Category Archives: Adventure

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
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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

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/

The Amazing Spider-Man Directed by Marc Webb

spidermanBibliographic Information:

Webb, M., Vanderbilt, J., Sargent, A., Kloves, S., Ziskin, L., Arad, A., Tolmach, M., … Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (Firm). (2012). The amazing Spider-Man. Culver City, Calif: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

136 minutes

Plot Summary:

Peter lives with his aunt and uncle after the disappearance of his parents as a child. When he finds a mysterious briefcase of his father, it leads him to his father’s partner, Dr. Connors, a researcher in a lab. While at the lab, he is bitten by a spider, which leads to the creation of Spider-Man.

When an experiment goes wrong, turning Dr. Connors into the Lizard, Peter knows it is his responsibility to stop him.

Critical Evaluation:

Peter Parker is facing all the same insecurities and concerns as other teenagers. He is interested in a girl at school, Gwen Stacy, but does not know how to talk to her. Peter has to deal with a school bully and try to find a way to fit in with the other students in his school. He also has unresolved issues around the disappearance of his parents.

The development of Parker’s character when he finds he has superpowers is interesting. Of course, he thinks they are cool and wants to learn more about them. Further, as he draws closer to Dr. Connors and experiments with his powers, he pulls away from his uncle and aunt as he is trying to figure out who he is going to be. Even though he is rebelling he is still understands responsibility and consequences. His uncle’s death was a watershed moment for him. Prior to his death, Peter was willing to let the thief walk away. After his death he was still focused on the negative as he was looking for revenge instead of justice. It was not until he heard the police’s side of the story and rescued the child on the bridge that he realized that he had a responsibility and his focus should not be what he wants.

The director, Marc Webb, humanized the superhero by focusing on the teenager and his development and allowing the watcher to bring their knowledge of the hero to the film. This decision adds a depth to the character that is not there in some of the previous iterations.

Reader’s Annotation:

Spider-Man be fighting a gigantic lizard but the focus of this film is his alter-ego, the teenager Peter Parker.

Information About the Author:

Director Marc Webb was born in Bloomington, Indiana on August 31, 1974. He originally went to Colorado College to study English but within a semester he was pursuing filmmaking professionally. He started directing music videos and was awarded a 2006 Director of the Year Award from the Music Video Production Association. In the music industry he has worked with 3 Doors Down, P. Diddy, and Green Day.

His first feature film was the romantic-comedy, 500 Days of Summer. The Amazing Spider-Man is his second feature (Marc Webb Bio, 2013).

Genre:

  • Action and adventure films
  • Science fiction films
  • Superheroes

Curriculum Ties:

  • Digital film class

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up
  • Rating: PG-13; for sequences of action and violence.

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

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

Superheroes have a large following in books, graphic novels, comics, and movies. A good collection will carry a selection in all mediums.

Reviews:

“The transformation scenes are tremendous. Having been bitten, Garfield’s Parker goes into a delirious, feverish state, pop-eyed with anxiety and over-excitement as his body assumes new strength and the ability to hang upside down.”.

References:

Marc Webb bio. (2013). Retrieved May 1, 2013 from http://www.tribute.ca/people/marc-webb/32644/

The Amazing Spider-Man (2013) Retrieved May 1, 2013 from http://www.theamazingspiderman.com/site/

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

hold me closerBibliographic Information:

McBride, L. (2012). Hold me closer, necromancer. New York: Square Fish.

  • Sequel: Necromancing the Stone

Plot Summary:

Sam is a university drop-out flipping burgers in a fast-food restaurant.  When he catches the attention of Douglas, his ordinary, going nowhere life suddenly gets a lot more complicated. Because Douglas is a powerful necromancer who recognizes the Sam is also a necromancer with latent powers.

When Sam declines Douglas’ offer to train him, Douglas decides to send him one of his friend’s severed head to explain that his offer was not optional. Soon, Sam finds himself locked in a cage with a powerful werewolf in Douglas’ basement. Then, things get interesting.

Critical Evaluation:

This is a book that does not take itself too seriously. The characters banter and spar with each other. Sam (Samhain Corvus LaCroix) is sarcastic and confused. He has a Harbinger that is trying to help him in return for waffles. One of his friends is a talking head. His mother is an earth witch.

The story is told primarily from Sam’s point of view. But, McBride does switch to other character’s point of view when convenient for plot development.

