Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Book Review

This is a little non-conventional, as book reviews go. It is more a guide for reading with your KIDS than yourself. I somehow know a lot of people with kids just behind mine in school, so I thought maybe it would be helpful. I've got a 14 and a 10 year old and have read with both since One Fish Two Fish in utero. I've read to them every night, though my daughter refused about 3 months into 6th grade, and I get the feeling my son may do the same, but we've been through a LOT of books together. Some are parent friendly, some, not so much... I'm only reviewing series, as I could hardly begin to address individual books, but this will give a good guide as to what parent and child might (and might not) like TOGETHER.

Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer):
Boy genius and criminal mastermind—these are smart and it is a nice twist of an evil boy genius growing a conscience in an unlikely manner. I loved the first couple, but the glimmer is wearing off, not because the later books are worse, I don't think, but because while they count on you having read the earlier to some degree, they are largely separate stories with more of the same, rather than one long story (regular readers will know that wears on me). Conclusion: read one or two together and let your 11+ child decide if they want to keep going.

(Erin Hunter):
This is a series about tribal cats, kept relatively realistic to the extent one CAN when giving cats humanized thoughts. Four tribes battle over territory, hunting grounds, leadership... The series was entertaining...the first time. The problem is the author (who is actually two people) seems to have decided if one set of 7 is good, 42 sets is better... Conclusion: I would read the first set and pretend that is all there is. The later iterations are not nearly as interesting and I quickly grew annoyed.

Series of Unfortunate Events
(Lemony Snicket):
These are a GIANT chuckle if you are at all into word play. As a story it is over the top and might make you roll your eyes as an adult, but Lemony Snicket is a writing junkie's writer... grammar jokes, word jokes, even writing technique jokes. My son got some, I had to explain others, but he was always entertained with the story and I was always entertained with the telling, which makes for good reading time. Conclusion: Read them! Probably an eight or nine year old is the idea audience for the STORY and you are the ideal audience for the TELLIN.

Pendragon (D.H. MacHale):
We just finished the last of these. I liked them, but didn't LOVE them. I think had I had a recommendation, I would wish someone had said, 'let your son read them' because they are GOOD, but it is a long series and I grew bored with it eventually—it doesn't quite have the humor or complexity to keep an adult engaged. Conclusion: Let your 10-13 year old read them.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians
(Rick Riordan):
These are EXCELLENT—HIGH recommendation. A tween boy learns his ADHD diagnosis is really part of the normal profile for a demi-god, or child of one of the Greek Gods (in his case, Poseidon)... Olympus has sort of... moved with the techtonic plates... or something, and is now centered atop the Empire State Building, and the kids of the Olympians are being called to help in a battle against the Titans. It is a brilliant meshing of adolescent jokes and mythology—many mythological creatures are given literal or endearing forms that make them very funny, and the adventure is just right in terms of adrenaline without too much gore. Conclusion: BUY them. You may want to reread, and certainly every family member will need to read them!

Tomorrow When the War Began (John Marsden):
This is my daughter's favorite series ever, and it is MAJORLY intense. It begins with a group of teens who 'go bush' to camp for a week when school gets out (southern hemisphere means this is December). While gone, Australia is invaded and they come home to find their families have been taken prisoners, their animals are dead or dying, and hostile forces are everywhere. They initially hide, but eventually decide they need to do what they can for their country and become guerilla soldiers. It is FABULOUS in the non-judgmental, but vivid presentation of the choice to kill, when it might or might not be justified, and the consequences to the people involved in either case. It is extremely realistic, and very graphic, but I felt like it was an incredibly valuable experience to have read this together, and they were page-turning thrillers, every last one. My daughter and I read them when she was a 5th grader, and at that age I'd say—only a kid who's been talked to honestly about some of the world's horrors is ready for it. Probably middle school is better together, and I wouldn't suggest them until high school alone, but Conclusion: they are MUST READs for a daughter at least (my son won't warm up to the female narrator).

Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling):
Best books EVER. These were the first 'novels' for both of my kids and made them real readers. The basic story works for a child as young as 6 or 7 (and at least in our case I think they didn't really attend to things that were disturbing), then as a teen they get the romantic undertones, the friendship stuff, etc... and then you and your PhD can debate symbolism, mythology, literary techniques—JK Rowling is my hero. Conclusion: OWN them.

Other Series my kids have read on their own and loved:

Cirque de Freak (Darren Shan)(my son's FAVORITE ever—urban teenage vampires)
Alex Rider ((teen spy)
The Uglies (more girl oriented—thought provoking series on what appearances really mean)
Twilight (mind-melting MUSH but your teen daughters will surely insist)--read at least one yourself so you can counter the idea that obsession is love and argue how badly written they are from a knowledgeable standpoint.

Happy Reading!


Joris said...

Twilight: that bad, huh? ;)

Potter: I (still) haven't gotten round to rereading the series post-DH, but I have gone back and read chapters here and there, and it's just scary how well all of it fits together -- there's tiny details and foreshadowings on just about every page that even we didn't even notice in the War...

sarahsparticle said...

One comment about Warriors. My 9-year-old son was reading it last night, and he came into my office crying his eyes out. There are parts that are not appropriate for very sensitive kids (for some odd reason, the gods have declared that medic cats can not fall in love. When one does, the punishment is that her kittens die. Dead Kittens!!! What kid could handle that? :) )

Watery Tart said...

True! I forgot that detail on the Warriors! My son isn't particularly sensitive, but we also read them together, so when stuff was awful, we could talk about how it was unfair.

And Joris--she will ALWAYS be the Master *bows at feet of JK Rowling*