Saturday, April 13, 2013

Batty About Books - Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis Pt 1

Batty About
Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, 1) 
by Peter Lerangis

Last week we talked about the cover to this new series. It reminded me a lot of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Riordan also blurbed this book so I went in expecting it to be similar to the Percy Jackson series.

In part 1 we talk about the first 15 chapters, up to page 121.  

Don't forget to stop by Maria's Melange. We have some of the same thoughts but as always, we come at the book from different places!

The Opening
“On the morning I was scheduled to die, a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house.” I loved this introduction to Jack and his life. We learned about his possible strengths and the fact that he was frequently left alone with sitters. He’s creative, not just waiting for an alarm but making his own. He’s compassionate, helping a small kid get away from a bully. I loved the beginning, too. I like Jack, and I’m curious to see how he fits in with the crew.

The Characters
Unfortunately, so far Colossus Rises seems to be filled with stock characters; Cass - the nerd, Marco - the jock, Jack - the unknown quantity who doesn’t believe in himself, Professor Bhegad - loony older character and Torquin - the big, crazy misguided bad guy, Dad - self-absorbed parent who focuses on the wrong thing. Then we have Aly - female hacker, crazy hair, and likes old movies. She has a great part and I hope Lerangis continues to develop her.   The girl hacker may be a “stock character”, but it is one I like. I just hope she gets developed enough to give her a unique voice even as a common modern type. I had flashes of Hagrid when Torquin showed up. Yes, Hagrid is never a bad guy... but they still gave me similar vibes.

I know this is the first book in a series and this is just the setup, but sometimes I felt bogged down in details that were meant to portray imagery. The words didn’t help me picture things though so throughout the book, I felt distant, separated from the characters and I really didn’t care much about them. Short sentences were used often, which usually signify movement,action but just made the story feel choppy to me.  I’m hoping I get used to it and things change going into this next part. I also felt the language was uneven. Professor Bhegad was Yale and Harvard educated yet sometimes I felt he was from another time period. Maybe that was supposed to give a sense of his age?  Marco’s attempt to be cool felt forced - but maybe because the kids were faking? There were also many instances were believability was sorely stretched, beginning with the seeing the hair on the back of his head.
I noticed a lot of these things, too! I assumed that Bhegad and Torquin have something hidden in their history that accounted for their strangeness and speech patterns. Marco’s slang also felt odd - I kept looking back to see if there was some reason he was acting that way. I couldn’t find any good reason. I noticed the chapter lengths, not the sentence lengths. It occurred to me to notice that they were short - but at least longer than Patterson’s (One of the reasons I didn’t like Daniel X and Witch & Wizard was the extremely short chapters that made it feel choppy).

Fun Stuff To Do with Students
There were a few times that student activities popped into my head - the books and movies mentioned would make good spinoffs. Have them watch read and determine if these titles were essential to the story or if Lerangis could have used other books/movies with similar results.  I could have them try to draw the creatures or recreate a map of some place. Find some palindromes like poop, since Cass enjoyed them. Maybe learn more about Greek symbology. And, of course, research the lost City of Atlantis. I thought of a lot of tie-ins as I read, too. Especially things like creating and solving codes. I noticed the references to Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain.

If rating the book today, it would get a 3 out of 5. It’s OK. There’s enough funny bits and things I want to know to keep me going but it’s also easy to set aside. I’m also reading a bit from this old guide about teaching the Hero’s Journey and I notice that Jack is right at the beginning where there’s Separation.  I’m hoping to finish by the time we finish so I can trace Jack’s journey so that will get me going. I love using the Hero’s Journey with my fourth and fifth graders. There are great resources that simplify it slightly for the younger set. I’d lean toward a 4 at the moment, myself. But I can easily see it going either way. I do think that the start of this book will hook my students - who are all Potter and Percy fans.

We'll pick up with the chapters 16 - 32 next week! If you've read or are reading this one, let us know in the comments!

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