1. This is like Rebecca Stead lite! And I mean that as a compliment! Stead's books explore themes in interesting andMy thoughts upon finishing this:
1. This is like Rebecca Stead lite! And I mean that as a compliment! Stead's books explore themes in interesting and sophisticated ways. This explored a theme (the impacts of science on nature) on a bunch of levels in a way that is (probably) easier to grasp for most young readers. I'm very excited to talk to kids about this one.
2. Man, I love this idea of a teenage grandparent. So funny. There was something about it that was familiar to me, but I can't put my finger on where I've seen it before. It begs to be a movie with a great young actor playing Melvin with his scrunchies and polyester pants. Now, I will admit that so much of the Melvin story stretches logic past its breaking point, but I don't care. The story was realistic where it needed to be, and not so realistic in other places. I thought it all flowed beautifully in service of the story.
3. I wish I had read this earlier so I could have booktalked it at my school visits last spring. Our Summer Learning theme is science and this book pushes science in a really fun way. Ellie feels left out of her mom's theater world and her friend's volleyball world, but finds she belongs in the world of scientists.
4. I love Jenni Holm! I've never read anything by her I didn't like. The only thing that keeps me from giving this five stars is the title--well, really, the whole goldfish metaphor. It seemed a little tacked on and unnecessary, like driving home a point that's already been made, which is sort of like talking down to your audience. The only off-key note in an otherwise perfectly pitched middle grade novel. ...more
Go, Bot. Throw, Bot. Get in the boat and row, Bot! This has the feel of a classic, even though I'm not wild about the illustrations. A little girl givGo, Bot. Throw, Bot. Get in the boat and row, Bot! This has the feel of a classic, even though I'm not wild about the illustrations. A little girl gives simple rhyming commands to a robot until it feels ill-used and abandons the girl. She finds him and makes up for her dictatorial leanings by pushing Bot on the swing. A great early reader. ...more
It's hard for me to go into a book with an open mind when I know certain things about the author's beliefs. So, I didn't really want to like Ender's GIt's hard for me to go into a book with an open mind when I know certain things about the author's beliefs. So, I didn't really want to like Ender's Game, and I only sort of did.
First of all, I don't buy Ender as a child for one second. Ender is an incredible genius--and I really mean "incredible" as in "not credible." Ender is basically an adult in a child's body. His thought process is mature, he's very eloquent, he's essentially the smartest person in the world. So what's with this premise that the human race needs a child to command all our military forces because only a child would be reckless and fearless enough to do what it takes to win? It doesn't really make sense to me. Ender does not think or feel or act like a child. (I think it would've made more sense if Ender's unbelievable abilities propelled him to command, rather than the idea that the government was looking, on purpose, for a child.) There's nothing childlike about Ender except his size.
Also, is this one of the best books for teens because of all the fart jokes? The human race has evolved into geniuses and we have all this amazing technology, but fart jokes persist and multiply.
Okay, now for some complaining that includes spoilers. (view spoiler)[If Valentine is so smart, why would she ever help Peter? I don't buy it. And if Peter's so evil, how does he end up being a benevolent world leader? That's basically left unexplained. (Though maybe it's addressed in other books in the series.) (hide spoiler)]
I did like that the book has an amazing twist. I also liked the very end of the book, which offers redemption in a very complicated way. And I liked the moral and ethical questions raised by the book. So there. Three stars. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
In the beginning of The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore, sixth graders Ephraim, Mallory, and Will are natural enemies. Ephraim Appledore-SmithIn the beginning of The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore, sixth graders Ephraim, Mallory, and Will are natural enemies. Ephraim Appledore-Smith is the new kid in the town of Crystal Spring, Maine, but he belongs to the rich family that owns the Water Castle (which is not actually a castle, but a large house full of mysteries). Mallory Green is the descendent of the folks who have long been the Water Castle's caretakers--and Mallory is sick of hearing about it from her parents. Will Wylie feels bitter over the rivalry his ancestors have had with the Appledores for over a century.
Yet somehow these three end up becoming friends as they investigate the secrets of the Water Castle. Where do all the hidden tunnels lead? Are the legends about the Fountain of Youth true? Is the secret to immortality hidden somewhere inside?
