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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another Side to World War II

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

WeedflowerThis is a fantastic book about a young Japanese American girl, Sumiko, who is sent to an interment camp in Arizona during WWII.  The internment camp is located on an Indian Reservation.  Through the fence the young girl and and a Native American boy befriend each other.  They each find a way to stay strong and have hope even as so much is taken away from them.  As bad as Sumiko thinks she has, she learns the Indians do not even have electricity or the right to vote. 

Though this book covers difficult topics, it is handled with hope.  I think these are also topics important for young people to know about.  They need to know how people were mistreated so it can be ended and not repeated.  This is just a really great book for youth and adults alike.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Exciting New and Upcoming Releases

Mysteries According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney   7-5-12
Winter According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney 10-11-12

Unstrung (ebook novella after Unwind) by Neal Shusterman 7-24-12
UnWholly (2nd in Unwind Triology) by Neal Shusterman 8-28-12

Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall 7-10-12

Palace of Stone (sequel to Princess Academy) by Shannon Hale  8-21-12

The Manual of Aeronautics (supplement to Leviathan Trilogy) by Scott Westerfeld  8-21-12

The Kill Order (prequel to Maze Runner Series) by James Dashner 8-14-12

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reviews from Blogger (rathern than Booker)

"Holes": I had seen the movie based on this Louis Sachar book, but David really wanted to listen to this one on our trip to Kansas City so we gave it a go. With only 4 discs, it was a quick listen and one that David and I enjoyed.

Stanley Yelnants is an unlucky kid. After being accused and convicted of a crime he didn't commit, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake. Upon arrival he first discovers there's no lake, then he meets Mr. Sir, who informs him that he is to dig 1 hole, every day. The hole must be as deep and as wide as his shovel, which happens to be 5 feet. As an overweight kid, this is arduous work for Stanley. Almost as difficult is finding his place with his bunk mates. Over time, Stanley gets better at digging holes, and befriends Zero. When Zero runs away, Stanley goes after him, but with no water or food, how long will the boys survive, and will they break the curse that has haunted Stanley's family for over a hundred years.

"Holes" the book, is very similar to "Holes" the movie. There's a bit more on the back story of Green Lake and it's inhabitants, as well as the back story on the Warden. But, if you've seen the movie, you pretty much know the book. Still, if you liked to movie, I think listening to or reading the book would be worth your time.

"The Graveyard Book": I don't use this term often, but this Neil Gaiman book is great, not good...great! I suspect it was even better because we listened to the audio book, read by Gaiman himself. Such an interesting and compelling story, I couldn't wait to hear what came next.

At the beginning of the story, we happen upon The Man Jack as he's in the process of murdering a family (trust me it's ok for an 11 year old kid). But, he fails in his task as the youngest boy, a toddler, somehow wanders off before The Man Jack can complete the job. They young boy wanders up to a nearby graveyard, where it's ghostly inhabitants give the young boy the freedom of the graveyard and decide to raise him as their own. They name him Nobody Owens (after the Owens family who takes him in), and the mysterious Silas agrees to be his guardian. But how can a live boy grow up in a place of the dead? And what will happen if he ever leaves the graveyard with The Man Jack still out there, ready to finish the job?

I loved this story. It's so interesting to meet the various inhabitants of the graveyard, some dating back even farther than Roman times, and it's interesting to see the influence they have on young Bod (Nobody gets shortened to Bod). Bod's forays into the living world make for some excitement, and the secondary story about Silas keeps mystery going all throughout the book. I highly recommend giving this one a read, or even better, a listen.

Peter Pan's Past Plus

Booker's Review
Peter and the Starcatchers (Starcatchers Series #1)  by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Peter and the Starcatchers (Starcatchers Series #1)I had avoided this book for a long time, even though the artwork was very appealing and customers asked for the book often.  I'm not much of a Peter Pan fan and didn't want to read a retelling of the story.  When trying to decide from a limited choice of audio books to take on our long car trip, we settled on Peter and the Starcatchers.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  (It doesn't hurt that the audio book is read by Jim Dale.)

