The power and strength of a good author can be defined by their proclivity to be imaginative, creative, and subversive. In her sharply witty McSorely’s Evil Tea, Helen Ryan demonstrates her natural ability to write a children’s story rife with unique characters and plot points, all the while building a foundation of wit for the adult readers who happen to come across this delightful book.
A collection of 10 short stories (hence the title, get it?), author Martin B. Flores attempts to combine the moral-laden fairy tales of childhood with a certain sense of modernity. This combination is successful in that the stories will hold the interest of the younger readers, but as an adult reviewer, there were components that I felt were particularly resonant.
Like many popular fairy tales of new and old, Flores’ tales are literally short and sweet. They follow typical structures that make fairly tales so timeless; decisions need to be made, lessons to be learned, truths to be discovered, etc. It was genuinely a welcoming experience to be able to read something at face value that was not trying to subvert the reader’s experience or to try to be the next great novel. The reticent nostalgia that is contained in each of these stories (especially the self-reflective and haunting The King Against Himself) will entertain every reader, particularly due to the short length of each tale.
All in all a good, quick read.
Fiction intentionally written for early teens sure has changed since I was a pre-teen myself. Judy Blume’s prolific introduction of then controversial themes of sex, death, and religion has given way to commentaries on gender discrimination, identification, and expression. In “What’s A Girl Gonna Do? One, Two, Kick Off Your Shoe” by George Wolkon and Barbara Wolkon, it is the complexities of gender prejudice that are tackled head on in a comedic context and tone.
A quick read, “What’s a Girl Gonna Do…” delves speedily into pre-conceived notion of what defines male and female characteristics, in this case, in a sports-related setting. Drew, the resident new kid at Midville High, happens to be what the school is in heavy need of: a place kicker on the football team. Despite the team being comprised of boys, Drew is encouraged to join the team at the insistence of Braden, the team’s star quarterback. Drew’s girlfriend, clearly insecure and representative of a catty teen, taunts Drew and her life status. Obviously different in both gender expression and aim of social status, both girls represent life’s tendency to pigeonhole women into either the tomboy or girly-girl archetype. Can you be one and not the other? The story aims to blur those lines that are still very prevalent today.
As mentioned in many of my published reviews and bios, I really enjoy expanding my client base in terms of being asked provide feedback on various types of books. This is why I was very content when Neil Wilson provided his children’s book “Moondust” for me to review.
Written for the age group of 8 to 12, “Moondust” finds two young friends embark on a journey that is reminiscent of “Homeward Bound” and “North,” with an obvious edge. The discovery of a mysterious figure and a peculiar bag finds Ed and Bertie the new owners of two very different dogs. One of the dog is healthy and happy, clearly a representation of the thematic construct of positivity and normalcy. The other is sickly and on the precipice of death. The opposition of the health between the two animals drives the story, and the two boys, to learn about responsibility, as well as the timely topic of puppy mills and the dangers they hold.