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Category Archives: Reviews – Staff

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Grave of the Fireflies

Posted on January 27th, 2015 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Movies, Resources, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

grave of the fireflies

This older Studio Ghibli film dates from 1988. Grave of the Fireflies, is a tragedy about a young sister and brother and their struggle to survive the fire-bombings of Japan during the Second World War. It is a moving study of humanity’s strengths and weaknesses. Who is your enemy? Who is your family, friend or neighbor? While their father is out at sea with the Japanese navy, their family is further fragmented in a fire-bombing raid. The children seek shelter with extended family but encounter callousness, neglect and exploitation. Some total strangers show more compassion than their own families and the older brother struggles to care for his sister and keep them all alive. The story of these children teaches us all about the horrors of war, and both the angels and demons of human nature. I imagine the title makes reference to the short life and light of fireflies. The artwork shows its age in the rendering style compared to more modern works, but expressions and animation are still top quality Ghibli. The voice acting in the English dub that I saw on Netflix was adequate, but I prefer to listen to the Japanese and read subtitles. This can be challenging during rapid dialog. Audiences should be ready for heartbreak when watching this film. It may be interesting to compare it with The Wind Rises, about the designer of the famous Zero fighter plane. But that recent film deals more with life before the war and Japan’s notable achievement in aeronautics. To me, the most powerful part of Grave of the Fireflies comes at its most cruel moment, when so-called “friends” stoop to staggering depths of avarice and disrespect. Grave of the Fireflies is a great film, but one to be watched with care.

Coming soon to the BPL DVD collection:

Posted on January 21st, 2015 by jkenney@private.bpl.org in Movies, Resources, Reviews - Staff, Reviews - Teens, Teen Services

princess kaguya 2

Featured earlier this month at the Brattle Street Theatre near Harvard Square, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a splendid new masterpiece from Studio Ghibli. The BPL has several copies on order so place your requests now to borrow a copy when they arrive. Princess Kaguya is a classic Japanese fairy tale about a magical girl who mysteriously appears in a bamboo stalk while an aged bamboo cutter is working in the forest. The tale tells a multifaceted story about family joy and longing, a girl coming of age, and the deeper spiritual mysteries of the human experience. The artwork is revolutionary for studio Ghibli. Set in a more rice paper/watercolor style, the animation, use of light and shadow, and extreme dynamic effects reminiscent of expressionism captivate the viewer throughout the film. The artists employ unique cell work with dappling shadow overlays as the characters interact and move through the bamboo groves and deeper woods. The overall palette of rice paper-style imagery completely immerses the viewer in an authentic Japanese artistic world. The dynamic effects during dream sequences and storm scenes are gripping, even in their minimalism. I strongly recommend this film for all anime fans. Even loyal Studio Ghibli fans will be impressed by this new direction in artistic style. The story is classic and refreshing at the same time. Beyond its imagery, Princess Kaguya is a bold venture into the depths of the human struggle.

Born of Illusion – A Review

Posted on December 18th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

born of illusion

Title/Author: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
Read by: Anna at the Central Library Teen Room / Read for our TBOM book discussion group on December 19th.
Summary: Anna is a magician used to traveling with her mother who is a medium. Together they put on shows and seances to make money. It’s mostly a con. But what her mother doesn’t know is that Anna has real paranormal abilities and lately, she’s been getting visions of a very terrible ending to their lives.
Series/Standalone: book one
Genre/sub-genre: Historical/Paranormal
Diversity: none that stood out
Could I Relate to These Characters: yes
Would I re-read?: yes
Personal thoughts: Once I started reading, I could not put this book down. I love the 1920′s New York City setting and I love stories about magic. I think Teri Brown did a fantastic job bringing them both together. While this is the first in a series, it can be read as a standalone as well, yet, I’m looking forward to reading the second one just to see what might happen next.

