Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review: The Giver

Many who pick up this title will be mesmerized by the story of a curious yet brave boy who is chosen to bear the memories, and thus the pain and joy, for the bland, homogenized community in which he lives. More than a few readers will find this introductory taste of dystopian fiction their first step on the way to books like 1984 and V for Vendetta. It has earned a spot in the top 20 of the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books every decade since its release, possibly for the author’s treatment of subjects like death, sex and religion. Indeed, author Lois Lowry has many times made the Most Frequently Challenged Authors list for her other books as well. When the controversy dies down, this Newbery Award-winning book will surely be seen as an engaging, thought-provoking classic – required summer reading for children 9 to 12 – much like other older, esteemed books on the same list.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Review: Bud, Not Buddy (Audio)

This book, similar in content to Holes, will have readers rooting for the underdog. Bud, the main character, loses his mother early in life but she leaves him with the advice that one door closing means another door opening. The author does a superb job of building the anticipation as readers see this opening and closing take place, not always for the best. In this audio version the narrator’s upturned intonation at the end of many sentences is a bit off-putting, as if he’s not sure of his reading. In addition, the book is written completely from a 10-year-old child’s perspective, which will endear it to the reader 8 to 12 years of age, but the narrator sounds like a gruff older man, making the story feel less believable than audio books using children’s voices such as A Series of Unfortunate Events or Blubber. Narration aside, the writing paints a picture of every scene and emotion that will still leave readers engaged with the story in this format.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Book Review: Miss Mary Mack and Other Children’s Street Rhymes

This book of street rhymes and games is perfect for the child ages 6 to 10 who has outgrown Mother Goose and the nursery and graduated to the playground. Authors Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson bring to life the verses that the modern generation spent chanting on the bus or skipping rope to as kids. Like Mother Goose, they come complete with a little controversy, too. You’ll hear about slapping your sister, k-i-s-s-i-n-g and seeing London, France and of course, underpants. Included here are rhymes that are coupled with hand clapping and ball bouncing. That’s no surprise since the same authors wrote: The Eentsy, Weentsy Spider Fingerplays and Action Rhymes (in the same format as this book) proving that physical activity and books are not mutually exclusive. The authors also include a lengthy bibliography for children who yearn for more.