Tag Archives: teen

[S] Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard

22 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Jack is a Spacer who has lived on Freedom Station his whole life. Kit is a Rat, a transplant from Earth who lands on Freedom Station. On Earth, she had her father, but she is now alone, except for an illegal sentient robot named Waldo that is extremely valuable, but extremely dangerous to have. Jack and Kit must protect Waldo long enough to get him to Kit’s father’s contact before it’s too late.

Spacer and Rat is chock-full of references to science-fiction writers and books, which may be part of the reason why it takes a while to get into this world. However, by the end of the book, readers will want a sequel so they can spend more time in it. There is a lot of depth in the world building for such a short book, like slang and festivals, and Bechard includes details that make you feel like you are there.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter S.

[O] Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

17 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

This review refers to the Overdrive version of the audiobook of Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, read by Carrington MacDuffie.

Christian was raised by a troll, but that didn’t stop him from longing after Princess Marigold. They become pen pals by carrier pigeon, and one day, Christian decides to make his fortune and find work at the palace. There, he must save Marigold from her mother’s schemes and prove that he is worthy of her love.

This is a cute story that is pretty funny, although younger listeners may not get all the references to fairy tales and pop culture. MacDuffie’s voice took some getting used to at the beginning, but her performance is funny and draws listeners into the story.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter O.

[X] xxxHolic Vol. 1 by Clamp

27 Apr

In the first volume of xxxHolic, Kimihiro Watanuki, a high schooler with strong spiritual powers, walks into a strange shop that grants wishes. He ends up working for the owner of the shop, who goes by the name of Yuko, in order to have his wish to get rid of those powers granted. While he’s working at the shop, he meets a few of Yuko’s customers and watches as she grants their wishes. Some parts are creepy, and the customers are kind of “monster of the week”-type stories, but Yuko is sarcastic and cool enough and Watanuki plays the grumbling assistant well enough for the series to be entertaining. Clamp’s art is amazing, as usual, especially their designs of Yuko and her various outfits.

The manga was localized by Del Rey, and the translation generally stays true to the feel of the original Japanese (at least what I remember of it). There one or two places where the English didn’t quite flow right, and one place where the Japanese characters were left in unexplained (they were translated right after, but it wasn’t clear that the next line was the translation), but I am probably just being picky because I work in the industry (though on the anime side mostly, these days). There were also some uncommon Japanese words that were left in untranslated and romanized that seemed like they would have been confusing to non-Japanese speakers, but there were notes in the back explaining everything. I’m not used to reading manga in English and I wasn’t paying enough attention to the table of contents, so I didn’t see them until the very end, but it seems like something readers used to reading Del Rey manga would figure out sooner.

The first thing I saw when I opened up xxxHolic was that it crossed over with Tsubasa (another manga by Clamp) volume one. Even though I’d read xxxHolic volume one before in Japanese (and seen the anime, where I remember the crossover), I’d forgotten that the crossover happened in the first volume of both. I happen to own the first volume of Tsubasa (Reservoir Chronicle) in Chinese, and when I flipped through, I saw that I’d stopped reading right when the crossover with xxxHolic started. I’d bought the first two volumes in Chinese on a trip to Taiwan during college, when I was taking Chinese and wanted to practice reading, but I hadn’t even heard of xxxHolic then, so I think I had gotten too confused and stopped in the middle of the first volume. (I’d gotten them because it was the sequel to Cardcaptor Sakura, which I liked from watching “Cardcaptors” on TV. I owned a bunch of the DVDs so I could watch the Japanese versions, but Tsubasa was so different that I thought I’d gotten a Chinese rip-off at first…)

The crossover doesn’t happen until the end of volume one, so I picked up where I left off in Tsubasa after I finished reading xxxHolic. My Chinese is super rusty, but with my newfound kanji knowledge from learning Japanese (my Chinese had been better than my Japanese when I bought Tsubasa, but now my Japanese is way better) and more context from the xxxHolic anime and manga, I was able to get through the crossover scene in Tsubasa and understand more of what was going on than I did before. I still prefer the original Cardcaptor Sakura series to both xxxHolic and Tsubasa, but at least xxxHolic is funny. Even though Tsubasa is the direct sequel to Cardcaptor Sakura, it’s really serious, so I’ve never liked it as much as the other two.

Anyway, all this to say that while the story of the manga wasn’t new to me, it was my first time reading it in English. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I don’t read a lot of manga in general, and even less in English, but since I’d been requesting so many books for my youth literature class anyway, I thought I’d add the English version to the queue and give a proper review.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter X. (It took me so long to get through the Chinese that this post is pretty much written in real-time, i.e., not scheduled in advance, but posted at exactly 27 minutes after midnight because it’s Day 27 of the challenge.)

[N] North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

16 Apr

(This was first written for my History of Youth Literature class.)

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley (2009) deals with perceptions of beauty and verbal/emotional abuse. The main character, Terra, was born with a port-wine stain on her face that she believes prevents her from being beautiful, so she compensates for this by obsessively making every other part of her body as close to perfect as possible. In addition to this disfigurement, her father is verbally abusive to her family, especially to her mother, a former beauty queen who has found comfort in food instead of standing up for herself, resulting in a physique that draws more ridicule and abuse from her husband. The book is about how Terra learns to accept herself and be confident in who she is with the help of a Goth boy with a cleft lip she meets in an accident.

I liked the book, despite being frustrated at Terra for basically being a teenage girl. (Not really her fault, there’s just a limit to how much I can take in stories/books.) I liked how the book showed Terra’s journey of growth from hiding behind her hair and make-up and trying to be like everyone else to being able to be herself and be happy with that. I think that is an important lesson for all girls to learn (and boys, too, but let’s face it—girls deal with this more than boys).

I also appreciated how the book handled the subject of verbal abuse. Because it doesn’t leave physical scars, verbal abuse is something that is hard to recognize and often ignored. The author does a wonderful job of showing not only the devastating effects that verbal abuse can have, but also how even years of verbal abuse can eventually be overcome. I especially liked how she included Terra’s older brothers in the book and showed how the abuse affected each of the siblings differently.

The book also touches on issues like divorce, adoption, and death, and contains language and sexual references that may not be appropriate for younger children.

(Also, as a note about the diversity aspects, the Goth boy happens to be Chinese, but it’s nice that he doesn’t feel like a “token Asian.” Instead, he is a well-developed character and his race is an important factor in the plot and development of the characters. It doesn’t hurt that the author is Taiwanese American, but it doesn’t feel like she’s trying to capitalize on her race, either.)

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter N.

[I] The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce

10 Apr

I wasn’t going to use the series name for any of my entries, but I realized on Day 2 that I didn’t have any Tamora Pierce books on my list, and I had already missed “A” for Alanna: The First Adventure, so I had to be creative with how to include her in my list. It worked out that as we were growing up, my sister was the one who collected all the Tamora Pierce books (I had pretty much everything else, including the Patricia C. Wrede books and the Harry Potter series), so they are in her room, not my bookshelf.

Anyway, Tamora Pierce’s Immortals Quartet contains these books:

  • Wild Magic
  • Wolf-Speaker
  • Emperor Mage
  • The Realms of the Gods

And they are actually my favorite quartet of all the Tortall books because Numair is my favorite. (I think I need to add the quartet to my re-read list ;)) I have been waiting for the Numair books to come out for about ten years now! I do like Kel a lot in the Protector of the Small books, but they are harder for me to re-read because there are some pretty intense scenes in Lady Knight (which I think was written during 9/11).

I think Pierce’s writing gets noticeably better after the Song of the Lioness (the first quartet in the series), but overall, I really enjoy her writing style and love her characters. One thing to note is that the world of Tortall is very rich with different countries, and there are many mentions of people of color in the series, although I can’t remember a main character who was not of some version of European descent.

All of Tamora Pierce’s books have strong female main characters who are as good at or better than the boys. At the same time, I think she writes a lot of very realistic struggles that girls go through growing up. I would start girls reading the first series around 4th grade, so they have plenty of time to get through all the books and can mature with the books. I think the later books are closer to YA than middle grade, but I haven’t read the last one or two of the published Tortall books, or after the end of the second series of the Circle of Magic books.

(By the way, a friend of mine in college’s middle name was actually Alanna, after the Lioness in the Tortall books, and she went so far as to bring Tamora Pierce to her residential college while we were there. My sister and I both got a copy of Squire signed that year, but for different events on different coasts!)

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter I. 

Edit 4/26/12: My sister just reminded me that it was Lady Knight, not Squire, that was written during 9/11. 

[C] The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

3 Apr

I loved The Cardturner by Louis Sachar, but I don’t think any of my students (even those who love his other books, like Holes and The Wayside School series) would enjoy reading this book. It’s about a teenager who is supposed to help his rich uncle play bridge so his parents can get his inheritance, and it’s definitely written for an older audience than his other books (School Library Journal says Grade 8+).

I love stories about tournaments and games, and I don’t mind learning about an unfamiliar game from the story, so I thought this book was great. I didn’t know how to play bridge before, but it inspired me to download some bridge apps for my iPhone (of course, you need two people to play, so I never really did get into the game…).

Even though this is supposed to be a YA book, I think it’s a great book for adults who miss reading Sachar’s brand of humor, especially if they like bridge and/or underdog stories. I would only recommend it to teens who don’t mind reading about unfamiliar concepts, as the game and rules can get a little dry. I didn’t like Sachar’s Holes or its sequels as much personally, but if students seem bored by The Cardturner, they may like that better (if they haven’t already read it). Some of my students read Holes over and over, and boys especially seem to enjoy it a lot.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter C.