Boundless

Kenneth Oppel is one of those authors that I always look forward to when I have a daunting To Be Read pile that I must review. His book is often the treat I give myself as a reward for slogging through the ones I’m less enthusiastic about.

His activecover art imagination is apparent in the wondrously complex and fantastical train that forms the setting of the novel Boundless. Imagine a train that has the class divide of the Titanic, with luxurious lounges and restaurants followed by crowded steerage. This clash of the social statuses would be enough of a setting but not for Oppel. He adds a circus and a booby-trapped funeral car fit for a pharaoh.

The landscape surrounding the train is filled with even more outrageous and interesting things. Many creatures from North American legends play a role in the tale.

Oppel’s¬†adoration of the classics in seen once again in this book. In his other series he explored the young life of Victor Frankenstein. In this novel he takes an interest in the picture of Dorian Gray. His new interpretations of well known works is interesting in that most of his readers will be too young to have read the originals; so his versions become their truth. People tend to bond with the first version of a story they hear.

His sense of adventure has not dwindled. Train jumping, police chasing, avalanche falling action fills the story with an urgency that slows only for the boy to wonder at the injustices that he was unaware took place on his father’s train. Will is much like the princess in old tales who learns about the peasants she once took for granted but now feels a responsibility towards.

This is a good book, as anticipated. I think it will be most popular with older children and young teens.

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Half Brother

cover artI’ve been meaning to read Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel since I met him at the CLA awards banquet where he won two awards for the book. It was the year before I joined the committee for one of the awards. I’m happy I’ve finally had a chance to read it.

The novel is heart-breaking, as I predicted it would be. The narrator sounds like a real teenage boy and the story explores the subplots of adolescence along with the main story of the family of scientists who adopted a chimp to further their research. His attachment to the chimp is contrasted with his father’s cold calculating view of things.

This is a book that would work well in a classroom or book club. There are many discussion topics to explore?

  • The moral implications of experimenting on animals
  • The level of intelligence apes possess
  • What makes a person a person
  • Do ends justify the means when trying to save someone you love?
  • Family dynamics
  • Friendship
  • Animal rights

 

This Dark Endeavour

endeavorKenneth Oppel takes on the daunting task of writing a prequel to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein with his YA novel This Dark Endeavor. I read Frankenstein several times in University and found it to be much deeper and interesting than the Hollywoodized and Halloween Frankenstein monsters that have become associated with the name. My fascination with the original and the simple key-hole cover brought this book to the top of my TBR pile.

The adventures and experiments of young Victor Frankenstein often straddle the line between science and fantasy, and he wonders whether alchemy is closer to medicine or religion. His curiosity in science and flare for the dramatic make the teen fall easily into the forbidden alchemy. His drive to save his brother and capture Elizabeth’s attention adds realism to the fanciful story.

Victor’s relationship with his twin is very interesting and genuine. He is baffled by how they can be so alike and yet so different. Their rivalries and close bond feel real throughout the entire novel. One of my favourite scenes is when he sees his twin with Elizabeth and he says it’s like looking at himself being with her, only he can’t feel her and he gets confused.

I thought Elizabeth’s sleepwalking scenes were hot. It reminded me of in Red Glove when Lila was in Cassel’s bed and he knew because of the curse he could ask her for anything but he doesn’t because he’d know it wasn’t really her. It made me forget for a minute that Victor and Elizabeth were raised like siblings, something that ruined the romance elements for me but that couldn’t be helped given the context of the story.

I was pretty terrified of the obstacles the characters face on their quest for special ingredients. The only thing that ruined it for me was the Lynx. The rest of the story was believable if far fetched, with the possibility of scientific explanation- but the Lynx felt too forced and mystical to work within Oppel’s story.

Fantastic story of curiosity, sibling rivalry, young love, and the makings of a man who will someday make a monster.

CLA in Halifax and Nova Scotia

the organizers (me, Ray, Erin)

Ok I’m totally bias because I was both an organizer and a speaker but I think the pre-conference on teen services was pretty awesome. Parts of it were baffling to me because the presenters were talking about huge projects that go light-years beyond my budget, but I loved hearing from people with high standards for teen services in libraries. It’s so encouraging to be surrounded by people who are doing great work or who aspire to. I love the positive energy of conferences. Sometimes at work it’s about

Kenneth Oppel receiving one of his 2 awards

what we can’t do, but at PD events it’s all about the possibilities. That optimism and forward thinking is what I miss about being a student.For more about the pre-conference see http://clasy.wordpress.com

I enjoyed the CLA book awards. Kenneth Oppel and Mary Louise Gay were there (squeal-worthy authors if you don’t know them) along with some yummy food (pear with goat cheese and pecans, omg!). Long line-ups for the book signing but some good networking happened.

The Expo didn’t have as much swag or the variety of vendors that OLA did. I was disappointed with the size of it and the lack of publisher/author presence. I did get some posters, a book and some ideas but it could have been better.

Attended some great sessions, and some ok sessions. I think that CLA is best for theory and management ideas rather than practical learning, which is maybe why so many upper management types and academic librarians were there (plus they’re the ones with funding).¬† Some of the trends I noticed were that selection help (finding what to read) and closing the digital divide (providing computer access and even gaming access) were major roles of libraries. My library is taking steps towards the first one, with a changing catalogue and personalized booklists, but I would like to see more progress with the second topic.

pilgrimIn between sessions I explored the area, especially the nerdy venues. Strange Adventures comic book store was awesome. The staff was fabulous, helpful and handsome (I love my nerd boys), they said they’d mail me some comics, and I think I might have to give them long distance business since I can’t get what I want around here. Totally scored some free comics left over from free comic book day too.

The other fantastic store with amazing staff was Woozles. They sponsored the pre-conference so we had to check them out, actually I would have anyway because it’s a children’s and YA bookstore and that’s how I roll. Lisa who works there also chaired the book award committee and from what I hear runs some awesome reading programs for kids. I wish I could have bought more from them but I would have had trouble getting it all on the plane!

a storybook boat
awesome look for a bookstore