BOOKS FOR CHILDREN: How do you know what's good?

While there are many places (especially on the internet) where you can read book reviews, how do you really know if it's a good book or not when a single book might receive anywhere from one to five stars?
The answer: read the reviews of a book-addicted teacher librarian.

** The age recommendations are guidelines only; whether or not a certain book is suitable for a particular child depends on multiple factors, including their maturity, reading level, interests, and in some cases their experiences.
** While the ratings are largely based on my own personal appreciation/enjoyment of the book, they are also influenced by my experiences as a teacher and the potential attraction for the target-aged child (acknowledging that what one child may love, another may find exceptionally boring). A rating of 5 indicates the book is likely to be popular with the majority.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Series: Death & Co. (Fic)

AUTHOR: McCune, D.J. (Ireland)
PUBLISHED: Hot Key Books, c2013.
PAGES/ILL: 279 pages
SERIES: Frankie Death & Co.
FIRST BOOK: Death & Co.

Lumen are charged with guiding souls down their Light after death. Luman can move fairly freely between the real world and the Hinterland where they meet the souls. Adam belongs to a Luman family, but he's not sure he wants the job. He likes being 'normal' - having friends, going to schools, and beginning to date girls. But Adam has a special gift, and when he starts to embrace it, he realises he can change more than his own destiny. But not without a price...

This is one of those books which, for the most part, I liked, but which didn't live up to potential. Some parts of the story I'd give a strong 4 stars. Other parts get a 2.
For the potential appeal to children, I give it 4 stars.

The premise of the plot (adapting the 'Ferryman' folklore) is great and it's such a pity that the author didn't do it justice. The target audience is supposed to be teen, but it reads more like a middle grade book.

I found Adam and his friends fairly juvenile. A sub-plot has Adam and his friends playing pranks on a head teacher, fooling and humiliating him. The story shows this teacher as a bully and dumb enough to fall for the pranks - a very juvenile idea. This sub-plot was not necessary and just took time away from the main story line (exploring the world of the Lumen). Sure, it introduced us to the 'normal' part of Adam's life, but it wasn't done particularly well. It felt too lower and middle grade (Captain Underpants-esque) compared to the other themes (you'd think a boy who has grown up with the responsibility of helping souls move on after death would have a little more maturity).

There were missed opportunities for character development and world-building. Children won't notice the lack of development so much, but it would have contributed making the book higher quality (obviously).

Overall, I did enjoy reading the book and will read the next one. Unfortunately, it could have been so much more (hopefully the next book/s will build a bit more guts into the story line).

I can see that it does have appeal for children (suitable age depends on the child). While it's promoted for YA, it's more pre-adolescent (9 or 10+), although you'd have to know the 9 y.o to know how much 'death' is ok for them (for example, in one scene Adam and his family are in the Hinterland, helping souls who have just been mass-executed in a military coup). It's for kids who have moved way beyond Diary of a Wimpy Kid/Captain Underpants, but are no where near ready for Hunger Games. It's about on par with the early Harry Potters or Skulduggery Pleasants.

AGE: 9-14.
GENRE: Fantasy fiction.
RATING: 3 1/2 - 4 stars.

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