Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gregor and the Marks of Secret, Suzanne Collins

Book 4 in the Underland Chronicles. Man, I am going through these so fast! They are all around 300 pages and super easy quick reads. Book 5 is now waiting to be picked up at the library, and it's the final book. So sad!

In Book 3, a new character, Hazard, is brought in. He's 6 turning 7 and turns 7 at the beginning of this book. His father was an Underlander who ran away from Regalia. His mother was an Overlander whom we know next to nothing about, except that she was killed when Hazard was young. Hazard has a unique talent in that when he was super young, he learned how to communicate with the Hissers (lizards) and other various jungle dwelling creatures. He and Boots start learning how to speak "Crawler" language too (Cockroach). This multi-lingual ability serves the group well in many instances. Which goes to show you that when you learn to communicate with others and make the effort, especially to communicate in their native tongue, it goes a long way. I think this has something to do with the anti-war agenda because many Americans believe that everyone should learn OUR language and not the other way around. And so in many, MANY nations, English is a required second language course. But that is quite arrogant of us, isn't it? Now, I feel pretty strongly that if you want to LIVE in America, you need to learn English. Just as I would feel it absolutely necessary for me to learn Korean if I were to personally choose to go live in Korea. Or learn Swedish if I were to choose to live in Sweden. I would expect my children to be held back a grade in school if they didn't master the language to their grade level ability by the end of the year. Because it's different when you choose where you live. In my mind. And that's just my opinion. But when it's about communicating, you should make an effort to do so in the language of the people you're communicating with. And if the other person showed you the same courtesy, a mixture of two languages and mutual respect and appreciation for the effort can't hurt either one.

Anyhow, in this book, the nibblers (mice) are the ones in trouble, but also an entire war is about to break out between the gnawers (rats) and the humans (whom in the old old language are referred to by the rest of the underland as killers). In fact, this is the only book that ends in a true cliff hanger and will segue into the final book.

I look forward to see how it wraps up!

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, Suzanne Collins

Book 3 in the Underland Chronicles

Gregor is requested for a meeting that requires his presence. His mother is NOT going to let him go. But Ripred and the rats intervene to give her no choice. So she chooses to go with them. It's only going to be for a few hours anyway, right?

The Underland is in trouble. There is a plague upon them. One that only affects warmblooded creatures, hence the named Curse of the Warmbloods. It is a blood born illness and spreads most quickly by fleas.

Of course, Gregor gets wrapped up in a quest to find the cure and many crazy things happen and yes, death occurs quite frequently in the same frank manner it has in the past.

The biggest deal is that someone Gregor loves more than anything is also suffering from the plague which gives him no choice in his mind than to find the cure.

Who unleashed this plague? Did it start all on it's own or was it purposeful? This book also discusses biological warfare and the possibilities it entails. What it would mean if a plague were government fabricated-and if they had a cure from the beginning, but couldn't let it out too soon in order to feign innocence. How many victims would be allowed in the so called name of necessary?

Suzanne Collins does have an anti-war agenda. But at least she does admit, through her literature that sometimes there is no choice but to fight in order to defend yourself. But I don't have a problem with her pushing that fighting shouldn't be our first tactic in every situation. That there are alternatives to explore and to go in a step wise fashion through your arsenal of talking things out up through to fighting if necessary. I don't see why anyone should have a problem with that. We teach it to kids all the time-don't through punches talk it out. However, if someone starts beating you, you don't have to lie down and take it, you do what you can to defend yourself to the point where you can get away. Now, with that said, there are certain groups of people who don't want to "talk about it", they don't want to negotiate. Those groups of people are so convinced of their need to destroy that the only thing they respond to is war. It is sad, but it is true. Those groups can only be dealt with in one way and it's tragic. However, someday the world might change. But until then, do we put ourselves in jeopardy to go through all our lovely steps to conflict resolution? And for what causes is it justifiable to go to war? War is also different now, so it affects us differently. It doesn't feel like the literature makes it seem during other conflicts such as the World Wars, the Korean War or even Vietnam. It feels so obscure and so far removed because most of us can go on with our daily lives and not worry about our loved onces being drafted, or EVERYONE being required to go and fight. But it's still there and it's still real.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, Suzanne Collins

Book 2 in the Underland Chronicles. Every bit as breathtaking and harrowing and suspenseful as the first, and maybe even more so. While taking Boots sledding in Central Park, the crawlers take her down to the Underland knowing that Gregor will follow. They need his help with the Prophecy of Bane.

This is the book where I completely became emotionally attached with Gregor in a similar way that I did with Katniss-unable to fully experience an emotion I felt I should be experiencing it-until Gregor himself allowed himself to feel it. Collins has an exceptional way of making you emotionally attached to the protagonist.

I've also decided that it's sometimes emotionally taxing to have an extremely good reference point for the other characters too. Lizzie (the middle child in Gregor's family whom you still don't know a whole lot about) is 8, and I have an 8 year old daughter. Boots is 2 and I have a 2 year old daughter, as I mentioned in the last post. Now, whenever Boots is in any sort of danger, I immediately get that mother instinct of being anxious and how I would feel if Boots were MY child. Yeah. It does something to you.

