Sunday, July 16, 2006

Review Haiku #1

Another "eh" book...let's see if I can do a review in seventeen syllables. This one was pretty easy actually, I think a lot of people are familiar with this series and, well, there's not a lot of substance to ponder.

Undead and Unpopular by Maryjanice Davidson:

Betsy still the same,
Hot Sinclair, why does he care?
More plot, more depth please.

Thank you, thank you. As you can see, I have little aptitude for poetry. For a more in depth review, click on the title to see what folks posted at Amazon. Nicole also wrote a review that was right on the money on her blog.

Now, usually I don't talk about children's books, but I read one yesterday at work that I was so impressed by, that I just have to mention it.

Rules by Cynthia Lord (a debut novel, no less), is the most memorable book I've read in awhile. I would recommend it for 9-13 year olds, most girls would like it, but you could probably sell it to boys too. Rules is the story of a twelve year old girl named Catherine, who is often embarrassed by her autistic younger brother, David, even as she is fiercely protective of him. One day, while waiting for him at OT, she meets Jason, who is a couple of years older than her. He is wheelchair bound and cannot speak. I would imagine he has severe Cerebral Palsy, although it is not explicitly stated. Instead of speaking, he points to cards in a book. Catherine, who likes to draw, is drawn to Jason, and finds herself making cards for his book, in an attempt to give him a wider range of expression. When a girl her own age moves in next store, Catherine finds herself uncomfortable due to her connection with David and Jason, and finds herself doing strange things.

This seemed at first like it would be a totally maudlin setup. I'm not a big fan of the "problem novel". I find that they are often heavy handed, and condescending to young people, in a way. But this was fabulous, and that was definitely due to the characterization. Catherine is a normal, self-centered 12 year old girl, and she doesn't form a friendship with Jason, out of pity or wanting to be a do-gooder. Instead, she feels an instant connection with Jason, and is irritated by the adults around him, who are trying to speak for him, when they so obviously can't read him right. And Jason was an excellent character! Sometimes there's that feel of like, the saintly, noble disabled person who teaches the protagonist the error of her selfish ways, just by their goodness. Jason was not like that. Although you felt sorry for him, it's because he seemed like an intelligent and cool guy who was completely trapped in his body. You could see why Catherine would want to be friends with him, and their interactions are really cute and fun. Of course, there is the climactic ending, where Catherine chooses her imperfect friend and brother over the shallow but perfect, new girl, but again, not cheesy, because Jason seemed way cooler than the new girl.

I liked this book so much that once I was finished, I opened it back up to re-read. I can't help but wonder what will happen with Catherine and Jason. This one will stay with me awhile, and that's more than I can say about any of the adult books I've read lately. Tomorrow morning, I'll be gently suggesting to the librarian who runs the 4th and 5th grade book discussion, that it should be one of her upcoming selections.


Kerri Wall said...

Thanks for the review Devon! Rules sounds like a great book and like you said, I'm always looking for stuff that isn't talking down to the kids. We have to do a character counts book each month...hmmm, now you have my mind spinning!

Oh, love the Haiku by the way. It was perfect. I'm so tired of MJD I don't need a review longer than 17 syllables! hehe


Devon said...

Fiona, definitely try the book. A good choice for that kind of cirriculum. Check out the author's website also, she has a discussion guide that was pretty good. Also, the way the parapalegic kid communicated, I feel like there could be a lesson plan there. Catherine would make him cards that she hoped could make him express himself more clearly, like "Awesome" or "Stinks a big one" instead of just "good" or "bad." I wonder if it could be spun into something with synonyms or thesauruses or just writing using more specific or expressive words. I dunno, I haven't worked in a school in three years but I'm always coming up with lesson plans.

Kerri Wall said...

LOL Thanks for the info Devon! I'll check that out...and think about your suggestions! There is a big Show Don't Tell unit in the writing classes so maybe we could do a tie-in.


Mailyn said...

I think that was an awesome haiku! lol you had me laughing out loud.

Holly said...

LMAO! You crack me up! hahaha I LOVED the Haiku!

SGM said...

Hey Dev - this book sounds great. Will definitely read it, thanks for the tip! I am a total sucker for kids fiction for this age group.

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