Friday, August 17, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different...

So...did you think that I was frittering away my summer vacation, ripping out poorly knit socks, carding endless piles of merino and watching cartoons? I certainly could understand why you might think that since, well...I do a lot of that. But, I have to tell you that this has not been the case.

No. I have been a productive citizen of the blogging community. I have depth. I have levels. That's right. You heard me: levels. And layers, too. Levels and layers...complex, that's me!

In the fine tradition of multi-leveled blogging Sheep, I have gone forth and become a member of MotherTalk's group of blog-tour book reviewers. We read and reflect (deeply, I might add) on a book that has impact or appeal for Moms, then provide a review on our sites so that interested parents can cruise the blog tour for the deets.

"But, Sheep," you may be saying, "you are not a fact, you have pointed this out to us on several occasions; how is it that you can blog for a site that is designed for parents?"

Valid question. I fall under what I might call the "Other" heading. And, since any review I do is going to be heavily influenced by my Other-Status, it is probably worth giving a little short form resume which might help explain why I made the cut. I hold an undergraduate degree in Education and corresponding certificates as a Special Educator and Elementary Educator. My Master's Degree is in Counseling, with a concentration in School Counseling. I have worked in the field of education for twenty years. In addition, I have worked as a Parenting Educator and Visitation Supervisor for a small agency that contracted with family court and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. In these capacities, I have worked with children and families on such issues as literacy and supporting children's learning.

So there you go. Levels, layers and a lengthy intro. Let's talk about the book, shall we?

maxride cover

Given my love of youth literature, I was pleased to be able to review a copy of Maximum Ride (Saving The World And Other Extreme Sports), the most recent installment in James Patterson's popular series of novels which tell the tale of Max and her friends as they navigate their way through a world that is less than understanding of their unique nature. Max, Fang, Nudge and Izzy are children with the power to fly thanks to the misguided experiments of scientists with questionable motives. On the run and at risk of capture at any moment, the children must care for themselves, elude the menacing Erasers and deal with the emotional turmoil that comes from being young and abandoned by the adults who were supposed to love and care for them. As if this weren't enough, they must also save the world...

Maximum Ride, like most novels in the "youth" category, paces itself quickly. While there are a number of sub-plots at work, each moves along at a satisfying rate that allows for appropriate tension and resolution without risking the loss of the younger audience. The dialogue is sharply written and engaging. It, as much as anything, helps to define the characters and provides a "hook" for identifying with them.

I hesitate to give a "reading level" since most children are pretty unique in their approach to literature and many will advance their skills in order to read something that they find appealing. The range on this book is pretty wide, though. I can certainly see an advanced third grader being able to tackle it. I'd say the mid-range is probably somewhere around fifth/sixth grade or so. But, frankly, it is a series that has already demonstrated an appeal to readers at all ages, including high school and college. The dialogue, content and narration are just "edgy" enough to appeal to young readers without crossing any lines with regard to language or other objectionable content that might be of concern to parents.

It would be helpful for the reader to have some experience with novels that shift perspective from one character to another and from first to third person narration. There doesn't appear to be a great deal of "specialized language" that will require creative decoding skills on the part of the reader (ex. Harry Potter novels which use magical terms not common to everyday language) but there is a bit of science content that might encourage young readers to explore the dictionary or science texts.

Some of us care for children who have not had a smooth childhood and for whom certain themes may be tricky. Literature is a wonderful way to help approach and process these challenges and, as a counselor, I have used this tool many times. However, as children become independent readers and we move away from the shared experience of reading to them, we may need to take the time to preview books to ensure that we can assist children with negotiating any rough spots. Some themes that parents may want a heads-up on in Maximum Ride are:


Abandonment and reconnection


Parentified Children

Abuse of power

These themes are dealt with well in the context of the book and could provide parents with an excellent starting point for discussions with children. Every parent should look at their own child's individual needs and tolerance level before introducing highly charged topics and determine the child's readiness.

In addition to being a fast-paced, enjoyable read, the book connects itself to other media to enhance the experience. To get a little more insight into what Max and the kids are up to, a reader can hop on over to Fang's Blog and keep abreast of current developments in their world. The Maximum Ride website also includes engaging material which connect more to the upcoming movie based on the novel. I believe that there is also a link to a MySpace page with further information, but I have not followed up on that one so I can't comment as to its quality.

All in all, MR is a good read for children and adults alike and one that I will be bringing with me to my classroom in a couple of weeks to share with my students. Some are challenged readers and I think that this book might just appeal to them enough to encourage some skill practice. As a special educator, it is always a pleasure to find a book series that will be met with enthusiasm by the students in my class who are sometimes known to resist reading.

So, there you go! A Friday Book Review to get you started on your weekend!! Tomorrow we will return to our regular blog content, comprised of failed knitting experiments and arguments lost to my cats.

Happy End Of The Work Week, Everyone!!



Teri S. said...

Wow...excellent, thoughtful review. And you're right, it is completely different. Now you've gotten me curious. Have you read Philip Pullman's trilogy "His Dark Materials" and if so, what did you think about it?

Bobbi said...

don't' forget this series started off for adults. James Patterson wrote two adult books about Max and the gang before starting the Maximum ride series. Great series and thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

Great review; makes me want to go out and get the book! Is that the same James Patterson who I adore; he creator of one of my favorite characters, Alix Cross?

Guinifer said...

I had to laugh when you talked about reading "levels"! I have a 15 yo who taught himself to read at the ripe old age of 3 1/2 - when I told him a way to figure out words was to think of letters as saying their own names. Two weeks later, he was reading every road sign he saw - quite accurately, I might add. So how do you figure out what to give a precocious reader? My solution was to read everything he read - thank goodness I love the kinds of books he loved. (Although, I did like the Max books better than he did.) I think his favorite series were Scott Orson Card's books. I gave up halfway into the series - he finished them all.

Beth said...

Thanks for the review! I'm always searching for good books to recommend to E. Maybe we'll both have a new book to read. :)

Donna Lee said...

I loved the Patterson book that introduced Max and company (I think it was When The Wind Blows) and didn't realize Maximum Ride was a continuation and expansion. My girls are a little old but I might enjoy it.

kmkat said...

I totally agree about literature being a great way to explore issues. Unlike nonfiction, fiction seems to me to be able to slip into our psyches sideways, under the radar, directly into our right brain, bypassing the logical, overly rational, linear grownup left brain, and going directly to our innermost selves.

I checked out the MySpace page; not a lot there beyond what you can see on the site. The message and chat boards were not available.

Have you read the Uglies/Pretties/Specials trilogy? It is aimed at roughly the same age group. Maximum Ride reminds me of it a bit.

Annie said...

Best review of the book I've seen so far. Excellent!

April said...

Where is The Sheepie and what have you done with her?!?

Damn. You're probably the smartest Sheep on the planet!

Anonymous said...

Great review! I look forward to more.

mehitabel said...

Oh, fun! I loved reviewing books the best about my last job as a bookseller. (Working for the World's Worst Micromanager was not a good part and is why I don't do that any more.) But I love reading and especially love being a book pusher, cause there are some great books out there! I like the Percy Jackson books, the Dark Materials trilogy, and the Ranger's Apprentice series. Oh, and the Bartimaeus trilogy too.