Showing posts with label pre-young adult fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pre-young adult fiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook which I picked up because I'd very much enjoyed the last book I listened to by this author, and while the reading voice of Alison McGhee was quite a pleasure to listen to in this volume, the story was rather less than satisfying.

We're pretty much expected to believe that a young girl's sister dies by drowning, through her idiotic practice of running in the forest by a dangerous section of the river, but of course her body is never recovered. I found it hard to believe that there was no effort made to have divers find the body.

Apparently someone else had died here too, but there was no fencing and no signage that I heard of. That part was realistic because humans are morons when it comes to safeguarding lives, and in particular the lives of children. There have to be multiple deaths before preventive action is taken. It's the rule. Also, it's the rule in this book because everyone seems to be dying: people and animals alike! It's the Appelt Book of the Dead!

Anyway, sister one goes running off (for a ridiculous 'mission' she has to complete, which is later revealed for the stupid thing that it is), and is magically reincarnated as a fox. Why? Who knows? Maybe the author does, but she doesn't care to tell us - not in the part of this I could stand to listen to anyway, since this was a DNF for me.

A better question though is 'who cares?' because we're given no reason to invest in these people. The characters were uninteresting and uninspiring, and they did not draw me in. Adults are essentially non-existent and vacuous when they are. Children don't have childish thoughts.

The story was way too long and boring because it moved so slowly, which is ironic given that much is made of the speed of the running sister and of the fox she returns as. Given that the foxes have very human thoughts, leaving a ribbon for the sister to find as some sort of a message made no sense. Why not simply scratch the message in the dirt with a claw? Plus foxes are like dogs: they don't see green. An author writing about foxes ought to know this.

I was truly disappointed in this one. It was such a sorry contrast to The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp, and I cannot commend it.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl by Susan Lubner


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was an entertaining book about Lizzy, her friend Joss, and this young girl they find living rough in a decrepit house across the street from Lizzy's family restaurant where Lizzy also helps out. It's almost an exhausting book to read because there's always something going on! I don't know where Lizzy gets the energy! She is a sweet-hearted girl who helps out at the local animal rescue center and is working with Joss to produce cat sweaters to sell to raise funds for the shelter.

Her soft spot for down-on-their-luck pets is what gets her into that building where she and Joss encounter Charlotte, who has run away from home because her family is breaking up, and she can't stand to see it. Lizzy and Joss promise not to give the girl away, but when the house across the street burns down, Lizzy ends up taking in another stray, and Charlotte starts living in her closet!

I don't normally comment on covers because they're usually nothing to do with the author, and my blog is about writing: interiors, not covers! But I have to say in this case, the cover image is quite charming. I liked it very much.

Overall this book was fun, engaging, told a great story, and really brought me, as a reader, in. Even though it's not aimed anywhere near me, I'm happy to be collateral damage in this case! It touches on some delicate topics with appropriate humor, sensitivity, and complete honesty. I recommend it as a worthy read.


Alex and the Monsters: Here Comes Mr. Flat! by Jaume Copons, Liliana Fortuny


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Translated from the original French by David Warriner, this book (curiously originally titled Arriba el Sr Flat!) was a bit young for me, so while I found it entertaining and I recommend it as a worthy read for middle-grade readers, it's also the start of a series, and I don't intend to follow it beyond this volume. I'm not much of a series kind of a guy!

So Alex is a middle-grader who is totally irresponsible and I'm not completely convinced that he learned his lesson by the end of the book! His room is a mess and his homework assignments - while he does them - do not get turned in. Frankly I think his teachers are as irresponsible as Alex is if they don't require the kids to turn in their assignments regularly!

Alex discovers that this plush toy he finds (which he calls a 'stuffie') is actually a real monster from a book (so the monster claims). The monsters all got kicked out of their book by the evil Dr Brut. The monster, Mr Flat, brings a change to Alex's life by interesting him in reading, but aside from Mr Flat going missing, that's about all that happens in this short novel.

The novel is illustrated by Liliana Fortuny, and has some comic-book like pages, but mostly it's a chapter book and it's mildly amusing and entertaining, and the pictures are sometimes funny, so I consider this a worthy read for its intended age group.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

When Friendship Followed me Home by Paul Griffin


Rating: WARTY!

Read by the author - who actually doesn't do too bad of a job - this was another failed audiobook trial. The subject matter! Oh the subject matter. It's aimed at middle-grade boys, and is supposed to be your typical "I survived middle school" story for boys, but what it felt like to me was that the author seemed like he really wanted to tell a Star Wars story without paying a licensing fee to do so.

The first chapter opened with a quote from a Star Wars movie which didn't augur well, and if that had been all there was, it would have been fine, but then there were several more references to Star Wars in that same chapter. That's when I quit it. In the first chapter. It seriously rubbed me up the wrong way. I have devoutly gone off Star Wars - not that I was ever a huge dedicated fan or anything, but while I'm not quite anti-Star Wars, I'm also definitely not remotely interested in it anymore, after episode seven turned out to be nothing more than a remake of episode four. The whole series is uninventive and derivative and it's not entertaining or even interesting to me. So this book was a derivative of a derivative movie series! LOL!

The story is supposedly about this disaffected kid who is adopted by an older woman, and who knows when she retires in three years she's going to move with him to a different locale, so he decides it's not worth making friends? What a moron! Then of course he befriends this dog. Barf. I love dogs, but I hate stories about them. They've been overdone. I'm not even sure why I picked this up at the library, because the whole idea seems way too sugary now I think about it! I can only explain it by positing that I picked up a book, thought it looked okay but not that great, then changing my mind after putting it back, I pulled the wrong book back off the shelf! LOL!

I honestly cannot face listening to any more of that, especially when I have other audiobooks to go at. I'm sure there are middle-graders who will enjoy a story such as this one but that doesn't mean I have to rate it a worthy read! It's schlock and of the lowest form (unless it magically changed after the point at which I quit - which I seriously doubt). It's unimaginative and uninventive, and I can't recommend it.


Unwanted Quests Dragon Captives by Lisa McCann


Rating: WORTHY!

