Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time and Nicholas

This week I'm reviewing for Claire Helen- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle and for Simon, Nicholas by Rene Goscinny.

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet)

Here's the Amazon blurb-

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."
A tesseract (in case the reader doesn't know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L'Engle's unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.
A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal.

Fountas and Pinnell level- V
Lexile level- 740L

I am reviewing this because I thought this would be too hard, theme-wise, for Claire Helen, but it was not. If the kid can handle pretty standard adventure plotlines with a little bit of emotion (Harry Potter, Narnia), this will be a walk in the park. I would say by the time a child can understand the book well enough to have it read to them, they can probably read it on their own. I wouldn't let Claire Helen read it until she understood exponents- just how big things can be, and how small- so that the distances between galaxies and bits about black holes and points would have some meaning. At that point the vocabulary and narrative structure is not really hard.

I have a hard time relating to people who do not feel this book is special, even if they did not like it. Meg is a quintessential identity seeking smart girl discovering that adults are just people too. Charles Wallace's takeover by It(the giant, evil, pulsating brain) is so convincing you can almost see it. All three witches are archetypal. It is supposedly a story about a young girl in search of her father, who has been lost to the great evil It. "It" robs us of our free will by lulling us with the rhythm of his/Its thoughts. She is aided by three supernatural beings who can travel through tesseracts- wrinkles in time. She visits a paradise and the bowels of evil, nearly losing her innocent young brother along the way. Really it is about a girl being introduced to the mystery of the universe and all our tiny places in it. It's wonderful. 5 stars. Thumbs and big toes up. Claire Helen read it in under a day, bouncing from foot to foot to tell us what had just happened whenever she came up from her reading reverie.

Way back in the 80's, I thought that It and the way it used technology to take over the denizens of Camazotz was incredibly creepy. However, also creepily, this is completely not scary to the youth of today. Not too dark at all, but certainly more depth than early grade series.



Here's the Amazon blurb:

Nicholas is the first of five books that bring to life the day to day adventures of a young school boy - amusing, endearing and always in trouble. An only child, Nicholas, appears older at school than he does as home and his touchingly naive reaction to situations, cut through the preconceptions of adults and result in a formidable sequence of escapades. This first book in the series contains a collection of nineteen individual stories where, in spite of trying to be good, Nicholas and his friends always seem to end up in some kind of mischief. Whether in the school room, at home, or in the playground, their exuberance often takes over and the results are calamitous – at least for their teachers and parents. Whether confusing the photographer hired to take the class picture, dealing with having to wear glasses for the first time, or trying desperately to help the teacher when the school inspector pays a visit, Nicholas always manages to make matters worse. Nicholas was awarded the 2006 Batchelder Honor Award, which recognizes outstanding children's books published in a foreign language and translated into English. Nicholas was also recognized by The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) as a 2006 Notable Children's Book.

Fountas and Pinnell- no idea.
Lexile level- 1070L

Why is this book not more popular?? This book is fabulous almost as much for what it is as the actual book. A positive, clever boy character not going to war, written by the author of the Asterix comics, illustrated by the New Yorker cartoonist Jean-Jacque Sempe. It's 19 stories about things that happen to any child anywhere- Class Picture Day, soccer games, school inspection- but with Nicholas around seem to happen with a bit more chaos and fun. Nicholas is always cheerful and tries very hard, even in the face of annoying schoolmates and difficult grown-ups. I like it very much, as does Simon. It's the tone that really draws you in- Nicholas seems to clever to be so naive, but you charming you believe he is. Simon has read all 5, and rereads parts frequently.

Someday I will post less than candy coated, fawning reviews, but not tonight. Best, happiest foot forward.

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