Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Catching up on the ol' Reviewing...

We're now delving back deeply in the reading log, to find all of those unblogged books.

For those who are interested, I keep a small unlined spiral notebook in my bag. If you open it one way, it's my "have read list" with a large heading for every month. Open it the other way, and it's my "to read list" so I can easily jot down interesting titles when I see or hear about them. I have a separate book where I write my impressions of a book during and after reading. These cryptic notes often provide great hilarity later on when I try to figure out what the heck I meant. On the actual reading log, I just place a little check mark next to the title...

I am now attempting to blog books much closer to the date in which I read them. In fact, I have already reviewed all the books I read in May of 2008. Pretty impressive, no?

But, let's delve back into those archives to find today's 5 reviews shall we? These books have nothing in common. I'm starting with my oldest unblogged book and working my way forward...

Also, I decided to start putting age ranges on my reviews. These are just who (a) the book is aimed at or (b) who I think it will most appeal to.

Silk Umbrellas Carolyn Marsden

Noi is an 11-year-old girl living in rural Thailand. There, she learns to paint silk umbrellas with her grandmother, Kun Ya. The family faces money problems and her older sister, Ting, is sent to work in a factory. Noi is horrified at the working conditions in the factory and fears that it's only a matter of time before she has to go there as well.

This is a really sweet story and rather short. I longed for more of the day-to-day details-- the struggles that made Ting's work in the factory so necessary and also just Thai village life.

age range: 4th-6th ish

An Ocean Apart, a World Away Lesley Namioka

Set in that tumultuous time of the Chinese Republic (1911-1949, although this takes place in the inter-war years.) Yanyan belongs to a modern family and wants to grow up to be a doctor. Her boyfriend, however, is a revolutionary who wants to restore the Qing dynasty. After their love sours, Yanyan finds a way to get to Cornell where she struggles with racism and fitting into a new culture.

I really wanted to like this book, but overall I struggled with it. Yanyan's voice was completely unconvincing. There was way too much explanatory text for a novel told in the first person-- it jarred and took away from the characterization of Yanyan, to the point where I no longer cared much about her story. Also, I have a hard time believing that such a modern girl, raised in a modern household, had no idea what the May 4th movement was!

age range--YA, appropriate for younger YAs

Clay David Almond

Davie and Stephen are alter boys in England who are starting to question God. Enter Stephen, the freaky (and deeply religious) new kid who lives with his mad relative and create clay figures that come to life. Stephen wants to create a clay man, a Golem, and set him on the local bully.

This was a Best Book for YA but... it didn't grab me.

The main question is if Stephen Rose is a devil or a saint. But, I don't really care enough to think about it. I couldn't decide if the book was subtle or just straight-up boring. I didn't have a lot of patience for Davie's dithering about the questions raised. Also, there's a weird shift in tense when they start building the clay man that I can't figure out.

This book took me forever to read. I'd set it back down and wasn't compelled to pick it back up, except that I felt it deserved a full read because everyone else apparently loved it.

Me, eh.

age range: YA

Shug by Jenny Han

I really liked this one. This tells of the summer between 6th and 7th grades, when suddenly boys and popularity start to matter, that time when everything starts to change. Shug (Annemarie) is trying to negotiate her life when she realizes she like likes her best guy friend and her best girlfriend is suddenly much more popular than she is. At the same time, her dad is never home, her mother is a snobby alcoholic, and her sister is always out.

Han perfectly captures the sheer pain and agony of being 12 and not being sure if growing up is really the right direction that one should be taking.

I think everyone has read this already, but if you haven't, go!

Age range: 5th-8th grade

Thumb on a Diamond Ken Roberts

The tiny fishing town of New Auckland, in British Columbia, has 42 buildings. The kids in town want to see the big city, but have no way of getting there. They then realize they have enough to form a baseball team and can get school funding to play in the provincial tournament down in Vancouver. Who cares if none of them have actually played baseball--that's what the internet is for! And well.. who cares if there's not enough flat space to actually put together a diamond? The whole point is to go down, get eliminated in the first round, and explore the city.

Full of heart and realism, a nice story. I especially loved their reaction to escalators, which none of the kids had seen before.

An excellent bet for 3rd-5th graders.


Julie said...

Shug would be a good one for the readers' challenge! You can never have too many books stockpiled... even though I think I might only make it through 4 this year... Are you in the challenge?

Jennie said...

Oh yes... I was looking at my stockpile yesterday... I'm planning on posting a picture when I do my starting post (I'm aiming for about 7 tonight...)