Posts Tagged ‘Juvenile fiction’

“It was too long,” my friend Jo protested of Inkheart.  “I am just so discouraged by the state of juvenile fiction these days!”  I was only halfway through the book myself, and thought this rather a strong statement.  Although Jo is the Ph.D. I’m not always ready to defer to her literary assessment.  When Dd1 finished and announced she really didn’t like the book, I was beginning to wonder if the book’s content didn’t quite match it’s hype.  I had to admit, I was a little disappointed; but it wasn’t until a discussion with fellow bibliophile, Leah, that I understood why.  

“It was a good idea,” I admitted, “but wasn’t executed very well.”  

“It could be that it was translated from German,” said Leah.

“Oh, yes.  I wondered about that. I mean, why was it written in German.”

“Well, Cornelia Funke is German.”

“Ahhh!” I said.

“You know, I always wondered, if the characters were leaving the books, I mean, when you read from another copy, wouldn’t they still be in the book.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, pointing.  “This is exactly the kind of problems that I had with it.  And then like, why in the world would the aunt try to go back to her house when she knew that the villains knew where she lived.”

“I know.  That made no sense,” I agreed.

On the other hand, there have been some very good children’s books written lately.  Take Michael Buckley’s The Sisters Grimm series.  They are excellent.  The  storyline is well thought out and executed, full of suspense and a lot of humor.  There are blogs upon blogs of kids talking about them, and wondering, like my daughter, when try-outs will be held for the first movie. Speaking of movies, Inkheart was a bit of a disappointment there as well.  It really had the potential to be a great movie, but flopped from the getgo.  Movies based on books are either done really well, as in the case of The Lord of the Rings series or the first Narnia movie; and I must admit the one based on The City of Ember was excellent.  The directors were probably fans of the novels and did their homework.  Others such as Inkheart or Prince Caspian seemed to be rushed onto the screen therefore the storyline had to be manipulated a bit.

In short, I don’t think that juvenile fiction is in a sorry state at the moment.  I forgot to ask Jo how much of that genre she has read lately.  My daughter recently blogged on 21 Balloons by William Pène du Bois herself (See http://talesfromduncanrd.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/the-twenty-one-balloons/). This interesting work of fiction had the added effect of spurring some of the children in her class to watch a documentary on a volcanic eruption on the island of Krakatoa.  The City of Ember (the first in a series of books by Jeanne DuPrau) is a post-apocalyptic book that is not only a non-threatening social commentary that gets kids to think about actions and their impending consequences; but is also full of mystery and edge of your seat action.

In short, I think I’ll spend a little more time in the J section of the stacks.  I’ve got my eyes on Eragon and Pendragon next, so it should be an exciting summer.


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It was the fight of the century…well, at least the year.  In one corner, weighing in at about 65 lbs., quick, wiry, and cocksure sat the challenger–Dd1.  In the other corner, standing at 5’8″ (weight insignificant), the undisputed, undefeated, champion reader–Mom.  The competitors enter the ring, having just finished City of Ember the first book in Jeanne DuPrau’s Ember series.  Now, there was dispute over who would be the first to read the sequel People of Sparks.  It is kind of nice that Dd1 is old enough that we can enjoy some of the same books.  She is really starting to appreciate classics like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables which were previously beyond her years.  This particular piece of fiction came highly recommended to us by her piano teacher as Juvenile Fiction definitely worthy of the most discriminating reader.  DuPrau’s story of an post-apocalyptic society is both unique and complex in its unfolding.  She doesn’t give anything away at the outset, but allows the reader to discover, along with the characters, the origin and the purpose of their city’s existence.  The story centers around two young people, Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, who along with the rest of the city, are puzzled and disturbed by the town’s shortage of food and the breakdown of the power generator, the only source of light for their dark world.  These young people are given a clue that might help lead them out of Ember, but with the flickering lights, and a force of corrupt politicians against them they are in a race against time to solve the mystery and save their people. 

The sequel firmly in her hands, Dd1 begins reading it as we pull out of the bookstore parking lot.

“You get carsick,”  I reminded her.

“Oh yeah.”  She puts the book down.  Round 1–Me

I quickly grab it and begin reading it on the way home.  I soon remember that I get carsick as well; but I don’t let that stop me.

My husband stops at the grocery store.  Dd1 picks up the book again.

“I need a helper says my husband.”

“I think Dd1 should go with you,” I say.

“Good idea” he says.  Round 2–Me

Once we get home however, I am all out of excuses.  Dd1 reminds me that I originally bought the book for her.  Knockout–Dd1

Oh well, she finished it in three days, so my turn came swiftly enough.

If you’re going to read this book, I would recommend you doing it before the release of the movie in October.  For scenes that will whet your appetite for the book as well as the movie, follow the link below to the official ember website.  Hurry, before the lights go out!


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