Tuesday, December 23, 2008
A few years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Lois Lowry speak. I walked away from that afternoon with a goal to read all of her books. Well, that hasn't exactly happened, but the intention is still there. That's why I put her book, Gathering Blue, on my list for the Young Adult Challenge.
Gathering Blue is a companion to The Giver, which nearly everyone in my generation read in elementary or middle school. I can't even count the number of times I've brought up that book, only to hear, "Oh man! I loved that book!" Naturally, I was curious about the companion novel.
According to Lowry, she wanted to write two books about a time other than our own. Each novel tells the story of what life would be like if civilization's technology progressed (The Giver) or regressed (Gathering Blue). What a fascinating idea.
Gathering Blue is Kira's story. In Kira's community the disabled are discarded, women are forbidden to read, and people are governed out of fear of beasts. In many ways, this setup could be compared to M. Night Shyamalan's The Village. In short, not an enlightened crowd. Kira is nearly thrown out of the village due to her twisted leg until the council discovers her special gift of threading. She is allowed to stay, but at what price?
As with all science fiction, it's kind of hard to explain. It sounds a little out there unless you read it. Luckily, Lowry has the gift of creating intricate yet easy to understand microcosms of life. Not to mention a little premonitoin of 9/11. Eerie.
Recommendation: Starts out slow and picks up speed. Fans of The Giver will definitely be interested in a possible cameo.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
So I'm really caught up in childrens literature. It must have something to do with being surrounded by it 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. But I'm not complaining. To prepare for a book talk tomorrow morning with some fourth and fifth graders, I read Who Is Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas by Martha Freeman.
Something strange is happening on Chickadee Court. Every year the 12 houses each display one day of Christmas in an elaborate staging of The Twelve Days of Christmas. This year, someone is up to no good. One piece of decoration is stolen each night. Who would steal the Twelve Days of Christmas? And could it be related to a string of toy store robberies in the area? Alex and Yasmeen are desperate to find out... well, Yasmeen a little more so than Alex.
In the process of solving the mystery, the story touches on several themes: guilt, prejudice, community, friendship, and getting your buns off the couch and experiencing real fun!
Recommendation: A fun read aloud to kids of all ages for the month of December. Who doesn't want to try their hand at solving a mystery?
Friday, December 5, 2008
Although I'm almost certain Hollywood has damaged another good young adult novel, I will give it credit for bringing my attention to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I didn't realize it was a book until I saw it on display at Powells... a feature it was given I'm sure due to the movie release.
I added it to my list of books for the Young Adult Challenge, and I'm glad I did.
In alternating chapters, Cohn (writing as Norah) and Levithan (Nick) tell the story of Nick and Norah over the course of one night. They meet in a club when Nick asks Norah to be his 5 minute girlfriend when his recent ex shows up with her new guy. Norah only agrees because Nick's ex is also the last person she wants to see at the moment. When Nick's friends secretly pay Norah to entertain Nick for the night... a series of events takes off that just may shape up as a new relationship between the two.
The structure of the book is similar to Flipped except that Flipped retells almost the exact same moment from the other perspective, while N&N moves the story forward in each chapter. I really like the potential to teach perspective with books like these.
Ok. This book is so angsty. Norah is all over the place I probably wouldn't want to hang out with her... but Nick seems into it. The two find similiar interests in music and being sorta Straight Edge. Since when do Straight Edge kids make it into novels? Even if they're only the sorta kind. As a sorta Straight Edge kid myself, works for me.
Now, I haven't seen the film adaptation, but I suspect it differs. My impression of the trailers is that Nick and Norah are trying to track down a drunk friend all night. This doesn't really happen in the book. I also don't really see Michael Cera portraying the book version of Nick. And I wonder if all the racy bits were kept in? I was actually a little surprised with the details. I don't think I'll ever look at the ice room at a hotel the same ever again.
Recommendation: Doesn't everyone want to see the joining of two battered hearts?