I had a pretty good week of children's book reading last week. Here is a quick re-cap:
SUZANNE COLLINS: Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1) and Gregor The Overlander And The Prophecy Of Bane (Underland Chronicles). These were recommended to me by Kellye, a visitor to my website. They are about two kids who visit an underground world deep beneath New York City. This world is populated by violet-eyed humans, and giant, talking insects and rodents (cockroaches, bats, rats, and spiders).
To tell you the truth, I had heard about these books before, and the idea of reading about giant insects didn't inspire me. But I have to tell you that these are great books. They're about a mis-matched team of characters of different races going on a quest (shades of the Lord of the Rings, but in a much shorter, easier to digest story). They have to learn to get along, despite vast differences in mind-set and habits, and they face peril and adventure.
The two main characters, the Overlanders (who travel to the Underland) are 11-year-old Gregor and his 2-year-old sister Boots. Personally, I think that the books are worth reading for the character of Boots alone. Everything is an adventure for her, she greets each new person and experience with open arms, and she ends up being sort of a natural ambassador between humans, bats, and insects. She's like the personification of what Jason Kotecki is striving toward with his book Escape Adulthood (which I wrote about on Friday) - all of the good things about a childlike spirit.
The Underland Chronicles are quick, easy reads, with fairly wide spacing of the text. I can see why Kellye recommended them for kids having a bit of trouble moving up to longer books. However, they pack in a surprising amount of adventure, bravery, and betrayal, not to mention character development and the overcoming of prejudices. I recommend them highly.
PETER ABRAHMS: Down the Rabbit Hole : An Echo Falls Mystery (Echo Falls). I listened to this book on MP3 from Audible.com. It's about Ingrid, a curious 13-year-old girl who gets mixed up in the murder investigation of a quirky woman from her small town. The author mostly writes adult mysteries, but has four children, and it seems clear that they've given him perspective into what is and isn't cool in middle school.
What I like about this book is that it's a classic mystery, with a murder and clues and the main character figuring out who the killer is. This book was nominated for the Edgar Award for Young Adults (the book awards for mysteries), and I hope that it wins. I've seen lots of mysteries for younger kids, but not as many straightforward mysteries for the middle school set. This one includes a love interest for Ingrid, complicated by the fact that the boy's father is the police chief. There are also interesting dynamics going on with Ingrid's family in the book. Most of these are left unresolved, which gives me hope that other books in this series will be forthcoming. Overall, this is a great pick for older kids who love mysteries, without any fantasy elements.
MEG CABOT: The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, Vol. 1). Darkest Hour (The Mediator, Book 4). What can I say? I love Meg Cabot's books. I think that she has a tremendous knack for getting inside the head of her characters, so that you feel like you know them. She also makes her characters regular people, even as she puts them in implausible situations (for example, in All-American Girl, the main characters, a teenaged girl, happens to save the President's life, and then starts dating his son). I read The Princess Diaries because I wanted to see how different it was from the movie. It is fairly different (set in New York instead of San Francisco, with a much meaner grandmother than Julie Andrews portrayed), but still fun. Darkest Hour is part of the Mediator series, about a girl who sees dead people, and has to help them resolve their issues, so that they can cross over to the other side (much like the TV series Ghost Whisperer, but with a teen-aged protagonist). Both books satisfied my Meg Cabot fix for the week, though I realize that they wouldn't be the right fare for everyone.
What have you been reading lately? Drop me a line if you'd like to chat. You can also see the lists of all of the books that I've read recently, and want to read, on my book list website. Happy Reading -- Jen
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.