Monday, May 31, 2010

Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant

by Derek Landy (2007)

Similar to Alchemyst but in more of a gangster (with an er) crime setting; I really like the main characters and wish the story would have gone deeper into our heroic skeleton... but since this is probably 1 of umpteen in a series, maybe that's for another book.
Didn't really like the video game violence, pages of "then she answered with a scissor kick, only to be met with a sweeping blow to..." gets boring. Then again, I'm not 10 anymore...

The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst

by Michael Scott (2007)

I generally try to stay away from books that
a) Son #2 retells me for a breathless hour every morning,
b) looks to be part of a series of 6 (minimum) books,
c) and, in sort of a combo deal of a and b, Son #2 reads said series at a pace of a book a night so that by the end of the week his summaries are so fantasy-imbibed and sleep-deprived as to be fairly incomprehensible...

But of course he's still cute enough to convince me once in a while to try a book.  I like this one for the sibling rivalry and the mythical characters -- of all cultures and times, mixed together in a good vs evil plot -- but as I look at how few pages I have left compared to how many unresolved issues (what about the brother's powers? do we trust this Flammel guy?!?), I know I've been sucked in again.  Fast paced, lots of characters, a little humor, contemporary setting/references.

Monday, May 24, 2010

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead

Newbery Medal 2010

A strange book... I liked it, but for some reason my "will students like/get/have any idea" spidey-sense kept me from really liking it.  I like time travel, but (warning: blasphemous statement ahead) I am not a fan of A Wrinkle In Time; I like game shows, but wonder why $20,000 is supposed to make anyone rich? Weird cover. Why 1979? Hmmm...

 That said, I did like it.  Great lead character, strong supporting cast, interesting puzzle, lots of relationship issues to discuss -- plus time travel!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Honus and Me

Honus & Me

by Dan Gutman (1997)

A struggling bench warmer discovers the ability to travel through time by wishing on baseball cards, and wrestles with the desire to use his power to make a lot of money (therefore getting his parents back together) or to do good and the right thing.  He does learn the importance of self-confidence, a solid stance at the plate, and speed on the basepaths.

As one with a closet full of baseball cards, none of (or all of) which will ever fetch 400k and allow me to retire to a life of leisure and reading, I cry every time I read one of these books and the valuable card gets torn or destroyed and fails to bring our hero the riches he deserves.  I do enjoy the historically accurate portrayals of the players and their game, and there is a positive moral usually involved.

The Black Pearl

The Black Pearl

by Scott O'Dell (1967)

The classic tale: boy finds pearl, boy loses pearl. Boy's dad gives pearl away, giant manta wants revenge for pearl, boy steals pearl to toss back into ocean.

Superstition, greed, selfish/selfless, allegory, nature.

Which came first? Doesn't this sound like a Steinbeck story?  I'm going to back and read his version again, it's been awhile...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bookulate Now!

Stuck on what book to read next?  Don't like any of the suggestions those so called "friends" or "experts" give you? Then you need to try The Bookulating Suggest-O-Mometer  !!! 

Gotta love modern technology, what will they think of next?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sarah Bishop

Sarah Bishop

by Scott O'Dell (1980)

Somehow I don't think a girl on the run from the Redcoats, a lecherous trapper, an amorous Quaker, and a hungry bear, sharing a cave with bats and a crippled badger, grieving the deaths of her father and brother, would look as good as Sarah does on this cover.

But I wouldn't be surprised, because she is one tough, independent heroine who makes her own way through the Revolutionary War issues between Patriot and Tory. The last chapters with the witch trial were a little awkward, but I like how they were different from the standard girl-in-peril story.

connections: Paulsen's Hatchet books, Johnny Tremain and Brother Sam Is Dead, My Side of the Mountain...

Muggie Maggie

Muggie Maggie

by Beverly Cleary

Maggie doesn't want to learn how to write in cursive -- why should she, she knows how to use her Dad's computer (to update: and text/Netbook/iPad etc) ?
But her smart and sneaky teacher devises a plan and of course Maggie learns to connect her i's and loop her g's...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Last Skirt

My Last Skirt
The Story of Jennie Hodgers, Union Soldier

by  Lynda Durrant (2006)

An Irish girl poses as a boy to get a job, comes to America and works as a boy, then fights in the Civil War as a boy.  The true story of a "petticoat soldier" told as fiction from the girl's pov with elements of immigration, women's rights, war, evolution, and a wee touch of romance.

