Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review of "Lonesome End," by Stephen W. Meader

Review of
Lonesome End, by Stephen W. Meader

Four out of five stars
 The title is a reference to a trick play run by the Prairie High football team rather than any reference to the life of Tod Rose, the main character. Tod is growing up in rural Kansas and lives on a large cattle ranch. With farm chores an everyday occurrence, he has had little time for extra activities at school. When he decides to go out for football, his father acquiesces, but only if he still manages to perform his farm duties. Tod’s main form of personal transportation is a horse, although a teammate is generally available for rides.
 Tod proves to be a natural pass catching end and the years of farm work have made him rugged far beyond his weight. He quickly rises to the varsity and the team succeeds and is on a path to win a championship. However, there are many hurdles, including injuries, bad weather and some highly skilled opponents.
 Unlike many other adolescent sports fiction books, this one involves girls. Mary Ann is the head cheerleader and her father is a wealthy local businessman. Despite their differences, they see a lot of each other in a very proper relationship between a boy and a girl. While there is some predictability to the story with the big game at the end, there is no dramatic last-second score by Prairie High. Just a steady, play-by-play victory, which is how most football games are won.
 There are villains in this story, but not on the gridiron. Most of the play is clean, there are no hotheads and Tod is a well-rounded high school boy. He does his work on the ranch, does well in school, has a girlfriend and plays a good, clean game of football. That is the moral of this story, doing what needs to be done and doing it well.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review of "Dick Tracy Meets the Punks," by Max Collins and Rick Fletcher

Review of
Dick Tracy Meets the Punks, by Max Collins and Rick Fletcher ISBN 0448171600

Four out of five stars
 The tough as nails no nonsense Dick Tracy shows a bit of a softer side in the opening of the first story. Dick consents to taking an extended vacation, which is a bit out of character, as he has accumulated vacation time. Dick and the very pregnant Tess are going to Washington State to visit their daughter. However, it would not be a Dick Tracy story without the inclusion of some weird criminals, which are the punks in the title.
 One is a failing punk rocker that has a female sidekick, in the typical style of the strip, their names are “Bony and Claudine.” With the help of their actor friend Vitamin Flintheart, the Tracys manage to reach their destination, but then encounter the two villains of the story. Naturally, it all works out in the end, with Tess giving birth under unusual circumstances.
 The villain of the second story is Quiver Trembly, a female that suffers from continuous shaking. Using Tracy’s child carrier as a transport mechanism, she manages to get a gun aboard an airliner and attempts to hijack it in order to free her imprisoned brother. Of course, the hero foils the foolishly concocted plot and the plane lands safely.
 The literally square-jawed Dick Tracy is once again unyielding in his approach to criminals, never hesitant to use force in order to deal with them. In both these stories, his children and wife Tess are also involved, so he shows some emotion other than anger, which humanizes him a bit.
 Both stories are essentially vintage Dick Tracy, yet the proximity of his family lightens him up a bit, a positive development.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review of "In the Vacant House," by Catherine Masters

Review of
In the Vacant House, by Catherine Masters

Four out of five stars
 Written in 1912, this ghost story for young people has aged very well. It is based on the empty house that children walk by that acquires the reputation of being haunted scenario. Strange noises seem to emanate from it and some claim to have seen a nebulous white shape at the windows.
 Although they are terrified, the bravest of a group of boys (Fred) manages to work up the courage to approach the house, only to discover that the explanation of the phenomenon is not supernatural, but one that solves a puzzling local problem. The boy that had the courage to go to the house is labeled a mini-hero and given a reward along with the accolades.
 The story here is timeless, it is always better to face your irrational fears of the unknown rather than simply avoid them. Fred demonstrates that courage leads to rewards and achievement that others could not acquire. It is a good lesson in 1912 as well as now.