A neat blend of science and possible magic, fair warning, this book leaves a lot of questions unanswered when it's over. The novel's themes of scientific discovery and rivalry are played out both in the present day and in a parellel story set in 1908. Both the modern and historical plots are connected to the Peary expedition to the North Pole. The author also explores the dynamics of ruptured families. Ephraim's father has just suffered a stroke and is not recovering well. Mallory's parents are separated. Will's father is distant and angry.
Ephraim is a flawed hero that I never really warmed up to, but I really liked Mallory and wished there had been more about Will. Though the writing was good, I wished the book were not quite so long. Recommended for children who can handle ambiguity and like challenging reads. ...more
I got a galley of this at ALA Midwinter in Seattle and it was by far the most hyped book I came across at the conference, so I sat down to read it thiI got a galley of this at ALA Midwinter in Seattle and it was by far the most hyped book I came across at the conference, so I sat down to read it this morning with hopes that were high. I just finished it--that's over 450 pages in one six-hour sitting. So, if you're wondering whether this is a fast read that's hard to put down, I would say yes. Let's start with the things I liked:
-The story really held me. Who are the Others? What do they want? What's their master plan?
-The POV changed many times, from Cassie's to Ben's to Evan's to Sammy's. I'm a fan of POV changes, even when they shift from first person to third person, which can be a little jarring, because it's fantastic to see the same situation from different perspectives and to have two narratives to jump between. I'm a fan.
-I'm definitely interested in reading a sequel when it comes, but this book didn't have the cruel cliffhanger ending that some first-in-a-series books throw at you. Thank you, Rick Yancey, for going the distance with this first book and for leaving the reader wanting more at the same time. It's a hard balance to strike, but I think you did it.
Moving on to my dislikes:
-At the end of the book when everyone's almost just died--when one very important character may very well be dead!--our heroine is annoyed by another girl's beauty and "microscopic pores." OMG that makes me so mad! Must teen girls be portrayed as so shallow and same-sex competitive? Even in the midst of death and destruction? When your book aspires to be about something huge like total species annihilation, to have your teen heroine get all insecure when faced with a pretty girl is either the dumbest thing to do or so honest it's troubling.
-If we're going to get right down to it, I didn't like Cassie all that much as a hero (not nearly as much as I liked Ben). From the first pages, I thought her voice too flip to match her circumstances. Later in the book, as we see her face death and survival, she gets a little grittier and cracks better jokes and I started to like her. But, in this reader's opinion, she drifted back and forth between likable and super annoying. It's like Yancey was trying to strike a balance between Katniss and Bella, but didn't really get away with it.
-Though I found the overall story plausible enough, certain major plot points struck me as ludicrous. I can only talk about them with spoilers, which I won't give away (especially since the book's not out yet), but suffice it to say, there were times when the story really challenged my ability to maintain suspension of disbelief.
To sum up, I really enjoyed reading this book, but I don't see as much crossover appeal for adult audiences as with The Hunger Games because it's so much teen-ier. It's definitely better than average, and I think a lot of kids will read it and like it, but I don't know if it will take off like the publishers hope it will. It's due out in May, so we shall see. ...more
-I figured out the twist waaaaay too early. It was soooo obvious. Ugh.
-The "science" part of science-fiction was not especiLet's begin with the bad:
-I figured out the twist waaaaay too early. It was soooo obvious. Ugh.
-The "science" part of science-fiction was not especially well done. I'm calling this science-fiction because this book abounds with high tech futuristic stuff, but I was not super impressed with Meyer's sci-fi skills.
Now let's do the good:
-Who cares how believable the sci-fi junk was? It's fun! It's a fast! It's exciting!
I raced through this whole series, gobbling it up like I was starved for it. I really think it has a lot in common with The Hunger Games. Here we go:I raced through this whole series, gobbling it up like I was starved for it. I really think it has a lot in common with The Hunger Games. Here we go:
1. Both deal with the gray area between good and evil. Though the kids are clearly fighting against an evil leader, in both cases the opposition uses questionable tactics themselves.
2. Both have breakneck plotting full of danger and suspense, but not in a way that sacrifices good writing and character development.
3. Both have a love triangle, those it's way more important to Hunger Games than it is to Chaos Walking.
4. They both make these strong arguments about problems in society through an exaggerated reality. In Hunger Games, I'd say one main idea is that you can distract people from the suffering of others with a lot of sensational entertainment (bread and circuses), even when the suffering is the entertainment. In Chaos Walking, what stuck out for me was the idea of mob mentality. There is literal mind control in the book, but it also speaks to the kind of power any charismatic, power-hungry leader can have. In both series, our heroes can see these huge societal problems (and try to fix them) in a way the adults can't (or won't).
5. They both made me cry pretty hard.
So I definitely recommend this series for Hunger Games fans out there. I also recommend it on its own merits, of course. But I will say that I read through all three books so fast, I never stopped to criticize. I just devoured. ...more
What! Two stars for my beloved Madeleing L'Engle?! Well, friends, I'd never read this before so I picked up an audio copy at the library recently andWhat! Two stars for my beloved Madeleing L'Engle?! Well, friends, I'd never read this before so I picked up an audio copy at the library recently and I was 100% excited to get into it. Unfortunately, I was distracted by Ms. L'Engle's narration. I feel a little funny calling out this wonderful writer for something as trivial as saliva, but she has to have the wettest voice in the history of audio books. I could practically see the spit flecking out of her mouth and covering the microphone as she talked. They must have edited out slurping noises! (Ok, now I'm just being harsh.)
Slobbery speech aside, I only felt so-so about the book itself. I love the idea of the villain Mr. Jenkins becoming the crux of Meg's mission. I don't know how many times I've complained about one-dimensional villains (answer: a lot), so it's right up my alley for a writer to ask kids to see that even "bad" people can have good qualities and that we need to look at the whole person, at why they are who they are. Still, this just wasn't my thing. The echthroi weren't as scary as I think they were supposed to be and the climax was not as climax-y as I thought it would be. Maybe a lot of the letdown was in the narration because I really did like the ideas behind the story. ...more
This would be a great choice for reluctant readers who like outer space, science, jokes, MMORPGs, and/or British things. It's so funny and it really fThis would be a great choice for reluctant readers who like outer space, science, jokes, MMORPGs, and/or British things. It's so funny and it really flies by. I think I read it in under 3 hours and I enjoyed every minute. On top of the comedy and rollicking plot, it had some deep philosophical moments that bordered on the existential. I mean, being lost in outer space will definitely get you thinking about the meaning of life, whether you want to think about it or not.
Liam is only 12 years old, but he's so tall that people are always confusing him for a grown-up. He takes advantage of this when he can, especially when the opportunity arises to visit a super-secret theme park with the greatest thrill ride ever created. The only catch is that Liam can't go as a kid; he has to go incognito as an adult. Liam's perspective as a child pretending to be an adult is amusing and full of insight. In his study of "dadliness" his conclusions are fantastic because they're both funny and true.
The only reason this misses five stars for me is because I was totally skeptical of the ending. Granted, this is not realistic fiction, but even as science fiction it really stretched believability in order to come to a happy conclusion. Specifically, **Spoiler Alert** how did a bunch of untrained kids (geniuses though they may be) pilot a rocket ship around the moon and land it safely on the earth using a video game and maths? Ridiculous. ...more
Beautifully constructed plot, complicated characters, a crazy "we've warred ourself back to the dark ages" future London, and some pretty great deadpaBeautifully constructed plot, complicated characters, a crazy "we've warred ourself back to the dark ages" future London, and some pretty great deadpan jokes about how our present might be interpreted by forthcoming generations ("Cheeses Crice!" "What the blog?" they blaspheme).
I haven't read the series to which this is a prequel, but I liked Fever Crumb a lot. I could almost tell when there was a reveal that would make a longtime fan reel. So I just might look into the Mortal Engine books now...
Oh, and does anyone else think the cover art totally looks like Natalie Portman? ...more
Great writing, a nice quick pace, and a driving plot kept me from putting this book down much once I'd started in on it. Still, it wasn't totally satiGreat writing, a nice quick pace, and a driving plot kept me from putting this book down much once I'd started in on it. Still, it wasn't totally satisfying for me.
