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Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Hero for WondLa

by Tony DiTerlizzi
illustrated by

Religious/Secular Content : Both
Adult Content : No
Mature Topics : Yes
Strong/Inappropriate Language : No
Magic/Witchcraft : No
Disrespect/Rebellion : Yes
Drug/Alcohol Use : Yes
Violence/Abuse : Yes
Educational Value : No
Positive/Negative Message : -

The boy pilot of a battered airship flies twelve-year-old Eva Nine to the human city, New Attica. Eva is certain that this will be the perfect start to a new life with her good friend, the Caerulean alien named Rovender Kitt -especially after the tragic loss of her robotic caretaker, Muthr. However, like many things on planet Orbona, appearances can be deceiving.

Eva encounters many new people in New Attica, including a long-lost relative she was unaware of. And she uncovers the secrets of the Sanctuaries, the HRP, and the history of her planet's past. But then new questions arise, and the delicate spirit of life is threatened once again. Was coming to New Attica the right decision? 

A Hero for WondLa continues Eva Nine's adventures in the series... I posted about the first book, In Search of WondLa, in July of 2011. I am trying to not compare the two books but it might happen anyway. I will warn that there may be some 'spoilers' in this post, unintentionally, in order to let you know what to expect from this book. 

The author does have a note at the end of the book saying that his character, Eva Nine, had grown (in many ways- transformed and matured, he says) since the first book and that he, too, had grown. I think that it is quite evident in this book that there is a change. It still has the same feel (?) to it as the first but it is different. It takes a different path than I thought it would in terms of character development.

In the first book, I marked that there was neither religious/secular content and I suppose that is true but if a book is not religious, or makes no mention of God at all, wouldn't it be secular content? I chose to say "Both" in this case. It is about 'worldly things', not Godly things. It does have a few references to spirits and an afterlife but doesn't go into details. It reminded me (vaguely) of Native American beliefs (the spirits of the plants and animals somehow having a connection with humans- that is a generalized description) and/or the reincarnation religions. It doesn't actually say that the characters believe the spirit will return as another form but that it just travels on...to where? There aren't specifics given. 

Near the end of the book, when Eva and her companions are searching for the 'generator' that the creator of New Attica is after, and they reach the center of the Wandering Forest, it gets ...weird. I don't know how else to put it but that. Basically there is an 'entity' in the center of the forest that is the Mother of All Nature; the Spark of Life. It takes one of the characters and 'evolves' her into a tree-girl. Also we learn that the Mother is really an evolved machine. But it evolved on its own, over time. 

There isn't any 'love' in this book but the love of friendship and siblings. No kissing, hugging, or any real displays of affection of that sort. So no adult content in that regards.

As with the other book, there is mature content. The book starts right where the first one left off (there'd been quite a battle and Eva's Muthr was destroyed). There are creatures that can only be contrived by the imagination that are capable of snapping people and machinery in half quite easily. There are instances where someone is hurt by a creature and they bleed, another time when a new friend sacrifices their life to save the group (we are only given the description of an explosion where the character had been). Also there is the topic of families being separated, torn apart. 

After Eva is registered in New Attica, she finds out that there are no aliens in the city- because they are used for experimentation by the leader and 'reprogrammed'. I gathered that they are actually tortured but we aren't given details on that, thankfully. 

I didn't find any strong or inappropriate language in the book, in terms of how we speak. There was a scene where three girls are making fun of another girls hair and I'm sure the words they use are intended to be insulting. Pretty much the words were made up. And as for the witchcraft/magic, I put no but Eva can communicate with many of the creatures (including plant-life) on the planet. I don't know if that would classify or not.

There is disrespect/rebellion on the part of Eva, Eva Eight, and the pilot, Hailey. For the first two, it is rebellion against corrupt authority. They sneak around after curfew and Eight removes the identification chip that is in Eva so that they cannot be tracked. Disrespect is evident from Eight when she is presented before the leader of the city. Hailey is disrespectful to his grandfather in one scene; calls him crazy. 

Rovee (Rovender) drinks some sort of alcoholic drink a few times in the book. It specifically says it is a fermented drink that dulls the senses. 

Violence and abuse are frequent throughout the book. The descriptions range from just a mention to somewhat descriptive. 

