Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Babblings

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle
by George Hagen

The Nitty Gritty: Young Gabriel and hatchling Paladin are on a collusion course of epic proportions. Both set on the course by the actions of Gab's father and Paladin's grandfather. Did we mention Paladin is a raven and Gab a boy on the cusp of his twelfth birthday. The two bond and began a journey to save Gabriel's father and just possibly the rest of humanity. Raven and amicus will travel to the underground city of Aviopolis to rescue his father and challenge his uncle.

Along the way Gabriel will learn a lot about himself, Paladin will learn to fly and a writing desk with dance a jib.

Opening Line: "Ravens love riddles."

The Good: For me this book was effortless. Effortless in its plot, the pace, the characters, the tension. It was a breeze and a delight to get into.

The characters were the best part for me. As a kid that was bullied I instantly connect with any kid that has to suffer under that fate, but while I fought back against my bullies with a sharp tongue and a great right hook that approach can't and won't work for anyone. And especially in this current climate its crucial for children to see behind the veil of their bullies. We have to nip this in the bud on both ends. This book showed that hurting people hurt people. Somes was a child who first was neglected by his father. He could barely see and his father never payed enough attention to realize that. When he did pay attention is was to smack his son around and verbally abuse him. Hurt from his father's unloving hand and the shame at not being able to read as well as the other children pushed him to take his frustrations out on Gabriel. I love that Abby noticed it and offered the hand of acceptance and friendship. It was just the thing Somes needed.

Abby was another character that I gravitated towards. She is kooky and weird and she owns it. Kids and even adults have so much pressure to just fit in and go with the flow that we feel awkward when we deviate from that pattern. Abby not only strayed to hopped on the Yellow Brick Road with a grin on her face and a piece of carmel in her mouth. She wore two different colored shoes on purpose, sported her glasses with pride and whipped her frizzy hair back and forth like a boss. I was duly impressed from start to finish with her.

The dancing writing desk gave me a smile so big my face hurt the next day. How delightful and extraordinary. In middle grades books we either get a kiddie book with a semi adult theme or we get a YA book with an inappropriate theme with younger characters. Its hard to find the right balance for this tween group, and I think Hagen did just that. We get adult themes with bullying, absent parents, verbal and physical abuse, but right smack in the middle of that we get a dancing writing desk and not only that its wearing a frothy pink nightgown! Hagen gives us the right amount of serious talk and silliness to satisfy the tweens and the adults in their lives.

While that plot is a workable trope Hagen goes about it in a refreshing way. We get another chosen one story, but Gabriel wouldn't have survived to even be the chosen one without the help of his friends. And Gabriel isn't all powerful or knowledgeable, hell he might even be a little too naive but that is why he realized that he needed friends to help him.

The Bad: I wanted to see more of Abby. She was strange and weird and just all around awesome. Her family seemed to be an all female version of the Brady Bunch and I wanted to see into that. We get a smidgen about her home life at the very end, but we need more.

I don't think enough time and attention was paid and put into Pamela as it was with the other children. She seemed slightly shallow, but of course that could be her upbringing showing and not her lack of depth.

My Final Thoughts: Can't wait to get into another adventure, of which I am sure there will be more, of Gab and his merry band of friends.