Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Feisty Girls in the Woods vs. The Mad Monk

Brad:  Well, I think I can see where this match-up is going to go, but we’ll chat about it anyway.  Let’s start off with Lumberjanes, because, well, it seems to have invoked the ire of more than a few Smackdown participants.  Thoughts?

Jenny:  Ah, Lumberjanes . . .  I was disappointed.  I thought the concept of the book was interesting: a summer camp where girls battle the strange and supernatural, but it went nowhere.  I didn’t like any of the characters, and every time a character said “What the junk?,” I cringed.  I got to the end and was shocked.  That’s it?!?!

Brad:  But...we only read Part I of a two-part story (get Lumberjanes Vol.II for the rest!!)?!?!  How is that the fault of poor Lumberjanes Vol. I?  I liked it a whole lot more than I expected to.  Look--it’s no Nimona (which, sidebar, Dear Arlene and Dia, should be in next year’s Smackdown):  it lacks the clever allegory and whip-smart social commentary of that Noelle Stevenson work.  But...this is just...FUN.  Like The Goonies. I’m not sure I laughed out loud a lot, but I smiled and snickered the entire time.  And I can’t deride a text that would send kids scurrying to their computers to look up “anagrams” and the “fibonacci sequence.”

Jenny:  I didn’t find it fun; I found it annoying.  As I was reading it, I wondered if kids would find it fun and/or funny.  To me, there was a lot of jumping around from one adventure to the next with really no time to get to know the characters. In all fairness, I should probably read the next book in the series, but I just didn’t care about the girls.

Kelly:  What the junk….was that book all about?  I was excited to start Lumberjanes and was hooked at the first paragraph when it it described how “curiosity and courage are especially important to the Lumberjanes,” but it was nothing but disappointment after that.  I felt the story was scattered,  no development of the characters, and not sure where courage was shown.

Brad:  Huh.  I thought the characters and character development were pretty clear; these are archetypal characters, for sure, and remain fairly static, but, by the end of this four-issue compilation, I had a pretty good feel for all of ‘em.  Look--I’m not saying I loved it or anything, but I thought this was good, clean fun.  All around.
Kelly:  I just never connected with any of the characters.  I just felt it was noisy….how do you like that?

Brad:  Fair enough!  And I can totally see it.  I guess I just sort of embraced the boisterousness of it all.  Again, like The Goonies.  Loud, doesn’t make much sense, but winsomely funny, and, at times, kind of fun.

Graham:  I actually had a ton of fun with Lumberjanes. I felt this book is appealing to a lot of young readers, including me. I understood the characters were somewhat flat and, yes, noisy Kelly. And it was pleasing to me, right from the start. I was prepared for fun and whimsy. I also felt the book played on a fun story with the art adding to the experience.

Brad:  The art was ridiculously fantastic--tons of classroom potential in teaching the sequential image.

Jenny:  I think that it’s funny that the men liked Lumberjanes more than us WOMEN.

Graham: Perhaps it was the comic layout that was somewhat reminiscent to my cartoon-watching days. But I was prepared to enjoy the book from the getgo. I am also pretty good with disobedient children and adventure.

Brad:  Should we move on to The Family Romanov?

Jenny:  In contrast to Lumberjanes, I really liked The Family Romanov.  I thought it was informative and interesting at the same time and a much better way to learn about Russia than using a boring textbook.

Kelly :  I agree with you Jenny.  I loved how I was learning about the Romanov family and about the unrest in Russia.  It was easy to read and I felt connected to the characters.  I actually didn’t want to put it down.

Graham: As I had mentioned in the previous round, I also enjoy history captured in a meaningful and personal experience. The book adds a depth of understanding to Imperialist Russia and the contrast to the haves and have nots.

Brad:  This is going to shock you all, but I, too, really liked The Family Romanov, despite some pretty big flaws, in my opinion.  See, HERE’S what an immaculately-researched non-fiction text can be:  engaging, heartfelt, and moving, without ever sacrificing the “truth” of the real story or real people.  I love how quotations are excerpted from real texts in order to flesh out the story, rather than “fictionalizing” moments in real-life events.  Look--it’s a great story.  Stranger than fiction.

Jenny:  I loved seeing the personal side of the Tsar and Tsarist - flaws, fears, and all.  More “mortal” than perhaps anyone thought.  I also found the chapters about Rasputin fascinating.
Brad:  Me too.  He really was a cat that really was gone. What I didn’t love?  I got a little tired of all those juxtapositional interstitial chapters where the opulence of the royal family was contrasted with the impoverished drudgery of the Russian commonfolk. Necessary, I suppose, but SO SO MUCH.  I got it.  Really.  The first ten times.

Jenny:  I agree--I thought that the other perspectives were great at first but then became tired of them.  But, even so, I actually got a little emotional  - I know--hard to believe - when the family was being brought to their execution...  

Kelly : ...and how fast the execution happened!  (Editor's NoteSpoiler alert!?!?!  Necessary?   Unnecessary?  Whatever. END Editor's Note)  I can’t imagine the fear when they realized what was going to happen.  Interesting--I actually enjoyed the constant contrast of peasant/common folk and the privileged lives of the Romanovs.  I felt that it kept you thinking about what was really happening in Russia.  It kept you from only focusing on what was specifically happening with the Romanovs. 

Brad:  So...which moves on?  Everyone?

Jenny:  Gotta love those Russians!

Kelly:  Hands down, no question, the Russians.  It will be the only time I cheer for the Russians...Don Cherry would not be impressed.

Graham: I have to go with my good friend Rasputin.

Brad:  Me too.  Those zany, zany Russians.

Kelly:  I love it that we all agree!!

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