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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

For fairrosa's current reading notes post 2009, please go to fairrosa.wordpress.com.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When the Whistle Blows

When the Whistle BlowsAuthor: Fran Slayton¬°
Rating:
Reading Level: 5th to 8th

Pages: 160
Publisher: Philomel, Penguin Young Readers
Edition: Hardcover, 2009 (from galley)

Judging by the somewhat muted and sleepy cover, I thought I was going to read a "pensive, quiet" coming-of-age, historical fiction. It turned out that the story is NOT all that quiet: every episode falls on an All Hallow's Eve from early-40s to late-40s. You get the thrill of the secret Society's weird, slightly off and scary way to honor a recently deceased member; you get the Halloween prank gone awry; you get the blood-pumping, almost heart-stopping football game actions; and you get the death and danger working on the steam-engined trains. But then, you also get so much HEART between the main character and his father. It is an entirely "male" book, glaringly so -- you hardly see a female character and they hardly have even a speaking turn. It's all... very, macho, but oddly also very tender. And so much humor and humorous wisdom. I am not ashamed to say that I cried hard at the end of the tale... mourning the passing of a man and of an era so lovingly and convincingly portrayed by the author.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My ShoesAuthor: Gennifer Choldenko
Rating:
Reading Level: 4th to 7th Grade


Publisher: Dial
Edition: Hardcover, 2009 (galley)


I am completely delighted by this book. I really enjoyed the first one and this one holds up, well and strong, and I think it works even better. Maybe because I thought, "What can she come up with that can top the first book?" before starting to read this one.. and Choldenko absolutely pulled it off. There is humor and tension all throughout the book, not to mention some hard-to-sort-out moral dilemmas. Over the years, my students have loved the first book -- from really strong readers to really reluctant ones - and both girls and boys do, too. I can see this one achieves the same effects: not a book that gets everyone super-excited, but one that gets talked up by young peers and gets passed around without making too big a wave. Its "beloved-ness" will last quite a while, I believe.

I also really appreciate the author's notes. This will make for a good historical-fiction writing assignment starter book. (I can see a whole class reading the book, discussing the facts and fiction aspects of the story, and doing some sort of historical research and writing a short story. <-- with my librarian's hat on, of course.)

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Battle Royale

Battle RoyaleAuthor: Koushun Takami
Rating:
Reading Level: Young Adult/Adult

Pages: 624
Publisher: VIZ
Edition:2003, Paperback

Finally. Read and finished this one. Ever since I heard about it (and watched the movie on youtube ;p) I had the book set aside to read but so many other things came along the way... it was WORTH my own wait and I wish that I had read it earlier in the school year so I could have recommended it to more readers.

It's an interesting way to tell a story -- there is an over arching plot, a simple one, an explosive one, a thoughtful one, but there are basically a series of character sketches as well. You meet some of the minor characters along the path, you know something about them, and they you see them being killed (mostly brutally, with graphic details -- not for the faint of heart!) It's an examination of human nature - the good, the bad, and the in between; the kind, the evil, and the confused. I actually shed tears at 4 different points -- some for characters I learned to love; some for "throw-away" characters whose stories happen to touch my heart.

It seems to be a long book, but it's such a fast and easy read. The alternative history aspect and the social criticism aspect are slightly didactic, but still work well with the narrative flow. Lots of action and "fun" -- if one can define reading about 15-year-olds forced into killing each other as a fun experience.

My last words of wisdom? DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE before reading the book; after reading the book, you will be disappointed by the movie. So, if you plan on reading the book, basically, just let the notion of watching the movie go!

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Feminist or Anti-such?

I, along with my students and thousands of fans, have fallen in love with recent books by Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. (Terrier, Bloodhound, Graceling, and Fire.) These fantasy books all feature incredibly attractive and strong teen females. They fight crimes, they battle monsters, they fall in love but seem to be totally in control of their relationships! They, not the male partners, are the ones who are empowered to choose and make their destinies.

So, when you have these young women, each (Beka, Katsa, and Fire) is taking one or multiple partners to bed, some details have to be attached. Beka got a charm, Katsa and Fire both used an herb -- these supposedly will prevent pregnancy -- the messy aftermath of their amorous acts.

On the one hand, I am happy that they are "getting it" and having a great time with it. On the other hand, my 21st century, teacher of teens and mother of a pre-teen daughter, mind keeps wondering: What are the BOYS/MEN doing to prevent the communication of the "other" kind of mess? The mess that hangs over millions of modern men, women, and children. Yes, these are Fantasy stories -- but since the idea of birth-control are included, what's to prevent our wonderful writers to also come up with some clever ways so that at least the young people in the stories (and the young people reading the stories) are careful about diseases. (In both Beka Cooper and Fire's cases, they are sleeping with men who have multitudes of partners before and after themselves.)

Just wondering... Why in these quite feminist slanted stories, men and boys are still not held "accountable" for their actions?

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Tiny Tyrant: Vol. 1 - The Ethelbertosaurus

Tiny Tyrant: Volume One: The EthelbertosaurusAuthor: Lewis Trondheim; illus. by Fabrice Parme
Rating:
Reading Level: 3rd to 5th grade

Pages: 62
Publisher: Frist Second
Edition:Paperback, 2009


Most excellent and fun short skit-like tales. This volume contains six stories. King Ethelbert is extremely spoiled and self-centered and yet one simply can't help but adoring him (probably because more often than not, he gets his just-desserts: a spanking, or being blown out of the palace window!) A French import.

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The Burning Bridge

The Burning Bridge (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 2)Author: Flanagan, John
Rating:
Reading Level: 4th to 7th

Pages: 262
Publisher: Philomel
Edition: Hardcover, 2006



A solid follow-up to the really fun first Ranger's Apprentice title. Although the world is quite fantastic with monsters and some magical elements, most of the plot evolves around military tactics and your basic adventures (sword fights, archery, etc.) The main characters do not possess magical abilities. The pacing is tight and there are some surprises that will keep even a seasoned fantasy reader focused.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Last Olympian

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5)Author: Rick Riordan
Rating:
Reading Level: 3rd to 7th

Pages: 381
Publisher: Hyperion
Edition:Hardcover, 2009

Pure adrenaline inducing 381 pages of fun. I'm so glad that the level of action and humor is maintained throughout the entire series -- that the last book did not suddenly become some deep philosophical revelation. (I definitely did not get into these books for their messages or meanings.) It's been quite a craze here at the school and the waiting list of eager readers is mighty long, deservingly so.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Scat

ScatAuthor: Carl Hiaasen
Rating:
Reading Level:

Pages: 304
Publisher: Knopf (Random House)
Edition: Hardcover, 2009


This is definitely a fun book and many of my young readers already told me that they enjoyed reading the third offering from Hiaasen. Everything does hang together nicely and the punishment of the evil doers satisfying. Hiaasen did not shy away from super contemporary things: facebook, CNN/Anderson Cooper, and of course, the father who is injured in Iraq. This makes the volume a "timely" book for current readers and only time will tell if in a decade or two, young readers still will appreciate the story, despite the references to matters that can easily date the book.

Scat, however, does not offer much more than either Hoot, or Flush -- much of the same thing to young readers who like mysteries, who like to read stories about older kids (High School students as protagonists) but who do not necessarily wish to decipher complex sentence structures or figures of speech and who still enjoy jokes on fairly basic/bodily function levels.


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