It’s May 27, just nine days after May 18. If you’ve read my diary (Life As We Knew It), you know what that means. Exactly one year and nine days...moreMay 27
It’s May 27, just nine days after May 18. If you’ve read my diary (Life As We Knew It), you know what that means. Exactly one year and nine days ago, life as I had known it was gone forever. On that fateful evening, an asteroid sucker-punched the moon with such force that it must have doubly and triply smashed in the already-smashed-in craters. The moon is now closer to me on this earth, and I honestly don’t know how bad off the craters are, but this I know — this one cataclysmic event wreaked havoc the world over, unleashing tsunamis, volcanos, earthquakes, essentially stripping the world I knew of many people I loved, and — of color. I now live in ash-filled gray days, always wondering where the next meal will come from.
Apparently, there’s another story out there about some kids my age (high school) and my younger brother’s age (middle school) who were living in New York City on that disastrous day (The Dead & The Gone). I’ve heard that “body-shopping” is the operative word in that story. Don’t ask how I know that. I can, however, tell you about house-scavenging and LLBA.
I can’t tell you much more than what I’ve already said right here or it would totally ruin what comes next. You don’t have to have read both books mentioned above to read this latest story. One or the other would be a good idea though. And I have no idea how you are getting by, and if my story has any means to reach you wherever you are. Do you even have any electricity? Maybe you’ve rigged up some alternate energy? What’s the state of your supplies? Are you in a secret safe town? How many of you are still out there?
That’s all I have the energy to ask now, except that if you are able to get a hold of This World We Live In and join me for however long you can, that would be great. I long for company, even if it’s across the ashy, hazy miles. And if you have enough light from whatever source to finish this story, count yourself as one very lucky person. If possible, come find me, that is if I’m still around and if you have any means of transportation. If not, hang in there, there’s still a tomorrow.
Physical Condition: I was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5 (for more details, read Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, but that book is mostly about my brother Stephen and how hard it was for him when he was in eighth grade for me to have cancer, FYI). My cancer is in remission, but, like I say in this new book that’s out about my eighth grade year, After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick, “Treatment is nothing compared to what happens after you’ve been ‘cured.’ . . . Being a cancer survivor can be a life sentence all its own.” Because of all the intense radiation and chemotherapy I received, I walk with a limp on my right side and have some neurological damage that basically makes me “a little scrambled up” and I can’t focus in class for any period of time. So if you want me to figure out math, or be some sort of math genius like my dad, the accountant, well, you can forget about it.
Oh, yeah: I’m short, chubby, and I wear glasses. Do those count as conditions?
Interests: My girlfriend, Lindsay. (WHOA, IT’S WEIRD TO WRITE THAT! Seriously, who would have thought a girl, let alone Lindsay, the coolest, most down-to-Earth, and hottest girl in the school, would ever like me!?! Did I mention I’m spacey and chubby with a limp? You could call me Chubby Limp! Why would Lindsay go for a kid named Chubby Limp? Shrug, but it’s pretty cool.
Oh, yeah, I love riding my bike: “I can’t walk too well, but when I’m on my bike, I fly.”
Hero: My brother, Stephen. Stephen is currently wandering Africa banging on some hand drums “to find himself” while I suffer through 8th grade, the second worst year of my life. I used to depend on Stephen for everything, but now that I might not pass the eighth grade because of some stupid state test in math (Mom and Dad don’t know about this because I, er, shoved the letter from the school about the tests down the garbage disposal) and a girl actually likes me for the first time in my life (seriously, holy crap) where is he? AFRICA!
I wish I could only be angry at him, but truth is, I really miss him.
Inspiration: Um, if you ever tell him this I’ll ride my bike off a pier, but my inspiration is my friend Tad who’s also a cancer survivor. Tad’s also got a whole bunch of messed up problems from his treatment, (his leukemia was even worse than mine, so he’s in a wheelchair and has brain damage, which may or may not be the cause of a serious bitterness problem), but we’re trying to help each other live life to the fullest (and pass eighth grade) which means I have to put up with him while he tutors me in math and he has to put up with me yelling at him to try harder on the exercise bike during gym class because I want to see him walk across the stage at graduation. That’s right, Tad: walk. Together we’re gonna make our goals for each other happen. Read After Ever After to see how we do.(less)
I think it must be terrible to be lost, but so much worse to be forgotten. p. 230, Lost.
