Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: childrens-chapter-books
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-02-18 19:24
Jason's Gold / by Will Hobbs ; narrated by Boyd Gaines
Jason's Gold - Will Hobbs

Jason's Gold wasn't a bad story about the Klondike Gold Rush, and as a Seattleite I have to say that people here are particularly attuned to that gold rush.  Our city would have never become anything but a backwater without that event.  It put Seattle on the map.  For that reason, I'd particularly recommend this book to kids who live in the Puget Sound area.


Jason's Gold is very much a story in the same vein as the classic adventure stories like The Call of the Wild, and White Fang (in fact, Hobbs pays homage to Jack London in this book), Huckleberry Finn, and Treasure Island.  It is above all else an adventure story, but it doesn't quite strike the same chord as those greater adventure tales do.


It is clear that Hobbs has done his research and has written a nice piece of historical fiction.  That is well done.  Unfortunately, Jason's Gold lacks what those other great adventure stories I mentioned above have in abundance; the ability to pull at your heart.  Generally speaking, Jason's adventures, especially initially, don't have much to them.  He moves quickly through them, and we never quite get a chance to be really affected by who Jason meets, or what Jason experiences (with one notable exception, but I can't talk about it because it would be a spoiler).  Jason does see and experience some horrible things, and it's not that those passages aren't well written.  It's just that Jason moves through them so quickly that there isn't a chance for the reader to let the experiences sink in.  Because of this rapidity of pace, the adventure is muted in exchange for historical reporting.


Still, the book was enjoyable, and very accessible to kids between 5th and 8th grade, maybe even 9th grade.  There are some pretty gruesome passages.  The Klondike Gold Rush lead to nothing but violent death for some people and many animals, and Will Hobbs makes that point quite clearly.  Kids who are more sensitive might find those particular passages disturbing.  But this book is based on an historical event, and history is seldom sterile.  Kids looking for a historical fiction adventure book could do worse than Jason's Gold.  


Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-02-17 20:16
The Crossroads / by Chris Grabenstein ; narrated by J.J. Meyers
The Crossroads - Chris Grabenstein

The Crossroads is a pretty good ghost story aimed at kids in maybe 5th-7th grade.  It was creepy, there was some violence, and there were kids in peril.  All of this was enough to make kids in this age range appropriately freaked out, but not enough to be really and truly terrifying to them.


While the ghost story does take center stage in this book, it's also a story about Zack having to come to terms with the verbal and emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of his now deceased mother.  He learns to lean on himself, to find value in himself, and he learns to trust in the bond that he's formed with his new step-mother.  All of this is well done, and does not get in the way of or overshadow the ghost  story.


As for the ghost story, it was good, but the majority of the ghosts in the story died in the 1950s.  There is a lot of 1950s terminology and culture that goes on in the story, and I do wonder if that might not make too much sense to younger readers.  I guess kids could understand the slang and the culture from context, but in some places it did come off as a little bit corny or dated.


Overall, though, I think it's a good story for those kids who like their books to lean a little dark.  This one does have a dark streak, but it's the light that triumphs in the end.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-02-15 05:02
The City of Ember / by Jeanne DuPrau ; narrated by Wendy Dillon
The City of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau

I am having a hard time figuring out what to say about The City of Ember.  I enjoyed the book.  I liked the main characters, and I liked the supporting characters.  I liked the dystopian aspects and the mystery aspects of the story, although Lina and Doon's efforts to decipher the message written on a torn up piece of paper did not translate too smoothly to audio format, which made the mystery aspects a little tedious at times.  DuPrau carefully built Ember, and took care to make her two main characters three dimensional.  


That said, I guess I feel a little bit chagrined by the abrupt way in which this first book in the series ended.  I suppose that it ended at a "good spot," but just when things were starting to get really intriguing, when the questions really started to flood my mind, the book stopped!  Great way to boost sales of the next book, but frustrating to me as an adult.  I don't know if I feel invested enough to read the next book in the series, but I do want my questions answered, so we shall see, I suppose.  If I were a 5th or 6th grader, I'm sure I'd be reaching for the next book in this series before I even pulled my bookmark out of this one. 


