Fans of David Lubar’s Weenie series won’t be disappointed with this installment. Beware the Ninja Weenies is packed full of stories with bizarre twists, gross deaths, and just plain weird characters. I played around with iMovie to create this trailer. Believe it or not, all the images have a connection with one or more stories.
Half Brother is not the kind of book that Kenneth Oppel is best known for. (Even though many students have recommended the Silverwing series and This Dark Endeavor, I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. I want to. It’s just that my TBR pile grows faster than I can keep up.) I loved Half Brother, a historical fiction novel set in 1974, years I actually lived through and vaguely remember. (How can that be?)
Ben Tomlin is an only child, but not for long. He is upset that his distant father is moving the family across Canada to pursue a cutting edge research experiment: Can chimpanzees learn language? At first, Ben is not too sure about Zan, an infant chimpanzee that is to be raised like a little brother. Before long, Ben does come to regard Zan as a brother, and he becomes Zan’s favorite. But as Zan grows bigger and stronger, the effort to raise him becomes increasingly difficult. Soon Ben is forced to make critical choices about Zan’s future and his family.
I am still thinking about the questions raised in this story. What does it mean to be human? What is language? What is the role of animals in research? How do families work together or fall apart? There are no simple answers given, but Ben grows as he searches for answers. Readers, too, will be left thinking long after the last page is turned.
This novel would pair nicely with other books that explore the relationship between humans and their closest genetic species on Earth. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby explores the friendship between a hearing impaired girl and the signing chimp who lives with a new neighbor. Endangered by Eliot Schrefer is an exciting survival story set in war torn Congo where a girl risks all to save a bonobo from the surrounding violence.
For fans of football and underdogs, Mike Lupica has written a book for you. Underdogs continues the great tradition of the little guy–or team–overcoming all the odds. If you like stories from The Bad News Bears to Facing the Giants, you will enjoy this book.
I’m taking part in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by Ruth and Stacey over at Two Writing Teachers. I hope to write every day for the month of March and then continue weekly each Tuesday. Join in yourself or head over to check out what’s happening with other slices. If you’re taking part in the SOL, leave a link to your post. I’d love to read it.
I’m sure my classes have noticed that I have a new current favorite book. My mission right now is to convince as many students as I can to read Legend by Marie Lu. My second mission is to sneak another book order past my husband so I can read the second book, Prodigy, as soon as possible.
I also nominated Day for our March Madness brackets, and I’m doing everything in my power to convince my students to vote for him. I don’t even promise to set up the brackets fairly. Now June is awesome in her own right (and I usually go for strong female lead characters), but something about Day just blew me away. Here’s why I think Day should win it all:
He’s the Republic’s most wanted criminal, and they don’t even know what he looks like. He has been sabotaging the war effort for years, and the police don’t have a picture or even a fingerprint.
The Republic supposedly killed him when he failed his Trials, but Day escaped and has been living on the streets every since. He has street smarts you wouldn’t believe that allows him to find food, clothing, and shelter without leaving a trace.
Day is brilliant both mentally and physically. He broke into a heavily guarded bank vault in under 10 seconds. He escaped with the money and without harming any of the guards. Once again, he left no trace behind. He can scale the outside of skyscrapers and leap from rooftop to rooftop.
Day’s biggest heist was breaking into a military hospital–the heavily guarded, no windows medical lab floor–to steal plague medicine. He got away without killing anyone, but he did have to injure one soldier to escape. Why did he even attempt such a daring and dangerous break-in? He had to save his little brother who lay dying from the plague.
Day is not a cold-hearted criminal. Both the bank theft and the hospital theft were to help his family. He can’t let any of them (except his older brother John) even know that he is alive, but he keeps an eye on them and helps out when he can by slipping John extra food, money, and clothes.
Day also is willing to help out a stranger in need. That’s why he teamed up with Tess, a street urchin he found abandoned in an alleyway. He also reached out to help June because she had helped Tess.
I didn’t think any character could ever top Katniss for all around toughness, stubbornness, and goodness (I even named my orange car after the Girl on Fire), but I think Day deserves to win. I can’t wait to see what happens in Prodigy now that Day and June are on the same side.
Who do you think is the toughest, baddest character from YA literature? I think Day can take him or her any day.
I actually read Endangered over Christmas vacation. Even though it’s been awhile since I’ve read it, I can still picture scenes from the book vividly in my mind. I can see Sophie buying the bonobo, Otto, from the street vender in the middle of a traffic jam. I can see her fleeing with Otto to the bonobo enclosure and then escaping into the jungle. Even more than the vivid action that propels this story to its harrowing conclusion, I am still thinking about the ideas Eliot Schrefer explores. What does it mean to help save an animal when people are suffering, too? What does it mean to be trapped in the middle of a war with no clear winners and losers? What does it mean when your good intentions to help lead to greater harm? What does it mean to be human?
Zander and his friends are back at Da Vinci Academy. They aren’t exactly looking for trouble, but trouble seems to find them anyway. This time trouble centers around the high pressure of high-stakes chess.
I enjoyed this second volume of The Cruisers: Checkmate as much as I did the first one. I hope Walter Dean Myers has more planned for Zander in the future.
Sometimes sequels let me know, but not in this case. If it is even possible, I loved Scarlet (Feiwel and Friends 2013) even more than I did Cinder. I introduce Cinder as my all-time favorite Cinderella story. Marissa Meyer takes the sci-fi cyborg and stirs in elements from yet another fairy tale, this time Little Red Riding Hood.
Scarlet is tough and stubborn enough to walk blindly into danger to rescue her grandmother. When the police won’t help her, she turns to the mysterious (and possibly dangerous) Wolf to track down what happened. Scarlet discovers much more than she bargained for, including desperate secrets kept by Wolf and her grandmother.
Don’t worry. We still get to follow the adventures of Cinder (and her new sidekick Thorne) as she escapes from prison and comes to terms with her real identity and growing Lunar power. When Cinder’s path collides with Scarlet’s quest, things really get interesting. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until the release of Cress in 2014 to find out any more.
Pictures of Hollis Woods (Scholastic 2002) by Patricia Reilly Giff is an older book, but I just finished reading it for the first time. I think I’m in love with this story. Hollis is one of those characters who gets inside my mind and heart and won’t let go. I want for her to find the home and family she dreams of, and she must might find one with Josie or with the Regans, if she can let go of her guilt and fear and learn to trust.
I love how the story is interspersed with descriptions of Hollis’s drawings. She is an artist. These drawings give glimpses into Hollis’s deepest secrets–the dreams she longs for and the fears she runs from. Ultimately, it is her drawings that allows Hollis to see the truth that will finally set her free.
I finished reading Maggie Stiefvater’s latest book, The Raven Boys, last night, and I can’t get the words and images out of my head. I am captivated with Blue–the daughter of a psychic, but she is the only one in her home who cannot see beyond. She can, however, amplify the psychic energy around her. I am fascinated with the Raven Boys–four classmates from the exclusive Aglionby School who are on a quest to discover ley lines and a sleeping Welsh king. When Blue’s life intersects with theirs, they awaken more energy and unearth more secrets than they are ready for. I am ready for the next book in the series, but until then enjoy this book trailer:
I have been intrigued with The Maze Runner series by James Dashner even though they have too much violence for my tastes. I keep reading hoping to find a reason to redeem the cruelty and violence, but I keep finding more and more reason for despair. These are popular books with fast-moving plots, and they raise plenty of questions about ends and means. The Kill Order, the prequel to the series, is no different. The more answers that are given to why the world of the Maze Runner came to be, the more questions I have.