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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Gregor and the Marks of Secret

Author: Suzanne Collins
Reading Level: 4th and up

Pages: 343
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Edition: Hardcover, 2006

This 4th installment in the Underland series is more powerful than the previous. The plot is tight. The characters are more developed and complex and the dangers are even more real now. I don't know how young readers without much knowledge of the holocaust might react to the scene where the Nibblers (the mice) are lured unsuspectingly to be mass-murdered. I was shocked at the brutality of this scene, although I think Collins did a superb job.

I believe this is supposed to be the second to last book and am eagerly awaiting the concluding volume!

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The Mouse and His Child

Author: Russell Hoban
Reading Level: Adult?

Pages: 165
Publisher: Faber and Faber, UK
Edition: Paperback, 2005 (1969)

I was thoroughly engrossed by this tale of many horrors. It's funny how it never dawned on me that the "mouse" is the father -- and of course, it's him and HIS child who have to go through all the hardship in the story. The killing fields, the betrayal, the maiming and the ill-luck -- on my goodness, how much they must endure before the triumphant finale could be rewarded!

This is a story that I as a children's literature student would have loved and thought to be exemplary as the highest form of children's literature: a story featuring tin toys with a very grown-up sensibility. What a wonderful work for children and their adults! But as a practitioner in the library field, I kept wondering whether ANY child would have the heart and stomach to go along on the arduous journey and not feeling too bogged down or burdened.

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Author: Carl Hiaasen
Reading Level: 5th and up

Pages: 295
Publisher: Corgi Books, Random House, UK
Edition: Paperback 2006 (2005, Knopf)

Unlike in Hoot, Hiaasen's tone is much more relaxed in telling this story to young people: the forced "juvenile" atmosphere is gone for this humorous tale of detective story -- here the detectives are two teenagers (whose exact ages are never disclosed, so they can be quite young or almost college aged) and their unlikely allies: a female gun-wielding bar-tender and a strange old "pirate" guy! It is pure fun -- and a little bit of heart, pleading for the caring of our endangered nature.

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A Mango-Shaped Space

Author:Wendy Mass
Reading Level: 5th and up

Pages: 220
Publisher: Little, Brown
Edition: Paperback 2005 (2003)

Even though there is quite a bit of novelty on the subject of the rare physical condition that Mia suffers from, the story was not over-shadowed by it. Mass tells a story that is genuine on its emotional level and appeals to many young people. Mia is a likable character and her family is quirky and supportive. Of course, I had to cry over the couple of deaths of family pets!

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