Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kid Konnection: Spooky Books Edition

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you two fun books for middle grade readers that are especially appropriate since Halloween is almost here.

I am going to preface these next two reviews by saying that these aren't my typical reading fare. I'm really not a big fan of fantasy stories; and as a result, I don't know that I'm the best judge of these books. But I'll give you some of my thoughts... for what they are worth.

Summary: Max’s village is absolutely normal in every single way and on every single day—except Wednesday.

Most of the townsfolk shutter their windows and lock their doors to hide away from the many peculiar things that happen—things like cats getting stuck in the vacuum cleaner and birthday cakes meeting fiery and horrific ends. But Max is too curious for that, and so, breaking every rule in the village, he searches out the cause of all the Wednesday weirdness.

What he uncovers is a secret so devious—so dastardly and mischievous—that life as he knows it will never be the same. Max himself is not the same. Suddenly the mysterious little accidents so common on Wednesdays are happening to him on Thursdays, Fridays—even Saturdays!

What’s come over Max? And more importantly, is there any cure for a case of the Wednesdays?
Mystery, magic, mischief and monsters abound in this slightly fantastical story of a human kid who wants to stay that way. -- Knopf

THE WEDNESDAYS by Julie Bourbeau and illustrated by Jason Beene is a cute book that is geared towards young readers between the ages of eight and twelve. However, I think kids in the younger end of that age group might appreciate the book more than the older ones. It's a little bit creepy and a lot a bit silly, and I can totally see elementary aged children getting a kick out of this story.

THE WEDNESDAYS tells the story of Max, a young boy who lives in a village that basically shuts down every Wednesday. People in this village won't even leave their houses because strange things/accidents tend to occur on this day of the week. Max, however, decides that his curiosity outweighs the risks, and he ventures out to discover what makes these Wednesdays so weird.

What Max discovers is pretty astonishing, but what ends up happening to him is even stranger. And to make matters even more complicated, those little accidents start popping up around Max on every day of the week. Max is determined to get to the bottom of "the Wednesdays" and save the town!

I thought THE WEDNESDAYS was a fun book. I wouldn't go so far as to say I loved it, but I recognize that I'm far from the intended audience. So what I did while reading it was imagine what Booking Son would have thought about this novel. I can't say for sure, of course, without reading it with him (and I didn't have time to do this in time to do a Spooky Book post), but I think he and his friends would think THE WEDNESDAYS is a pretty funny story.

As a mom, I acknowledge that THE WEDNESDAYS has a lot of things that make books appealing to young kids. There is a bit of a mystery element to the story, and there's also some action scenes with dangerous situations and surprise twists. The main character is smart and funny, and there are monsters! What more could a kid ask for?

I recommend THE WEDNESDAYS to elementary aged kids who enjoy a good fantasy story!

Summary: A girl stumbles into a fantastic world in this tale perfect for fans of Coraline, Alice in Wonderland, and The Twilight Zone.

Spending the summer at her grandmother's house is the last thing Sarah wants to do—especially now that Grandma Winnie has died—but she has no choice. Her parents have to fix the place up before they can sell it, and Sarah and her brother, Billy, have to help. But the tedious work turns into a thrilling mystery when Sarah discovers an unfinished letter her grandmother wrote: Strange things are happening behind the bookcase. . . .

Sarah's mother dismisses the letter as one of Grandma Winnie's crazy stories, but Sarah does some investigating and makes a remarkable discovery: behind the bookcase is a doorway into Scotopia, the land where shadows come from. With a talking cat named Balthazat as her guide, Sarah begins an unforgettable adventure into a world filled with countless dangers. Who can she trust? And can she face her fears, not only in Scotopia, but also back at Grandma Winnie's house, where more secrets and strange goings-on await her? -- Delacorte Press

There's a better chance that I would have read a book like BEHIND THE BOOKCASE by Mark Steensland and illustrated by Kelly Murphy when I was a young girl. Like THE WEDNESDAYS, this book had its fair share of fantasy and action, but it was more of a mystery; and as a result, I was able to relate to it a bit more. Plus, the main character was a girl; and right or wrong, sometimes that does matter to me.

BEHIND THE BOOKCASE tells the story of Sarah, a young girl who has to spend her summer at her dead grandmother's house. Her parents want to clean up and fix up the house so they can see it, and Sarah and her little brother are left to examine this odd house. Sarah discovers a half-written letter left for her by her grandmother with a mysterious message -- that some things are happening behind the bookcase.

Sarah starts delving into this mystery and finds that there is indeed something happening behind the bookcase. It's a doorway to a fantastical land called Scotopia! Once she is there, she meets and brings back a talking cat; however, she soon learns that things aren't what they seem. Sarah begins an adventure that takes her back to Scotopia, and she encounters some interesting characters as well as a great deal of action and adventure.

I enjoyed BEHIND THE BOOKCASE quite a bit, and I actually think it will appeal to many elementary aged kids -- both boys and girls as well as young and old. I appreciated how the story went back and forth between present day and Scotopia and that there were issues for Sarah to resolve in both worlds. In addition, I appreciated that Sarah's character was well developed. She was both believable (especially when it came to her relationship with her brother and parents), and she was also very resourceful. I think girls are totally going to relate to her!

While I don't claim to love fantasy stories, I can say that I appreciated how well the author made Scotopia a believable fantasy world. The descriptions of this world and its unusual inhabitants were so vivid that I could picture the scenes in my mind perfectly. In addition, I thought the action scenes had a lot of detail that made them come to life.

And finally, I really thought the mystery elements of the story were intriguing. I wasn't exactly sure where the story was going to go, and there were more than a few surprises along the way. Some of these surprises made Sarah wonder whom she could trust, and I like that she had to trust her gut about certain characters. I did feel like the ending of the book wrapped up a little quickly, but I don't think kids will even notice or care.

I recommend BEHIND THE BOOKCASE to kids who enjoy fantasy books as well as mysteries.

Thanks to the publisher for providing review copies of these novels.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

I'm not a big fan of fantasy either but Vance has always enjoyed it so I imagine he would have liked these when he was younger.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have Coraline but still haven't read it yet! But the artwork on Behind the Bookcase looks very much like it.

My Kid Konnection today is for Muslim-American Heritage Month and is a picture book about Muslim customs and culture.

Beth F said...

My book isn't spooky, but time travel is often classed as fantasy.

I think I would have liked Behind the Bookcase more than Wednesdays when I was a kid.

Anonymous said...

Hi! The Wednesdays sounds delightfully spooky! I like those eerie sorts of stories -- the description reminds me a bit of Jon Scieszka's Math Curse (though that one isn't exactly spooky, but definitely funny).

My shared post is a retrospective on my Harry Potter years, a reflection on re-reading Books 1 and 7, and brief reviews of a few Harry-relevant books such as Melissa Anelli's Harry, a History.

Definitely looking forward to Halloween! :)