Monday, August 10, 2015

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue by Tom Angleberger

Reviewed by: Kimball, age 15

This book was the conclusion of the FunTime story arc in the Origami Yoda series. The ending is brilliant
and the message is stronger than before. This book will change your perception of characters from the previous books. This book also directly links its analogous "FunTime" program (a parody of Common Core) with Common Core itself by stating that FunTime meets the Common Core standards. I think this book does a very good job of forcefully expressing the author's views in a non-partisan way.

Genre: fiction

Setting: McQuarrie Middle School


Someone has stolen Tommy's latest case file and given it to Rabbski in an attempt to prove the Origami Rebel Alliance are the good guys. The mysterious person's notes to the principal are pasted throughout the book-- but if Rabbski doesn't listen to them, the students are in huge trouble.
The students have won a major victory against the FunTime Menace-- but it doesn't feel major anymore. Nothing's really changed, because they're still watching FunTime and haven't gotten their electives back. Rebels are losing resolve and support for the Origami Rebellion is dropping. And to make matters worse, Origami Yoda's advice starts taking a turn for the dubious. He wants them to show the case file to their evil principal! But they can't follow or ignore the usually wise puppet's advice, because someone steals it anyway, and the one question in Tommy's mind is-- who?

Themes: don't judge people until you really know them, standardized curriculum is not a good thing, stand by your friends

Recommended Age: 12 and up

Full Disclosure:

There is a controversial chapter in the book in which the word "gay" is used. Two bullies pick on Murky for wearing a pink shirt. They prank him so that he doesn't end up getting into the school picture. Tater Tot, who knows these bullies, tells Sara about it, and the students Photoshop Murky into the school picture and give the bullies pink shirts. The reason the author included this chapter was because of an incident from his own childhood in which a friend was bullied in the same way, and the story didn't have the happy ending as shown in the book. The chapter's message is that people should be tolerant of others, not whether homosexuality is right or wrong.

Rating: 4 stars

Other Books:  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back, The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus

Monday, August 3, 2015

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

Reviewed by: Kimball, age 15

This book was a good read. The message is very pro-family, if not family-appropriate. I can tell there was a
lot of research put into this book, and the trivia was interesting. The story had lots of twists and surprises, and the characters were well-developed. I would recommend this book highly to anyone over 15. There are also a lot of different elements in this book; Blogger wouldn't me put in all the labels that applied.

Genre: Fantasy

Setting: Present day/ancient Russia


Ivan is a non-practicing Jewish boy in communist Russia. His family wants to go to America, so they pretend to be practicing Jews to get passports there. Before they leave, they stop at the home of their cousin Marek and live there until they can go to America. Ivan finds a mysterious part of the forest where there is a circular clearing of leaves, covering thin air and a sleeping princess on a pedestal, with some guardian rustling beneath them. Ivan flees, and the memory does not go away.
Now an adult in America, as well as a professional athlete, Ivan has a good life; he is engaged to a Jewish girl named Ruth, has a career in running and also archaeology. Ivan decides to go to Russia to write a comprehensive book on Russian legends, leaving his family behind until he can publish his book. While researching, he again finds the woods near his cousin Marek's home and the place from his childhood. Suddenly, Ivan finds himself fighting a giant bear, betrothed to a princess he doesn't want to marry, stranded in a land he knows next to nothing about with not even his clothes, and forced to prepare to battle a witch whom he has only heard of in legends.

Themes: bravery is more than not running away, know the meaning of true love, marriage is sacred

Recommended Age: 15 and up

Full Disclosure:

There are a lot of sex references and some nudity, as well as a sex scene (that describes the sensations rather than the actions, it's not completely graphic) and a near sex scene. There is also language.

Rating: 4 stars

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Reviewed by: Mom (does age matter?)

I struggled with the decision of whether or not to even read this book when the initial reviews were so negative. Like almost everyone else on the planet, I love To Kill a Mockingbird and admire Atticus Finch as a man of integrity. In the end, I felt I just had to read it, and I am glad I did. The writing was beautiful and the themes complex. I felt raw and hurt with Scout when she witnessed what she thought was a betrayal by Atticus of all they held dear. I really loved the way Harper Lee demonstrated the complexity of the issue to those in the South-- although I can't say that I hold similar views to those expressed by the inhabitants of Maycomb, I did get a better understanding of how and why they held these views. And though it wasn't tied up as neatly in the end as I would like, with my beloved Atticus being beyond reproach, I think that was part of the point. There is also much to discuss here about the struggles of the South for a century and more after the Civil War; the way of life that existed under slavery and then after the Emancipation of the slaves posed so many challenges to African-Americans that made unification and de-segregation an easier-said-than-done situation. (I'm not excusing racism here, only viewing the complexities of a civilization seeking to overcome it).  Those outside of the South found it much simpler and more clear-cut than those living in it. In truth, when solving society's problems, we often need the perspective of BOTH those outside of the situation and those in the midst of it to find a more useful and functional solution.

A major theme in the book was that no one is perfect; if we choose to idolize another human being, we will eventually be let down. Nelson Mandela said, "I'm no saint, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying." We all are works in progress, and we all have need for mercy, even Atticus Finch. One of my take-aways was that after Scout was angry, after she felt betrayed and disillusioned and even hatred, she let herself try to understand another person's perspective. It seems that in our time there is much divisiveness, particularly between people of faith and secularists. Especially on social media, there are virtual lynch mobs, ad hominem attacks, righteous indignation, and so much vitriol spewed out upon those whom people do not understand. Our society instead needs more of listening to those with differing viewpoints and seeking to understand their perspective. This does not mean that we have to agree with everything they believe by any means. But as we seek to understand another, we see the good in them; we find the commonalities as well as the differences; instead of being sharply divided, we can agree to disagree and remember that their opinion on whatever subject is only a part of who they are-- and that is a work in progress. We all have need of mercy and grace extended to us, not only by the Savior, but by each other. If you are a believer (or seek to understand one,) you might appreciate this talk given in a recent LDS General Conference. As I listened to it again this morning, it reminded me so much of this book.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the book in the comments. If you disagree with me, I would still love to hear them, and hope that you will be able to be civil and seek to understand my perspective. I think that Harper Lee would expect no less.

Genre: Fiction

Setting: post WWII Alabama

Introduction: Jean Lousie Finch (aka Scout) returns to Maycomb for a visit. She is in her mid-20s and living in NYC. She is disturbed by the changes she finds there, particularly when it comes to racial tension and attitudes. Her perspective on her father (and ours) is challenged and altered.

Themes: racism, family, states rights vs. Federal government, the South, forgiveness, seeking to understanding those who are different, idolizing a person will let you down, grace, 

Recommended Age: 13 and up

Full Disclosure: There is some language. Frequent uses of the N word and several uses of the Lord's name in vain. The book deals with some big issues, so it is less about reading level and more about maturity to handle the issues discussed when determining a child's readiness to read this. Prepare to discuss the book with your child.

Rating: 4 stars

Other Books:  To Kill a Mockingbird