There is a dose of the horror element in the plot. Douglas is evil. There is blood and torture and lots of action. But there is also humour – and that is what makes the novel refreshing and quirky. If you are looking for hard-core horror, this is not the book for you. But if you want a fun romp through the supernatural, it will not let you down.

Reader’s Annotation:

Sam is having a tough week. His dead friend’s head is talking to him, he is stuck in a cage, and a powerful necromancer is teaching him to raise the dead. On the plus side, he is in the cage with a beautiful werewolf. Maybe he will ask her for a date – if they get out alive.

Information About the Author:

Lish McBride has a tongue-and-cheek biography on her site that is much more interesting than the one below. I’ve included just the facts. Visit her site to get the good stuff.

Lish McBride grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of New Orleans. She currently lives in Seattle,

Genre:

  • Fantasy, Fiction
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Paranormal fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Minor violence
  • sex

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    • Ask if he/she has read the boo
    • 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 polic
    • 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?:

It is a fun, quirky twist on a horror book.

Reviews:

  • Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. (2010). Booklist, 107(6), 36-37.

“With fine writing, tight plotting, a unique and uniquely odd cast of teens, adults, and children, and a pace that smashes through any curtain of disbelief, this sardonic and outrageous story’s only problem is that it must, like all good things, come to an end.”

  • Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(17), 862.

“Despite uneven pacing and abandoned plot threads, this quirky urban fantasy will compel fans of horror and supernatural romance–and heroic skateboarding slackers.”

Awards:

  • William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist
  • 2011 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.

References:

Home. (n.d). Retrieved May 2, 2013 from http://www.lishmcbride.com/

All Good Children by Catherine Austen

all good childrenBibliographic Information:

Austen, C. (2011). All good children. Victoria, B.C: Orca Book Publishers. (978-1-55469-824-0)

Plot Summary:

When Maxwell Connors returns home after his aunt’s funeral he notices that the kids at school are acting strange. It turns out that the students were given a treatment while he was away that has turned them into obedient, well-mannered citizens.  His sister Ally notices it first. She says that the other kids are “are fuzzy and slow. They just go along.”

Middletown is special walled community that protects the inhabitants from the terrorism and disasters that are happening throughout the world. The whole community works for the same corporation, Chemrose International. As a result, the corporation controls everything that happens in the town. When Max’s class is vaccinated he has to pretend to be a “zombie” too. It is time for the family to leave Middletown but that may prove more difficult than one would expect.

Critical Evaluation:

Catherine Austen has created a multi-dimensional wise-cracking teenager as her protagonist in the dystopian world of All Good Children. A wise choice since young adults are very interested in developing their individuality at this stage. Max’s sarcasm and “tell it like it is” attitude will resonate with readers. These characteristics also infuse some humour into an otherwise stark plot.

Max’s development from a kid who accepts the way his world operates to one who is willing to give up all the nice toys for freedom is realistic. At first, Max is pretty comfortable with his situation. He lives in a safe community that has a good standard of living and the newest technology toys. He knows that he is smart enough to be successful. So, he is okay with the security. He likes that the city is clean and secure.

The novel, told from Max’s point of view, follows his dawning awareness that the New Education Support Treatment is stripping children of their individuality and making them into good workers with no emotions who are willing to do what they are told.

Reader’s Annotation:

In a world with terrorism and disasters, what would you be willing to give up for security?

Information About the Author:

Catherine Austen is an awarding-winning author of children and young adult fiction. All Good Children was her first young adult novel.

Catherine grew up in Kingston, Ontario. She studies political science at Queen’s University and environmental studies at York University. After, she worked in the conservation movement. While a student, she wrote short stories, which she published in small literary journals. She started writing stories for children in 2003 but her first children’s book, Walking Backwards, was published in 2009.

When she became a parent, she decided to become a freelance writer so she could be home with her family.

She currently lives in Aylmer (Gatineau), Quebec. She says she lives in a little house with a big yard (About the author, 2013) with her family.

For more information please visit her website.

Genre:

  • Survival fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Dystopian fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • Social Justice
    • Behavior modification in schools
  • English program
    • Companion book to Brave New World

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

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

Austen is a Canadian author who wrote a great book with a theme that is very popular with young adults currently.

Reviews:

  • Wiersema, R. (Ed.). (2011, October). Book review: All good children. Retrieved
  •      May 11, 2013, from Quill & Quire website: http://The Canadian Library
  •      Association’s 2012 Young Adult Book Award Winner.

