Tag Archives: literature

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.


  • 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.


“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/


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.


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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.”


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:

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

2 free audiobooks each week this summer

I have noticed that many of you like to listen to your books. Here’s an opportunity to listen to new books all summer long! Each week from June 14 – August 22, 2012, SYNC will offer two free audiobook downloads. I have copied their newsletter below:

SYNC YA Literature into Your Earphones

2 Free Audiobook Downloads Each Week

June 14 – August 22, 2012

Teens and other readers of Young Adult Literature will have the opportunity to listen to bestselling titles and required reading classics this summer.   Each week  from June 14 – August 22, 2012, SYNC will offer two free audiobook downloads.

The audiobook pairings will include a popular YA title and a classic that connects with the YA title’s theme and is likely to show up on a student’s summer reading lists.  For example, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the first book in a new series about a girl who opens a door to two otherworldly cities at war, will be paired with Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities.

To find out when you can download titles to listen to on the run this summer, visit http://www.AudiobookSync.com or text syncya to 25827.  Subscribers to the SYNC text service will receive a free download of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works).

SYNC Titles

Summer 2012


The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, Read by Dan Bittner (Scholastic Audiobooks)

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Frank Galati [Adapt.], Read by Shirley Knight, Jeffrey Donovan, and a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)


Irises by Francisco X. Stork, Read by Carrington MacDuffie (Listening Library)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Read by Wanda McCaddon (Tantor Media)


The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, Read by Simon Jones

(Listening Library)

Tales from the Arabian Nights by Andrew Lang, Read by Toby Stephens

(Naxos AudioBooks)


Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Read by August Ross (AudioGO)

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, Read by Ian Holm (AudioGO)


Guys Read: Funny Business by Jon Scieszka [Ed.] et al., Read by Michael Boatman, Kate DiCamillo, John Keating, Jon Scieszka, Bronson Pinchot (Harper Audio)

The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories by Mark Twain, Read by Norman Dietz (Recorded Books)


Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter, Read by Kirsten Potter (Oasis Audio)

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare, Read by a Full Cast (AudioGO)


Pinned by Alfred C. Martino, Read by Mark Shanahan (Listen & Live Audio)

TBA (Brilliance Audio)


Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Read by Khristine Hvam (Hachette Audio)

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Read by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio)


Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Read by Rupert Degas (Harper Audio)

Dead Men Kill by L. Ron Hubbard, Read by Jennifer Aspen and a Full Cast

(Galaxy Press)


The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, Read by Jay Laga’aia (Bolinda Audio)

The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Read by William Roberts (Naxos AudioBooks)