Book Review | Nightjohn

4 of 5 stars
Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen
This is a very short (less than 100 pages) very young adult novel by Gary Paulson that only took me 45 minutes to read.

A twelve year old slave begins to learn the meaning of letters when NightJohn is brought to the plantation.

This short story has only a handful of events and it moves very fast. The characters are kind of flat and the plot isn’t real deep, but it was still a good read.

However, as a history teaching major, I see this as a very good opportunity to use in a middle school/junior high class as supplementary reading. Although linguistically, this book isn’t the greatest at all, it does allow (young) young adults to discover and step into the harsh life of a slave (even if it is a bit extreme). But that extremity pushes the beliefs and thoughts of the students, which is always good. 

Book Review | Kit's Wilderness

3 of 5 stars
Kit's Wilderness by David Almond
This was a very interesting, almost paranormal, fiction. However, it took a variety of sharp turns in numerous places.

Kit is from an old mining family and has just moved back to the old mining town where a few other children play a game called “Death.” As he becomes better friends with Allie and Askew, Kit learns the importance of stories and how they can become truth.

So, for the first 50 pages or so, I thought Kit was a girl! But then again, I grew up on American Girls and Kit was one of them.

Also what confused me a lot is the fact that other than the town name, we never know exactly where Kit is…I am guessing Wales, Ireland, or England, just based on some of the character traits of the old mining families.

The beginning was very grasping. It built up a lot of suspense and even though they got caught playing “Death” a 1/3rd way through, I knew there was still something bigger and darker to come. However, the ending was very lackluster and anti-climatic, I thought. Especially because Almond seemed to be leading the reader into a paranormal winter. (I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to spoil the ending.)

I do really love how Almond describes the process of storytelling: how you write what you dream and end up dreaming what you write. Story telling is truth and imagination at the same time. Writing is magic. All of these descriptions is exactly how I, as a writer, feel.

Pretty good book to curl up next to a fire and drink hot chocolate with. Middle school aged teens would even enjoy it.

Poem, no title yet.

Smile,
and show my teeth.
After twenty minutes,
cheeks are too stretched to continue holding it.

But, I like smiles–
That hidden one on the upper left side of the face
causing eyes to twinkle.
Full lips holding back a joke.

Too sore. Or I have something between my teeth.
Smile is gone.
There is something better–a laugh.

Eyes wide in enjoyment,
mouth open (not enough to allow the full laugh out),
shoulders quivering in hilarity.
The tiny giggle behind both hands.
The loud gaffaw that has me rolling on the floor.
The snicker, a small puff.

But, which is better?
Which do I enjoy more?
Both work well together, true
However, I am a simple girl–one thing at a time.
Draw lots,
Who gets the smallest one?

Book Review | Coraline Graphic Novel

3 of 5 stars
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
I first heard of this story as a clay-action movie. I own it, and I love it. But then, when I was looking for a graphic novel to read for my YA Lit class, I saw this! YAAY! Then, only did I realize that the graphic novel is “based off the novel and now a major motion picture.” So, there is a real novel somewhere out there I have to read too.

Coraline Jones has just moved into a new house with her family–the attic is owned by eccentric Mr. Bobo and the Forcible sisters live in the basement. Coraline finds a door that leads to nowhere, but opens for her and leads her straight to her other mother. Should she trust her other mother who wants to sew buttons in her eyes and love her for eternity, or stay in the boring, monotuous life she has?

I read a lot of anime, so that is what I am basing this review off. Anime allows the picture to do the explaining, the telling, a lot of times, however, in this book, every single picture has description, even those where the action shows us anyway. Now I know why my roommmate, an Animation major, says she doesn’t care for Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels–he does too much telling instead of showing. “Pictures are worth a 1000 words.”

Still, it was interesting to see the differences between the movie and this graphic novel.

Book Review | After the First Death

1 of 5 stars
After the First Death by Robert Cormier
So, when I heard the different titles of Robert Cormier, and hearing that he wrote bleak books, I was excited to read one of his novels for my YA literature class. Boy was I wrong in my anticipation!

A bus of preschool students has been hijacked and held for ransom. Miro is new at the job and wants to do Artkin proud, but has to deal with Kate, the substitute bus driver. While on the other hand, Ben is pulled into his father’s dangerous duty as part of the Inner Delta to try and stop this hijacking.

The first thing that caught me off guard was the very sporadic narrating in the beginning. Ben speaks in the first person, but sometimes reflects on the Bus and Bridge accident, sometimes considering suicide, and other times noticing what is going on in the present. Then it reverses time and goes to the very beginning of the hijacking incident, but in thrid person. Not only that, but it switches from 3rd person limited between Miro and Kate. Then, Cormier throws you for an even bigger loop by having Ben’s father start talking in first person.

I didn’t enjoy this book. I didn’t think the suspense was held very well. I have read books that have kept my heart pumping so hard that I HAD to finish it in that setting. This didn’t do that for me. I can’t put my finger on it, but just the way he wrote didn’t capture me at all. Even during the climax I was mildly interested.