Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Boxcar Children, Graphic Novel by Shannon Eric Denton

I’m a huge fan of graphic novels!  I loved all the comic books that I used to read as a kid, but over the years I’ve gotten away from the worlds of Batman and Superman.  Graphic novels are kind of like comic books, but each book usually tells a self-contained story instead of being one part in an ongoing series.  Also, unlike comic books, it’s socially acceptable for a grown man to read a graphic novel in public!

I had never actually read any of the “Boxcar Children” mysteries by Gertrude Chandler Warner, so I was really excited to find this graphic novel at my library.  The Boxcar Children are two boys and two girls who become orphans after their parents die.  Afraid that they might get split up by their foster parents, the children decide to run off together.  They end up building a camp in the woods, and taking shelter inside of an abandoned railroad boxcar.  The Boxcar Children impressed me with their resourcefulness, and they did a pretty good job of running a house by themselves.

One thing I noticed about this book was that there was much more of an emphasis on pictures rather than words.  Some pages only had one or two sentences.  The illustrations did a great job of telling the story so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything, but I’ll definitely have to go back and get the original book for comparison!  Most of the sequels that follow in this series are mystery chapter books, and that’s definitely something that I’d be interested in reading.

From time to time, most kids come to wonder what would happen if they were suddenly alone in the world.  I think that the Boxcar Children were lucky to have had each other to rely on when their parents died, and that was a big reason why they were so successful in the woods.  Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live on your own?  Would you feel lonely, or scared?  Or maybe you might enjoy the time to yourself?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Accidental Genius of Weasel High, by Rick Detorie

I was immediately drawn to this book after reading the title, which is one of the more interesting ones that I’ve come across.  The story is about Larkin Pace, a high school student an amateur filmmaker.  “The Accidental Genius” is one of those books where the main character is telling his own story, and writing it down as a long-term diary as part of a school assignment.

This book is probably always going to be compared to “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, because the author includes hilarious cartoons to complement his writing.  However, the two books are actually very different.  This is mostly because Larkin Pace is a high school kid with high school problems, like dating, school bullies, and exploring a career.  The subject matter is a little bit more mature than the “Wimpy Kid” series, but somehow that makes the cartoon illustrations seem even more welcome.  The pictures serve to lighten the mood while Larkin discusses the problems and challenges of his life.

The book’s chapters tend to focus on the most memorable events that happened to Larkin, so you really feel like you’re sneaking a peek at someone’s most personal thoughts.  I liked how the author didn’t include any dates in each chapter—it almost seems like Larkin started his writing assignment on a regular schedule, but falls out of a routine.  He tends to provide his updates after the most impressionable moments occur, which makes this book seem even more like a student project!

One thing I noted in “The Accidental Genius” was that there were no major life-changing events that happened to Larkin.  He’s a (mostly) normal kid, with a (mostly) happy family, with a (mostly) normal group of friends.   But somehow, following his experiences over the course of a year makes for a really interesting book!   This book made me think about all of those times when I’ve been bored in class, or a little uninterested with my own (mostly) normal life.  Do you ever feel that way?  Have you ever considered that someone else might be interested by what we do?  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

When I first read “Tom Sawyer”, I was captivated by the setting almost as much I was by the story itself.  Rural Missouri must have been an awesome place for Tom Sawyer to grow up!  It seemed like there was more than enough opportunity for adventure in this small town, with all the open land and hidden caves.  Living along the Mississippi River would definitely allow a boy to explore to his heart’s content.

Tom Sawyer and his best friend, Huckleberry Finn, are definitely not the most well-behaved boys in town!  They’re the type of kids who would sneak off to a graveyard at midnight, which is where their adventure actually begins.  These two friends stumble into a gang of graverobbers, and secretly witness a murder!  From there, the boys become wrapped up in the manhunt for an outlaw named Injun Joe, and the search for his secret buried treasure.

As much as I enjoy the excellent books that are being written today, not many of them have the main characters involved in dangerous situations like these.  I guess that people today might think that a story that involves a murder or a manhunt wouldn’t be appropriate for kids?  In my opinion, things like this are essential to a good adventure story.  If Tom Sawyer wasn’t in any kind of real danger, do you think that you would care as much about him?

“Tom Sawyer” is one of those classic books that everyone should read, and it definitely gets my highest recommendation.  It really made me think back to my own hometown, and the small adventures that I had there when I was growing up.  Take a second to think about your own home.  Has anything ever happened to you there that you might consider to be an adventure?