Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool

When Abilene Tucker shows up on a train in Manifest, Kansas by herself, the sign reads, “Manifest: A Town With a Past”. Strange; that isn’t what her daddy Gideon told her it said. In fact, there are a lot of things Gideon told her that don’t match up about Manifest, the town where he grew up. Looking for more clues about Gideon around Manifest, Abilene is surprised to find that there is more to this town than meets the eye.

Tales of the mysterious ‘Rattler’ begin to pop up after Abilene finds a box of knick-knacks under the floorboards of a church. With her two new friends, Abilene begins a hunt to find out what happened to the Rattler, and Gideon, twenty years ago. Walking down the Path to Perdition, Abilene must face the reality the maybe Gideon isn’t coming back for her.

moonover

My first inclination with this book was yes, it was very good. Well written, with interesting background and secret pasts and mysterious dodgy citizens. A well thought out plot, and lots of research. Basically, everything that a person with refined taste in style raves over, like a librarian or an English teacher that will assign it as reading, because it contains everything they’re looking for: history, character building and ethnic diversity. While I don’t consider my own tastes “refined” in any way, I am trying to look at this book from several different angles: the critical, factual perfectionist editor angle, and the potential forced to read this in Junior High angle (which I was not, but the Newberry status of the book makes it the perfect candidate).

From the critical standpoint, I have absolutely nothing to say that was bad on a technicality. The writing style was unique, the story well-told, and an overall good feeling of coming together-ness from a town that fell apart 20 years earlier during WWI.

But (again, theoretically, I am not this kid), coming from the perspective of a kid who loves the Hunger Games and Maze Runner and all the other gripping popular teen fiction that lacks finesse, this book is going to be the book that puts them to sleep. “Why should I care about topics like character building or ethnic diversity?”

Personally, I liked this book. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, but I thought it was deep enough to enjoy, especially for a children’s book. It’s sort like the next step up from the American Girl series, but better and less girly. If you really enjoyed those books, then this is your cup of tea.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Violence: 2/10

Language: 1/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 1/10

Audience: 8 and up

Advertisements

The Marvels, by Brian Selznick

In 1766 a tale, told in pictures, reveals the story of the Marvels. Beginning with Billy Marvel, survivor of a shipwreck at sea, the saga of theater-bound generations are not spoken, but shown descendant after descendant.

Fast forward to 1990. Joseph Jervis has runaway from school to find his Uncle Albert, an unknown relative who might just hold the key to the adventure Joseph is looking for. Upon arrival, Joseph finds that it isn’t his uncle, but the house he lives in, that brings more mystery about his family’s past than he even knew existed.

themarvels

When I said that the first story was told in pictures, I meant it. Brian Selznick himself sketched over 300 pages of pictures, so don’t be intimidated by this book’s size. The total amount of time it took to read this book isn’t very long, even if you take your time soaking in the pictures. Also, don’t get to thinking that this is a picture book; the plot is too big for that.

It was such a beautiful story. This is one of the books where you get so invested in characters that it’s hard to let the book end, especially the illustrations. I was really struck with the emotions which aren’t really said in the book, but once you take a minute to see what’s going on on the inside, almost a secret second plot, things like grief, overwhelming loss, and seeing things in a deeper sense even if it’s only inside your head become apparent.

One of the more interesting things about this story is that, all in all, there was a lot of plot for the amount of story that happened, but that wasn’t actually a lot. If you could pack the entire book into a summary, you could, but that awesome sense of unfolding doesn’t happen. Like I said, the actual read time isn’t long but in the end it turns out to be so simple that it makes you wonder at how well it is written.

Another fantastic book by Brian Selznick, who also wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which still is one of my favorite books of all time. The review is here. I look forward to reading Wonderstruck.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Violence: 1/10

Language: 2/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 3/10 (It is briefly stated that two men were in a relationship, but I was surprised by the way it played out. It could fly over some kid’s heads it was so brief, but then again it might not. For me it didn’t take away from the book at all.)

Audience: Ages 10 and up; the general themes are too grim for anyone younger. Personal taste can vary hugely as to what age can read this.

Mandy, by Julie Andrews Edwards

Mandy, a girl whose parents are dead, has lived in an orphange her entire life. Her life is not wholly bad; on the contrary, she has friends, a safe place to live, and is always treated fairly. But something is lacking, something she can’t put her finger on.

Her life changes when she starts taking an interest in the curious, high wall along the back of the orphanage that seperates the orchard grounds from the mysterious forest beyond and what it may be hiding. When Mandy chances to sneak behind it, she is surprised to find a cottage, completely abandoned. Maybe it’s the way the house has been left behind and forgotten just as she has, or maybe the loneliness that she has in common that pushes Mandy to question the way she lives, and finds a longing for something to call her own, and the need to be needed.

9780064402965

First of all, along with Nancy and Plum, I was given this book when I was maybe nine or ten. Unlike Nancy and Plum, I read it right away and fell in love with it! It awoke a lot of different ideas and dreams in me that gave me something to think about outside of what I normally thought of. If you happen to read someone else’s description of it, you may happen to notice how they always choose to talk more about the house. I am so familiar with the story that some of the lesser themes struck me more than the overall plot.

I know that there are a bazillion other stories about orphans who are in similar situations, but Mandy is particularly special to me because of Julie Andrew’s spectacular story-telling. Her character, Mandy, is very believable. In fact, every time I read it, (which I still do), when it gets to the part in which she is being discovered (don’t worry, it’s inevitable), I yell “No! No! You’re spoiling everything!” right along with Mandy. She says exactly what anyone would say, which is what makes her so real.

I think this book really appeals to all ages, boys and girls, but especially the 8-12 range.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Violence: 0/10

Language: 0/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 0/10

Audience: Ages 7 and up.

Mom’s Night Out

Allyson, a wife and mother of three children, works herself to death trying to be the mom that no mom can actually be. Trying to handle the screaming, crying, messy kids is finally taking its toll; her husband recognizes it and suggests she go out for a night with her friends, who, unbeknownst to her, are having the same problem.

With the dads in charge or five or six kids, what could possibly go wrong?

MV5BMTgxMzgwMDM4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjk4NjcyMTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_

We went and saw this movie in the theater. While it was a good movie, it would have been just as good at home.

While being very clean, I felt like several parts of it were far fetched, with things going from bad, to worse, to the unthinkable, but we still laughed. We also agreed that the message at the end was not super clear, when it should have been a clear message. I am still trying to figure out why it is PG and not G.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Violence: 3/10

Language: 1/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 2/10

Audience: 8 and up (it is still clean for younger kids, but some of it may be over their heads)