Sunday, August 14, 2011
Friday, February 19, 2010
The previous entries were originally posted on my 1st blog, iKzut, but I've moved them here for the convenience of my readers *ahem* Thus, I have 2 separate blogs, each dedicated to my 2 loves: my bizarre little sketchbook, iKzut, and my launch pad for book reviews, the drifter notes. Feel free to explore/enjoy/comment on/criticize either one ^_^
In honor of the drifter notes' 1st post (the previous posts are 2nd hand so they don't count -_-") I will introduce The Ultimate Book Guide by editors Daniel Hahn, Leon Flynn, and Susan Reuben, which boasts over 600 great books for 8-12s. (See cover ;P)
Books like these kinda make you wish you were that age again. But then again, like someone once said: the best children's books can have an arguably enormous adult appeal (think Roald Dahl). The Ultimate Book Guide not only gives a basic plot summary (with a miminum number of spoilers ;) and review of each book, but also gives several varied suggestions which answer the question that every librarian dreads: I loved that book! Now what the heck I read next?
There are few readers who are untroubled by the what-the-heck-do-I-read-next question and I am (fortunately/unfortunately) not one of them. An example of how helpful this feature is:
Book: Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen. [which is a story involving students from a local school, a runaway, unethical property developing, wildlife conservation, humor, and a whole lot of plot twisting]
Suggestions for what to read next list as:
1. Holes, by Louis Sachar "is amazing and equally twisty"
2. Kite, by Melvin Burgess "another book about conserving wildlife"
3. The Big Bazoohley, by Peter Carey "is another author [like Hiaasen] who usually writes for adults; his funny snappy book for younger readers"
Thus, the suggestions pinpoint on why the reader might have liked the book, and thoughtfully offer a myriad of choices.
Personally, I found The Ultimate Book Guide especially useful for reminding me of the (too) many books I read when I was that age...many of which I (regrettably) could remember neither title nor author of. A quick glance at the plot summary would result in a sudden flash of enlightenment (Oh, yeaah!! That was a great story! How could I have forgotten all about it??)...and, yes, I now have the presence of mind to note the author's name for future reference should anyone ask me to recommend a good book :)
Apparently, The Ultimate Book Guide(8-12yrs) is the first of a 3-book series. I'm hunting for the others now... I am NOT going to become some old granny bemoaning the ignorance of my youth (Augghh!! This book!! I would have loved it in my [insert younger age here]!!)
Yeah...that would be my reaction, I think -_-"
But, yeah, I'll say it again: the best children's books can have an enormous adult appeal. Thus, I give The Ultimate Book Guide two thumbs up: 1 for kids, 1 for adults :) There's 600 great books for everyone to choose from. Enjoy!! ^_^
Btw, check out this blog by The Ultimate Book Guide's three editors featuring the same name. This eponymous blog updates pretty consistently - it features a Book of the Week plus a plethora of suggestions for what to read next. Click here now to find out what's hot in the children's world of literature :)
Monday, January 19, 2009
Written by Brian Selznick, this magnificent book contains exactly one hundred and fifty-eight different pictures and twenty-six thousand one hundred and fifty-nine words.
It won the 2008 Caldecott Medal, the first considered novel to do so.
I use the word "considered" as it is (described in the author's own words): "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."
A novel idea.
In this book, pictures and text perform in turn to enact the story, which takes place in Paris, 1931. Selznick's illustrations are a feast to the eye: elegant pencil strokes combine with meticulous cross-hatching to render the setting in mysterious and hauntingly beautiful sketches. They are gorgeous.
But of the story... oh, what shall I say? I do not want to spoil the book for anyone. Well, let me say this: the plot's subject matter has as much to do with the illustrations as the illustrations have to do with the story. Despite the seeming arbitrariness of the images produced amidst the text, the whole piece reads seamlessly. And in the end, everything in the story ties together firmly into a coherent and perfect whole.
As a children's book, as a work of art: it has no precedent.
Monday, January 12, 2009
An American author and illustrator of numerous children's books, Wiesner has received three Caldecott Medals and two Caldecott Honors for his works. I've been lucky enough to experience the pleasure of enjoying his three Caldecott winners. Despite the fact that the books are meant for the pure entertainment of children, I doubt that few adults can resist them as well. The artwork is gorgeous - lovingly rendered in finely-worked detail. They furnish esprit to an already intrinsically fascinating story. Fantastic and full of verve, these books will entrall both children and art-lovers alike.
