“This Kid Reviews Books”: You Gotta Meet This Cool Kid

OK, I have a slight ulterior motive in choosing this moment to introduce you to Erik, a.k.a. This Kid Reviews Books: he’s just reviewed mine! But I am totally enamored of This Kid’s approach to literature aimed at his age group, and wanted to share him with you anyway. Here’s what he says on his “About” page:

Hi, my name is Erik. I love books, so that’s why I have this blog . The reason I’m doing this is for parents to approve of a book, and for kids to find an excellent book too! Speaking of kids, did you know that I am one too? I am 9 1011 12 years old. I got the idea for this blog when my grandmom told me she was shopping for a book for me and didn’t know what to buy and a kid in the store told her to get me “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda”. He said it was a good book and that I would like it, so she bought it. Well, it is a good book and I did like it. I thought that if my grandmom would take the advice of a kid maybe “this kid” (me) could help other kids and grown-ups looking for books for kids, find books they like. Plus my Mom is always trying to find “appropriate” books for me so I am going to include some of her and my Dad’s thoughts on some of the books I read.
Don’t you love him already? OK–now it’s time to hear from Erik directly:

This Kid Reviews Books

flyingThe Flying Burgowski

By Gretchen K. Wing

254 pages – ages 12+

Published by Gretchen K Wing on February 25, 2014

Synopsis- 14-year-old Jocelyn Burgowski knew her life was terrible. She actually preferred her flying dreams to her real-life – getting lost in her thoughts about flying. On her next birthday, amazingly, she CAN fly! She just leaps into the air and all of a sudden, her life was perfect! Her jerk of a brother was leaving to live with their alcoholic Mom (on the main land) for the summer, she got his job, and now she really could fly! Perfect… not so much. She finds out that she’ll be going to stay with her Mom too. In the very crowded city! This means little open spaces and no room to fly and right next to all the problems she thought she was leaving behind.

What I Thought- This was…

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Virtual Book Club, Anyone? The Goldfinch, Canada, and A Tale for the Time Being: Teenagers Adrift in an Adult Sea

This is NOT a book review. It’s an invitation.

By strange coincidence, each of the last three books I’ve read this summer has featured a teenager whose life is wrenched awry by the actions of adults. These are NOT “young adult” novels by any stretch. They are a reminder that young adults can be a microcosm of the human spirit: fate vs. self-determination, culture vs. character, all within the confines of a body whose only constant is change.

Book #1 is the most well-known: Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. As I was wolfing it down during a trip, it seemed like everyone I met was reading it too. Problem is, no one who lives close to me has read it, and once I finished it, I was dying to talk about it! So I engaged in a mini-virtual book club with a friend via email, which was so rewarding, I thought of enlarging it to the blogosphere.

Read the book? Post a discussion question, or an observation. Anyone else who’s read it can take it from there.

The Goldfinch is a mind-blowing book, and it will probably be made into a movie. But don’t wait for that. Read it soon. (Not wanting to buy the hardback, not willing to wait for the long library list to dwindle, I snarfed it up on Kindle.) Favorite supporting character: Boris, the Russian teen with the Australian accent and the heart that refuses to harden, no matter what it’s exposed to.

goldfinch

But let me tell you about the other two books! (And maybe The Goldfinch will be out in paper by the time you’re done with them.) 

Richard Ford’s Canada is probably the hardest read, in that it takes time. The deliberate pace is, in fact, part of the book’s theme–but you won’t know that until you’ve read it. I’ll borrow the words of a reviewer here to give you a quick idea of it:

“Canada, Richard Ford’s long-awaited new novel, is not one to be rushed. While the plot sounds sensational — robbery, murders, a flight across the Canadian border — Ford’s laconic, measured prose forces the reader to slow the pace and savor the story. This is a novel about actions, intentions, and consequences as well as about belonging, introspection, and the solitary nature of life. Powerful and atmospheric, Canada will excite and gratify Ford’s fans and introduce newcomers to a masterful American writer.”  –Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore, as cited on Indiebound.org

Favorite supporting character: Canada itself. Yes, the country. Read the book, then we can talk about that.

canada

The third book is probably the fastest and most page-turning read: Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. It features two narrators: Ruth, the middle-aged author who finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach of her remote island in western Canada, and Nao, the sixteen year-old Japanese girl who…of course…wrote that diary. Best supporting character: Nao’s 104 year-old great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun, with whom Nao communicates by texting. This book also messes with the whole relationship between author, reader and story. Mind-blowing. But I’ve used that term already, huh.

