Friday, January 26, 2007

New Year! New Books!

New books always get kids excited. By keeping library shelves stocked with new acquisitions and book display carts brimming with new titles, the bars in library circulation statistics will always look like the Makati skyline. School librarians are thrilled to see kids reading. To know that they frequently borrow and read from the library is an assurance that the school library budget is put to good use.

The GS LRC, in its continued effort to promote a genuine love for books and reading, provides the community with brief reviews of good reads to take home and enjoy. Note that the books included in this review can also be relished by an adult reader. And if the grown up takes great pleasure at reading the children’s book, then it has met the bar of a well written literature for children. Children’s literature after all, mirrors the stories of our childhood.

Funke-y Reads!

When J.K. Rowling allowed Harry Potter to step out of her imagination and into the pages of a book, one by one, fantasy writers followed her wake. Classics of this genre like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Narnia Chronicles, to name a few, have gained popularity too. Suddenly, fantasy is in and it has slowly and solidly built a great following among young readers age 8 to 18.

Two writers have emerged from the world of fey to regale readers, young and old, with stories of the fantastic. Cornelia Funke, a German and Jonathan Stroud, a British, have both published novels for kids and young adults that merged fantasy and reality into one stream lined story frame. Their approach is reminiscent of Roald Dahl, however, their styles at crafting fantasy stories differ very much from each other and to Dahl’s magic realism.

Funke made a splash in the children’s literature circle upon publication and translation to the English of The Thief Lord. A band of orphaned street children prowling the streets and water ways of Venice is led by a young thief named Scipio. The young rascal hides behind a mask to conceal his face as well as his true identity. The vagabonds escape the police and the hoodlums of the streets but not the diligence of a private investigator and the compassion of a benefactor. In the end, every one turns out happy, even the mean Barbarossa who was magically reduced and restored back to youth.

The book’s message that all children, no matter what they are or who they are must be accepted and looked after does not quite agree with older readers. Critics of the book complain about the saccharine turn of events. But, parents, teachers and professionals working with and for children can identify with this conviction. There are splendid treasures of this world and one of the greatest is childhood. Funke made sure that child readers seize the opportunity to cherish it and for adult readers, she gave the responsibility to nurture and nourish it.

After The Thief Lord, she came back with Ink Heart, Dragon Rider and Ink Spell, the sequel to Ink Heart. All novels bespeak of the child hero and the heroic image that comes with it.

Stroud also has a strong belief in the child hero. In his The Bartimaeus Trilogy, he successfully conjured Harry Potter’s antithesis. Rowling’s
Potter has Dumbledore and friends. Stroud’s Nathaniel has Bartimaeus, a thousand year old djinn whose endearing qualities are his sense of humor and knowledge of history. Take him away and Nathaniel is but a snotty, conceited, arrogant brat. He is selfish and apathetic. He is ambitious and would do anything to reach his goals. It is not until the last book that Nathaniel was able to redeem himself. In the process, he saved his friends, London and the world.

Reading all three books is like a roller coaster ride to ancient history and to an altered London with a parliament littered with magicians, good and bad. This is Nathaniel’s world, one where he is often challenged to make the decision on how to use his talents of magic. Children, particularly young adults contend with the same dilemma. While adults guide and protect them as much, like Nathaniel, they will find ways to save themselves and learn what life is really all about.

After The Thief Lord, she came back with Ink Heart, Dragon Rider and Ink Spell, the sequel to Ink Heart. All novels bespeak of the child hero and the heroic image that comes with it.

It’s Raining Series!

Primary readers find enjoyment with books that come in series. The Hardy Boys has established quite a reputation though new stories in series form are being published every year. These are The Magic Tree House, Spiderwick Chronicles, Geronimo Stilton, Captain Underpants and Series of Unfortunate Events to name a few. Such titles appeal more to the child reader of this day and age. Stories in the series are fast paced, adventure packed, amusing, fun and empowering.

The Deltora Quest Series tells of a kingdom invaded by a malevolent Dark Lord. Redemption is seven to ten years in the making. It rests on the hands of two teenagers, Leif and Jasmine, to face adversaries of the Lord’s making and theirs too. Accompanied by Barda, warrior disguised as the village idiot, they scour the Land of Deltora for the seven missing gems of a magical belt. Once restored, peace will rule the land.

The series comes in eight books. Readers who are familiar with the movie version of the The Lord of the Rings can easily make connections that will lead to a better appreciation of the books.

Aside from the fantasy genre, concept books have taken the route to series land. The Cat in the Hat Library is an example. The GS LRC currently has four titles; Oh say, can you say Di-no-saur?, Fine Feathered Friends, Oh say can you seed?, On beyond Bugs.

Inspired by the Dr. Seuss Classic, The Cat in the Hat Library carries the same narrative style and playful illustrations. This time around, writers of the series present facts and information of interest to readers age 5-8. The characters are resurrected back to life with the intrepid Cat playing the role of teacher to the siblings. What a complete turn around from Dr. Seuss’s version! It could be that the Cat has stashed away his penchant for mischief even for a while.

The market is full of books for kids and young adults to taste and devour. Some are candy; many are filling and a few can be chewed on like gum. To offer a guided reading of the good ones that are digestible satiates the reading appetite. With these recommended reads, the GS LRC hopes to see more kids reading and more adults reading for them and with them too.

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