Castle Librarian

Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Much Ado About What?

In Musing, Reading on June 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Much ado was made about Christopher Hitchens’s book recommendations to an eight year old girl, Mason Crumpacker. (click here and here for more) Unfortunately, none of the books are appropriate for an eight year old, no matter how precocious she is.

Here are my recommendations for eight year olds who want to be free thinkers.

1. Make sure you read the originals of children’s classics like Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll, The Wizard of OZ by Frank L. Baum, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. Do not watch the movies and think that you know what these books are about or mean. Do not read adapted or Disney-fied versions. READ THE ORIGINALS.

2. Read a variety of genres. Read fantasy, folklore, historical fiction, science fiction, chic lit, biography, etc. With regards to food, my mother told me I didn’t have to eat something if I didn’t like it, but I did have to try it. Try it all. Read what sparks your imagination and makes you think.

3. Excellent authors I can recommend by name, in no particular order: Tamora Pierce, Derek Landy, Jane Yolen, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and Dav Pilkey.

4. Avoid series books that use a standard plot formula – like Goosebumps or The Babysitters Club. There is no intellectual stimulation in reading the same pattern over and over again. [I’ve changed my opinion about this. Series at this level with 20+ volumes have a purpose for the child who is learning to read. Once they catch the “bug” they need to read voraciously and having a favorite series can fill that need.]

5. Read books for adults as they become interesting to you. If it is a struggle to read and understand, then maybe the time isn’t right, yet.

6. Read books that have been “banned” or at least complained about. If a book makes people uncomfortable, it is probably because it challenges their comfortable worldview. Stretch your worldview. Open your eyes to possibilities.

7. Specific titles I recommend in no particular order:A Series of Unfortunate Events v.1-9 (do not bother with v.10-13 they are poor quality and I suspect written by a different Lemony Snicket than the first 9), Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, and Wonder by R. J. Palacio.


Barnaby Grimes: The Curse of the Night Wolf

In Book Review on June 8, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I spent an evening sitting in a medical clinic waiting room, waiting, and managed to read the entire Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Corgi 2008). I had purchased this book in order to prescreen it for my students and library. They want to read horror, but supernatural creatures and magic are dangerous territory when it comes to school libraries, especially in an Arab culture. This makes it hard to find books to interest them without crossing the “culturally appropriate” line.

I won’t be adding this book to the library collection, but not because of supernatural creatures. The language is much too high and difficult for my English as a second language learners. Combine that with the fact that even I had trouble dragging myself through the first few chapters. There was far too much complex description of the setting without dialog or action. Eventually, things start to move and the story picks up. However, the only mystery in this book is when will the main character figure out what is happening, because the writer dishes it up in obviousness and the reader can’t help but know what is coming next.

Spoiler alert! I’m about to describe the villain’s plan… I’m a little concerned about  the nature of the villain’s actions. Dr. Cadwallader is using an exlixir to turn people into werewolves and then kill them for their pelts. This is a very capitalistic serial killer. I don’t read much horror, okay, I don’t read any horror, so maybe this is common faire these days. When I think back to Poe, Stevensen, and Shelley, horror wasn’t this sociopathic.   The Tale Tell Heart and The Black Cat by Poe were about crimes of passion. Mr. Hyde was a bad guy with no conscience, but he was more like an “id” on the run with no “ego” or “superego” to hold him back than a serial killer. Frankenstein’s monster was striking back at rejection he didn’t deserve.  I’ll be reading more horror as we go along, so perhaps I’ll find this is normal or just one of many different stories.