The ending was a bit odd, our hero/heroine turned from a teen soldier into a grumpy old man, but overall an excellent book. The issues she faces becoming a he are dealt with maturely and realistically, and right from the beginning I saw her as a person, an Irish immigrant then a soldier, rather than a girl impersonating a boy.

Found these other Civil war books to add to the TBR stack.

confession: I stole this book.  Well, just borrowed it really from the teacher I subbed for yesterday, but it's okay since it was my son's class and because I just read The Book Thief.  I'll sneak it into his backpack after he goes to bed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Book Thief

The Book Thief*

by Markus Zusak (2005)

Great book.  Beautiful, simple, touching book.

Very rarely do I want to start a book over as soon as I finish it, but this one is on that special list.  Narrated respectfully by Death, the collector of souls kept extremely busy by Hitler and WWII, it is the story of a girl who loses and gains everything. She knows death and loss from the beginning, but through a new family, friends, and a Jew hidden in the basement we are shown the strength of love, hope, and doing what is right.  It is not always a happy book, and it certainly isn't a traditional happy ending, but it brings attention to what is truly important. 

I really liked the use of art in the story, the pages of illustrations that show us Max's book, not just tell us about it.  Students could make their own nook/graphic novel with old books.

My 15 year old loved it, my 12.75 year old will read it next.  It's not an easy book for every reader, but it's not difficult either. Beyond the Holocaust connection there can be discussions of family, loyalty, risk, and the power of words/books.

*I have found that in the 20+ times I have written the title of this book in various places over the past 2 weeks, I have spelled the word "thief" correctly exactly once.  Well, twice, since I just spelled it right in that last sentence, but that was 'cause I was really, really concentrating.

The Incredible Journey

The Incredible Journey

by Sheila Burnford (1960)

Found my yellowed, well-worn, mid-1970s copy, have to read carefully so it doesn't crumble into dust.

Ahhh... good book. Makes me want a dog.  Quick read, great descriptions -- not too many nouns get by without an adjective or two.  Thought the ending was a bit abbreviated/rushed.  Wish the movie version I saw back in the 70s was available on Netflix.

Things Hoped For

Things Hoped For

by Andrew Clements (2006)

meh. Liked a big part of the book, might have liked the other part of the book if it wasn't so rudely crammed in with the better part.  This is the story of an author that tells a cool story then writes another book and thinks no one will read it unless it tells that same story over again.  Actually it's an interesting story of a girl worrying/studying/practicing to get into a great music school and her aging (then missing) grandfather.  It's about dreams, hard work, sacrifice, family.  It shouldn't be about a creepy invisible English voyeur, but that gets shoved into the book and takes away from the power of the real story's ending.  I'm told creepy spy Brit is part of the next book, but he certainly didn't fit in here.

I would still recommend this book -- music/jazz, Yeats and Wordsworth, New York, higher learning, and a thought-provoking solution that can be food for great discussion/debate.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

banned books

Now I have to go out and read all these... I'm such a rebel.

Top Ten Silly Reasons to Ban a HarperCollins Children's Book

1. "Encourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them."
(A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein)

2. Children shouldn't be "scared by materials they read in school."
(Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz)

3. The book "portrays the U.S. government as lacking in intelligence and responsibility."
(The Fragile Flag by Jane Langton)

4. The book "teaches children to spy."
(Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh)

5. "The little boy did not have any clothes on and it pictured his private area."
(In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak)

6. "Children are not ready for illustrations and conversation about jockstraps."
(The Dallas Titans Get Ready for Bed by Karla Kuskin)

7. School board members were concerned about a "sad ending."
(Alan and Naomi by Myron Levoy)

8. Challenged as a summer reading assignment because, "it sounds like pretty explicit stuff."
(The Contender by Robert Lipsyte)

9. The book is "demented."
(The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh.)

10. "Promotes cannibalism."
(Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein)

from the Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle, sponsored by the American Booksellers Association
©1997 HarperCollins Publishers