Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

 

boy nobodyBibliographic Information:

Zadoff, Allen. Boy Nobody. New York: Little , Brown and Company, 2013 (978-0-316-19968-1).

Genre:

  • Action
  • Adventure
  • Spy thriller

 

Plot Summary:

When a young assassin is given an assignment to kill the father of a girl he is falling for, he begins to reconsider the choices he made in his past.

Critical Evaluation:

Zadoff has created a likeable and realistic character in his teenage killer. Unlike many spy thrillers, Zadoff takes the time to explore Benjamin’s past and the decisions he made to bring him to this point. But, the author doesn’t wallow in the past. He keeps the plot moving with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing with just a drop of romance for some spice.

I am looking forward to the sequel.

Bottom Line:

Worth adding to a high school library collection. Likeable main character struggling with his choices. Full of action and twists and turns.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Young Adult

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence

The strong women in fiction

This month, the boys in the book club decided to focused on some of the strong female protagonists in YA fiction.

young women protaganists

We are looking at books with strong female leads this month. The success of the Hunger Games series continues, and builds, with each new movie. The recent release of Catching Fire has refueled the interest in the strong women of young adult fiction. But, as I started gathering this list, I realized I didn’t want to just focus on the Katniss and her friends. In my opinion, to be a true heroine, a girl has to make the tough choices with her eyes wide open and accept the consequences – good or bad. Happy endings aren’t always guaranteed and the good girl doesn’t always get the guy.

Read-alikes for the Hunger Games abound – and many have strong female characters. Dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction continues to be a strong theme in young adult fiction providing avid readers lots of choice. The young women in these books are physically strong, independent, and have been forced to make tough decisions. These 16-year-olds aren’t always the most eloquent bunch but they can throw a punch and aren’t afraid to break a nail getting the job done:

  • Legend  by Marie Lu. Unlike Katniss, June  Iparis was born into the right District. She is a prodigy who has proven her strength, cunning, and intelligence at the military university that is grooming her to become an important member of elite in the Republic’s fight against the Colonies. When her brother is reportedly killed by a rebel, she vows to bring him to justice. Soon she realizes her hunt for justice may bring down the government she has vowed to protect.
  • Blood Red Road by Moira Young. Saba’s world is filled with dust, heat, and broken promises but she also has a fierce love for her twin brother that lightens the daily struggles. When her father is murdered and brother kidnapped, she embarks is a quest to rescue him. If she happens to overthrow the government and become a killer on the journey – well, that’s a price they have to pay for taking him.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Beatrice Prior never really felt she was as selfless as a member of the Abnegation should be but leaving one’s faction is a serious action. When her tests suggest that she may have an aptitude for more than one faction, Bea realizes she has a choice; should she stay with her family and the Abnegation faction or should she take a risk and choose to become Dauntless.

The ability to fight is not the only characteristic of a strong girl. These girls fight back and stand tall without their fists:

  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Juliette Ferrars is jail for murder. No one knows why her touch is fatal and no one really cares – except the Reestablishment that see in Juliette the makings of a perfect weapon. So, Juliette, what are you willing to kill for?
  • Uglies by Scott Westfeld. Tally Youngblood is about to turn sixteen and become beautiful and as perfect as society can make her. When Tally’s friends show her that the operation also modifies one’s personality to make it “right”, Tally starts having second thoughts about what it means to be “pretty”.

Not all the strong young women live within the pages of the dystopian society. Although, traditionally, fantasy has been strongly influenced by the male hero, the girls are definitely gaining ground.

