Saturday, September 15, 2012

Batty About Books - What Came From The Stars by Gary Schmidt

Maria and I are back and we are
Batty About
by Gary Schmidt

Clarion Books, 2012

Kathy: As soon as I heard about this book, I wanted to read it! Schmidt’s Okay for Now was one of one my favorite books last year.  The students voted it as an honor book for our Mock Newbery, it was fiercely debated on The Heavy Medal blog and was also THE winner of SLJ’s Battle of the Kid’s Books!  Expectations are HIGH!

Part 1 -
pgs 1 - 142 (My comments are in BLUE and Maria's responses are in PURPLE)

Kathy: The Valorim, O’Mondim, and the Ethelim - Schmidt jumps right into the fantasy world. And with a battle no less. Some of the words were a little confusing but the plot itself was easy to follow. Loved the last stand and how the ART was preserved because it meant life itself.
Yes! I mention this focus on the Art as well. I love this. The beauty we create is a huge piece of what makes humanity, and I love that it is vital to the honorable Valorim as well.

Kathy: The Peppers (only 3 instead of 5) - Tommy Peppers (I love how we mostly say his full name) what a character. Schmidt’s description were such that I could picture not only Tommy, but his buddies too. I like Tommy’s sense of humor and his compassion. He seems to know what’s really happening in the world, but not let it hold him back too much.
I love his relationship with his sister. I love how he creates the Art and doesn’t really seem surprised by it. I agree that the descriptive language in this book is amazing. Tommy seems like a real kid, even with the crazy chain.

Though the threat of being ousted from their house by Mrs. Lumpkin (ha!) hangs over the Peppers, they get up to greet the dawn with cocoa and tea and love. What a great ritual.
This is one of the ways that the family reminds me of the Murrys. Don’t you think?

Kathy: The Imagery - the landscape is vividly portrayed, at least in Plymouth. Schmidt’s descriptions of Tommy’s drawings - “he drew in the sound of the stones being pulled back and forth and the tolling of the buoys.” makes me imagine being there. I loved how he described the road to the Pepper’s lonely, dilapidated house - “...the road sort of coughed, stuttered, and then died into a gravel the house that had once been white, but the paint had blown away long ago.
Yes! I kept going back and rereading the description. Honestly, I usually skim description (is that a terrible confession?). I loved the descriptions of the Pepper’s house. I can picture it, with the windows that look out over the sea..

I had a harder time pulling myself into Ethelim. I loved the rhythm and the speech patterns of the inhabitants, but I don’t know what it *looks* like. I think I struggled with the language, trying to make it fit into patterns of English that I’m familiar with, and it held me back from full immersion. I wished the glossary was in the front, I think that makes it easier to access, though students of fantasy will probably just as soon look in the back. They are not lazy like me! :)
Ummm.... yeah... I’m an idiot. I’m going to go with the fact that I used the dust jacket to mark the halfway point as my excuse for not going to the glossary earlier. (I mention my problem with the language too). I agree, it took me almost to the halfway point before I really felt comfortable in this world. I thought the “high fantasy” writing style fit this world well, but I think maybe he tossed in TOO many new words all at once. The same words appear in Tommy’s section, but aren’t as jarring. They flow better, probably because the density of the new words isn’t as high in Tommy’s section.

Kathy: The Story - first, it reminds me of Dragon Castle. Not sure why. Maybe the tone of the piece? Second, I liked the alternating real time voices.  It wasn’t like somehting happened a long time ago and the necklace brought it’s effects to Earth, instead we are seeing two sides of the coin, each chapter flipping us to the other side. Somehow it’s making the story seem more realistic than fantastical. The idea of the necklace embodying the ART of the Valorim, and affecting Tommy Peppers, reminds me of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when they wore the horcrux. Only, this time it’s for good.  How it makes Tommy long for things he never really had but also brings him closer to his mother? Genius.
I love how the language of the Valorim slips into Tommy’s speech. I also like how both viewpoints are current, it’s not a peek into the past. I have a hard time classifying this one. The other world being another planet makes it seem a little bit science fiction (and that’s what Amazon has it classified as), but I think it’s more fantasy with the chain being a magical relic.

So far - What Came From the Stars has great potential.  I want Schmidt to continue fleshing out the characters, especially dad and Mrs. Lumpkin. I want to know if she and Cheryl Lynn Lumpkin back off or continue being bullies. Is there a Mr. Lumpkin? Will dad continue painting?
I didn’t even mention the other characters. I really want more of them as well. Mrs. Lumpkin is almost farcical, but I like the humor that her character brings into the story (even though she’s clearly causing problems). One of my favorite parts is on page 117 where there isn’t dialogue written out, but you can figure out what Tommy’s father is saying, sort of...
“Mrs. Lumpkin said that her only purpose had been to come - in good faith - to lend a helping hand.
Mrs. Lumpkin said that no one had ever used such words in her presence before...”

That section could have been overdone, but it was so well written and funny.

Head on over to Maria's Melange to read her comments on What Came From The Stars! 
See you next Saturday with the last half of the book!


  1. Ali B. at Literary LunchboxSeptember 15, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Okay For Now is a *top 5* middle grades book on my list. I loved it! And, like your students, really wanted it to win the Newbery. Doug Swieteck is so well-written and so real. I just finished The Wednesday Wars. Yesterday. Holling Hoodhood is an exceptional character as well. Characters are what Gary Schmidt does best. I had the honor of attending a break-out session with him at SCBWI this year. He spoke about *characters* in story. Inspiring. I can't wait to meet Tommy Peppers!

  2. I have heard such great things about this book! Excited to get my hands on it!


Thanks for chatting! I love comments and look forward to reading yours! I may not reply right away, but I am listening! Keep reading and don't forget to be awesome!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Saturday Stories kit by Lien