I didn't realize, when I picked this up, that it was part of a larger world, and maybe even a series. The publisher/author all-too-often doesn't tell you on the book cover, "Hey dummy, this is volume 2 - go read volume 1 first!" This is one reason I am not a fan of series.

However, this book can be read as a standalone which was my inadvertent approach, and it was an enjoyable read - the one gem in a pile of dross that is my experience of selecting audiobooks off the library shelves. Although I have to say up front that this was a gem which lost a little of its luster before the story was over.

This world appears to me to be a bit like the floating "Hallelujah Mountains" of Pandora from the movie Avatar, excepting that here they're more like worlds - or at least large islands in space. It may be that previous books in this world have defined those other islands since each is named "The Island of..." but I can't speak to that. There is apparently no way to get from one island to another except by magical means, and it so happens that the world in which sisters Phifer and Thisbe (spellings may be off since this was an audiobook) exist, there is magic. Predictably for a book of this nature, the child in question either doesn't have it, or they're not yet fully mature in it.

The latter is the case with the sisters, and their unreasonable older brother Alex happens to be head magician of their world. but he will not let them learn magic until they show responsibility. The problem is that they cannot control their magic very well, and often cause harm and do damage with it. Why idiot Alex thinks denying them lessons will improve things is a mystery, but this is his position, so they sneak around picking up whatever magic they can from wherever they can.

In a rip-off of Harry Potter, there is a dark and dangerous forest where they're not supposed to go, so of course they go and get into trouble, and this in turn leads to their decision to go help the dragons on a different island after their bother refuses to do so. This is where they end up in trouble, and I'm sorry to say this novel ends in a cliffhanger and so isn't really a novel, but episode one, which to me is a downright cheat. That said, I enjoyed this book as far as it went, and I recommend it as a worthy read, especially for people who enjoy series with cliffhangers!

One of the reason I enjoyed it so much was the spirited reading by Fiona Hardingham. I don't know if she's British or not; I'd never heard of her, but she inflected these charming British accents for the two girls and quite won me over. Her only misstep in my opinion was in one of the animal characters. In this world, there are animated stone statues, and this really what makes the forest dangerous, Why wizards didn't go in there and re-freeze all the harmful statues is an unexplained mystery, but not all of them are evilly-intentioned. One of these is a cheetah. This species comes from Africa and India, but for inexplicable reasons, the reader gave it an American drawl! It made zero sense and took me out of suspension of disbelief every time it spoke.

The story went downhill somewhat towards the end and the abrupt non-ending was annoying, but the early part of the story and Hardingham's reading had won me over enough by then for me to let that slide. I recommend this, but I do not feel so excited by it that I want to read more. For those who do, there are many other volumes set in this world as far as I can tell.


Panda-monium by Stuart Gibbs


Rating: WARTY!

Read slightly annoyingly by Gibson Frazier, this audiobook started out interestingly enough. It's part of a series where the middle-grade boy solves mysteries. Frankly, if this is to be the basis of my judgment (I have no other!) then Teddy Fitzroy really doesn't do very much and worse, his life really isn't very interesting! This is, I believe, the fourth in this series, all set in a zoo-cum-theme park named FunJungle - evidently based on SeaWorld® in San Antonio, Texas.

The panda disappeared apparently from a moving truck on a highway, such that when the truck left, the panda was on board, and when the truck arrived, it was no longer there. I thought a cool way to do this for a kids' book would be to have a false panel at the far end of the trailer, so that the panda could be hid behind it and the truck looked empty, but given that the FBI were involved in this investigation (pandas are considered to be the property of China), I doubt such a ruse would fool them!

I never did find out how the theft was done because I DNF'd this one after about a third of it. Judging the rest of the book from what I did read though, it seems to me that there would have been a perfectly mundane explanation - nothing special or daring. As it was, the part of this book that I could bear to listen to was simply too boring, too slowly moving, and had nothing entertaining to offer me. Appropriately aged readers may disagree, but for me, I can’t recommend this and I will not be reading any more in this series. The characters held nothing for me, being a bunch of spoiled, privileged brats, and the story was too light and lacking in substance.

Some other reviewers have mentioned that this author was or is a writer for Disney and that this book had some Disney-ish aspects to it and I can see that in retrospect, but that wasn't on my mind when I was listening to it. I just didn't find it engaging at all. The characters were unappealing and I cannot recommend it as a worthy read.


The Wormworld Saga Vol 1 The Journey Begins by Daniel Lieske


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I wasn't impressed with this story and it reconfirmed my rule of thumb never to read any story with the word 'saga' (or 'cycle' or 'chronicles' in the title). I didn't apply that rule to comic books and now I think I shall have to!

Of course it wasn't aimed at me and maybe the middle-graders it is aimed at will go for it, but for me it was too abrupt of an ending - it never really offered any sort of resolution because it was so determined to leave you on a cliff-hanger to draw you into the next one in the series. This is the problem with series, and why I am not very much a fan of them. I appreciate an author more who leaves you wanting to read on because he or she has done such as good job of investing you in the story rather than one who forces you into a choice by breaking the story in the middle of something.

The art work was colorful but a bit plastic in my view, so it left something wanting, although some individual images were really rather fetching. But the story really wasn't anything new: a kid finds a magical portal into some other world where they magical find themselves a special being. It's been done so many times that if you want to do it again, you really need to bring your 'A' game and I felt none of that here. Indeed, I felt like there was more story told in the blurb than ever we had in the actual story which I think is a first for me.

So all in all I cannot recommend this, although I wish the author all the best in his pursuit of this tale.


The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World's Worst Dinosaur Hunter by Tim Collins


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a highly amusing book aimed at middle-grade readers. It's also quite short. I can't speak for middle-graders, but it amused the heck out of me! It seemed a bit far-fetched at first, all the bad luck this young girl was having trying to find dinosaur bones in the USA. Her first set turned into a crumbled mess in storage. She found more at a different location, only to be held-up at gunpoint by masked bandits and the bones were taken, and so it went.

Despite the far-fetched nature of the tale, I was willing to let this slide because it was a children's book, but then this girl figures out her expedition is being sabotaged, which I thought was a pretty good twist. The story is amusing, and the girl is plucky and smart: just my kind of female main character. She's also very patient with her opportunistic and rather avaricious father. The book is educational. Periodically there's a section which talks about the bones she finds and what kind of dinosaur it was and so on, and so I really liked this. I mean, what's not to like, especially since it's very loosely based on a real female dino-hunter?

