Monday, February 22, 2010

Zombie Love and The Underland

Okay, it has been a long time. In the time while I've been gone I've started a couple of books- The Blue Shoe, a book that made me instantly want to read it aloud, and When the Whistle Blows. Also, I need to read Wintergirls. So, I'm working on those.

And I've finished Generation Dead by Daniel Waters and will now give you a quick review:

I liked it. It reminded me of Twilight- except with zombies and a bit more interesting. Just a typical human girl falls for paranormal-creature-boy all while juggling high school kind of story. I thought the end was particularly well plotted and once I was done reading I really wanted to know what happened next. However, I wont be reading the sequel... so take that as you will, readers.

I've also had the time to visit the Underland three times. I never set a rule for audio books, as far as my count for this year. I've just made the decision to add them to the list; they take time to listen to (sometimes more than it would take to read the book itself) and are an important part of library collections. It will be good for me to be able to recommend audio books, just like I would regular books. So, any story I get to experience this year will be counted.

(The Underland Chronicles are kind of old news, but I'm going to talk about them anyway.)

I've now listened to Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, and Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods written by Suzanne Collins. I LOVE these books! I also really enjoy the audio productions- I get taken to the Underland and it is a relief to just listen sometimes. Paul Boehmer is an excellent narrator, giving believable voices to each of the characters. My favorite character voice is Mareth's- it's booming, joyful, and prefect.

The Underland Chronicles are about so much more than just a lost eleven year old boy (I guess I should have expected that from the author of The Hunger Games). Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, for example, is a interesting and thoughtful look at the consequences of biological warfare.

I highly recommend The Underland Chronicles, particularly to readers who enjoyed Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games.

As far as blogging during the rest of February and March, I can't promise much. I've got The Dreaded Test until the first week of March and then I'm heading off to the PLA Conference in Portland!

So, until then tell me what you're reading and how you feel about it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reviews in other places...

If anyone is interested, I wrote a review for the Wausau Daily Herald about the fabulous book Beautiful Creatures written by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl.

You can find it here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Homer P. Figg- A Newbery Honor Book

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick is a great book. It's got adventure, thieves, epic balloon rides... I mean, it's got it all. Any book that has a sentence like: "Once in the heat of summer an old rooster got up in the hay and died, and Harold and me thought it was the worst smell ever, but that's before I made the acquaintance of Stink Mullins," is a book I want to read and recommend- particularly to boys.

It was also surprisingly educational and heartfelt. When Homer's 17-year-old brother is sold into becoming a soldier for the Union Army, Homer follows after in an effort to free him. Though Homer is only 12, he knows his brother has been sold unjustly and for profit, and that he is too young to fight. The account Homer gives of his journey, though only "mostly" true, is a great first hand account of the Civil War and what it was like for children during that time.

[Spoilers]

Homer runs into the Underground Railroad, becomes a part of a medicine show, takes an accidental balloon ride over the battlefields, rides a pony through a battle, witnesses the gruesome practices of a Civil War hospital, and assists in the battle of Gettysburg. At least, he does according to his account (we can't rely on him fully because his adventures are "mostly" true). When faced with the possibility that his brother may die in battle he says, "They say that even in the worst battles some of the troops survive. Please, Dear Lord, let that someone be my big brother, that's all I'm asking. Don't let him die in a pony cart hammed with the wounded, or tied to a plank while they saw his limbs off, one by one, or carried home in a casket wagon." Homer's account of the Civil War is a new and unique look at a dark era in American history, which is somehow filled with a nice balance of humor and heart.

HOWEVER, this book is horribly hindered by its ridiculous cover:

In my opinion, this cartoonish cover is a poor representation of the book and it totally turns me off it. What's with the halo!? Why does Homer look like a NickToons character!? If the book hadn't won the Newbery Honor, I would have never picked it up. Honestly, I don't see a child being all that interested in it either. It looks outdated and a bit childish. Luckily, this book will get read because librarians and teachers will be recommending to kids- encouraging them to look past the cover and allow the story to speak for itself.

Book covers matter. A lot. If the cover isn't attractive we wont pick the book up, it's just a fact of life. Many a great book has fallen by the wayside because of its awful cover. It is truly a sad thing when bad covers happen to great books.

All in all, though, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg was a great, surprising read. I would recommend it for children who love adventures stories and historical fiction. It would also fit in well in a classroom as a read aloud or assigned reading.