Pratchett, T. (2012). Dodger. New York: HarperCollins. (978-0062009494)
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.
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.
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.
- Adventure stories
- Humorous stories
- Alternative histories (Fiction)
- Book Trailer of the first chapter:
- 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
Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:
Pratchett must be included in any teen library.
- Sedgwick, M. (17 October 2012). Dodger by Terry Pratchett – review. Retrieved May 8, 2013 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/oct/17/dodger-terry-pratchett-review
“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.”
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/
Stiefvater, M. (2012). The Raven Boys. New York: Scholastic Press. (978-0545424929)
Raven Cycle, #1
Blue is the daughter of the town’s clairvoyant. Unfortunately, she does not have the same gifts, although she does have the power to amplify the gifts of others. This is why she goes with her mother to the churchyard every St. Mark’s Eve, the night the soon-to-be dead walk past.
For the first time she sees one of the spirits who speaks to her. Later, she finds out that he is one of the Raven boys, a student at the prestigious private school Aglionby. Although she has made it a policy to stay away from Aglionby boys, Blue is drawn to Gansey and is soon deeply involved in his quest to find the ley lines which, legend suggests, are somewhere in the area.
Gansey comes packaged with an interesting set of friends including Ronan, the rich snob with a conflicted spirit always up for a fight, Adam, the scholarship student who desperately wants to belong but always feels inadequate because of his lack of funds, and Noah, who is always on the periphery – there and watching but rarely participating.
Together they will try to solve a mystery and become part of something bigger.
It goes without saying that characters are an intrinsic part of any well written story. There are some stories, however, that are more rooted in character development and the interaction between the characters than others. Raven Boys is this type of novel.
There are several plots lines woven through the novel based on each of the characters. Stiefvater made a great decision when she decided to share the point of view between her main characters. Gansey and Blue appear, at this point to be the warp threads in the tapestry. Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue’s family, particularly her aunt and mother, are the weft threads. The main characters interact and help develop the main plot line but they are also acting and reacting to their own circumstances that are separate from the primary plot. It will be interesting to see how the main characters develop through the rest of the cycle.
The paranormal also plays a major role adding colour and mystery to the tapestry.
Blue meets Gansey for the first time at night on St. Mark’s Eve in a churchyard. Actually, she met his shade, which is not good since,”There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love…or you killed him.”
Information About the Author:
Maggie Stiefvater is a musician who plays several instruments including the bagpipes. She is also an award-winning colored pencil artist and a calligraphy instructor. Finally, she is now a full-time writer.
Maggie is the mother of two children and, as she says on her website, “four neurotic dogs who fart recreationally.”
Although Stiefvater gained a loyal following with her Shiver trilogy and Books of Faerie, she started receiving literacy accolades with the publication of Scorpio Races and Raven Boys.
Please see her website for more information.
- Fantasy novel
- Paranormal fiction
- English – myths
- Read the part where Blue sees Gansay’s shade in the churchyard.
- Watch the book trailer by Maggie Stiefvater from her blog :
Reading Level/Interest Age:
- Ages 12 and up
- Reading level 5.4
Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:
I really enjoyed Scorpio Races and hoped that Stiefvater’s writing would be similar in this book. I enjoy when author’s build their stories on the literary foundation of the myths of generations past.
- The Raven Boys. (2012). Kirkus Reviews, 81.
“From then on, the point of view shifts among Blue; Gansey, a trust-fund kid obsessed with finding King Glendower buried on a ley-line in Virginia; and Adam, a scholarship student obsessed with his own self-sufficiency. Add Ronan, whose violent insouciance comes from seeing his father die, and Noah, whose first words in the book are, “I’ve been dead for seven years,” and you’ve got a story very few writers could dream up and only Stiefvater could make so palpably real. Simultaneously complex and simple, compulsively readable, marvelously wrought.”
- Chomomaz, E. (2012). The Raven Boys. School Library Journal, 58(10), 151.
