Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg is a Sociopath? 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cIFmnn47OoM

This is very interesting video that makes a good arguement about the character Greg Heffley from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. 

I have only read the first three books in the series, but I found Greg extremely unlikable. Even before watching this video I thought I was reading about someone with sociopathic tendencies. 

You could argue that in the real world a lot of kids are jerks. I agree and I’ve seen how mean kids can be. But I feel the way Greg seems to have no feelings of regret and empathy goes beyond that. 

I also thought the movies made Greg slightly more likeable because they at least showed him feeling some regret for his actions. 

So this is a great video that sums up how I feel about the character so I thought I would share. The only thing I don’t agree with is him taking a shot at Jeff Kinney (who seems to acknowledge Greg can be a complete jerk and represents the worst of himself). 

-Sadie 

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Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp | Book Review

jane-emily

Jane-Emily is a short Young Adult horror/ghost novel about a little girl named Jane who goes to spend a summer at her grandmother’s house with her Aunt Louisa, whose also the narrator of the story. A girl named Emily who died at a young age previously lived in the house and unlike Jane she was a selfish, spoiled girl. Emily still lingers in the house and Jane can feel her, Emily also has some terrible plans for the girl.

This book was apparently out of print for awhile and now it’s back due to popular demand. Well I wasn’t alive when it was popular and I heard about it through recommendation. I thought the premise sounded cool and I love ghost stories when their done right. Was Jane-Emily done right? Kind of but overall I was a bit disappointed.

The build up was good, but the ending it built up to was disappointing. It ended way too quickly for me, I just didn’t feel satisfied. Still, it’s far from a terrible book I wasn’t bored while reading and there were some good scenes. The characters were decent even though I can’t say they were that memorable or anything. Emily was pretty interesting and the best times were learning more and more about her.

So in the end I wish it would of just wrapped things up better. 3/5

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia | Book Review

one crazy summer

 

One Crazy Summer is a middle grade book that tells the story of the three Gaither sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern. In the late 60s during the summer they go to Oakland to visit their mother, Cecile who had previously abandoned them. She’s very unwelcoming to them, viewing them as a distraction from her work. They eventually go to a Black Panther camp. The book is told from the older sister, Delphine’s point of view who has to take care of her younger sisters.

When I was suggested One Crazy Summer, it sounded like something that I would definitely enjoy reading. So I was very happy to get my hands on a copy. I was also impressed by the medals on the cover. And they are definitely deserved, the Gaither girls story is a great read.

I don’t know much about the black panthers so I can’t say how accurate everything is. But the thing is, at least in my opinion, the book doesn’t go into that much detail about the subject. This is one of the books flaws but it’s nothing major.

As for the characters, they were good overall. It was a great experience being in Delphine’s head. Fern was very cute and funny, Vonetta on the other was pretty forgettable. As for Cecile, she was horrible throughout most of the book and I didn’t completely get her, even when everything ended.

So One Crazy Summer has a few flaws but altogether it’s a great book, and I could see kids finding it entertaining (it’s perfect to use for schools) as well as adults.  4/5

Some Great and Life Changing Children’s Books

kid reading

I still love reading children’s books even today. In fact, a lot have had so much impact on me that they still remain some of my favorites. The following list is some of the major gems I’ve read in the world of children’s literature. In no particular order:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White

charlottes-web

Charlotte’s Web is a special book to many. But for me, it was the first longer book I read as a kid. It was a major stepping stone into me loving reading. It’s also important because of how I received the book. We had a little drawing in class – the students’ names were written on slips of paper and put into a hat. Who’s ever named was picked got to choose out a prize from a big box. Well, my name was picked and I was elated since I never really won anything. One of the prizes was a copy of Charlotte’s Web and that’s what I picked. I still have the copy and it remains a very special book to me.

Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Sounder-by-William-H-Armstrong

I remember reading this for class and everyone in the class hated it. Everyone except me that is. But in some ways, I can see why many kids wouldn’t like it. You have to look under the surface to really understand and love this book. This is definitely something adults would appreciate more than children. Either way, Sounder is a beautifully written work. Children’s books with dogs are everywhere but this is one of the few that truly means something.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

out of the dust

Out of the Dust is a sad and tragic story of a 1930s family facing the dust bowl among other things. It’s brilliantly told in a series of poems. I was drawn in by this book’s beauty from the start. It was one of the first books to have a strong emotional impact on me.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

coraline

The amount of time I have read this book is pretty much uncountable. The world of children’s literature needs more books like Coraline. It’s a book that builds a creepy atmosphere that’s better than some of the best adult horror novels.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B White

trumpet-of-the-swan-206x300

If Charlotte’s Web didn’t have such an impact on my childhood. I would probably have trouble choosing between it and Trumpet of the Swan. And I mean, a swan playing a trumpet is just awesome and manages to provide a beautiful and inspirational story.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

sign of the  beaver

This tells the story of a young left to survive in the wilderness. During this time he gets help from a young native american around his age. It focuses mainly on the relationship between the two and their culturally differences. I say it’s a story that shows how people can learn to appreciate and understand other people’s cultures.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

lizzie bright

Plenty of children’s books deal with the subjects found in Lizzie Bright (discrimination, forbidden friendships, etc.) However, this is one of the best to do it. The writing and imagery of the book is brilliant and beautiful. I think adults would like this book as well. The book is based on a true story (although from what I understand the main characters themselves are fictional), making it even more of a sad read.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

the one and only ivan

Adults and children should love this book. The story telling is simple but effective. In fact, near the end I was almost brought to tears. This is a book I would recommend to anyone.