The other thing that I'm starting to really like is that these prophecy's are pretty straightforward while also being extremely vague. And what you think you know 100% turns out to be completely wrong when you DO figure it out. It shows that there can be-and often are-several explanations for the same thing, several interpretations and ways of looking at a problem. And sometimes the solutions are counter-intuitive to what you THINK is supposed to be done, but if you examine yourself INSIDE and are a character of good morale, you'll know what the right thing to do is. And it really proves that only hindsight is 20/20.

I checked out the first 3 books in the 5 book chronicle, so I'm on to #3 and can't wait to see what happens next!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Possession, Elana Johnson

My library has a statue of Dobby from Harry Potter in the teen section. My 2 year old likes to go "visit" him. One day after her little visit to Dobby while I'm checking out at the self check out, she comes back with this book and says "I have a book for you, mommy!" So I check it out. Because you don't argue with a 2 year old in the library. Turns out this book was pretty good! Mind control is the big thing in this dystopian society. You get an implant in your ear where things are streamed in to "help" you make your choices. I can't remember right now, but you are pretty young when this is given to you. You plug in every night and the brain washing comes tailor made just for your. Some people have gifts, and can resist. But not many. Vi is one of them and she's a rule breaker. And there are so many rules you can break. Unfortunately there is a love triangle *sigh* but it was intriguing and I definitely want to read more. Evidently there is a #0.5, 1, 1.5 etc.

It wasn't the best one (which you know now that my favorite one right now is Divergent pending on how it wraps up) ever written and there's plenty to criticize, but perhaps that's why a prequel was written, to answer some questions that were just left out there.

But for a random book that my 2 year old pulled off a shelf? Not bad. She's pulled off some great ones for her older sister too. Must be a gift :-)

Sophia's War, Avi

My daughter and I  read this awhile ago, but I couldn't find a blog post for it! So I thought I'd do that now. This was an EXCELLENT introduction to the genre of Historical Fiction for my daughter. And it helped me to remember my rusty Revolutionary War time period facts. Every single person in this book with exception of Sophia and her family are true historical characters. There is a guide at the back of the book as well as a glossary of period terms, if I'm remembering correctly.

Sophia is around 12 when the story opens, being a fierce Patriot in British occupied territory where she has to be quiet about her true beliefs. She witnesses the hanging of a patriot soldier that becomes a defining moment in her life. Her parents are forced to take in a British soldier as a boarder too.

She is enlisted to be a spy via becoming a housekeeper at the British head quarters when she is 15. And it is there she learns of Benedict Arnold's plan for treason. What will she do with this information? Is the statement that all's fair in love and war something that you agree with? Is it right? Does Sophia make the right choices? That is for you, dear reader to decide.

I thoroughly enjoyed this compelling tale and revisiting early American history. The chapters are short and quick which make for idea read aloud-even taking turns with your child per chapter, since none of them go too long. This is even something that I would recommend for my book club to read.

Gregor the Overlander, Suzanne Collins

This is a series I picked up for my older daughter, now 8. From the author of The Hunger Games. This woman has such a great imagination! It was slow to get into, but now I am HOOKED. It's a 5 book series. My daughter is almost done with #3, I'm just finished with 1.

Gregor the Overlander was hatched out of Collins' head as she wondered what city kids would have experienced in their world vs. Alice in Wonderland. Alice is such a pastoral setting, what with falling down a rabbit hole, it's completely non-relatable to city kids. (Or any kid in my opinion. If you've read my other posts, you know I really do not enjoy Alice in its original form). There are some things that are similar and I can definitely see parallels from the Underland to what happened with Alice.

Gregor's dad has been gone for 2+ years. Just disappeared (this reminds me of A Wrinkle in Time) out of the blue. Gregor is 11 and has found himself in a parental role, especially to his youngest sister, 2 year old Margaret, better known as "Boots". Let me tell you, I have a highly vocal 2 year old (thanks to her 8 year old sister), and this 2 year old character so closely resembles the 2 year olds I've had first hand experience with. It seems like with other books, the 2 year olds aren't as developed orally as I would have thought. So Boots is very relate-able to me. I could totally see my child doing some of the same things as Boots does. Boots falls through a vent in the apartment laundry room and Gregor falls after her. They have to go through all sorts of turmoil before they can leave the Underworld.

One theme is that Boots has unconditional acceptance of those around her. Where there are different "classes" of creatures down there, she sees equality and helps bridge the gap.

Death is also a theme. There's a part that states flat out that 4 characters will die by the end of the book. And this is a children's book. But the way death is dealt with is so tactful and so eloquent that it's not disturbing in any way. My daughter didn't even cry. Just thought it was sad. But with that, it teaches how to live every day-because you never know how much time you have. Don't wait on happiness, be happy now!

I can see the similar vein of older sibling protective of a younger one, to the point of sacrificing one self between this series and the Hunger Games. I like those ties and those ideas of protecting family and having fierce love between siblings. I hope that my older daughter can think of Boots and her younger sister and connect some dots for herself in her own life.