to the previous title even though the humor is reduced, the wit is heightened, but the wisdom is as sophisticated and profound. There is such a melancholy quality permeating throughout the book that I see only certain contemplative young readers will appreciate it. But, when they DO understand and appreciate, they will love it and this book can be someone’s life-forming brick in building their “house of life philosophies.”
As I see it, everyone of us (especially long time readers) builds a little “house” of life in our heart: philosophies, wisdom, beliefs, and characters and we use what we find in books as brick and mortar. We might also use occasional elements to decorate the inside of that house. This book is a solid brick for someone needing to see how to deal with life’s often injustices and to still have the heart to seek little incidences of kindness and love. (And even though I really dislike that there are dead animals in the story, the author manages to make the events illuminating of those life philosophies.)
This short nonfiction on an ever-updated topic is definitely written with a child reader in mind. The author of book 93 uses a conversational tone and employs many fun comparisons to help illustrate difficult scientific concepts. I have a few issues with the book: 1st is its design (not elegant at all) and changes of font sizes which render some pages/captions really hard to read (for my older eyes, so it might not be a problem for young readers.) Another is that there is one somehow “big” question that was never really addressed and I am sure that many readers would be interested in knowing at least about the speculations of current scientists. (A quick internet search took me to clear and reliable information sites that address my curiosity… so I wonder why the author never explored that aspect — which is basis of many science fiction stories — in this book.)