We don't do stars...
We don't do thumbs...
We read children's books and grade them in 10 categories:
literary quality
descriptive ability
humor (if attempted)
illustrations (if present)
believability of characters
believability of situations
overall reading enjoyment

There is no grading curve. There are no points for classroom participation. There is no extra credit.
If you disagree, come speak to us after class.

The Grading System

A+.....this means (guess what) we think it's great. So great it surprised even us.
A.....this means it's pretty darn good. A book we'd recommend to just about everyone we know.
B.....better than most. Not exactly Shakespeare for kids, though, if you get our drift.
C.....mediocre. Like the color beige, it didn't stand out.
D.....we didn't like it. There were more bad aspects than good ones.
F.....it reeked of badness. We read it over and over when we are in dire need of hysterical laughter.
F-.....We're pretty sure Dante had a circle of hell for the people who wrote these...and a lower circle for those who published them.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Reporter's Review: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquet, an Enola Holmes Mystery, by Nancy Springer

Overall Grade: C-
Philomel; 2008

If you are going to try and recreate one of the most beloved literary characters of all time, you had better do a good job of it. Nancy Springer, in her newest Enola Holmes mystery, The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, did not. The portrayal of the legendary Sherlock Holmes was nothing less than literary libel. Not only was Sherlock inextricably muddled in logic, Ms. Springer took it upon herself to portray him, along with every other man of Victorian England, as an adamant fighter against the freedom of women. We liked the idea of throwing a strong, feminist character such as Enola into a male-dominated world, but there is a difference between feminism and unconstrained gender-bashing. Certainly, if a male author had made such condescending and condemning remarks about women as a sex, he would be blackballed from every publishing house in the country…not to mention the country itself. We must give Ms. Springer the benefit of the doubt, however. Perhaps she really believes that the average man would condemn his wife to an insane asylum could he not divorce her. Perhaps she finds it logical to suppose that men made women wear long skirts for centuries so they could not do anything. Perhaps all the men she has ever met in her life are complete losers. That would explain a great deal.
The writing of the book was mediocre—full of run-on, convoluted sentences and forced usages of archaic words. One use of “frisson” in a period book is acceptable, but two? And three instances of “proboscis”? Perhaps Ms. Springer should spend a little less time burying her own proboscis in a thesaurus, and a little more time putting it to the grindstone to whittle her sentence length down. Here’s some statistics: we took a sentence at random and counted 74 words (10 of which had 9 or more letters), 7 clauses, 4 commas and 2 dashes. Feel free to disregard this review if you do not agree that such an example screams of writing eccentricity just begging to be tamed.
One last thing we must mention… Mysteries should be solved by cleverness and intelligence, not by chance. Certainly not because you happen to be in the right place at the right time to hear the right conversation—for no better reason than you thought you’d take a stroll at the moment. Certainly not because you throw together some mad coincidences and act upon them as though they were flesh-and-blood clues.
Ms. Springer was right about one thing: Sherlock Holmes would have been horrified at his sister’s behavior. This book was elementary, indeed.

Literary Quality: C
Plot: C
Voice: B
Originality: B
Descriptive Ability: B
Humor: C
Illustrations: (none)
Believability of Characters: D
Believability of Situations: D
Overall Reading Enjoyment: C

Possibly objectionable topics*: Abandonment of child by parent; Several references to prostitutes; One instance of mildly crude humor; Strong anti-male sentiment.

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