Monday, October 10, 2011

The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong

This book is about survival at sea, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Following his mother's death, Ben's father decides to sell the house and spend the next year sailing around the ocean on a boat with his three sons. The boys hate the idea, and Ben, being the oldest, is the most vocal about it. There is conflict all of the time, and everyone is very depressed and angry. Finally, the family's fortunes take a turn for the worse when the father disappears overboard during the night. A huge storm rises up and tosses the small boat around until it smashes into a tiny, coral and sand island. How can three brothers survive, alone, on an island without fresh water and very little plant and animal life? Ben decides something risky must be done when the middle brother becomes seriously injured in a fall.

The last third of the plot saved this book for me. The first half of the plot stressed the conflict and turmoil within the family as they tried to deal with the death of the mother. It was obvious that the father was hurting inside, but Ben couldn't help hating him. The author constantly described this hate, and I felt the plot suffered. There's not much action on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean, so that already offered a challenge in holding my interest. The focus on the problem between Ben and his father became repetitive after a while. The plot became interesting after the father fell off the boat, and I enjoyed the climax and resolution.

Lexile level from 660

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

I read this book in one day and gave it a rating of five out of five. Max is a large, learning-disabled boy going into the 8th grade, but he has no friends. His father is in prison for killing his mother, and people assume Max is a bad person too. Then, Max meets a tiny, genius by the name of Kevin, or Freak. Kevin's legs are in braces, and he uses crutches to help him walk. When Freak first climbs onto Max's shoulders in order to avoid the neighborhood juvenile delinquent, the two of them are joined to become Freak the Mighty. They become an odd couple and inseparable friends. Freak dreams up many quests and adventures, and Max becomes the transportation. Freak tells Max about an operation he's going to have in which the doctors are going to give him a totally new body to go with his amazing brain. Later, Max discovers that his father wants to see him, and this angers and frightens him. His father is supposed spend the rest of his life in prison, so there's no way he can get out. Right?

I enjoyed the blend of characters, and the way they bonded. Freak was a tiny, loud-mouth know-it-all who could annoy people with his intelligence and big vocabulary. Max was a large, misunderstood boy who was reluctant to take chances. Although I didn't always see a main conflict to resolve, the plot moved along nicely with many ups and downs. Freak's free spirit made him a funny character, but the juvenile delinquent and Max's dad added some suspense. The author threw in a bit of sadness too. Overall, the book was entertaining.

Lexile level from 1000