  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. The phenomenon of Twilight has garnered Bella Swan a lot of fans, but I would have to argue that she is not a strong female protagonist. The story of Clary Frey, on the other hand, has the forbidden love, action, and heartbreak with a girl who doesn’t wait for the guy to save her.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Orphan Alina Starkov has one constant in her life – her best friend Mal. When Mal’s life is threatened when their convoy is attacked, Alina unconsciously protects him, uncovering a power she has unknowingly been repressing all her life.  With her new power comes a new life; one in which Mal is not welcomed. Can she remain true to herself in this new world of power, politics and privilege or will she become a pawn in a war of power?
  • Eon by Alison Goodman. Eon is a crippled slave that has been groomed to be a Dragoneye; for the opportunity to be chosen by a Dragon. But, Eon has a secret; he is actually a girl and everyone knows that Dragons do not choose girls. So, when she is chosen by the Mirror Dragon, who has been lost for 500 years, she knows her life is about to change – but who will emerge – Eon or Eona?
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
  • The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • Tamora Pierce

Realistic fiction has always been popular with young adults and within these books readers can find many strong female protagonists. Here are only a smattering:

  • Fault in our Stars by John Green
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Girl in the Green Sweater by Krystyna Chiger with Daniel Paisner

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

girl in the steel corset  

Bibliographic Information:

Cross, Kady. The Girl in the Steel Corset. Don Mills, Ontario: Harlequin Teen, 2011. (978-0-373-21070-1) – includes bonus novella The Strange Case of Finley Jayne

Series:

The Steampunk Chronicles

            • The Strange Case of Finley Jayne
            • The Girl in the Steel Corset
            • The Girl in the Clockwork Collar
            • The Girl with the Iron Touch

Genre:

  • Steampunk
  • Paranormal

Plot Summary:

Set in 1897 Victorian England, the novel opens with sixteen-year-old Finley being attacked by her employer’s son. But Finley is no ordinary girl to be taken advantage of by the nobility. She has an alter ego that has supernatural strength and a desire for violence. Even though she was just protecting herself, she knows as a maid in the noble’s house there will be consequences and so she runs – straight in front of the velocycle of Griffin King, the Duke of Greythorne.

While Finley recuperates at Greythorne House, Griffin quickly realizes that there is something dark and dangerous about Finley but he has secrets of his own and he is sure he can help the troubled girl merge the two sides of her personality. Besides, he already has an unusual collection of friends including the brilliant scientist Emily, the part-mechanical Sam, and the American cowboy Jasper who is faster than any normal human. It is difficult to trust an outsider with their secrets and Finley’s arrival adds an added strain to an already complex set of relationships.

Throw into the mix the mad Machinist who plans to take over England and destroy Griffin. Things have gotten tricky

While running away after being attacked by her employer’s son, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne is hit by Griffin King. Now, Griffin says he wants to protect her but Finley has a secret. There’s something dark inside her and it is getting stronger. If she stays, who is going to protect Griffin?

Critical Evaluation:

Cross’ decision to employ an omniscient third person point of view is appropriate. In The Girl in the Steel Corset she introduces the reader to the many characters that will star in the succeeding novels. By moving between her characters, she allows the reader to get a feeling for the internal motivations of Finley, Emily, Sam, Griffin, and to a smaller degree Jasper, although the primary focus of the story remains with Finley. In the following novels, Cross tells her tale focusing on one of the other characters while still developing the relationships and plotlines developed in the first novel.

The author also took the time to provide appropriate backstories for her quintet of stars. By doing do, the reader can empathize with Sam’s mixed feelings about his robotic side; the illusions to Frankenstein are light but resonate. The similarities to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also add additional depth to the tale.

Cross aptly describes the Steampunk Chronicles as “Teen X-Men meets League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, minus the extreme violence.” (Steampunk Scholar blog, March 9, 2013). The only thing missing from this summary is the romance that she wove through the narrative.

Bottom Line:

Worth adding to a high school library collection. Fun, light, and sigh-worthy.

Information about the Author:

Kady Cross and Kate Cross are both pseudonyms of author, Kathryn Smith. As Kathryn Smith, she has written a number of adult historical romances. Please see her sites for more information:

Kady Cross: http://www.kadycross.com/about/

Kate Cross: http://www.katecross.com/

Kathryn Smith: http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/19718/Kathryn_Smith/index.aspx

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Young Adult

Challenge Issues:

  • Sexual content (mild)
  • Violence

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

abundance of katherinesBibliographic Information:

Green, J. (2008). An abundance of Katherines. New York: Speak. (9780142412022)

Plot Summary:

Colin Singleton is worried that he is a washed-up child prodigy and will never make genius status. And he was just dumped by his girlfriend, Katherine the 19th. So, he and his friend, Hassan, decide to go on a road trip to Chicago. On the way, they stop at Gutshot Tennessee for a tour of the gravesite of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. While there, they are invited to stay and interview help with a local history project. Colin also meets Lindsey, a girl whose name is not Katherine.

