→Spoiler alert: This review may include information revealed in the Harry Potter books 1 through 6. ←
Plot Summary: In this, the last book of the wildly popular Harry Potter Series, Harry, now 17, must seek out the hidden objects that are sustaining life for the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. Each of the books in the series has gotten more dark, Harry’s journeys more dangerous, and this one is no exception. Harry’s quest to defeat Voldemort is more harrowing and challenging than ever. This book contains bravery and triumph, in addition to heartbreak, sorrow and devastating loss. In the midst of trying to save the wizarding world from unimaginable evil and to keep himself alive, Harry is transitioning from Hogwarts school boy to a full-fledged wizard and a grown man. This is one coming of age story readers will not want to miss, full of drama, danger, friendship and love. Harry’s last book will not disappoint his fans one bit. The only problem is, it leaves us wanting just one more…
Critical Evaluation: In this nearly 800 page finale, Rowling, astoundingly, does it again. The elaborate, magnificent fantasy world she created in the first Harry Potter book comes alive again, with enough of the familiar to satisfy and comfort and enough new elements to thrill and engage. This is gripping reading at its finest. The characters are charismatic, unique, and multidimensional. The story is riveting and unpredictable. The book mixes the fantastical with, realistic young adult story lines of friendship and love, family and loyalty. This mix keeps Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows grounded and believable, even as unbelievable as many of the elements are. This is a great book for boys and girls, reluctant and eager readers alike, and, of course, fans of fantasy.
Of note, is that this book and the entire Harry Potter series are excellent choices for audio books. The audio books are unabridged, so they take many hours to listen to, but the reader, Jim Dale is himself magical in his ability to act out each role as if a different person were performing. Highly recommended.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was named the best book of 2007, by Newsweek‘s Malcolm Jones, was on Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2007 list, and was on the 2008 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list, among many other honors and awards.
Reader’s Annotation: Harry Potter, now 17, must take a dangerous and circuitous journey to seek out the hidden objects that are sustaining life for the evil wizard Lord Voldemort.
Information about the Author: J. K. Rowling started writing stories as a young child. The idea for Harry Potter came to her while she was on a train. She did not have a pen, so she spent the four-hour train ride just dreaming up Harry and his magical world. She says “I think that perhaps if I had had to slow down the ideas so that I could capture them on paper I might have stifled some of them.” (Rowling, 2011).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final book in a seven-book series, books one through six are: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,
Subgenre/Theme: Fantasy: Magic
Curriculum Ties: n/a
- How would it feel to be the only person who can save your world from evil and destruction?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 9 – 18
Challenge Issues: There are those who claim the books promote the occult and witchcraft. In fact, the Harry Potter series is number one on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors, some are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? The great popularity of the Harry Potter series makes it a natural choice for a young adult collection. Also, I really enjoyed the audio books of books one through six, so I was thrilled to get to listen to number seven.
Rowling, J.K. (2011). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.jkrowling.com/en/
Plot Summary: “She wished something would happen. Something good. To her. Looking at the bright fuzzy picture in the magazine, she thought, Something like that. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn’t too late, she thought the word SOON.” Young teen Debbie, keeps hoping something will happen. Hector, Debbie’s childhood friend “felt unfinished, still in process.” Debbie, Hector, and a group of their childhood friends are all going through the complex and circuitous journey of growing up. Periodically, throughout the book, the friends gather on Saturdays to listen to Criss Cross, “the kind of radio show you would like if you liked Mad Magazine. Which they all did, or had, a few years ago.” Also, running throughout the book is the story of a necklace, that Debbie loses, that gets passed from one character to the next in a series of interesting coincidences. Will the teens find the clarity that they are searching for? Will they become who they think they will be? Who will they become, and how will they get there?
Critical Evaluation: Eclectic and creative, the writing in Criss Cross is mostly from Debbie’s or Hector’s perspective. Told in a series of interrelated vignettes, poetry, questions and answers, with illustrations and a few photographs, this book is clever, witty and provides an honest portrayal of the inner thoughts and feelings of its characters. Criss Cross is a coming of age story uniquely presented and rendered, and, though it takes place in the 1970’s, the issues and feelings that arise for the teens in the novel are fully relevant for today’s teens. As the main characters are young teens, the book is probably best suited for the younger end of teens, ages 14-16. The compelling story, accessible writing, and interesting presentation make the book a good choice for reluctant readers or teens reading a bit below grade level. Poetic and charming, Criss Cross ponders some of life’s most common questions with grace, insight and wit. Criss Cross won the 2006 Newberry Medal and is on the 2006 ALA Best Books for Young Adults list.
Reader’s Annotation: Debbie, Hector and their friends are at a crossroads. They are growing up, trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be, and searching, always searching.
