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, August 2, 2008

Reporter's Review: The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt

Overall Grade: B-
Atheneum; 2008

The Underneath is Kathi Appelt’s debut novel; her writing skill certainly indicates that it will be the first of many. Her words have a beautiful, poetic quality—our one complaint is that this style may have been slightly overused for a prose narrative, but we could certainly see future books succeeding very nicely in an unadulterated poetry format. And yet, despite its many excellent qualities (honest characters, beautiful language, stunning descriptions), we still can’t say that The Underneath was a book we enjoyed. Especially considering Ms. Appelt’s skill with words, we felt betrayed and disappointed that she chose to manipulate her audience to feel one emotion: the weight of tragedy. Or rather, depression, for tragedy involves a basically good character failing through one unfortunate flaw, whereas The Underneath’s sadness stems from basically bad characters –with one or two good traits—being true to their natures and making bad decisions. And, although the end promises redemption, it doesn’t make good on the promise. In the very last paragraphs, the character who is the cause of most of the catastrophe saves the lives of the protagonists by making one good decision. Supposedly this redeems her—but we would have to argue that this is not redemption…it is simply a character finally making the kind of choice any decent person would have been making all along. There is absolutely no sacrifice, no risk to herself, that is the essence of true redemption.

Literary Quality: B
Plot: C
Voice: A
Originality: C
Descriptive Ability: A+
Humor: C
Illustrations: A (by Caldecott winner David Small)
Believability of Characters: A
Believability of Situations: B
Overall Reading Enjoyment: D

Possibly objectionable topics*: death; violence, including child and animal abuse.


TeacherMom said...

Ooh, harsh. You should give Kathi Appelt credit--this is her first book, and it really is amazing. Not every writer, even veteran ones, could use words so well. And some people (such as myself) happen to like melancholic stories. You shouldn't underestimate the value of catharsis.

Lois said...

Oh, come on, it was so depressing. I felt like burying myself in my bed for a week half way through. Why can't people just write happy stories?