Monday, April 20, 2009

And I go on.

Dream Factory, by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler. I was a little bit let down by this: it sounded like a great premise, and it could have been very good, I'm sure, but it had a few problems. There are 2 main characters and the chapters alternate between their 2 POVs; I would have assumed that one author wrote for each character, but their voices sound very similar and I found it hard to remember sometimes who was speaking. There were a number of minor characters whom we didn't really get to know, so I had a hard time remember who was who when they walked into scenes. Finally, coverage was haphazard: sometimes an event was related by both characters, and sometimes half a week went by, or one or both hinted at something that we didn't get to see properly from either perspective.
I did really like both of the main characters, but was frustrated because this could have been so much better.

Owly: The Way Home and The Bittersweet Summer, by Andy Runton. How perfect! This has got to be my favorite book of 2009! There's no spoken dialogue and no real text to speak of, so this graphic novel is accessible to readers of any literacy level. The fact that it has no text, that it is technically a picture book, might be a hurdle in itself, but if you can get older or more sophisticated readers past that, I'm sure they'll enjoy it. It is basically a simple story, but there are so many details inside the drawings, and the characters are so expressive, that this book deserves an older audience to appreciate those aspects. The fact that the drawings are in black and white contributes to their strength; the eye is not distracted by colors and flashiness, but can go right to the action and the emotion in each frame. See (full size) the Unshelved Comic that led me to check it out. This is two volumes in one (it doesn't like they have ever been separate). There are sequels: Just a Little Blue (vol. 2), Flying Lessons (vol. 3), Time to Be Brave (vol. 4), and Tiny Tales [(vol. 5) which LPCPL doesn't own yet :`( ]. Reviews place this in the 3rd-5th grade range, and we have it shelved firmly in J, but I'd like to see this handed to an 8th grade girl, maybe one who isn't already into manga but needs an introduction to graphic novels.
I'm going to see how my reading of the second one goes-- I knew there was no text, but I think the reason I don't normally enjoy graphic novels is because I ignore the pictures in favor of the text. I have trouble viewing the two together as a unit. It was interesting to observe my brain as I read through this, as there is no text to jump to. That would be my Second Thoughts, Miss Tick.

My Life in Pink & Green, by Lisa Greenwald. I read through this mighty speedily; the reading level seems a bit low (not dumbed down, just not challenging) and I'd put in the high-interest low-reading-level category. The main character is only 12, but that seems a bit young for readers; I'd say the audience for this book is girls aged 12-15 or so. I was very impressed with this book: it covered several important topics and did so pretty well. The main character discovers "going green" but the book isn't preachy about it like Patterson's Maximum Ride novels or Colfer's later Artemis Fowl books; it seems natural for the character to be interested in it and to share this information, since she is at an age when children start taking an interest in the world and larger issues beyond themselves and their families.
The author did a good job with the narration; the dialogue wasn't exacly "pre-teen" feeling, but it felt natural; it wasn't full of the kinds of cliches or misuses of words older authors jam in when they are trying to capture a younger character. It was narrated in first person present tense (not my fave), but it wasn't as awkward as many novels in that voice tend to be.
There were other topics relevant to this age group, like boys and crushes, but it didn't overwhelm the story, which is about the main character, her family, and her friend. It also had a good take on a hard econimic situation that this family was trying to work through. Not every family will get the help and recognition they need and deserve, but this might be one possibility to help young readers whose own families are struggling.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

Felt the same way about The Dream Factory. It's nice not to be alone!