Category Archives: Reviews

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/

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

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/

Swim the Fly by Don Calame

swim the flyBibliographic Information:

Calame, D. (2010). Swim the fly. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press. (978-0763647766)

Sequel: Beat the Band

            Call the Shots

Plot Summary:

A guy needs to have a goal to accomplish during the summer. So you can have something to write about in the annual “What I did this summer” essay. So, Matt Gratton sets two; to see a naked girl for the first time and to swim the 100-yard butterfly. It’s a toss-up as to which one if harder but he and best friends Coop and Sean, will have a tale to tell in September.

Critical Evaluation:

Swim the Fly is a slapstick novel involving diarrhea, throwing up, and basic locker room humor. This is definitely a book catering to teenage boys. It is fun, silly and irreverent. These are all things that make it a good choice for the reluctant reader.

Reader’s Annotation:

Three boys have a series of misadventures as they try to meet their goal of seeing a naked girl this summer.

Information About the Author:

Don Calame is a teacher, screenwriter, and author. His film projects include Employee of the Month and Hounded. He has worked for Universal Studios, Pictures, and Lionsgate, among others.

He was born and raised in Hicksville, New York. After graduating Adelphi with a Bachelor’s in Communication, he moved to Los Angeles to write screenplays. While he tried to break into the film industry he taught grades 3-5 for four years in Los Angeles.  (Bios).

Swim the Fly was his first novel. He currently lives in British Columbia with his family.

For more information about the author, please visit his site.  His biography is much more entertaining than mine. His humour is not contained to his fiction.

Genre:

  • Realistic fiction
  • Humorous fiction
  • Friendship
  • Coming of age
  • Swimming
  • Canadian author

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Make a “What I did this summer list”
  • Show Don Calame’s book trailer

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

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

Swim the Fly is a fun realistic novel. It may be young for a high school audience but we have to remember that students are at different levels of their development at this stage. We need to ensure we have materials for the younger students as well as the more mature students.

Awards:

  • OLA Forest of Reading White Pine Award, 2011, Nominee
  • Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Honor Book
  • New Westminster Hyack Teen Readers Award, Nominee
  • Nevada Young Readers Award, 2011, Nominee
  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults Nominee
  • Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) Book Award, Nominee

Reviews:

  • Swim the Fly. (2009). Publishers Weekly, 256(16), 49.

“This one will spread like athlete’s foot in a locker room.”

  • Kraus, D. (2009). Swim the Fly. Booklist, 105(14), 55.

“Although Calame underuses his moments of poignancy, teen readers will have a blast puzzling out the creative vulgarisms. “Pants hamster” is just the beginning.”

References:

Bio. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2013 from http://www.doncalame.com/bio/

 

Bios Don Calame. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2013 from http://www.candlewick.com/authill.asp?b=Author&m=bio&id=3384&pix=y

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.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Colin is dumped the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine he realizes that this is not a good pattern. So, he decides to create formula to determine how long a relationship will last. When Lindsay is introduced as a factor in the formula it becomes clear that she may be too random to fit.

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, Brotherhood 2.0, that he operates with his brother (John Green).

Genre:

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

Curriculum Ties:

  • English
    • Character development
    • Coming-of-age
    • identity

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read a passage from the book where Hassan finds Colin on the floor.
  • Book list – Road Trips

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

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

 My daughter received a copy of An Abundance of Katherines for her birthday and strongly recommended I read. I have a policy of reading the novels teenagers recommend to me and decided to add it to this collection. It is realistic and humourous, which will appeal to my teen readers.

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

References:

An abundance of Katherines. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://johngreenbooks.com/abundance-of-katherines/

John Green (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-contact/

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/

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot and Ruin

Bibliographic Information:

Maberry , J. (2010). Rot & Ruin. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (978-1-4424-0233-1)

  • Rot & Ruin, bk. 1
  • Dust & Decay, bk. 2
  • Flesh & Bone, bk. 3
  • Fire & Ash, bk. 4 (to be released in August 2013)

Plot Summary:

In this post-apocalyptic world, the zombies are roaming outside the fence in the Rot and Ruin. Benny has grown up in the world after the First Night. Now, he is fifteen and if he does not work he will lose his food rations. So, he decides to join his half-brother, Tom, as a zombie hunter.

While working with his brother, he meets Charlie Pink-eye and Motor City Hammer, two unethical zombie hunters who pit children against zombies for fun. He is also introduced to the mystery of the Lost Girl who fascinates him.

Critical Evaluation:

Rot & Ruin is a gritty zombie novel about what happens when the humans lost the war. The humans are now living in small, scattered communities isolated from one another. So, what do the humans do that are left? That is really what the story is about. It is really a coming of age story about teens that are growing up in the apocalypse and want their world to be more than waiting for death.

So, the novel is not just about killing zombies – although there is definitely a lot of that. The plot is about keeping your humanity of grays. That makes this book very interesting; even to readers who are not zombie fans.

Reader’s Annotation:

Benny thinks his brother is a coward. But when Benny accompanies Tom beyond the fence is realizes that zombies aren’t the only monsters to fear. At least with zombies you know what to do.

Information About the Author:

Maberry is a zombie writer and a multiple Bram Stoker Award winner.  I write about people who fight monsters” (SimonSchusterVideos). This statement really does encapsulate his writing which includes Dead of Night, Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory.

His writing is graphic and very descriptive. These elements help to explain his success as a comic writer as well. Finally, he writes nonfiction covering topics of martial arts and zombie pop-culture.

Jonathan Maberry also teaches Experimental Writing for Teens class. He is the founder the Writers Coffeehouse and cofounded The Liars Club (Jonathan Maberry Biography).

Jonathan has also worked as a bodyguard, college teacher and women’s self-defense instructor.

For more information, please see Jonathan Maberry’s website.

Genre:

  • Zombies
  • Survival
  • Bounty hunters
  • Horror
  • Post-apocalypse

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Compare to Forest of Hands and Teeth – created a book list of zombie books
  • Show video: Maberry talks about Rot & Ruin from Simon and Schuster:

http://videos.simonandschuster.net/The-zombie-world’s-gone-to-ROT/632738882001

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?:

Zombies and post-apocalyptic fiction is very popular with my students.

Awards:

  • Finalist for the 2010 Cybils Award
  • Winner 2011 Cybils Award

Reviews:

  • Kraus, D. (2010). Rot & Ruin. Booklist, 107(4), 51.

“The plot is driven by an evil bounty-hunter rival and the cruel games he plays, but Maberry has more than gore on his mind. The chief emotion here is sadness, and the book plays out like an extended elegy for a lost world.”

  • Doyle, A. C. (2010). Rot & Ruin. School Library Journal, 56(11), 121.

“The relationship between Benny and Tom becomes surprisingly complex and satisfying, as does the romantic subplot between Benny and his friend Nix. The length of the book may intimidate some reluctant readers but the striking cover, compelling action, and brutal violence will draw them in and keep them reading.”

References:

Jonathan Maberry Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2013 from http://authors.simonandschuster.ca/Jonathan-Maberry/67600213/biography

SimonSchusterVideos. (n.d.). The zombie’s world gone to Rot & Ruin [Video file].
Retrieved from http://www.jonathanmaberry.com/rot-ruin/