Sunday, February 5, 2012

Over Sea, Under Stone

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. Published 1965.

Even though this was published over fifty years ago, this title keeps popping up on my radar. I was finally inspired to read it when I found that she had just won the Margaret A. Edwards award for a lifetime achievement of writing for children.
I enjoyed the book, but I was frustrated because I somehow misrepresented it to myself as a fantasy similar to Narnia where it starts in the real world and then journeys into another more fantastical one. Perhaps this is what the Dark is Rising series turns into but having not read the rest yet, I can only speak for this book. From what I've researched after reading it, it seems the other books diverge to different characters and delve more into the Arthurian Legend but then weave back again to the characters from the first one.
Now, while this series is much loved, that bothers me. I hate getting invested in characters to have them change in a series much like the third book in the City of Ember series did. That being said, I would have liked to actually have gone back to the Arthurian times and I kept waiting for that to happen so when it didn't I was disappointed.

Okay, putting all that aside, the book was not bad. There is a quest. There is mystery. There are bad guys. There's a puzzle to be solved. There are kids as main characters and action that leads to a dramatic conclusion. Its got all that you need. It moves slowly at some points the way older classics can compared to our quick paced adventure books of today, but nothing that wouldn't have an avid reader immersed.

Interest Level: Grades 5-8 Reading level: Grade 6
Genre: Fantasy
First in Series of five.

Comparable Titles: Chronicles of Narnia, Mysterious Benedict Society, Fablehaven

Book Connections: Legend of King Arthur, Cornwall, Carnival Days

Monster Calls

Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Published 2011.

This is another one of the books from this year that has been on everyone's must read list. I joined the band wagon.

The premise of the book is that a young boy is being haunted by a nightmare each night and when the book opens, a monster is calling him from outside his window. We know there is something wrong with his mother but it isn't named. It doesn't take long to figure out that she is dying and the boy is trying to deal with it in his own way. The monster tells him that the boy called him and not the other way around and he will only leave after he has told three tales and the boy has told the monster the truth of his nightmares. As the novel progresses, the boy's mother grows worse and so does the boy's actions and the ways he tries to cope with her sickness. And at that, I will leave off.

This is a great book to deal with the subject of sickness, death and grief. It is full of anger and denial and truth without sappiness or lessons. The illustrations are creepy to the perfect degree and the short chapters have you pushing along no matter how hard the subject matter becomes. The listing says its YA, which I would agree on the level that the content is of a mature understanding, but there isn't anything younger students in the 5-8th grade bracket couldn't read in this book.

Interest level and reading level: YA
Genre: Hard to categorize--Fairy Tale Fantasy because of the use of the monster and the tales, but also realistic in its portrayal of loss and grief.

Comparable Titles: Between Shades of Gray, Jasper Jones, Noah Barleywater Runs Away

Book Connections: folktales, grief/death, Yew Trees, Old World Medicine