Monday, March 1, 2010

For the Record: February 2010

My goal this year is to get some books read that have been on my shelf for awhile, and so far this year I have been rather unsuccessful at reaching that goal.  This month only 1 of my books fell into that category.  Oh wel.  Better than none I guess.  I read a lot of Junior Fiction this month. (fun!)

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt11. (4)  The Underneath, Kathy Appelt.  Wow, this book was totally unexpected. I picked it up at the bookstore, looking for a nice animal story to read aloud to the kids--Newbery Honor meant it should be good, right? It is not a nice happy animal story, but it was amazing to read aloud. It was heavy. There is exposure to Native American spiritual myths, animal mistreatment by a character with a drinking problem, and much suspense. I typically will not continue reading books with such stuff, but this was different. My kids were hooked, we all loved it, though my youngest couldn't listen to some of it. Not for the tenderhearted. If I'd preread it, I probably wouldn't have read it aloud to them yet because of the heavy content, but the writing was lovely. Reminded me of The Fox and the Hound.

12. (2) Gentlemen of the Road, Michael Chabon. This book was terrible. Really, a score of 2 out of 5 is too generous.  The story could have been interesting, but it just wasn't told well. The writing was an odd mix of styles, as if writing an adventure story didn't come naturally to the author (the afterword was much more cohesive and well-written than the book itself). The first chapter was so heavily hit by the thesaurus that it was comical. See my full review here.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George13, 14, 15. (4.5) Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight, and Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George. This series was just great...especially the first book.  My 11yo ds agreed--he couldn't stop reading them either.  I found them while browsing Amazon for fantasy/adventure books for my boys, and they had great reviews.  They are exciting and suspenseful without being frightening, they span genders and ages, they involve magic without getting into mysticism, and are surprisingly moral. I am really not a fantasy fan, but these books may have changed my mind.

16. Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, or Add, Charles J. Sykes (4) This was the book I finally got off my shelf! It was good, still applicable even though it was written 15 years ago, amazingly enough. The info was great, helped to put things into perspective.

17. The Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacobs (3) felt oh-so-very-average in plot and writing style. I thought it'd be a nice happy feel-good story...and it was until about page 300 of 350 when it totally changed tracks. hmpf.  I am willing to admit, however, that my disappointment is only partially due to the hasty, ill-fitting happy ending.  The other part was probably because I had preconceived notions and expectations.

18. Black Ships Before Troy, Rosemary Sutcliff (3.5-4) A good retelling of the Iliad, read aloud to my kiddos.  It would have even been better if I'd had the illustrated version.

19. Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko (3.5-4) Really good, for the older side of JF readers I think. I liked the Alcatraz/1930/autism focus. The main character was really easy to identify with, and I felt so bad for him that it was kind of depressing...thus my thoughts that it's better for someone with some emotional maturity.

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