Divergent by Veronica Roth

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Divergent is a popular young adult novel by Veronica Roth, and the first in a series set in the same dystopian universe. It is similar in theme to other post-apocalyptic books, such as The Hunger Games. Divergent follows the character of Beatrice, or “Tris” as she is also known. She lives in a city divided between five factions roughly corresponding to personality types. These factions hold a balance of power that, while fragile, is better than the anarchic alternative.

This setting seems formulaic and is never adequately explained. How did a society in turmoil develop such a strict division of society, and is this division present anywhere outside of the city? The Factions seem to live in an uneasy balance, but how can this balance be sustained when contact between the factions is effectively forbidden? Nevertheless, Roth uses this cheesy backdrop to create engaging characters and to move the plot along quickly.

The characters and their challenges will hold the most appeal to a young reader. Divergent follows the protagonist and her colleagues through an initiation process that brings a cohort of 16-year-olds together, and sometimes sets them into conflict with each other. There is a real sense of satisfaction the reader will gain from discovering how the protagonist grows and adapts. Themes of alienation, fitting in, new environments, and relationship to authority are explored in detail.

All of this character growth is done while the plot builds up to a breakneck pace. I think any reader who makes it past the stumbling first half will devour the second half in one sitting.

This is a book that will appeal to older teens. Sex and violence feature prominently in Divergent, both as part of the setting and as pieces inherent to the plot. It might be too much for younger readers to handle. The themes in general revolve around interaction with and integration with the adult world, and making sense of the rules of society, so a reader of 15 or older will find Divergent speaks to them.

Artificiality of the setting aside, this is an entertaining novel with plenty going for it.

3-flashlight-rating

Green Eggs and Ham

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This is a classic book by the iconic Dr. Seuss that some parents may remember having read in their own childhood. It is a masterful combination of words and pictures that would be ideal for children ages 4-6. Younger children will enjoy having this book read to them, as it is full of colourful illustrations and rhythmic rhyming language.

Green Eggs and Ham is set in a world populated by Dr. Seuss’ iconic anthropomorphic furry humanoid creatures. The nameless protagonist is accosted by a persistent Sam-I-Am, who insists on making him try the green eggs and ham. Sam-I-Am keeps up his pursuit for most of the book, setting up scenarios where he suggests to try the dish in various ways (in the rain / on the train). Finally, the exhausted protagonist relents, and finds he enjoys green eggs and ham after all! Parents of picky eaters will find much to relate to, and so will the picky eaters, too.

This book is ideal for helping a young reader’s developing literacy skills. Besides the rhyming, there is frequent repetition (You may like them. You will see. You may like them/ in a tree!) which means the reader has only a few phrases per page to decipher before they can read it in its entirety. Cognitive development is also helped along by the illustrations, which help keep the narrative together in such a repetitive text. Sam-I-Am, the protagonist, and a host of other Seussian creatures travel across the page by rail, by car, on foot, and by boat. All this visual interest helps the reader keep track of where they are in the story.

The unusual colour of the food provides a good frame for introducing this story. Parents can ask about their child’s favourite food, then ask if they would like it if it were… GREEN! Parents can extend the child’s interaction with the book by giving them pictures of food to colour, or making some green cookies with the child.

This timeless classic has a lot to offer the youngest generation, and parents should not hesitate to add this to the family bookshelf!

5-flashlight-rating

 

On My Walk

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On My Walk is a picture book written by Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrated by Christina Leist. It is a short, colourful book, ideal for a child 18 months and older.

The pages are glossy and illustrated, although not thick enough to hold up to too much toddler manipulation. The illustrations are enough to hold a young child’s attention, however, so they should be content with a parent turning the pages. The copy that I obtained also was starting to come loose at the spine, so this may not be one for a particularly destructive young creature.

Each page has at most four words on it, with a corresponding illustration. There is a thin plot, where a young child goes for a walk with their parent and a dog, but it is simply presented and predictable, so it will be easy for the child to follow along. Helping to maintain interest are short onomatopeic phrases peppered throughout, such as clippity-clop made by a horse.

The child will find the repetitive phrasing and the predictable wording an invitation to repeat what they hear. There is enough detail in each page for an inquisitive young one to point to, without distracting them from the written sentences. One drawback of this book is that the colouring is a little unappealing. The muted browns and greens are the same throughout, with little that pops out.

Overall, this book is a delight that introduces familiar everyday sights and activities. The few flaws prevent a full five flashlight rating.

Four Flashlights

4-flashlight-rating