Saturday, May 21, 2011
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd--JayCut
Summary: Ted and Kat watched their cousin, Salim, board the London Eye, but after half an hour, it landed, and everyone trooped off—-except Salim. Where could he have gone? How on earth could he have disappeared into thin air? Ted and his older sister, Kat, become sleuthing partners, since the police are having no luck. Despite their prickly relationship, they overcome their differences to follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin. And, ultimately, it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery (Amazon.com).
Note: As of January 31, 2012, JayCut will no longer be available free of charge.
JayCut is a powerful video editing tool with the capabilities of such programs as iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, and Adobe Premiere. With JayCut, users can import audio, images, and video; cut clips and meld them back together again using transition effects; add text. JayCut also has a major advantage over the aforementioned programs: it is a free online tool, meaning the user can access and edit their project on any computer at any time at no cost. This lack of affiliation with any parent company (JayCut was developed by students at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm) also allows the user to upload media in several different formats. For example, both .wmv files and .mp4 files are compatible with this program, so users can skip that pesky step of converting files into the correct format. (Windows Movie Maker accepts .wmv files, and iMovie accepts .mp4 files. For quality free online file conversion, I recommend Zamzar).
JayCut has one glaring con that would prevent me from using this tool more regularly. When editing a project, other programs allow you to see the individualized stills from the clip you are working with, making it easy to determine where you need to cut. In JayCut, however, the clips appear as blue bars, and you can only see what you need and what you don't by physically scrolling through the video. Compare the two examples below:
The first image is a screenshot of this book trailer being made in JayCut, and the second is of the book trailer for The Ghost and the Goth, made in iMovie. Being able to see the clips laid out in still form makes the editing process much easier for me.
JayCut, however, is a great service for people who do not have access to their own video editing software. It is easy to use and can be used anywhere. No file conversion required. For a very helpful how-to-use tutorial, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOk-L405mp8.
Review: My student aide recently exposed me to Doctor Who, a British sci-fi drama and the longest running show in television history (various incarnations have been on the air since 1963). I am currently watching at least one episode a day…and sometimes three. So when I started reading The London Eye Mystery several weeks ago, my mind was already inundated with British colloquialisms, fluxes in time and space, and whodunnits. This mentality is a very good place from which to begin a novel in which a boy seemingly vanishes from inside a sealed capsule on what was at the time of publication the world’s largest Ferris wheel.
I am not arguing that The London Eye Mystery is science fiction. Rather, it is more of a mixed genre novel: realistic fiction and mystery, narrated in the first-person by a boy who processes life in precise scientific terms. Although he never explicitly states why his brain is “wired differently,” the reader is meant to understand that Ted has Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by challenges with social interaction and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Ted’s narrative style makes for a unique (and perhaps slightly challenging) reading experience. On one hand, his need for logic is personified through short, easy-to-read syntax and a cohesive sequence of clues, resulting in a story that is accessible for elementary school-aged readers. However, his difficulty with reading emotions and relating to other characters, as well as his penchant for processing ideas in meteorological terms, may be more appropriate (and less confusing) for a middle school-aged audience.
Overall, the mystery is solid. Dowd makes sure that all of the clues are presented to the reader, but she does so in a way in which perhaps only a child fixated upon the Coriolis effect could put them together (What is the Coriolis effect? Find out in the book trailer above.). What makes Ted such an enjoyable narrator is how open to possibility he is. When one of his legitimate theories on his cousin’s disappearance is “Salim went into a time-warp. He could be stranded in another time or even a parallel universe,” the reader is able to appreciate that, in Ted’s world of science, anything can happen (p. 105). This potential makes The London Eye Mystery that much more intriguing. Grades 5-8.