It seemed to me to be the perfect story for any middle-grader interested in dinosaurs or in science in general. I'd have liked it slightly better if the girl had shown that she knew that you don't just find random dino bones. You have to look in certain rock strata where the bones would have been fossilized, so that information would have been nice. The assumption here is that the fossil hunter who prepared her maps would have marked the right location to search, but a small clarification about rock strata would have been a nice addition. I liked that she consulted books, journals and maps to plan her forays. That was a good touch. Overall, I enjoyed this very much and I recommend it as a worthy read.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Freaks by Kieran Larwood


Rating: WORTHY!

Sheba is a freak, so-called. She has some sort of wolfish traits in her that don't come out at the full Moon, but which do surface when she's emotionally disturbed. Fortunately that isn't often, since she's quite accepting of her freakishness and her lot in life which is as a lonely exhibit on a pier in an obscure Victorian seaside town.

This all changes one day when a rotund man from London shows up with his traveling freak show and buys her from her 'owner'. She finds herself in a wagon full of people like her - not wolfish, but each with strange appearance or talents, and unfortunate smells. Sheba's enhanced sense of smell is one thing which is always on tap, she's sometimes sorry to suffer. At other times it can be very useful.

This change isn't a bad thing as it happens, because she finds acceptance and companionship in this circus as they travel back to London and take up residence in their permanent quarters, as a freak show in a dismal London side-street in a ramshackle, run-down and dirty house, where Sheba has to sit each day in a room so people can stare at her. But it's just for a short time and then she gets to have a decent bed and not too horrible food, which is new to her.

One day a little girl sneaks in to the show and meets Sheba, before the interloper is discovered and tossed out. The two of them bond in that moment, so when Sheba later learns that this same girl - a mudder who scours the low-tide banks of the Thames for anything of value to sell to buy food for her family - has gone missing, Sheba is moved to act. In her search for the mudder, she is joined by Sister Moon, a ninja girl with almost super-human speed and accuracy, and Monkey Boy, who is frankly gross-out disgusting.

This for me was the first and one of very few false steps in this Victorian era novel with steampunk elements, which is aimed at middle-grade readers. Given that three of the main five 'freak' characters are female, it suggests that the novel is aimed primarily at girls, yet the toilet 'humor' if you can term it that, is aimed at boys, so it made little sense. Other than that it was fine and it featured some other intriguing characters too, such as the woman who trains rats and the gentle giant who writes romance stories!

The plot became clear pretty quickly, but for younger readers it may remain more of a mystery for a little longer, and the story is engaging, with a few thrills and spills to keep a young heart racing, so overall I liked it. In some small ways it reminded me of the Philip Pullman series 'His Dark Materials' and young Lyra Belaqua. Sheba isn't quite like that, and this novel isn't in that league or about the same subjects, but young readers who enjoyed that might like this, and vice-versa. It's educational too, about the horrific conditions under which children lived, and how they were exploited back then, especially if they were not like most other children, so I recommend this as a worthy read.


The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly


Rating: WORTHY!

Read delightfully by the amazingly-named Lulu Lam, this is the story of two girls who came with their father to Louisiana, only to have him abandon them and return to the Philippines, leaving them at the mercy of their somewhat sadistic stepmother. Soledad and Dominga, aka Sol and the unfortunate abbreviation of 'Ming' which makes her sound Chinese, lost their other sister, Amelia when they were much younger, and Sol feels she is responsible in some way. As if that wasn't bad enough, their mother died not long afterwards. Now their dad has ditched them so they're stuck with stepmother for the last two years or so.

Their stepmother Vee (?spelling since this was an audiobook) works, and feeds and houses them, but in many ways she resents them and demands strict adherence to her rules. Sol quietly and not so quietly rebels and often retreats into fantasy, particularly when she's punished. Some of those occasions, like when she's locked in a closet in her bedroom, are paradoxically quite amusing because she pretends she's in a spaceship traveling through space. When Ming opens the door later and asks why she isn't coming out, there ensues a conversation which made me laugh out loud. Sol asks, "What's your planet like?" and Ming looks around their bedroom and answers, "It's kind of messy."

Sol's behavior is highly questionable. She and her best friend Manny regularly steal from a convenience store where the popsicles are wonderful and out of the line of sight of the person minding the checkout. She and Manny regularly bully the kids from the snotty school not far from the convenience store. At one point, Sol throws a pine cone and hits the albino girl on her head, cutting her so badly that blood runs down her face. This girl is nicknamed Casper after the white ghost, but her name is Caroline. She's a particular favorite to mock, but Sol later seeks her out at her home and apologizes and the two become friends, and Ming befriends Christine, Caroline's younger sister.

Somehow, because of Sol's constant story-telling, Ming begins to focus on their non-existent Aunt Jove, and claims she writes to her and gets letters back. She refuses to show these replies to Sol, but maintains Jove will come and get them - which of course never happens. Meanwhile, Sol is regularly seeing Amelia's ghost and asking advice of a ghost which appears to be the same age now as Sol is. Fortunately for their welfare and sanity, they befriend a Chinese woman down the hall, Mrs Young (Yung? Again, audiobook) who seems to enjoy their company as much as the enjoy hers.

I felt that this book had some unresolved issues, but in other regards, I liked it. I liked the inventive stories and the humor, and I consider it a worthy read, although the morality is a bit off, be warned.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Beyond the Green by Sharlee Glenn


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Not to be confused with Beyond the Glenn by Sharlee Green (I'm kidding!), this book was pretty darned good. It addresses a controversial issue of which the author has had some direct experience judged from her note at the end. I rarely read author's notes, and never read introductions, prefaces, prologues, and so on, but this note was interesting.

In 1978 a law was passed regarding how American Indian children in need of foster care should be treated. As usual, white folk had in the past assumed that they knew best, and simply taken Native American children into white Christian foster care giving no consideration even as to whether there were any native American relatives who could do the job, let alone others, and no consideration at all was given to Indian tradition or culture. It concerns me that this law applied only to Native Americans and gave no consideration to other cultures or even races, such as black or Asian. It seems to me that what's good for the cultural goose is also good for the ethnic gander, but that's outside the scope of this novel so I won't get into that here.