The story is really a prequel to the Peter Pan most are familiar with.  It is fun to follow the story as different elements of Peter Pan's past are revealed such as how he can fly, how he came to be in Neverland, how he met Tinkerbell, and more. 

The story is interesting on it's own as well.  The authors did a good job of adding their own plot to the story so the book is much more than a revelation of Peter Pan's past.  We are introduced to the Starcatchers.  These people gather the left over remains of fallen stars and secret it away into safe keeping.  The remnants retain powerful magic that anyone with an evil intention could use to rule or destroy the world.  This first book has a nice conclusion while still leaving the reader anticipating what more is to come.

There's one more thing I liked about this book that I have to mention.  I have never liked the way the Indians are portrayed in the Disney Peter Pan movie.  With all these "re-mastered" and :now available in 3-D" announcements, I thought they'd come out with "new scenes" for Peter Pan and fix the awful sterotypical and racist portrayal of the natives in the movie.  There's no way they could have portrayed African natives that stupid or stereotypical and have kept it like that this entire time.  There would have been an outrage.  Anyway, I really liked how the native people are portrayed in the book.  They are not perfect, no one in the story is, but they are not stupid and they are not friends with the people they view have threatened them.  I really appreciated their role in the story.

Blogger's Review
"Peter and the Starcatchers":  This was a really good story by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. What Barry and Pearson have done is kick off a series that tells us all the origin of Peter Pan.

Peter and 4 other orphans are being sent away from their orphanage for unknown reasons. They are told by their caretaker to board a ship called The Neverland, but they don't know why. On the ship, the boys are treated very poorly, and as the leader of the group, Peter takes to stealing food to make sure the boys have enough to eat. It's on these food missions that Peter comes to know Molly, and they embark on an adventure to secure a chest of "star stuff" (the little bits of a star that falls to the earth and grants powers to the user), and keep this chest from falling into the hands of the Evil Black Stash. Along the way, we find out how Peter gains the ability to fly, how he doesn't grow old, and how he and the lost boys end up on that island. Oh, and we meet Captain Hook for the first time.

I really liked this story! I'm hoping to read others in the series soon. There's humor and plenty of action, and it's all offset with a story of friendship and loss. Just a really good book.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Didn't Find This Book Very Happenin'

Booker's Review
Happenstance Found (Books of Umber Series #1) by P. W. Catanese

Happenstance Found (Books of Umber Series #1)I hate writing that I didn't enjoy a book because I could never right a book.  And sometimes people don't like a book that is actually really good.  So keep that in mind as you read this review.

Happenstance is found in a dark room without any memory of who he is or how he came to be there.  Lord Umber received a secret message to keep the boy with him at all times.  Why remains a mystery for the entire book.  A creature is chasing Happenstance to collect Hap's unusual eyes.  As the story goes along, we learn a little more about Happenstance's origins and who Lord Umber really is.  Yet, I found the story revealed too little over too long a time.  There is an exciting confrontation with the hunting creature at the end and a stunning surprise to entice you into reading the second book in the trilogy; however things developed much too slowly for me.

I should also say that I listened to this book all in one sitting riding in the car.  This may have influenced my reception of the book.

Kids who enjoy fantasy and mystery, who like to try to figure out things on their own or imagine lots of possibilities, I think, would enjoy this book.

Blogger's Review
"Happenstance Found":  I was really excited to listen to this audio book, and since this book is the first in a series, I thought maybe I'd have my next great series to read. Instead, "Happenstance Found" was slow to develop and really didn't leave me wanting to read more of the Books of Umber series.

P.W. Catanese has a really neat idea here. Happenstance is a boy, we don't know exactly how old, found in a buried city by Lord Umber and his band. Happenstance is different in that he has bright green eyes, can see in the dark, and seems to possess a few other abilities. As they return to Lord Umber's home, we learn that something is following them, and it's not good. The rest of the tale takes place in and around Lord Umber's home, and we learn a little more about Happenstance, where he came from, and we find out more about Lord Umber.

A neat premise, but it just didn't move fast enough for me. I don't plan to read any more books in this series.

