So, I've almost finished the three of the Kidlit books I checked out from the library, Holes by Louis Sachar, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet, and Alvin Ho Allergic to School, Girls, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look.
I've enjoyed two of the three and have included a short paragraph of each one below.
Holes by Louis Sachar is a novel that I wasn't sure I'd like. A boy gets in trouble for being a juvenile deliquent, even though he isn't one, and is sent off to a reform camp to dig holes. Not a premise for a story I'd usually choose to read for pleasure. Holes was both a fun read and great example of a book to add to your library if you want to write fiction for this age group. Stanley Yelnats is embroiled in this hot mess because his family is cursed. Weaving the past and present together in a seamless manner the novel unfolds to reveal that friendship is the one element that has brought most of the characters together. A friendship betrayed causes the curse Stanley labors under, and bravery and friendship in the worst of circumstances is what eventually brings redemption for those who deserve it. Mixed into the plot are other betrayals as well as prejudice, intolerance, and lost love. Add in an engrossing mystery and a character that grows on you more and more as you read and you have a great book for juvenile readers and those of us who never really grew up.
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet, sadly was a disappointment. It was one of the three I was actually looking forward to reading. A mystery involving stolen art from a well known artist who still remains an enigma to most people today. It sounded like a great read. Unfortunately, though I liked the main characters, this book didn't capture my attention or hold my interest all the way through. I slogged through half the middle and forced myself to make it to the end. The premise is great but the writing just didn't deliver for me. There are some great descriptive phrases but it wasn't enough for me to say I really liked the story. The author tries to include far too many seemingly unrelated things into the story and the kids seem to derive clues more from divination using puzzle piece letters than actual investigating. Their hearts are in the right place but their methods to solving the case are just too random. At the end the author tries to explain how everything is tied together, but it was still a bit far-fetched and confusing to me. If I was going to give this a star rating I'd have to give it a 2.5/5.0 stars. Perhaps I'm just not well versed enough in art history to appreciate the storyline, but I don't think that many middle graders would be either.
Alvin Ho is a fun and hilarious character that I've loved from the first page. I haven't read the entire book yet because I'm reading it with my young son. The two of us have laughed so much and can relate so well to this character that I'd have to say even though the main character is a little boy a girl would enjoy this book too. Alvin is frightened of almost everything and even though he's unable to talk at school he still manages to get himself into some real fixes. The writing is superb. It is descriptive and virtually undetectable to the reader you get so lost in the character's voice and story. Something all children's writers, or writers in general strive for. Lenore Look is a master of the writing craft. If you want a fun book to read with a young middle grader this is one I would highly recommend. Even my junior high age daughter got into the story and had to read the rest of the book on her own.
Hope these reviews are helpful to those of you who want to read or add books to your personal library and give you a good reference on how to write for kids and really stand out.
P.S. Even though I did not like Chasing Vermeer does not mean you won't.