The middle-grade novel, set in 1979, evidently in some way mirrors what happened in the author's life, and is told from the perspective of a young Mormon girl, Britta Twitchell, whose family fosters a native American child from the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation in Utah for about four years. Rather than use the child's native American Ute name, they inappropriately named her Dorinda, and then shortened that to Dori. The child's actual name is the much more beautiful Chipeta. Her mother, Irene Uncarow, is an alcoholic, but she has recovered now and wants her daughter back. This causes Britta, the main character, to react very negatively, and start scheming to prevent her 'sister' from being abducted by this alien woman - at least that's the kind of viewpoint Britta has.

Her reaction is rather extreme, beginning with kidnaping Chipeta herself and running away, and later scheming to ruin Irene's sobriety so she can't reclaim her daughter. But Britta isn't dumb, she's just young and naïve, and she grows and learns lessons from her ill-conceived plans. The book isn't dumb either: it tells a real and moving story with interesting and complex characters and it does not shy away from talking about prejudice and alcoholism. There is always something happening, and it's not predictable - except in that you know that Britta's mind is very active and she will for certain cook-up another wild-ass plan before long.

The only issue I had with it was that it was a bit heavy on religion, but then this was a Mormon family. There was a minor instance of fat-shaming by Britta, but again, young kids are not known for their diplomacy. It's a different thing for a character to say something than it is for an author to say the same thing. Some people don't get that about novels! What a character says isn't necessarily what an author thinks!

For example, at one point Britta describes a loved aunt thus; "I pretty much idolized Aunt Mariah. She was pretty and spunky and smart." Normally I'd be all over something like that - placing prettiness above all else when it comes to describing women, as though that's the most important thing a woman has to offer, way before smarts, courage, integrity, independence, or whatever. I've seen far too many authors do that - including female authors, and it's shameful, but in this case it's the character, Britta, who is saying that. That's a different thing altogether, although having said that, it wouldn't have harmed this story to have had Britta rank 'spunky and smart' before 'pretty'!

But overall I really liked this story a lot. It's a great introduction for middle-grade children to the potential problems inherent in a family of one culture taking charge of a child from another. Anything that serves to open minds and enlighten children that different doesn't equate with bad or scary is to be recommended, and I recommend this as a worthy read.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I loved this novel! Josephine and Cassandra are sisters living in Edwardstown, New York State, in 1915. Their mother is a medium who may or may not be genuine, but she is also a cruel and vengeful schemer who thinks nothing of forcing her younger daughter, Cassie, to eat a whole pudding that she naughtily sampled, even if it makes her sick. She thinks nothing of confining the rebellious Cassie to a cupboard for an entire day for speaking back to her, not even lettign ehr out for a bathroom visit. The two daughters are kept cut-off from society and are essentially prisoners.

A century away from this drama, Alec, who happens to be pretty much the same age as Josie, together with his divorced mother, moves into that same address, and through an antique Ouija board which Alec discovers in the house, he somehow miraculously makes contact with Josie, and they become friends. Unfortunately, Josie's mother learns of her Ouija board assignations and seeks to tap Alec's future information for her own ends, holding Josie hostage to force him to meet her demands.

The story is told in third person (thank you, Camille DeAngelis, you are a goddess amongst YA and middle-grade authors!), and it alternates from Alec's perspective to Josie's, and back again with each chapter and without losing moment or engagement. Despite its length, it makes for a fast and easy read, brings the reader in from the start, and holds them captive rather like poor Cassie and Josie are captive, but by a lot more pleasant means! I really enjoyed this book it was original entertaining, and a breath of fresh air. I highly recommend it.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo


Rating: WORTHY!

Read with gusto and love by Jenna Lamia, this was an adorable audiobook story. It was literally short and sweet and very amusing. The three main characters were brilliantly-drawn and admirably entertaining. The author's name was so familiar to me that I thought I'd read something by her before, but I can't find any record of it, so this is evidently my first encounter. I plan on it not being the last. This was a pleasant find. I tend to experiment a lot more with audiobooks than other formats, and many of them fail because of that. Once in a while a gem like this comes along and makes all of the unsatisfactory assaults on my ears bearable!

Raymie isn't a Nightingale, she's a Clarke. Nightingale is the book about Florence (of the lamp, not of Tuscany, which is really Firenza) which Raymie was taking to read to a resident of a retirement home (Raymie has to do good deeds). Raymie is missing her father, who ran off with a dental hygienist, and she figures if she wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition (which requires good deeds and baton-twirling), her father would see her picture in the paper and be so proud of her, and miss her so much that he would immediately return home and all would be well.

Raymie has a lot to learn about guys.

Also competing in the contest is Louisiana Elefante, daughter of the Flying Elefantes, the famous trapeze artists, now deceased. Louisiana has 'swampy lungs', and is living with her kleptomaniac grandmother. They are so poor that Louisiana is counting on winning the contest to shore-up their finances.

Beverly Tapinski has no intention of winning the contest. She hates these contests so much that she's dedicated to sabotaging this one. The only reason these three girls meet is that they all show up for baton-twirling lessons as taught by the irascible Ida Knee who is the antithesis of long-suffering. The girls don't really get along too well to begin with, but inevitably they get into bizarre and amusing mishaps and scrapes, and are drawn into a tight trio who call themselves The Rancheros (it's Louisiana's idea). That's all I'm going to tell you. Like I said, the story is short and it's fun, so what have you to lose? Very little time if you don't like it. I loved it and I recommend it.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Graphix Goes to School by various authors


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a cute, small format, and amusing little graphic collection of stories related to school. It's mostly an advertising flyer (or a sampler, if you like) for full length comics, but that's not a bad thing when you get an amusing story (at least amusing if you're middle grade or thereabouts!), and it's a good way to find comics that might interest and entertain you. Graphix is an imprint of Scholastic, and I have no affiliation with either, fyi!

