15 posts categorized "Overlooked Books" Feed

WCOB #3: The Strictest School in the World

Welcome to month three of the Wicked Cool Overlooked Book initiative, started by Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray. The idea is to focus on an excellent book that doesn't seem to have received sufficient attention. This month Colleen discusses Melanie McGrath's The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic, and Jules and Eisha at 7-Imp highlight two Australian authors.

The book that I would like to draw your attention to this month is: The Strictest School in the World, by Howard Whitehouse. In my original review of this title, I called it:

"a book aimed squarely at the 9-12 set, featuring lovably eccentric characters, larger-than-life bad guys, two independent-minded protagonists, and madcap adventures.

Towards the end of the review I added:

"There is a lot to like about this book. The author's voice is hilarious, with matter-of-fact recounting of tragedies, and sly insertions of humor. The naming of the characters reminds me a bit of Roald Dahl (e.g. Miss Sharpelbow, a terrifying teacher, and Professor Bellbuckle, a mad inventor). The plot, with loyal relatives trying to help a young girl escape from a prison of a school, reminds me of one of the main sub-plots in Eva Ibbotson's The Star of Kazan. However, The Strictest School in the World is more humorous and in tone, with more over-the-top behavior. The humor of the book keeps the Gothic overtones from ever being too much."

All in all, it's well worth reading, but I haven't seen a huge amount of press about it. Fans of A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama and other Gothic titles should definitely check out The Strictest School in the World, as should fans of historical fiction, and anyone looking for a book that's funny, or one that features both a male and a female protagonist. A sequel, The Faceless Fiend: Being the Tale of a Criminal Mastermind, is due out August 1st. If you wait for that one, you'll be sure of back-to-back fun. Check out my original review for more details.


Wicked Cool Overlooked Books (II)

My Wicked Cool Overlooked Book for this month is Holbrook: A Lizard's Tale, written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Abby Carter. Like Kelly's selection at Big A little a, and Colleen's selection at Chasing Ray, this title hasn't gone wholly unrecognized. Holbrook was nominated for a Cybils award for Middle Grade Fiction last year, but it was targeted to a younger age range than the titles that made the short list. Wordy Girls (of which Bonny Becker is a member) also reviewed Holbrook, and Kirby Larson liked it (according to bookshelves of doom), but I couldn't find any other reviews out there in the Kidlitosphere. Which is too bad, because I really enjoyed this book. It's an excellent choice for early readers who are looking for something beyond the standard series titles.

Holbrook: A Lizard's Tale is the story of a young lizard artist who lives in a small town in the desert, but dreams of bigger things. It's a chapter book, with frequent illustrations, touching on important topics. Here's the conclusion from my review:

"What I found most impressive about this book is that it deals with relatively mature concepts (the meaning of and need for art, the existence of sweat shops, and the possibility of betrayal, for instance), yet it manages to remain accessible, humorous, and non-threatening for younger readers. Like Holbrook, this book is much bigger than it appears at first glance. This makes Holbrook: A Lizard's Tale a wonderful and unexpected find among books targeted to elementary school kids."

You can find the full review here. This is a book well worth checking out for the seven to ten year old set. I highly recommend it.

P.S. Don't miss the 7-Imp entry, either.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.


WCOB #1: Behind the Eyes

Colleen Mondor has started a new series at Chasing Ray called Wicked Cool Overlooked Books. The idea is to feature those great books that never quite reached a wider audience. That never got the buzz going. Books that we think deserve more attention. Books that didn't win any big awards. Colleen's first book is Amaryllis by Curtis Crist-Evans. Kelly Herold at Big A little a starts with The Unresolved, by T. K. Welsh, linking to a previously published review. Kelly Fineman starts with Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill. (And I'm sure that there are others, but I haven't had a chance to check around.)

I would like to point you to a book called Behind the Eyes, by Francisco X. Stork. I reviewed Behind the Eyes back in November. It's about a troubled youth from a housing project in El Paso who, despite his best efforts, gets into trouble and ends up in a harsh military school. It's a dark, gritty story, but one that I found compelling. The characters felt real to me. I haven't heard much about this book, perhaps because the protagonist is so far from the mainstream, and I think that it deserves wider attention. Here is the conclusion from my previous review (you can read the full review for more details):

I think that Behind the Eyes will appeal to kids looking for edgier stories, and will especially appeal to kids from Chicano and other immigrant families. There are many Spanish phrases sprinkled throughout the book, with no translation, but they are mostly clear from content, and are essential to the realism of the dialog. If I was a librarian working with kids at risk from gangs, I would definitely hand them this title. And if I was working with any set of kids who could benefit from seeing a different perspective, I'd hand them this title, too.

What excellent books do you think have been overlooked?

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.