Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Apparently, July in IN = overcast days

Medicus, by Ruth Downie. There were a few proofreading errors (missing opening quotes, periods instead of commas) that threw off my reading, but otherwise this book was pretty good. I read it because it is the first in a series, and I just recently ordered no. 3 (or possibly 4-- I'm too lazy to even look) for our collection. I liked this book, but I'm debating whether or not it was good enough to warrant the investment of time to continue the series-- I've always enjoyed books set in Roman-ruled Britain, but this one was rather sparse on the historical details. The feel of the book also jumped around; the story didn't appear to know if it was supposed to be primarily an historical fiction, mystery, or romance-twinged book, so it wasn't really enough of any one of those. Strengthening any one of these aspects would have made for a more engrossing read. It's certainly worth a try, and I may have talked myself into the sequel, despite my reservations. Medicus as a character is worth it: he's very funny and a likable character, regardless of what's going on around him.

Fox in Socks, by Dr. Seuss. subtitle/cover warning: "This is a book you READ ALOUD to find out just how smart your tongue is. The first time you read it, don't go fast! This Fox is a tricky fox. He'll try to get your tongue in trouble." This is a fun picture book, as are all of Dr. Seuss'. If you pay attention, you will see Mr. Brown (who can moo) in a cameo appearance as Luke. This will be great with kids who are experiencing vocabulary explosions.  

Mine, All Mine: A Book About Pronouns, by Ruth Heller. This book isn't that great. The illustrations don't stand out of the picture book crowd, and the content is pretty advanced for the typical picture book audience. The kids who would be able to really get what the book is talking about would be of an age to be put off just because it's presented in picture book form. The rhymes may actually be helpful if a teacher were to pull them out and present them in a lesson to help kids remember, but this is not a book you could read to a class.
E is for Evergreen: A Washington Alphabet, by Marie and Roland Smith; illustrated by Linda Holt Ayriss. The 4-line rhymes featured on each page were cheesy and hokey, but the prose in the wide margins was well-written and informative. I couldn't recognize the medium used in the art-- it did definitely include watercolors-- but the illustrations were amazing, and quite accurate. What warrants Washington's inclusion in our collection as a state to illustrate? I was able to find Alphabet books for all the states (plus DC), except for Wisconsin, Indiana (!), Wyoming, and Oklahoma. If you live in one of those states, get writing-- my library has a need for your ABCs. I found it interesting that we had an ABC book for Ontario, Canada, until I looked up a map of Canada and realized it practically borders us. My eastern geography is still not very good. In looking at each and every book listed in our catalog as Subject: Alphabet, I was amazed. In addition to state alphabets, there were regional and country-themed, X-American ethnic groups of every sort, and alphabets for different historical eras. There were 26 women who changed the world, state parks, and an ABC book for mini Cubs fans. I actually really like all these different books; they pretend to be simple, but they actually contain a lot of information.  

The Woman with a Worm in her Head and other true stories of Infectious Disease, by Pamela Nagami, M.D. Part way through the third chapter or so, I realized I remembered the author's name, but I couldn't remember reading this book before. Actually, I read another book on similar subject matter this past fall. This is an earlier book (and it does show a bit in the writing), but still very good. The dialogue often feels stilted, forced and unnatural, but the rest of the writing is quite good, informative but not unapproachable but not dumbed down either. Another librarian, who does book talks to middle and high school classes, asked if this would be good for our young patrons-- they have certainly expressed an interest in the subject. Students may be challenged by the reading level, just because there is a good deal of information to process and remember as each story goes along. As long as middle school students have a basic grasp of anatomy, their interest should help carry them through.

Half Moon Investigations, by Eoin Colfer. What a fantabulous book! Excellent, excellent. Even better, in my opinion, than the Artemis Fowl books, which I did enjoy. The main character is the same age and also from Ireland-- write what you know, I guess--but the writing style is quite different. At first, I didn't think the writing style would work. I scoffed after the first paragraph, it seemed so cliched. It reads thusly: "My name is Moon. Fletcher Moon. And I'm a private detective. In my twelve years on this spinning ball we call Earth, I've seen a lot of things normal people never see. I've seen lunch boxes stripped of everything except fruit. I've seen counterfeit homework networks that operated in five counties, and I've seen truckloads of candy taken from babies." I thought young readers would find this stupid, but I realized that this classic hard-boiled early detective writing style has probably not been encountered by young readers. They don't read pulp paperbacks from before 1950, and they don't even talk like this on detective shows anymore. The author manages to hold this tone and style mostly throughout the book, although it does mellow out after the first few pages, and it works amazingly well. It feels natural for the character. There are some character similarities between Fletcher and Artemis, as well as other characters in the books-- both boys are extremely smart, not terribly good at sports, and short for their ages. They have to team up with rather violent people whom they don't like but come to trust within the confines of their working relationships. There are minor side-kick characters whose sole purpose is to add a gross factor that 12-year-old readers will find hilarious. I actually wish there were sequels to this book it was so good.

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