The Three Pigs (2001)
Monday, December 29, 2008
Works by the renowned Agatha Christie never fail to intrigue me. Despite being rendered somewhat blase by overenthusiastic consumption of her works (Admission of guilt: that would be no one's fault but my own. Christie is a prolific author with more than 80 novels and story collections to her name, and, imbecile that I am, I would insist on systematically devouring every Christie book that comes my way ;P), every once in a while, a gem of a twist ending will crop up and jar this particular reader out of her smug apathy.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is that gem.
I admit that I'd cast a somewhat jaundiced eye over the cover when I picked up this paperback at the local library. Published in 1926, this Hercule Poirot mystery was declared "one of Christie's best known and most controversial novels".
(A/N: I dislike Poirot. Arrogant, with an almost comically inflated opinion of his abilities, M. Poirot always seems to be a tad egocentric. My preference runs more to reserved, but keen-eyed spinsters - Miss Marple for example. Her "Victorian modesty" (though old-fashioned) is more amusing and far more tolerable than Poirot's bombast.
But then, I guess I'm being harsh. Poirot does have a plausible reason for his pompousity. "The little grey cells" have admirable ways of proving themselves. *grudging respect*)
Most Hercule Poirot mysteries tend to have the same sort of style (unlike Miss Marple mysteries which have more variations in fashion). The story usually takes place either in the third-person narrative or from the personal narrative of Captain Hastings (Poirot's companion - he is to Poirot what Watson is to Holmes). A scarce amount of clues are found in the crime scene. An inordinate amount of seemingly irrelevant morsels of information are provided. Poirot makes the occasional enigmatic comment throughout the investigations, and in the end assembles all the suspects together and promulgates the identity of the culprit.
But The Murder of Roger Ackroyd diverges from the mode in two distinct ways:
(1) The story is not told from a third-person narrative or even from the personal narrative of Hastings. It is told from the personal narrative of a Dr. James Sheppard - a country doctor who is the very embodiment of discretion and reticence. All the same, though, the detective casually reflects that Sheppard shares some similarities with Hastings; M. Poirot duly engages the doctor as a colleague.
(2) The ending. As I said before, it is a gem of a twist ending. I do not want to disclose more: it might ruin the book for others.
(A/N: Woe betide those who spread major spoilers far and wide (and without warning!). I hate that sort of people. E.g.: OMG!! GUYS!!! THE BUTLER DID IT!!!! OMG!!! (*ahem* That's a spoiler for another book ¬_¬) When I receive a spoiler of that caliber, I feel like shaking the spoiler-bearer. Hard >:(
Grr... So, no more spoilers :P)
Anyways, this is a must-read book for any fan of the Queen of Crime (ie: Agatha Christie ;) Do read it, people. Ciao! ;D
(A/N: Comments/criticisms welcome.)
Sunday, December 14, 2008
A fascinating 380-page sci-fic novel by 3-time Newbery Honor Author, Nancy Farmer, The House of the Scorpion introduces a futuristic predicament that arises from the technology of cloning. (I hesitate to share more, lest I ruin the book for those who have yet to read it. Thus, the requisite warning - Note: Spoiler alert!)
The protagonist, Matteo "Matt" Alacran, is a clone of a wealthy and powerful drug lord. Though some might consider his status to be enviable, Matt's status marks him as a non-human. Thus, he's considered livestock. His very existence is a stigma to himself.
Although the sci-fic subjects covered in The House of the Scorpion are not novel (the 2005 movie The Island had the same idea about the possible use of clones - but then that movie was released 3 years after the book; this raises the interesting question about The Island's source of inspiration ;) and the initial setting vaguely reminiscent of Fitzgerald's The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, the story is executed marvelously. There is no gratuitous violence to solve the problems encountered. Solutions to dilemmas are contrived through the wise cooperation of the characters involved. Indeed, (though this statement seems trite) it is in the characters that lie the strength of this story. Warm enough to elicit empathy, yet shown with enough human nature to retain interest - even the villians get the same treatment, resulting in the sparkling study of an evil, vicious person that still draws commiseration.
The plot is tightly constructed; but not overtly so that the story groans under the burden of its architecture. If you desire suspensive sci-fic with warm, believable characters, this book is tailored to fit.
(A/N: So... that's my first ever book review, people ;P And, yes, that's a pic of the first edition cover... replete with Newbery Honor shields and a plethora of book awards :O
(A/N #2: I was really holding back on the spoilers, 'coz my bro, the all-wise Prophet S, thinks I've already said too much. *eyeroll* Anyways, I don't think this review is anywhere near perfect yet, so there's a strong likelihood for major editing in the not-so-distant future. Comments and criticism much welcome ^_^)