Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recently Read


Sapphique by Catherine Fisher.

Sequel to Incarceron. Not as thrilling as the first. The ending was twisted to make it as happy as possible, and there was a niggling sense that if I remembered every detail of both books I would find she had done things that were inconsistent. Still, a good read with some great characters and plenty of food for thought about what we value and why.

Infernal Devices (Mortal Engines Quartet 3)

Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve.

Next after Predator's Gold, I could not put it down. Better written than it's predecessors, though perhaps not as good a story as the last. An impressive ending that has me scrambling to get hold of A Darkling Plain, last in the Hungry City Chronicles. Municipal Darwinism rolls on as Hester and Tom take an idyllic break in the now static city of Anchorage. But when their daughter leaves in search of adventure, they follow and catch up with the world.

Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

Newbery award winner. The book takes place during the Great Depression and is parts A Long Way from Chicago, Nowhere to Call Home, and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate,  though not as good as Peck or Kelly. Although it was a pleasurable read, I could not get the title of the article, "Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?" out of my head as I read it. I can't see this appealing to many kids.

Sisters Red

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce.

I trudged through about half of this before abandoning it. It never drew me in or engaged me at all. The characters seemed stilted and unreal, the setting similar. And the plot? Yawn. So disappointing after that great cover.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Municipal Darwinism and the Usual Kind

Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles)

Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles) by Philip Reeve.

The first in what is now a five part series, I read Fever Crumb (the newly released prequel) this summer, thereby unintentionally getting the order right. My expectations were high, given the complexity and style of Fever Crumb.  Although a rollicking good adventure featuring a boy who lives on London - the traction city that was once the United Kingdom - and a girl (of course) who is bent on avenging the death of her mother by hunting down the highly respected municipal darwinist - the book was somewhat disappointing when compared with its prequel. Nevertheless, the epic battle between the municipal darwinists and the anti-traction league make for both the kind of reading that is being wrapped up in an action adventure as well as that which comes from reading something that is trying to suggest other, deeper thoughts to you. Which side are you on? Why? Does that square with how you view your world in the 21st century? The last one is key, as this whole series is posited as the inevitable future of our technology driven world. Fever Crumb takes place around the 31st century, this first book takes place in the 35th century when the extreme weirdness of Fever Crumb is now quaint, poorly remembered history.

The progression of Reeve as a writer is apparent in this series. If I had to recommend just one, it would be the prequel, though admittedly only to those advanced enough to make all of the connections independently that the series would have made for them explicitly. For those who love Westerfield's Leviathan, it's a great series.

How Angel Peterson Got His Name

How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen.

I came across this while shelf reading (insert great gnashing of teeth here) and pulled it because I remembered the title being tossed around in a class recently  and also because my 7th graders are doing a non-fiction reading project. A slim volume (always a plus as far as my students are concerned) I started reading it and could not put it down. Although taking place in Paulsen's childhood, circa 1955, when, as he points out from time to time, there was no television or internet or safety apparel, the central theme of the book - 13 year old boys do really dumb, dangerous stuff - is timeless. Hilarious. He does not bore with too much detail, appreciates that his audience merely needs him to set scenes, not babble on endlessly about his childhood. A must read for the boys who do these things - great ideas! - as well as anyone who comes into regular contact with the creature that is the 13 year old boy - why do they do these things?