The Secret of Platform 13 vs Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

HARRY POTTER VS SECRET

Recently, I read the children’s book The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. And like millions of others, I’ve been a big fan of the Harry Potter series since I was a kid. There are some similarities between Platform 13 and the first Harry Potter, some people have claimed that Rowling full-blown plagiarized Ibbotson’s book. Platform 13 was first published in 1994, while the first Harry Potter was first published in 1997. Well, I don’t think Rowling plagiarized, maybe slightly inspired by, but not full blown plagiarism. However, it is fun to compare the two books and that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll look at both books strengths and weaknesses, in a one on one battle. The categories I chose to compare them on are: writing, creativity, world-building, action/journey and friendship/characters.

Writing: Ibbotson’s writing style is very childish , which is okay since it is a children’s book. However, I feel the writing won’t win over that many adult readers. Rowling’s writing is easily read by both adults and children. It’s simple, easy and fun but not too childish. So, I would have to give the writing category to Rowling. 1 for Rowling.

Creativity: Both of the books have some common children’s books tropes but still are creative in many ways. What I liked the most about Platform 13 was that there was so many good ideas there. One of the main characters, Odge Gribble, is a young hag. I thought that was such a great and unique idea for a character. In fact, I would have liked the book to be completely about Odge. There’s also a minor character named Doreen Trout, she’s an old woman/bodyguard that attacks with knitting needles. She’s considered one of the best. This is also a very awesome idea for a character and I wish the book had more of her. Overall, out of the two books I feel Platform 13 had the better ideas but didn’t use those ideas to their full potential. Still, I feel Ibbotson deserves the win in this category. 1 for Ibbotson.

World-Building: Both of these feature magical worlds that can be accessed via a platform. The problem I had with Platform 13 is we don’t actually spend a lot of time in the magical world. Instead we mainly follow a few magical beings through the real world as they try to complete their task. I didn’t like this. In Harry Potter, the readers get plenty of time in Hogwarts and the wizarding world. And Rowling’s world is much more vivid and well constructed. So Harry Potter wins this part (even when judging with just the first book), hands down. 1 to Rowling.

Action/Journey: Again, Platform 13’s characters spend too much time in the real world. It was getting old after awhile. Harry Potter kept me interested the whole time and built up the action appropriately. This was easy to chose. 1 to Rowling.

Characters/Friendship: The only character that I found interesting in Platform 13 was Odge and Doreen. Ben was okay, he’s the quintessential boy in a children’s book – selfless, humble and sweet. You see him a lot in children’s books, especially early children’s literature. There was some focus on friendship in the book, but it wasn’t presented well enough for me to be considered a powerful friendship. Harry Potter’s characters have entranced millions of people…and I can see why. Rowling’s characters definitely leave an impact. Harry was criticized as being too perfect in the first book, I can see that to some extent. But Harry almost had to be built up the way he was in the first book, he gets humbled later down the series. Overall, Rowling gives more attention to her characters and that’s why she wins this part. 1 for Rowling.

So this means Rowling: 4, Ibbotson: 1. Rowling wins! Now, please don’t think I’m biased. I love Harry Potter but I wouldn’t mind seeing a book that surpasses the series. In fact, I think The Edge Chronicles and School for Good and Evil series could beat it, in my eyes that is.

But exactly where are Harry Potter and Platform 13 similar? In mainly these following ways:

-There’s a platform that goes into a magical world.

-There’s a special boy treated poorly (typical in children’s lit)

-Raymond Trottle is a lot like Dudley Dursley (But fat, obnoxious kid is not an uncommon character type)

-There’s an old wizard (Again, not an uncommon character type.)

In the end, I don’t think there was any plagiarism. There’s just not enough similarities. Although I enjoy reading Harry Potter more, Platform 13 is a more original book that doesn’t do enough.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo | Book Thoughts

flora and ulyssess

Flora loves comic books. She gets to experience somewhat of a real life comic book story when she befriends a squirrel with superpowers. There are also deeper philosophical undertones in the book as well.

Reading Experience: The writing is simplistic yet effective. The chapters are short and so the book is a fast read. There are many illustrations which helps further the reading experience. The best way to describe reading Flora and Ulysses is fun, there’s not a single uninteresting moment in the book.

Creativity/Originality: This is one of the most creative books I’ve read in awhile. It’s only a standalone but I could picture it becoming an amazing cartoon series. And let’s be honest, a premise about a squirrel with superpowers could have easily turned out to be stupid and over-the-top. But DiCamillo makes it into a beautiful, clever and funny story.

