Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's Cool

Summer vacation is cool even if the weather is hot and the humidty makes everything sticky. I've spent time in dry heat too. It's not much better. So swealtering heat is not cool, but summer vacation is. Confidence is cool. Inventions can be cool. Imagination is cool. And opening a brand new book is definitely cool... at least to me. So when I saw this new book, "Mac Slater Hunts the Cool" I thought, "this could be cool."

"Mac Slater Hunts the Cool"
By Tristan Bancks
For Ages 8 - 12
A quick-paced story about imagination, being yourself, and questioning what is cool, "Mac Slater Hunts the Cool" is entertaining and interesting. Unfortunately it lacks depth and misses the chance to be great. Rated 3.5 (dangerous stunts, cliques, mild bullying)

Mac Slater has never thought of himself as cool. He lives in an old bus next to the artists' village in Kings Bay, Australia. His mother is a diehard hippie and his father is a protester. His best friend Paul is an outcast as well, but together they work well. They both like to invent - currently it is a flying bike. So it strikes both Mac and Paul as odd when some hip young corporate types offer Mac a chance to hunt cool things, film them, and post the videos on the Coolhunters website. Only one catch. Mac has to compete with the "it" girl fashionista, Cat, to see who will get the gig and a chance to fly to New York.

The story questions what "cool" is and where you can find it. This is a pretty good idea and it provides for some fun adventures and plenty of humor. The story briefly explores class structure in high school, from geeks to jocks, but it balks at the chance to delve deeper into teen psyches. "Mac Slater Hunts for Cool," is a quick paced story about friendship and imagination. It's about being yourself and happy with whoever that is. That's cool.

Tristan Banks' background in acting and filmmaking comes through in the pacing and structure of "Mac Slater Hunts the Cool." It sort of reads like a movie. Unfortunately it reads like a mediocre movie with no real depth. On the surface it is enteratining and fun. It's light and humorous, but it misses too many opportunities to be a great book. Not cool.

If your kids want to read something fun and interesting, this story is cool. This is a planned series so maybe Bancks will explore more depth as the story continues, but don't expect more from "Mac Slater Hunts the Cool" than what is on the surface.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Is It Really the End?

I don't know about you, but I prefer to take paperback books with me when I travel for summer vacations. Unfortunately for me some of the best reading this summer is coming from new hardcover books. I was particularly looking foward to the newly released book from Brandon Mull. That is why I purchased it last week and spent a couple days reading it.

"Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison"
By Brandon Mull
For ages 10 - 15
This fast-paced fantasy adventure is filled with magic, mystery, fantasy creatures and a battle between good and evil. "Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison," is a fun and engaging epic with creative plot twists and deft character development. Rated 4.5 (perilous situations, violence, death, magic)
The fifth book of Brandon Mull's "Fablehaven" series finds Amy, Dan and the rest of the Knights of the Dawn facing what appears to be the eminent destruction of the world. Dan and Amy are on separate quests which could be the only hope for success in the final battle to come. Dan still acts impetuously and Amy still lacks confidence in her abilities. Strangely these characteristics lead to a few interesting turns of events. When the demons doublecross the Sphinx (imagine that, deceived by demons) he must work with the Knights of the Dawn to prevent the demon horde in Zzyzx from destroying the world. As the doors to the demon prison are opened all creatures of light converge on Shoreless Isle for the final battle.

We've followed Amy and Dan from the beginning as they were introduced to a fantasy world that existed within our own, but hidden by the limitations of our own vision. Each book brought new dangers and new powers. And each book brought the Society of the Evening Star closer to releasing the demon king from his magical prison.We've seen Dan and Amy get involved in the fight as they and slowly became the keys to success. Mull finishes the Fablehaven series with fast-paced adventures, perilous situations and plot twists that will keep you guessing. He answers old questions, introduces new characters and leaves some new questions unanswered.

It may not be the best book of the series but it is a fitting end. Although Mull says, in an afterward, that he may revisit the world of "Fablehaven" and its characters in the future he has made it clear any new book on the subject would not be a sequel. I thoroughly enjoyed the "Fablehaven" series. If you enjoyed Harry Potter and have been looking for a series to fill the void, this one will do it admirably. Thank you Brandon Mull. I look forward to your next series of books, whatever they are.