Thursday, June 2, 2011

You Know, For Kids

I said yesterday that I was on a bit of a Kids book kick. It wasn't a very long kick, but both books I finished last night were written for younger readers.

'Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes' by Jonathan Auxier is a middle grade fantasy novel that draws from classic fairy tales and Dickens alike. There's a blind orphan boy whose eyes were plucked out by ravens. He's taken in by a rather unsavory character and becomes a master thief. He meets a magician and travels to unknown lands to save a kingdom. There's a knight who was cursed by a hag and now inhabits a body that is part man, part horse, and part kitten. (Unfortunately, the kitten's greatest contribution to this melange was its diminutive size.) There aren't any great plot surprises here for anyone who is familiar with fairy tales, but the writing is full of humor and the author has provided his own illustrations to the chapter heads. Plus, it's one of those increasingly rare novels for young people that isn't blatant sequel bait. The story is complete in and of itself, though Mr. Auxier left the door open to return to Peter's world for more adventures.

'The Implosion of Aggie Winchester' by Lara Zielin was pretty much the complete opposite of 'Peter Nimble'. Written for older readers and completely lacking in anything magical, it's the story of a high school junior whose life, as the title implies, implodes. Aggie's ex-boyfriend claims he wants to get back together, but his actions seem to send a different message. Her best friend has serious troubles that she won't admit are troubles at all and may be replacing Aggie with a new best friend. Aggie's mom has major health issues. And things just get worse from there. Of course, this being teen fiction, everything pretty much works out okay in the end, but getting there is far from easy, and Aggie, in trying to "help", only succeeds in making everything worse. Though the characters and situations sometimes strained credibility, the feelings of being a high school outcast were spot-on.

Tonight, I'm curling up with a nice bit of British chick lit. I think I need something a bit less angsty than reliving high school.

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