Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Being Henry David

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead. Albert Whitman and Co. NetGalley.

For survival stories/mysteries with a little bit of romance and amnesia, this book fits the bill. But how many bills request all those things. I felt this book had a bit of multiple personality disorder, wanting to cover all it's bases and I wonder if this would put some readers off who are expecting one genre and then getting another. That being said, the pace moves relatively quickly (more so in the beginning than the middle to end) and it has a male lead character and an amnesia mystery story line that will keep mystery seekers interested.

Because the story opens on a boy who doesn't know who he is or where he is, be takes on the identity of the first thing that comes to him, the author of the book that a homeless man has taken off him and begun to eat. He become Henry David and decides to travel to Walden Pond as he finds this to be the only clue of finding his true identity. Without money or identity, Hank takes up with two homeless kids and gets himself into trouble. This is how the book opens and it feels very fast-paced, action survival story. But Hank quickly escapes this scene and ends up at Walden Pond where he must still struggle to survive but is helped by a number of people and goaded to stay by his crush on a girl that he runs into. This is where the story drags a bit for me. With the intense survival opening, I wonder if most readers will still around for the quieter paced average high school plot line in the middle. The amnesia story line picks up at the end and it gets to be a bit melodramatic but at least the mystery is solved. While the connection to Henry David Thoreau frames the story, it also doesn't seem to have much of a connection to the larger themes of loss, guilt and grief.

Interest level: YA (grade 6+)

Question to the readers: Faced with Henry David's situation, what would you have done in the beginning of the book? Why do you think Henry David came down with amnesia?

Read-alikes: Hatchet, North

Tib and Tumtum: Welcome to the Tribe

Tib and Tumtum: Welcome to the Tribe by Grimaldi and Bannister. NetGalley. Graphic Universe.

This graphic novel for early elementary students was a gem. The cartoon drawings with the over-sized heads and simplistic features works well for this age level and the makes the reader feel open to the tale of a prehistoric boy and the dinosaur that he finds. Because of the nature of the story I was reminded of Calvin and Hobbes. We have a young boy with a ferocious beast as his best friend yet the beast does him, nor anyone else, any harm. The book itself, while it tells a tale in compilation, seems to be a series of separate comics with a punch line at the end of each page. While Calvin and Hobbes is meant for older readers, often addressing content that is designed for mature readers, Tib and Tumtum is meant for the kids it is geared for. The humor is spot on and I believe kids will eat it up with its dinosaur theme and the feelings of isolation and being bullied the main character Tib deals with.

The story is that a young caveboy is often ostracized for the large birthmark on his face. The other children taunt him and don't accept him into their group. Tib comes across a dinosaur who he discovers won't hurt him, yet no one believes he's found a dinosaur as they are believed to be extinct already. Telling tall tales runs in the family so everyone believes Tib is making it up. Because of this, the dinosaur is seen as Tib's imaginary friend. The rest of the story is Tib trying to convince those around him that there is a dinosaur and the consequences in having a dino friend as part of the tribe.

Interest level- Grades 1-3
First in series.

Question to the readers: What animal would you want to discover and keep as your personal friend? Do you think that kids will accept Tib into their group once they discover Tumtum?

Read-alikes: Calvin and Hobbes, Zita the Spacegirl