A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Friday, August 30, 2013

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

Title: William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope
Author: Ian Doescher
Pages: 176
Publisher: Quirk Books
ISBN: 9781594746376
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
AR Levels: N/A
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17262540-william-shakespeare-s-star-wars

In a nutshell: What if Shakespeare had written Star Wars? You may think this is a silly mash-up, but I assure you it is pure genius! This one details the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, and I sure hope there are more to come! (I'd go to a theatrical performance of this too!)

I'd recommend it for grades: 6th and up. This book's actually written for adults, but it's clean enough content-wise that even middle schoolers will love it! It may be tough for younger readers to understand the Shakespearean language, but it might also be a gateway to Shakespeare since many of them know the plot of Star Wars already.

I'd recommend it to: Shakespeare fans and Star Wars fans of course

What I liked most about this book: This is every bit as awesome as I'd hoped! Not only do you get some laughable Shakespearean interpretations of classic Star Wars lines, but you also get even more character development through the soliloquies (especially with Han...who is also my favorite). Perhaps the best part is that we finally get to hear R2's voice (only in asides...but still!)!!! You'll find many borrowed and adapted lines from many of Shakespeare's plays, including a pep talk from Luke to the rebels beginning, "Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears" (Julius Caesar) and a Hamlet-like reflection ("Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not."). If you like Star Wars and Shakespeare, you'll kick yourself if you don't read this.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): This line Han delivers after the shoot-out with Greedo: "And whether I shot first, I'll ne'er confess." Love it.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

Title: The Name of This Book Is Secret
Author: Pseudonymous Bosch
Pages: 364
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316113663
Publication Date: October 1, 2007
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.6; Interest Level - 4th-8th grades; Points: 9.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1099301.The_Name_of_This_Book_Is_Secret

In a nutshell: When two curious 11 year-olds come across a strange box full of vials with various smells and a coded notebook hidden in an underground house, they embark on an adventure to find a long-lost person, to save a classmate, and to possibly prevent unspeakable horrors from being unleashed on the world. Follow Cass and Max-Ernest on this riddle-filled thrill ride that's sure to make you laugh and exercise your brain.

I'd recommend it for grades: 5 to 8

I'd recommend it to: fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society or Adam Gidwitz's Grimm series, mystery lovers, anyone who enjoys a good riddle, Neil Gaiman fans, and Blue Balliett fans

What I liked most about this book: Told by an interactive and hilarious narrator who is constantly asking if you, as the reader, should really continue considering how dangerous he has deemed it, this book seems to be an excellent read-aloud for a 5th grade classroom. It's equally funny and clever although easier to solve and follow than Balliett's books and The Mysterious Benedict Society series. I also enjoyed the footnotes and appendix with additional information (including historical facts, magic tricks, science experiments, and more). There's something in this book for everyone, and I can't wait to read the other four books in the series!

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I think I can safely tell you that at one point Cass and Max-Ernest find themselves in a library full of fancy old books, which the narrator describes as "a treasure trove of books, hoarded by pirate librarians." Be still my librarian heart. Also, there is a blind basset hound in this book named Sebastian, and you know how much I love basset hounds. :)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Title: All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Pages: 368
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423176374
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13514612-all-our-yesterdays

In a nutshell: Em has top secret information that's so world-changing that it's landed her and the boy in the cell next to her in a top secret military prison. In order to save the world, she must follow instructions written in a note hidden in her cell and written in her own handwriting, which she can't remember writing. It reads: "You must kill him." Thus begins a whirlwind time travel adventure and romance that is sure to leave you breathless. 

I'd recommend it for grades: 10 and up (for language and mild romantic content)

I'd recommend it to: sci-fi fans, romance fans, mystery fans, and Doctor Who fans

What I liked most about this book: I'm so afraid I'm going to give something away, so I can't say much except that calling this a page-turner is a huge understatement and that I absolutely fell in love with the characters. I was stoked to find out that there will be a second book (as the author says on her FAQ page on her website), but I'm also a little scared because this ended so perfectly that I can't imagine there being more! If you enjoy time travel and mysteries and romances, you just need to take my word and read this one! It's one of the best books I've read this year and one of the best time travel books I have ever read.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): There's so little I can tell you about this book, but one of my favorite moments is when a female character uses "Elizabeth Bennet" as an alias. Nice little Pride and Prejudice shout-out there. ;)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): If I had a time machine, I'd give this 5 stars then go back in time and give it 5 stars again...and again...and again... ;)

*I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Pages: 402
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 9780062006141
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.4, Interest Level - 6th and up, Points: 14.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8306761-for-darkness-shows-the-stars

