Friday, January 29, 2010

January book club book review

The Secret of the Yellow Death by Suzanne Jurmain
I don’t normally read non-fiction, but received this one in a shipment of advance copies.It held my attention and was very informative.I learned a lot about Yellow Fever, and the medical practices of the past.The pictures were great, and I would like to see the color ones instead of the black and white pictures in the advance copy.This is a great book for middle school grades. The Appendix was very useful, especially the volunteer list and the glossary of scientific terms.I have to give this one 5 stars.Excellent work Ms. Jurmain!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This one is from the library writing intern, Thanks Sarah!

So, Della has given me, a writing intern at the library, a chance to offer a few book reviews here on the blog this semester. It’s pretty exciting for me! I’ve gotta say, though, I never read YA books (with the exception of Harry Potter), so I’m really new to the different age groups that these books are aimed toward. I wanted to jump in and give my opinion, however, so here’s the first book I read.

Kathryn Erskine’s second novel, Mockingbird, which is due for release in April, follows a ten-year-old girl named Caitlin who is dealing with her brother’s recent death. On top of that, she has Asperger’s Syndrome, and she is constantly misunderstood by the people around her. As the narrator of the story, Caitlin gives the reader insight into the thought processes of someone with this form of high-functioning autism. This is similar to Mark Haddon’s protagonist in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, although Haddon’s book was aimed toward adult readers while this one was intended for a younger audience.

I wasn’t sure when I began reading just who the intended audience was, but eventually I decided this was written with children and preteens in mind. I think Caitlin’s character is odd, true, but she seems inconsistent. She’s somewhat sarcastic in the beginning, but becomes more childlike towards the end, like she is withdrawing in maturity level as she acquires social skills. It’s a slight change in her character that I detected based on her earlier stubbornness and self-awareness. I found Caitlin likeable and a strong character throughout. Her moments of epiphany are funny and serve well as milestones in the story.

Erskine references To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my favorite books, but there is no similarity between the two, and while I like Mockingbird, it just doesn’t match up with Harper Lee’s beautiful novel. I found her decision to italicize dialogue to be distracting, and her use of CAPs for emphasis a lot like yelling. I’m not one for innovation sometimes (don’t get me started on sentence fragments and stream-of-consciousness!), so some people may like her decision here. There were places where this book made me misty-eyed – which is not that easy to do to me. Overall, I thought this was a sweet story and a quick read. And I always enjoy an unusual narrator. I’m not sure how to rate it since I’m new here, so I’ll just say I liked it but I didn’t love it.