Characters: Flora Belle Buckman— she describes herself as a ‘natural-born cynic’ and loves comic books. The illustrations show her as a young girl with short hair and glasses. Much of her views on life seem to come from the comic books she reads. She’s overall a good character. I like that the narrative doesn’t throw in the reader’s face that she’s a ‘nerd’ or a ‘tomboy’ (most will probably get that impression on their own though). She’s just her. The only label she gets is ‘natural-born cynic.’ That’s all she needs.

Ulysses – The superpowered squirrel. His powers are gained by being sucked into a vacuum. His powers include super strength, flight and poetry writing. He’s cute and his friendship with Flora is heartwarming.

Phyllis Buckman – Flora’s mom, romance novelist, sociopath and worst character in the whole book. If there’s one flaw with the book it’s that it seems to expect the reader to forgive and like her by the end. Well, no. She wasn’t redeemed enough, at all. George Buckman – Flora’s dad and a sweet character that grows throughout the book. Him and Phyllis are divorced.

William Spiver – an eccentric, sunglass-wearing character who claims to be temporarily blind. He’s not like most kids and almost talks in riddles. Also has some unfortunate issues with his mom and her new husband.

Tootie Tickham – Flora’s neighbor. A nice and sweet character that loves poetry. I’d say she’s the third best character in the book.

Mary Ann – A cutesy shepherdess lamp owned by Mrs. Buckman. Flora hates the lamp because she believes her mother loves it more than her. She only has one sheep, so she’s probably not a good shepherdess.

Themes/Analysis: Flora’s parents are divorced, so the subject of how divorce can effect children is present in the book. It often makes them have to chose between their parents. At one point when Flora is upset with her mother, she says she wants to go live with her father. Flora’s mother says her life would be easier without her daughter. And, of course, this is devastating for Flora to hear. Supposedly Mrs. Buckman doesn’t really mean it. But either way this is one of the reasons it’s so hard to forgive her in the end. To me, saying that to your daughter isn’t easily forgivable.

In fact, I would say Flora’s mother is unstable to a scary extent. She has a complete break down over her daughter saying she wants to live with her Dad (come on, every parent gets the ‘I hate you’, ‘I’m gonna run away’ -type treatment). And worst of all she takes Ulysses to the woods in a plastic bag with plans to beat him to death. That’s not just jealous or concerned behavior, it’s psychopathic. And, as I said before she wasn’t redeemed in my eyes at all. It could be the narrative tries to redeem her, because it has to. Maybe, it could only go so far with demonizing a biological mother. The father is immensely more likeable in this book (even though he’s kind of a pushover and goofy).

But on to William Spiver who also has some parental issues. He has to deal with his mom’s new husband who he clearly isn’t fond of. It’s hard to know if William’s dislike is justified since we don’t actually meet the stepfather. His weird behavior could easily hint at him blocking out his problems. The wearing of the sunglasses and claim of temporary blindness represents him being unwilling to face his problems. He simply doesn’t want to see them.

As for the other star, Ulysses. He has a much deeper purpose as well. When people think ‘squirrel’ they don’t think of a hero. In fact, a squirrel is usually an animal that takes off in the face of danger. Well that it isn’t Ulysses. He surprises everyone and shows that the seemingly weaker and insignificant ones can have great strength in them.

Final thoughts: An amazing children’s book that can be enjoyed by everyone. The Newbery is well-deserved.

The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani | Book Review

world without princes

Agatha and Sophie’s story isn’t over after all and they return to the School for Good and Evil. Only now the school is separated by males and females while Good and Evil have joined forces.

First Thoughts: I loved the first Good and Evil book and yeah, I just now read the second book in 2016. This is a pretty strong followup. I can’t say one is better than the other, honestly – they are both good.

Reading Experience: The book is extremely engaging. A “couldn’t put down” type of book without a doubt. One flaw in the first book was it did have a tendency to drag on. A World Without Princes doesn’t have this problem, it is exciting all the way though.

Characters: Sophie, steals the spotlight in this book to me. Her struggle to keep her inner witch at bay made her characterization the most complex. Which is funny, since I found her annoying in the first book most of the time. But here her characterization is wonderful.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Agatha. She was just plain dull in this book. And some of her thoughts and actions almost made me hate her.

Then there’s Tedros, the heartthrob of the series. I’ve never liked Tedros. But I did feel sympathy for him during one particularly dark moment in the book.

Dean Evelyn Sadar, is the villain of the book and the one egging on the gender war. She is a fantastic villain throughout most of the book, although I didn’t care for certain elements of her backstory.

Hester, also has a more prominent role in this book. She’s a great character, I suppose she would fall into the category of ‘neutral evil’.

Themes: Not surprisingly, gender is a prominent theme here. And at times, the way it was handled made me uncomfortable. But I wouldn’t say the book is offensive or anything.

Friendship, is a major element. Throughout the book, Agatha and Sophie’s friendship is on the line. They struggle to trust each other and understand what they truly want. I thought their relationship was handled well. At times, it was frustrating and I just wanted them to love each other. But relationships are never that simple and the book captures that complexity.

Other Thoughts: Sophie is the best thing about this book, she may end up being one of my favorite book characters.

This is a great sequel but the gender stuff may put some people off.

4.5/5