Friday, February 5, 2010

Children's Book Review Part 2

Book 6

February 4, 2010

Where the wild things are. Author: Maurice Sendak. Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers. Year Published:1963. Book Style: Picture book. 37 pages.

Plot: This is one of Maurice Sendak’s most famous and most influential children’s books. It is about a little boy named Max. Max is playing around in his wolf costume making mischief. Max’s mother sends him to bed without his supper. Max’s room begins to dissolve around him into a great forest and an ocean. Max sails the sea to the land where the wild things are. The wild things are frightening looking monsters but Max tames them by, “staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once.” He is made king of the wild things and they have a “wild rumpus.” Soon he finds himself lonely and so he decides to sail back to his bedroom where he finds his dinner waiting for him still hot.

Learned and Observed: This book had made a large impression on children’s literature. I can remember reading it as a child and I have also read it to my son. It is one of those books that have transcended time. It will probably be around for many more years to come. As a picture book the illustrations are just as important to the story as the words. Sendak does something very interesting by having the pictures take over the story. When the story begins the picture is framed on the page with the words. As the story continues the illustrations take over the page until in the middle of the book they take over two full pages with no words at all. Then as Max starts to go back to his normal life the pictures get smaller again until the very end is only words on a page with no photo. It is a very interesting technique, almost as if Max’s imagination is taking over as the wild things take over. The book is simple and yet has a well developed story line. I hope that if I ever try to write a book for young children my son’s age I manage to do half as good a job as Maurice Sendak does.

Book 7

February 5, 2010

Before, after, and somebody in between. Author: Jeannine Garsee. Publisher: Bloomsbury U.S.A Children’s Books. Year Published: 2007. Book Style: YA Novel. 339 pages.

Plot: Young Martha Kowalski has a host of problems. Her main problem is her alcoholic mother. Martha is starting the tenth grade at a new school in a predominately African American area. Martha is also younger than most kids in her school because she skipped a grade. Martha’s mom is fresh out of rehab and has moved them in with a real lose named Wayne. Wayne treats Martha horribly and ends up hitting her when her mother isn’t around. Both Wayne and Martha’s Momma fall off the wagon and do drugs and drink. They go away for days at a time and leave Martha to fend for herself. Wayne’s house is a duplex and Martha befriends one of the young boys, Jerome, who lives above her. A terrible accident occurs and there is a shooting upstairs. Martha end up in the hospital and social services get suspicious of her obvious bruises. After some more problems Martha’s mother overdoses and Martha ends up in foster care. The place she ends up is awful and so she leaves. She is standing in front of an office building and something miraculous happens. She recognizes a lawyer that her friend’s mother was the housekeeper for. Long story short this lawyer, Mr. Brinkman takes her back to his home and Martha’s life as a fairytale begins. The Brinkman’s are rich and they have a daughter of their own. Her name is Nikki and she ends up giving Martha a nickname that becomes Martha’s alternate personality. Martha literally becomes Gina. She gets new clothes, goes to a private school, and she gets private cello lessons. She also gets a new boyfriend. Her boyfriend is Nikki’s cousin Danny. For the first time Martha seems happy, however she is not living in reality. No one knows the truth about her. Then her perfect world starts to crumble around her. Danny finds out the truth about her and breaks up with her, Nikki is doing drugs, and there are things about the Brinkman’s that she didn’t realize. Everything comes to a head and meanwhile all this time Martha’s mother has been in rehab supposedly getting better. As her fantasy world crumbles, Martha’s social worker tells her it is time to go back to live with her mother. Martha goes back and for a little while things are ok, but than her mother begins drinking and using drugs again. For a long time Martha puts up with it until one day things are terrible and she leaves. The story ends with her calling her social worker and the Brinkman’s and having left her mother. It ends with a sense of hope.

Learned and Observed: This book is a great example of what it is like to live with an alcoholic/addict for a parent. The story is very realistic in that aspect. The fairytale aspect where Martha goes to live with the Brinkman family is very far-fetched. It would be amazing if that happened in real life, but it usually does not. However, I think the fact that even her perfect family had hidden issues was very life like. No family is without problems and the book did a very good job of showing that. One aspect of the book I did not like was all the cursing. While I will agree than today’s teenagers do curse a lot I think you can write a book and have it appeal to the masses without constant profanity. However, at the same time for this book to seem realistic for the setting of being in the ghetto with an alcoholic parent I suppose to an extent the language was somewhat necessary. Personally I would hope to be able to write a good YA novel without the profanity. One thing I liked about the book was Martha’s goal of being a cellist. It’s not a career that many would choose so it makes her more interesting as a character. Also for young teens who might be in her position and feeling as if they will never be able to better themselves, Martha is inspirational and might show a teen that they can have dreams and achieve them. The story is very good and I did not want it to end, yet at the same time it seemed like it would never end. It goes from Martha’s time with her mother, to her time with the Brinkman’s, and then she is back with her mother. It is almost as if you are waiting for the book to end and it doesn’t and then when it finally does you don’t want it to.