Saturday, December 4, 2010

Review Trio and Update on Read-a-Thon

What a great morning already. Mike let me sleep in, and brought me breakfast in bed! The boys were SO excited about it.

I don't often "sleep" when I sleep in. I am a morning person, so when my eyes pop open some time between 5 and 6 o'clock, they don't close again. Mike and I switch off on who gets up with the boys, and when I stay in bed I write, work, or read. What a treat.

This morning I read The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. That brings my Read-A-Thon total to three books! But I hope to whip out another one at least today!

I have a couple of reviews to catch up on, so I'll start with this one.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda Tom Angleberger

Tiny synopsis: 6th grader Tommy and his friends are getting advice from an origami finger puppet of Yoda. Dwight, class weirdo, created the figure and now when the kids ask for information Yoda provides it. But is Yoda magic or is it just weird Dwight-- but how could it be? The advice is so wise, so Yoda. Tommy has to find out before he makes a fool of himself by following Yoda's advice on love.

What a clever and charming book. A quick read, great voice, adorable presentation (including fab line drawings and origami yoda fold-it-yourself directions). More than just a funny book, it also explores some key MG themes-- who's weird, who's not, who cares? I could really see middle school boys (and girls) doing all the things in the book. Loved it.

Can you Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella

Tiny synopsis: Emma is a lovable train-wreck of a girl: she's cute, plenty smart, and well-dressed (even if it's second-hand), but her flighty behavior means she's not doing all that well professionally, having bumped from one career to the next over the years. On a business trip her plane hits turbulence, and she freaks out, telling the stranger next to her EVERYTHING about herself, all her dirty little secrets. Like that while her boyfriend is perfect on the outside she thinks he's boring and annoying under the surface.Or that she fudged her resume. ..
Big deal, she'll never see him again.
When he turns up at work the next day she realizes he is the multi-millionaire owner of the company, and he knows everything about her. Every embarrassing thing.

I have not read the Shopaholic series. I read Twenties Girl months ago and liked it. This book was similar in many ways. Hapless but charming heroine, rugged American businessman love interest, overbearing and demeaning friend (cousin here). The pace was also similar, things are a disaster, they start to change, improve, and just when you think everything is on track BAM it seems like everything is ruined. A final turn-around, then happiness ensues.

Even though these books were similar I still found myself riveted by the story. I'm not sure how or why, but it didn't bother me at all. Probably because though there were some similarities, there were also a slew of differences that made it fresh and fun. I found Emma to be adorable, and it was fun to be inside her head for a few days. The romance was sweet, the characters were endearing. I recommend it. Though I probably won't buy into the Shopaholic series, I will definitely keep reading Kinsella's stand-alone books.

Speak by Laurie Halse-Anderson.
Tiny synopsis: Melinda starts her freshman year with no friends and everyone angry at her. Angry because she busted up the big back-to-school party by calling the cops. Lots of kids were arrested and got in trouble. What nobody understands, not the friends who abandoned her, or the strangers who didn't know her, is that she called the cops for a good reason. Now she won't speak. She won't explain. She has no friends and she's driving a wedge between herself and her family. She can't speak, because she doesn't think it will change anything. She can't speak, because she's afraid that once she starts she won't be able to stop.

I wasn't oblivious to the Speak controversy a while back. Though a few of Halse-Anderson's books are on my To Be Read list, the banning of this book moved it to the top.

On principle I believe people who ban books, or seek to, are ignorant and/or diabolical. I find that people want to control things they are afraid of, and banning books is one way to do this. I treasure the freedom to read what I please.

I picked up this book expecting it to be controversial and was a little surprised at how uncontroversial it was. This confirmed another presupposition of mine: that people who ban books, or try to tell people not to read them, haven't read the books themselves. Someone tells somebody who tells somebody who commands someone else not to read something. Maybe none of them have read it.

Clearly, Wesley Scroggins didn't read Speak (interestingly, the link to his diatribe is no longer active. I read his piece in September, but it's been removed from the internet since). To imagine that someone would find the story, about a young girl's rape, titillating or sexual in nature is beyond disturbing.

It is a harsh story, and certainly not for everyone-- but it does nothing to glamorize or recommend sex. It's quite the opposite, it is a severe and stunning warning to any young woman. Yes, most girls have heard the spiel and know that some situations are considered dangerous. Don't get in a car with a stranger, don't walk home alone, call and let people know where you are, etc.

What makes this story so powerful is it's depiction of a girl who thinks she's in a safe situation, and then makes one tiny stupid decision, but pays heavily for it. It's heartbreaking to watch Melinda struggle to deal with what's happened to her. Halse-Anderson builds a compelling portrait of a girl who doesn't recognize her strengths, but who slowly grows to trust herself.

An excellent book!


  1. These are fantastic reviews, thank you so much! I've been hearing about Origami Yoda for a while, but I've never really known what it was about--just that people liked it. It does sound like a lot of fun, and I'm going to try it out!

    I used to read quite a bit of Kinsella and similar stuff, though I haven't in a while. Just reading your review made me miss it. I think in my post-novel haze, I need something fun like this, so I'm onto it as well.

    Like you, I heard a lot about Speak during the Speak Loudly campaign, but people rarely discussed the content of the book much. I'm looking forward to reading it, really enjoyed hearing what you thought of it.

  2. thanks Amie- OY is a fun middle-grade read.
    I am actually putting another Kinsella on my list, too-- to read over the holidays. They are fun.
    Speak is fantastic, so well done.


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