Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli ★★★★☆

The Birth of a Legend
Fiction – Juvenile
Reading Level:  Age Range: 11 and up
184 pages
Publication Date:  1990
Maniac MageeLiterary awards: Newbery Medal (1991), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award (1993), Charlotte Award (1992), Nene Award (1996), Massachusetts Children's Book Award (1993) Flicker Tale Children's Book Award (1992), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award (1992), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader's Choice Award (1993), Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis Nominee for Jugendbuch (2001), New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award (1993)

In a town divide by race, Jeffery Lionel “Maniac” Magee, shows up to defy the norm and birth a legend that crosses boundaries and breaks down barriers.

My class read this John Newberry Medal winner back when I was in 5th grade, but I only vaguely remembered that I like it and a few other snippets from the story.  Wishing to refresh my memory and relive my childhood I settled in to read the tale of Maniac Magee.  From page one I fell under the spell of this story. Well-constructed, with a nice rhythm and very engaging writing the spirited and cheeky narrator regales you with story of Jeffery Magee and how he brought together a town.  Jeffery Magee is a lovable character who displays athleticism, strength, independence, depth of emotion and vulnerability.  His inability to see race makes him unique in a town where you’re race defines most of your life.  The author Spinelli uses this legend to dissect the issue of race versus just people in a relatable way that can span many ages.  I would say it is a very nice tool for helping younger children understand that we are all just people while giving its more mature readers a good quality, multi-layered story with depth to enjoy.

ISBN  0590452037 (ISBN13: 9780590452038)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume ★★★☆☆

A classic kid’s book.
Fiction – Juvenile
Age Range: 7 and up
144 pages
Publication Date: 1972
Fudge #1
Literary awards: West Australian Young Readers' Book Award (WAYRBA) for Younger Readers (1980), Grand Canyon Reader Award (1977), Massachusetts Children's Book Award (1977), Sequoyah Book Award (1975), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader's Choice Award (1975) Charlie May Simon Children's Book Award (1974)

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Peter, as the oldest, must constantly deal with his little brother, Fudge’s antics.  Fudge won’t leave Dribble the turtle alone, is always getting into Peter’s room, wrecks school projects and finally does the unthinkable.  In the end Peter can’t decide whether he loves Fudge or hates him, though the scales seem to tip in favor of hate.

Fun, easy to read with a nice flow, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, is the story of the day-to-day trials and tribulation of nine-year-old Peter Hatcher.  From Shelia the cootie girl, babysitting mishaps and figuring out where he fits, with a spoiled little brother on a terror always overshadowing him, Peter navigates through the pitfalls of his life. 

Peter as the narrator gives the story a rather straightforward perspective and while in most cases he has a fairly astute assessment of the world his viewpoint is only really skewed in regard to parent’s love for him and his brother Fudge.   As a reader you can really feel for Peter.  His mother is overwhelmed and his father is rather unconnected to the day-to-day life of the family, while his brother is a bit out of control.  Peter’s parents are trying very hard to meet both of the boy’s needs, but Fudge-as a strong-willed toddler- does kind of suck up most of their time and energy, while Peter spends a good deal of time being used to manage his brother; unfortunately, a rather normal dynamic for some families. 

In its most basic form this entertaining little story is about the normal chaos and havoc of family life. 

ISBN  0142401013 (ISBN13: 9780142401019)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer ★★★☆☆

Emotionally raw and articulate
Non Fiction - Memoir
333 pages
First published 1997
Literary awards: ALA Alex Award (1998), ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (1998)

John Krakuer, a journalist sent to be a member of Rob Hall’s expedition to summit Mt. Everest, writes an emotional and reasonably accurate recount of the 1996 Everest disaster. Krakuer, lays out the series of events that ended in catastrophe, while trying to work out for himself what went wrong and what part he may have had in it.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest DisasterLeft in devastating position with no good choices on Everest and then dealing with survivor’s guilt afterward, Krakuer, really strives to be honest, but fair as he examines the different aspects of this catastrophic event.  This story played itself out on a world stage and has so many players involved and other factors influencing it, so to hear Krakuer views is fascinating.  He takes a rather brave and unabashed look at a tragedy he personally experienced and what he perceives as his own failings during the incident.  Well researched, nicely paced, and emotionally raw, Krakuer effectively articulates his thoughts and feelings connected to this horrific event and the fallout from it.  The story is well written and has fantastically vivid word pictures, though, I have to say that on occasion I did feel like the prose was a little choked by the amount of detail.

This rather graphic and Interesting introduction into a world I know very little about (you know, as a fan of staying alive and sufferer of from fear of hitting the ground with great force– though my husband’s claims that you are more likely to roll down the decline and die that way, thanks sweetie for that bit of lovely information– I personally have had little interest in mountaineering) has been pretty amazing and hasn’t changed my mind that I still don’t want to try it.  Frankly I am just awestruck by the amount a punishment a person is willing to purposely put themselves through and I can’t decide whether these mountaineers are crazy or just determined or both.

ISBN  0385494785 (ISBN13: 9780385494786)