Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

making preparations

Me, Myself and Ike by K.L. Denman
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction, YA
Review: At first, this book seems to be about two teenage boys embarking on one of the stupidest plans ever. Inspired by a documentary on the Ice Man, one has convinced the other to climb up into the Canadian Rockies and freeze himself, along with examples of modern technology and culture, as evidence for posterity. The book is largely taken up with Kit's preparations for doing so.

Fortunately, for both Kit and the reader, the book is really about much more than this moronic scheme. As we follow Kit through his preparations, we begin to see that perhaps all is not what it seems. Through his interactions with others, we learn that Kit used to be a good kid - he had friends, got along well with his family, did reasonably well in school. But a few months before the start of the action, everything changes. We get a sense of this only in the way that others react to Kit, but this is a startlingly effective method of portraying this change. Throughout the book, we also get a feel for what others noticed in Kit that caused them to change their perceptions, although, in a first-person narrative, the changes are only subtly observable to the reader. It isn't until almost the end of the book that we begin to understand what is really going on with Kit, and how dangerous it potentially is.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

among the Righteous

Victor Kugler: The Man Who Hid Anne Frank by Rick Kardonne and Eda Shapiro
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Genre: biography
Review: Almost everyone knows the story of Anne Frank. Far fewer people know the story of one of the men who hid her and her family from the Gestapo for 2 years. The mere fact of having his story of bravery be told makes this book worthwhile.

Victor Kugler's story shines brightest when told in his own voice. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen very often. Large portions of the book are taken from the notes of Eda Shapiro, who interviewed Kugler late in his life. This is fine, as far as it goes, but Shapiro's words are also used to give us historical background information on topics such as WWII and the history of Jews in Holland. Surely a more authoritative source could have been found for these subjects.

At least this historical background is interesting. Not so the rest of the book's padding, including descriptions of various dramatic and musical productions of Anne Frank's story that Kugler attended and his reaction to them, and descriptions awards and honors that Kugler was given, including his inclusion among the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem, all well-deserved. I could have lived with a lot less of this extraneous material, especially since Kugler's story stands so well on its own.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for this review.