"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend

a second and third

Here is the second two in one post. And here is a third from ‘the coloring book’s’ archive.

Amidst the packing I did manage to read something, and at present am jotting down notes.

Also we are going to see Inception (2010) today, Christopher Nolan’s new film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. We like Nolan in our house, but Sean is an especially big fan, so opening day, here we come. May be I will resurrect my rusty Film Studies courses to write a thoughtful review. I have watched a few good and interesting films lately. I will think up a Film post soon.



From March 9, ‘09

Please read Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin and The Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer.

319383Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin

Scholastic, 2001.

214 pages.

Belle Teal as you’ll note in the link’s synopsis is the story of a 10-year-old girl–who lives with her mother and grandmother in a noticeable level of poverty. And though Belle Teal (the girl) is conscious of her poverty, it is not a focal point, but merely a fact; which you come to appreciate in the story. Belle Teal’s grandmother is getting old and senile; her mother works crazy hours and frequently shifts jobs; the local school is becoming desegregated; a friend at school has an abusive father; add in the conflict of a snobby new girl who is unsuccessful at bullying Belle Teal and has issues of her own.
There are sobering moments within the story, but none of which can be found steeped in self-pity. This is a story about family, and community, and how life achieves normalcy within the act of big changes.
The possible realness of the situations raise questions but do not belabor the story’s progression. Obviously there is tension and discomfort over some of the topics; and one story line feels unresolved as the book holds to the untidiness that is life.
This story made me think of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, and Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie. It has charm, and a really likeable main character; well, you like most of the characters. I do not recall language other than the N-word and that has a place in the story’s setting (year) and its address of racism.
The story sets the provocative challenge to face difficulty with a delicate balance of will and compassion. Compassion is a strong thematic element that I find exceedingly well-handled.
I would not place this story along gender lines, nor would I place it younger than 9, or a mature 8, mainly because it is a ‘middle-school’ read. Like Pam Munoz Ryan’s  Esperanza Rising, or any of the afforementioned reads, I think it would be great to read together, or at least having both read it.

831893Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer

Miramax, Disney Press, 2007.

304 pages.

Half-Moon Investigations is a lot of fun; and I am getting the feeling that the author Eoin Colfer tells all his stories with such incredible wit. I haven’t made it through his Artemis Fowl series yet but I started the first and I recognized some similarities with Half-Moon–namely the humor and the uniqueness of the story’s angle.
is about a boy who gets a detective badge (top of his on-line class of grown-ups) and is presented with his first really big case. The narrative follows the traditional genre form of a hardboiled detective story. Just read the first page and you’ll know what I am talking about–it is funny and just, well, awesome.
It may be that I watched Brick (2005) fairly recently but I pictured a slightly younger Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing the part of our hero; regardless, the 12 year-old hero is a good one to follow. Like any good detective story, you must know and learn that appearances are deceiving, and that casting types are a mistake (even as the story uses these as its own device); one of the acts of the genre is to overturn an expectation; and in this case will not turn back to right it. There is tension, of course, and there is one real act violence–though not too explicit and not unnecessary to the story; but I feel I should cover my bases and put that warning out there.

It is set in Ireland, which is fun (that is where the author is from), and the principal at the school reminded me of the one in Roald Dahl’s Matilda but not as evil. I like that Fletcher Moon (the hero) has a good family. There is a lot of that element in the book, the interaction/relationship between parents and child (and that influence).
Hhumor keeps the story from being too dark, and the author holds the content in the realm of children. It is a wonderful read. No gender lines here, and I would put the minimum at 8 or maybe 7; it really is a grade schooler (if not middle-schooler) read as far as having developed social expectations and the awareness of how they categorize people based on sex and age and grade level.
A great story and a perfect genre to present ideas of revisiting and over-turning expectations while having a really good adventure. You can also add: that we can find friends in the most unusual ways. No one’s worth should be counted or discounted based on appearances–even our own.

4 thoughts on “a second and third

    1. I’m hoping you’ve seen Inception by the time this reply was made, and that you thoroughly enjoyed it. We thought it was quite wondermous.

  1. I have some advice for you. Only use semicolons and commas when what you are trying to say forces you to do so. Use a period whenever you can. Semicolons and commas are usually the hallmarks of a poorly written sentence. They only serve to distract. One more piece of advice: When you must refer to a word an author used to make a point of criticism, it is not a good idea to change it into something else. Even if it bothers you she used it. Consider that when your reader sees “‘N-word” they still think “nigger”. Must you soften the blow for us? We don’t need you put the milk in a bottle and warm it on the stove. Just give it to us straight from the tit. I hope you see my point.

    1. Ever appreciative of advice from a caring source. I do admit to an unnecessary and unhygienic addiction to commas and semi-colons. And I thank you for the use of “usually” as opposed to always. I find the overuse of the period usual as well. Regardless, I will be sure to edit a draft more understanding how poor punctuation and such can irritate a reader’s eyes.

      As for the using “n-word,” I do see your point. However, in the reading I responded to its use as less a “point of criticism” and more a realist function of the character and setting. I could see a criticism born from the text. The character was objectionable and the author could easily be compounding their negative attributes through their language.
      Perhaps the warm bottle was for myself as there are some words from which I do recoil.

      I do appreciate your reading and commenting. I will keep your advice in mind.

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