Thursday, June 9, 2011

The First of The Sixties Trilogy

The Scholastic Channel, (2010). Countdown a new documentary novel by Deborah Wiles [Web]. Available from

Countdown by Deborah Wiles, (2010)

Interesting Fact: This historical fiction narrative is set in Washington D.C. during the period of 1962.  Throughout the book you will find real photographs, quotations, and song lyrics from that time period.
About the Book:Eleven year-old Franny Chapman has a lot to worry about aside from preparing for a nuclear disaster.  Her other worries range from being invisible to observing her older sister’s suspicious behavior, her uncle acting loony, her father being in the military, and feuding (sometimes physically) with her best friend.   As Franny tries to make sense of her personal life she is also trying to understand the world around her.  President Kennedy has made it clear that there is a nuclear threat to the country.  It is because of that threat that everyone including Franny is in a panic.  At school Franny participates in air raid drills in which all students must “duck and cover.”  One time when Franny and her classmates were caught outside when the sirens went on she was certain that they were going to die!  Will Franny ever recuperate a normal life, one with family stability and where friends are actually friendly?  Will the concern for surviving a nuclear disaster even diminish?
Why read it?Readers can learn a lot about the historic events that took place during the 60’s era.  The Cuban Missile Crisis and air raid drills are long gone now but world conflict still exist today.  Therefore, aside from presenting pre-teen problems that young ones can identify with today; larger issues presented are similar to issues that youth today are familiar with such as modern dealings with Afghanistan, Taliban, terrorism, and war.    

Teacher Discussion Guide to Countdown
Official Author Website

The World's Future Through a Sci-Fi Perception...

Book Videos TV, (2010). Ship breaker [Web]. Available from

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, (2010)

Interesting Facts: This is a sci-fi book based on the future when oil has been replaced and biodiesel is used.  The story is set along America’s Gulf-cost. It is categorized as a young adult book and is a Michael L. Printz Award winner. 

About the Book:Hundreds of years from now oil-tankers are no longer in use.  They are now broken down for parts by light crews who scavenge for copper wires just to make ends meet.  Nailer is a young boy who works light crew. He crawls in the dark ducts of these oil-tankers to scavenge for these copper wires, dangerous work indeed.  The recycled parts are then sold to giant corporations referred to as blood buyers.  Nailer’s mother died when he was much younger and since then his father has become a drunk, violent, abusive, and even murderous man.  Nailer seeks to strike luck one day in hopes of getting out of his miserable life.  To his surprise, he one day discovers a ship filled with treasures to scavenge.  The problem is that there is one survivor, a beautiful girl named Nita who also happens to be very rich.  He decides to rescue the girl in hopes that she will lead him to a better life; this decision is a great risk.  He will soon face the decision of staying loyal to his father or going up against his own flesh and blood. Since the story takes place in the future, oil has be used up, sea levels have risen, global-warming has had its effects, animals such as polar bears have become extinct, Orleans has been desolated, and hurricanes can now strengthen up to category 6. Perhaps one of the most interesting changes is that there is a new creation of half-men who are genetically made as a mixture of man, tiger, and dog.  These can prove loyal to their masters but can be deadly if they are after you.  Nailer and his new-found friend Nita will have plenty encounters with such half-men, some good and some not so good. 

Why read it?It should make readers think about the way we treat the earth and its resources.  To imagine a world in which resources are used up and parts of the world forgotten is unsettling.  I also appreciated the lesson in that sometimes the family we choose is closer than those whom we share a blood bond with.  The book offers plenty suspense and much to think about. I can see this being read along with Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes.

A Teen Site
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Warning: This is a Bloody and Gory Tale!

Penguin Young Readers, (2011). A tale dark and grimm trailer [Web]. Available from

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, (2010)

Interesting Facts: This book modifies some of the stories taken from the original Brothers Grimm tales.  Fairytales such as “Hansel and Gretel” were actually very violent in their original form but many have been tailored to into “Disney” versions which are what most kids are familiar with nowadays.
About the Book:The cover of this book is a good indicator of what to expect as it is dark and gloomy story with quite a bit of blood.  The main characters are Hansel and Gretel.  The story begins before they were born and follows them through a long journey that includes dragons, cannibals, werewolves, and many other interesting characters that they run into along the way.  Hansel and Gretel’s wild journey begins when they discover that their father and mother are both willing to have their children beheaded. Before you jump to conclusions, please be assured that there is a completely reasonable explanation for this.  Hansel and Gretel are not aware of the reasons behind such a decision, so they naturally assume that they have bad parents. Therefore, they decide to runaway in an effort to escape their bad parents and find good ones.  The narrative includes personal interruptions from the narrator (author) which are in bold print.  The author uses such interruptions in the story to warn readers about upcoming parts that may be discomforting to read (and visualize).  He also uses them to share insightful thoughts or lessons with the reader.  These interruptions are often humorous as well.
Why read it?Aside from creeping you out, this witty narrative will surprisingly make you laugh. I can see how boys/girls and even adults that usually find the Cinderella-type fairytales boring will be completely engaged in this tale.  If you are not faint of heart, then this may be the book for you!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

As Meggy Swan Would Say, "Eat Toads and Vipers!"

