Middler Books and More

This blog contains Bruce DuBoff's book reviews, info on other media, and related topics. It is a collaboration between the librarian and both the students of Pennsauken Intermediate School and Phifer Middle School in Pennsauken, NJ, and the general middler book reading community. The books featured here are appropriate for grades 5-8, though not all books reviewed here are appropriate for all of those ages.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (2 out of 4 stars)--
There is no law that says I have to like every Newbery winner issued, and I'm glad, because I was not crazy about this one. I expect more out of the winners and I expect to appreciate the writing style more, but enough whining and on with the review.

Criss Cross is the coming-of-age story of a group of rural middle schoolers and their awakening sensibilities. It is supposed to be poignant and charming, especially when seen through the eyes of the creative and dramatic Debbie or the artistic and shy Hector, but Perkins falls short on characterization. She tries too hard to make these characters memorable but misses the mark, especially in personal narrative. When she states, "The air was as warm as bathwater," she sounds exactly like a kid should, with a charming simile. However, when she precedes that age-appropriate sentiment with, "Three or four stars were visible in the opalescent dome of the sky, which was light and diaphanous to the west, a deepening delphinium blue to the east," the reader is lost before getting to the charm. No 14-year-old thinks like that, even the geeky ones.

The author betrays her voice through excessive style and pretentious polish. Perkins employs a veritable Writing 101 workshop in several chapters, using devices such as simultaneous narration of two characters, and a combination of photos and other graphic devices, but it all feels hollow and forced, with none of the grace of Kira-Kira or the humor of Bud, Not Buddy. Criss Cross is at times a poignant tale of the blossoming desires and feelings kids experience at this age, but it does not ring true often enough to be engaging. I'm hoping for more from the Newbery committee next year.

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