The dystopian world Catherine Fisher creates in the book is totally intriguing: After a violent upheaval called the "Time of Rage" the government takes control and puts all the criminals (along with the meek and the poor, I think) into a vast prison called Incarceron. Incarceron is supposed to be a utopia, but the sentient (artificial?) intelligence that controls the prison turns it into a hellish wasteland. Meanwhile, outside the prison, the elite are forced to live in a false feudal-ish era because the government has decreed that modernity and change are dangerous.
So you have a 17-year-old boy, Finn, and his motley group of friends inside Incerceron trying to get out. And you have a girl, Claudia, trying to discover the secrets of Incarceron to escape an arranged marriage to the future King. Not a bad setup.
My criticisms are largely matters of taste, I guess. None of the characters were particularly likable. Finn and Claudia were both hella angsty. And there wasn't very much in the way of humor or good feelings. If you don't mind 442 pages of dark, dreary, and tense then this will surely thrill you. As for me...I wasn't thrilled.
Another criticism, and a tiny bit of a spoiler, is that this book seems to be true sci-fi, but kind of drifts into fantasy in the end, by which I mean the conclusion lacked a logical explanation. Maybe the second book will do a better job of explaining Sapphique (I'm guessing so, since it's title is "Sapphique"). We shall see. ...more
I never read this as a kid because I saw a cartoon version that scared the bejeezus out of me. It gave me plow nightmares. But I was ready to face itI never read this as a kid because I saw a cartoon version that scared the bejeezus out of me. It gave me plow nightmares. But I was ready to face it as an adult.
I love the audio book narrator, Barbara Caruso, who also performed Tuck Everlasting. She's classy.
Jonah thinks he's just a normal adopted kid until he uncovers some secrets about his past. Where did he really come? What's it got to do with the FBI?Jonah thinks he's just a normal adopted kid until he uncovers some secrets about his past. Where did he really come? What's it got to do with the FBI? Would he be better off not knowing?
I felt a little meh abut the writing and characters, but the plot pulled me through. Haddix knows how to keep you turning pages.
This definitely reads like the first in a series. The ending is only partially satisfying, so you'll really want to pick up the second book fast. ...more
I love it when I find a book I can't put down. I read this in one sitting and it went by so fast, but in a good way, like I'm excited to read it againI love it when I find a book I can't put down. I read this in one sitting and it went by so fast, but in a good way, like I'm excited to read it again. It's pretty difficult to describe the plot, so I'll just say that it's exceptionally well written, moves at a great pace, and the characters leap off the page.
It also defies genre. I'd call it a mystery because Miranda, the 6th grade protagonist, tells the story as she's trying to figure it out, so the reader is there trying to figure it out with her.
I'd also say it's everyday life because it's about friendships, families, walking home from school past a crazy person, just normal stuff that happens to kids.
And it's sci-fi because there is an element of time travel (the good "always already happened" time travel--I don't like it when time travel can change the past).
It's also kind of historical fiction for young readers because it takes place in New York City in 1978, when the streets were not very safe and the $20,000 Pyramid was a super hot game show (as a great touch, the chapters have titles like categories in the Pyramid).
I think this is a strong Newbery contender for 2010. ...more
A lass and a Lack! What do you do when your girlfriend falls in love with a black hole? This is the premise of Jonathan Lethem's short, weird physics-A lass and a Lack! What do you do when your girlfriend falls in love with a black hole? This is the premise of Jonathan Lethem's short, weird physics-meets-romance novel. There's a lot of fun wordplay and absurdity. There are many pompous academics. There are co-dependent couples (including two blind men who I pictured as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones from Men in Black). I liked it, but it was a little too post-modern clever-clever for me to really care about the characters. ...more
Much to the chagrin of Jeff, I can't stop doing a Boov voice. It's so funny. Give an Odyssey Award to that Boov voice! Done!
The True Meaning of SmekdaMuch to the chagrin of Jeff, I can't stop doing a Boov voice. It's so funny. Give an Odyssey Award to that Boov voice! Done!
