Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Book Review- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
a.      Bibliography
Zusak, Markus. 2006. The Book Thief. New York, New York: Listening Library. Audio CD. ISBN 0739337270
b.      Plot Summary
Set during World War II in Germany, Death himself narrates the story of Liesel Meminger. Liesel is a foster girl living outside of Munich who makes a living by stealing books. In a tough setting of rough kids and cruel mothers, Liesel is taught to read her stolen books by her accordion-playing foster father. Along with the collection of stolen books, Liesel collects a variety of friends: her foster parents, the mayor’s wife, a strange boy named Rudy, and Jewish refugee. In this captivating novel, we see Liesel begin to overcome the horrific events of her past.
c.       Critical Analysis
This is a moving story for sophisticated teen and adult readers with engaging characters and a heartbreaking plot. There are large blocks of action-packed adventure to keep the plot moving. Interestingly, Death is a fascinating narrator for Liesel’s story. Although it is set in the past, Death’s commentary is very postmodern.
As an audiobook, the story truly takes life. Zusak writes in such a beautiful, poetic syntax, which read aloud, the listener feels a part of the book.

d.      Review Excerpts
·        Starred review from School Library Journal “An extraordinary narrative.”
e.      Connections
·        A great addition to a World War II unit in a high school or college class

·        Have students discuss the importance of Death as the narrator. Have the students collaborate and rewrite a section with Liesel giving a first-person point of view.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Beowulf by Gareth Hinds

Book Review- Beowulf  by Gareth Hinds
a.      Bibliography
Hinds, Gareth. 2007. Beowulf. New York, New York: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763630233
b.      Plot Summary
“I am BEOWULF. Many deeds of note have I done in my life.” In three parts, this graphic novel is a retelling of the long-told epic poem of the hero Beowulf. To save the people of his kingdom, Beowulf battles the evil monster Grendel. Upon Grendel’s defeat, our hero then battles Grendel’s mother. The people of the kingdom are so thankful that they shower Beowulf with gifts. Among the gifts is the grim advice from King Hrothgar of Denmark, “Come in what shape it may, death will subdue even thee, thou hero of war.” This sound advice is given upon the impending battle of a terrible dragon that is tormenting his people.
c.       Critical Analysis
In poetic form and vibrant illustrations, Gareth Hinds bring the story of Beowulf alive. Hinds credits two adaptations (A.J. Church's 1904 translation and that of Francis Gummere) for his interpretation of the epic story. Each book begins with a narrative of beautiful cadence in verse, then the story progresses into a lengthy, wordless battle. Hinds uses a color palette from ash grey to burgundy red and every ruddy color in between. His arresting images lend themselves well to the beautifully written verses. It is a great graphic novel for a mature reader.
d.      Review Excerpts
·         American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults

·         From The New York Times Book Review “A first-rate horror yarn... Visceral.”

·         An American Library Association Great Graphic Novel for Teens

e.       Connections
·         In the high school classroom, this would be a great way to introduce discussion on epic fantasies.  

·         Compare/contrast various versions of Beowulf
o   Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo ISBN 0763632066

o   Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney ISBN 0393320979


Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Book Review- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
a.     Bibliography
Gaiman, Neil. 2008. The Graveyard Book. New York, New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060530945
b.     Plot Summary
The Graveyard Book opens with a grisly triple murder. It was supposed to be a murder of four, but the fourth family member, a young toddler, wanders away towards a cemetery before Jack the murderer has a chance to finish the job. In the cemetery, the toddler encounters the Owens’- an older couple with no children that happen to be ghosts. With the tot’s family no longer alive, the Owens’ take it upon themselves to adopt the boy. All the denizens of the graveyard help raise Bod, short for Nobody because “he looks like nobody but himself.” There are plenty of adventures to be had in the graveyard, but Bod cannot ever leave because Jack the murderer is still on the hunt for him.
c.     Critical Analysis
Gaiman does a fine job blending frightening and friendly in one fantasy novel. Although the story begins with quite a terrifying entrance, the text quickly moves into a more child-friendly plot. Bod has a pretty normal upbringing- he learns to read and write, makes friends, and gets into trouble. Through rich language and attention to detail, Gaiman brings the supernatural characters to life. Each character has a distinct voice throughout the novel. The only downside of the text might be that Bod may be too mature and precocious for the average reader to relate to.
d.     Review Excerpts
·        Newbery Medal Winner
·        Starred review from Kirkus “Wistful, witty, wise-and creepy. This needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child.”
e.     Connections
·        As a visualizing exercise, the teacher can have the students illustrate various scenes throughout the book. The student can add details to their illustration after rereading the scenes aloud to a partner.

·        Author study of other Neil Gaimain’s fantasy books:
o   Coraline ISBN 9780061660160

o   Odd and the Frost Giants ISBN 0061671738

o   M Is for Magic ISBN 9780061186424