Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

Biblio Bits Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, Scholastic Press, 2007 (ISBN 9780439925501)

Reading Level/Interest Age 730 lexile/ages 10-12

Genre Fantasy, Humor

Plot Summary
Alcatraz has been bouncing through foster families for as long as he can remember. The trouble is, he has a knack for breaking things in a big way, and after a while, his foster parents can't keep up with the replacement costs. On his thirteenth birthday, Alcatraz receives an unusual package from his parents: a bag of sand. He's still scratching his head about this (Aren't his parents dead? How did the package come to the right address when he moves so often? Who sends their son a bag of sand for his birthday?!) when a strange man shows up who claims to be his Grandfather. This alleged grandfather is a stranger to Alcatraz, though he seems to be quite familiar with Alcatraz's situation, and he says some pretty bizarre things. When the bag of sands is discovered missing, his Grandfather convinces Alcatraz that time is of the essence and they must go after the Evil Librarians to recover these priceless sands before it is too late. This adventure story will keep readers guessing and entertained as they follow the twisting tale and meet the outrageous characters.

Critical Evaluation
Though Sanderson's plot is brisk and there is plenty of action, his storycrafting and wordplay makes this a book that can be enjoyed by a diverse audience. It would make an excellent classroom or family read-aloud. The situations are often absurd and silly, but Sanderson's world is seamless fantasy (meaning that there are not a lot of distracting gaps in the story, so readers can fully immerse themselves). The humor and conventions are tongue-in-cheek and directed at bibliophiles, like Alcatraz's assumption that no librarians will recommend this title because it exposes them for the villains they really are. This is a fun and funny read, a clever and lighthearted take on the fantasy genre.

Reader's Annotation
Oh, inhabitants of the Hushlands, you are ignorant that your world is controlled by dastardly librarians! In Alcatraz, you have an unlikely hero whose talent of breaking things helps him on his quest to foil their latest plot.

Author Information
Brandon Sanderson was born in 1975 and is a noted writer of fantasy books for adults. The Alcatraz books are his only series for children. He graduated from Brigham Young University in their Master's program in creative writing. Sanderson was selected to complete Robert Jordan's final installment of The Wheel of Time series, after Jordan's death. Sanderson currently resides in Utah with his wife. (Information in this author biography is from the author's official website as well as Wikipedia.)

Challenge issues
Librarian stereotyping alert! Horn-rimmed glasses and buns! But the librarians do get to rule the world...Anyway, besides for this stereotype, there are not many other objectionable sections of this book. Just plain, good, fun, fantasy.

Booktalking Ideas
I would have to read the first sentence aloud in a booktalk for this title, it's just too good to resist (see below "Why this book?"). Terry Pratchett comes to mind as a booktalking bedfellow and readalike, for this genre of clever, humorous, fantasy.

Curriculum Ties
Sanderson does a lot of circuitous storytelling here (which some critics seem to hate), where the narrator tells us in advance that we won't believe what we are about to read or gives us a cliff-hanger sentence and then tells us that we'll have to wait for a minute while he digresses. A language arts class in a unit on creative writing or storytelling might discuss what this literary convention is contributes to the story, plot, and Alcatraz's narrative? What is the experience of the reader when they encounter this?

Why this book?
I couldn't resist this first line: "So, there I was, tied to an altar made from out-dated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil librarians."

This title is followed by two more installments (as of November 2009): Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (2008) and Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia (2009). There are five titles planned for the series.


Rockport Public Library owns?

No comments: