Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist Scientist, Lunch Walks Among Us
Lunch Walks Among Us
Concoction, scientist, dungeon, nuclear-powered brain amplifier, flying piranha. These are many difficult, yet quite useful words and phrases Georgia has come to know by reading the Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books. Franny is the intelligent, inventive and caring girl I hope my daughter will someday be. However, I am hoping she waits until college to try and build a monster by sewing balogna sandwiches together.
I recommend this book for anyone with a child reluctantly moving into chapter books. Jim Benton has managed to create a sympathetic character who faces the same challenges as many children. In FKS #1, Lunch Walks Among Us, Franny tries to change herself in order to make friends in a new school. At the same time, Benton brings in fantastic twists in the story, such as a lunch room garbage can accidentally fermenting a ‘Giant Monstrous Fiend’ from crab ravioli in pumpkin sauce, gum, old gym shoes, and unstable industrial waste. Franny, of course, saves the day by being her true self, and all of her friends come to love her for who she is. Yay.
I recommend this book for emerging readers. There are illustrations on almost every page, and the story moves smoothly. There are monsters and danger, but it is all quite lighthearted and silly. I suppose if you have a really sensitive child that takes things literally, you should not give them this book. Otherwise, enjoy. This is great fun to read for both you and your child.
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Author Hannah Tinti sets her novel in an America of a bygone century when the completely vulnerable had only the protection of the rare and random, caring human heart. Ren, an orphan boy with an unexplained missing hand, finds that refuge in the company of a collection of some of society’s most broken souls. The Good Thief couples the boy’s discovery of compassion and loyalty with the discovery of his own mysterious and tragic past.
A ready-made classic, this story is told from the first-person perspective of Ren. Many multi-faceted characters with stories of their own enter and intertwine with his story as he is drawn irrevocably through his destiny. Suspense builds from the drum-beat of assaults on the reader’s instinctual demarcations between right and wrong as well as from the increasingly precarious balance between the perils that befall the boy and his projectory toward revelation.
As an adventure story with a clear progression of events related through the perspective of a twelve-year old boy, The Good Thief has been enjoyed by some of my more well-read high school students and older middle school students. The complexity of moral values as well as a fair amount of gruesome scenes might be too much for younger middle school students, however. Also, the plot does have an old-fashioned feel to it that reluctant readers may not have the patience for, even though the pace definitely picks up as the story moves along. I enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend it to adults, particular reluctant-reading adults who might want to be caught reading by their children.