Posts Tagged ‘Youth’

After having read several of the Artemis Fowl books, and The Wish List, I decided to dig deeper into Eoin Colfer’s works. That’s where I came across Airman, a standalone novel, published in 2008.

Story overview:
In the 19th century (1890s), a ten year old boy named Conor Broekhart is a resident of the Saltee islands (a real place off the Irish coast). A close friend of the young princess, Conor finds himself saving her from a burning building.

Having been knighted and regarded as a hero, Conor trains under a Frenchman named Victor Vigny. For the next four years he learns how to become a brilliant scientist and a great swordsmen.

Unfortunately for Conor, he draws the attention of Marshall Bonvilain. A man who kills the king and frames Conor’s mentor, Victor for the crime—after having killed him too. Bonvilain ships Conor off to the prison island of Little Saltee, while deceiving Conor’s parents into thinking that he was killed protecting the king, and Conor into falsely believing that his parents disowned him because they thought he was involved with the king’s death. Conor spends the next three years living with a new identity and seeking a way to free himself of his terrible fate.

My thoughts:
I thought that the narrator voice was a little heavy in the beginning, but after awhile the story picked up and grabbed my attention. By the end I was anxiously anticipating the outcome. Good read. With a title like Airman, I figured I was going to read a story about a flying boy. Well, there is some of that, but the book closer resembles The Count of Monte Cristo. Prison stories of misunderstanding and identity swamping just never get old.

Things to consider:
Overall, this tale contained no inappropriate content. There’s a few scenes of violence, but nothing that doesn’t fit into the mold of this type of story. No sexual situations or harsh use of language. I recommend for pre-teen and older. Both girls and boys, though, perhaps, slightly more toward boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
Misunderstandings plague the best of us, as it did to Conor. His family believed him to be dead, and he believe that his family didn’t care about him. There are people out there like Bonvilain who are deceptive, but there are also misleading thoughts in our own minds, which can be just as bad. It’s easy to doubt the love of family, but sometimes that has more to do with failing to understand their true feelings. Tell your children that, before they think someone is trying to hurt them (such as a brother or sister), have them take a moment to communicate and try to understand where that person is coming from. In doing so there just might be a change of heart for both parties.

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In the world of fantasy comes another series targeted towards youth. First published in 2002, the Pendragon Series totaled ten books; the last one published March of last year (2009).

Story overview:

14-year-old Bobby Pendragon is one of those boys who is skilled in sports, outgoing, and known well among his peers. His life is what some would call a boy’s dream. Not only is he the top star of his school’s basketball team, but he recently received a kiss from the beautiful Courtney Chetwynde.

Mark Dimond on the other hand is on the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s nerdy and gets picked on, but remains one of Bobby’s best and closest friends. A friendship that gets put to the test when one day, Bobby disappears. Not only did Bobby miss the basketball semi-finals, but his entire family vanished. Including his house and family pet.

Mark receives a mysterious ring which teleports a journal, written by Bobby, from an entirely different world. It entails Bobby’s adventure into this world with his uncle, Press. Bobby tells Mark that he has to help his uncle escape the clutched of a traveler named Saint Dane, who captured the man and sentenced him to die. In the process Bobby learns that he too is a traveler and with the help of some unlikely allies, the boy seeks to save both his uncle and the territory which is threatened with war.

My thoughts
:

There is a good balance of humor, action, and originality. I particularly liked the modern and realistic way the main character thinks; nothing seemed forced or out of place. The way the author bounced back and forth with POV (First person and Third person) was interesting too. I recommend reading this one if you get a chance.

Things to consider:

There are no sexual situations or cursing. There is some action violence with a few gory descriptions, but nothing overly offensive. There was a comment about David killing Goliath as being, “just a story,” but keep in mind that is coming from the head of the main character; which is just how he thinks. There is also mention of something called Halla (sounds like a play on the name Allah), which is supposedly the power behind all life. Not sure where the author intends to go with this, but keep in mind, I only read the first book in the series of ten. I would suggest this for teens; both boys and girls.

Opportunities for discussion:

One of the themes here is that power corrupts even the purest of hearts. The village of oppressed minors showed what happens when the balance of power shifts from one direction to another. This is true to life. Humans of all social standings have the same potential of abuse towards their fellow man; the difference is often lack of opportunity, not the presence of goodness. When given the choice, men take advantage of their position without thought of those who are affected by it. Remind your children that they need to always remember where they came from, and never take advantage of others, regardless of opportunity to do so.

Normally I like to start out with the first book in a series, and then move on to another series just to keep things fresh. At a later time, I often revisit the second book, but in this case I made an exception. Why? Simple. I couldn’t wait. I wanted to see what happened next.

In the previous story of Artemis Fowl, we have a boy with a sick mother and a lost (presumed dead) father. The family happens to have a history of thievery, and Artemis takes advantage of his position in the most peculiar way: by going after Irish myths, which just so happen to contain a certain amount of truth. One of which is the existence of elves and “LEPrecon” gold. Things didn’t go the way he had hoped, but in the end, Artemis was victorious.

Story overview:

Artemis is a year older and a little wiser. In fact, for a thirteen-year-old, his IQ has no equal, but he is still a child and the desire to find his father continues to burn. One day, while frustrating the school’s psychologist, Artemis receives a call from Butler, his faithful body guard and closest friend. Artemis learns that his father was captured by the Russian Mafia and is being held for ransom.

Thankfully for Artemis, several leagues underground, the LEPrecon is experiencing troubles of their own when goblins show up with outlawed weapons. Captain Holly Short suspects Artemis as their supplier, but soon discovers his innocence. The situation puts Artemis in a good position to offer aid to the LEPrecon in return for their help with his father.

Things go from bad to worse as the true minds behind the attacks are discovered by Foaly—the intelligent centaur in charge of technology—but a little too late, as Foaly is setup to take the blame for the incident. With help from the dwarf, Mulch Diggums; Artemis; Commander Julius Root; and Butler, put away their differences to try and save the Lower Elements and Artemis’s father.

My thoughts:

I was surprised that I actually liked this book better than the first one. The story took on an entirely different plot scheme from the last novel, and was even more exciting. Both are page turners and worthy of a good mention. I will for sure be putting the third novel on my list of must reads. As of now, a seventh book is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2010, so I have some catching up to do.

Things to consider:

There is very little I would consider questionable in this book. Safely share this with your twelve-year-old, teens, and even your peers. Enjoyable for all ages.

Opportunities for discussion:

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what that means to me.” The old 1967 song by Aretha Franklin touches upon an important theme in this book. Artemis happens to be a genius, and because of this, he finds it difficult to look up to anyone as his equal. Later in the novel, Artemis discovers that he has the utmost respect for Butler, who is able to perform tasks that Artemis can only dream about. This is a great time to ask your children who they respect and why. You may be surprised.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer

kekkaishi_v6Getting back to one of my top manga of all-time, we look back at Volume 5 where we experienced the mysterious visit of Lord Uro, learned a little more about Toshimori (Yoshimori’s brother,) and found our two Kekkaishi in a battle against a powerful three-team ayakashi.

Story overview:

After defeating the ayakashi–which formed into a large owl–Tokine is tipped off to the presence of the one observing the fight. Yoshimori goes after him, but the man gets away. In the process, Yoshimori discovers that he is not a man at all, but an ayakashi hiding in a man-skin.

Paranoid about the possibility of ayakashi walking around the day disguised as humans, Yoshimori suspects a new student named Gen Shishio. But the obnoxious Gen turns out to be an agent of the Shadow Organization, sent by Yoshimori’s older brother (Masamori.)

Meanwhile, Yoshimori’s grandfather visits an acquaintance named Heisuke Matsudo, who is a seventy-year-old retired university professor that does not look seventy-years-old. They discuss the possible origin of the man-skin that Yoshimori recovered from the battle.

Elsewhere, Gen’s bad boy attitude does not fit in well with the two Kekkaishi, but the three of them end up working together to take down a tough ayakashi. Gen realizes he was sent to join the group because he has more in common with Yoshimori than he first thought.

My thoughts:

Gen’s character brings out more of Yoshimori’s personality and it is fun to watch them interact (and butt heads.) It is also obvious that Gen has more to him than meets the eye. Good stuff.

Things to consider:

The entrance of Gen brings in some gory depictions as he does not terminate ayakashi into nothingness like the Kekkaishis. Still, this is nothing inappropriate for thirteen-year-old boys. There are no sexual references or offensive language. So far this is one of the cleaner manga series I’ve seen.

