Thursday, April 19, 2007

Escape from the Carnivale

Escape from the Carnivale is the third book from the collaborative efforts of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. I read Peter and the Starcatchers a few years ago and found it inappropriate due to crude humor of a sexual nature. This book seems to be a spin-off the original, but is written for much younger readers, and without the blue content. Perhaps this is due to the fact that unlike Peter and the Starcatchers, this book is published by Disney.

Escape from Carnivale is the tale of Little Scallop, a young girl from the Mollusk tribe native to Neverland, and her two mermaid friends, Surf and Aqua. The three girls find themselves in deep trouble after disobeying strict orders not to leave the lagoon. They set out to find pearls beyond the big reef, and end up finding a ship, the Carnivale. Surf is captured by the sailors, and their captain, Crookshank, who owns a circus.

When Little Scallop goes to her father, Fighting Prawn, for help, she discovers that tribe has gone up the mountain for the day. With the help of the mermaids, dolphins, and Lost Boys, Surf is rescued. Little Scallop confesses her disobedience to her father, and is reprimanded. Her father also acknowledges her part in the rescue and the story ends with a father/daughter hug.

While not great literature, this book contains no objectionable material.

Rules

Author Cynthia Lord's first novel is an intense account of twelve-year old Catherine and her relationship with her younger brother, David, who is autistic. The title, Rules, comes from the many things Catherine has to teach her brother, things that other children just pick up. Some of Catherine's rules for David are "It's fine to hug Mom, but not the clerk at the video store." or "Late doesn't mean not coming." or "Take your shoes off at the doctor, but at the dentist leave them on." Catherine has a lot of responsibilities as David's older and only sibling, and sometimes this is a source of regret or embarrassment for her.

When a new neighbor, Kristi, moves in next door, Catherine dreams of a picture perfect friendship, and carefully plans their first meeting. Things backfire, of course, and Catherine worries about David's effect on her first impression. But Catherine discovers another friend in Jason, the wheelchair bound teen who cannot speak. Catherine knows Jason from accompanying David and her mother to Occupational Therapy. Jason is there for Speech Therapy. He uses a communication board of cards with words and pictures on them to talk. Catherine begins to expand his vocabulary by making more word cards for him. She begins to see him as whole and wonderful person, instead of pitying him. She does not reveal his disabilities to Kristi though, and lets Kristi assume that Jason is her boyfriend. In the end, Catherine accepts Jason, her brother, and their disabilities, and learns that though Kristi may be perfect, she may not be the perfect friend.

Aside from some brief and harmless boyfriend talk (Kristi mentions that she had a boyfriend before she moved, and she plans to go to a youth dance with the boy across the street.), this novel is an exceptional example of developing virtue and discovering sacrifice as a path to happiness. Few books written about and for girls are as sincere and non-trivial as this one. Cynthia Lord has written an amazingly vivid account of life with an autistic child. On the jacket, she is quoted as saying, "I wrote Rules to explore some of my own questions about living with someone who sees the world so differently than I do, but also to show a full experience of family life with a child with autism: the happy moments, the heartbreaking one, the ones that make me laugh."

I found this book to be emotionally intense, and as a result I recommend this book for ages thirteen and up.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Stormbreaker

Anthony Horowitz is one of the big names in youth literature today. His Alex Rider series is extremely popular and has been made into a motion picture. Stormbreaker introduces us to Alex, a 14 year old orphan (orphans are all the rage) whose guardian, Ian Rider, has just died in a car accident with some mysterious circumstances. Alex discovers that his uncle, Ian, was not an insurance salesman, but a spy with England's elite MI6. MI6 discovers Alex has some unusual talents for his age, and recruits him to go undercover on a mission.

Stormbreaker is a fast paced (makes me wonder if it was written for the screen) adventure in modern day England. The only background lore is some references to James Bond and 007. The violence in the book is not graphic or prolific. Alex only fights in self defense and the bad guys are the ones who kill senselessly. This book was nominated for a Caudill Award in 2004, and is appropriate for children. Horowitz's other books branch out into the horror genre. I will be reviewing these separately, in the near future.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Escape from the Carnivale

Escape from the Carnivale is the third book from the collaborative efforts of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. I read Peter and the Starcatchers a few years ago and found it inappropriate due to crude humor of a sexual nature. This book seems to be a spin-off the original, but is written for much younger readers, and without the blue content. Perhaps this is due to the fact that unlike Peter and the Starcatchers, this book is published by Disney.

