Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You Should Always Do Your Homework

And, today, mine is due. Thus, instead of the usual Wednesday Night Bullet Post, we will be having a little book report instead. Those of you who were looking forward to my weekly salute to random blogging, fear not. Tomorrow is Open House night at my school and a late night will most certainly be involved. I promise that there will be all sorts of off-the-wall meanderings come tomorrow.

Meanwhile, let's discuss a book, shall we?

Some of you may already know that I occasionally like to hop on board the blog tours sponsored by the nice folks at Mother-Talk. Every once in a while, I volunteer to read a book and do a little review on the blog so that others (Moms for the most part, I suppose) can travel the internets and learn more about it. All my reviews come from the perspective of a veteran educator and counselor and most focus on youth literature as that is a passion of mine. The book I was given to review for this installment was an interesting one:

The Dark DreamWeaver

David is a pretty normal eleven year old boy...except, that is, for the dark and disturbing dreams. But, since this seems to be a common problem in the world these days, this really doesn't make him all that special. All this changes when he collects some caterpillars in order to watch them go through the cycle that will turn them into monarch butterflies. One of those little creatures is a bit more than he seems. Suddenly, David is faced with the knowledge that wizards are real and that his new little friend is one of them, although cursed to live as a caterpillar until someone can help break him free from the evil spell that left him in this condition.

David soon embarks on an exciting journey to the land of Remin, a world full of both wonder and rather terrible things. It is also a world with a powerful connection to ours and David must not only find a way to save his new friend, but use his emerging magical powers to save both Remin and his own reality.

The Dark Dreamweaver is the first in a series that will feature the land of Remin and the characters who inhabit it. It is a quickly paced and entertaining read that will surely capture the minds of children who enjoy the fantasy genre. David is a gentle and highly intelligent main character who exhibits qualities such as bravery, thoughtfulness and creativity within the context of the story.

Young readers are likely to become engaged in the story line which moves along at a logical and comfortable pace. At times, it can feel like the author sacrifices the story in the interest of being "instructional," but this is not necessarily a distraction. Madeline L'Engle and C.S. Lewis are both authors who did little to mask their beliefs with regard to "life and how to live it" in their writings and I think it is safe to say that this works rather well in their books.

I often hesitate to give reading levels on books because I feel strongly that young readers are so highly individualized. I do it here more to give parents a general idea of the content in order that they might make good decisions when purchasing books for their children. As parents, you know your children and where they are on the reading spectrum. That said, I would expect to see this book in the hands of third through sixth graders, allowing for some variation in individual ability. The text is not overly challenging, but does include some specialized language that is used only in the land of Remin or when referring to certain characters. I don't anticipate children having much difficulty with decoding these particular words, though. The author does not rely on heavy use of the vernacular or slang terms, instead using more standard English. Children who enjoy novels that employ less formalized language, may find this a bit stilted, however, I strongly feel that the story line works best with this style of prose.

There is some drama, danger and tension involved in the book, but it is handled quite gently. I did not feel that most children would find it overly frightening. If you are familiar with The Magic Treehouse series, then you will have a sense of what I mean. This sort of book is ideal for children who might be a bit sensitive with regard to the rise and fall of action in novels but would like to attempt something that is popular with their peers. The more tension-filled moments are quickly and happily resolved and the questions over how certain characters fare at these times are answered easily.

The artwork in this book is rather lovely as well. As young readers move from children's books to more involved novels, they often miss the illustrations. They provide not only visual entertainment, but assist with overall comprehension as the story unfolds in some cases. Sue Concannon uses detailed pencil drawings to accompany and enhance the story beautifully.

Lastly, I received a note from the publisher with my review copy of this book letting me know that this series is also being made available in a variety of formats geared towards readers who are challenged visually or neurologically. Thus, this novel and those that follow, will be accessible by children who can't process print in the traditional manner. I have not followed up on this yet, but believe that this book has already been transferred to other media for this purpose. If anyone is interested, please leave a comment and I will try to see what I can find out for you. As a Special Educator, I was very pleased to see that the author and publisher considered the audience who might not be able to read a book, but who would love to be able to experience it. Books are, after all, for everyone!

If you'd like to learn more about the Nick Ruth, the author of this story, you can access his website here.

Well, there you go! A new book to add to the kids' library! That should make up for the lack of the WNBP...I hope. If not, then just hang in there. Tomorrow I'll make it all up to you and maybe even discuss knitting a little bit.




Anonymous said...

Good job. A+ for your review and it sounds like an A+ for the book too.

debsnm said...

Very professional! I really enjoy the glimpse into your educator side.

Ronni said...

Thanks for the review. I love the educator side too because my brother was a teacher for a while and my sister-in-law was a reading specialist and teacher until recently when she became a teacher of teachers. Plus it sounds like a good book to try my daughter on. Always a plus.

Beth said...

That's a very nice and thorough review!

Marjorie said...

Wow -- thank you so much for approaching this from your experience as a special educator. It's an incredibly valuable perspective!

Rabbitch said...

That sounds like just the ticket for my little muppet. She's only Grade 2 right now but I don't mind buying things "in advance" and she already has a pretty scary vocabulary -- she may be ready for it now.

Thank you!

trek said...

Evil butterflies - Not in chez trek.

Teri S. said...

Yet another stellar book review. Even though I don't have children, I find your reviews fascinating because it makes me look at books (even adult books) in a different light. Thanks!

Cursing Mama said...

You do an awesome job of explaining a book; I love getting the educator angle.

Nick Ruth said...

As the author of this, my first book I first have to thank you for taking the time to review my book. I'm glad you liked it.

Your comments about the more dramatic parts of the story are spot on. I wrote the story for my son who is not a big fan of violence and death in his books. I'm not sure that he has ever read the "Flesh, Blood, and Bones" chapter in Prisoner of Azkaban. We edited it for him and I still don't see why Rowling felt the need to bloody it up so much.

So in my books, all's well that ends well.

nick ruth said...

Oops, I meant Goblet of Fire, not Prisoner of Azkaban. Sorry!

Lazuli said...

That was a very interesting review! I think that, if I were a parent, I would have found it very helpful. In comparison to the academic book reviews I often read, yours was a lot more straightforward and informative!

Annie said...

Great review! I have to say I'm always excited about books like this for my sons. Thank you for the recommendation.