I write this as part of a weekly meme hosted by http://www.unleashingreaders.com and http://www.teachmentortexts.com, these are two excellent sites to view if you are interested in kidlit or literacy in general.
This week I finished two books that are scheduled for release in August and September respectively.
The first book I finished is The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen which will be released on August 30. There are some similarities between this and Nielsen’s most popular book, The False Prince. As in the Ascendance Trilogy, Jennifer Nielsen has created a world that resembles a medieval setting which is described for the reader but not in as much detail as many high fantasy novels. I think this is because Nielsen seems to place a higher priority on people and their relationships, as this, as well as politics is what really seems to drive the action in her stories.
There is plenty of action and room to think alongside the main characters as they try to work their way through many levels of adversity. Nielsen loves to put her characters in peril and give them difficult choices and in this case readers can certainly sweat out many such decisions with Ani and Weevil. I enjoyed how some of the characters were not always what you thought they would be and I don’t mean this in a -the-butler-was-really-her-father-and-the-killer cheesy kind of plot twist at the end of a book, but more in the sense that characters are not archetypal. They have some subtle characteristics that don’t project to everyone but are known by friends.
It was the way that characters and forces come together in the plot that made the book so enjoyable for me. I am sure that fans of The False Prince would love it, but for those unfamiliar with Jennifer Nielsen’s work I also think students that would enjoy the strong character of Katniss in The Hunger Games would also like Ani in this novel as they are both characters who are willing to take on anyone. I highly recommend this one for grades four and up. Check out the really great cover.
The second book I was fortunate to read this week was The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner. This one is out on September 13. This is the first book I have read by Weiner, and I think it is the first she has written with a middle grade audience in mind. It tells the stories of three characters: a girl named Alice, a boy named Jeremy and the title character, Millie. All three do not feel like they fit into the world in which they inhabit and looking for the place you belong is one of the main topics the book addresses. There is plenty of description of Alice’s attempts to find a place at the many schools her parents sent her to. As I was reading, I thought that Alice’s inability to be seen and accepted for who she was is a tad over the top for a book that has the phrase “real tale of friendship” in its Goodreads description. However, there are events in the second half of the novel that made me think perhaps Alice was not always correct in her perception of how people perceived her.
The message of finding your place and of individuality was a good one that will appeal to some students. There is also some world building around Millie, and her clan of Yare (what we humans would rudely call Bigfoot). The story of the Yare builds in some humour, particularly Millie’s love of pop culture such as Friends, pop singers and a talent show. I think young readers might connect more with this part of the story or the plot twist at the end that further connects the three stories.
This looks to be the first in a series judging by the ending and the number 1 on the spine and there is probably enough in the ending to make readers want to know more. I wasn’t quite sure at times if I should be reading this as a realistic book and focus on the relationships or if the “paranormal” elements of the story were going to take over at some point. I think some middle school girls will give this series a try and appreciate the humour and may relate to the issues the characters are going through even if I thought some of the issues were overdone.
Up next: Of course I thought that I would be reading more books in the summer than this, but much of my reading time was spent reading Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, a great adult read by one of my favourite writers. I finished this one as well and plan to move on to reading Jackaby by William Ritter, The Fourteenth Goldfish (finally?!?!) and The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg. I am still trying to pick book club/lit circle selections for my school that we can use for our Battle of the Books next year. I have been neglecting picture books but have some good ones ordered that should arrive soon. My family is reading two books together right now. A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen (I did not think my six year old would still be around for the end of this, but she is), and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Both are very enjoyable to share with our kids. Happy Summer reading to all!