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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Santaria" and "Sure-foot Sam" by Katie Pasek

“Santaria” by Katie Pasek is an unusual science fiction short story. Set in what appears to be an intergalactic space ship / headquarters, characters go about their business. With exotic first names juxtaposed with human-like tasks, readers at originally confused as to whether or not the story is about aliens or just advanced humans in the future. This, coupled with quick-paced dialog and action, makes the story puzzling--puzzling enough to make readers keep on reading. Youngsters become engrossed in the story from the get-go. While they might not entirely get what is going on, they want to find out. Later, when top-secret information is spilled, talk of treason arrives, and telekinesis enters the picture, more details begin to unravel themselves. Towards the middle, students are also sucked into the story when their mere youth makes them incredulous. This frustration that many children face really hooks the reader. The ending is expected, but the falling action leading up to it is not. The story ends on an equivocal note that leads itself to either contemplation or a continuation. Youngsters will enjoy this story...regardless of whether they think the characters are really human or actually aliens. Such ambiguity would lead to heightened discussion if this story were used in a classroom setting.

Katie Pasek’s “Sure-foot Sam in Jeopardy” is a fun little adventurous short story. Narrated by a British bulldog, the exploration and escapades have some humor injected into them. The bulk of the plot takes place in the Amazon Rainforest, and Pasek provides an artfully colorful treasure map on the first page. To make the story seem more realistic, the events begin in a British bank, where a young worker is sent on a mission from an investor to go seek out a lost family fortune. Brad claims he owns this fortune, and he is escorted by Sure-foot Sam and the dog Sir Reginald Higgins. Once the team leaves their country, the real fun begins. The bulldog first accounts for the tumultuous traveling, which involves much hiking and rafting. Danger ensues when dangerous animals enter the scenes, predominantly cold-blooded snakes. Waterfalls also heighten the suspense. Once closer to their treasure in the Amazon, the team encounters some natives. These prove to be quite friendly and even assist the team. This amiable scene teaches young ones to be accepting of other nationalities and denominations. Later, the real treasure is found in an ancient temple. While the temple’s origin is said to be polytheistic, no strong religious views are pushed upon readers. In fact, the temple serves more as an adventure site with old fashioned booby traps and hidden clues. Picture rocks falling from the ceiling and rope bridges collapsing. Towards the end of the short story, there is a little activity page for younger ones to complete. This serves to make sure youngsters kept track of what they read and that they can interpret it. There are even prompts for journaling. This is an excellent way for readers to feel involved in the story. The story ends with a shocking twist that is anything but predictable. The route to this twist is foreboding but well worth it. Readers finish this short story with blood pumping adrenaline, wishing it were a longer novel.

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