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Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction’ Category

The Girl is Murder
By Kathryn Miller Haines
ISBN: 9781250006394
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
While attempting to secretly asset her father in one of his cases, Iris Anderson finds she’s over her head.

Plot Summary:
The year is 1942 and America is at war. Iris Anderson, fifteen, is abut to start a new school n New York’s Lower East Side. Still reeling from her mother’s suicide, Iris is trying to make the best of her new situation. Her former school was an all-girls private school in New York’s richer Upper East Side. The differences are striking on Iris’s first day at PS 110 and she feels lucky to even have even survived.

At home, life is different as well. Iris’s father is a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, though he lost his leg due to the conflict. He has set up a private detective agency in the home that have rented from a lovely Polish woman, Mrs. Mrozenski whose own son is serving in the Marines. Iris is only just beginning to have a relationship with her father as he was away in the Navy. He retired after the attack and took Iris away from her Aunt and Uncle to live on their own. Iris’s father is a proud man and is trying to make a success of the business though it’s hard with his fake leg.

One afternoon, Iris overhears a client complaining to her father about the lack of results for a case. Iris decides to secretly help out as her little family needs the money. As Iris begins her life as a girl detective she starts to realize how much hard work can go into a case. And that every mystery is filled with a little danger.

Critical Evaluation:
Drawing on her love of the 1940s, Haines attempts to create a girl detective series falls a bit short. The story is still engaging and the characters are fun, but sometimes Haines relies too much on the language of the times. The characters speak in cliches and catchphrases.

Beyond the issues with the character’s language, Haines presents a story that truly does reflect the period. While it is not a main theme of the book, Iris’s background might raise a few eyebrows. Issues such as anti-semitism and racism fit into the story nicely, and at times help move the story along.

Haines also succeeds in discussing social classes, a subject that continues to be relevant in today’s ever changing economy. As Iris adjusts to life in the Lower East Side, her perspective shifts and she sees how the two world she now knows conflict with each other.

Overall, Haines does provide for an entertaining read, despite my earlier concerns of cliches. The mystery is an interesting one and has an unexpected ending. As this is the first in a potential series of books, one hopes that Haines is merely setting the foundation for what could be a very engaging series.

Audio Evaluation:
Rachel Botchan is the narrator of this book. The manner in which she narrates the book is striking in that she has a higher pitched tone that matches the cliches of the era. Her voice fluctuates from high class to street trash with each different characterizations. While the material does have its problems, Botchan’s attempts in keeping with the spirit of the material should be applauded. It enhances the story and allows the listening an opportunity to go back into time and experience the 40s.

Information about the Author:
From Kathryn Miller Haines’s Webpage, Haines is a graduate of Trinity University where she double majored in English and Theatre. She possess a MFA in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Haines first dipped her foot into the mystery genre with the publication of the Rosie Winter Mysteries, which highlights her love of the World War II time period.

Her most recent mystery series has been geared towards a young adult audience. Haines has recently published a sequel to The Girl is Murder called The Girl is Trouble. She lives in the Pennsylvania area with her family.

Kathryn Miller Haines on Twitter

Kathryn Miller Haines Blog

Genre:
Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
World War II History, Racial Inequality, Noir Mystery

Booktalking Ideas:
What does a detective really do?
How often are we perceived to be “different” because of the way we dress?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age rage of 12-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been a fan of the Veronica Mars television show, I was excited to hear about a book that used the same idea but set in World War II. Despite some of the problems that I had with the story, I still found it engaging. It’s not on par with Veronica Mars but still worth suggesting.

Reference:
Haines, K.M. (n.d.). About the author. Retrieved from http://www.kathrynmillerhaines.com/author.htm

Kirkus Reviews. (2011). The Girl is Murder. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kathryn-miller-haines/girl-murder/

Deanna Durbin

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
By Ransom Riggs
ISBN: 9781594744761
Publisher: Quirk Books
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
After witnessing the gruesome death of his grandfather, Jacob Portman travels to Wales to learn the truth about his grandfather and to discover the meaning of his grandfather’s collection of strange photographs.

Plot Summary:
Jacob has grown up on his grandfather’s bedtime stories. For years, Grandpa Abraham Portman spun tales about his childhood, with tales of adventure and excitement. Jacob’s favorite stories describe a children’s home in Wales, where children are protected from monsters by a bird, a peregrine. Grandpa Portman even has old photographs of the children who seem to defy gravity and logic with their accomplishments. Yet, as Jacob grows old, the stories begin to seem silly and Jacob begins to ignore them as mere childish fairytales.

When Jacob is fifteen, he is witness to a horrific accident that claims the life of his grandfather. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Jacob finds himself returning to those stories. As Jacob delves further into his grandfather’s past, he begins to realize that maybe his grandfather’s stories were more truth than fiction. Jacob begins to look towards the west for answers. What he discovers is more important than he could have ever imagined. And that what we see is sometimes more than what we can ever understand.


Critical Evaluation:
Ransom Riggs’s first novel reads like a beautiful dream, despite its nightmarish, horrific elements. Using photographs from ten different independent collections, Riggs is able to provide a tangible past to the Welsh children’s home in Grandpa Portman’s stories. While the photographs are an added bonus, they would mean nothing if Riggs’s writing style was unable to match the photograph’s beauty. Luckily, the reader is given a well-written story that readers of all age can enjoy.

In regards to the horrific elements of the story, Riggs succeeds in presenting a scary story for young adult readers. Riggs’s descriptions of the children actually add more to the photographic elements, balancing the story with a lovely visual prose.

Overall, the story was coherent and delightful. This book is highly recommended for those readers yearning for an old-fashioned horror story.

Information about the Author:
From Ransom Riggs’s Webpage, Riggs first studied English at Kenyon Collge, followed by film studies at the University of Southern California. Riggs currently lives in Los Angeles where he combines his passion of writing and visual arts. He is a blogger for MentalFloss.Com.

Ransom Riggs on Twitter

Ransom Riggs on Facebook

Genre:
Fantasy, Horror/Thriller, Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Magic, Alternative History, Photography

Booktalking Ideas:
What do you see when you take a picture?
How are we different from our parents? From our grandparents? Did you see any similarities?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
School Library Journal suggests a reading grade of 6 to 12. I would recommend this title as an Ages 14 and Up.

Challenging Issues:

There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be its horrific elements and violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
My husband had picked this book up from the library and suggested I read it. He was willing to pay for late fees just so I would have time to finish it during our vacation. Riggs’s use of photograph, mixed with an engrossing story, provided for an entertaining read. It’s one of the first books I recommend now for readers looking for something different than the mainstream paranormal books that are currently popular amongst teens.

Reference:
Grajek, S. (2011). What horror is this?!. School Library  Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/newsletters/newsletterbucketsljteen/892814-444/what_horror_is_this.html.csp

Riggs, R. (n.d.). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.ransomriggs.com/bio/

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