The Will Parker Book: A Review of The City of Gold and Lead

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SEQUEL ALERT: This is the second of four books.

 The book that you are about to read a review on, The City of Gold and Lead, is the sequel to The White Mountains by John Christopher (Samuel Youd). Technically, I could give you my advice (read this book, it’s awesome) and not write this review, but that isn’t just quite what the purpose of this blog is, so I’ll have to write this review (sheesh, it’s not that I don’t want to, but it’s a rule that I invented).

The City of Gold and Lead, by John Christopher (yes, yes, Samuel Youd), is the continuation to Will Parker’s adventures. Will has won the Games, along with his companion, Fritz Eger. They are brought to The City of Gold and Lead, where they become slaves to the Masters, the huge alien creatures who live there. Will and Fritz are on a mission to collect information about the Masters and the Tripods. But they have false Caps, and they can’t pretend to be loyal forever…

I have read many books that have sequels. Many times I am excited for the sequel, only to be utterly disappointed. In the series of Septimus Heap, by Angie Sage, I was enchanted by the first book. However, the sequels were tiring, because there was even more magic than in the first book, which had enormous amounts. Eventually, I sadly closed the cover, almost reduced to tears, and said nobly, in a voice full of melancholy, “Mommy, can you please find me another book?”

I was so full of immense Wisdom-joy when I realized that The City of Gold and Lead was not victim of the (sadly) common “sequel disaster”. The problem is that books victims of the “sequel disaster” often seem phony and unreal compared to the beautiful book(s) that came before them. In The City of Gold and Lead, The City of Gold and Lead is suited to alien creatures. Their planet is very different from ours, meaning that the air is different (it’s green, and that makes the city take on a green sheen), the temperature is higher, and by the way, the amount of gravity on their planet is higher than ours. This means that the human slaves that live there need to wear special masks; eat salt sticks because of the amount of salt they’re losing from their sweat; and they die faster because of the high amounts of gravity pulling them, wearing down their bones at a much faster rate. I don’t know what this book would have felt like had The City of Gold and Lead not had these alien-planet factors.

There was adventure in this book too, so naturally, some tension. (What is adventure without tension?). The original mission of Will and Fritz was to collect information about the Masters and the Tripods. When Will looks at all the information Fritz has, he puts an extra effort in collecting information. He has trouble finding it without giving away his disguise, though. His information collecting ends when he makes a mistake that forces him to leave the city through the river. As he gasps for breath, you gasp for breath with him. You see the blackness when he does, though hopefully you don’t faint when he does!

I hope that when you finish The City of Gold and Lead (it is obligatory, Wisdom-rules say that you must read it), you will agree with me that it is not victim to the “sequel disaster”. Like The White Mountains, The City of Gold And Lead is medium on the “level-of-reading” scale. If you would like to know, the two sequels to The City of Gold and Lead are The Pool of Fire and When the Tripods Came. If you have read The White Mountains, please take heed to what I say! Do not delay the small action of reading this book, one of the books that defies the “sequel disaster.” Because this book was a lot better than I had expected, where as “sequel disasters” are a lot worse than you expect. In fact, this book could be compared to Will Parker (the main character). The Will Parker Book.

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 10+

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Rebellion: A Review of The White Mountains

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SEQUEL ALERT! This is the first of four books.

Humanity has worn out its brains to create complicated machines, making our lives easier and more comfortable. Take the smartphone, for example. With it we can have access to people all over the world without having to wait for months for a reply.

I am sure you have thought about the theory of machines taking over the planet. However this idea seems impossible: we are the ones who (mortally, at least) control the planet! But, you think, …could it be possible? Could we create machines with such advanced technology that they could have “minds”?

The White Mountains, by John Christopher (Samuel Youd), is staged in a world where huge machines called “Tripods” dominate the earth. At age thirteen, boys and girls take part in a ceremony called the “Capping.” The Tripods install metal meshes, called “Caps,” on the heads of the young folks.

Will Parker is nervous for his Capping, which is only a few weeks ahead. When he meets a strange man who calls himself Ozymandias, he finds out the truth behind the Capping. Thus begins his journey to the White Mountains, where Tripods do not rule.

In the “Preface,” John Christopher (oh fine, Samuel Youd) writes, “The publisher wanted the future; I was more interested in the past. I reckoned I might satisfy both of us by combining the two.” He did this very well. In a medieval world where watches and glasses are rare, mysterious things, huge futuristic machines rule the world. A strange aura is created by this fact, as if the book were beating out a rhythm: “Why? Why? Why isn’t it possible?” Something that you, the dominant reader, wouldn’t expect from the humble little book in your hands. But the fact is, this is what the book is all about: defying the monstrous machines that make sure humanity remains docile.

