Monday, 31 October 2011

Refugee Boy

The book Refugee Boy follows the story of a boy named Alem after he has been shipped to London because of the war in his country.
While I can certainly understand the opinions of this book and the plot wasn't too convoluted and was easily followed, I just didn't find the story believable.
Refugee Boy is a book that is based on events that do happen in real life. I know these things occur, but the way Benjamin Zephaniah placed the events just didn't seem believable to me.
For example, the main character Alem seems to speak like a robot. He says, "I like the school very much. It is very good. It is full with possibilities. I think the facilities are good. The building is structurally sound and I think that the students here have a great opportunity to advance physically, intellectually and socially."
In addition, in my experience people don't make friends within an hour of coming to a new school. I could address other points but for now I will give it 50 out of 100.

Jay Writes -
Luke and I really disagree on this one. Luke found it hard to accept that a father would leave his son in London alone, and struggled with the formal language common to non-native English speakers. I thought much of the detail insightful and authentic. However, like Luke I felt the book was very flawed - which rather disappointed me as I love Benjamin Zephaniah. For me, Alem was such a paragon that I found him hard to take seriously. I wish he'd sometimes been bad, or expressed anger, or done something petty or stupid. As it was, he felt more like a mechanism for Zephaniah to make a point than a realistic character.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Private Peaceful

This story was written by a well-known author called Michael Morpurgo, and according to many reviewers this is one of his best pieces. While I may not share their enthusiasm for the book for the book I do see much to admire in it.
The story is about a boy nicknamed Tommo and his journey through life from his first day at school to his experiences in the Great War. I think Michael Morpurgo did and excellent job of conveying Tommo's feelings through his writing. While I knew what was coming around the corner it was still a good book with a fantastically written ending.
When I read this book I learnt a lot about WWI. I discovered that soldiers were shot if they disobeyed the suicidal orders they were given and their awful living conditions in the trenches. I learnt how brutally they could be treated by their commanders and about the stupidity of some of the World War One leaders, generals and sergeants.
I give it 77.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Star of Kazan

I liked this story because while predictable it was one of those good old classic adventure stories that had a bit of everything: hidden jewels, long lost children, chases, plots, betrayals and Christmas fish.
The story is about a young Austrian foundling called Annika who, after living with her foster mother Ellie as a servant girl for 12 years, is suddenly claimed by a woman and is taken to their mansion in Germany. There she meets a stable boy named Zed and she slowly uncovers the dark secret of her family...
As I had said, a predicable story, and it was easy to tell what was coming around the corner but great fun to read. To be honest, my mum probably enjoyed this book far more than I did. I would recommend this book to anybody who wants one of those classic adventure stories without being bored by all the archaic language. I'm giving it 82 out of 100

Jay Writes
Luke's right, I loved this one. Set in the late days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it had all the fun of an old fashioned adventure story with none of the pacing issues that have bedevilled Luke's other recent books. A modern novel written in an old fashioned mould, if you see what I mean. The heroine and her friends are well drawn, many minor characters get their moment in the sun and there is much humour as well as tension and excitement. I'd recommend it for 9 to 10 year olds, I think.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Elephant's Child

This is from Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, all of which are told in the style of two people (you and the storyteller) sitting down together by a campfire.
The Elephant's Child is one of the longer stories. It's a little bit like a creation story of How The Elephant Got Its Trunk. The Elephant's Child is a young elephant who has a boot-sized nose and all he can do with it is wiggle it. He is also full of 'satiable curiosity (This is from insatiable, which means unquenchable). Because he is full of 'satiable curiosity he asks all his family - including his mother and father, his aunts the ostrich and hippopotamus and his uncles the giraffe and the baboon. Whenever he asks a question all his relatives spank him incredibly hard. but he still asks questions.
One day he asks the question "what does the crocodile have for dinner?" Nobody answers and they spank him harder than usual. Then he ask the Kolokolo bird who tells him to go to the Limpopo River. He walks all the way there, meets a bi-coloured python rock snake and the crocodile. He asks the crocodile what he has for dinner. The result and his revenge on his relatives is great.
It was an amusing and witty story so I give it 74 out of 100. I liked it.

The Happy Prince

I can't talk about this properly without discussing the ending.
The Happy Prince is a short story by Oscar Wilde. It is a story of how a statue of a young prince emotionally bullies a swallow into staying with him for the winter to do tasks for him. Because swallows are creatures that have to stay warm, the swallow dies after three tasks.
Many people interpret it differently. They see a lovely statue who has a kind heart and his friend the swallow who will help him to the end. I'm sure that reading of it is a much more positive one but mine is Swallow Murder.
The swallow didn't want to stay. The swallow wanted to migrate to Egypt with all the other swallows. The Prince convinced it to stay and because it does, the swallow dies. Call me a pessimist but that is what happens in the story.
I'm sure many people will have enjoyed it because of their perspective of self-sacrifice but I prioritise self preservation above somebody else's problems that I did not cause. Therefore I'm giving it a manipulative 41 out of 100

Jay Writes -
I love Luke's take on this story. I had never been able to read it without getting teary - the statue's love for his people at the cost of his wealth and beauty, the loving swallow sacrificing its life for friendship, the townspeople throwing the statue and dead bird in the rubbish but God and his angel prizing them above all. I've always been a sucker for self-sacrifice. However, I think Luke's view - that the statue manipulates the poor swallow into dying for the statue's cause - is a marvellously original and insightful way of seeing the story. Go Luke!