“The Raven Boys is an incredibly rich and unique tale, a supernatural thriller of a different flavor. The cinematic feel paces the novel well, and the many pieces of the story unfold with grace. The complicated relationships between the Raven boys and Blue are not of the standard main character/love interest variety’ and makes the curious plot all the more enthralling.”
- Cart, M. (2012). The Raven Boys. Booklist, 108(22), 66.
“Indeed, reading this novel is like walking through a tangled thicket and coming across one unexpected and wonderful surprise after another.”
Raven Boys. (2013). Retrieved from http://maggiestiefvater.com/the-raven-boys/
Haddon, M. (2003). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. New York: Doubleday.(0-385-65980-6)
Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone finds the murdered body of Wellington, his neighbour’s poodle, late one evening. He liked Wellington and thinks that his killer should be punished so he decides to find out who killed the dog. The reader learns the subsequent tale through the book Christopher writes chronicling the investigation and the events that transpire as a result of his investigation. Although never stated, by following the story through Christopher’s point of view, the reader is led to understand that Christopher is an autistic teenager.
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been included as a text in many high school English programs for good reason. Haddon has created a work that covers a wide variety of themes and literary devices. His character of Christopher also provides great fodder for conversations about first person narrative and the concept of the “naïve narrator.”
Kunze (2010) in his article about the novel also suggests the novel is an excellent example of metafiction since the novel is shaped as the mystery story that Christopher was writing as a school project. The idea of truth and lie/real and fiction are further developed by Christopher as he tries to understand concepts of metaphor and meaning that is often inferred in language by context, emotion, and body language. As the novel progresses, this duality is further emphasized in his relationship with his father when Christopher learns his father had lied to him to protect him from some difficult news.
As an autistic teenager, Christopher struggles to understand his world through the rational. He likes mathematics because he can understand the patterns. So, he tries to find the patterns in the world around him; 4 red cars in a row make a Good Day, 5 red cars make a Super Great Day but 4 yellow cars in a row make a Black Day. He struggles to understand the emotional context of language and the interactions humans have.
Although in the extreme, these concerns are common to all people, particularly teenagers. We all struggle to interpret the cues we are given in language. I think this is one reason that this novel resonates so strongly with such a wide population. There’s a little Christopher in all of us.
The death of a neighbour’s dog leads an autistic teenager on a perilous journey.
Information About the Author:
Mark Haddon is an artist, novelist, screenwriter, and poet. He was born September 26, 1962 in Northampton, England. He studied in Oxford University and later earned his master’s degree in English literature at Edinburgh University. In Scotland, he worked at Mencap (Kunze, 2010), an organization that supports people with disabilities in the community.
He has also created illustrations and cartoons for magazines and newspapers. He has also made a living painting and selling abstract art.
He wrote his first children’s book in 1987. Since then he has written and illustrated over fifteen books for children. He has also written for a number of children’s series for the BBC. In 1999 he won two BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Awards), one of which was an award for his contribution to children’s television.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was the first book Haddon intentionally wrote for adults. It is the first book to have been published simultaneously in two imprints – one for children and one for adults in England. His poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea was published in 2005.
For more information please see Mark Haddon’s website.
- Realistic novel
- Mystery novel
- English course
- Point of view
- Character development
- Social Justice
- People with special needs
- Read part of the book and ask the students to describe the narrator
- Read the scene with Christopher fights with his dad. Talk about how hard it be be to parent a child with Aspergers
- People with disabilities
- Autism – What is Asperger’s
- Murder mysteries
Reading Level/Interest Age:
- Ages 14 and up
Why did you include this book?:
My original reason for reading the book was that my daughter (then 17) recommended it to me. I think is it is a great example of a crossover book. I also think Haddon has created an compelling character in Christopher
- The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Book). (2003). Kirkus Reviews, 71(8), 557.
- Hoffert, B. (2004). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time Time (Book). Library Journal, 129(1), 49. (Best books of 2003 section)
- Huntley, K. (2003). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Book). Booklist, 99(15), 1376.