The True Meaning of Smekday is a hilarious sci-fi adventure, an object lesson about the perils of intergalactic imperialism, a super great audiobook, and probably just a little bit too long. I mean, I liked it a lot, but I thought it could've (should've) been a smidge shorter.
Still, a lovable renegade alien named J.Lo.? Heck yeah. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is one of the most difficult books I've read since college. I thought about quitting it a few times before I was halfway throug**spoiler alert** This is one of the most difficult books I've read since college. I thought about quitting it a few times before I was halfway through, but once I got past the halfway point I couldn't put it down. I'm glad I finished it because it's really a brilliant book.
For me, the main theme I took away was one of savage vs. civilized. How has humanity changed on its path from the tribe to the metropolis? Do we treat each other any better now than we did then? Do we really change over the course of history, or do we just invent new ways to enslave each other?
The book is made of six separate novellas. We get the first half of novellas set in the following times:
1850, 1931, 1975, present day, sci-fi
Then there's a post-apocalyptic section, and then we finally get to read the second halves of the stories, this time moving backward through time.
It really is amazing the way this format allows the author to show how language changes over time, how society changes, and yet certain aspects of humanity seem to be everlasting. The everlasting attribute of humanity that hit me hardest as a reader was the drive to assert one's will over another person's, or the will to dominate. I will elaborate.
Warning, spoilers ahead...
1850: A young accountant is dominated by a crazy physician. Also, a peaceful native tribe is dominated by white settlers (and also by a violent native tribe).
1931: A young composer attempts to use an older composer's wilting career for his benefit, but the older composer and his family end up driving the young composer to suicide.
1975: A nuclear power company uses threats, murder, really any means necessary to keep secret a report that reveals the dangers of its operations.
Present day: An old man ends up in a nursing home against his will.
Sci-fi: Clones are used as slaves. Everyday people are dominated by a "corpocracy" or an all-powerful government driven by the demands of corporations.
Post-apocalyptic: Once again, we see peaceful tribes trying to defend themselves against violent tribes.
For a book about a child recklessly cloning a bunch of farm animals into crazy hybrids, this book is very lighthearted and fun. Probably good for storFor a book about a child recklessly cloning a bunch of farm animals into crazy hybrids, this book is very lighthearted and fun. Probably good for storytime, though some parents may complain it has a less than reverent attitude towards nature and science....more
This book is ridiculous. It's got a lot of footnotes, which right off the bat tells you that it's one of those self-aware po-mo books that will make yThis book is ridiculous. It's got a lot of footnotes, which right off the bat tells you that it's one of those self-aware po-mo books that will make you roll your eyes. There are too many cheeseball jokes to count. I liked it. ...more
Why would an alien race send an important Federation officer to Earth disguised as an eight-year-old boy? I don't know, but the results are pretty funWhy would an alien race send an important Federation officer to Earth disguised as an eight-year-old boy? I don't know, but the results are pretty funny.
The illustrations--which kind of look like they were done in Paint (the program, not the substance)--belie the story Julian Rodriguez tells. So to one reader this might be science fiction, but to a more sophisticated reader this is childhood fantasy. I mean, who hasn't felt like they were from another planet? ...more
I picked this up because I was looking at this website that had pictures of literary tattoos and an extraordinary number of people had "Everything wasI picked this up because I was looking at this website that had pictures of literary tattoos and an extraordinary number of people had "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt" tattoos. I was like, "What is so great about this quote that all these people had it permanently inked on their bodies?" Turns out, the quote is kind of a non-sequitur. I mean, I'm sure you can figure out a way in which it's deeply integral to the book's themes or whatever, but in terms of the narrative, it just appears as a thought the main character has and then is never mentioned again.
Another popular tattoo from S-5 on that website is "So it goes," which makes a lot more sense to me because Vonnegut writes it every single time he mentions death. Nothing like a nice little momento mori on your forearm, right?
I gave this book five stars because it is hella deep. The plot jumps around different times like crazy, but everything feels connected, which is quite a feat in terms of writing ability. Some people may think the whole alien abduction thing is sort of stupid, but I'd be lying if I said this book didn't really make me think about the nature of time and human suffering. ...more