To be a genius, Colin knows he has to create something new so he decides to create a formula to determine how long a relationship will last.

Critical Evaluation:

Abundance of Katherines is a quirky book with an abundance of unique and complex characters. It can be enjoyed for the humour at this level, but it is a book that will speak to readers at other levels as well.

At one level it is a book about finding meaning in one’s ordinary life. A teacher at my school has a quote above her whiteboard that reads, “What will you do with your one special life?” This is a question that Colin, Hassan, Lindsay, and Hollis are all grappling with; although they would debate the “special”. Indeed, it is the reason why Hollis (Lindsay’s mother) hired the boys. Colin and Hassan spend a lot of time interviewing people as part of the local history project because the town is dying and there is a desire to create a living record of their time and space.

Colin also obsesses about leaving a mark. The idea that he is washed up and will never be anything more than a child prodigy is abhorrent to him. He has worked very hard to be special. Not only did he study all the time in high school but in his free time he still anagram and studies languages and codes. In short, Colin does not easily fit into society. He does not pick up on social cues or react to people as expected.

Hassan is another character who is having difficulty finding where he fits in the world. Since he cannot decide what to do he chooses to do nothing. He has chosen Judge Judy over attending college.

In other words, Colin and Hassan are not feeling connected with other people. They hover at the edges of other people’s social lives. Green emphasizes this separation by using a third person narrative structure. He limits the point of view to Colin but does not allow Colin to tell the story thus separating him for the readers.

Colin’s back story is very important for the plot development in the present. He needs to go back and analyze his past relationships so that he can look for patterns. And that is another interesting theme of the book. The patterns in math, of which there are many demonstrated in the novel, are understandable. Colin’s difficulties with relationships are partially due to the fact that they are not explainable with a pattern.

Information About the Author:

An award winning author, John Green has written Looking for Alaska (2006 Michael L. Printz Award), Paper Towns (2009 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery) and The Fault in Our Stars (2013 Odyssey Award Audiobook)

John Green was born August 4th, 1977 in Orlando, Florida. Green stays connected with his readers through his video blog that he hosts with his brother called VlogBrothers.

For more information about the author, please visit his website or check out VlogBrothers

Genre:

  • Realistic fiction
  • Interpersonal relations — Juvenile fiction.
  • Self-perception — Juvenile fiction.
  • Mathematics — Juvenile fiction.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Reviews:

  • Pattee, A. S. (2006). An Abundance of Katherines. School Library Journal, 52(9), 206.

“As usual, Green’s primary and secondary characters are given descriptive attention and are fully and humorously realized. While enjoyable, witty, and even charming, a book with an appendix that describes how the mathematical functions in the novel can be created and graphed is not for everybody. The readers who do embrace this book, however, will do so wholeheartedly.”

  • Dobrez, C. (2006). An Abundance of Katherines. Booklist, 102(22), 75.

“The idea behind the book is that everyone’s story counts, and what Colin’s contributes to the world, no matter how small it may seem to him, will, indeed, matter.”

Awards:

  • 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Summer time and the reading is easy – update

I keep getting asked what I am reading this summer. So, I thought I’d share what has been in my beach bag and bedside table and what has been keeping me from getting my homework done.

Yes, I admit it. This summer’s themes were brain candy and series. Some times a girl has to have a bit of fluff in her reading. Everything in moderation. Some of the following titles were just really, really good. Others were good for a quick, fun reads. Click the links for the reviews as I get them written.

The Steampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross

Sense a theme? Steampunk and romance in 19th Century London. A handsome nobleman, a superman with some robotic parts, strong beautiful women, and evil doers.

