Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Cricket in Times Square

I loved The Cricket in Times Square when I was a child, and I was therefore very excited to read it to Evalina.  It was just as charming as I remembered it to be!

The Story:  Chester is a cricket, who was carried in a pile of newspaper from his pastoral home in Connecticut.  He ended up in Times Square, and was taken in by a boy who's family runs a struggling newsstand.  Chester befriends Tucker the Mouse and Harry the Cat, and learns that he has a unique and wonderful musical ability.  He can chirp the tune to any number of songs, perfectly.  His talent does not go unnoticed by the humans in Times Square, and soon, Chester becomes a celebrity, putting on two concerts daily.  But, is he really happy?

The Good:  There are some wonderful friendships in this story!  Harry and Tucker, Cat and Mouse, are best of friends, even though they ought to be enemies.  Chester is accepted by them without a blink of an eye. The boy, Mario, loves Chester with his whole being.  There are lots of details about crickets that are written about with joy.  There is joy in the music, and might get kids interested in learning more about it.

The Bad:  There is a fire at one point in the book, which scared Evalina.  Might take some explaining to kids that most crickets, in fact, only chirp their own songs. I really can't think of anything else.

The Verdict:  Read this book!  It's sweet and fun.  There are sequels, too, I believe.  Amazon has the recommended ages as 9-12, but Evalina had no troubles with it, at 7.  She could easily have read it mostly on her own.  It was fun to read a book that we were done with in a week or so, after the ridiculously long Inkheart and Inkspell!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Well, that was a really long book!

It took 2 1/2 months, but we finally finished Inkspell, the second book in the Inkworld Trilogy.  While it was really good, we will be taking a break before reading the last book!

The Story:  After the story of Inkheart left off, Meggie and her parents went to live with Elinor, and Darius, Capricorn's failed Reader, went to live with them, too.   They were living a wonderful life, happy and content... except that Meggie couldn't get her mind off of Inkworld.  To her father's great duress, she begged her mother to tell her (in writing and sign language, since she had lost her voice in the magical journey from Inkworld, through Darius' slightly botched Reading...) all about the Inkworld, all the details she could remember.  Her father, having lost Resa to Inkworld for so many years, was none too happy about his daughter's obsession.  Fenoglio, the author of Inkheart (in the book) had disappeared into the story when the Shadow was read out.
At the same time, on their own, Dustfinger and Farid have been traveling on their own, desperately searching for other Readers, someone who might read Dustfinger back home.
Dustfinger meets Orpheus, who claims to be the best reader of all time, and he succeeds in reading Dustfinger in, but leaves Farid behind.  With no where else to go, Farid went to Ellinor's and convinced Meggie to try to read him into Inkworld, to watch after Dustfinger.  She gives it a shot, and manages to read not only him, but herself into the story!
Meanwhile, Orpheus has plans.  With Basta and Mortola at his side, he also finds Ellinor's house.  He reads Mo, Resa, Mortola, and Basta into the Inkworld, and takes up residence in Ellinor's library, using her and Darius as servants and mistreating her books terribly.
And what happens in the Inkworld?  Mortola has a score to settle with Mo, because of his part in her son's death.  She shoots him and leaves him for dead.  Resa, who's voice has come back to her upon her return to Inkworld, works very hard to save her husband.
Dustfinger has reunited with his wife (who knew he was married?) after his 10 year absence, and Farid and Meggie went in search of him.  They find him, and Fenoglio, who is none to pleased of the turns his story has taken of it's own accord.  One of his most beloved characters has died, without his writing of it, and his father, the Laughing Prince, once great ruler of Ombra, is now nothing but The Prince of Sighs, and his health is fading.  The evil Adderhead is gaining ground, and executing strolling players left and right.  Even Fenoglios stories of the Bluejay, a Robin Hood-like character he based on Mo, couldn't make things better.  Fenoglio enlists Meggie's help to set his story right, with his writing and her reading.
If only things had been that easy... the story has a mind of its own, and isn't as easily shaped as Fenoglio might have hoped...

The Good:  I found the characters even more compelling than in Inkheart.  The Inkworld was beautifully written and detailed, and I can understand why Meggie longed to be read into it.  Even the minor characters were incredibly well done.  It was an engaging story, again, I think even more than Inkheart, and I couldn't wait to see how it ended. Evalina also really loved it.  She was picking up little details that I thought she might miss, and that impressed me.

The Bad:  Holy cats, was it long!  It took us 2 1/2 months to read this beast.  Phew.  Parts of it were really sad, and parts of it were really scary.  There was some minor cursing, which I showed Evalina on the page, but told her that I would be censoring while reading aloud.  I just don't need to be saying damn and son of a bitch (which I think was only used a couple times) because I don't want them introduced into her vocabulary.  But, she saw them and knew that they are not nice words for a 7 year old.  There was also quite a bit of romance with Farid and Meggie, which I thought was a little heavy, considering Meggie is only 13 or so.  There was quite a lot of violence and killing.  I found sometimes, we had to read extra pages a night, because the ends of some chapters was just too scary or sad.

The Verdict:  Though super long, it was really really good.  The next one is the same length, and I intend on waiting a while before reading that one.  Amazon has the recommended ages for this as 9-12.  I'd say that's about right.  This was a bit much for my 7 year old, story-wise.  That's one reason I'm planning on waiting on the last one.  All in all, though, I would highly recommend this, but for an older child.  It is engaging and well written, but oh so long, and with more grown up themes than we usually read.  Give it a try, but for an older child, in my opinion.