Tuesday, January 20, 2009

REVIEW: Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones

Sanderson, B. (2008). Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones. New York: Scholastic


So I know I reviewed the first Alcatraz book a few weeks ago, but what can I say, I enjoyed it. So here’s the second book. This time around, Alcatraz must search for his father and grandfather in the great Library of Alexandria (turns out it wasn’t destroyed, just moved. It’s a conspiracy).

While I will admit to loving this fantasy/science fiction series, I have a very small bone to pick with the titles. While the ‘versus’ technique is cute on one hand, it always places Alcatraz in opposition. But on the other hand, opposition creates tension and tension helps make for a good read. But on the other hand, in a binary infested world do we really need more binaries. Hmmm. That’s enough rambling and too many hands.

Now lets move on to the opening sentence. The “So, there I was,” phrasing is used in both books multiple times. This could turn into a fun writing exercise to do with students—Have them create their own stories beginning with “So, there I was….”

Once again, Sanderson includes the use of guns and violence in the book with no serious consequences. (however there is a repeated promise of death to the character, Bastille) On the plus side though, Sanderson maintains the strength of his enjoyable and humorous meta-narrative that explores the conditions of leadership and heroism. I made be forced to add him to the short list of authors that I would marry no questions asked. (This is a big deal, guys! This is a very short list and Sanderson just might get his name put on it).

Activities to do with the book:

Along with considering discussions of how to construct a tense and drama –filled narrative, students can also discuss if Alcatraz is a trustworthy narrator.

Another discussion would be to consider the way Western culture is viewed in the Alcatraz books. A reader can feel like an anthropologist, examining their own culture.

Overall, Alcatraz’s sarcastic voice could manage to entice many struggling readers. If that is the case, it’s important to maintain the sense of fun inherent in this series.

Favorite Quotes:

“You think you know me. You’ve listened to the storytellers. You’ve talked with your friends about my exploits. You’ve read history books and heard the criers tell of my heroic deeds. The trouble is, the only people who are bigger liars than myself are the people who like to talk about me” (Foreword).

For some reason, the more powerful a pair of Oculatory Lenses is, the less cool they tend to look. I’m developing a theory about it—the Law of Disproportional Lameness.)” (p. 2).

“I feel I need to break the action here to warn you that I frequently break the action to mention trivial things” (p. 7).

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