Tuesday, January 28, 2020

MG review of Max and Moritz by Wilhelm Busch (Author and Illustrator), Translation by Mark Ledsom

46144173Max and Moritz by Wilhelm Busch, Translated by Mark Ledsom
Format:  E-ARC 
Publisher:  Pushkin Children's
Number of Pages:  64
Publishing:  February 11th, 2020
Source:  Edelweiss Plus

Opening lines  
"Many stories have been told 
Of children who were good as gold,
But these two boys played darker games:
Max and Moritz were their names. " 

From Goodreads:  "Lock up your chickens! Look out for the bugs in your bed! And check that there's nothing explosive in your teacher's pipe!
Meet Max and Moritz, the infamously naughty boys whose sole purpose in life is to terrify their neighborhood. There's nothing these two pranksters like more than causing mayhem! Their inexhaustible talent for mischief brings chaos and comedy to every page of these delightfully wicked stories."
Max and Moritz was first published in Germany in 1865 and is considered to be a children's classic.  I can still remember the first time that I read it, I had to be about eleven years old.  My german cousin had a copy and let me borrow it.  What struck me most at the time was the whimsical illustrations and the two rambunctious boys.  Not only was it great practice for me in reading german, but it was also a highly entertaining story.  The book stuck with me for many years, although I'd long forgotten the title.  It was something that I'd always wanted to go back and reread one day, but being a german story and not recalling its name, it was a bit more difficult to locate.   Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see this new translation in English that is coming out in February.

As a kid, I found Max and Moritz's antics amusing. Today they'd probably be considered the worst kind of tricksters, pulling pranks on their neighbors who are oblivious to the boy's misdeeds.  They take glee in stealing the chickens Widow Palmer is cooking, and delight in almost drowning the tailor.  Again by today's standards, their actions would be considered very mean spirited, intended more to harm versus being playful.  Yet, I still really enjoyed my re-read.  I really liked the rhyming of the English translation and that it was similar to the structure of the original German.  It had the same sort of flow and despite a few changes in word use and names, I'd say it stays pretty true to the original.  There's an author note at the back explaining the changes that were made.  The illustrations by Wilhelm Busch still had the same whimsical quality that I liked when I was younger and I was happy to see that the original German text was included at the back of the book.  Although I was a bit rusty with my German, it was still fun to be able to take a crack at it.  Overall, the story still resonated with me.   I believe the theme of the story was meant to illustrate that crime doesn't pay, especially given the manner in which the boys meet their untimely demise at the end of the book.  So be warned that it might be a bit much for some children.           

Sunday, January 19, 2020

MG Humor review of The Terrible Two's Last Laugh by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrations by Kevin Cornell,

38656996. sx318 The Terrible Two's Last Laugh by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrations by Kevin Cornell
Format:  Ebook
Publisher:  Amulet Books
Number of Pages:  226
Published:  December 24th, 2018
Source:  Library

Opening Line: "For the last time:  Welcome to Yawnee Valley." 

Yawnee Valley is home to the notorious pranking duo of Miles and Niles.  Pranksters who are about to enter their final year of school.  Across the series thus far this duo has played some incredible pranks.  Of course, they were much easier when they performed them anonymously, but now that they've been found out things have become a bit more complicated.  Yet, this is a momentous year for Miles and Niles, not only are they set to graduate, but they also want to perform one of the most legendary pranks ever and really leave their mark at school. 

On their first day back at school,  Principal Barkin calls Miles and Niles to his office.  At first, the duo thinks they're in trouble, but Principal Barkin instead tells them that he wants to make their duo into a trio, he's learned the joy of pulling a well-planned prank and feels that their teaming up can only improve his skills.  However, when Harriet Nervig, the Superintendent of schools unexpectedly passes away and former-Principal Barkin, AKA Principal Barkin's father takes over and becomes his boss, all of their plans suddenly come to a halt.  Yet, Niles is determined that the boys will leave their legacy behind even if the acting Superintendent wants to get his own revenge on the two. 

 I've quite enjoyed reading The Terrible Two series.  Sure some of their pranks have been over the top, but they're lighthearted and always seem to induce a giggle from me.  They have such a wonderful imagination and are so clever and it's been fun watching how their friendship has evolved.  I also particularly enjoyed Principal Barkin in this one.  His desire to become a part of the team, even wanting to hold the boys back from graduating just so that they could continue to pull some pranks together.  I also loved how he was reminiscing with the boys about the very first prank that they pulled on him in the first book of the series.  

In a lot of ways, it appeared as if Mac Barnett and Jory John were saying their own goodbyes to one another.  In the same way that Miles and Niles needed to after the received some sad news from acting Superintendent Barkin.  There were far fewer pranks than in the first three books of the series, but truthfully I was okay with that.  The Terrible Two's Last Laugh felt like it was more about their friendship, a heartfelt touching moment to be shared between the two.  Their planning for a final prank to commemorate their time together.  Which was actually really sweet.  

As always, I adored the illustrations by Kevin Cornell.   Especially the ones of the boys and the green cow with purple spots, with the illustration being in black and white I'm going to have to picture that green color on my own.  I just love the way Cornell captures their friendship.  While I'm sad the series has ended, I hope that we'll see more from these authors in the future.  I highly recommend you give this series a chance if you haven't yet read it.                 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

MG Historical Fantasy review of The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott

39679039The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Walker Books US

Number of Pages:  368
Publishing:  January 21st, 2020
Source:  Netgalley

Opening Line: "The wind is on my nose and my eyes sting."

The Good Hawk is a historical fantasy set in mythic Scotland.  Agatha and Jaime are members of the Clann a Tuath from Skye island.  Agatha is a Hawk and spends her days on the wall as a lookout for any possible invaders.  Jamie is an Angler who hates the sea.  He'd always wanted to be a Wasp and make boats, but the enclave doesn't get to choose their profession.  Instead, it's unlawful to do anything else then what they've been assigned.  For generations, marrying was also outlawed, but Jamie is due to marry Lileas from a neighboring island.  No reason is given, but it's suspected that the clans want to form stronger bonds and align against a possible threat from the Deamhain.  

On the day following Jamie's wedding, an invading force of Deamhain kidnaps the clan.  Being the only remaining villagers, Agatha, Jaime, and Lileas set sail after the invaders to try and rescue the clan.  Along the way, they face many perils, including being overpowered by a Deamhain soldier they've captured who is linked to the leader of the invading army and having their boat sink off the coast of Scotia, a place that is rumored to be haunted.  Once on the mainland Agatha and Jaime encounter a clan of Highland bull riders which requires Agatha to use her hidden talents of communicating with animals to get the clan to escort them to the east.  They also meet a Mad Queen and upon reaching Norveg come head to head with the king of Deamhain.  But once their bargaining chip is lost, how will they convince the king to let their clan go?

The Good Hawk was inspired by Elliott's own work with children with learning disabilities.  Agatha's character is meant to portray a young girl with Down Syndrome who is misunderstood by her own clan, often placed in the care of others so she doesn't get into any trouble.  The story alternates between Agatha and Jaime with both voices being very distinct.  Agatha can get angry at times and maybe is easily infatuated by the other male characters, but she is endearing and cares for her clan deeply.   Jaime is brave and only becomes overwhelmed by all of the dangers that they've encountered.   He has the tendency to doubt himself and feels weak for it.  

The various clans have varying beliefs and practices.  This is where I found a few potential issues.   For one, Jaime shows insensitivity and intolerance in his interactions with a character who is gay.  He not only says he's "heard of people like that," but that he "knows it's not right."  Maybe this was meant to reflect the thinking of the time period,  given that even Agatha is told by one of the clan's elders that she "should have been drowned at birth."  I just wish that the author would have included more current positive depictions and thoughts in here as well.   Maybe have Jaime defend Agatha against the elder's words by saying how she is a kind compassionate person.  Or continue to highlight Agatha's capabilities despite any physical or mental differences she may have to show the elder's ignorance.   I know it may be a small piece of an otherwise wonderful adventure but just these few instances soured the story for me slightly.