Sunday, November 30, 2008

Good books, October/November 2008

Places in Time by Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, ill. Randy Jones, 2003, 48 pages.

Each 2-page spread has a map of a building, settlement, or journey that's important in American history. The kids (and I) spent some fascinated hours looking at the detailed illustrations and reading the accompanying text.

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, ill. Nathan Hale, 2008, 144 pages.

I checked out this graphic novel (we old-timers would say "comic book") solely because I've liked Shannon Hale's other books. I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading this one. It's kind of a cross between the traditional Rapunzel fairy tale and a Western, if you can picture that. The kids all loved it.

The Cay by Theodore Taylor, Listening Library audiobook narrated by LeVar Burton; original book 1969, 144 pages.

I had vague memories of a teacher in elementary school reading part of this to our class. I checked out the book a couple of months ago to see if it was any good. It's the story of Phillip, an 11-year-old boy who is shipwrecked with an elderly black man named Timothy. It's a great story of survival and selflessness. I loved it and wanted to share it with my kids. But the book uses a strong dialect for Timothy's speech and it was hard to know how to read it aloud without making it sound silly. Then I found this audiobook at the library. LeVar Burton (one of our favorite actors anyway, from Reading Rainbow and Star Trek) does a fabulous job with Timothy's accent. We really enjoyed it and I strongly recommend it!

Pillage by Obert Skye, 2008, 312 pages.

I haven't cared for Obert Skye's other books (the Leven Thumps series), but I liked this book a lot. It's a fast-moving adventure story about an orphaned boy who goes to live with his strange uncle and finds dragon eggs hidden in the back yard. Dragons are quite the fantasy cliche, but the approach to dragons in this book is one of the most original I've seen.

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, 2004, 336 pages.

I've read this several times before and listened to an audiobook version this time. (Audiobooks are great during car rides and cooking and dishwashing.) It's the story of a teenage girl, Giannine, playing a "total immersion" fantasy adventure game where you feel like you're really living the adventure. Unfortunately, the equipment gets damaged and Giannine now must win the game within a set amount of time or she will die. Over and over she makes the wrong choices and gets sent back to the start. I love the whole idea of the book, and it's brilliantly done and very funny too.

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke, 2008, 683 pages.

This is the third and final (?) novel in the Inkheart series, and I think it's the best of them. The villains and the good guys seem more real. (I was going to say they "come to life" but that would be a plot spoiler, hint hint!) M. and I talked about the ending, which she didn't completely like but I felt was pretty satisfying. This series has some (fairly mild) swearing in it which is a drawback to recommending it, but for teens who can skip past that, it's an exciting and creative story.

Alcatraz versus the Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson, 2008, 336 pages.

This is the second book in the Alcatraz series. It's a fantasy adventure series that makes fun of itself (and other books) and is built on the premise that evil librarians really rule the world (although they suppress that knowledge, which is why you weren't aware of it before). We've loved the series so far, especially the "special powers" the Smedrys have. (Alcatraz's special talent is breaking things, his grandfather's talent is arriving late for things, and one character's talent in this book is waking up looking really ugly in the morning. Now if only my similar talents would save the day sometime!)

Death in the Air by Shane Peacock, 2008, 264 pages.

This is the second in the "Boy Sherlock Holmes" series, and is very well done. M. says so too, and she's our Holmes expert. The first book explained how the teenage Sherlock first got involved in solving crimes, and this sequel describes his second detective adventure, finding out the truth behind a trapeze artist's fatal accident. It's fun to read just for the story, but if you've read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, you'll also notice the details Peacock weaves in, foreshadowing skills or interests Holmes later will show as an adult.

Nation by Terry Pratchett, 2008, 384 pages.

Most of what I've read by Terry Pratchett is his Discworld series. This book, though, is set on Earth, although not exactly in our reality. It begins with a giant wave that destroys Mau's island village and leaves him the sole survivor of his people. Daphne, a British girl, is shipwrecked on the same island, and as others arrive, Mau has to become a leader. To complicate things, his ancestors are speaking to him, and he's not sure whether to listen to them or not. It's a thought-provoking story, and since it's Terry Pratchett writing it, it's also funny -- a great combination.

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, 1599, 96 pages.

I read this with a book group (literally this time, since some of us got together and read along while watching a DVD of the play). I remember having to read it in high school and hardly understanding a word, but this time it made a lot more sense. It was interesting to see the motives of the different characters. I especially noticed the way Mark Antony used his speech to sway the opinion of the crowd, and how Cassius used public opinion (or his version of it) to sway Brutus's decisions. Definitely a timely play to read during an election year!

1 comment:

Harmony said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I'm always looking for good books for me and my kids. I didn't like the Leven Thumps series much either. I can't figure out why they are so popular.