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Revisiting old friends

13 Aug

Although I got the book over a year ago, I finally read Stars Above by Marissa Meyer.

Stars Above

This was a great way to revisit my old friends from the Lunar Chronicles series, without rereading the whole series. A collection of nine short stories, we learn a little more about the characters and their backgrounds.

CONTENTS

The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.

Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….

The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.

Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.

After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.

The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a young Winter and Jacin playing a game called the Princess and the Guard…

The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.

The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.

Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century.

 

 

Escaping reality

23 Jul

Summer is a time when I escape into the things I love.

Escaping isn’t only for the happy. It is also a refuge for those who don’t want to face difficulties, as john Boyne shows us in Noah Barleywater Runs Away.

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Goodreads Summary: In Noah Barleywater Runs Away, bestselling author John Boyne explores the world of childhood and the adventures that we can all have there. Noah is running away from his problems, or at least that’s what he thinks, the day he takes the untrodden path through the forest. When he comes across a very unusual toyshop and meets the even more unusual toymaker he’s not sure what to expect. But the toymaker has a story to tell, a story full of adventure, and wonder and broken promises. And Noah travels with him on a journey that will change his life for ever.

A thought-provoking fable for our modern world from the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

This was John Boyne’s second novel. It followed his hugely successful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Although a very different sort of book, more magical realism than fairy tale, it also carries a sadness. Noah’s mother is ill. The toymaker has regrets. But Noah’s story has a happier ending than The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

The Further Adventures of Arabella Ashby

19 Jul

Last night, David D. Levine spoke at Powells and introduced the second novel in his Arabella of Mars series to a very enthusiastic crowd.

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Publisher’s Summary: The thrilling adventures of Arabella Ashby continue in Arabella and the Battle of Venus, the second book in Hugo-winning author David D. Levine’s swashbuckling sci-fi, alternate history series!

Arabella’s wedding plans to marry Captain Singh of the Honorable Mars Trading Company are interrupted when her fiancé is captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on swampy Venus. Now, Arabella must find passage to an enemy-controlled planet in the middle of a war, bribe or fight her way past vicious guards, and rescue her Captain.

To do this she must enlist the help of the dashing privateer, Daniel Fox of the Touchstone and build her own clockwork navigational automaton in order to get to Venus before the dread French general, Joseph Fouché, the Executioner of Lyon.

Once on Venus, Arabella, Singh, and Fox soon discover that Napoleon has designed a secret weapon, one that could subjugate the entire galaxy if they can’t discover a way to stop Fouché, and the entire French army, from completing their emperor’s mandate.

It was a very entertaining evening that opened with Mr. Levine announcing that two books makes a series and every series needs a theme song – and he played a theme song for Arabella! This got the crowd excited for the read aloud from the book that came next and the short talk that followed. Next came a Q&A where Levine explained how he worked around the laws of physics, and where and how he changed human history. Finally, we were treated to a read aloud from the third and final Arabella book. We all promised to keep silent about it, so I can’t tell you anything other than I look forward to this third book.

 

This week’s book talks 6/5-9

11 Jun

For a number of reasons, I have no 5 day weeks left, even though this week and next are 5 day weeks. Darn for me! It will be 4 books next week, and probably 3 the last week, The last day of school schedule is out and it will be a whirlwind.

Monday

This classic hasn’t been checked out all year, even though I know a number of students would love it. Best reason for a book talk!

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Publisher’s Summary: “I can’t speak for all dogs.
Not all dogs are alike.
And most certainly, not all dogs
have the same experiences. . . .”

Squirrel is not like most dogs. Born a stray, she must make her own way in the world, facing busy highways, changing seasons, and humans both gentle and brutal. Her life story, in her own words, is marked by loss, but also by an inspiring instinct to survive. And when it seems she will roam the woods and country roads alone forever, Squirrel makes two friends who, in very different ways, define her fate.
At once heartrending and hopeful, Ann Martin’s exquisite story of a dog’s life is told with her trademark grace and insight.

Tuesday

I got a round of applause from Core 1 for my Scottish brogue inflected read aloud from Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville.

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Publisher’s Summary: In the first hilarious Enchanted Files, Angus is a brownie. No, not the kind you eat! He’s a tiny magical creature that loves to do chores. Angus has just “inherited” a new human girl, Alex. To say that Alex is messy would be an understatement. She’s a total hurricane-like disaster—and she likes it that way, thank you very much! Living with each other isn’t easy but Angus and Alex soon learn there is a curse that binds them. What’s worse, it threatens Alex’s family! Working together, Angus and Alex will set out to break the curse . . . without killing each other first . . . hopefully.

 

 

Wednesday

Driving home from work on Tuesday, I heard an interview with Alex Honnold, who was talking about his solo rope-free ascent of El Capitan. I told the kids about this event as I began talking about Peak by Roland Smith.

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Goodreads Summary: After fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he’s left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father’s renewed interest in him has strings attached. Big strings. As owner of Peak Expeditions, he wants his son to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit–and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it’s also one that could cost him his life.

Roland Smith has created an action-packed adventure about friendship, sacrifice, family, and the drive to take on Everest, despite the incredible risk. The story of Peak’s dangerous ascent—told in his own words—is suspenseful, immediate, and impossible to put down.