Hell Hole – A Review

Posted on December 9th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff
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hellhole

Title/Author: Hell Hole by Gina Damico

Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

Release Date: January 6, 2015

Summary: Max is a good kid. He would never even think about stealing something. But the cat pin is so distracting he can’t help but walk away with it. The only problem is, his stealing brings a devil up from down below and Burg will never be happy unless Max steals him junk food and secures him a stolen mansion with a hot tub. What’s a teenager to do? Especially when his Mom is sick in bed waiting for a heart transplant? Life couldn’t get any more complicated.

Series/Standalone: standalone

Genre/sub-genre: Light Urban Fantasy/Paranormal/Humor

Diversity: none that stood out

Relatable characters: yes

Would I re-read?: No.

Personal thoughts: This book was very well written, and I would recommend it to those who like reading humorous, paranormal stories with a tiny bit of romance thrown in. While I really enjoyed her Croak trilogy, this one just wasn’t for me. The humor didn’t grab me the way it did in Croak, and I think that was what turned me off to it. However, if you’re into crude humor about a devil who refuses to wear any pants and his reasons for not wearing pants, among other things, you’ll definitely like this.

The Rogue Crew – A Review

Posted on October 6th, 2014 by Anna in Reviews - Staff
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rogue crew       The Rogue Crew by Brian Jacques Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

 

This is the final story in the Redwall series. It chronicles a group of hares, shrews, sea otters and a few hedgehogs, as they race against time to reach Redwall Abby before the murderous vermin crew of the ship, Greenshroud. The ship and her wearat captain, Razzid, once thought to be defeated by fire, have returned, bigger and better than before. Now, the ship not only sails the seas, it has wheels that allow it to sail on land as well! Will the warrior hares from Salamandastron and the mighty sea otters of the High North Coast reach the Abby in time to save the good woodland creatures who live there? Or will more vermin along the way keep them from reaching their goal and their friends?

I started reading this series nineteen years ago. Yes. You read that correctly. Nineteen years. The first book in the series, Redwall, was originally published in 1987, though I didn’t find it until a few years after that. The Rogue Crew (book #22) was first published in 2011. So you can see just how long this series has been going on. If it weren’t for the death of the author, Brian Jacques (pronounced Jakes), this series would still be going on. This will always be one of my favorite series, and Brian Jacques will always be one of my favorite authors. Though he lived in Liverpool, England, I was lucky enough to get to meet him on three separate occasions and I can say he was an amazing person to listen to. His voice was as rich and deep as his stories. Did you know Redwall got started as a story for blind children? Jacques delivered milk to a blind school and wrote Redwall for them, making his style of writing as descriptive as possible so the children could see everything in their imaginations.  A former teacher of his eventually showed Redwall to a publisher without telling Jacques, and as they say, the rest is history.

Because of his descriptive style, his work makes me feel like I’m in an adventure with all these different creatures who are kind, caring, tough, warrior-like, evil, mean, innocent, whatever words you can use to describe people, you can use to describe these creatures. I really do feel like I’m there, in the midst of a battle, or enjoying a huge feast on a beautiful summer evening. Though, one thing I adore about these books that tends to be a deal breaker for other readers, is the fact that each type of animal has its own way of speaking and Jacques uses that throughout all of the dialog. I see it as a fun time to learn how to speak like a mole or a hare. Others, find it distracting. If that is something that bothers you, this might not be the book for you. If it doesn’t, I urge you to check it out.  I can’t recommend these books highly enough, and I’m very sad to have finally reached the end. A note about the order of the books: Each book is its own story with its own set of characters. If you’re new to the series, you should start with either Redwall or Mossflower. Redwall was the first book published and Mossflower is the prequel. After that, you can read them in any order you like. I admit, they might get tiring after awhile if you attempt to read all 22 in a row, but take a long break and come back to them and you’ll remember why you enjoyed them so much when you first picked them up. To me, these are timeless classics set in their own fantasy world. Thirty, fifty, even perhaps one hundred years from now, I imagine they’ll still be readable and enjoyable by many and I hope they’re never forgotten by readers of all ages.