Tale

So…have you read any of these? If so, please chime in! If not, click over to indiebound.org, or rush to your favorite local bookstore to get one, or all three.  Read fast, THEN chime in. I’ll wait.

 

 

From the Author of Cloud Atlas, Another Ridiculously Good Read

Let me apologize up front for not writing about President Kennedy today. I figure others will pick up the slack. I need to write about a book.

I’d love to sum it up in a pithy, “Two words for ya–” but unfortunately, this book has a MOUTHFUL of a title. Ready?

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell.

Read this.

Read this.

Normally my “can’t-put-it-down” books are mysteries–especially ones by Elizabeth George. But this literary novel has me in its clutches, and not for the usual reasons.

Oh, it’s got the goods all right. Sympathetic hero with a blind spot? Check. Ridiculously authentic, obviously-well-researched setting (Japan circa 1800)? Check. Crackling dialogue (seamlessly “translated” from Dutch and Japanese yet!)? Sensory detail of the most intimate and unexpected kind? Aching love story? Political intrigue? Breathless plot twists? Evil villains? Check, check, check, check, check, and…check.

But here’s what really gets me about this novel, grammar nerd that I am: its simple declarative sentences.

An example, chosen randomly from page 194:

Uzaemon glimpses the enormity of the risk he is taking.

Would they bother with a warrant? Or just dispatch an assassin?

Uzaemon looks away. To stop and think would be to abort the rescue.

Feet splash in puddles. The brown river surges. Pines drip.

I think I’m in love.

…THIS JUST IN! I wrote the above before arriving at page 451. That’s where I found this paragraph:

Gulls wheel through spokes of sunlight over gracious roofs and dowdy thatch, snatching entrails at the market place and escaping over cloistered gardens, spike-topped walls, and triple-bolted doors. Gulls alight on whitewashed gables, creaking pagodas, and dung-ripe stables; circle over towers and cavernous bells and over hidden squares where urns of urine sit by covered wells, watched by mule drivers, mules, and wolf-snouted dogs, ignored by hunchbacked makers of clogs; gather speed up the stoned-in Nagasaki River and fly beneath the arches of its bridges, glimpsed from kitchen doors, watched by farmers walking high, stony ridges…

Do you hear it yet? Feel it? Read the passage aloud. 

It RHYMES.

And it goes on like this, this single paragraph, for nearly a page and a half, all gorgeous internal rhyme hidden amidst sense-snatching detail like some kind of literary sleight-of-hand. The final sentence of the paragraph ends this way:

…where their flight began, over the balcony of the Room of the Last Chrysanthemum, where a puddle from last night’s rain is evaporating; a puddle in which Magistrate Shiroyama observes the blurred reflections of gulls wheeling through spokes of sunlight. This world, he thinks, contains just one masterpiece, and that is itself.

I think I read that last sentence holding my breath, hearing the paragraph, like the gulls, wheel full circle back to where its flight began.

As far as I’ve noticed, this is the only paragraph in the book like this–and Mitchell throws it out there on page 451 like, “Hey, yeah, see what I could do if I wanted? I could write this whole book in rhyme if I felt like it. Dare me?”

I’m telling ya: this former English teacher and lifelong reader & writer gets chills.

But I need to finish this book, and it’s your turn now. Do you have a book which you love as much for its use of sentence structure or language as for the story? Should I read it? Tell, tell.