Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wonderstruck -- Brian Selznick

Don't be daunted by the size. It's mostly pictures.

Wonderstruck is made up of two seemingly unrelated stories; Ben's in the written portion, and a mystery girl's in the pictures. The way the two stories come together is truly fascinating, and with all the clues to find, it was one of the most interactive books I've ever read. That being said, the writing, while good, was not extraordinary. Without the added charm of the pictures, this would be a much slower and less entertaining read. I found the plot threads came together a little too easily and perfectly, but the end is charming nevertheless.

Even if it starts out a bit slow, this is book worth reading to the end.

Estimated Reading Level: 4th grade
Grade: A

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Uprising -- Margaret Peterson Haddix

Beautiful and empowering.

This story follows three young women living during the era of woman's suffrage and worker strikes. Although I don't normally like books split between multiple narrators, Haddix has managed to create characters who are unique from each other without becoming caricatures. I did occasionally have to check the beginning of a chapter to remind myself who was talking, but it wasn't enough of a distraction to take away from the story. The writing is vivid and emotionally charged, and the plot is utterly engrossing.

There are some dark passages here that may be more difficult for young readers, but they are entirely worth it.

Estimated Reading Level: 6th grade
Grade: A

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bunnicula -- Deborah and James Howe

The cover made this look like such a fun story, but . . .

I can see the appeal of this storyline--the juxtaposition of a cute bunny and his Dracula-like powers is certainly interesting. The writing, however, is immature, boring, and unnecessarily simplified. The characters are flat and life-less. There is no suspense, no tension, and no twists or surprises whatsoever, and the end was predictable and anti-climatic. Even with a few humorous lines in the dialogue, this book is painfully underwhelming.

Just because a book is short and meant for children doesn't mean it has to be poorly written. There are so many better books in the world. If you want cute horror, read Eva Ibbotson or Roald Dahl*. If you want talking animals, read C.S. Lewis or Brian Jacques. You can always find something better than Bunnicula.

*Edit: Ibbotson and Dahl don't technically write horror, so I'm on the search for a good children's horror book.

Estimated Reading Level: 3rd grade
Grade: D-