Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Shepherd's Tale

The Shepherd's Tale (Serenity, #3)The Shepherd's Tale by Zack Whedon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At last, the backstory on Shepherd Book! The graphic novel begins moments before Book's death and jumps backwards through the stages of his life, ending when he's a teenager. It really explains so much, and it makes me want to re-watch the series.

I am so impressed with this graphic novel. It's the first one I've read that actually makes me believe a picture (or in this case a panel) is worth a 1000 words, and Zack Whedon even makes each word worth 1000 words. I'm astounded that such a complete and nuanced story can be told so succinctly.

The artwork by Chris Samnee is less photo-realistic but manages to convey more. I had no problem following the story and keeping track of who was whom and what was going on. Hooray!

For readers' advisors: character, story, and setting doorways.

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Cat O'Nine Tails

Cat O'Nine Tails (Cat Royal, #4)Cat O'Nine Tails by Julia Golding

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cat Royal's friend Syd has disappeared, so she and her friends go to London to find out what happened to him and along the way get press-ganged into becoming part of the crew of a British naval vessel in late 1791. Turns out someone paid the press gang to ambush them specifically, and getting home will be harder than they thought.

I accidentally read this one before #3, and maybe that makes a bit of a difference? The story is enjoyable, if somewhat improbable. What makes it three stars instead of four is that I immediately figured out the mystery of who paid off the press gang, and there wasn't much in the way of character development.

There was a little more violence in this one than in the first two, although it was certainly realistic and not graphic. There was also a smidgen more teen angst.

For readers' advisors: story and setting doorways.

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Room One: A Mystery or Two

Room One: A Mystery or TwoRoom One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sixth grader Ted Hammond loves mysteries. So the day he spies a girl in the upstairs window of an abandoned house in his tiny town in rural Nebraska, he knows it's his chance to solve a real-life mystery.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Serenity: Better Days

Better Days (Serenity, #2)Better Days by Joss Whedon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Volume 2 of the Serenity graphic novel series was a little more confusing to follow than the first. The story bounced around between present and past, memory, fantasy, etc., and when I finished reading the story, I had to go back and reread most of it just to figure out what had happened. This was partly because the artwork didn't always resemble the cast members closely enough (esp. Simon), but also because the story jumped so much that I'd forgotten about a particular subplot that turned out to be key.

Bottom line? It would have made a wonderful episode of the Firefly tv show, and fans will probably still enjoy reading this graphic novel episode because Joss Whedon wrote it, so it has his snappy dialogue. There are some very funny scenes, particularly those when Jayne speaks.

For readers' advisors: setting and story doorways

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Extra Credit

Extra CreditExtra Credit by Andrew Clements

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Abby Carson is failing the sixth grade because she hates doing homework. Faced with the threat of being held back, she decides to not only starting doing ALL of her homework but also take on a big extra credit project: write letters to a pen pal halfway around the world, post them on a bulletin board, and do a class presentation at the end of the year.

Sadeed Bayat is the best student in his village in Afghanistan, but it's not proper for a boy to write to a girl, so his little sister is chosen to be Abby's pen pal...with Sadeed's help. She dictates letters in Dari; he translates them into English. But he's dissatisfied with what his sister writes and composes a letter of his own, which he mails in secret. And pretty soon, Sadeed realizes that he knows Abby better than he knows anyone else, and Abby realizes that kids are pretty much the same no matter where they live. But not everyone is happy with this culture-bridging assignment.

Andrew Clements does a fantastic job of bringing these characters and cultures to life. I wanted to climb into Abby's tree fort and thank Sadeed's teacher for his dedication. Excellent book.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways, with setting as a secondary doorway

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Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3)Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tamora Pierce weaves a masterful tale of treachery and treason, magic and mayhem in this final episode to the Beka Cooper trilogy. The four-year-old prince has been kidnapped and made a slave in a violent attempt to overthrow the king. Beka, her scent hound Achoo, and her partner Tunstall are assigned the secret (and dangerous) task of finding and rescuing the prince. They and their companions set off across the country, tracking the slavers and their deadly mages. Traitors are everywhere, though, making it difficult for Beka to know whom to trust.

I was so glad this book was longer than the others. The length gave Pierce time to really develop the characters and the story. She kept me guessing until the end as to who the traitor was. I was, however, a bit sad that most of Beka's friends from the first two books only made brief appearances, although that made sense for the story.

For readers' advisors: story, character, and setting doorways. There is a lot of slang (and made up slang) in the Beka Cooper books, so it's nice that Pierce includes a glossary at the end.

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