"Enchanted Ivy" by Sarah Beth Durst and "boom!" by Mark Haddon

December 30, 2010

“Enchanted Ivy,” by Sarah Beth Durst, reads like a love letter to Princeton University.  Durst acknowledges in her foreword that she is an alumna of the school, and that she wanted to write a novel that incorporated the many gargoyles from the campus buildings as characters.  While she manages to do so, she fails to develop a believable plot for her characters.  Lily, the protagonist, embarks on what she initially believes to be a “special” test to gain early admission to Princeton.  In the process of her test, she discovers she is really half-dryad, that her mother is not crazy, and that gargoyles and magic are lively and well in New Jersey.

 I have no problem with fantasy novels, nor do I usually fret about suspending disbelief, but Lily shifts too quickly from skeptical to accepting when it comes to the magic of the novel.  Alliances are made and broken too quickly, people seem to recover too easily from their problems, and the magical realm that Durst introduces seems more dull than I would like it to be.  I just never felt swept up into the world of this novel.

I had equal difficulty with accepting “Boom!” by Mark Haddon.  This novel takes off on a familiar tack—“hey some of our teachers are space aliens!”  Jimbo and Charlie bug the teachers’ lounge at their school in an effort to find out if Jimbo is about to be expelled.  Instead, they hear two of their teachers speaking in a clearly alien language and behaving in strange ways.  As they spy on their teachers, they learn enough to be dangerous—Charlie ends up kidnapped, and Jimbo has to turn to his sister Becky for help to find him.

In general, this novel is livelier and more engaging than “Enchanted Ivy,” but it still falls flat.  Jimbo, Charlie, and  Becky are believable characters, but they are stuck in a novel that just never really seems to come alive.  I can almost hear the machinery of the novel creaking in the background.  The characters are trying to play along, but the plot lets them down.


 

"Written in Bone:Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland" by Sally M. Walker

July 2, 2010


Sally M. Walker's "Written In Bone:  Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland" provides a strong, compelling picture of the value of forensic archeology, written in an appealing and engaging manner.  Walker makes good use of photographs and illustrations to explain how archeologists do their work.  Her analysis goes far to make the case for why such studies matter.

Walker builds her analysis around three central questions that she asks of the archeological remains that she discusses:
  1. Wh...

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"My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park" by Steve Kluger

December 27, 2009


Imagine a novel set in a high school, with three main characters:  two boys and a girl.  Now imagine that I told you it was in the style of a classic teen romance.  All of these statements are true.  But my guess is that you imagined it all wrong.

Kluger has written a terrific teen romance for the modern age.  The two boys, TC and Augie, have called each other "brother" since they chose to become brothers at age six.  TC is a rabid Red Sox fan, while Augie's taste runs more toward musical thea...
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"Charles and Emma" by Deborah Heiligman

November 1, 2009

“Charles and Emma:  The Darwins’ Leap of Faith” by Deborah Heiligman provides an interesting contrast to the average biography for adolescents.  Her subjects are not the latest pop or athletic stars, nor are they the people regularly assigned as projects in literature classes.  Instead, Heiligman looks at the way that Charles and Emma Darwin, as a couple, negotiated their sens...


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“Into the Wild Nerd Yonder: My Life on the Dork Side” by Julie Halpern

October 11, 2009

The process of growing up requires just that—growing and changing and sometimes becoming someone completely new and completely different.  In the teen novel “Into the Wild Nerd Yonder,” author Julie Halpern explores that metamorphosis, both for the good and the bad it can bring. 

 

Our narrator is Jessie, a sophomore in high school who faces some awkward and difficult choic...


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"Stone Voice Rising" by C. Lee Tocci

September 13, 2009
"Stone Voice Rising," by C. Lee Tocci shares much with a recent crop of fantasy novels for middle readers to young adults.  It is set in what feels like the present time, but with protagonists who are engaged in an important, but somewhat hidden or secret battle to save the world.  I found myself thinking of both the Harry Potter series and the Gregor the Overlander series while reading this book.  And like the initial books in those series, this book leaves much open at the end to be resolve...
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So-Called Young Adult Literature

August 8, 2009
Okay, I know that this title is a bit challenging, but it gets at an issue I want to address.  As a librarian for a PreK to Grade 8 school, I spend a good amount of time screening books that get labeled "young adult" or "adolescent."  In part, I like to make sure the subject matter is appropriate for our middle school aged children.  Some books deal very frankly with information that is completely appropriate for high school students, but much less so for 7th and 8th graders.  Sometimes, I am...
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About Me


Lydia Schultz I am a school librarian and part-time college English teacher. I hope to review many of the books I read, both in the context of my research about children's books as well as in my pursuit of recreational reading. I want to share what I read--so what else is new?

Please feel free to contact me.  I welcome hearing feedback and advice. If you would like to comment on a particular post, click on the title of the post and a comment box will appear after the post when the page reloads.

Thanks!



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