Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kid Review: The Icy Hand--Chris Mould

The Icy Hand is the second in the Something Wickedly Weird series published by Macmillan's Roaring Book Press. I read this book aloud to my boys, ages 8 and 11, and based on the description, I thought it would be right up their alley:

"All looks crisp and cosy in Crampton Rock as Stanley Buggles settles down for the winter. But something wicked has blown in with the wind. What is the headless ghost desperate to tell Stanley? And who are the deadly pirates marching through the oncoming blizzard?"

They did laugh at the talking fish and the headless ghost bumbling around, but now that the book is over, both boys only gave it 2 stars out of 5. I do think they were at a disadvantage in starting with the second book, though the publisher maintains that the book works as a stand-alone title. In the sense that it holds a complete storyline, this is true. And yet, the author repeatedly compares the current plot with that of the previous book--a nice reminder if you've read the other; annoying if you haven't. But, let's ask the kids what they thought.

Did you think it was hard, starting with the second book in the series?

E (age 8): Yeah, because they kept saying stuff like, "This was way scarier than what happened with Flynn," or whoever, and you had no idea who they were talking about.

B (age 11): And it didn't give a clue, if you hadn't read the other book.

What did you like about the book?

E: I was afraid you'd ask that.

Well, when I was reading it you wanted me to keep reading. Why?

E: It drags you in. But, it's not good.

B: And it was a weird atmosphere, kind of hard to enjoy.

Like you wanted to know what happens but you didn't really enjoy being there?

B: Yeah.

E: It wasn't very action-packed. [note: I was surprised to hear him say this, because in my mind there was a lot of action. But I think B's next comment is more related to this than it may first appear]

B: It didn't seem like a novel. More like different stories that connected to each other but were in different chapters. It was like, here's this guy and all this stuff happens.

It didn't go in depth as much as you would've liked?

B: Yes.

E: Huh?

Like, in a longer book, there's more stuff that happens and you spend more time learning about the characters.

B: Yeah, there was a brief description in the first part, an overall of the story, but it didn't feel like you were following the character. It didn't seem like the author was trying to make you care about Stanley and want to know what happens to him next.

E: You don't want to read the next book.

So there you have it. I would recommend this book to young readers who aren't ready for longer novels yet, but not for the publisher's recommended age range of 10-14. Stanley's a likeable enough kid, but he has no internal motivation, no reason for being where he is, and no character arc to speak of. For the young readers of the Worducopia household, action doesn't count unless the character has earned a place in their hearts first.

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