Smackdown Books 2017

Arlene's smackdown17 book montage

The Memory of Things
Hour of the Bees
The Gospel Truth
Ultraman, Vol. 1
The Bunker Diary
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
The Hired Girl
An Ember in the Ashes
The Porcupine of Truth
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Goodbye Stranger
Beautiful Blue World
The Blackthorn Key
All American Boys

Monday, December 16, 2013

The One and Only Ivan vs. Goblin Secrets

The Newbery winner (in the long three year history of the Smackdown) has never moved beyond the first round but there was never a gorilla standing in the way before. Does brute strength win out? Do the poor little goblins run shrieking? These are all questions we thought we would be answering before we sat down to read. In the end it wasn’t Ivan’s brute strength but Applegate’s sparse yet thoughtful writing and Goblin Secret’s underwhelming fantasy world that made this a unanimous decision.

In Goblin Secrets Rownie searches for his missing brother by escaping a Dickensian orphan snatcher who is a mechanical bird woman (steampunk anyone?) and joining a troupe of goblin actors who are not welcome in the city under orders from the mayor. There are moments in Alexander’s writing that made me stop to copy out phrases. In addition, the goblins treatment could be used to mirror many historical situations as the best fantasies often do. For me, though, there was too much in the world underdeveloped for me to focus on the plot. Coming in at just over 200 pages seemed to mean Alexander sacrificed some of his world building leaving me knocking over flimsy stage settings in a quest to understand why there were mechanical people, what happened earlier with the flooding, how did the goblins come to be and what happened in the tunnels.

In the end, Applegate made it easy for us to embrace the humanity of a tiny elephant named Ruby and Ivan the gorilla. I know for some Charlotte’s Web is hallowed ground so I won’t say this lightly.  Charlotte meet Ivan; I think you have a lot in common.

Dia, Arlene, Holly & Annabel

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