Friday, April 18, 2014

The True Meaning of Smekday

Author:  Adam Rex

Rating:  ***  (3 stars out of 3 possible, "A")
              Paige (age 12) Highly Recommends this book!

              0 stars out of 3 possible, "D+"
              Her mom (age 45) does not recommend this book!

Audience:  5th grade and up

Sometimes the best part of reading together as a family is coming to completely opposite conclusions about a book!

For instance, Paige has read this book at least five times!  She views it as "hilarious, the best book ever!"  She truly loves it.

I slogged through 425 pages,  hating almost every minute of it!  But then again, I can't really stand Star Trek or Mork & Mindy, either.

It really depends on your personal tastes when it comes to a book like Smekday.  Are you an old, stuck-in-the-mud traditionalist who's lost her sense of humor?  Or a young, creative genius who loves fantasy worlds?

Smekday takes place in a future America, where 12 year-old Gratuity Tucci (nicknamed "Tip") encounters the aliens who have invaded Earth.  Following a quest format (like Huckleberry Finn, or, more likely, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe), she befriends an alien Boov who's chosen to go by the American pseudonym, "J. Lo."

Disney Fairies/Tales from Pixie Hollow

Titles:  16 (4 collections of 4 books each)

Authors:  various, published by Disney

Rating:  0 stars out of 3 possible, "D" / "F"
             Not Recommended

Audience:  1st-3rd grades

It sometimes seems the only reading choices offered our young girls range from magical fantasy to supernatural occult!  The Disney Fairies series is obviously less controversial than the Poison Apple books, but it presented a mixed-bag, at best, and really offered little in terms of character, creativity or challenge.

For this review, I read two selections.

In The Trouble with Tink (by Kiki Thorpe) we learn the bizarre backstory of the series:

"Not far from the Home Tree, nestled in the branches of a hawthorn, is Mother Dove, the most magical creature of all.  She sits on her egg, watching over the fairies, who in turn watch over her.  For as long as Mother Dove's egg stays well and whole, no one in NeverLand will ever grow old.  Once, Mother Dove's egg was broken.  But we are not telling the story of the egg here.  Now it is time for Tinker Bell's tale...."

Mother Dove??  I picture James Barrie rolling over in his grave.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poison Apple Books

10 Titles:  The Dead End; Curiosity Killed the Cat; The Ghost of Christmas Past; Green-Eyed Monster; This Totally Bites...; Miss Fortune; Now You See Me; Midnight Howl; Her Evil Twin; The Ghoul Next Door

Authors:  Various, published by Scholastic

Rating:  0 stars out of 3 possible, "D" / "F"
             Not Recommended

Audience:  Middle School

Well, there's no chance of misinterpreting the tone and plot of this tween series.  It's clearly capitalizing on our culture's current obsession with monster myths and horror stories.  (My question is:  What's it doing in my 3rd grader's classroom?!)

Her Evil Twin begins with a common 7th grade theme:  Anna and Dory have been friends, like, for forever.  But now that they're in middle school, Anna wonders if Dory is too boring and immature for her.  Could Anna fit in with the cooler girls in class:  Jessamyn, Kima and Lauren?

Dory's an honest, sensible friend and she's pretty sure JK & L (The Jackals) aren't to be trusted.  They really plan to tease and bully Anna.

JK & L trick Anna into calling up a mirror spirit in the darkened school bathroom.  Everyone gets scared and deserts Anna, except for Dory.

Following this disturbing incident, Anna meets a mysterious stranger named Emma.  Emma seems like a good friend at first, but increasingly odd things happen when Emma is around.  Also troubling, Emma seems to get more and more controlling, angry and...creepy.  Anna's getting blamed for things she didn't do; Emma's stunts are risky and dangerous; Anna's friendship with Dory is completely fractured; someone's going to get hurt!

Ivy and Bean

Titles:  10 in the Series

Author:  Annie Barrows

Rating:  0 stars out of 3 possible, "D/F"
              Not Recommended

Audience:  2nd-4th Graders

I've been putting this review off for awhile, as I find it somewhat agonizing to have to "not recommend" this series.  I've been curious about this series for 2-3 years as it was clearly popular at the elementary library where I volunteered.

The harmless dust jacket picture of two 7-year-old playmates belies the fact that one of the girls, Ivy, longs to become a witch and is actively, although playfully, "training" for it.  (A closer inspection of the cover will reveal silhouettes with Ivy holding a wand and Bean holding a crystal ball.)

This is a shame, as these books have come the closest in terms of clever humor, character development and engaging childhood plot lines of anything I've read since Beverly Cleary.  For this review I read 5 selections:  #1 (Ivy and Bean), #2 (The Ghost that Had to Go), #4 (Take Care of the Babysitter), #5 (Bound to Be Bad) and #8 (No News Is Good News).