Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Fall of Fergal

Bibliovore, it's Tuesday.

It is?


I could have sworn it was Monday.

No, it's Tuesday. You were supposed to post this yesterday.

Oooops. Blame the Dr. Who I've been watching practically nonstop. I defy anyone to take note of the day of the week when you can be thinking about Christopher Eccleston and/or David Tennant instead.

Book: The Fall of Fergal
Author: Phillip Ardagh
Published: 2002 (Great Britain)

This book starts with a death - and not any run-of-the-mill death, but a six-year-old falling out a hotel window and going splat! on the sidewalk below. Oh dear. Well, the title did warn you. From there, Ardagh doubles, triples, and quadruples back to tell the story of how this particular six-year-old came to be at this particular window and what happened to make him fall.

This is a morbid, silly, twisted, and totally nonsensical tale. So you know I loved it. Ardagh not only acknowledges but positively delights in the morbidity of his tale. Loaded up with convoluted wordplay, Dickensian melodrama, and Snicketesque narrator interaction, The Fall of Fergal and its two sequels (Heir of Mystery and The Rise of the House of McNally) are fast reads that should delight any kid who’s not overly concerned about a logical plot but does want to have lots of fun.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Catching On, Are We?

Check out this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer about the crossover appeal of YA books. They offer up the usual reasons: happy endings, more entertaining, but they finally figure out what we knew . . . this is good stuff, y'all.

Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for the link. Who else do I ever get book news from?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Marly's Ghost

Book: Marly's Ghost
Author: David Levithin
Published: 2005

“Marly was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatsoever about that.” And poor Ben, indeed, doesn’t have any doubt that his adored girlfriend is dead. How can there be, when just waking up each morning is a reminder that he’s alive and she’s not?

As his grief pulls him further and further under, Ben decides that love is a crock, a sham, something that only brings pain. It’s going to be the new mission of his life to let everyone know. On Valentine’s Eve, though, he’s visited by a ghost . . . Marly’s ghost, who is chained to Earth by the force of Ben’s anguish. She tells him that he will be visited by three more ghosts who will show him the importance of love in his life . . . and so begins the familiar story, but with a highly original twist.

I picked this book up because I’d heard good things about Levithin’s Boy Meets Boy, and when I realized it was a reworking of A Christmas Carol, which is an old favorite (see my post on it last December), I decided to check it out. I ended up reading it in one morning, and cried like a baby through the whole last stanza.

Levithin has taken the original Christmas story and closely reworked it into a Valentine’s Day story that addresses not only romantic love, but the love between friends as well. At times, the text becomes a virtual copy of Dickens’ classic (see, for instance, Ben’s self-description, or the scene where Marly’s ghost first appears to him) and at others, the language veers sharply away from the original. However, Levithin always hews very closely to the spirit of the original (even occasionally the Victorian tendency towards melodrama), in showing the interconnectedness between love and life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Conundrum

I'm kinda torn about this article. As a Harry Potter fan and book-lover, I like it. I mean, when was the last time a literary figure was this immediately recognizable by this many people for this amount of time? (What is it now, almost ten years?)

On the other hand, I really want to make my countrymen form a single-file line to renounce citizenship of the Planet Earth. Because they clearly are not using it.

ETA: Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for this link.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Book: The Fire-us Trilogy: The Kindling, Keepers of the Flame, and The Kiln
Authors: Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher
Published: 2002-3

In a house in Lazarus, Florida, seven children between the ages of seven and fifteen are living hand-to-mouth, scavenging from abandoned supermarkets and stores. They are the only ones left. All their parents--in fact, all the adults--have been dead for five years, victims of a terrible virus that burned them from the inside out. Most of the other children are dead, unable to take care of themselves without the adults around. But Hunter, Mommy, Teacher, Baby, Doll, Teddy Bear, and Action Figure are still alive--for now.

But then Puppy and Kitty, two little children under the age of five, show up, and with them comes the strange, wild Angerman, who is determined to get to Washington, DC and to the President. When the makeshift family decides to go with them, they are plunged into a morass of impossible questions. Is anybody else alive? What really happened to unleash the Fire-us on an innocent populace? Where did Puppy and Kitty come from?

And most importantly . . . how are they going to make it to tomorrow?

This dystopic near-future story is definitely not a light weekend romp. Prepare yourself to be disturbed. I think what shook me the most was imagining the world that the kids are living in. Not only is nature retaking Florida, with a vengeance, but the kids themselves have lost even the memories of their own names in the fight to survive. (Of course, it doesn’t help to realize that if Fire-us were real, I would have died too.)

None of the older kids are poster children for sanity, but Angerman is the one with the fewest Cheerios in his bowl. One of his most frequent rants concerns the fact that they’re children and shouldn’t have to deal with all this. There should be someone around to take care of them. But both he and we quickly learn that just because an adult is around, this doesn’t mean everything’s going to be okay.

