Monday, June 28, 2010

In The Middle Monday/Book Look Reviews of Middleworld by J&P Voekel/Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure and The Beautiful Country by Allan Richard Shickman

Monday, June 28, 2010
Welcome to In the Middle Monday where I review middle level books geared towards grades fifth through eighth. 

This week I am reviewing three middle school reads using  my Book Look Review format. These mini reviews are where I attempt to review a book in either 75 words or less or using only six sentences, and were inspired by Kate at the Neverending Shelf and Staci at Life in a Thumb respectively.

Middleworld by J & P Voelkel
(a six sentence review)

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he's mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they've had a change of heart.
Upon his arrival, Max's wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice!
(Publisher's summary from Powell's Books)
Learning about the ancient Mayan world is just one of the fun aspects of Middleworld by J & P Voelkel. I was totally involved in this great new adventure for middle school readers and found it difficult to put the book down. Max is a very reluctant hero and his faint-hearted attempts at bravado were actually quite enduring and humorous. Lola, his Mayan side-kick was smart and courageous and Max’s Ying to his Yang. The plot had just the right amount of twist, turns, humor and surprises that even reluctant readers will enjoy the read. If this book doesn’t earn some awards this year then I will be very disappointed.

Zan-Gah by Allan Richard Shickman
(a six sentence review)

The hero, Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership among his people.

In Zan-Gah, Allen Richard Shickman gives a realistic account of prehistoric life, through Zan-Gah’s  eyes and reminded me a lot of  Jean Auel’s Earth Children series only for middle school readers. Zan-Gah is a strong and intelligent character whose brave quest to find his missing brother takes the reader on an exciting adventure. I loved Shickman’s attention to details and his vivid descriptions. This is definitely an interesting and unique coming-of-age story, and while only a merger 148 pages long, it more than adequately tells a great story. I could easily see this used to in conjunction with the teaching of early man in a social studies classroom. My only complaint was there were a few times when I felt that the narration became didactic and threw the flow of the story off; however, this only occurred a few times and was a minor flaw.
Source: Copy from publisher

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country by Allen Richard Shickman
(review in 75 words or less)

The prehistoric saga continues in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, the sequel to the award winning Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure. In this story, Zan's troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan's people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael's cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land. (Publisher's Summary from Powell's Books)

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country continues where Zan-Gah left off. The same attention to details and vivid descriptions are present in this novel. The focus is Zan-Gah’s attempts to help his brother acclimate back into his tribe and deal with the demon’s that have greatly changed Dael’s personality. Even though this book provides more information about the tribual life and has more characterization, I thought it was less exciting than the first book.
Source: Copy from Publisher


GMR said...

Nice reviews! I like your shortened worked well for these. I'm actually going to be readin/reviewing the last two soon as well....from the sound of them (read the first 20 pages when it arrived...) it should be interesting. Will have to be prepared for the second book...curious to see my own reaction to it. Thanks for sharing....and happy reading!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I like your reviews! Wow, I haven't read middle-grade books in ages, it seems. Your reviews of them make me want to read some again. Thanks for sharing!

Emidy said...

Great reviews! You always manage to get your thoughts across with so little words. :D

Manga Maniac said...

Thanks for the Zah-Gah review - it is in my TBR pile. I love the setting, but just haven't had time to read it yet.

Lizzy said...

Thanks for the reviews. I enjoyed Middleworld, I thought it was fun and engaging. While I had some trouble with Max's attitude in the beginning, I grew to like him.

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