There is less than seventy pages and eleven stories all told (so to speak!), so they're very short:

  1. Dream Jumper: Permanent Detention by Greg Grunberg, Lucas Turnbloom, Guy Major is a poor kid trapped in a dreamworld (or maybe a nightmare world...) of detention until he's busted out by a friend. It has a certain element of gross-out, but it's not too bad. Graphics and color are nice.
  2. Amulet Stonekeeper School by Kazu Kiribuishi is semi serious fantasy tale about kids with magical amulets. Who can ask for more?! Nicely drawn
  3. Bird & Squirrel by James Burks is about bird and squirrel - what did you expect?! Very stylistic illustration which might be useful for young kids to copy.
  4. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm is how I spent my summer kind of a story and it's a doozy. Artwork scrappy but effective.
  5. Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson features kids and aliens in a satellite school. Nice art.
  6. Twist and Pout by Jimmy Gownley is about a shy kid at a school dance. Simplistically, but nicely drawn.
  7. Newsprints by Ru Xu is about a first day at a new school and has great art.
  8. Nnewts (yes I spelled it right!) by Doug TenNapel is not so well illustrated but tells a fun tale of a school for...yep, you guessed it - newts! Talking newts. We've all been there.
  9. Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack. What more is there to say? Maybe that the art is quite good?
  10. The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti is am amusingly and startlingly illustrated story of a strange people. Really intriguing art.
  11. Ghosts! by Raina Telgemeier is an intro to a new comic (or at least new at the time this was published) about a new girl at school who seems to be quite pleased that it's not haunted. But she could be mistaken.... Art is simply but not awful.

So all in all I think this is a fun read, and a chance to maybe find something you might like to follow on a longer-length more permanent basis. As such, I recommend it.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Unbound by Ann E Burg


Rating: WARTY!

This was an audiobook telling a story of slavery from the first person perspective of a young girl. The subtitle claims it's "A Novel in Verse" but it's actually not, thankfully. It was read by an actor with the interesting name of Bahni (pronounced Bonney) Turpin, and while her own voice was not bad at all, the first person voice of the story really turned me off, because it seemed so inauthentic.

I know authors do this to try and present a sense of immediacy and to bring a reader in, but for me, it typically pushes me out. Once in a while I find a FPV story that I can stand to read, but far more often than not, they're obnoxious. This was especially true in this case where the girl was being forced to leave her family and take up residence in 'The Big House' as a domestic slave. She was one of the most whiny, self-centered, and air-headed characters I've ever read about.

The novels blurb claims that the author "unearths a startling chapter of American history -- the remarkable story of runaways who sought sanctuary in the wilds of the Great Dismal Swamp," but this is an outright lie. If anyone unearthed it apart from the historians, it was Harriet Beecher Stowe, in her second novel, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. I wonder if the author of this novel ever read that? She certainly doesn't acknowledge it if she did.

Slavery was an unforgivable abomination perpetrated by a smug, laughably 'superior', and self-righteous Christian population on a group of people they considered less than human, but there's nothing we can do to go back and right those appalling wrongs. All we can do for those people is to never forget them and to never let it happen again, but the truth is there are more pressing immediate problems which a wallow in the past will not fix. These problems are here and now, and they can be solved, but as long as our eyes are focused on history, they're not going to turn and take a hard look at where they should be aimed: current-day problems, some of which are echoes of the very history people are so distracted by. This book touched upon three issues that can be thought of very loosely as slavery or as coming out of slavery and which can be solved.

The first is racial issues still going on today which have deep roots in what happened when brutal men literally bought Africans from other Africans and floated them across an entire ocean to work these victims to death in plantations owned by Christian folk. The reason I mention their faith is because this book mentions "The Good Lord" irritatingly often.

It should have said "Good God!" as an exclamation of disbelief, because this god did absolutely nothing whatsoever to stop this abduction and brutality. It did no more than it did for the ancient Hebrews when they were hauled off into slavery, which was diddly-squat. Why anyone would put faith in such a worthless absentee god like that has long been a mystery to me, but this book idiotically keeps on having these people put their faith in what was - to them, hailing as they did from Africa - a completely alien god!

These Christians were claiming to be delivering these 'heathens' into the Christian faith, these were the heathens who were living (near enough for humans!) in complete harmony with nature, and who were being dragged across the Atlantic to live in a Christian community which was systematically raping the land it had stolen from American Indians who had been also largely living in harmony with nature! Go figure.

The second problem was entirely connected with that business (I use the term advisedly) of the raping o' the land. The problem back then was rich, armed white folks taking advantage of poor black folks. Now it's the insanely wealthy one percent taking advantage of the entire planet. The problem has become worse and it's become diversified: there's no race involved in this, only greed, as in 'how much more money can we make by exploiting more people' or 'by exploiting people more'?

The third problem is these people who are mostly though not exclusively white men, but they're not oppressing only people of color, they're oppressing all of us, but in particular people of color and women, who are seen as chattel by far too many of these men. This also where the #MeToo movement and the term 'glass ceiling' came from.

The real problem with this novel though is the poor writing. I know it's a novel for children, but does that mean that everything must be pedantically spelled-out and the slave owners be rendered as one-dimensional caricatures? The girl herself is ham-fistedly named Grace, and she causes all of her own troubles because she cannot control her mouth and she simply will not listen to advice. This is what brings all her troubles down not just on her, but also on her family. So they had to live in a swamp, Well, we were evicted from our swamp. We had to go and live in a cardboard box in't middle o' motorway! Each morning we had to get up and lick road clean wi't tung!

That was an excerpt from Monty Python's "The Four Swampmen." You know, I don't expect an author of a novel like this to portray slave owners in a warm light, or even have much imagination, but was it really necessary to render the owner's wife as a pinch-faced cartoon character? Subtlety (and creativity for that matter) appears nowhere in this author's lexicon quite evidently, so in that same vein let me say that this novel sucks, and I don't recommend it. After listening to only the beginning portion, I wanted Grace to sink into that blessèd swamp.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes


Rating: WORTHY!

Jewell Parker Rhodes is an award-winning author and this is my first reading of anything by her. Her novel Ninth Ward, the first book in her "Louisiana Girls" trilogy, won the Coretta Scott King Honor Award.

