Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Maus *****

Spiegelman, Art. Maus Vols I and II.

Despite the fact that these books (one book in 2 volumes) won the Pulitzer Prize, I would have never read these books if not forced to do so for the class I am taking. Am I glad I had to read them! These are graphic novels about the Holocaust. The books alternates between the present and the past. In the present, Artie starts visiting his father regularly, to learn about his experiences in the Holocaust. Vladic, his father, is a rigid man, and rather obsessive compulsive about not throwing anything away. He is also cheap. He is married to a woman and they don't get along; he got remarried after his wife, Anja, killer herself a few decades ago.

In the past, we see Vladic as a young man, just as the Holocaust is beginning. He meets Anja and marries her. His business is taken away and then there is a bit of time where he and the family try to escape being sent to the concentration camps. Volume 2 is about his experience in Auschwitz, where he isn't killed, but is used for skilled labor. He and Anja both manage to survive and the books shows them being liberated and, eventually, coming to the US.

I recommend this book to everyone. Anyone that likes graphic novels will like it. Anyone that likes war stories will like it. Anyone interested in history will like it. Anyone with any feelings at all will love it. This is a glimpse into the lives of one Holocaust survivor that is very interesting and informative.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ****

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

This story is told from the perspective of a boy that is autistic. Chris lives alone with his father. One day he goes to a neighbor's house and finds her dog dead in the backyard, with a pitchfork through the body. Just as he picks up Wellington, the owner comes out and freaks out, assuming he has killed the dog. The police are called but nothing happens with it.

Chris, who is austic but also very gifted in mathematics, sets out to solve the murder mystery by talking to the neighbors. This is difficult for his since he doesn't like strangers, and he has limited social skills. Eventually, through his detecting, he discovers that his mother is alive, even though his father had told him she was dead. Years before she left them to go away wtih the huband of the woman that owned Wellington. Chris sets off on a trip to find his mother in London.

The story here is interesting and witty, seeing the story from the perspective of a teen with autism. It is not only entertaining but also shows what goes on in the mind of an autistic person. I recommend this to anyone that enjoys off-beat stories or is interested in autism.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Whale Talk ****1/2

Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk.

I have always liked everything Chris Crutcher has written, and this is no exception. T.J. was a swimmer when he was younger, but he has spent his entire high school career avoiding getting involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, despite his natural ability. His favorite teacher, Mr. Simet asks him to join the newly formed swim team, he agrees. He then helps Mr. Simet recruit swimmers for the team. Have I mentioned here that the school doesn't have a pool?

TJ is mixed-- white, black, and Japanese. He manages to bring together a very different group of people that can't swim and sets the goal that they will all get letter jackets, which is highly prized at the school. The school bully, Mike Barbour, would be annoyed if anyone on the swim team got a jacket, so this fuels TJ's goal. Along the way, these unlikely teammates become friends and swimmers, against all odds.

There is another side-story in which a local racist (a friend of Mike Barbour) is abusing his girlfriend, who happens to have a bi-racial child that he also mistreats because of her race. TJ's parents allow her to stay at their home to stay away from him, but she has a hard time staying away from him, and the damage her daughter sustains gets worse every time he tells her she is dirty because she is part black.

Overall, this is a great book. The characters are all likable, except for the ones that you aren't supposed to like like Mike Barbour. The reader gets to like each of the guys on the team. You can see part of the ending coming from a mile away, but it is still enjoyable getting there. There is also a surprise at the end that readers won't see coming until they get there. Highly recommended!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Iceman **** 1/2

Lynchm Chris. Iceman.

I read this book years ago when I first started at my job. I was glad I got to re-read it. It reminded me of what I liked about it so much and why I booktalk it all the time.

Eric is a hockey player from a dysfunctional family. His father is somewhat uncommunicative and all he cares about it hockey. His mother left the nunnery to marry his father, but she is miserable and isn't very communicative either. His brother Duane was into sports and the family star until he just gave it all up for his guitar his freshman year. After he gave up sports, his parents stopped talking to him and they treat him with open disdain. Duane is also a real smart ass. Eric has grown up angry and with no social skills whatsoever.

Eric has no friends, only classmates and teammates, none of whom are his friends. His only real friend is Mary, his pet lizard. He loves watching Mary eat live prey. His only human acquaintance is McLaughlin, the local mortitian. He likes to hang out a the cemetery and talk to MacLaughlin, and lay in the coffins somtimes. On the ice, he is cold and heartless. He is good, but he plays angry all the time, preferring to bang people up and get into fights than to play with real skill. He isn't a team player. The audiences at away games call him "animal".

Things come to a head when he comes across a player somewhat like himself that takes a bite out of his nose. He discovers he doesn't even like hockey? Will he keep playing? Will he ever make any friends? Will he ever LIKE when people touch him? You'll have to read it to find out.