Sunday, March 16, 2008

Alfred Kropp series by Rick Yancey

If you’ve been looking for an action packed adventure series with a hint of magic and serious boy appeal for grades 7 and up, look no further than Rick Yancey’s Alfred Kropp series.

Readers will be immediately drawn into Alfred’s extraordinary and somewhat haphazard adventures right from page one of The Exraordinary Adventures of Aldred Kropp. And what adventures! It all starts with Alfred stealing an old sword at his uncle’s insistence. The sword turns out to be the legendary Excalibur (of Arthurian fame) and it falls into the hands of the evil descendant of one of the original Knights of the Roundtable. Feeling responsible, Alfred tries to get the sword back, with the help from another modern day knight. They get the help of a mysterious international organization with serious firepower. Car chases, sword fights, and being falsely labeled an international terrorist make this a page-turner. Alfred’s bumbling but ultimately heroic sense of responsibility makes this accidental hero endearingly likable. The fact that he saves the world is a bonus.

However, the bigger bonus is that there is another Alfred Kropp adventure to crack open, Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon. In the capable hands of Yancey, this second adventure is as wild a ride as the first. It’s just as funny, and Alfred is even more lovable if that’s at all possible. It features an extraction (Alfred getting kidnapped from his not very likable foster parents house), betrayal, magical life-saving blood, jumping out of parachutes, seriously scary demons, rogue agents and yes, a plan to save the world.

More good news is that a third title in the series is about to hit the stores, Alfred Kropp: The Thirteenth Skull. Just having finished the advanced proof, I confess that I couldn’t put it down. This time Alfred himself is the target. After a close call in which his guardian is gravely injured, Alfred chases the culprit responsible. He ends up being falsely arrested for murder and his explanation lands him in a psychiatric hospital. It seems that no one believes he has twice saved the world, that he’s on his second life, and that his blood has magical healing powers. He manages to bargain an escape only to land into more hot water (actually snow and ice in Alfred’s case). With bad guys tracking him at ever turn, and no one to trust, Alfred searches for an honorable way to end the standoff, and survive. You guessed it; it’s another page-turner!

**A word of caution for the squeamish; if blood and gore make you queasy, give this series a pass. Personally, I loved all three and await book 4.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lois Lowry is Awesome

I went to hear Lois Lowry speak in Vancouver a few days ago and she was awesome. She talked about the way in which serendipitous events in her life have sparked books like The Giver and Number the Stars and Autumn Street. It was fascinating to discover that part of the inspiration for The Giver came from her experience with her aging father who could remember her older sister, but did not remember that she had died. It led her to ask herself a what if question of the sort that many authors find themselves asking. In this case, it was What if one person were responsible for keeping the memories of a community? She talked about the way in which a books often changed kids' lives; one of the reasons she became a children's writer. There is no question that Lowry has changed many many lives with that book alone.

It was also delighted to hear her read from her new book The Willoughby's and I look forward to reading it. Clearly Lowry has a talent for capturing a child's perspective whether drama or humor.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pink by Nan Gregory

You might think of pink as a mere colour, but in the hands of a skilled author, Pink by Nan Gregory is a treasure. Vivi may not have much, but she has a loving family and a modest home. Still, Vivi wants more. She wants to be part of "the Pinks," a group of girls for whom money is no object. Pink is perfection in Vivi's mind, and she longs to be a part of that perfect world; a world symbolized by an expensive doll she sees in a shop window. Her pragmatic father who struggles to make ends meet tells her that "You can't have everything," but that doesn't stop Vivi from coveting the doll which she saves for. However, the doll is sold to one of "the Pinks" leaving Vivi so devastated that this is how she describes the trudge home from the store. "It's hard to go fast when your heart is a stone."

Fortunately, Gregory doesn't leave readers with a stone heart, but there is no pat ending here. What she does give readers is a gentle reminder that children, just like adults, must learn to survive disappointments and that happiness need not be tied to material possessions. Impressively, Gregory does all this at a child's level, in a mere 32 pages and without being preachy. Hooray for Pink, hooray for superb writers like Nan Gregory.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Support our libraries

Hello fellow book lovers,

Locked-out library workers in Victoria, BC are planning two upcoming events to continue to inform and mobilize public support, in order to achieve a fair contract and get our libraries re-opened.

Two upcoming events:

Thursday March 6, 7 pm
Windsor Park Pavilion, 2451 Windsor RD : Town Hall meeting on the subject of Pay Equity

Saturday March 8 1:15-4:00 pm
The library will be holding a rally on International Women's Day (next Saturday March 8), marching from Centennial Square down Government to the Legislature.The actual march is set to begin about 2:45 although there will be activities preceeding this, beginning at 1:15.

Speakers at the legislature grounds between 3-4 pm.

Never enough time...

Back after a wonderful weekend with my even more wonderful editor, Ann Featherstone. Now I have even more books to add to my pile of "must reads". And then, of course, there's her sage writing advice and insight. Sometimes I wish we had more hours in the day...sigh