Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: The Stonekeeper (Kibuishi)

AUTHOR: Kazu Kabuishi
SERIES: Amulet, book 1
PUBLICATION DATE: January 1, 2008
ISBN: 9780439846806
PAGES: 192
SOURCE: my library
GENRE: graphic novel; fantasy
SETTING: Norlen, a small town in "the middle of nowhere"; present day
GIVE IT TO: Grades 3-6
SUMMARY: Two years after their father's tragic death, siblings Emily and Navin move with their mother to a creepy old mansion in the middle of nowhere. After finding a magical amulet, Emily and Navin discover their new home is infested with fantasy creatures, one of which eats their mother (she's still alive inside the monster). Emily and Navin chase the monster and discover an entire world they never knew existed.

REVIEW: Let me start by emphasizing how incredibly popular these books are with young readers. I am sharing my graphic novel challenge experiences with my middle school students. When I said I was reading the first book in the Amulet series, they were so excited. When I asked students who had read it, many, many hands went up in every single class. My 8-year old son has read all six books, and I've already ordered Firelight, book #7, for my library when it comes out later this month.

At age 40, I am not the target audience for this book. For me, reading it today, The Stonekeeper was just okay. I expected more from a book that my students love so dearly. The illustrations are pretty, and the little pink mechanical rabbit was cute, I guess. Maybe if I read further into the series, I would find the plot depth I felt lacking. I didn't understand what the amulet was, or why it had the power to talk and electrocute(?) monsters. I didn't understand the grandfather's role in all of it, or why siblings Emily and Navin never thought to fight over why Emily always gets to wear the magical amulet. My sister and I would have come to blows over that pretty quick.

As I said, I am not the target audience. I know I would have loved this series when I was 8 or 9 years old. It reminds me of those ABC Weekend Specials that came on every Saturday morning in the 1980s. For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, there is a certain nostalgia around the ABC After-School Special and the ABC Weekend Special. Whether or not we liked them, I doubt there are many Americans between the ages of 25-45 who haven't watched at least one episode on a rainy Saturday morning. I may not love those so much if I watched them for the first time today, but when I was a kid, they were awesome, especially the fantasy-cartoony ones about teachers who are really witches. Some good stuff there!

I think my middle school students will have this same kind of nostalgia for the Amulet series. Even the students who "hate to read" love this series. Lots of students, including my son, have read them more than once. I've taught in both the USA and China, and Amulet is universally popular in both places.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Not my cup of tea, but elementary-age students absolutely love this series. My 8-year old son sucked down the entire series in no time. Great for reluctant readers, too.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have all that are published to-date. Especially popular with grades 3-6. A must for any school or public library, including high school libraries for reluctant readers and the nostalgia factor.

READALIKES: Cardboard (TenNapel); Jellaby: The Lost Monster (Soo)

  • Overall: 3/5
  • Creativity: 3/5
  • Characters: 2/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to young readers: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: medium; monster-violence, one monster eats Emily and Navin's mother (but she is alive inside the monster)
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none
  • Other: the car accident in the first scene kills the father. It's a pretty intense and emotional scene for sensitive readers. That said, my 8-year old son (who is pretty sensitive and emotionally perceptive) didn't seem to be bothered by it.

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