Escape from Carnivale is the tale of Little Scallop, a young girl from the Mollusk tribe native to Neverland, and her two mermaid friends, Surf and Aqua. The three girls find themselves in deep trouble after disobeying strict orders not to leave the lagoon. They set out to find pearls beyond the big reef, and end up finding a ship, the Carnivale. Surf is captured by the sailors, and their captain, Crookshank, who owns a circus.

When Little Scallop goes to her father, Fighting Prawn, for help, she discovers that tribe has gone up the mountain for the day. With the help of the mermaids, dolphins, and Lost Boys, Surf is rescued. Little Scallop confesses her disobedience to her father, and is reprimanded. Her father also acknowledges her part in the rescue and the story ends with a father/daughter hug.

While not great literature, this book contains no objectionable material.

Rules

Author Cynthia Lord's first novel is an intense account of twelve-year old Catherine and her relationship with her younger brother, David, who is autistic. The title, Rules, comes from the many things Catherine has to teach her brother, things that other children just pick up. Some of Catherine's rules for David are "It's fine to hug Mom, but not the clerk at the video store." or "Late doesn't mean not coming." or "Take your shoes off at the doctor, but at the dentist leave them on." Catherine has a lot of responsibilities as David's older and only sibling, and sometimes this is a source of regret or embarrassment for her.

When a new neighbor, Kristi, moves in next door, Catherine dreams of a picture perfect friendship, and carefully plans their first meeting. Things backfire, of course, and Catherine worries about David's effect on her first impression. But Catherine discovers another friend in Jason, the wheelchair bound teen who cannot speak. Catherine knows Jason from accompanying David and her mother to Occupational Therapy. Jason is there for Speech Therapy. He uses a communication board of cards with words and pictures on them to talk. Catherine begins to expand his vocabulary by making more word cards for him. She begins to see him as whole and wonderful person, instead of pitying him. She does not reveal his disabilities to Kristi though, and lets Kristi assume that Jason is her boyfriend. In the end, Catherine accepts Jason, her brother, and their disabilities, and learns that though Kristi may be perfect, she may not be the perfect friend.

Aside from some brief and harmless boyfriend talk (Kristi mentions that she had a boyfriend before she moved, and she plans to go to a youth dance with the boy across the street.), this novel is an exceptional example of developing virtue and discovering sacrifice as a path to happiness. Few books written about and for girls are as sincere and non-trivial as this one. Cynthia Lord has written an amazingly vivid account of life with an autistic child. On the jacket, she is quoted as saying, "I wrote Rules to explore some of my own questions about living with someone who sees the world so differently than I do, but also to show a full experience of family life with a child with autism: the happy moments, the heartbreaking one, the ones that make me laugh."

I found this book to be emotionally intense, and as a result I recommend this book for ages thirteen and up.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Stormbreaker

Anthony Horowitz is one of the big names in youth literature today. His Alex Rider series is extremely popular and has been made into a motion picture. Stormbreaker introduces us to Alex, a 14 year old orphan (orphans are all the rage) whose guardian, Ian Rider, has just died in a car accident with some mysterious circumstances. Alex discovers that his uncle, Ian, was not an insurance salesman, but a spy with England's elite MI6. MI6 discovers Alex has some unusual talents for his age, and recruits him to go undercover on a mission.

Stormbreaker is a fast paced (makes me wonder if it was written for the screen) adventure in modern day England. The only background lore is some references to James Bond and 007. The violence in the book is not graphic or prolific. Alex only fights in self defense and the bad guys are the ones who kill senselessly. This book was nominated for a Caudill Award in 2004, and is appropriate for children. Horowitz's other books branch out into the horror genre. I will be reviewing these separately, in the near future.