Information about the Author: Author and artist Lynne Rae Perkins has written and illustrated several picture books and young adult novels. I did not know this when I read it, but Criss Cross is the second novel that Perkins has written with the character of Debbie in it. The first novel is called All Alone in the Universe and is about Debbie when she is thirteen years old.
In addition to words, Perkins uses art to express herself, thus, she adds a unique element to her novels. A quote from Perkins’ website made me smile: “’Books are ideas with meat on their bones.’ I have that written down but I don’t know who said it. It might have been me, but probably not” (Perkins, n.d.)
Genre: Contemporary Life, Realistic Fiction
Category: Contemporary Life: Coming of Age
Curriculum Ties: A twist on the classic coming of age novel, this novel could be compared to other more traditional coming of age novels. Perkins also provides a few ideas for teachers interested in teaching the book here.
- Do you ever wish something, anything would happen?
- Do you think we are ever finished? Complete?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 16
Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book. Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.
Why is this book included? It won the Newberry Medal and was on YALSA’s 2006 Best Books for Young Adults list.
Perkins, L.R. (n.d.) Activities for All Alone in the Universe. Retrieved from http://www.lynneraeperkins.com/all_alone_in_the_universe_activities.htm
Plot Summary: Reality TV. A competition. A game. Contestants fight for scarce resources, form alliances and betray each other, suffer harsh physical environments, confront situational challenges created by the people running the game. But this is no ordinary reality TV show. The stakes are much higher. Win and you’re set for a life of comfort and wanting nothing. Lose and you’re dead. And so go the Hunger Games, which take place in the future in a country called Panem, a ruined land that was once North America. “The Capital” of Panem is a place of excess and great power, as compared to the 12 districts, poor, isolated, and remote, under its control. It is from these districts that the 24 contestants of the Hunger Games are randomly chosen, one boy and one girl from each district, chosen from all children ages 12 to 18. When her beloved little sister, Prim’s, name is pulled out of the glass ball for district 12, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her place. Volunteering is unusual, but not against the rules, so Katniss and her male counterpart, Peeta Mellark, a boy she knows from the town, are off to the capital to prepare for and participate in the games. There can only be one winner. How will Katniss play the game? Will she make it out alive?
Critical Evaluation: The Hunger Games is at once gripping and disturbing, compelling and stark. Collins manages to bring humanity to inhumane circumstances. Relationships within the Hunger Games are naturally fraught with mistrust and uncertainty; Collins skillfully presents the complexities of these situations. The book raises questions about what price is worth paying for survival and what price is worth paying for someone you love. Collins has created in Katniss, a character with an unusual amount of depth and complexity, leaving readers relating to and empathizing with her one moment and wondering what she could possibly be thinking the next, but always, right there with her. The book also presents a bleak look into a possible dystopian political, social and environmental future. With ever-unfolding drama and danger, this is a book most readers will not be able to put down. Not for the faint of heart, due to its weighty – and brutal – subject matter, The Hunger Games is crammed with topics for thought-provoking class or book club discussions.
Reader’s Annotation: When her beloved little sister, Prim, is chosen, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take Prim’s place in The Hunger Games. The Games, run by the government, are a brutal competition, broadcast live throughout the country, where the winner of 24 contestants is the only one who comes out alive.
Information about the Author: Suzanne Collins started her writing career in children’s television. She wrote for several children’s and preschool TV programs and then wrote the first book of a five book series called The Underland Chronicles. The Underland Chronicles is described as a “fantasy/war series” on Collins’ website (www.suzannecollinsbooks.com).
The Hunger Games is the first of a trilogy and was published in 2008; the second book is Catching Fire and the third is Mockingjay. The Hunger Games have won Collins great acclaim, selected honors include: YALSA 2009 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 Publishers Weekly‘s Best Books of the Year, 2008 The New York Times Notable Children’s Book, School Library Journal‘s Best Books of 2008.
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy
Subgenres/Themes: Science Fiction: Adventure, Dystopia; Adventure: Survival
Topics Covered: Poverty, Discrimination, Reality TV, Abuse of power, Hunger, Friendship, Love
Curriculum Ties: Social Science, Political Science, Environmental Science, Philosophy, Television Culture
- Imagine yourself in the Hunger Games: Paint a picture for listeners, using Collins’ words, of the scene and the challenge. Ask, “what would you do?”
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12-19 to Adult
Challenge Issues: The issue most likely to be challenged is violence, as the book contains many and varied acts of violence, but the violence is not gratuitous, it is a integral part of the plot. Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources. Additionally, The Hunger Games has received many honors, some are detailed above in “Information about the Author.”
Why is this book included? A young adult collection without The Hunger Games would by incomplete. The Hunger Games is well-written, compelling and exciting, but there is more to it than that. The Hunger Games has the potential to make its readers think and grapple and even debate with highly significant philosophical, ethical, political and societal issues. There is a lot of substance packed into this one book.