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.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reporter's Review: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Scholastic; September 2009
Overall Grade: A+

Katniss Everdeen, recent winner of the cruel Hunger Games imposed by her tyrannical government, is back home, “enjoying” the spoils of victory and trying to help her starving neighbors—until the president of the country himself turns up and blames her for sparking a revolt. As he threatens her more and more in several malicious twists, Katniss must decide what is more important: protecting her family and herself, or giving her countrymen a chance for a free life.
Considering that Catching Fire (along with its prequel, The Hunger Games) is currently at the top of the children’s bestseller list, it hardly needs my recommendation—but it was so well-written it more than deserves my praise. Anyone of the thousands of people who read The Hunger Games can attest to Suzanne Collins’ “mad skills” in plotting, but what amazed me in the sequel was her ability to pace her plot so perfectly. I’ve read stories with great plots that fall short because of pacing alone; Suzanne Collins is the exact opposite. Her sense of timing within the telling of her story is so perfect that it immediately sets her book apart. She makes an art out of the “I-can’t-put-this-book-down” factor.
On top of that, Catching Fire is a perfect sequel. There’s no awkwardness or forcing of back story, but the plot of Hunger Games is made clear while allowing the story of this book to stand completely on its own.
Lastly (not really, but the last thing I’ll mention), the characters are amazing. Katniss may be the most realistic non-girly girl I’ve ever read. The secondary characters are so real, you worry about them as much as Katniss does. Even the minor characters are three-dimensional and believable; you could imagine any one of them suddenly becoming a major player in Book Three.
(One proviso: if you usually skip over the “possibly objectionable topics”, they’re worth taking a look at this time. Catching Fire is very violent; consider that the central event of the trilogy is a gladiator-type “game” where the players fight to the death. If you have a weak stomach, you may wish to avoid this novel. Obviously all readers have different levels of tolerance, but I would recommend this book to mature readers only.)

Literary Quality: A-
Plot: A+
Voice: A+
Originality: A+
Descriptive Ability: B (but as the story is told in first person, the descriptions are appropriate to the narrator)
Humor: n/a
Illustrations: n/a
Believability of Characters: A+
Believability of Situations: A
Overall Reading Enjoyment: A+

Possibly objectionable topics*: graphic violence; extremely intense situations; many secondary or tertiary characters live amoral lifestlyes, so there is some mention of drugs and sex, and frequent mention of alcohol

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