19. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

The Giver by Lois Lowry, 179 pages, read by Angie, on 03/18/2015

It seems that utopian societies always have a dark side. The community in The Giver is no different; the perfect society is balanced by an absence of so many things – colors, feelings, choice. Jonas discovers this absence when he becomes the new Receiver of Memories. In this capacity he learns what really happens in his community and he finds that he can’t live with it. He has to make changes to his circumstances.

This is a really interesting book and a great book for discussions. There is the sameness of the community, the regimented lives of the citizens, the lack of choice in everything they do and the release of people from the community. I thought Jonas’s story was one many could relate to; he really grew up and into himself in the book. He learned to think and act for himself and as an adult.

I did find that when I finished the book I wanted to know more though. I wanted to know how they created the sameness — do they genetically engineer all the people to be color blind? The colors are still there obviously but the people just don’t see them. How did they get rid of the weather, the sun, the hills, the animals? I assume they have climate control, but they aren’t under a dome or anything so how does it work? How did the Receiver of Memories gather all the memories in the first place? They seem to be from many different people and places and times and at least one seemed to come from an animal (the elephant). How are they gathered and stored and tied to the community? Jonas looses them so they are obviously tied to a place. Lots of unanswered questions!

The ending is also very ambiguous and left a lot of questions. Was it real? Did he live or die? How will the community deal with the memories? Will the Giver be able to help them? Will the community change? And should the community change? Even with all the sameness and lack of choice was the community bad? Is release bad?

17. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, 160 pages, read by Angie, on 07/16/2014

Tree-ear is an orphan in 12th century Korea. He lives under a bridge with Crane-man. They live in Ch’ulp’o, a small village on the sea that is renowned for its celadon pottery. Tree-ear becomes the apprentice of a great potter named Min. Tree-ear labors for Min hoping that one day he too will be a great potter. In order to secure a royal commission, Min sends Tree-ear on a long journey across Korea with priceless pottery vases. Disaster strikes but Tree-ear manages to complete his mission and return with the commission. 

I actually liked this more than I thought I would. I thought the characters were very relatable and the story gripping and interesting. I also liked the fact that it is based on historical facts. I had to look up celadon pottery and the Thousand Cranes Vase after I was finished reading. Both are truly beautiful and you can tell that it took great skill to make these items. 

15. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, 182 pages, read by Angie, on 05/15/2014

Sometimes I read a book and wonder what happened when I was a child that I missed reading it then. Maybe I was just too preoccupied by The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High and didn’t pay attention to books that might be considered quality. Maybe I only read things I could get through Scholastic Book Club. Whatever the case, I am glad I have the opportunity to read some of these as an adult and to introduce them to kids. 

The Westing Game is one of those books I never read as a kid but know I would have loved. It did when the Newbery when I was a pre-reader, but I am sure it was on every library shelf throughout my childhood. It is a wonderfully engaging mystery that reminded me a lot of the movie Clue (not an exact match I admit, but some elements were there). I liked that it is not a dumbed down mystery for kids, but one that made me think even as an adult. In the introduction, it states that Rankin never “wrote-down” to children, but instead wrote to the adult in children. I think this perfectly describes this book.

The story begins with the Sunset Towers and its new occupants. They are all carefully chosen, except for the mistake, and all are connected even though they do not realize it. Sunset Towers is in the shadow of the Westing House whose mysterious owner, Sam Westing, disappeared 20 years ago. Then Sam Westing is found dead in the house and the occupants of the Sunset Towers are notified that they are heirs to the Westing Fortune. The sixteen heirs are paired up and given clues to solve the mystery of who murdered Sam Westing. They winner of the Westing Game will receive the Westing fortune. Along the way we learn so much about each of the characters and their connections to each other and Sam Westing. In the end there is only one winner of the Westing Game, but everyone who plays benefits in some manner. 

06. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Short Stories, Tammy · Tags:

Shen of the Sea: Chinese Stories for Children by Arthur Bowie Chrisman, 221 pages, read by Tammy, on 05/29/2013

This collection of Chinese folktales made for a fun read. You can almost hear the voice of the storyteller telling the stories around a campfire or more appropriately a father or mother telling their children’s these fables and tales at bedtime that their own parent told them. The stories cover a wide range of characters from peasants to princesses and kings. There are some morality tales as well with the man character being someone who is not too bright or who is lazy or stubborn. Some of the tales are similar to the fairytales including some dragons making an appearance.

Winner of the Newbery Award Winner 1926.shen

06. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes, 247 pages, read by Tammy, on 05/19/2013

This tale of adventure on the high seas is a rousing tale for teens. Set in 17th century England our young hero, orphan Philip Marsham must flee London in fear for his life. His father was a sailor so he decides to head to the sea. He signs on the “Rose of Devon” a dark frigate bound for Newfoundland. The story does take some time to get “underway” and into the action as we follow Philip on his walk to the sea, but he does meet some of his fellow shipmates along the way. Once aboard ship the story picks up. If the reader is unfamiliar with nautical terms he may need to look up some of the words to really be able to picture what is happening on the ship.

Philip soon wins his captain’s regard and is enjoying his new life when the ship is seized by buccaneers. With the bloody battles, murderous pirates and our brave hero this is a story for any reader in search of seafaring adventure.

Newbery Award Winner in the 3rd year of the award’s history in 1924.dark frigate

06. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tammy · Tags:

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, 302 pages, read by Tammy, on 05/31/2013

Thirteen year-old Young Fu and his mother must move away from their farm in central China after his father dies and move to the city of Chungking (now spelled Chongqing. Young Fu and his mother have never been to the city before. While he is full of excitement and looking for adventure she is afraid of all the strange customs of the city and the foreigners who live there. Young Fu is apprenticed to Tang, a master coppersmith. The book is set in the 1920s a turbulent time for China it is after the fall of the Imperial government and factions are vying for power.

Chinese traditions are introduced to the reader through the eyes of Young Fu including crooked streets to catch and confuse evil spirits, payment of debt on New Year’s Day, the debate over whether a priest should be called or a doctor for a sick family member. The reader travels with Young Fu as he grows up and goes from apprentice to journeyman, or an experience craftsman. The book is told by stories of events that happen to Young Fu and usually there is some new experience or knowledge that he gains though sometimes it is by making costly mistakes.

Overall an enjoyable look at a troubled time in China’s history and the lessons one needs to learn as they grow from boy to man which won the Newbery Award for children’s literature in 1933. young fu

23. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Fiction, Tammy · Tags:

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright, 124 pages, read by Tammy, on 05/19/2013

Thimble SummerNewbery Winner 1939

A few hours after nine-year-old Garnet Linden finds a silver thimble in the dried-up riverbed, on her family’s Wisconsin farm, the rains come and end the long drought on the farm. The rains bring safety for the crops and the livestock and money for Garnet’s father. Garnet’s good luck continues throughout the summer and she’s convinced its because of her lucky thimble. Though not a long book, it is easy for the reader to picture Garnet’s family farm, their small town and the close-knit farming community. Garnet clearly loves the farm, but her older brother is determined to never be a farmer as he watches their father struggle to pay the bills. He realizes the famiy income is based on the weather and things beyond his control no matter how hard dad works. But through the eyes of a stranger and Garnet he also grows to appreciate the benefits of farm life.