Sunday, August 31, 2014

_The Thickety: A Path Begins_ by J. A. White

The title and cover of this book grabbed my son's attention at the library. It kind of looked similar to The Luck Uglies. We were both interested. 

I cannot overstate the following:

I'm SO THANKFUL I read it first.

What is marketed to younger readers simply shouldn't be. It's too darned scary. Folks, only if you want to send your child down a dark, dark path should you place this book in his hands. I'm not joking. Nightmares.

The main character is Kara who, at age 6, witnessed her mother's last twitchings after being hung because of being a witch. That's at the beginning of the book, and it goes downhill from there.

Kara endures many trials and tribulations on account of her magic and witchcraft. Unlike Harry Potter who has friends and hope and where there's a clear right and wrong and good and evil, Kara is simply doomed. The reader is uncertain about what is right or wrong and who is good or evil. The end offers no hope, just a depressing cliffhanger that makes me not even want to read on when the sequel comes out.

If that weren't enough, there's blood and guts violence. And faith-bashing. The group that persecutes the main character is a "cult" that follows the teachings of a dude that lived 2,000 years or so ago who gave up his life to defeat the evil witches and magic. While it's a made-up cult, you'd have to be almost brain-dead not to notice the parallels Mr. White draws between a scary cult and Christianity. If you're okay with that, fine, but there's still the complete despair and bleakness and scariness that pervade this book.

You know, there are some kids' books that should be read by all age groups. They are classics. It just doesn't matter whether the main character is a child or not. Well, this book is the opposite. It's a book about children that should only be read by adults or older teenagers, and then only should it be read by those who like the horror genre.

And if you don't believe me, Mr. White wrote this on his website:

An advanced 8-year-old reader could probably read the book, but that doesn’t mean he or she should. This isn’t the type of kid’s book where everything ends up okay at the end. Terrible things happen.  Characters die in some pretty awful ways.
If that sort of thing doesn’t bother you and your parents are okay with it, I hereby give you permission to read my book.

Friday, August 8, 2014

_The Luck Uglies_ by Paul Durham

Luck Uglies, Bog Noblins, Harmless, Mud Puddle Lane, River Drowning. With names like that, why wouldn't you want to read this new book by Paul Durham? This fantasy book follows 11-year-old Rye O'Chanter as she learns about her family and the world around her while fighting evil in the form of Bog Noblins and Earl Longchance.

While both my son and I struggled a bit at the beginning with getting into the world of The Luck Uglies, we soon fell head over heels. He immediately asked for the next in the series (which isn't supposed to come out until 2015), and I simply enjoyed turning the fun names and phrases over in my mind (because I'm odd that way). My 10-year-old son is now reading it a second time, but only after my 8-year-old finished his first time through.

I picked The Luck Uglies randomly off the library bookshelf, and I was more than pleasantly surprised. This may not be a great "literary" masterpiece, but I would say it's a pretty good book. With good models for friendship and characters with character (despite the fact that some of the good guys are outlaws), it meets my moral standards. With excellent descriptions, cool characters, and a well-developed plot, it gets my English-teacher stamp of approval.

Now is the time for the parts that some parents may find objectionable. There is a part in which characters give their opinions about what happens after death. It isn't religious. It doesn't acknowledge God. There are parts that hint at a bit of pagan/mystical or something-or-other. But, hey, this is fantasy. It really wasn't pushing a world view.

Another head's up. If you're child has no idea about where babies come from, this might possibly prompt questions because Rye's father is out of the picture. Nobody knows who her sister's father is. The mystery is solved eventually, but it does allude to the fact that little sister came about because of a visit from Dad. There's nothing sexual or anything at all my prudish mind might find risque. Just a warning if your kid is in the dark and curious about what it all means because none of us want to be surprised by the "where do babies come from" question.

I sort of hated writing those last two paragraphs because I really don't think this book should be avoided. With all the crappy kids' "literature" out there, well, this one isn't. If my comments scared you off, please read it yourself before nixing this as an option for your children.