Awards:

  • Canadian Library Association Young Adult Canadian Book Award, 2012.
  • The 2012 Sunburst Award (for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic) Young Adult Winner.
  • A YALSA Teens’ Top Ten nominee and a YALSA 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee.
  • A Forest of Reading 2013 White Pine Nominee.

References:

About the author. (2013). Retrieved 15 March 15, 2013 from http://www.catherineausten.com/contact_author.html

Department 19 by Will Hill

department 19Bibliographic Information:

Hill, W. (2011). Department 19. London: Harper Collins Children’s. (978-0007424900)

Department 19, bk. 1

The Rising: bk. 2

Battlelines: bk. 3

Plot Summary:

Two years ago Jamie saw his father kill himself. Now, his mother has been kidnapped and he has been rescued by a giant named Frankenstein. So, Jamie finds himself with Department 19, a secret organization that is responsible to hunting the supernatural. Founded over a hundred years prior by Abraham Van Helsing, it turns out that the Carpenter family has been part of the Department since its inception. In fact, Jamie’s father was a member.

Now, Jamie has to train and hunt a vampire to rescue his mother. Unfortunately, the vampire is always just a step ahead of him.

Critical Evaluation:

In recent years the story of Dracula and vampires in general have soften and have been romantized. Department 19 does have good vampires but the focus of the novel is hunting the original evil, interestingly, by man-made monster out of the literary past, Frankenstein.

The plot operates on two levels. First, there is the central plot of Jamie wanting to rescue his mother and chasing down clues. Then, there is the subplot that is told in intermittent chapters of the original hunt 100 years ago which explains how Department 19 originated. These two plots come together and create a cohesive whole by the end of the book.

This book starts quickly and continues the same way. Hill is quoted as saying that Department 19 is “a hundred-mile-an-hour supernatural thriller, full of old-school vampires who would rather tear your throat out than kiss your face off, and who can’t go in the sun because they will burst into flames. There’s no sparkling here – just an action-packed race against time” (qtd in http://bookzone4boys.blogspot.ca/search?q=department+19 ). Along the way, there are fights, death, and, of course, blood.


Reader’s Annotation:

What if Dracula was real? Then it is a good thing that Department 19 is on the job to hunt him down.

Information About the Author:

Will Hill grew up in the north-east of England. Will Hill was in publishing before he became a writer. He has also worked as a bartender and a bookseller.

In his site Hill says that he has always been fascinated with vampires.

For more information about the author, please visit his site.
For more information on the series, please visit the Department 19 website

Genre:

  • Science fiction
  • Horror fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read the first couple of pages of the book where Will’s father kills himself.
  • Watch the video created by HarperCollins Children’s Books (http://youtu.be/-JvWlKT9src):


Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • 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 purchased the first book in the series two years ago and read it right away because I knew that my son would want to read it since he is a big Higson fan. I bought a copy for the library as soon I finished and it flew off my shelves. So, I purchased the second book, The Rising, as soon it came out. This year, I had students reminding me when the third book was being released so I would get it that day. I have not seen it in the library since so I have not had a chance to read it yet.

Reviews:

  • Doyle, A. C. (2011). Department Nineteen. School Library Journal, 57(6), 119-120.

“There is plenty of action and gore to hook even reluctant readers despite the 500-plus pages. The author skillfully blends history, classical fiction, and teen fantasy into a unique novel.”

  • Department 19. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(6), 500.

“Readers will identify the inevitable double-crosser long before Jamie does, but they probably won’t mind. They’ll be so happy these vampires don’t sparkle they’ll forgive the novel’s excesses and keep flipping the pages to the next splatter-fest–and then they’ll demand the sequel.”

  • Hutley, K. (2011). Department 19. Booklist, 107(18), 55.

“This surprising, scary genre mash-up will have enormous series appeal.”