Opportunities for discussion:

Gen makes the comment how he cannot restore or fix anything; that he can only destroy. We see a conflict here in his character, which will be interesting to see unfold; however, we also see a good opportunity for discussion. Ask your teen what they think of Gen’s attitude, and the ask them why they believe he can only destroy. From there explain how destroying is much easier that creating (or maintaining,) and how important it is to be one who observes and understands which to do and when.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Kekkaishi (Volume 1)
2) Kekkaishi (Volume 2)
3) Kekkaishi (Volume 3)
4) Kekkaishi (Volume 4)
5) Kekkaishi (Volume 5)

Dragon Eye v1It’s my pleasure to introduce a new manga series called Dragon Eye. It was first released in 2007 and we’re coming up to Volume 8, which should be out Sep 29, 2009.

Here’s a brief history of what’s going on it the story. Humanity was close to becoming extinct when a virus called the “D Virus” infected the majority of the populace; including animals. Those infected turned into vicious beasts called “Dracules,” which quickly lose their mind and go on murderous rampages.

Those who survived the virus were ones who posed strong antibodies; they were able escape infection 99% of the time. They developed an anti-Dracule civil organization and built cities to protect all future citizens (ones who do not have the high-level of antibodies.)  This group also gathered super-warriors called “VIUS,” who use techniques incorporating sorcery and martial arts. Their purpose is to fight off Dracules and protect those not infected. Those who become infected have only one cure: death.
 
Story overview:

Forty years or so after the infection, in the city of Mikuni, candidates go on a hunt for Dracule in order to pass their final test to become a VIUS. There’s an unexpected turn as high-level Dracules show up. These creatues attack the candidates in order to prevent future, potential enemies, but thankfully there was a hidden enlistment exam inspector named Issa Kazuma.

Issa reviles the secret Dragon Eye (hidden in the center of his forehead) to one of the candidates, Leila Mikami, who said it was her life’s mission to possess one in order to avenge her parent’s death. Easily defeating the foes, Issa tests Leila and finds that her motives may one day be genuine.  He tells her that, in the future, he will give her his eye if she has a good reason (other than revenge) to use it.

Leila finds herself as part of the dreaded Squad Zero, only to learn that Issa is the leader. Since the old Squad Zero had been disbanded, she is the only member. Because of the small group, volunteers join Squad Zero on a mission. In the process one of the volunteers named Sōsei Yukimura attacks Issa. We learn that he was waiting for an opportunity to face Issa so that he could kill him. He claims that Issa killed his twin sister many years ago. Rather than be mad about the accusation, Issa convinces Sōsei to join his squad. The young man agrees as a way of getting more info from Issa and an easier way to fulfill his revenge. On their first mission together as a team, Squad Zero discovers that an extremely powerful Dracule was able to get into the city limits and it’s up to them to work together to stop it.

My thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I love the casual personality of the main character, Issa, who has a serious side he covers up. The other characters are very dynamic as well and a pleasure to watch interact. I also liked the chart of Japanese Honorifics at the beginning which explains the different indications of relationship/status when characters speak to each other. For example -san is similar to “Mr. or Ms.” and can be used like Isaa-san (name first, then the honorific).

Things to consider:

This is targeted more towards boys at around the age of thirteen. Older ages can easily enjoy it too, and Mom and Dad can feel safe that it’s pretty clean in the area of sexuality and foul language. There is a considerable amount of action violence and blood though: great for thirteen-year-old boys 😉

Opportunities for discussion:

There is a strong theme of revenge. We learn that Issa is not an advocate of revenge; instead, he is extremely unbinding. That’s an ironic comment, since we learn that Issa is actually bound by fetters that restrict his powers. But when it comes to Sōsei wanting to kill Issa for revenge, Issa does not refute the accusation, nor does he offer up an excuse. One might expect Issa to jump right in and defend himself, or want to have nothing to do with his accuser. Rather, he takes a hit and offers the young man a position in his team. This is a great example of how we should respond when we feel someone accusing us. Obviously it’s good to defend one’s self and not allow ourselves to be walked on, but if we offer grace for wrath, forgiveness for blame, kindness for hostility, then perhaps, as the Bible says: Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Talk to your kids and ask them when the last time it was that someone accused them of wrongdoing. Ask them how they responded and offer up this solution to them for future incidents.