I found no educational value in this book but perhaps for 'creative writing'. 

I had said that the other book had what could be called a positive message: don't give up. This book at first seems to focus on following ones heart but toward the end, I felt more along the lines of doing what's right and best for all, not just oneself, was the message.

I didn't like this book as much as the first. It is 437 pages of actual story but the font is large and the words-per-page is perhaps a few hundred. There are illustrations throughout, which I did like for the most part. One of the last ones though, shows Eva Nine in a fetal position, naked (it doesn't show anything) with translucent skin -like an xray. That was my least favorite image. 

I would consider this book 'twaddle' based on CM's words:
“What manner of book will find its way with upheaving effect into the mind of an intelligent boy or girl? We need not ask what the girl or boy likes. She very often likes the twaddle of goody-goody story books, he likes condiments, highly-spiced tales of adventure. We are all capable of liking mental food of a poor quality and a titillating nature” (Vol. 3, p. 168).

I think there will be one more book in this series but I'm not sure if I will read it. The first book is, in my opinion, better than this one, which makes me wonder how the third book will be. Maybe I will read it after all.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

by Jacqueline Kelly
illustrated by NA

Religious/Secular Content : It talks about Darwin's theory of evolution and makes no arguments about it; mentions religion, church, Bible but not God. Fairly secular.
Adult Content : Does talk a bit about courting, crushes, kissing.
Mature Topics : Instance of referring to photographs from the Civil War, describes a bit; one girl has a brother that is 'addled', describes him briefly in one part of the book; amputation is described (the experience, not the procedure) as well as burning the appendages later. Calpurnia wonders about seeing a dead body.
Strong/Inappropriate Language : There are a few words, 'darn' and pi**.
Magic/Witchcraft : No
Disrespect/Rebellion : Yes; Calpurnia backtalks a few times. She also meddles where she shouldn't in her brother's affairs and it causes some strife in the family.
Drug/Alcohol Use : Yes; Calpurnia's grandfather drinks a few times and is trying to make pecan alcohol; he gives it to Calpurnia, who is 11 at the time, as well as offers it to her again later. Calpurnia's mother also drinks a tonic that is 20% alcohol for headaches. There is wine at the holidays.
Violence/Abuse : The piano teacher thwacks Calpurnia's knuckles. Two brothers have a scuffle over a girl. One of Calpurnia's brothers pinches her to try to get her in trouble.
Educational Value : Yes; many scientific names and descriptions.
Positive/Negative Message : Neutral. More positive.

This is a great book. Those who are interested in nature study will enjoy the theme throughout this book. 

It takes place in 1899 to the New Year of 1900 in a smallish Texas town. Calpurnia, or Callie Vee to most of her family and friends, is 11 3/4 years old and the only girl. Her oldest brother, Harry, dotes on her and she is his 'own pet'. He starts her love of science (and nature) by giving her a nature journal to write down all she sees. 

At first she writes down very little but through the book she progresses to more detail descriptions. We are only given a glimpse into what she wrote a few times and later it is only the questions she is pondering that we know she writes in her journal. When she comes upon a strange occurrence, she asks anyone she can what it means. No one knows and really no one seems to care. 

Someone either tells her to go as Granddaddy or she decides to ask him herself. He is someone that most of the kids are afraid of. He doesn't talk much and when he does most of the adults just humor him because he is old. Calpurnia is just afraid. When she finally does get the nerve to ask him, he tells her to figure it out. Not much help, huh? 

But it is! After that, she starts asking the real questions that will help her find the answers. When she comes to the answer herself, she tells Granddaddy- and their relationship blooms from there.

There is a lot of humor in this but some may be 'naughty' humor, I suppose. Granddaddy gives Calpurnia some pecan alcohol that he is trying to perfect and although it's a shock, I'll bet Calpurnia never drank again! He also teaches her the words to pirate and sea chanteys with 'naughty' words. 

In Calpurnia's time, women were to stay home and had to know how to cook, sew, knit, etc. Calpurnia doesn't want to do that but is torn between what is expected of her and her gender and what she actually wants to do. 

Very good book that I think kids and parents will enjoy. If it were a read-aloud it would quite easy to skip the few parts that are possibly 'objectionable'.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phillipians 4:8