There’s no chance in forgetting the characters in Jacqueline...more I think it must be terrible to be lost, but so much worse to be forgotten. p. 230, Lost.
There’s no chance in forgetting the characters in Jacqueline Davies’s Lost, so vivid and true are their voices. Like the more recent tragedy of 9/11, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911* is now burned into my consciousness as if with a hot brand. Seventeen-year-old Essie Rosenfeld lives on the lower east side of Manhattan in 1911. She has been taking care of her irrepressible, fierce bad rabbit of a younger sister Zelda ever since Zelda was born. Their mother, a grieving widow, just can’t cope. But now Essie needs to work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and can’t be around as much for Zelda. There she meets Harriet Abbott, the new girl who strikes Essie as different, somehow, not one of the immigrants like Essie and the other girls who work themselves to the bone for starvation wages because they must.
An immediate friendship with Harriet confirms Essie’s suspicions. Harriet is harboring big secrets; it turns out Essie is too. Who is Harriet, really? Like Grace Brown in Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light, the mystery of Dorothy Harriet Camille Arnold in Lost is based on true events and a real-life person and adds depth and suspense to a story already rich in character, history, language and dialog. Davies weaves these stories together in alternating chapters, one of which is printed on ’stained’ paper evoking the tenement walls of Essie’s home. The stories come together in a riveting and devastating climax that accurately portrays the hardships of that time and place. But in the end, the story is really one of hope and the resilience of the human spirit. (less)
If you thought combining zombies starving for brains and English Regency society was strange, what about pairing our illustrious 16th President with t...moreIf you thought combining zombies starving for brains and English Regency society was strange, what about pairing our illustrious 16th President with the undead? Seth Grahame-Smith, the mastermind behind last year’s wildly popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is at it again.
Sure, Lincoln brought together a broken nation. Yes, he freed the slaves, but it seems his battles with blood thirsty vampires have been forgotten by history– or so Grahame-Smith would like you to think.
The book, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, is based upon the idea that there is a previously undiscovered diary by Lincoln. The diary details Lincoln’s struggle against the undead. In truth, Lincoln never kept a diary, but this is a rather entertaining imagining.
Grahame-Smith even works in the true fact that Lincoln was a great fan of Edgar Allen Poe by incorporating the Gothic writer into the mix as well. Also, the illustrations guarantee that you’ll never look at Lincoln in quite the same way again.
The author recently gave an interview to NPR explaining about the book and a bit about the craze for mash-ups that he started.
If you’re looking for a different take on vampires, or just a good laugh, I highly recommend this one. (less)
In this very moving graphic memoir, an award-winning children’s book illustrator recalls his harrowing 1950s childhood. At the mercy of a radiologist...moreIn this very moving graphic memoir, an award-winning children’s book illustrator recalls his harrowing 1950s childhood. At the mercy of a radiologist father whose overzealous x-ray treatments do serious damage, and an angry, neglectful and uncommunicative mother, David Small flees home at sixteen to eventually find solace through his art, and some measure of understanding as he learns about his family’s troubled past. Haunting gray and white images perfectly capture a broken world. As Small put it, ”I know now that the graphic form was the only way my memoir could have been told.” On numerous “best” of the year lists, Stitches by David Small is enthusiastically recommended to adults and teens. (less)
Imagine if you really did have adamantium claws, and crazy healing powers? What if you could manipulate the weather like Storm? How does invisibility...moreImagine if you really did have adamantium claws, and crazy healing powers? What if you could manipulate the weather like Storm? How does invisibility sound? Pretty cool, right? Now let’s say that your mutation isn’t clear cut invisibility. No, instead it seems that people just do not notice you. You can be standing next to them, but unless you focus so hard that it feels like your eyeball is going come out of its socket, they’re none the wiser to your presence.
This is the dilemma Eric Mattias faces in Barry Lyga’s new book Worst Day Ever. He attends Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Students. Eric thinks his mutant power is pretty lame. Especially, as it makes it difficult for him to make friends, and he can pretty much forget about a date with Dani.