 

Friday

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1st, so it seemed appropriate to read about the consequences of an earthquake. When I talked about this book, one of my students shared her cousin’s experience in Hurricane Katrina.

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From the Authors website: Thirteen year-old Cort Delacroix lives on a houseboat at the edge of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in lower Alabama. His father, Tom, is a renowned river guide and local expert on hunting and swamp lore. He’s been teaching Cort everything he knows since the boy was a child.

Cort used to have a hard time imagining a future more ideal than being a river guide, but since his mother walked out on them he’s having second thoughts. His father isn’t his normal attentive, good-natured self.  Tom’s constantly preoccupied with trying to get his wife to come home, while Cort knows she never will. Now lonely and frustrated, Cort see’s just how empty the swamp is without his father around. He wonders if it’s all worth missing out on the life of a normal teenager.

All of Cort’s fears are realized when Tom abandons him in the midst of a category three hurricane. For the first time in his life he is truly alone against the swamp. A series of catastrophic events soon lead to Cort and two young girls stranded in miles of storm-thrashed wetlands. After struggling to high ground on an ancient Indian mound, they cling for their lives in a tree. The hurricane rages as a crazed wild hog stalks them from below and they stave off snakes and numerous other swamp creatures climbing to safety. Throughout this nightmarish ordeal they form an unlikely bond with a black bear hugging the tree next to them. But in the end it’s every animal for itself. And they’ll all do whatever it takes to survive.

It’s up to Cort to use everything he’s ever learned to keep himself and the two girls alive. And they may just have to rely on a bear to help save them.

Bottle Creek is the story of a young boy who must come from beneath his father’s shadow and take charge of his life if he is to survive a horrifying battle against nature. And even, perhaps, in order to become a man.

Look Alikes

5 Jun

Frequently, I notice books that look alike.

I am reading two right now and I will be honest, before I checked them out, I mixed them up because even the titles echo each other.

I am listening to New York 2140 in the car. It has multiple narrators and is a complex, futuristic tale for adults.

Publisher’s Summary:As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear — along with the lawyers, of course.
There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home– and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.
Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all– and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.
At school, I am reading Laura Ruby’s York: The Shadow Cipher, an engaging read for middle grade and YA readers.

Publisher’s Summary: From National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner Laura Ruby comes an epic alternate history series about three kids who try to solve the greatest mystery of the modern world: a puzzle and treasure hunt laid into the very streets and buildings of New York City.It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

Even though these both of these books involve mysteries in New York City,  the stories are really very different, so I am able to keep the two stories straight in my head.

Strange the Dreamer

1 Jun

The title sounds Shakespearean, but it is simply the name of the main character. Strange is a dreamer. And so, in Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer,  that is what he is called.

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Publisher’s Summary: Twelve years ago, there was a war between gods and mortals…and the mortals won. The gods are gone–driven away–but they left something precious behind.

They left their children.

In the savagery of the war and its aftermath, the humans rounded up the half-caste bastard children of the gods, and put them to death.

But they missed a few.

Teenagers now, Sarai, Minya, Feral, Sparrow, and Ruby live in the gods’ citadel–full of power and with nothing to do, but survive.

Until one day…their life in hiding is threatened.

I loved Taylor’s  Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight,and Dreams of Gods and Monsters) so, when I heard she had something new in the works, I was very excited. I waited patiently and the wait was worth it.

She creates a new world, but one that feels familiar. Not like the worlds she created in her other books. Like them though, there is enough that is familiar to our world to make the story feel mythic. This is the first book in a duology, so I will have to wait to find out what ultimately happens.

The story unfolds slowly and it does drag in a few places, but the 544 pages were a pleasure to read. The book is shelved in YA and is one that I probably won’t put in my classroom library. Some themes are mature. My school library has the  Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, so, I suspect they will eventually have this one and I hope to talk about it with some of my mature readers next year. Or previous students I see carrying it in the hallway.

Princesses and the Rule of Three

1 May

One of my favorite memories of working in the William Walker library was reading Robert Munsch’s The Paperbag Princess to a first grade class, as part of a Robert Munsch author study.

downloadOne of the girls in that class, was obsessed with Disney princess books. When I read the end, where Princess Elizabeth tell Prince Ronald he is  a bum, the look on the girl’s face was priceless.

During our author study, we observed that Robert Munsch had each of his protagonists face their problem three times.

 

In her newest book, Princess Cora and the Crocodile, written by Laura Amy Schlitz and 61Y26+r7DzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_illustrated by Brian Floca, the protagonist has three people who stand in her way of having an enjoyable life: her nanny, he mother and her father.  Like Robert Munsch, there is a repetitive, familiar rhythm to each of these encounters that helps young readers predict and anticipate what is about to come.

Princess Cora’s problems are very much, first world problems, but many children with resonate with the lack of control in their own lives.

Publisher’s Summary: A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Medalist join forces to give an overscheduled princess a day off — and a deliciously wicked crocodile a day on.

Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She’s sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She’s sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won’t let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn’t expect that help to come in the form of a crocodile—a crocodile who does not behave properly. With perfectly paced dry comedy, children’s book luminaries Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca send Princess Cora on a delightful outdoor adventure — climbing trees! getting dirty! having fun! — while her alter ego wreaks utter havoc inside the castle, obliging one pair of royal helicopter parents to reconsider their ways.

 

 

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