This Book is a Winner

Gold by Chris Cleave

GoldZoe, Kate, and Jack all meet at the age of 19 at a tryout for spots on Britain's elite cycling circuit with the goal of winning Olympic gold.  But when the Athens Olympics come around, Kate is at home with her daughter while Zoe and Jack race for gold in Athen's velodrome.  The three are still racing and still trying to balance rivalry and friendship two years before the Olympic Games in London.  Love and friendship are never simple, but the relationship Zoe and Kate have reaches some extremely complex emotions and lessons in love.

As you would expect, Cleave has written a fantastic poignant story.  He leaps about in time, but never loses his reader.  And this makes the stories much better than telling the tale chronologically. The story moved me and made me think.

I really enjoyed the cycling aspect of this story.  However, it is never really technical and I don't think there is any loss of enjoyment reading this book if you've never seen indoor cycling or even if you've never ridden a bike.  I highly recommend this book.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Tails

The Cheshire Cheese Cat:  A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a TaleI really enjoyed this book.  I guess I can't get tired of books about small rodents.  Skilley, a closet cheese-loving cat, has struggled living on the streets of London, but on this day, he finds himself, with a little help from Charles Dickens, accepted into the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese to help with a mouse problem.  Skilley is not interested in ridding the tavern of mice; he just wants some cheese.  He makes a deal with the mouse, Pip, not to attack any of the mice if they will supply him with cheese.  Skilley and Pip's friendship grows as does Charles Dickens's writer's block on A Tale of Two Cities.   A hidden creature and an alley cat, Pinch, Skilley's most feared enemy, complicate matters in the Ol Cheshire, eventually bringing more trouble to the unlikely friends.  I don't want to give manny details because I don't want to give all the story away. So much more happens in the story. It's full of surprises and twists. 

The vocabulary is impressive.  The focus on friendship is also very inspiring, something I think middle school readers would absorb and appreciate.  There are several references to Charles Dickens, London, and the English Royalty that I don't know if many kids would pick up on if they weren't familiar with these topics.  (I don't know if I picked up on all of them.  For example, I didn't realize the tavern is an actual place where many English writers gathered.)  I think this would make an excellent read-aloud for school classrooms and at home.  I listened to this book on CD, but reviews I saw said the pencil illustrations by Barry Moser, are superb.  This is really an intriguing story well worth the read.  Perhaps you can enjoy a nip of cheese or cup of tea while you read.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

America Rewrite Your History Books--the Irish Do It Again!!

The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin

The Brendan VoyageA medieval text leads to a fantastic journey chronicled in The Brendan Voyage.  According to the medieval text, St. Brendan and some fellow Irish monks, sailed to North America centuries before Columbus and before the Vikings.  I was interested in reading this book based on personal recommendations, my Irish ancestry and my Lakota ancestry which, I think, gives me a predetermined dislike for Christopher Columbus. 

Tim Severin sets out to silence skeptics by replicating St. Brendan's voyage.  (He is no stranger to replicating other explorers journeys as can be seen in his other books.)  Severin locates the same type of wood and leather St. Brendan used to make his boat.  The ox hides are tanned using the same methods employed to make St. Brendan's boat.  Even flax rope is used for the stitches to hold the ox hides together.  There is no doubt that boat is an authentic copy of St. Brendan's boat.  If the crew can make it across the Atlantic, they will have proven how plausible the medieval texts are. 

It is an interesting book.   Without any knowledge of sailing, I was still able to get a picture of what was going on to build and sail the boat.  Yet, I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I was more familiar with sailing terms.  There are times of wonder and danger aboard The Brendan.

I especially liked the end of the book when Severin does a great job of summarizing what the voyage teaches us about the knowledge, strength, and faith of the Irish and the spirit of the human being.

St. Brendan is described as one of Ireland's most beloved saints.  I feel bad I had never heard of him.  While looking for The Brendan Voyage if found an historical novel about St. Brendan by Morgan Lleywelyn, a proven author, and children's book, Saint Brendan and the Voyage Before Columbus, by Michael McGrew, and a musical CD based on St. Brendan's voyage by Shaun Davey.