There are a few things that keep Eric from going off the rails alotgether. First, he has his newly created blog. It’s through his blog entries that we get to know him. Second, his drawings. While people may not be able to see him, they can see his artwork. One of Eric’s favorite things to draw is Wolverine.
Eric and Wolverine share an inability to sleep. Often times late at night, Eric will go down to the kitchen and find Wolverine with a sandwich. Both quiet and sad.
Fans of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series are sure to enjoy Worst Day Ever.(less)
Suburbia has never been so interesting as in Shaun Tan’s "Tales From Outer Suburbia;" painted missiles dot the landscape in one story (every household...moreSuburbia has never been so interesting as in Shaun Tan’s "Tales From Outer Suburbia;" painted missiles dot the landscape in one story (every household has its own intercontinental ballistic missile supplied by the government in support of national security), and a large, endangered marine mammal is found stranded on a front lawn in another. When you open up Tan’s collection of 14 extraordinary tales, you immediately come face-to-face with an ominous water buffalo living in the tall grass of a vacant lot who, when solicited for advice, raises his left hoof and points a girl in the right direction. How does he know? And how do the girl and her friends decipher his directions? Shaun Tan’s "Tales From Outer Suburbia" dazzle the eye and tug at a range of emotions, from aching melancholy to fear and confusion to profound joy. The mixed media artwork masterfully combines Tan’s signature black and white drawings with collage, vibrant paintings and doodles.
After finishing this extraordinary collection, it’s almost impossible not to go right back to the beginning and start over. Upon a second or third reading, the stories change in meaning and texture, making this collection a treasure for all ages to savor again and again. Tan’s bestseller, The Arrival, displayed his unique vision and talent with images, but this collection also has words. Is it possible that his word stories are as wonderfully odd, fresh, original, whimsical and profoundly moving as his artwork? Yes! (less)
Snkit. Snkit. It’s the sound of Wolverine’s adamantium claws slicing and dicing.
Maybe you’ve read every X-Men ever printed, or perhaps you’ve seen the...moreSnkit. Snkit. It’s the sound of Wolverine’s adamantium claws slicing and dicing.
Maybe you’ve read every X-Men ever printed, or perhaps you’ve seen the films and think he’s kind of cool. Either way Wolverine:Inside the World of the Living Weapon will have something for you. Did you know that Wolverine used to date Mystique? Or that Magneto once ripped the adamantium from Logan’s bones? Did you know Wolverine has a son named Daken? There is much to learn about the beloved beserker from up North.
As fascinating as all of the various back stories, rivalries, etc. are, it’s sometimes difficult keeping them all straight. This is an absolute must read for Wolverine fans, and it’ll help get you up to date for the next film. Yep, that’s right. They’re making another Wolverine movie. This one is rumored to be about his time in Japan.(less)
Bundle up before you open up Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater,* because each chapter is headed by the temperature of the day, and freezing temperatures for...moreBundle up before you open up Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater,* because each chapter is headed by the temperature of the day, and freezing temperatures for some mean changing into a werewolf in this original, lyrical, and romantic tale.
15°F: Angry wolves drag 9-year-old Grace off her back porch and into the woods, tugging her body this way and that, their muzzles smeared with red. Grace remembers the snarling and biting, and she especially remembers the yellow-eyed wolf who saved her from the pack.
15°F: Grace is forever watching the yellow-eyed wolf in the woods behind her house…
7+ YEARS LATER…
44°F: High School junior Jack Culpeper is killed by wolves.
50°F: The police attempt to kill the wolves in the woods so that no one else will have to suffer Jack’s fate. A deafening pop is heard echoing throughout the woods.
49°F: A wounded Sam is found lying on Grace’s back porch. Sam has yellow eyes. This time Sam winds up in Grace’s arms.
45°F: Grace: “The truth of it struck me then. Here I was with a shape-shifting boy… Not just any shape-shifting boy, but my wolf.”