In a nutshell: Four years ago, Elliot North gave up her chance at love and freedom when she refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, Kai, a servant on her family's crumbling estate. Now, Kai's come back into her life, and he's made quite a life for himself as an explorer, renaming himself Captain Malakai Wentforth. Unfortunately for Elliot, all hopes of rekindling their romance is dashed when Captain Wentforth makes it clear that he still harbors anger and resentment toward her, but maybe all is not as Elliot sees. Can Elliot save her family's estate from ruin, protect all the servants she's known and loved her whole life, and find a way to heal her broken heart when the source of her pain is living in her grandfather's home just down the road? Based loosely on Jane Austen's Persuasion, this novel asks thought-provoking questions about love, honor, duty, envy, pride, second chances, forgiveness, technology, and class in a post-apocalyptic setting.

I'd recommend it for grades: 7th and up (quite clean for a teen romance)

I'd recommend it to: Jane Austen fans, tween girls wanting to ease into teen romances, Hunger Games fans (something about Eliot and Kai reminds me of Katniss and Gale), and fans of the Lunar Chronicles

What I liked most about this book: As a huge Jane Austen fan, I'm a little embarrassed to say that I only read Persuasion just a few days before this book, but I loved it. After finishing it, I did wish I could have seen more of what Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth's relationship had been like before she refused him. This book does a great job of filling in those gaps in Kai and Elliot's relationship prior to the action of the book by interspersing letters they wrote back and forth throughout their childhood. It's sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time, but it helps you see just how much they lost when they separated.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): This book may appear on the surface to be just another teen romance, but there are some deep thoughts lurking just below the surface, such as this gem: "Envy hurt exponentially more than heartbreak because your soul was torn in two, half soaring with happiness for another person, half mired in a well of self-pity and pain." I think Jane Austen would be proud of this ambitious retelling with nuggets of truth like that.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ode to Graphic Novels: A Word to Parents and Teachers

It's no secret that I love graphic novels. Honestly, they are some of my favorite books to read, but I'm aware that some parents and teachers have their concerns about the format. Far too many times I've seen a child in my library thrilled to check out a stack of graphic novels only to be told by a parent to put them back and get a "real book." After discussing the merits of graphic novels with co-workers and parents two or three times in the last week or so, I thought it might be helpful to give you the short version of why I think it's more than okay for your child or your student to read and love graphic novels.

1. Anything that gets them reading is a good thing.
If your child can find something they enjoy reading that is age-appropriate, then please don't take it away from them. I'm convinced that one of the biggest hurdles a child faces in their education is the learning-to-like-reading hurdle. If they find a graphic novel they love, they just might take the first step into become a lifelong reader. Should you only let your child read graphic novels? Probably not (Do you let your child eat only ice cream?), but the range of content in this format will probably surprise you, which leads me to...

2. There are some high quality graphic novels in all genres out there. 
Graphic novels are a format...not a genre. You can find well-reviewed and well-loved graphic novels about anything under the sun, and I don't just mean fiction. Some of my favorite graphic novels are non-fiction titles and biographies (such as Satrapi's Persepolis and To Dance by Siena Siegel), and I adore reading graphic adaptations of classic novels (like Marvel's Jane Austen series). These classic books adaptations are especially great for reluctant readers because they are getting exposed to the original work (often with the original text) in a way that's fun for them. It's a wonderful way to ease them into a love of classic literature. If you give a reluctant reader a copy of Pride and Prejudice, he or she may initially get too bogged down in the language to like it, but give a reluctant reader a graphic novel of Pride and Prejudice, and he or she may like it. And once they like it, they will probably want to read the original, and since they're already familiar with the plot and the characters and a lot of the original dialogue, they may like that too...and they'll probably want a cookie to go with it (couldn't resist the Numeroff joke). ;)

3. Contrary to popular belief, graphic novels are "real books" and can actually make your kids smarter. 
Okay...I say that a bit cheekily, but graphic novels do include many higher-level vocabulary words, and they help kids develop visual literacy. What is this "visual literacy" I speak of? It's the ability to "read" images. It's how we follow movies and television shows. By using images in comic strip format, graphic novels teach us how to create narratives frame by frame and understand what's happening in the story when there aren't any words. The old adage is still true; a picture can be worth 1,000 words, and in our increasingly-digital and visual society, it's important for students to be able to interpret and comprehend visual arts as well as the written word, and graphic novels allow them to do both! One of my absolute favorite examples of this is a book that's a quasi-graphic novel - Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. This tale alternates between a boy's perspective told in words and a girl's perspective told entirely in beautiful charcoal illustrations, and when the stories begin to intersect, it blows your mind! 

So that's my two cents on the subject, and I'll leave you with a short list of a few more of my favorite graphic novels with the Goodreads links: