Tag Archives: children’s best-sellers

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, book one), by Eoin Colfer, 2001, Book Review

Artemis Fowl is the first of an eight-book series, the last of which is set to release in July of 2012. I had heard of this book, but I jumped in without reading up on it, so I didn’t know what to expect. (Thanks, Tim, for Kindle-lending it to me!) In the words of the author, “It’s Die Hard with fairies.” I’d have to agree with that. That fairy bit surprised me. And so did Artemis, the twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. To say the least, this book was original.

Every page moves. Artemis, in his brilliant, underhand way, initiates a plan to rip off the fairies and make off with millions in gold. It doesn’t come off exactly as planned. Though he manages to outsmart them time and again with his brilliant intellect and vast resources, the fairies have some tricks of their own, including ultra-techy weaponry and an organized military. It really did read like a Die Hard movie for kids.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as some of the other high-action commercial fiction I’ve read (which, as you all know by now, is not my favorite kidlit genre). In particular, I never connected with Artemis. I didn’t like him. He’s a cold, calculating kid who needs a good spanking. Or maybe a stint in juvie. I just never got behind him the whole time, even though there were flashes of humanity in him on occasion. I was amused by the fairy culture and their military organization, but I’m not a big fan of action movies, so I didn’t really care for all the shoot ‘em up in the book. Granted, it’s not overly graphic, though there are a few squeamish moments, like when Root breaks the fingers of a pickpocket, or when the troll disembowels Butler. (The body count only includes an unfortunate rabbit.) But I felt a little out of my element with all the detailed weapons, even if they are make-believe. It also has quite a few mild profanities, and it gets quite disgusting when the tunneling dwarf, uh, excretes all the dirt it ate onto someone.

I did like the quirks. Foaly the computer genius centaur wears a tin foil hat so human surveillance can’t read his mind. Commander Root is hugely entertaining with his larger-than-life and angrier-than-a-wounded-troll personality. The wise-cracking dialogue made me laugh several times. I liked Holly, too. She’s so normal, but she’s tough as nails when duty calls. And I could cheer on the fairies when they refuse to give up operations and leave their man (woman, actually) behind.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t ban Artemis Fowl from my kids—I would put a 10+ age limit on it—but I’d guide them to other choices first.

 

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), by Rick Riordan, 2006, Book Review

This is book two in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. If you haven’t read them, start with my review of book one, The Lightning Thief.

sea of monstersRick Riordan did it again. I enjoyed The Sea of Monsters almost as much as The Lightning Thief. It’s a whole new adventure with many of the same characters as book one and a few new ones. Kronos is still rising, Luke is still evil, the prophecy about Percy (or another child of the Big Three?) is more fully explained, and an ultimate confrontation is obviously a few books away. I’m hooked. I’ve ordered book three.

Again, I cringed a bit at the offhand way the Greek gods produce offspring, both half-human and half-beast. Such mythology is a tricky subject to base a children’s series around, but nobody’s delving into details. And creatures with super-human powers sure provide opportunity for rousing adventures. This time around, we get a Confederate ghost ship, death-defying chariot races, sirens, rides on hippocampi, a feminist sorceress, hard-partying wild centaurs and a satyr who plays “YMCA” on his pipes.

I just love Riordan’s witty, understated writing style. I had a slew of favorite passages I wanted to share, but I trimmed it down to these:

“You’d think getting chopped into a million pieces and cast into the darkest part of the Underworld would give him a subtle clue that nobody wanted him around.”

“They reminded me of miniature cafeteria ladies who’d been crossbred with dodo birds.”

“Facing the hooves of a rearing stallion is scary enough, but when it’s a centaur, armed with a bow and whooping it up in a soda-drinking hat, even the bravest warrior would retreat.”

“I mean, I’ve met plenty of embarrassing parents, but Kronos, the evil titan lord who wanted to destroy Western Civilization? Not the kind of dad you invited to school for career day.”

“Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is to remind each other that we’re related, for better or worse…and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”

I have to mention some very mild profanities. Characters repeatedly utter the tongue-in-cheek “oh my gods.” At one point, someone exclaims, “D— the heroes!” And another character is told to “go to Tartarus,” a formal name for the Underworld. On the brighter side, Percy learns a sweet lesson about loving the big stupid, ugly guy for who he is, and a lot about loyalty, friendship, and brotherhood. Overall, Percy Jackson is pretty restrained in a day when more and more trash is acceptable in the children’s genre. I give the book two thumbs up.