Friday, March 7, 2014

February 2014 Book Reports

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart is the third book which wraps up the story line. I didn't like this book quite as much as the first two because of the introduction of ESP. I don't have a problem with ESP in a book in and of itself. At our house, it'll just be put into the same category as magic, unicorns, and other imaginary aspects of fairy tales and legends. I was disappointed because, up until that point in the story, as unlikely as the plot was, the children were using their own intelligence and skills to maneuver out of sticky situations. A particularly intelligent child who identified with the outcasts who bonded together in friendship through adversity would suddenly feel a lack of similarity to the main characters. So as I find again and again, the third book in a trilogy disappoints a little, but it was still enjoyable and still had wonderful moments of sacrifice, courage, and friendship. First Son will find it on his reading list for the summer after fourth grade. (library copy)

The Way of Holy Joy by Sofia Cavaletti (received as a gift)

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (purchased copy)

As You Like It (Shakespeare Made Easy) by William Shakespeare is the third play we're studying this year in fourth grade. The modern text in this book was quite explicit at times, so I would share it only with mature high schoolers, but it was fine for my purposes. This is certainly not my favorite Shakespearean play but I anticipate it'll be a fun one with which to end our year. (purchased copy)

Tomorrow, When the War Began (The Tomorrow Series #1) by John Marsden had great reviews online and I thought would be a good one to listen to while I exercised, when I couldn't quite give it my full attention and when I wanted a good story that would give me something to eagerly anticipate to encourage me. An invasion of Australia is completely unbelievable, but the idea of a group of rural Australian teenagers surviving and hindering the effort was not so much. Unfortunately, the book started out slowly and was bogged down by the main character's philosophizing. Frankly, I didn't think it was that well written and am a little surprised it remains as popular as it is. I've agreed to read the second in the series for a review site, but I'm not sure I can make it through all seven. (Playaway from the library)

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah is listed as an adaptation of the author's biography for young adults, but I feel like it might be better described as an abridgement. I kept feeling like I'd read it before because I had read Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter. The main theme of the book is the overcoming of child abuse and neglect so there are some hard scenes. There is also a often an overlay of fear during World War II and the advanced of armed Communists. I think this could be a good choice for more mature readers in middle grades or struggling readers in high school, those who are ready for more difficult topics and themes but not yet ready to tackle the adult biography. (I can't remember if there was any more violent or graphic descriptions of abuse in Falling Leaves, but I'm also of the opinion that high school students, especially those in later years, should be able to tackle difficult topics, especially when reading along with an adult. (library copy)

Hippos in the Night: Autobiographical Adventures in Africa by Christina M. Allen is the autobiographical account of a young biologist who travels with a group by van and bike through parts of Africa as part of an educational experience for school groups connecting with them regularly online. It's written at an easily readable level for children (perhaps third grade level) and has lots of interesting notes at the end of the book on the animals encountered. There were some nice parts on interactions with the people of the area, too, contrasting the modern world of the large cities there with the more nomadic and poorer peoples. It didn't seem too preachy, which was good, but it was sometimes simplistic. Overall, a fine book and one First Son will probably read next year, as recommended for the second year of Level 2 African studies at Mater Amabilis. (library copy)

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart (library copy)

Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo is the story of a young boy swept overboard on a trip sailing around the world with his parents. He awakes to find himself on an island, but he's not alone. The tale of the friendship that develops between the boy and the island's resident is poignantly written but still exciting. I'm looking forward to sharing this book with First Son who will either read it this summer (after fourth grade) or as one of his independent reading books next year. It should be pretty easy for him to read, but the themes of war (all in the past) and loss might be better for him now that he's older. (library copy)

Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth (library copies of Divergent and Insurgent, Allegiant purchased for the Kindle)

Books in Progress (and date started)

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