Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Review: The Dragon and the George, by Gordon R. Dickson

The Dragon and the George, by Gordon R. Dickson, is a humorous and exciting fantasy story about a man who gets transported to another world -- and into the body of a dragon. While there, he has to team up with a wolf, a knight, and various other people on a quest to rescue his girlfriend, and generally the save the world from evil.

It might not seem like an original premise now, but probably when published in its original novellette form in 1957, it was. (The title then was "St. Dragon and the George.")

The story itself is interesting, quick moving, and fun. The companions are enjoyable company -- for us and for Jim. And, while the book is fun, the author manages to raise the stakes whenever necessary. At times, the book is lighthearted. At others, it's deadly serious.

It's a fun read, and, fortunately, part of a series. Don't be afraid to check it out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Children’s book review: Rodzina, by Karen Cushman

Children’s book review: Rodzina, by Karen Cushman

I like orphan-finds-a-home books. This one is a bit unconventional.

Polish orphan Rodzina (Polish word for family, as explained in the introduction), rides the orphan train west. She isn’t sold on the idea, and thinks slavery will be the result. (That peril, as we shall see, is not without some merit.)

At twelve, she’s not pretty, not charming. The only things she has going for her is being big for her age and good with kids -- both of which backfire on her. The people who want to adopt her seem to want her for manual labor, and she’s assigned to look after the little kids on the train trip, with little help from the unfriendly woman doctor along on the ride.

The story is an interesting insight into what the orphan train might have been like. It’s a rather sad book, with lots about grief and missing parents. But it does have a happy, though unexpected, ending.

This book has an Author’s Note at the end, that gives historical information about orphan trains, and further books to read on the subject.

However, in my opinion, this isn’t the best of the orphan-finds-a-home books. I can think of two I like much better. Gratefully Yours, by Jane Buchanan, and A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, by Laura Amy Schlitz are two that come to mind. (Perhaps I’ll review them someday.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Children's Book Review: Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-this-World Moon Pie Adventure, by Tony DiTerlizzi

Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of-this-World Moon Pie Adventure, by Tony DiTerlizzi (illustrator of The Spiderwick Chronicles)

I was sorting some children's books, and this little picture book caught my eye.

The story revolves around a little boy who wears flyer's goggles and red cowboy boots. He wants to go to the moon so he can get some moon pies. He rides his 'jalopy' into space where he meets the Moon, some Martians, and a big, green space monster.

The art is engaging and beautiful -- very well-done. The story is cute, short, and not too scary for small children. If you have small children, you might enjoy reading this to them for the science fiction elements and whimsical, well-executed art.

But be warned -- this book will make you hungry for Moon Pies!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Manga Review: Hollow Fields, by Madeline Rosca

Hollow Fields, by Madeline Rosca

Normally, I'm not terribly fond of "pseudo" manga. But this little book is quite well-done. And the author / artist -- yes, she does it all -- is Australian.

Anyway, the story is about a little girl who accidentally goes to a school for mad scientist children. It contains elements of horror and humor. The subject manner is a bit dicey in spots -- detention that children never return from, grave digging as a school subject, and stitching together different (living) animals to form new, horrible conglomerations -- but the Rosca handles it fairly well.

That said, I wouldn't necessarily want a pre-teen to read this, even though that's the age of the protagonist. I think some of that subject matter could be disturbing to young children.

Anyway, as an adult, I enjoyed this manga. The characters are well drawn, and the story is shaping up to becoming interesting. Lucy Snow is an appealing character, and her decision at the end will certainly change this character.

I want to see what happens next.