This novel walks lock-step with the Black Lives Matter movement by telling the story of a twelve year old black child who was shot by a white cop. The circumstances of the death are almost a re-telling of the shooting death of Tamir Rice in November 2014. That was the same year that Michael Brown and Laquan McDonald were also shot in August and October.

This is too many controversial shootings in so short a period of time and without question something needs desperately to change. This book, I believe, can constitute a first step in the right direction especially given that it appears to be aimed at a middle-grade readership.

Jerome is the kid shot in the back by a white police officer after he was playing with a toy gun from which the orange tip had been removed making it look much more like a real gun. The story is told from Jerome's perspective now that he has become one of the ghost boys: dead black kids who have suffered a similar fate to him. Among the membership of this ghostly group is Emmett Till. The book is a little disjointed and sometimes a bit hard to follow because it jumps back and forth too much between Jerome 'ghost' and Jerome 'alive and well' in flashbacks.

Sarah is the daughter of the cop who, let's face it, murdered Jerome. I guess technically it was 'involuntary manslaughter' since he didn’t go out there with malice aforethought, intent upon killing him, although the cop seemed to be arguing for 'voluntary manslaughter' because he was farcically claiming it was in self-defense.

I thought it was grossly unfair to show him 'getting away with it', but this seems to happen unsurprisingly, disturbingly often. The stark contrast between Jerome's impoverished life, his poorly-appointed school, and the bullying he suffers every day, and Sarah's privileged white kid existence is starkly drawn. He and Sarah bond (a little too quickly to be frank, but then this is a short novel!), and Sarah gets an education. Jerome does too.

This novel told such a good story and was so well written that I did not want to find fault with it, and I really couldn't except in two areas. The first of these is very minor: there was one quoted speech which was missing a closing quote mark at location 1788 in Amazon's crappy Kindle app where Sarah says 'He's got awards for bravery. Saving lives' The speech continues as a separate quote on the next line. Matching quotes is the bane of all writers' lives. Isn't there an app for that?!

The other complaint is a bit more involved. The author was (and rightly in my opinion) trying to strike a fine balance between the wrong of this child being killed and the right of trying to find a non-violent and understanding way to resolve this ongoing crisis. I felt that certain avenues went sadly unexplored though.

Later in the story, Sarah creates a website, and on it she lists certain facts about this inexcusable slaughter, such as "Did you know black people are shot by cops two and a half times more than white people? But they’re only twelve percent of the population." That to me was a somewhat misleading statistic not because it's not true, but because it's taken out of much larger and very important context. This story doesn't delve deep enough because the issue is far more complex than is depicted here but again this is middle-grade level, so we can't expect everything!

It’s the same problem when Jerome asks a little later if this disaster we see going on every day is because of slavery, and I think there was a missed teaching opportunity here. I think that keeping it this simple doesn't do justice to the middle-graders who are reading this, because while, yes, slavery was a tragic blunder that still echoes today, it’s not the proximate cause.

Black people are shot by cops more often because black people come into contact with cops in taut situations more often than whites, but this higher homicide rate in the black community isn't because they're black, it’s because black people are far more likely to come from impoverished and otherwise deprived backgrounds than are any other race. This in turn leads people into criminal - or at least questionable - activities and that in turn leads them into interactions with police.

Only a complete moron would make assumptions based on a person's skin color (or gender, or religion, and so on). Such assumptions are proven wrong over and over again as more unarmed black people are shot by whites, including by cops, but I don't believe this has to do with slavery.

I believe it has to do with fear induced by misunderstandings and to be frank, sometimes helped along by a certain amount of 'attitude' in the black community about entitlement and privilege, and misplaced notions of respect. The bottom line is that respect has to be earned! You don't get to have it simply because you're person A, or have religion X or skin color Y. And you sure don't deserve it if you have to demand it aggressively from people you don't even know and who certainly do not know you, nor would they want to if you have too much bad attitude! Racism cuts both ways

There was another issue which was unexplored here, which was the gun. This story exactly paralleled the Tamir Rice tragedy. Jerome was playing with a toy gun which had had the orange muzzle cover removed so that it looked real. In a side-by-side comparison, it's easy to tell the fake, but a cop doesn't have that privilege. In a tense situation, when their life may be at dire risk, taking time to accurately determine what you're dealing with could mean the difference between living and dying.

I was sorry the author didn't bring up that fraught issue and the utter stupidity of toy manufacturers in making toy guns look so much like the real thing, especially when the farcical orange barrel tip can be readily removed. Can we not make the whole gun fluorescent orange? Can parents not simply make the assertive decision never to buy realistic-looking weapons for their children? None of the issue of parental responsibility in raising kids to be smarter than Jerome was, or of Jerome's foolish behavior came into the picture and this was a sad omission.

People of all stripes need to be more restrained, more humble, more accommodating, and more forgiving. It would have been nice to have seen these issues explored in more depth in this book. I think the middle-grade reading community can handle complex issues, and I think it does just as much of a disservice to those who have lost their lives to fear and mistrust, and to misunderstanding, and yes, to outright racism, to take a view that's as shallow as skin-deep racism is.

All of that said, I really enjoyed this novel I considered it to be thoughtful and well-written, and to tell a worthy story. I recommend it as a great introduction for young readers to a badly-needed understanding and a long overdue calm and rational dialog.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Wandmaker by Ed Masessa


Rating: WARTY!

This is very much in the mold of Harry Potter. The main character is Henry Leach and I've decided not to read another young magician novel in which the main character has a first name beginning with H and ending with Y. The wands on the cover look suspiciously like props from the Harry Potter movies, but we can't blame the author for that - except to blame him for trusting Big Publishing™ instead of publishing it himself and making his own cover! This was an audiobook and I wasn't particularly impressed with the reader, but it was really the story which wasn't engaging me at all.

Henry is supposed to hail from a long line of wand-makers on both his parents' sides of the family, so he has special powers, we're led to believe, but he came across as being something of an idiot to me. His mother is not in the picture for reasons which were never gone into in the portion I listened to (which was less than half). The world-building wasn't great, so I felt lost much of the time, but part of this could well be because I became bored and irritated and skipped parts of the story; however, even when I was listening to it sequentially and with interest at the beginning, it still failed to give me a good feel for the world, and how Henry came to be where he was in it.