References:

Coming up in 2011 #7: Department 19 by Will Hill. (2011). Retrieved 10 May 2013 from http://bookzone4boys.blogspot.ca/search?q=department+19

Will Hill. (2013). Retrieved 10 May 2013 from http://www.foyles.co.uk/Will-Hill

Hunger Games (The Movie) Directed by Gary Ross

Bibliographic Information:

Ross, G., Collins, S., Ray, B., Jacobson, N., Kilik, J., Lawrence, J., Hutcherson, J., … Lions Gate Home Entertainment. (2012). The hunger games. Santa Monica, Calif: Lions Gate Home Entertainment Plot

Running time: 142 minutes

Summary:

Katniss Everdeen takes her sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a television show created by the Capital where two young adults aged 12 – 18, a girl and a boy,  from each District have to fight to the death. The fact that she already has broken the law and learned to hunt to support her family has taught her the skills she will need to survive. But in the Games, survival is not enough; you have to be willing to kill too.

Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson.  Directed by Gary Ross.

Critical Evaluation:

The movie is an adaptation of the successful novel, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Suzanne Collins joined Gary Ross and Billy Ray in writing the screenplay. As a result, the movie remains very close to the novel.

Following the themes of the movies, the movie is dark with a documentary feel. The cameras are shaky with awkward angles. The lack of colour in the Districts in the buildings and in the people’s dress indicates the lack of hope and future in the Districts. In contrast, all things Capital are overproduced; the colours are saturated; the fashion is extreme.

Reader’s Annotation:

Katniss wil do anything to protect her family. But is her will strong enough to survive and fight against the Capital?

Information About the Author:

Director Gary Ross is writer, director and actor. He was born in 1956 to Arthur A. Ross, who was also a screenwriter. Pleasantville was Ross’ directorial debut. He also directed  Seabiscuit. (Gary Ross).

Genre:

  • Action and adventure films
  • Dystopian films
  • Film adaptations
  • Apocalyptic films

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • PG-13

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

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

Reviews:

“Thrilling and superbly acted, The Hunger Games captures the dramatic violence, raw emotion, and ambitious scope of its source novel.” 85% rating

“Relax, you legions of Hunger Gamers. We have a winner. Hollywood didn’t screw up the film version of Suzanne Collins’ young-adult bestseller about a survival-of-the-fittest reality show that sends home all its teen contestants, save the victor, in body bags. The screen Hunger Games radiates a hot, jumpy energy that’s irresistible”

References:

The Hunger Games. (2013) Retrieved March 5, 2013 from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/

Gary Ross. (2013). Retrieved March 5, 2013 from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002657/bio

White Cat by Holly Black

white catBibliographic Information:

Black, H. (2010). White cat: #1 of The curse workers. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books. (978-1416963974)

Curse Workers, 2: Red Glove

Curse Workers, 3: Black Heart

Plot Summary:

Cassel Sharpe is an ordinary teenage boy and that’s the problem. In a family of curse works he is expendable. It does not matter that working people is illegal and that everyone wears gloves because it takes skin contact in order to for someone to “work” you. What does matter is that he even without the talent he killed the girl he loved when he was 14 and his family covered it out.

He has the genes for crime so he is the school bookie and can run a con as well as anyone in the family but he is not a worker. So, at school, even though he is as normal as any other kid at school, he still has habits and connections to the Zacharov crime family that he needs to keep hidden. As a result, he really cannot fit into either world.

When he starts having dreams about a white cat and ends up sleep walking he starts to wonder if maybe something is not quite right with his view his world. Could it be that he has been worked? And if so, what possible reason could there be?

Critical Evaluation:

White Cat told from Cassel’s perspective. As a result, the narrative feels slightly jaded and often reads world-weary. Cassel has difficulty making friends because he does not want anyone to know about his connection with organized crime. Besides, it is embarrassing for a guy to admit that his mother is in jail for working a millionaire. Through Cassel’s eyes, the reader can also understand how it feels to be the nobody in a family of talented workers.

Cassel’s reminiscing about his past also provides a detailed backstory that provides the clues for the action of the present. The character of Cassel is one of the greatest strengths of the story. He is a complex character; both bad – he commits crimes and runs a bookie operation – and good. He is sensitive and protective of his friends. He wants to do the right thing but he also has to protect his family. He is both the crook and the victim.

Black has always melded reality with fantasy in her writing. In this series, the two are so intertwined that the magical is just part of the reality. She has created a complex reality where workers suffer discrimination and that discrimination has pushed workers into a world of crime ruled by crime lords.

Reader’s Annotation:

Cassel Sharpe is a con man with a sarcastic wit but he is non-magical and is definitely not a worker. So why is he having crazy dreams and sleepwalking on roofs? It is possible that the con man is being played?