And so begins Sam’s and Grace’s relationship in human form, and they are rapidly falling in love. Grace’s parents’ hands-off parenting style opens the door for her to spend long stretches of time with Sam. But there are plenty of threats to their intense relationship, such as Shelby, the white she-wolf who is also in love with Sam. There’s also Jack’s sister, Isabel, who is determined to uncover secrets behind her brother’s murder (is that what it was?) and change the course of events, for better or worse. Practical and intelligent Grace can’t let people know about Sam, the wolf Sam. Sam’s own mysterious past complicates matters. And there’s the constant cold that could change everything for Sam and Grace at any moment, which only ratchets up the intensity of their longing and understanding of the fragility of each moment. There are limits to how many times Sam can change back into human form…If you’re looking for a riveting, winter, romantic story, grab a blanket, a cup of steaming hot chocolate, and Stiefvater’s "Shiver."(less)
"The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted."
When nine-year-old Trisha MacFarland turns off the Appalachian Trail for a min...more"The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted."
When nine-year-old Trisha MacFarland turns off the Appalachian Trail for a minute of relief from her ever-bickering brother and mom she becomes lost deep in the woods. As she wends her way desperately through the ever-thickening trees she has only broadcasts of Boston Red Sox games on her Walkman to keep her company. She listens in each night in the hopes that's she'll hear her favorite player, the game-saving pitcher Tom Gordon, bring home a win, hopes that call forth memories and dreams of her father, divorced from her mother, and with whom she shares a deep bond over baseball.
But as her hopes of rescue dwindle she begins to sense that something out there is following her. Something sitting on the edges of the dark around her encampments watching, something leaving claw-marks gouged in trees, blood-spills and beheaded animals in its wake. "She could feel eyes crawling on her skin the way the little bugs, the minges and noseeums, crawled there." Is this a hallucination brought on by a patch of berries she'd eaten on the edge of that last bog? Are these illusions conjured from the deepest recesses of a young girl's dark fears, a form of temporary insanity? Or is "the world a worst-case scenario...the skin of (it) woven with stingers," and the wasp-faced "God of the Lost" come to tear her apart?
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a powerful, inspired and tightly-written story of survival and psychological horror. In Trisha MacFarland King creates a dynamic, at times funny, main character full of grit, resolve, ingenuity, and courage; I absolutely fell in love with her. Early on I thought I didn't need the creature stalking Trisha in the woods - her survival story without it is terrifying enough - but King shows us that survival and horror are not mutually exclusive, but rather, one evokes the other. He has masterfully stitched together the story of one girl's struggle to live with underlying questions about God and monsters, the beauty of game-saving pitching strategy, a father-daughter relationship, and the fact of our deepest fears in profound, moving ways I did not expect.
Readalikes: Hatchet, The Hunger Games, and The Road.
Rhode Island poet Peter Johnson's first novel is a short, intriguing tale about two brothers and the aftermath of a hit-and-run car accident that left...moreRhode Island poet Peter Johnson's first novel is a short, intriguing tale about two brothers and the aftermath of a hit-and-run car accident that left a local homeless drunk dead. It's also about the lasting effects of a mother's death and a father's disappearance on two sensitive young boys in serious trouble, but without much support at home.
As cold as a midwinter's night in Buffalo, NY, where the book is set, the somber, searching tone of the prose, and its jarring images and rhythms, evoke the depressed, anxious, almost dissociated state of the book's young narrator. The book does this while keeping up an engaging plot involving the driver of the car and his rich, psychopathic father who wants the two brothers to "forget it ever happened." There are some touching moments, reflections on loss and the chaos of living, that had the poet's touch, and the setting was really effective. Recommended for anyone looking for a story that's realistic on its surface, but has emotional flights of language that take story and character to a deeper realm.(less)
"Pop" by Gordon Korman is the story of Marcus Jordan, a talented quarterback new to town, who, weeks before school begins, becomes fast friends with a...more"Pop" by Gordon Korman is the story of Marcus Jordan, a talented quarterback new to town, who, weeks before school begins, becomes fast friends with a famous 50-something retired NFL linebacker named Charlie Popovich. Nicknamed the "King of Pop" in his heyday, "Pop" being the word for his signature crushing, forceful, all-out body-blows, Charlie tackles Marcus as hard as he can, no pads, teaching the 16-year old how to take punishing hits and how to give them, too. “I love the Pop!” Charlie tells Marcus. “Sometimes you actually hear it go Pop!” After a few weeks of NFL-caliber training Marcus is an unmatched force of nature on the field.