Fun.

girl in the steel corsetgirl in the clockwork collargirl with the iron touch

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

shadow and bonesiege and storm

I just loved these books and am hoping the third meets with the standard set by these two. Original, mixed with folklore of Eastern Europe.

Definitely not a series to be left in the beach bag.

Impossible and Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

impossibleextraordinary

Although not a series both books have fairies, curses, and girls who are struggling with who they are and what they are going to become.

I really enjoyed Impossible, Extraordinary was good but, boy, did I want to give Phoebe a good shake.

The Program by Suzanne Young

program

Apparently this is the first of a series. Not light, not fun. I had a student suggest it and I’m glad he did. It isn’t a beach book.

Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cinderscarlet

I just loved these books. Original take on some old fairy tales. Meyer has done a great job taking the original story and making it into something new.

Fairy tale meets science fiction – how cool is that?

The Girl with the Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti

girl with the borrowed wings

This novel was a surprise for me. It was added to my list by my daughter. Starts slow but the rhythm of the novel is fluid and poetic. A novel about repression and desire, abuse and individuality.

The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. #1) by Eoin Colfer

Reluctant assassin

The fans of Artemis Fowl will enjoy meeting Chevron and Riley and the evil Albert Garrick. The action moves and the body count rises but Colfer still makes time for some sarcastic wit and backstory. Not my favorite Colfer book but it will definitely appeal to the middle school set.

Raven Flight by juliet Marillier

raven flightThe second book in the Shadowfell series, Raven Flight continues to follow Neryn as she tries to learn how to control her gift as a Caller. Meanwhile, Flint falls under suspicion at Keldec’s court. Definitely not a stand-alone, Shadowfell is fantasy in the high tradition. I love Marillier’s poetic language and pacing. I have been looking forward to this sequel for months.

Ascendency Trilogy by Susan Nielsen

false princerunaway king These books really reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, which I also enjoyed. These will be very popular with the grade 7-9 set. Filled with action, intrigue, impossible decisions, and sarcasm – just the right combination for this age group.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

dodgerBibliographic Information:

Pratchett, T. (2012).  Dodger. New York: HarperCollins. (978-0062009494)

Plot Summary:

Set in Victorian London, Dodger comes to the aid of a young woman who had leapt for a carriage trying to escape two assailants. Two gentlemen take pity of the girl and move her to the home of one of the gentlemen, Henry, and see her cared for by a doctor.

Dodger feels an obligation to the girl, who refuses to reveal her name, and decides to find her attackers, with far reaching political implications.

Critical Evaluation:

There are times when I wish I were more literate. Reading Dodger was one of these times. Pratchett is the master of word play and disingenuous comments and although I enjoyed many, when I finished the novel, I could not help to wonder how many I missed. After reading Marcus Sedgwick’s review, I have decided I want to spend more time looking for the hidden treasure that slipped by me the first time around; not that it mattered to my enjoyment of the novel. Pratchett can be read at a variety of different levels and be enjoyed.

Pratchett plays with language with such skill and devotion, his novels always seem to finish too quickly.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Dodger realizes the girl he rescued may still be in danger, he sets off with his brass knuckles and wit to find her assailants.

Information About the Author:

Sir Terry Pratchett was born April 28, 1948 and grew up in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. He credits the local library as his main source of education. But even though he was a reader, he describes himself as a “nondescript student.”

When he was thirteen, he published a short story in the school magazine. He published again two years later in Science Fantasy and used his earnings to purchase a typewriter. He decided to try journalism and when a job became available on the Bucks Free Press, he left school in 1965. Terry took the responsibility of writing stories for the children’s column. In total he wrote sixty short stories, “never missing an episode for over 250 issues.”

While interviewing Peter Bander van Duren, a director of the publishing company Colin Smythe Limited, he mentioned he had written a book. The Carpet People was published in 1972. He is a prolific writer that was honored in 1998, at fifty years of age, by receiving an appointment as an Officer of the order of the British Emipire in the Queen’s 1998 Birthday Honours list ‘for services to literature.’

In 2007, Terry learned that he had a form of Alzheimer’s disease. In 2008, he donated a million dollars to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. In 2009 he was appointed a Knight Bachelor.

