Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shorter Musings: MG Fantasy WITH ANIMALS!

Sometimes I read a book, and I even enjoy it, but I don't have much to say about it. I jot down a few thoughts and then I move on. When these start to pile up, I put them together in one post.

Here are some MG Fantasy books (animals included) I have read recently with my thoughts.

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz
 I concede it was well written. And it will appeal to a certain group on the younger end of the MG/upper end of the Early Chapter Book spectrum. I did not enjoy it at all.  I almost DNFed it. I would have except I didn't have a back up book the day I was reading it. (Lesson: ALWAYS have a back up book.) This book embodies everything I LOATHE about animal stories and it was far too precious. In a world where Charlotte's Web exists why do we need this book? (We don't.) 

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo 
I adore the concept of Flora and Ulysses. A squirrel receives super powers (that involve poetry writing) after being sucked up by a new ultra-vacuum and pairs up with a lonely girl to save the world. The book is filled with larger than life characters and adventures that kids will find hilarious while reading it, if they can get through the difficult language. (Words like posit and malfeasance are regularly used by the two child protagonists.)The sentence level writing is excellent, but overall this book was just too full of quirky for me to love. Way too full. This is a one way ticket to Quirky Town in Quirky Country, residents all super-quirky. A little quirky gives a book a certain shine. Too much quirky and I'm going to not enjoy it. Unfortunately this one fell in the latter camp for me. I do think it would make an outstanding read aloud and could be tremendously useful teaching writing to upper level elementary students.

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck
The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail is a cute read about a young mouse who lives at Buckingham Palace in the days surrounding Queen Victoria's Jubilee. He is an engaging little mouse and his story includes all of the requisite elements of a mouse tale: an encounter with a cat, a barn scene, some startled royalty, a flight around in the talons of a flying creature, and a discovery of his importance despite his small size. Nothing new or ground breaking, but it is all well written and fun. It would make an excellent read aloud for the 1st-3rd grade crowd.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paulo Bacigalupi
I didn't enjoy reading this book at all. The characterization was shallow and there was little actual plot development. When you factor in the didactic tone and the grossness of it all, I had a hard time finishing it. It had so much potential, but all the characters are one note stereotypes. Even the heroes had very little to offer that was likeable. Bacigalupi definitely wanted to write a book that shed some light on the issues of the exploitation of illegal immigrant workers and the overall dodginess of the meat packing industry. All well and good. We should be discussing and thinking about those things, but his execution of this was heavy handed. Kids will be drawn to it because they like creepy gross books, but beyond that there is nothing on offer here.

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