Information About the Author:

Holly Black is a well-established, prolific author for children and young adults. Her bibliography includes The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale and Zombies vs. Unicorns. She has also written poetry and short stories.

Black was born in New Jesey in 1971. She graduated from The College of New Jersey in 1995. She then worked as a production editor and attended graduate school at Rutgers (Biography Holly Black).

For more information please see her website.

Please check out Scholastic site for a video interview with Holly Black.

Genre:

  • Science fiction
  • Urban fantasy

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Include in booklist of the best of the good bad guys.
  • Read one of the sleepwalking scenes.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

The Curse Workers series are not likely to be challenged in high schools because there are not graphic descriptions. However, it is possible that the actions of the characters may be objectionable to some.

    • drinking, gambling, stealing, drug use

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.
  3. Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion document.
    • Provide school’s selection policy.
    • Provide list of reviews/lists
  4. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

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

I decided to include White Cat because my students will love Cassel’s irony and dry humour. It is dark enough to border on horror without stepping over that line.

Reviews:

  • Sparks, L. J. (2010). White Cat. School Library Journal, 56(6), 94.

“Black has written a dark coming-of-age tale with a likable hero. Teens will empathize with Cassel’s desire to fit in and his occasional clashes with his family while rooting for him to unravel the conspiracy.”

  • White cat: The Curse Workers, Book 1. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(7), 302.

“Forget fairy tales. The first in Black’s new series is a dark, complex Chinese puzzle box, full of cons, criminals and curses–a denigrating term for magic in a world where it’s outlawed.”

“Urban fantasy, con story, coming of age–whatever you call it, read it.”

References:

About Holly Black. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2013 from http://www.blackholly.com/biography.html

Biography Holly Black. (2013). Retrieved May 9, 2013 from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/holly-black

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

brain jackBibliographic Information:

Falkner, B. (2011). Brain Jack. New York: Ember. (978-0375843662)

Plot Summary:

In a technology-driven future where immersive online gaming has become a serious addiction, Sam is a techno-nerd whose idea of fun is hacking into impenetrable computer systems. When his latest hack lands him in Reckton Hall Juvenile Detention Center, he doesn’t realize that he has just become part of a bigger game. If he can hack his way out of Reckton, the rules of the game will change and he will be one of the players.

Critical Evaluation:

Brain Jack is an excellent addition to the very strong list of technology-driven books written for teens lately. The plot is focused, the characters are well-developed, and the setting is tomorrow. Falkner has taken the real concepts of gaming addiction, brain-computer interfaces, and computer security and weaved them a great tale.

Reader’s Annotation:

Everyone wants a neuro-headset because they allow the user to control his computer with his mind. But if your mind is connected to the Internet can it be hacked? Sam is about to find out.

Information About the Author:

Brian Falkner always wanted to be an author. According to his website he dropped out of university to write. He has worked as a reporter, an advertising copywriter, and an Internet developer (The life of Brian).

He has published several books for children and teens including The Super Freak and The Tomorrow Code.

Brian was born in Auckland, Australia in 1962.

For more information please visit Brian Falkner’s site: http://www.brianfalkner.co.nz/index.asp

Genre:

  • Science fiction
  • Adventure fiction
  • Computer hackers
  • Terrorism

Curriculum Ties:

  • Computers

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up
  • Reading level: 6.3

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

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

I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago. I was reminder of it lately after reading Little Brother.

Awards:

  • Storylines Notable Books List 2010 Young Adult Fiction list.
  • New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2010 Young Adult Finalist.
  • New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2010 Young Adult Children’s Choice category winner.
  • 2011 YASLA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults list

Reviews:

  • Anderson, K. (2010). Brain Jack. School Library Journal, 56(12), 112.

“the nicely paced plot and well-crafted story arc make this a title worth recommending, particularly to boys who like technology or science fiction.”

  • BRAIN JACK. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(15), 726.

“But most will blast through to the epilogue, simultaneously satisfying and deeply unsettling, and eye their keyboards with more respect and a little nervousness. Geektastic.”

  • Chipman, I. (2010). Brain Jack. Booklist, 107(3), 82.

“Think of this as the high-octane, adrenalized sibling of Cory Doctorow’s more lesson-laden Little Brother”

References:

Falkner, Brian. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2013 from http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/Writers/Profiles/Falkner,%20Brian

The life of Brian. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2013, from
http://www.brianfalkner.co.nz/About.asp