Sunday, January 13, 2008

Behind Again

Yet again I find myself behind in my book reviews. I do have some sort of excuse, however. Last week the hard drive to my precious iBook melted and I've had to do without a computer for several days. Right now I'm using a loaner, but I hope to have my computer back soon. Those who know me are quite aware of my obsession with Macs and my iBook contains 18 years of my life. Fortunately I have a clean backup from this summer, and I think we managed to get most, if not all, of the new stuff off but still . . . I miss my computer.

I don't have time at this point to thoroughly review the three books I've read since last weekend so short blurbs will have to do. I'm still heavily into the new books at my school library, and will be for some time.

Schooled by Gordan Korman

Capricorn Anderson has been raised in a commune by his Grandmother. Everyone else has left the commune so it's actually been just the two of them. When his grandmother breaks her hip, Capricorn (all of thirteen years old) drives her to the hospital. Because his grandmother will be in rehab for some time, Cap is placed in a foster home. Cap has never been to school (he has excelled as a home-schooled student) and he might as well be a creature from outer space when it comes to what he doesn't know about surviving in a middle school. When he is elected eighth grade class president, he doesn't realize that the position has traditionally gone to the biggest geek in the school. He sets off to do his best as president, and ends up transforming the student body.

I cannot begin to say how much I loved this book. It has been compared to Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, but I must say that I liked this one better. It has a great deal of humor and I loved the character of Cap. Sometimes we all need reminders of who we need to be, and Cap does that.

Enter Three Witches by Caroline B. Cooney

This is the story of Macbeth told from the point of view of a young attendant to Lady Macbeth. At the beginning of the story Lady Mary's father dies when he rebels against King Duncan of Scotland. Mary is left as witness to what then transpires as Duncan is murdered, and it becomes obvious that Macbeth and his wife are not innocent. As things begin to fall apart for the couple, Mary finds herself betrothed to a monster of a man, and in a fight for her life.

I first read Macbeth in eleventh grade, and while it's not one of my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, I do enjoy rereading it occasionally. Cooney uses many lines from the play, which sometimes seemed jarring but I liked anyway. It certainly doesn't hurt that Shakespeare had many wonderful lines from which to choose. I think this would be a good introduction to the story for young adults and may entice them to read the real thing.

Strays by Ron Koertge

Ted O'Connor is sixteen and an orphan. His parents have been killed in a car wreck, and he's been shuffled off to a foster home to live with two veterans of the system. Ted has always worked in his parents' pet shop, and he has a strange affinity with animals -- he can talk to them and understand them. As Ted begins to adjust to his new life and make friends for the first time, his ability to understand the animals begins to diminish.

I had two beefs with this book. First of all, the review I read recommended it for grades 7 -up and I must disagree. I think it's a better high school book and so I'll be donating my school's copy to the high school (which means there's a book out there that I didn't get because I got this one). It's not just the language -- it's the situations which I think are more appropriate for high school readers than middle school readers. But that's really my problem, and is not the fault of the book.

My second beef is that when Ted loses his ability to talk to animals, it doesn't really seem to bother him. It would bother me. It would bother me a lot. So I don't believe that Koertge develops this part of the story very well. I think the book had an interesting premise, I just don't think it succeeded as well as I wanted.

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