The secondary characters were singularly unimpressive. His kid sister Brianna was such a dedicated brat that she was entirely unlikeable, as was his father, who seemed to have an evil streak in him. Apparently he goes missing later in the story so this is a good thing. Henry's mentor, Coralis (which name sounds like some sort of software app) was simply tedious, although this may have had a lot to do with the reader of the audiobook.

In short I could not get into this and have absolutely no desire to follow a series about this character. I cannot recommend it based on what I listened to, but this is par for the course for many audiobooks since I tend to experiment more with them.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Wonderful Baron Doppelgänger Device by Eric Bower


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I have to say up front that I was disappointed in this novel aimed at middle-graders. Maybe a portion of middle-graders will like it, and obviously I am not its audience, but I've read a lot of middle grade novels and found very many of them amusing and/or engaging in other ways. This one didn't resonate with me from the start. It's apparently number three of a series (The Bizarre Baron Inventions) and I'm not a series fan at all, but from what I can tell, it can be read as a standalone, which is how I came into it.

The first problem I encountered was with the formatting, although this isn't what garnered it a less than enthusiastic review in my case. This book, like many such books I've reviewed, fell prey to Amazon's crappy Kindle app, which simply isn't up to the job of fairly representing books unless those books have pretty much been stripped of everything that renders them as anything more than totally bland. Kindle format cannot even handle routine formatting, let alone specialty items like drop caps. Spacing between sections is random at best, and the formatting of this book in the Kindle was atrocious on my iPhone.

In the contents (why is there even a contents page - it's a novel for goodness sake?!), chapter two was run right into the end of chapter one, rather than appear on a new line. Chapter three was randomly indented on the next line. Chapter four was not a link, so you couldn't tap it to actually go to chapter four, whereas other chapters were links, but only a part of the chapter title was actually a URL. So - the usual Kindle disaster.

There wasn't a return tap either - to get back to the contents from the chapter title. Given that ebooks have bookmarks and a search function, I see no point in a contents page! It’s a brain-dead feature of the ebook system which makes zero sense and was obviously designed by a committee. It’s even more pointless if it doesn't work and Amazon seems determined to undermine it with its Kindle system anyway.

The book looked much better in Bluefire Reader in a different format, but even there, there were problems. It was all but unreadable on a smart phone because the pages were represented as a whole entity, which was far too small to read comfortably (at least for me who does not possess the eyes of a falcon!). You could stretch the pages to make them larger and more readable, but then you couldn't swipe to the next page without shrinking the page back to its original size first, so this made for an irritatingly ritualistic reading experience risking carpal tunnel syndrome just from continually stretching, shrinking, and swiping!

I am sure that on a tablet this would work much better, but for me, a phone is usually more convenient and I always have it with me, so I read the Kindle version and tried to ignore chapter titles that had random caps in them, such as chapter 2 which was titled " wHy would a Horse wanT sequIns on ITs HaT?" You see it appears to be only certain characters which are capitalized - the H and the T in this case, so maybe it's not so random. Why this occurs though, I do not know. I have seen it annoyingly often in Kindle.

The Bluefire view presumably represented how the print book would look, but for me this had problems too. In the electronic version, abusing trees by having too much white space isn't an issue, although a longer book does require somewhat more energy to transmit, so there's an issue of energy abuse.

As far as the print version goes, as judged from the Bluefire Reader, the margins, top, bottom, left, and right are super wide, and the chapter title pages have such huge chapter titles that the actual text doesn't start until the last third of the page. There are also illustrations which do little to augment the text and could have been omitted. More on these later. I calculated that there is about a third of each page (and more on the chapter title pages) which is white space.

The fact is that we cannot afford to abuse trees like this in an era of rampant climate change. Each printed book releases almost nine pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and printing books topples over thirty million trees every year. An e-reader is also harsh on the environment, but once you read a couple of dozen books on it, you’re getting ahead of the print curve. An electronic book takes three times fewer raw materials and uses seven times less water, but even so, the design of your book can make a huge difference.

No one wants to read a print book where the text is so jammed together that it's hard to read, but in this case, instead of blindly following rote rules of one inch margins on all sides (or whatever), making the margins smaller would have shortened the novel significantly, and for a large print run, saved more than a few trees and many pounds of CO2. It's worth thinking about if you care about the planet.

The novel is 237 pages (judged by page numbering in the Bluefire Reader), but it actually starts on page nine and finishes on page 234, so it's really about 225 pages. Tightening the margins and reducing the number of empty pages at the beginning of the novel could have brought this book down to well under two hundred pages (and even with the book-end fluff pages).

Authors and publishers need to seriously consider what they're doing to the environment. To my knowledge there are no fixed rules about how a book should look except what individual publishers 'prefer' so this should be a no-brainer: environment first, formatting second. Save trees, save energy on print runs, and guess what? Save money in producing the novel!

Another formatting issue was that the page headers (the author's name at left, the book title at right) which looked fine in the Bluefire version, were interposed with the text in the Kindle version. For example, one page had this text over three lines:
...said P. "I
erIC bower 29
heard you tell my wife that...
As you can see, the Eric Bower and page number are in the middle of a sentence, and the 'IC' in Eric is randomly capitalized. Why is it even necessary to put the author's name and book title as headers? Do authors and publishers think the reader has such a short-term memory that they need to be reminded every page what they're reading and who wrote it? Again, it's antiquated, hide-bound tradition and nothing more. It serves no purpose.

Back to the image issue I mentioned: completely and predictably mangled the images. They looked even worse on my phone because I keep the screen black, and the text white to save on the battery (it takes more power to keep the screen white and the text black), so the images (on a white background) always look out of place, but it gets worse! On page 21 of the Bluefire version, there is a line drawing of an airplane. This was chopped into segments which were then distributed over seven - count 'em seven! - screens in the Kindle app on my phone! Consequently, the image was largely unintelligible.

The same thing happened to an image of a car. Curiously, the 'monkey in the plumed hat' image, which appeared shortly after the airplane image, was not completely Julienned, but it was split over three screens, and there were black lines across it so it looked like Kindle was thinking about making a jigsaw out of it, but never quite got around to it!