Book Videos TV, (2010). Alchemy and Meggy Swan [Web]. Available from

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman, (2010)
Interesting Fact: This is book can be classified as historical fiction as it depicts London in 1573. 
About the Book: Meggy Swan is a 13-year old girl whom is sent away to London by her mother and is unwanted by her alchemist father.  Her Granny was the only person who has cared for her and unfortunately she has died.  Her only friend upon her arrival in London is a long time pet goose named Luis whom like her is also disabled.  Meggy was born disabled and therefore needs sticks to help her walk.  The setting of the story takes place during a time when disabled people were treated with little or no respect because of the belief that their disability was caused by sin, God’s punishment, or being possessed by demons.  Due to the constant judgment she faces, Meggy has made developed a rude and cold attitude towards others.  That is why she struggles to recognize true friends when she does find them.  These friends unknowingly aid her in a transformation that even she doesn’t realize is happening.  Meggy discovers that a murderous plan in which her alchemist father is involved and she is torn between keeping silent or speaking up.  Although Meggy is limited in physical strength, her decision proves that she is strong in courage!
Why read it?There is a lack of disabled characters in literature and this is an example of one that is strong willed and courageous.  It can also help us evaluate our view of those that have physical limitations.
Why listen to the audio book instead?The accents provide more of a vivid picture of what is happening in the story.  The different voices that the narrator takes on and the singing are much more enjoyable when you do not have to make them up in your head.  It would be a plus to have students follow along as they listen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Very Annoying Habit of Interrupting...

Candlewick Press, (2010). Interrupting chicken by Ezra Stein [Web]. Available from

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein, (2010)
Interesting Facts:This picture book  has received the 2011 Caldecott Medal.
About the Book:At bedtime, Little Red Chicken insists that Papa read a story to her.  Despite her father’s reminder to not interrupt, Chicken continues to do so ruining the endings to all the stories shortly after their beginnings.  She interrupts Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little before they run out of stories to read.  To solve the problem, Papa turns the tables on the little red chicken asking her to tell him a story which leads to a different kind of problem.
Why read it?It is humorous and can be used to introduce a lesson about manners.  Readers of all ages will enjoy the colorful illustrations which will trigger memories from their own childhood read-aloud.  This picture book struck a personal cord with me personally because I have the habit of interrupting people.  Like Little Red Chicken, I too try to stop myself but many times just can’t help it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Victim of Post Tramatic Stress...

Lerner Publishing, (2010). Book trailer: the freak observer [Web]. Available from

Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston, (2010)
Interesting Facts: This book is an ALA William C. Morris Debut Award Winner.  This award is given to first-time authors of young adult books. 
About the Book:Before I go into details about the book, I would like to say that reading it reminded me of Speak . I say this because like Melinda in Speak, Loa is trying to overcome a tramatic experience. Throughout the book, Loa struggles through the grieving process and suffers from post-traumatic stress.  The death of her little sister to Rett’s Syndrome has completely turned her family life into chaos.  To make matters worse one of her friends has died in what seems to be an accident but may have been suicide. She fights to keep her eyes open so she won’t have to see haunting images of the accident and to escape her reoccurring nightmares with The Boney Guy (Death).  Before The Boney Guy, Loa’s life was pretty good. She now depends on herself to get through her ordeal as her parents are not much involved in her life anymore and she has no friends.  There is one assignment that not only helps keep her mind off things but also seems to be one of the things guiding her on the road to acceptance.
Why read it? When tragedy strikes, people sometimes forget that they themselves are not the only victims.  Sometimes they become cold towards the other survivors around them.  This book shows that not only is it possible to heal but that it is much easier to do so with the support of those around you.
Vist the Author's Official Site:
Book Trailer taken from

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moon Over Manifest

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Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool, (2010)
Interesting Information:This Newbery winning book is an example of historical fiction. The story is set during the great depression of 1936 in a small fictional town in Kansas but provides glimpses of the past.
About the book:As heartwarming as this book is, it provides its share of suspense and humor.  It is a touching story about a young girl named Abilene (12 years old) who has grown up with her daddy along the railroads.  One day her father sends her off to an unknown place with unknown people and Abilene is not only confused but heartbroken to be torn apart from her father.  Her new home is in Manifest, Kansas.  There she discovers a simple box filled with old letters and trinkets.  The letters are dated from the years 1917-1918, during the First World War.  They are written by a young boy named Ned to his best buddy named Jinx.  Her discoveries lead her on a spy hunt. Abilene is also searching for her father’s tie to the town. Through the letters and with the help of a diviner, Abilene is able to develop a close relationship with Ned, Jinx, Shady, and many others that have a part in this entangled story.  Let’s just say that Abilene and her accomplices found much more than they were bargaining for as they discover the truths behind murders, cons, and their neighbors.
Why read it?It is interesting to see how a story can be written within a story. This story is not only entertaining; it is also educational about important events such as Kansas, Orphan trains, and the Spanish Influenza.