Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review of The Pushcart War

The Pushcar War, by Jean Merrill

5 stars!

Description: Think an idyllic New York City in a slower-paced world where pushcarts gently roam the streets with their wares. Now, picture an monstrous eighteen wheeler truck with a grumpy driver who takes drastic action when a pushcart doesn't get out of the way fast enough. The crash - the screech - the pea tacks? It's WAR! The stage is set for an epic battle between the overwhelming crush of progress and the simple life of yesteryear. It's a great caper of strategy, attacks and counterattacks, and as the entire city (plus a random movie star and the US President) takes sides, it ends up a battle of wills, wits, and street warfare!

Concerns: None.

Summary: The Pushcart War is a great book to root for the little guy. It's clever, it's quirky, and it's a marvelous good war story with no casualties to turn a fun story grim. Hilarious little sidetracks throughout make it more interesting (watch for letters to the editor!) and the tone is overall sly wink-wink fun.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review of Peter Pan

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie

4 stars

I suppose there's not much point in recapping the main plot, since most everyone knows it more or less. Don't expect that you know all the ins and outs of the story, though - there's much here to be picked up that can't be translated except through the books itself. The oft-overlooked lost boys are hilarious in their rapt imbecility (Tootles is sublime); Wendy's character is much more amusing than she gets credit for (I love the comment on the pet pirate!); and there's scores of sly clever lines threaded throughout.

Concerns: Big red flag - do not expect Disney. Although the book can be taken for intentional nonsense, it is violent; pirates and Indians are killed, and lots of talk about former battles in which previous "lost boys" were also. Tinker Bell also uses some un-ladylike nasty language. One other matters, Peter himself is thoughtless and not very impressive as a character. The parents of the Darling children aren't exactly role models.

Summary: On the surface, it's an adventure of pirates and forests and Indians and the joyous abandon of happy-go-lucky adventuring. Underneath, it's a witty perspective on kids and imagination, obviously come by with experience (white rats? make-believe dinner?). Although somewhat dark at times, things turn right at the end and it's an engaging read. One of my favorites.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review of Inkheart

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke

4 and 1/2 stars

Everything a story traditionally ought to be; long-hidden secrets lead to a marvelous adventure involving villains and swords, daring escapes and shocking betrayal, and a grand, desperate gamble of a finale where all will be won or lost. Books themselves form the centerpiece of the story -- I won't ruin it for you, but it won't hurt for you to know characters spring to live after their story is read aloud, and this adventure begins when a dastardly villain is accidentally read into our own world.

Concerns: A character swears more than once or twice. Dire peril gets a mite harsh. Magic gets a mention - no spells or incantations, just fleeting speculation on how characters are read out of their stories. There are sequels, which I did not finish because of the darker turn to the story (Inkheart can be read as a stand-alone).

Summary: Inkheart promises great adventure and wonder, and it delivers on that promise. It's high adventure mixed with new sights and sounds and smells of a fascinating world. Aside from some disappointing language, the adventure in these pages offers storytelling of the highest order!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review of The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart

5 stars!

Description: In a word, fantastic. When the unlikely meeting of four of the most unlikely but likable children occurs, we set out on a mission to save Stonetown -- and incidentally, the world -- from the brilliantly devious Mr. Curtain. Danger stalks this tale of a clever and engaging clash of wits between multiple villians and the gifted foursome, and the sprinkling of riddles make the read both a puzzle and an adventure as you try to stay ahead of the game. Might be long for some younger readers, but you can't help but be drawn in to enjoy the ride.

Concerns: None.

Summary: The Mysterious Benedict Society is an all-time favorite. Even if just to meet the Great Kate Weatherall (my personal favorite of the kids), or to discover what on earth narcolepsy is, or if you like action mixed in with your brainteasers, it's a great read and one of the best middle grade books I've seen in a long while.

Note: Book is the first in a series.