Title: Beezus and Ramona
Author: Beverly Cleary
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / 3rd Grade Chapter Books
Age Category: 6 to 12 years
With the upcoming release of the movie “Ramona and Beezus” on July 23rd, I thought it would be fun to review Beverly Cleary’s classic chapter book Beezus and Ramona, the first in the series of books Cleary wrote starring the Quimby sisters, Beatrice (nicknamed Beezus) and Ramona. (Cleary won the Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw, and Newbery Honors for Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and Ramona and Her Father.) While the trailer for the movie (embedded at the bottom of this post) suggests that the movie tries to capture the entire Ramona series—and thus may not be a straight translation of this children’s book into film—the movie’s title does resemble the book title (with the names in reverse order), so I’m sure there are points of connection between movie and book.
Beezus and Ramona: Summary
Beezus and Ramona is a character driven 3rd grade chapter book that focuses on Beezus Quimby, the 9-year-old sister of 4-year-old Ramona Quimby. The book is essentially a series of vignettes depicting the relationship between the two sisters, in which Ramona’s mischief features prominently. The book is different from the other books in the Ramona series in that Continue reading
Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Age Category: 12 to 16 years +
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Book Review and Summary
Today I present a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book review and summary. This fifth installment in J.K. Rowling’s masterful juvenile fiction series about Harry Potter picks up where the fourth book left off. The Dark Lord Voldemort—having been restored to power at the climax of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)—and his minions are covertly at work, preparing for outright war. They seek something Voldemort “didn’t have last time” (p. 96), i.e., when Harry was a baby and Voldemort last launched his campaign for power over the wizarding world. But, what exactly is Voldemort seeking? This question drives the plot of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) forward on the deepest level. Harry’s consistent experience of visions hinting at Voldemort’s activity and emotions help him and his friends in their efforts to understand and foil Voldemort’s plans.
In Rowling’s trademark style, the path toward answering the central question of the novel has many twists, turns, and subplots. One significant subplot is Continue reading
This is the third and final article in a series about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. To read from the beginning, click here for the first article, “The Harry Potter Controversy”. In this third installment of the series, I try to answer some objections that might arise in relation to the place of divination in the Harry Potter series.
Harry Potter: Divination and Prophecy
At this point in the series, someone might object that while I have dispatched the general problem of magic in these children’s books—magic is just Rowling’s metaphor for spiritual power—there is still the whole issue of divination, which the Bible explicitly forbids (as I noted in “The Harry Potter Controversy”). After all, Harry and his best friend Ron take divination class for several years from the divination teacher at Hogwarts, Professor Trelawney. How can this not be worrying for Christian parents? Doesn’t it cast the occult in a positive light?
There are several reasons I think parents should not be worried about the place of divination in the Harry Potter novels. First, Continue reading
This article is the second in a series about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. To read from the beginning, click here for the first article, “The Harry Potter Controversy”. In this second installment of the series, I make the positive case for Christian allegory in Harry Potter.
Allegory in Harry Potter
In making a case for allegory in Harry Potter, my point is that certain characters and events in these books stand as symbolic representations of central characters and events in Christian theology. Continue reading
I have a confession to make: I’m a Harry Potter fanatic. Prior to last summer I had been enjoying each of the Harry Potter movies as they were released, but I had yet not read any of J.K. Rowling’s children’s books.
However, last summer, right before my family and I went on an extended road trip, my wife, Angela, and I saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which covers the story through the sixth of the seven Potter books. While we enjoyed the movie, it left us desperate to know what happens next (as those of you who have seen the movie know, it ends on a more mysterious and fraught note than any of the others). So, we checked the seventh and last book in the series out of the library—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)—and took it on our road trip, reading it aloud to each other in the front seat (while our kids watched DVDs with headphones on in the back seat; at six and eight, they’re still too young for Potter, but their time will come…). Continue reading
Title: When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead
Age Category: 9 to 12 years +
Genre: Middle-grade Fiction
When You Reach Me: Summary
Miranda—the protagonist of the 2010 Newbery Medal-winning juvenile fiction book When You Reach Me—is a twelve-year-old latchkey kid living with her single mom in New York City in the 1970s. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she reads only one book: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Her mother—a would-be lawyer with a keen sense of justice—was forced to drop out of law school when she had Miranda. Now she works unhappily as a paralegal and dreams of winning the game show The $20,000 Pyramid so she can quit her job.
Miranda has lost her best friend, Sal, who lives in her apartment building. One day, while the two of them were walking home from school, a neighborhood kid named Marcus punched Sal, and from that day on Continue reading
Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Author: Jeff Kinney
Age Category: 9 to 12 +
Genre: Comic Juvenile Fiction
With the March 19th release date of the movie based on Diary of a Wimpy Kid fast approaching, I thought I would write a review of this madly popular book. Although it was first published in 2007, it remains on the New York Times Bestseller List (for children’s series books) and has been there for 57 weeks (!). In this review I will take a somewhat contrarian view of the book: I do not like it as much as it seems most everyone else does. “Why,” you ask? Read on fair reader.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Summary
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the first in a growing series by Jeff Kinney. In the book we get collected episodes from a year in the tragicomic life of the book’s protagonist—Greg Heffley—presented in journal form (Heffley: “First of all, let me get something straight: This is a JOURNAL, not a diary”). Continue reading
Title: The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Author: Dav Pilkey
Age Category: 6 to 8 years
Genre: Juvenile fiction
Our Rating (out of 5):
George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the main characters of The Adventures of Captain Underpants, are pranksters of the first order. In this installment of Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series, George and Harold pull an outrageous set of pranks at their elementary school football game. However, unbeknown to them their mean principal Mr. Krupp has caught all of their antics on videotape and he proceeds to use the tape to blackmail them into behaving well in school and serving his every whim.
After a few days of following Mr. Krupp’s rules, the boys remember a comic-book advertisement for a “3-D Hypno-Ring” that will allow them to hypnotize Mr. Krupp and lay hands on the incriminating videotape. George and Harold follow through with their plan, and in the process have some fun with Mr. Krupp, making him believe Continue reading
Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Age Category: 9 to 12 years +
Genre: Picture Book
The Invention of Hugo Cabret: Summary
Brian Selznick’s 2008 Caldecott Medal winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, introduces Hugo Cabret, an orphan boy who secretly maintains the clocks at a Paris railway station. Hugo’s father—once an horologist—died in a fire while repairing an automaton, a highly complex machine designed to look and to write like a human being. Hugo has salvaged the remains of the automaton, now hidden in Hugo’s room in the walls of the train station, and he steals mechanical parts in his attempt to finish his father’s project of restoring it. Hugo is convinced that, once restored, the automaton will convey a message to him from his deceased father.
However, when Hugo’s path intersects with Isabelle, another orphan, and her godfather Papa Georges—the toymaker in the railway station from whom Hugo has been stealing parts for the automaton—Hugo’s plan to restore the automaton yields unexpected results. The restored automaton indeed has a kind of message from Hugo’s father, but it turns out the message is also connected to Papa Georges. As the mysterious story unfolds, Hugo is slowly transformed Continue reading