Kids Corner

Sci-fi fantasy makes great read “Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident” begins one year after the first book in the series leaves off. Artemis Fowl is at an Irish boarding school for “young gentlemen” when he receives an urgent plea for help in the form of a video e-mail. This e-mail is from the one person Artemis thought he’d never see again, his father. To rescue his father, Artemis will need the help of the People, commonly known as fairies. They are his only hope, but can they help? And will they want (or need) help in return to fight a goblin rebellion underground?

Author Eoin Colfer has created a mythical world with a colorful cast (a LEPrecon officer with a complexion the color of a ripe tomato, a centaur who wears a tinfoil hat so people can’t steal his weapon designs, and Artemis himself, a 13-year-old genius who is smarter than any human since Mozart), make the books original, yet not too sophisticated.

One of the best parts of the book is how the author combines the minds of an adult and a child. Even though Artemis is able to forge impressionist paintings, write computer programs to divert millions from Swiss accounts to his own and beat European chess champions online, he is still the loneliest boy he has ever met. Artemis isn’t anti-social, but he doesn’t do the things his peers choose to do in their spare time. While other adolescents are outside shooting hoops, munching on chips or just hanging out, Artemis is inside, glued to his IMac’s glowing screen and snacking on caviar. You realize that everything Artemis does has a purpose, and whatever he does ends either with someone being in his debt or with millions of dollars in gold ingots sitting in a (furnished) cell in his basement.

Colfer doesn’t use the same old “And they lived happily ever after” formula. These are enormously funny books. Anybody who enjoys fantasy or science fiction will undoubtedly enjoy “Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident” as much as I did.

–Meg Luther, 12, River Forest

Three cheers for time travelers I loved “The Time Warp Trio: Knights of the Kitchen Table” because the main characters are just like me, regular boys.

Three friends, Joe, Fred and Sam, take a magical trip to Camelot. At the beginning of the book, Joe has a birthday. His uncle, a magician named Joe the Magnificent, brings him a magic book. When Joe opens it, a pale green mist rises from the book and it sends them back into time. They find themselves in the time of King Arthur, Merlin and Sir Lancelot.

From this point on, the boys have many adventures. First, they defeat the Black Knight by hitting him with a stick (like they were playing baseball). Then the boys meet Merlin. Merlin doesn’t think that they are from the time of Camelot. Merlin asks the boys to do a magic trick to see if they are enchanters who really know magic. Joe does a card trick, but Merlin isn’t convinced. He asks the boys to fight a giant and a Dragon. Do they win? Or do they become giant food? You will have to read the book to find out.

–Benjamin Gronwold, 8, Oak Park

Mockingbird sings a classic story When our family book club decided to read Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I thought, “Boring!” After a few days, I was able to see the beauty of Lee’s book. It’s a pretty grown-up story, but it’s told through the eyes of kids like me. That makes hard subjects easier to understand, which makes the book so much more interesting.

Story lines about racism, rape and injustice are a little heavy, so Lee chose to tell the story from a young girl’s perspective. The girl narrates the story of a black man falsely accused of raping a young white woman and one man’s fight to free him. If the story had been told by an adult, readers would have to suffer through the unnecessary chit-chat, opinions and worries of that perspective. Seeing Maycomb County through Scout’s innocent eyes, however, prevents this “masterpiece of American literature” from being an “I-had-to-read-it” sort of book.

As the novel begins, the narrator, Scout, is 6; her brother, Jem, is a fifth-grader and their father, Atticus Finch, is one of the county’s leading lawyers. He is selected to defend Tom Robinson, a Negro accused of rape.

Racism still exists, but today’s problems don’t compare to those described in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The main problem seems to be that Negroes are considered the least human of four kinds of people. As Jem tells Scout, “There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes.” Unlike her brother, Scout believes “there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

To make the point, the author tells Tom’s story. He stops to help Mayella Ewell, 19. When her father, catches his daughter hugging a black man, he accuses Tom of rape. Atticus does his best to make Tom a free man, but the jury finds him guilty. Tom ends up dead-shot as he tries to escape from punishment for a crime he did not commit.

By the way, the book has such a cool title. I didn’t understand it at first. Then, in chapter 10, it says: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” But not until Scout says to her father, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” did I realize who the book’s mockingbirds were. I will read this book with my children someday and hope they will with theirs.

–John F. Sherman, 13, Chicago

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