Some shorter musings on recent reads.
Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbit
Cloud and Wallfish is a story of friendship and adventure set in East Berlin in 1989. It is an interesting look into a time and place that we typically don't see much of in MG. Each chapter has a "case file" addition that give some explanations and historical background. I'm not entirely sold on this format, but these sections are not necessary to the story and kid readers will make up their own minds what they will do with that. I adored both Noah/Jonah and Claudia and the growth of their friendship. I was really annoyed by Noah's parents through the entire book. It lessened my enjoyment of the overall story quite a bit. I kind of hated them. It is a fun story though and definitely one I'll be adding to recommendation lists.
I received an ARC from the author.
The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli
Kids who get part time jobs working at a farm for extinct animals have many adventures. How cute is that? This is one of those zany madcap short fantasy adventures perfect for kids transitioning from early chapter books to MG novels. It isn't my particular cup of tea, but it is perfect for its target audience and a definite must have for elementary libraries. Every kid who loves books about animals will gobble this up.
The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King, and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long
This is a fairy tale story. It's not a retelling or reworking, it is a story with a fairy tale set-up that is wholly its own plot. With shades of the Canterbury Tales via a band of mismatched traveling companions with their own agendas and stories. It isn't anything special all told. There are far better fairy tale stories out there. What is nice about this one is it is a mostly humorous and heart warming story geared more for the upper middle grade range where we see less of those. Yet there are still kids who want them. It's also a good pick for strong younger readers. There is a lot of exposition especially at the end and at times it is easy to confuse some of the characters. Overall it's a good book to have on hand for recommending to kids who can't get enough of fairy tales.
Moo by Sharon Screech
The story here is fine. I guess. Incredibly predictable and cliché, but there's nothing terrible about it. The characters are fairly stock with little development. There is definitely emotional manipulation at the end to tug on your heartstrings and make the book feel important. Yawn. The worst thing about this book is its atrocious formatting. It is a "blank verse" poetry novel, which is often used as a blanket way of covering all sorts of linguistic sins. This could be the textbook example of a book that didn't need to be blank verse, had no reason to be blank verse, but being blank verse made it easier to fill the required number of pages. The strange (and truly frustrating ) part of this is that I use the term "blank verse" VERY loosely. There are paragraphs of narrative prose inserted into the book will-nilly for no other seeming reason than "why not?". There will be a whole chapter that's all narrative followed by a chapter of verse. Or verse, random paragraph, more verse. There is no rhyme or logic to it and it serves no purpose.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Yes, it is yet another much hyped and lauded MG book of 2016 I don't like. It will be easy for many to dismiss me as simply having a contrary year, but really why the love for this book in the kidlit world? It is extremely well written. It is not a book for children though. I'm not saying this in a way that means "teacher book" like I would call Pax or that it's like a Pixar movie in book form like I would call Hokey Pokey. It is an adult literary fiction novel never mind the age of the protagonist. You know how the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley could technically be sold as MG because of Flavia's age? Yeah. I think any one who has read those books is in agreement their placement in adult mystery fiction is right. Just because this book is about bullying and a young protagonist doesn't make it MG. It's non-linear in many places, it meanders in stream of consciousness thought, it wallows in the misery of human existence, and is hopeless hopeless hopeless. It is everything I hate about adult lit fic. It exemplifies all the reasons why I spend my time reading (actual) children's fiction and only read genre fiction when I read adult. I won't be recommending this to anyone, but if depressing adult fiction is your jam, you may want to try it.