Terry has written over fifty books and has co-authored an additional fifty (Smythe, 2011).

For a complete listing of his extensive bibliography please visit his site. The site also includes a really good publication timeline.

Genre:

  • Adventure stories
  • Humorous stories
  • Alternative histories (Fiction)

Curriculum Ties:

  • English

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Book Trailer of the first chapter:
  • http://youtu.be/GRgiZeekrpM
  • Talk about Dickens and the Artful Dodger – and relate how Pratchett builds on an well-established literary tradtion.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Pratchett must be included in any teen library.

Reviews:

“Though the plot of the novel is relatively simple, there is as much pleasure in seeing Dodger charm, sneak and sometimes bash his way in and out of a series of dark and dangerous encounters as he seeks to protect Simplicity, as there is in reading Pratchett’s prose. Here, once again, is the mark of a great writer; that we are captivated by ingenious word-building on every page.”

  • Phelan, C. (2013). Dodger. Booklist, 109(9), 4.

“The pleasure of reading the novel is in the language as much as in the characters and well-researched period setting. . . . This Victorian romp is lovingly crafted and completely enjoyable.”

  • Dodger. (2012). Kirkus Reviews, 77.

“Historical fiction in the hands of the inimitable Sir Terry brings the sights and the smells (most certainly the smells) of Old London wonderfully to life, in no small part due to the masterful third-person narration that adopts Dodger’s voice with utmost conviction.

Unexpected, drily funny and full of the pathos and wonder of life: Don’t miss it.”

References:

Smythe, C. (2011). Terry Pratchett Retrieved May 5, 2013 from http://www.colinsmythe.co.uk/terrypages/tpindex.htm

Terry Pratchett. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2013 from http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/

Scott Pilgrim vs the World Directed by Edgar Wright

scott pilgrim

Bibliographic Information:

Wright, E., Vasconcellos, R., Dale, J. M., LeBoff, J., Siegel, A., Platt, M., Gitter, E., … Universal Studios Home Entertainment (Firm). (2010). Scott Pilgrim vs. the world. Universal City, CA: Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Plot Summary:

Scott Pilgrim is the bass guitarist for a garage band called Sex Bob-omb. He is unemployed and his girlfriend is still in high school.  In short, Scott is stuck in a rut.  He meets Ramona Flowers and falls in like with her .But she comes in baggage in the form of her seven evil who are coming to kill him. He decides to break up with Knives but he just can’t do it. So, he is juggling two girls and fighting all the ex-boyfriends.

Critical Evaluation:

Based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim starts with the basic storyline of a guy in the dumps meeting the girl that who will help him rise to the next level. Part way through the movie it turns into a video game with sound effects, slow motion, and cartoon action.

Scott Pilgrim feels more like a video game than a movie. The interaction between the characters is quirky and plays with many of the teenage stereotypes such as how teenagers speak and dress. It is overly dramatic and theatrical and with the songs sequences that just happen, it plays into the video game subculture.

Reader’s Annotation:

Scott is really into Ramona. To get her, he has to defeat all her evil ex-boyfriends.

Information About the Author:

Bryan Lee O’Malley (writer of the graphic novels)

Bryan was born February 21, 1979 in London, Ontario. He realized early that he loved creating comics. He has tried film making in college and made music as the band Kupek. He released seven albums.

O’Malley started in comics by doing illustrating and lettering work for Oni Press. Scott Pilgrim was second graphic novel project (Albert, n.d.).

Edgar Wright (Director)

Wright was born April 18, 1974 in Dorset, England but spent his childhood in Somerset, England. He started directing films at the age of 14. He has directed a number of television shows and films in England – mostly mixed genres that include humour (Edgar Wright).

Genre:

  • Action and adventure films
  • Comedy films
  • Comic book adaptation

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • N/A

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up
  • MPAA rating: PG-13; for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references.