Possibly one of the neatest things that Butcher and Armstrong do is their representation of the Book, a scrapbook in which Teacher records every scrap of information, both from this new world and from the old one, that she can get her hands on. From ad slogans to dreams to pages from the phone book, at first this Book seems like nothing more than a scrambled and futile attempt to remember their old lives. But from these snippets and scraps, Teacher (and the reader) derives meaning that guides them through their new world.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Da Meme

Okay, apparently this meme is what all the cool kids in the kidlitosphere are doing these days, including MotherReader and Gail Gauthier over at Original Content. I’ll chip in.

One book that changed your life

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee--specifically the theme about walking in another’s shoes. What capacity I have for empathy I have these days can be traced right to this book.

One book you have read more than once

Wait, can I get back to you on this? There’s far too many. Oh, okay, if you insist . . . *picks one at random from bookshelf* A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle. It was a surprise to me to realize a few years ago that this book has no plot, as such. You just take a journey through Vicky’s summer as she tries to reconcile life and death in all their many forms. Every time someone in my life dies, I have this deep and terrible need to read it again.

One book you would want on a desert island

The Complete Works of Jane Austen. It’s in omnibus form! That’s one book! Really, though, I would pick one of JA’s books, either Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion. Every time I read them, I find something new in the story, the characters, the wit, or even just the world. That’s one of the densest writers I’ve ever experienced, and not in a bad way. She just really packs it in. Plus, on a desert island, I would really have the time to sink into that convoluted language.

Although I have to say, if I were stuck on a desert island and I did have The Complete Works, I might finally get past page 50 of Mansfield Park.

One book that made you laugh

Recently? Startled By His Furry Shorts by Louise Rennison, the seventh in the seemingly endless confessions of Georgia Nicolson. Don’t read them in a row because she does get a bit tiresome after a while, but if you space them out appropriately (i.e. read the new one when it comes out), they’re a hilarious break from adult life.

One book that made you cry

Marly’s Ghost by David Levithin. Omigod. Bawled like a baby. Look for it to be blogged soon.

One book you wish had been written

The next book in the Damar series by Robin McKinley. I adored The Blue Sword, even if I didn’t much like The Hero and the Crown. It seemed that she was gearing up for a series of loosely linked standalones, then seemed to drop it. Poor sales? No personal interest anymore? Who knows? Sigh. However, hope springs eternal, and at least she’s still writing.

One book you wish had never been written

Every #$@^!!!! Mary Kate and Ashley book on the library shelf. The squick factor is through the roof. Did those girls ever get an actual childhood?

One book you are currently reading

Specials by Scott Westerfeld. I’ve been reading a lot of dystopic YA sci-fi lately. (See tomorrow’s blog.) It’s good, but it and Pretties don’t seem to have the special sparkle that Uglies did.

One book you've been meaning to read

Happy Kid! And I’m not just saying that to suck up to Gail.

More blogtastic books tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

So What Does It All Mean, Really?

Neat article from the Stanford Magazine: a quick profile of an English professor discussing the appeal of children's literature and the reason kids love it (and many parents don't understand it). Agree? Disagree? Comment!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

Book: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
Author: Dyan Sheldon
Published: 1999

Lola Cep, star in the making, has always suffered from being surrounded by normalcy. First her parents had to go and name her Mary Elizabeth (ugh!). Then she’s taken away from New York City, the center of the universe, to suburbia hell, otherwise known as Dellwood, New Jersey.

But a true artiste remains strong through trauma, so nothing’s going to keep Lola down--not her soul-deadening surroundings, not her mother and sisters’ disrespect for her suffering, not the breakup of Sidhartha, the best band ever. At least she’s got a new best friend, even if Ella Gerard is depressingly practical most of the time.

And, of course, what’s a great heroine without a great villainess? In this drama, that’s the part of Carla Santini, queen of Dellwood High, who’s always gotten whatever she wants . . . until Lola came along. It promises to be a battle of epic proportions, so pop a bag of popcorn and sit back to enjoy the show.

This is the way I feel about this book. I haven’t seen a Lindsay Lohan movie since “The Parent Trap,” but if “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” is even half as good as its source material, I’m heading for the nearest Blockbuster right now.

Lola’s first person narration overflows with drama and trauma to the point of hilarity, and Sheldon adds enough redeeming qualities--such as Lola’s genuine talent at acting and her determination not let the Evil Carla win--to keep her from becoming cartoonish. Some of the story elements are a bit farfetched, but it fits the tone.

Finally, for me, the best part of this book was watching Lola’s influence transform Ella from a frightened shadow into a tough, smart and gutsy gal in her own right, more than able to handle both Carla Santini and Lola herself. If Lindsay had had an Ella in her life, maybe she’d be better off today.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It was a dark and stormy night . . .

It's that time again!

No, the annual pig-Jello-wrasslin' exhibition has been postponed indefinitely.

I'm talking about the Bulwer-Lytton awards! These pristine examples of truly bad writing have been responsible for liquids snorted out peoples' noses since 1982. Go check 'em out.