Finally the story itself: it honestly felt just too silly and improbable for me. It seemed less like a story than it was a series of skits jumbled together, and it was larded with so much asininity and so many meandering asides that it was hard to follow the story (and in this I am graciously assuming there was one). It was too silly to read. I reached about forty percent and had to give up on it because it was simply not entertaining and the story appeared to be going nowhere.

Maybe the target audience will go for this, but my kids, who are now a bit older than this target audience admittedly, would not have found this engaging. Personally, I didn't like the main character at all. I felt that first person voice was the wrong voice for this story. It usually is the wrong voice, and is way over-used, but in this case it was made worse because he was just so annoyingly voluble and so repulsively full of himself, proud of his incompetence and trouble-making, and never once sorry for what he did to people.

In fact it was when he was all-but strutting with pride over dropping a fountain pen onto someone's head so that it became permanently stuck there, that I gave up on the novel. He never once exhibited remorse or guilt, and I'm sorry, but this is not the kind of thing you need to be teaching impressionable young boys. At this point it was just too dumb for me to continue and I gave up on it. I cannot recommend this novel based on what I read of it.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book. It started out great and just when I thought the author was giving me a tiresomely trope school-bully story, she changed her game and twisted things around, and overall I really enjoyed it, despite an oddly-rushed a somewhat lackluster ending.

The main character is Piper McCloud, who was born late to her simply country-folk parents and who, from a very early age, exhibited her lighter-than-air abilities. This did not go down well. Her dad had little to say about anything, and mom managed to keep Piper indoors, and keep suspicious and gossipy neighbors away, homeschooling her daughter, but Piper really wanted to explore her ability even though she also tried to keep it secret at her mom's behest. It nevertheless got out and soon the government was showing up offering to take this troublesome child off her mother's hands to a place where there are many children like Piper, and where Piper will get a good education. She certainly does.

The children at the school are very regimented, and are not allowed to use their abilities, which is quite the opposite of what Piper had been expecting. The smooth-talking Doctor Hellion has evidently fed Piper a bill of goods, but while Piper may be down, she's not out and she's going to be up and at 'em first chance she gets. The novel is a bit long and at some points annoying. Also it's lacking somewhat in logic, in particular that all of these children would be sent off by their parents to a place unseen and completely unknown, including its location, and that no parents would raise a stink about their kids disappearing and losing contact with them?

I was surprised no other reviewers raised this issue - not of the reviews I read anyway, not even the negative ones. It's even more curious given that there were other objections raised, such as that the novel pokes fun at religion, like somehow religion is not to be talked about in any negative light? Bullshit! It's not a crime to write fiction about religion whether positive or negative. But I didn't see it as poking fun at anything; it was simply showing Piper in a certain milieu from which she longed to escape. Religion was a very minor part of it and not even the most important one - just like life, in fact!

The other issue was about grown-up themes which clearly never impinge upon children's lives and all children of Piper's age are too dumb to understand them anyway, Right? Again, bullshit. I found these objections rather curious and narrow-minded. They seemed to forget that this is purest fiction. It's not a documentary. It's not a biography. It's not a prescription for how to raise children. It's merely fiction for children. Get over yourselves!

For me the most curious thing was that in the acknowledgements, the author writes of the first thankee: "My Dear husband, Wayne, who has stood by and watched me muddle through this process." I'm not sure that's much of a compliment. At best it's back-handed. From a writer it's poorly worded! If she means he has stood by her, then that's one thing, but if she means what she wrote, then he wasn't much help, was he? What you say matters, How you say it matters more! Every writer should know this, especially one with this author's experience. But aside from these quibbles, I recommend this novel as a worthy read.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Honey Moon Not Your Valentine by Sofi Benitez, Joyce Magnin, Christina Weidman


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is the third and last of this series I shall ever read! I liked this much better than the previous two, and I think that's because it really didn't feature Harry Moon, but his sister with the unfortunate name of Honey Moon. I liked her a lot better than him - at least she did something, but her behavior tended towards the mean and the cowardly, and instead of making the right protestations, she made the wrong ones, but like her brother, she never seemed to learn anything, least of all how dumb she was.

The book had its amusing moments, but otherwise was really nothing new, and it presented children with the wrong options, I thought. The entire story was of Honey Moon's completely misguided attempts to get out of a Valentine's Day dance, and int his it suffered precisely the main problem that the previous "Harry the magician" series suffered: if only people would talk to each other instead of acting like idiots and flying off the handle, then most of their problems would never arise. How hard is it to advise children to talk to one another - and to responsible adults? No magic required!

Again the book featured bullying, but never once was it suggested the children do the right thing - go tell a grown up, preferably a teacher if this happens at school! It's really that simple. Instead of addressing Honey's problem, the so-called man of the house quotes the Bible to Honey: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink." The idea is to show kindness, but he conveniently fails to quote the sentence which follows that in Romans 12:20 though: "In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

It's hardly a kindness to shame someone so much that they feel like this, and most of the time it will not work. One again the Bible is the last place to go to get good advice for modern times, but it is a great place for reading about bullying and rejoicing in brutality. The whole point of this advice was to show kindness to those who bully you. Well, good luck with that half-assed plan. No, the way to deal with bullying at school is to REPORT IT! For goodness sakes, REPORT IT! If you want to show kindness to bullies, then advise them that if they do not stop, you will report it, and if they do not stop, then REPORT IT! It's that simple.

Once again the illustrations - all of white folks as usual, and yes you can judge this book by its cover - were done by Christina Weidman, but either she never read this novel, or the author did a poor job in describing Honey Moon to her. In the text, Honey's hair is described thus: "Her wild brown curls waved crazily in all directions." A couple of pages later it's described as a "wild mane," and later still as "long curly hair," so the take-home message is long, wild and curly, yet her hair is consistently illustrated pretty much as kempt, short, and straight: pretty much a bob! Even when she's depicted climbing out of a box of basketballs in which she'd tried to hide, her hair is straight, and very nearly perfectly arranged.

Again the book was formatted with unnecessarily wide-margins, and widely-spaced paragraphs so I'm getting the distinct impression that neither the authors nor the publisher has any love of trees. This, too, is a really poor message to send to children and overall, I cannot recommend this volume either.