Friday, October 30, 2020

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis


 New girl Maya comes to Chloe’s school. She doesn’t say much and is always dressed in shabby probably second hand clothes. The other children tease her. Then she stops coming to the school. The teacher shows the class how kindness can spread like the ripples on the water when you drop a pebble in it. Chloe fails to identify her own act of kindness and regrets not having been kind to Maya.  

This looks and feels like a standard picture book: it is a tactile hardback and includes many pictures that tell more of the story than is in the text.  Yet there is a little more text on each page than in most picture books for pre-schoolers. There are some telling facial expressions which may be easier for a slightly older child to interpret.  This contains a first person narrative that is quite unusual for either the pre-school or the Key Stage 1 child.  

The text uses an adult serif font with difficult ‘g’s and ‘a’s.             

Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz



2015, first published 2013  

This is the tenth and final book in the series.  It is really some back story and gives a first person account of Yassen Gregorovich, whom Alex Rider, his father and his uncle have encountered.

We learn how Gregorovich became as assassin. His parents were involved in something dangerous. This went wrong and he had to fend for himself.  He ends up becoming involved in Scorpia. He is a reluctant killer at first but manages to develop the habit. This novel ends where he allows Alex to escape.

The use of first person is unusual here yet it still doesn’t read quite like a YA book yet. This is supposed to be Gregorovich rereading his diary just before he goes out on a mission.  Only the last couple of chapters are concerned with the present mission. This is the only part where we see Alex. The diary however is a little too sophisticated for a young man, especially in the early parts which he should have written when he was a young boy living on the streets. We have to suspend our disbelief. However, this form does give us some insight into the character.   

There are shades of Oliver Twist. When he lives on the streets he meets a character called Fagin. He is pushed through an open window and gets caught by the man he is trying to rob. This man does indeed take him in. However, he is not as kind as Oilver’s rescuer.    

The book is 405 pages long with blocked text in a simple font.

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

2002, first published 2001  

The traveling pants of the title are a pair of jeans bought from a charity. The four friends, Bridget Carmen, Lena and Tibby pass them on to each other during a long summer in which each of the girls grows up a little.  So, we approach the bildungsroman of the young adult.

Bridget embarks on a forbidden relationship with an older boy a coach at her summer camp. Carmen behaves badly when she is confronted with her father’s new family. The beautiful but rather shy Lena causes a misunderstanding between her and Kostos, the grandson of friends of her grandparents.  Tibby works at Wallman’s and befriends Bailey, a younger girl who is dying of leukaemia.

The pants develop a spiritual quality and bring luck and meaningfulness to each girl as she wears them        

Each chapter contains glimpse of each of the girls and is headed by a quote usually from literature though there is also a quote from a bumper sticker.

The book is 304 pages long.  The chapters are quite short. The text is blocked and in an adult serif font. Other fonts are used for had-written notes, giving each girl a different sort of handwriting.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Last Wolf by Mini Grey



This is a green twist on the Little Red Riding Hood story. Red Riding Hood becomes Little Red and wears a red coat, a red and green hunting hat and red boots.  She has the power; she is off to catch a wolf. Mother is not afraid to let her go as there haven’t been any wolves around for a hundred years.  She is allowed to go out alone and is warned not to be late for tea.  She makes her way through the forest and finds the Last Wolf living cosily with the Last Lynx and the Last Bear. The animals reminisce about the time when it was easy to catch food. They help Little Red find her way back home and she and her mother decide that they need to plant more trees to help the animals.

Significantly, the only full double spread shows a picture of a healthy forest with animals running through it. The rest of the book is made up of single spreads, one and a half page spreads and some pages with multiple pictures.  Additional story is shown in the pictures.  The difference between the wilderness and the town is emphasized. Some of the text is blocked off.  As the animals reminisce, pictures are framed by wavy lines to imply dreaming. There is plenty of repetition.

This is a large almost square hardback edition.

The text uses an adult serif font with difficult ‘g’s and ‘a’s.            


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz



2015, first published 2011  

This is the ninth of the Alex Rider books.  The pace and the tension have increased even more.   There is a marked emotional tension this time as well.  He gets even closer to Jack Starbright and we also learn that there has been a meaningful kiss between him and Sabine Pleasure.   

Alex meets his doppelganger, Julius Grief. Grief is a clone of his father and in a previous novel has been made to look exactly like Alex.  Alex kills for the first time.  He confronts his evil “twin”.

Alan Blunt is about to be replaced by Mrs Jones as the head of M16. Blunt has fallen out of favour with the Prime Minister. At the end of the novel we learn that Blunt has acted in a devious way.  All is not black and white.  We are verging on YA material. Blunt comments that “A German philosopher once wrote that he who fights monsters must take care that he doesn’t become one himself.  Our work is monstrous. I’m afraid there is no escaping it” (427).  Is this foreshadowing something for Alex?  The blurb on the back of the book describes this as “Alex’s final mission”.  There is another book. Will Ale become a monster?

Alex is changed. Jack has died because of becoming involved in one of Alex’s activities. Alex has taken a life.   

We have many adult points of view here. The first 107 pages are about various criminal activities and also some of Alan Blunt’s and Mrs Jones’ work. Blunt and Jones have a significant chapter towards the end of the novel.  We are also in the point of view of Edward Pleasure near the end.

The novel ends on an upbeat note.  Scorpia has been shut down and many of its members are arrested. Alex leaves London, taking very few belongings and goes to live with the Pleasures in San Francisco.

The book is 431 pages long with blocked text in a simple font.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Indigo's Star by Hilary Mckay




This is the second book in the series about the Casson family. It’ is mainly Indigo’s story as the title suggests. However, younger sister Rose also plays an important part.

The family is to a large extent is dysfunctional.  Mother is absent-minded, sleeps a lot and often forgets to buy food. Father lives away from home. Both parents are artists, each eccentric in their own way.  However, there is a lot of love between the siblings.

Indigo is bullied at school but largely copes with it. He is also recovering from glandular fever. Rose wants her father to come home and she does not want to wear her new glasses.

New boy Tom arrives at the school. He now becomes the focus of the bullying and takes some of the attention away from Indigo. He has other problems. He is staying with is grandmother as he has not been getting on with his father, stepmother and stepsister. He bounces a ball a lot, likes climbing on to roofs and plays guitar. He longs to own a rather expensive guitar he sees in the local music shop.

All comes good in the end: Indigo confronts and overcomes the bullies, spurred on because Rose is in danger. Tom is reconciled with his family when his step-sister becomes ill. Rose accidentally breaks his guitar and in her panic phones her father who rushes home.  Money is little object to him and he buys the expensive guitar for Tom.

Tom goes home. Rose and Indigo climb on to the roof. Rose can see the stars now because she is wearing her glasses.       

The book is 244 pages long.  The text is blocked but double-spaced. The font has a serif. The chapters are quite long.         

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

  2012   teen, upper secondary   Key Stage 4, ages 14 -17, Dashner   James, science fantasy, thriller This is the second book in the Maz...