There was a lot of excitement in this book, as well as tension. The beginning of the book was exciting and mysterious: what was the Capping? Were we in the future or in the past? What were the Tripods? But as the book went on, things became clearer…and others hazier. So in your haste to understand all the unanswered questions and find out the truth about Capping, you find yourself speeding through the book, with only a couple chapters left to read. Things get daring and dangerous…you get very nervous. I found that my breath wasn’t normal and I shook all over when I finally but triumphantly slammed the cover shut. There was no stopping me doing my self-assigned duty: I was going to read the next in the series, The City of Gold and Lead.

So when you become sick of petty books with names like “Betty and the Cupcake Club”, pick up THE TRIPODS: The White Mountains. Actually, the best idea would be to start reading it now. It is the first book of the TRIPOD series, so it’s safe. If you would like to know, there are three books that follow: The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire, and When the Tripods Came. So do not hesitate to open this book that could have been described in one word: REBELLION.

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 10+

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Whoa, Tricky Kid!: A Review of The Great Brain

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I remember that day, four years ago, when I looked hopelessly at the rows of books on our shelfs and thought, “I must have read all the books there are for my age!” I had just finished reading a not-too-interesting story and couldn’t find a promising book to read. When I complained to my mother, she replied something along these lines: “But Wisdom Zelda! There are so many books in this house that you could read! Besides, Rhiannon has lots of books that she wants you to read. After lunch I can help you choose a book.” I didn’t quite believe her, and I spent the rest of the afternoon frowning at the chosen book and foraging through the orderly bookshelves, looking for a more seemingly thrilling story.

I also remember wondering that afternoon, “What if there are thousands of books out there that haven’t ever been read?” Even today I am positively certain that there are thousands of thrilling, amazing books out there that haven’t ever had the chance to enter a bookshop. So thank goodness that the book that I am reviewing is not one of those!

The Great Brain, by John D. Fitzgerald, is a story of a young boy who lives in the 1890s. Tom D. Fitzgerald is an extremely smart boy who has a knack for “turning a profit.” This story is told from the view of Tom’s younger brother, John D. Fitzgerald (you might notice that that is the name of the author). It explores the adventures of sneaky Tom, a.k.a. the Great Brain, in a very elating way.

The Great Brain was such a great book because Tom was such a great character (sorry for the amount of ‘greats’, I just got inspired). For one, he was exceptionally smart and mega-tricky. Every time he did something a little unusual, someone would groan, “Oh that boy!” I would groan along with them, because I never knew what Tom would do next. The minute something out of the ordinary happened in town, Tom would start thinking of how he could make money out of it. When the new kid (Basil) gets bullied by Sammy, Tom teaches him how to beat Sammy up. But for free? What a bizarre thing that would be for The Great brain to do! The day Basil beats Sammy up, Basil’s dad gives Tom a whole dollar! (That’s not much today, but back then it was like $20 for us) and hey! the words Read The Great Brain! Read The Great Brain! were pounding in the back of my head the whole two days that I was reading it.

This book was a little funny, too. The things which Tom does make you smile slyly and think, “Oh gosh, that boy would make a great business man.” I was extremely skeptical when I opened this book. In the middle of it I was elated, and when I finished it, I was sad. I’m sure that I won’t ever read a book like that again. It was just too great.

This book is great (I know you’re sick of the word, but it is in the title). Any ten-year-old would speed through it. Even an eight-year-old could read it without much trouble. So if you read it, you’ll have discovered the relish of those not-so-known books.

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 10+

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Papery Bouquet of Roses: A Review of Eight Cousins

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It’s a fact that I love Louisa May Alcott’s stories. They’re always sweet tales about brave, compassionate people who are true to reality. I especially like how these people are not perfect, they get into scrapes all the time. I simply don’t know how I would bear these stories if the characters were all epitomes of perfect angels. But thank goodness, Alcott’s stories don’t have these horrible characteristics. So I am back again to present another book you might find at the back of your bookshelf: Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott.

Eight Cousins is a book about a thirteen-year-old girl called Rose who has just become an orphan. She goes to live with her merry aunts (well, most of them are), but she looks pathetically miserable. Her Uncle Alec decides to conduct an “experiment,” and he exposes her to her seven busy, messy, reckless but charming cousins. She becomes a nurse, makes several sacrifices, undergoes embarrassments, runs around wildly, and in short, becomes a more vivid, happy child. So pick that dusty, worn book up, because I might just convince you to read it!

Rose is one of the typical Louisa May Alcott girls, those that you never tire of. She’s brave, charming, and loving. However, Rose feels confused at the beginning of the book, and she had reason to!

Rose lives in what is nick-named “the Aunt-hill.” It is swarming with all her Aunts, and all of them have very different points of view. Unfortunately, they all want her to do different things. Aunt Myra is convinced that Rose has no constitution, and is dosing her with liters of medicine. Aunt Clara is convinced that she should buy more fashionable clothing, because she was a beauty in her day and believes that that is the key to life. Poor Rose bears this as heroically as she can, though she ends up moaning it to Uncle Alec. However I found this enormously funny!