Challenge Issues:

  • Sex, drugs, language, homosexuality, comic violence

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    • Ask if he/she has read the book
    • Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    • Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion documents
    • Provide school’s selection policy
    • Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

I included Scott Pilgrim because when I told my students about this program I was told this title was a must have. This is also an example of why it is important  to look at reviews. This is definitely not a movie that I would have included on my own.

Reviews:

“Its script may not be as dazzling as its eye-popping visuals, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is fast, funny, and inventive, 83%.”

  • Zuckerman, D. (2010). Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Film Comment, 46(5), 70.

“What keeps this adaptation true to the graphic novel is the precise rendering of each character’s clichés. It’s a good cast full of palpable cartooned hip acting.”

Awards:

Wright:

  • Empire Award
  • Comedy Central Award for Best Director

References:

Albert, A. (n.d.). Bryan Lee O’Malley Profile. Retrieved May 2, 2013 from http://comicbooks.about.com/od/comicbookcreators/p/Bryan-Lee-O-Malley-Profile.htm

Edgar Wright biography overview. (2013). Retrieved May 2, 2013 from http://edgarwright.com/bio/

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness; Illustrations by Jim Kay

monster callsBibliographic Information:

Ness, P., Kay, J., & Dowd, S. (2011). A monster calls: A novel. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press. (9780-763655594)

Plot Summary:

Conor is a 13 year-old-boy who is suffering from a nightmare that he has been having for the past few months. Then, one night, the monster comes. The monster tells Conor that he came because Conor called him.

Conor has a lot to deal with. His mother is dying of cancer and his grandmother is starting to take care of him. His father has his own life and family and is not available for Conor during this crisis. And then there is school. Lately, he has caught the eye of a bully.

Critical Evaluation:

The original plot was conceived by Siobban Dowd, as Ness explains in his Author’s note. She died from cancer before writing it herself. The illustrator on the project is Jim Kay. As with a graphic novel, the power of this story comes from the interplay between the text and the illustrations.

The illustrations are dark and vague. They are suggestions that can work with one’s imagination.Kay describes his technique fittingly when he says, “I prefer to work starting from a black canvas and pull the light out, which makes for a much darker image. The important thing was to give the reader the room to create their own characters and images in their mind, I was just putting suggestions of the Monster and Conor in there to help them along the way; darkness and ambiguity allow the reader to illuminate the scenes internally I think” (Ness, P., Kay, J., & guardian.co.uk).

Illustration from A Monster Calls

Illustration by Jim Kay from A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness. Photograph: Jim Kay and Walker Books from article “How we made A Monster Calls.

Illustration by Jim Kay from A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness. Photograph: Jim Kay and Walker Books

Ness has the chapters with the monster visits and his story interspersed with chapters showing Conor’s life during the day. The monster’s tales are striking. As the monster says, “Stories as the wildest things of all…Stories chase and bite and hunt” ((p. 35) Each story provides Conor a lesson but that lesson may not be the one Conor expects. After the third story, Conor must tell a story and it must be the truth.

A Monster Calls takes the reader on a journey through the emotions of the survivor. It is painful, beautiful, and cathartic. It also holds a lot of symbolism and imagery for discussion in an English class.

Reader’s Annotation:

A young boy is visited by a monster who forces him to accept some unpleasant truths through a visit every night and the stories he tells. The monster agrees to tell three stories after which Conor must tell his story.

Information About the Author:

Jim Kay

Jim Kay studied illustrations at the University of Westminster. Jim Kay loves art and botany. He credits his time at the Kew Gardens as the Assistant Curator for the Illustrations Collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew for introducing him to a variety of resources across the world (Jim Kay biography).

He has also provided images and research for publishers and television companies. In 2008 his one-man exhibition on the theme of producing ideas for children’s book attracted interest. He is now a full-time illustrator.

Jim grew up in Nottinghamshire.

For more information please visit his site.

Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness has two very different biographies. His personal one is quirky and firmly roots him in the world of supernatural writing. His professional one focuses briefly on his life and delves into his works.

Although Ness was born in Virginia, he admits he has never been back. As an army brat he has lived in Hawaii, Washington, and California. He has called England home since 1999 (Biography, 2013).