Only, something about Charlie is off. Though he remains impressively athletic, the hulking linebacker seems to have the impulses and wandering mind of a child. He shows up to practice when it suits him, he pulls an elaborate prank on a local store owner (involving bugs, lots of them), and, when Marcus dislocates his shoulder one afternoon, Charlie dashes off, leaving Marcus on his own to "pop" his appendage back in place by smashing himself into a granite sculpture, causing a pain so sharp he blacks out. What's up with this dude?
That’s precisely what Charlie’s family doesn’t want Marcus, or anyone, to know. But, Marcus is determined to be honest about Charlie’s condition, to treat the man with respect, and he goes to extreme lengths to help this former football star experience one last moment of greatness.
Full of pranks, adventures, and wince-inducing injuries, Pop is a fast-paced read ideal for young football fans. There's some good on and off-field conflict between Marcus and Charlie’s son, Troy, also a star QB, and a real passion for the game written in throughout. And, considering the recent studies linking repeated head trauma experienced by pro-football players and early on-set dementia, Korman's book is timely. Gr 6 and up. (Jarrett, The Loft) (less)
Who are the first people that come to mind when you think of the Montgomery bus boycotts of the 1950s? Are there any teenagers on your list? If not, s...moreWho are the first people that come to mind when you think of the Montgomery bus boycotts of the 1950s? Are there any teenagers on your list? If not, set a place at the table for several, and in particular, for Claudette Colvin. And make it a round table so that as many people as possible can share her story.
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose, the 2009 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature, is a masterfully crafted, beautifully rendered account of Claudette Colvin, much of it told in her own words and accompanied by primary documents, police reports, and signage that transports you right to Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s.
On March 2, 1955, 15-year-old Colvin refuses to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger almost a year before Rosa Parks did the same. Her refusal wasn’t planned, though a long trail of experiences led her to that moment, including an unquenchable thirst for learning and critically examining the degrading and at times horrific events surrounding her, and her mounting frustration with adults who would bemoan segregation behind closed doors but fail to act.
Imagine yourself at 15 and in her shoes. Two policemen, both bigger than you, pull you right out of your bus seat, sending your school books flying everywhere. One kicks you as they both drag you off the bus. Then they ask you to stick your hands out of the police car so that they can handcuff you for all to see. On the way to the city jail – the adult jail – they call you every imaginable name and try to guess your bra size, and when you arrive at the station, they don’t even allow you to make a phone call.
Many of the adult civil rights leaders had much to lose with their brave actions; the teens who stood up (or remained seated) for their constitutional rights had everything to lose. They did not have established reputations on which to draw. Nor did they necessarily have the family status or attend the “best” churches. Rather, they were immersed in the sometimes murky waters of high school where student opinions shift like the tides; one minute you’re a hero, and the next you’re an outcast and are shunned. Given that, Claudette Colvin’s courage is the rawest, bravest kind. She puts her entire future on the line; she had had dreams of attending law school.
There is a second momentous action that Claudette Colvin took at great risk to herself and her family. One year after her arrest, she agrees to be a plaintiff in the Browder vs. Gayle case in which the defendants sue the city of Montgomery and the state of Alabama, arguing that the segregated seating on buses is unconstitutional. Though not widely known, this case changed the relationships of blacks and whites in America and in the world.
Author Phillip Hoose first heard of Claudette Colvin in 2000 when he was writing We Were There Too! Young People in U. S. History. When he first contacted her, Ms. Colvin wasn’t ready to tell her story for reasons she talks about in the book. It took four years before she agreed to meet with him.
This 2009 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature is more than deserving of the accolade – it’s a major addition to our understanding of the events that changed the course of history, and the very courageous people that stepped out onto the front lines to effect that change. Brava! Reserve a copy of this book from the library as fast as you can, and then give this book to everyone you know. (less)