Book: Hiromi Goto. Half World. New York: Penguin Group, 2010.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy.
Audience: 10th-12th grade.
Read-Alouds: Read-Aloud One is a passage that demonstrates characterization of Mr. Glueskin. This passage also illustrates descriptive language.
Similar to Read-Aloud One, Read-Aloud Two portrays descriptive language. This passage also hints at the literary element of irony. It would be the deviation of what is expected if Melanie did not make it home because she fell off the latter.
Summary: Half World revolves around Melanie, a chubby, non-athletic fourteen year old girl. Her parents made a deal with Mr. Glueskin, the antagonist, allowing Melanie to be born in the realm of flesh. There are three realms; the realm of flesh, the realm of spirits, and the half world. After fourteen years of life, the mother and Melanie are expected to return to the half world. When Melanie’s mother goes missing, Melanie goes off to find her. Ms. Wai gives Melanie trinkets to help her on the journey to save her mother from Mr. Glueskin and the half world.
Themes: The theme of sacrifice is seen in this novel. Right from the beginning of the book, the father agrees to sacrifice himself to stay in the half world while the mother and Melanie are in the flesh realm for fourteen years. Sacrifice is also seen when crossing realms. The individual has to cut off his or her smallest finger. I believe the significance of the finger being cut off is to show the vulnerability of the state of sacrifice. It’s not a desired event but sometimes it is necessary, and there is no choice.
Another theme has to do with the power of life and survival. Melanie possesses a special physical power. Her power has to do with the fact that she survived. The theme of survival is prevalent in the novel with the characters in the half world. People in the half world have to watch out for Mr. Glueskin so they are not eaten or tormented.
Bullying is evident in the novel. At the beginning of the book, Melanie is being chased by a group of girls from school. Melanie struggles with the other girls’ insults. She even mentioned how the girls would throw rocks at her. In the other word, Mr. Glueskin is the big, bad bully of the half world. He threatens to eat people and controls the weak.
Connections: The novel could be utalized to teach descriptive language or a unit about myths or legends. A poem that could be paired with this novel is Lady of Shalott, written by Lord Tennyson. The poem possesses elements of the supernatural, like the novel, and incorporates superstitions.
Reactions: The book started slow but once I got past the introduction, the novel picked up. The incorporation of animals as guardians worked in the novel. I loved the use of language and Goto’s word choice. The novel is beautifully written, but sometimes the descriptive language was annoying. This was mostly because I was in a hurry to read the novel so it was more a circumstantial disliking rather than a I do not like this book disagreement. When I was younger, I watched a Japanese television show called Sailor Moon. The book reminded me of the t.v. show due to the guardian animals, Japanese background, and magical aspect. I enjoyed this novel and it’s dark humor.
Reception: According to Quill and Quire, James Grainger states “the violence and cruelty of Half World may frighten some young readers, but those with a taste for dark fantasy (and gore) will be thrilled by Melanie’s confrontation with her own fears and Goto’s nightmarish creatures”. Grainger cautions young adults to evaluate if they can handle reading the book due to the dark tone. Grainger also talks about the use of religion in the novel. He liked how Goto followed some spiritual religions yet composed the unique realm of the half world.
On Scooter Chronicles, the site states the “development of the ‘evil’ force behind her mission, Mr. Glueskin, was quite good”. The character development of Mr. Glueskin is compelling. His character is not the normal villain figure people see in most novels. His characterization is unique and vivid.