Enough about that.  What I really did love about the book was the allegorical aspects.  I thought the book was an allegory for an awakening.  Perhaps spiritual, perhaps intellectual, perhaps emotional, but awakening, nonetheless.  DuPrau really wrote some lovely passages that explored awakening, and I thought the book was the strongest at those points.  Adults will pick up on the allegory quickly, I think, but this is going to be subtle to kids.  In other words, the allegory was not heavy handed for the audience that this book was intended for, and I appreciated that.


I would recommend this book to my 5th grade niece.  I believe she would like Lina, and I think she'd become invested in her struggles to improve life for her family and for her city.  I also believe that this is exactly the kind of book that would make the gears in her mind click.  She'd want to know why things were the way they were in Ember, and unfortunately, that doesn't really quite get explained too clearly in this book.  I don't think I'd be able to answer her questions.  I guess those unanswered questions are what drive readers to the next book in the series.



Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-01-14 23:47
Aliens Ate My Homework / by Bruce Coville ; narrated by William Dufris
Aliens Ate My Homework - Bruce Coville,William Dufris

I enjoyed Aliens Ate My Homework.  The story was creative, and the characters were fun, and I definitely think that it would appeal to reluctant readers, perhaps especially to boys.  Our main character is a good boy who suffers at the hands of bullies.  He does what he knows is right, even when that winds up working against him.  I really liked how the author portrayed Rod, and I do think that a lot of boys out there would identify with his personal struggles.  The personal troubles are not the heart of the book, though; the adventure is.  The author's ability to pull a little bit at a reader's heartstrings while mainly delivering fun action is why I would not hesitate to suggest this book to a kid who isn't so hot on reading.


I adored William Dufris' audio narration.  He became one of my favorite narrators after I listened to his reading of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a few years ago.  He did tremendous justice to that book, and he was extremely entertaining as he narrated Aliens Ate My Homework.  The man can do very diverse voices, and he understands the importance of tone and expression as he reads a story.  Really a top-notch narrator!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-01-13 07:49
Middleworld / by Jon Voelkel and Pamela Voelkel ; narrated by Scott Brick
The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld - Jon Voelkel,Pamela Voelkel

Middleworld was kind of a strange book.  It was entertaining-ish, I suppose.  It did not lack action or adventure.  Max and Lola were a nicely paired couple of characters.  The scenes were vivid.  I stayed with the story to the end, so I can't say that I hated it, but I didn't particularly like it either.


The biggest issue I had with Middleworld was the abrupt jogs in the plot.  The story would go along a certain course just as nicely as you please, and then some event would happen that suddenly took the plot, even the feel of the story off in a completely different direction.  I have no way of describing this plot other than to say it zig-zagged.  It didn't meander--the shifts weren't subtle, but abrupt and sharp.  It left me feeling a little whiplashed, and I don't think it did any favors for the story.  The result was an overly long book that contained a story that came across as not able to decide what it wanted to be.  So there's that.


Then there is Scott Brick, the narrator of this audio book.  Scott Brick brings a certain narrative style to all of the books he reads, and I have not heard him vary this style no matter what he narrates.  He always employs the same tone, the same intensity to every book, no matter what it is.  I find his style to be a touch over-dramatic; a little like William Shatner acting his role as Captain Kirk in Star Trek.  Now, there are some things Brick's style works well with.  Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes spring immediately to mind.  I'm a bit ambivalent about Brick's contribution to Middleworld, though.  On one hand, I think that Brick's serious, dramatic style may have given a bit more depth and weight to a story that often went off the rails.  He kept it anchored--no small feat (see previous paragraph).  On the other hand, Scott Brick's style is completely at odds with a narrative that involves flatulent howler monkeys.  His style is simply not suited to ribald humor (one of many course changes in plot/tone  to be found in this book).  


Middleworld is the first book in a series.  But this book went on too long, and with too many zig-zags to keep me happy.  Middleworld sapped any interest I might have had in reading more books in this series.  I can totally walk away from Max and Lola without even a backward glance.



More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?