Ness studies English Literature at the University of Southern California. He always wanted to be an author so he has tried to make sure all his jobs were related to writing. As a result, he worked as a corporate writer at a cable company, freelanced as a journalist, and taught Creative Writing at Oxford University. He has written for a number of English papers including The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement.

For more information please visit Patrick Ness’ website.

Genre:

  • Realistic
  • Identity
  • Guilt
  • family

Curriculum Ties:

  • English
    • Imagery, character types
  • Art
  • Counseling

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read one of the monster’s stories
  • Show some of the art in the book

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

I think it is very important that we have a variety of different resources for students. Many students will experience loss while in the high school years and many do not allow themselves to grieve and the pain is internalized. Books such as A Monster Calls will speak to these students. It is also an excellent book to be deconstructed in an English class. It is short but powerful with great imagery and Ness uses a variety of literary devices in his narrative.

Awards:

  • Carnegie Medal
  • Galaxy National Awards Winner
  • British Children’s Book of the Year
  • Red House Children’s Book Award
  • Kitschies Red Tentacle
  • Booklist “Top of the List” for 2011 youth fiction

Reviews:

  • Ritter, C. K. (2011). A Monster Calls. Horn Book Magazine, 87(5), 93.

“Carnegie Medal–winner Ness’s eloquent tale of pain and loss, inspired by an idea from author Siobhan Dowd prior to her early death from cancer in 2007, is both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking.”

  • Welz, K. (2011). A Monster Calls. School Library Journal, 57(9), 164.

“This is an extraordinarily moving story inspired by an idea from author Siobhan Dowd before she passed away. Kay’s shadowy illustrations slither along the borders of the pages and intermingle with text to help set its dark, mysterious mood, while Conor is often seen as a silhouette. A brilliantly executed, powerful tale.”

References:

Biography Patrick Ness. (2013). Retrieved April 12, 2013 from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/patrick-ness

Jim Kay biography. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2013 from http://www.alisoneldred.com/biogJimKay.html

Ness, P., Kay, J., & guardian.co.uk. (2012, June 14). How we made A Monster
Calls. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from The Guardian website:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/childrens-books-site/2012/jun/14/a-monster-calls-patrick-ness-jim-kay

Patrick Ness. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2013 from http://www.patrickness.com/index.html

Divergent by Veronica Roth

divergentBibliographic Information:

Roth, V. (2011). Divergent. New York: Katherine Tegen Books. (978-0062024022)

Insurgent, bk. 2

Allegiant, bk 3 (forthcoming)

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior was born into an Abnegation family but she has never felt she belonged. She knows that she going to have to decide what faction she belongs with on Choosing Day.

When she takes her aptitude test, she finds out that she has an aptitude for three factions; Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. She does not have an aptitude for the other two factions Candor or Amity. She also learns that showing an aptitude for more than one faction makes her Divergent, which can be dangerous to her if anyone finds out.

On Choosing Day, Beatrice decides to choose Dauntless. Renamed Triss, she now has to prove she belongs to her new faction. She will have to be Dauntless to survive.

Critical Evaluation:

There have been many comparisons made between Divergent and The Hunger Games. Both feature strong female protagonists who have to leave their families and compete to determine their place in society. Neither accepts the social conventions of their society but they are forced to play a part that is based on lies and deceit.

The similarities also mean that fans of The Hunger Games that are mourning the end of the series will be happy to turn to Divergent and the two additional books in the trilogy.

Divergent should not, however, be viewed as a carbon copy of The Hunger Games. Roth has created a conflicted main character who is trying to decide who she is away from her family. Beatrice/Triss will learn some truths about her society’s past in the novel and she will have to decide if being Dauntless is enough.

Reader’s Annotation:

Beatrice needs to choose her role in her society. She can only choose one. How can she choose only one and be true to what she is – Divergent.

Information About the Author:

For more information about Veronica Roth and to follow the series please visit her blog.