- 2005 British Book Awards Book of the Year, shortlist
- 2004 Alex Award
- 2004 WH Smith Award for Fiction, shortlist
- 2004 South Bank Show Annual Award for Literature
- 2003 Whitbread Novel Award
- 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year
- 2003 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize
- 2003 Carnegie Medal, shortlist
- 2003 British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award
- 2003 British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year
- 2003 British Book Awards Book of the Year, shortlist
- 2003 British Book Awards Author of the Year,shortlist
- 2003 Booktrust Teenage Prize
Author: Mark Haddon. Retrieved from http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/authors/mark-haddon
Kunze, P. (2010). Haddon, Mark. In G. Hamilton & B. Jones (Authors), Encyclopedia of contemporary writers and their work. Retrieved from Bloom’s Literary Reference Online database.“
Kunze, P. (2010). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. In G. Hamilton & B. Jones (Authors), Encyclopedia of contemporary writers and their work. Retrieved from Bloom’s Literary Reference Online database.“
Mark Haddon (2013). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Haddon
Writers: Mark Haddon. Retrieved from http://literature.britishcouncil.org/mark-haddon
Forster, M. (2013). City of a Thousand Dolls. New York: HarperTeen. (978-0-06-212130-1).
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls as a young child. The City of a Thousand Dolls is a place where orphan and unwanted girls are placed as infants or young children. There, they are trained in one of the eight houses to be musicians, healers, courtesans, and wives of nobility. Nisha arrived at the City too old to be placed in any of the Houses and so her place is somewhat tenuous as she belongs to none of the Houses but has trained in most of them. Over time, she found a place for herself as a servant and assistant to the Matron of the City.
She is now old enough to take part in the Redeeming. During the Redeeming, a person can claim a girl as an apprentice or a wife by paying a specified price, which is intended to compensate the City for her training. Nisha knows her chances of being chosen are slim but when she catches the eye of a young noble, she begins to dream that he will speak for her and she will be able to leave the City of Dolls for a new life. Nisha’s dreams are further imperiled when she catches the eye of another, who is willing to purchase her as a slave prior to the Redeeming; something that could happen because of her murky past and lack of connections.
When a series of murders threaten the security of the City, Nisha bargains to try to solve the mysterious deaths in exchange for her own freedom.
Forster allows Nisha to tell her own story choosing to use first person narrative. This convention is common in both mystery fiction and in young adult literature. By using this convention, the author allows the reader immediate access into the thoughts and feelings of her protagonist; a successful technique when writing for a teen audience. Using first person narrative is also traditional in mysteries allowing the reader to uncover clues at the same time as the narrator.
The plot of the story follows many of the conventions found in fantasy writing; a mysterious heritage, unknown protector, and magical creatures. There is little new in this. Forster’s novel is successful, to a large measure, because of her well-thought out setting. By setting her story into a South-Asian inspired context, she is able to bring the real issue of a controlled family size policy found in China with a culture of undervaluing girls to her fantasy. These concepts provide a very modern context for the fictional City of a Thousand Dolls. To this, she has added the details to provide further foundation to her story; the girls being trained for specific tasks by the different houses, which provides some excellent secondary characters for Nisha to interact with.
Nisha must solve the murders occurring in the City of a Thousand Dolls to save her own life and the life of her friends. While trying to uncover the mystery, Nisha soon learns that there is more to her own story than what she was led to believe when she was abandoned at the gates of the City years below. Do the nomadic Kildi play a role in the murders? And what do the tribe of cats who call the City home know of the present mystery and her own murky past?
Information about the author:
City of a Thousand Dolls is the debut novel by Miriam Forster. In her blog, Dancing with Dragons is hard on Your Shoes, she describes herself as a “recovering barista” and “a bit of a hermit.” She is currently working on a companion book.
- Social justice issues
- World History – China: one child policy, India: caste system
- Strong female characters
- Companion to Little Princes
- Trailer (from HarperCollins):
Reading level/interest: 13 and up
Why did you include this book in the titles chosen?:
- City of a Thousand Dolls was recommended by an avid teen reader who appreciated the originality of the setting and characters that wraps a tradition fantasy theme of a young protagonist finding out she is special and in the process becomes a hero. I included it because of the mystery elements.