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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

I’ve known James Dashner for a few years, and have read his first books The Jimmy Fincher series, but I have to say his weird imagination and twisted sense of humor really shine through in The Journal of Curious Letters, the first book in The 13th Reality Series.

The Journal of Curious Letters is certainly one convoluted and interesting read. Here’s one of those cool new book trailers to help you get a tiny peek into Tick’s seriously twisted reality. (Yes. I mean that literally.)

Yep. That’s pretty much it. James Dashner is just one of those guys who never grew up in all the right ways. He has a way of getting inside a little boy’s mind and figuring out what exactly will appeal to them in a big way. I’m happy to see him having some great success with that part of himself. He certainly deserves it, but on the other hand I think the greatest respect and honor goes to his wife for having to live with him!

The cover looks like The Journal of Curious Letters would be appropriate for the younger middle-grade reader, but I don’t think it’s one that age will want to read independently. The Journal of Curious Letters does make a great case for read aloud bedtime material for that age however, and will easily attract the older middle-grade reader. It’s full of puzzles and riddles and very weird creatures that will capture your heart and keep you moving right along with plenty of action. But, because it seriously lacks in “real” world normalcy most of the time, I found myself getting a little overwhelmed in some places. Some of the riddles made my head spin, it may just be that I have far too few brain cells left in my old age, or it may actually put off a few “lazier” child readers as well. Don’t worry, though Tick will eventually walk you through the answers.

I also like the fact that the parents (and other grown-ups) are allowed to be involved and helpful. No, they don’t solve things for the children, but they are there and they are willing to believe and support their children. I find this valuable. Most children’s books go out of their way to get rid of parents, prove them idiots, or useless, and not to be trusted. I can understand all of this. Children want to be able to fix things themselves and figure out how to be independent and in control, but it’s also refreshing to find a book that reminds children parents usually do know a few things and really do love their children.

If you have a child who is fond of books like Leven Thumps, A Wrinkle in Time, or Runemarks, The Journal of Curious Letters would most likely appeal to them. You can stop by James Dashner’s website for The 13th Reality to read the first two chapters of this book. I suggest stopping by just for the fun of it as well. It’s a pretty neat web site. Have your child play the riddle game. If they like it, it’s a pretty good indication they’ll enjoy the book, too.

Book two: The Hunt for Dark Infinity will be out next spring. James has another unrelated title, The Maze Runner, which was recently accepted by Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House Children's Books) for a fall 2009 release.

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