Genre:

  • Dystopian fiction
  • Post-Apocalyptic fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Identity
  • Family

Curriculum Ties:

  • English – could work as a novel study with other dystopian novels currently published.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Combine with the other dystopians that are so popular
  • Read-alike with The Hunger Games
  • Watch the book trailer.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Reviews:

  • Kraus, D. (2011). Divergent. Booklist, 107(13), 56.

“The simplistic, color-coded world stretches credibility on occasion, but there is no doubt readers will respond to the gutsy action and romance of this umpteenth spin on Brave New World.”

  • Divergent. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(8), 696.

“Fans snared by the ratcheting suspense will be unable to resist speculating on their own factional allegiance; a few may go on to ponder the questions of loyalty and identity beneath the facade of thrilling adventure.”

References:

Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.ca/2010/09/divergent-cover-and-summary.html

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

this dark endeavorBibliographic Information:

Oppel, K. (2011). This dark endeavor. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (978-1442403154)

Sequel: Such Wicked Intent

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother, Konrad, share everything. But Victor is more driven and feels the need to be better at everything. Which is why is finds it difficult to understand why his beautiful cousin, Elizabeth, may prefer his brother to himself. The three of them and their friend Henry do everything together.

The Frankenstein family wealthy and titled so Victor is used to getting what he wants with a limited amount of work. Then Konrad becomes very ill. When the friends come across the secret room, the Dark Library, Victor knows that he must make the Elixer of Life to save Konrad’s life.

Critical Evaluation:

Victor is the focus of this gothic tale. Oppel decided to use him as the narrator and as a result, the reader lives through his dark passions and confused motives. His feelings for Elizabeth and his jealous of her budding relationship with his brother creates a strained underlying current in his relationships with both Elizabeth and his brother.

His love for his brother is strong and bright but the Elixer of Life and the Dark Library are forbidden for a reason. The novel explores how one can choose a dangerous path with all the best intentions.

Reader’s Annotation:

Victor Frankenstein will do anything to save his brother from death. “Anything” means creating the Elixer of Life, if he can.

Information About the Author:

Kenneth Oppel was born August 31, 1967 on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. He completed a BA in English and cinema studies at the University of Toronto. He wrote his second children’s book in his final year at university.

Kenneth Oppel says he started writing stories when he was twelve. When he was fourteen he started his first short novel which was passed to Roald Dahl through a family friend. Dahl liked the story and passed it to his literary agent. His first novel was published in 1985.

Since then, Oppel has written a number of award winning books including the Silverwing trilogy, Airborn, and Half Brother (About the author).

Genre:

  • Horror fiction
  • Mystery fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • English
    • Prequels to classcis

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Talk about Frankenstein and discuss what would motivate a scientist to try to create life.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Reading level 4.3

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Kenneth Oppel is an author that has success at the elementary and middle school levels. This Dark Endeavor is appropriate for a high school audience and is an author the students have enjoyed in the past.

Awards:

  • 2012 Libris Award (Canadian Booksellers Association)
  • Honour Book, Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award
  • A 2011 Quill & Quire Book of the Year
  • A 2011 London Times Best Children’s Book

Shortlisted for:

  • Governor General’s Literary Awards
  •  Red Maple Award (OLA)
  • Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award

Reviews:

  • This dark endeavor: The apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(14), 1261.

“Victor too often describes himself in relation to Konrad, but he develops into a complex and troubled character as the inevitable conclusion draws near. A subplot involving a crippled alchemist and his pet lynx steer the story more toward horror and fantasy than Enlightenment-era science fiction.

A dark and dramatic back story for Shelley’s tormented creator.”

  • Campbell, H. M. (2011). This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. School Library Journal, 57(10), 144.

“Many details remain the same as in the original work; for instance, Victor’s arrogant desire to overcome the power of illness and death makes him a slightly unlikable protagonist. But here’s a sign of a good storyteller: readers may not like Victor, but they will certainly want to find out what happens to him.”

  • Ritter, C. K. (2011). This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Horn Book Magazine, 87(4), 155.

“Written from Victor’s perspective and filled with his believable internal moral struggles, Oppel’s novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding.”

References:

About the author. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2013 from http://www.kennethoppel.ca/pages/biography.shtml

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