Archive for August, 2012

Trash by Andy Mulligan

August 28th, 2012

My first experience with Trash was hundreds of printed copies of chapter one showing up in my library unsolicited as a promotional. I wondered if there was some unintentional irony with a book set in a giant landfill being advertised by creating another landfill. Was I supposed to give all 1300+ students a copy? Publishers and marketing experts, I don’t recommend that strategy.

Moving past that, Trash is a socially-conscientious book about a fictional Third World country and an extremely impoverished group of kids. The kids find a wallet in a section of the trash heap one day and through some investigation find that there may be a big conspiracy that they’ve uncovered.

Where Trash succeeds is in its grit. I truly believed in this poor country and the corrupt politicians serving themselves instead of the people. The description of life in a landfill is very gripping, which makes sense because Mulligan spent some time in the Philippines and visited a real-life group of trashpile kids.

Where Trash struggles is in the constantly switching POV. By jumping voices so many times, even though the voices sound real, it’s tough to keep track of characters and, more importantly, connect with them. Some narrators pop in for a few pages and then are gone for the rest of the book. I didn’t know who was worth investing in. If students can get past that, I think fans of realistic fiction with elements of a mystery story will enjoy it.

Do Something

August 22nd, 2012

(a screenshot from the Do Something site) 

I’m always a fan of students getting positively involved in the world around them. Do Something is an organization that helps point teens (and adults) towards ways that they can help. The app was what really caught my attention. Check it out at Google Play (I haven’t found the app for other systems yet).

Whether you’re on the site or the app, there’s an action finder where you can pick which issues you are passionate about and decide on your level of commitment. You don’t have to sign up for anything; it just gives you information about where you can do something. It’s definitely worth a look, whether for ideas for where your club can volunteer or for your own personal commitment.

Nevermore by James Patterson

August 18th, 2012

I just finished Nevermore  by James Patterson and feel like I have come to an end of a journey. I remember when the first one came out while I was in the classroom and pretty much any student that I recommended it to enjoyed it. The series isn’t as big as it used to be at our school, but this is an enjoyable end to the series.

It is the end, right? It says so on the cover. It even comes with a sticker that says “Maximum Ride R.I.P.” Side note: Nevermore should be one word, so why did they hyphenate it? I guess now that the most recent books are one-word titles (Max, Fang, Angel), it’s tough to stick with the current layout/font scheme.

So, to tell you much about the book would give away a ton of spoilers. This person switches loyalties, this person comes back from the dead. What I can tell you about is the character development. The focus of Max’s last book is on her choosing between Fang, her friend from the beginning, or Dylan, a boy genetically-engineered to be her perfect match. You know, the usual.

Since Max’s chapters are from first-person POV, we do see her struggling with the choice of who she wants to run away with. I know the conflict has been building throughout the series, but she definitely was more concerned with the safety of her flock than her own happiness in the first books. I guess that’s a sign of the other characters proving themselves, which is a life situation many can relate to as they grow up.

Some things don’t change, though. When Max fights, she still slaps Erasers on the ears and breaks their eardrums. That combat move has been used over and over throughout the series. So are the high-flying dips and weaves. That’s who Max is, though.

That’s the other conflict of the book. It was foretold that Max would save the world, but as you come to the close it seems like that won’t happen. Like I said, anything more would be a spoiler, but I will say that it kept me sorta guessing (I knew there were probably one of two outcomes to the book) as the pages flipped by.

And it’s a James Patterson book. The chapters are short and well-paced. It didn’t take me too long to finish the book, despite what anxious students and teachers have said as they tracked my bookmark’s progress. That’s a good sign that even though interest in the series has waned, there are still fans who will appreciate a good ending to a YA empire.

Old School Bookmarking

August 17th, 2012

I was looking through our cabinets to find something to help our school secretaries organize receipts when I came across this hilarity. A previous librarian had written out hundreds of Rolodex cards for pertinent websites. What makes me laugh is that, to use this system, you would need to know the name of the website. This is definitely before Googling became a part of our cultural mindset, because if Lycos is in here, there were search engines around. (Does anyone even use Lycos anymore? I know that they tried to re-brand themselves in an AOL/Yahoo way with games and community pages.)

Needless to say, I’m thankful for,,,…You get the idea.

Today’s top four checkouts

August 13th, 2012

These shouldn’t surprise you, really, but I wanted to keep a record of the first day of bringing classes in for checkout.

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

August 8th, 2012

Icefall reminds me a lot of The Ranger’s Apprentice, and that’s not a bad thing. Icefall is set in a Viking community and deals with Norse mythology but doesn’t cross into a fantasy adventure, per se. It’s more historical fiction, although we don’t know how far back in the past it takes place. Nowhere does Thor come down to Earth and start smiting trolls or whatever. Instead, main character Solveig’s conflicts are universal struggles of worth and acceptance.

Solveig’s father is king. Her older sister is beautiful, her younger brother is strong and heir to the throne. This right there makes it very similar to most middle grade/YA tales. Even All-American Girl by Meg Cabot had this type of middle child angst. I kindof liked that, though. Solveig is not the chosen one nor is her rise to heroism something akin to farmboy Eragon/Luke Skywalker.

While struggling to figure out who she is, Solveig discovers the life of the skald. Skalds are Norse storytellers and they are in charge of the history of their people. Solveig and her steading are trapped in a small valley surrounded by ice and she learns to tell stories until their time in the steading is done. When the ice thaws, her father should return and everything will end happily. What complicates this, though, is that they are running out of food and, moreover, someone is poisoning their warriors. Solveig must figure out which member of her trusted steading is the traitor.

There’s some action, especially towards the end, but the bigger selling point is the mystery of the traitor. The steading becomes weaker and weaker and there may be no one left when the king returns unless Solveig can find the traitor. Again, not much traditional fantasy here. No dragons or mages, although those show up in the tales that Solveig weaves. What you do have in the story is a good mystery with likable characters.


August 5th, 2012

A friend of mine just showed me Postertext, a company that makes posters using the text from a book. Check out the War of the Worlds one.