This book was a beautiful accomplishment. Oh, how I wish Louisa May Alcott was still alive! Oh, and this book isn’t very hard to read, more like medium-easy. So any ten-year-old could speed through this like lightning. A nine-year-old would go a little slower, and a three-year-old at a snail’s pace. No, don’t laugh, I’m dead serious. So good luck with this paper-y bouquet of roses!

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 9+

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Enchanted: Magic Math – A Review of The Man Who Counted

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I hope you agree with me that falling asleep in class is, well, not a good idea. I also hope you agree with me that it is an important skill to be able to learn from reading. Unfortunately, I had never seriously put that thought into action—until, heh, until I read The Man Who Counted, by Malba Tahan (in real life, Júlio César de Mello e Sousa). This book is, on the level-of-reading scale, “medium.” It is about a man, called Hanak Tade Maia, who meets a mathematical genius, Beremiz Samir, on the road to Baghdad, Iraq. On the way to Baghdad, Beremiz and Hanak confront many riddles and seemingly impossible every-day problems. This book enlightened me on a subject, math, which I had always thought was a bit boring. The Man Who Counted is totally one of those books you’d call a “good read.”

I’m not surprised (only disappointed) if you are saying to yourself right now, “Why would I even bother reading this dumb book? It’s probably a boring bunch of math facts with weird people shoved in, to make it more like a story. Gah. Like I’d read that.” But the truth is, it’s not! This story is slam-packed full of little mathematical coincidences that really awe you. Nope, this is not a lie. For example, did you know that the divisors of 284 (1, 2, 4, 71 and 142) add up to 220, and that the divisors of 220 (1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 22, 44, 55, and 110) add up to 284? I found that really interesting because it was something I had never thought of, kind of like a friendship between numbers. Wow. Anyways, the main thing I wanted to say in this paragraph is that this is not just a bunch of facts, if I hadn’t made myself clear.

The story in itself is extremely realistic. No, I don’t mean that it’s normal to meet a mathematical genius every day, but this book transports you to 13th century Baghdad. You can see in your mind’s eye bustling streets with merchants calling out for customers, inns alive with chatter, and grand palaces. Of course, Islamic traditions are NOT omitted, and I think that without them, The Man Who Counted would not seem so realistic.

This book enchanted me with its mathematical adventures, even though math is not my forte.

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 10+

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Awesome & Authentic: A Review of The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

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I discovered this book in a library in Milan, Italy. After reading the prologue, I fell in love with it, and I received it later for Christmas. The story of the young outlaw was totally captivating. The Adventures of Robin Hood (by Howard Pyle) was humorous, full of dares, and, well, a great read.

You would think that Robin Hood would be constantly hiding from the Sheriff, but no  instead, Robin Hood was always very “polite.” In fact, he oftentimes invited the Sheriff to dine, which usually turned out in “handing over the cash.” In itself, that gave me an extremely satisfactory feeling, since the notorious Sheriff was always trying to hunt Robin Hood down. (The prologue explains that Robin was challenged to a duel and forced to shoot one of the King’s deer. The Sheriff was infuriated and almost driven berserk to think such a dangerous outlaw was on the loose, and that he was just out of his reach).

As I said, The Adventures of Robin Hood was slam-packed full of dares (the I’m-gonna-fight-you kind of dares, not the I-dare-you-to-eat-a-live-cockroach kind of dare). The meetings between Robin Hood and several other people were not so friendly, though sometimes extremely funny. Instead, he (excuse me-meaning Robin Hood) would often look at the new person and think, “Hmm…this feisty fellow needs some discipline,” and then fight him. However, ahem, however, these fights are not gruesome! No, they are not. This book is totally fine for queasy readers. Anyways. The fights usually consist of either 1) fighting with staffs, or 2) fighting with staffs. Not to say Robin Hood was better at fighting with staffs than at archery, but for dueling, he fought with staffs, because it’s much easier than trying to shoot an arrow at someone less than 1 meter away, don’t you think?

There’s just one tiny flaw in The Adventures of Robin Hood  `that is, for readers who are not particularly at ease with more heavy reading. For example, instead of saying, “‘ Now,’ said Little John, ‘Can someone give me a staff…’”, the book reads, “‘ Now,’ quoth Little John, ‘Is there never a man here that will lend me a good stout staff…’” Basically, the whole book is in old English, so you may want your dictionary handy. However, the fact that the book is in old English makes the book feel really authentic, which it is, unless you have an abridged version, which is totally different. If you can’t read the real book immediately, don’t spoil the story by reading the abridged version! Just wait. That way, when you read the real version you won’t say, “Oh, come on! I already know the plot of this thing! I want to read something else. Hmph.” After which you’ll never touch the book again. Boohoohoo!

After all of that, all I really want you to understand is this:

You should read this book. It is awesome…and authentic.

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 12+

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