Book reviewer extraordinaire!

Archive for March, 2013

Thea Stilton and the Cherry Blossom Adventure by Thea Stilton

Read from March 25 to 29, 2013
This was the first Thea Stilton book I have read and there wasn’t much Thea Stilton in it. The story was about the “Thea Sisters” instead. A group of teenage girls who are friends with Thea and admire her so much they call themselves the Thea Sisters. The girls visit a Japanese school where they meet and become best friends with a Japanese student. A kidnapping, a theft and a betrayal set the stage for heartwarming reconciliation between father and daughter. In the end, the kidnapper, the thief and the betrayal are rectified and they all live happily ever after.

I like the Thea Stilton series for the same reasons I like Geronimo Stilton, the books contain cultural information and a wonderful array of vocabulary words. My students love the graphic novel-esque feel to the books. The down side to these books is that they are written in a format method. After a couple of the books I am bored. This Thea Stilton book did not excite me as much as I thought it would. Still, for third and fourth grade reading ability the books will hold the interest and students may actually learn something while they read!

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Surf’s Up, Geronimo

Although I normally LOVE Geronimo Stilton books for their cultural, physical information and the entertaining way in which the books are written, I felt this one was not as good.

Premise: Geronimo feels it is time for a vacation and his cousin agrees. Cousin Trap leads Geronimo to a shady-looking travel agency and then teams up to bully Geronimo into buying an over-priced vacation that turns into a horrendous affair. The plane is dirty, the food inedible, the hotel roach infested, the beach over-crowded, the ocean laden with sharks. The vacation is horrible!

My issue with this book is how much bullying takes place and how easily Geronimo allows it to happen. His cousin, the travel agent, the staff at the airline, the hotel, and even his sister, Thea, bullies Geronimo. The books provide great vocabulary and usually information on the location or adventure in the book. This particular one fell short for me.

The Sword Bearer by Teddy Jacobs

You may know by now that I do not usually write bad reviews. I can find something good about any story I read. Unfortunately, this book broke the mold. I really did not find anything worthwhile in this book.

“Tired of his controlling father treating him like a child, sixteen-year-old Anders Tomason yearns for grown-up adventure. Until the day when he opens a magic portal by accident, and a Kriek girl bursts into his locked room with a chemical warlock hot on her trail. Now Anders will discover just how much his parents had been protecting him from, and at what cost.” Goodreads excerpt.

Read on March 25, 2013
I like reading new YA fiction because you usually find some lovely gems. However, gem this story was not. I kept hoping the story would take off but I felt like I was treading water. I did not feel any real angst for Anders, the pimply-faced teen who just seems to flounder. While the story started off slowly it really did not give me enough information for me to bond with him as a main character. In fact, I could not bond with any of the characters. I felt no loss at the deaths, I felt no relief when Anders and his friends made their way to safety. Nothing. The story did not draw me in. The worst part of the story was the abrupt ending. Actually, it did not “end” at all. The story just stopped in a weird place. The inserted first chapter of book two felt more like the ending of book one.

It also felt as though the author really has no clue as to how modern teens speak or think. Jacobs tried too hard to be a sixteen year old boy. Too many references to pimples and the characters were too flat and unbelievable. I would not suggest reading this book until it has had a couple go-rounds with an editor and serious re-writing to flesh out the characters and storyline.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember

The City of Ember (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City of Ember

City of Ember (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An interesting book based on the “what if the world was about to end?” scenario. The story begins with someone telling a brief tale, somewhat cautionary, but also with an explanation of what was to happen next.

A city, surrounded by a dome. No way in and no way out. The city was built to keep the inhabitants safe from global environmental failure. Fail-safes were put in place: food, water, clothing, materials to live on in the manner the people were accustomed, and a box containing directions on how to get out once the danger was over – or at least when they thought the danger was over. Unfortunately, the box was lost for many years and those who were supposed to know about it forgot. When it was found, it wasn’t by the right people. Actually, it was found and opened by a toddler who still liked to chew paper. See the problem?

Her sister and a friend decipher the instructions just enough.

I can’t wait to read book two to see where they end up and how they survive.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Times Square / dusk

Times Square / dusk (Photo credit: George Rex)

Cover of "The Cricket in Times Square"

Cover of The Cricket in Times Square

A sweet little cricket finds himself lost in the big subway station in New York. He longs for his home in the meadow in Connecticut. He meets a lovely mouse and friendly cat who help him promote his musical talent. He is found by a little boy whose family owns a paper and magazine stand. The family business is suffering, they have a series of unfortunate events, and life is tough for them all. The cricket brings about fame and fortune before he sadly tells his friends he wants to go home.

Another great period book to discuss with students. Different cultures,  immigrants, opera, lifestyle differences between the city and countryside, and economics. Enjoyable read.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Entrance Hall  - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Entrance Hall – Metropolitan Museum of Art (Photo credit: mgrayflickr)

The Metropolitan Museum of art in New York City.

The Metropolitan Museum of art in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brother and sister, Jamie and Claudia Kincaid, decide to run away from home. Not because they are being mistreated, not really, but to make a point. They run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and live in the museum! While there they discover a statue, and angel, possibly created by a famous sculptor! Claudia and Jamie decide to solve the mystery of the creator and find out why is was sold to the museum for only $225.00.

What I love about this book as an educator is the teachable moments.Economics and inflation – the book was written in the late sixties and students are fascinated at how the siblings lived on less than $24.00 for a week. I love telling them how much gasoline cost when I was a child! They also have no clue as to the use of an automat. Hint: It has to do with food.

Great discussions to be had. Read it and remember a much simpler time in American history!

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Book Report Covers

Book Report Covers (Photo credit: m kasahara)

This story still chokes me up. Not because of the dog but because of the boy. It is an old-timey story of what it was like when America was new in Texas. Men had a job to do to provide for their families. That job took them far and wide away from their families. This is the story of how a family had to make changes and make do without their protector and provider. It is the story of how a boy became a man and how his perspective of family changed as a result. Love it!

What I find amazing is the fact that my students did not feel saddened at the loss of the father, the innocence, and the dog. Nothing. No emotion. Does that mean my students are no longer capable of feeling? I don’t think so. I do think they see so much drama, not the good kind, on television they have become apathetic. They feel no empathy because it is not over-dramatized and the emotion of this book must be felt to understand the book. It makes me sad that these children are spoon-fed emotion, action, and reaction without requiring understanding and sympathy for what others have gone through. This actually terrifies me as I wonder what this group of children will become without developing that inner emotion and empathy for others.

<shudder>

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