Friday, May 19, 2017

The Great Star Wars Movies Dispute

The Iron Guy enjoys stirring things up now and then. Being the MANLY MAN that he is, he does not flinch at expressing an opinion now and again that may stoke the fires of differing opinions. In the summer of 2011, he started The Great Harry Potter Controversy. In October of that same year, he burned up the blogosphere with The Great Greg Heffley Debate. In that same spirit, he's going to present a couple of questions that may have people all over the blogging world either stand up and cheer on the tops of their houses in agreement with or sit up all night choking on their frustrations with my unbelievably silly and ill-informed opinions. Either way, I want to hear what YOU think about these two questions:

Are the Prequels just OK or are they really good or are they enormous embarrassments to the Star Wars universe?

Now everyone knows what I mean by the Prequels, right? They are Episodes I, II and III of the Star
Wars saga. In other words, The Phantom Menace, The Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith. Some people think they're really good and other think they are terrible. Those in the second group say these movies have rotten acting, superficial characters and a lot of mindless action. People in the first group  say, "Who cares about all that? We enjoy the movies!" I've never met anyone who had a neutral opinion. Those who don't like them don't just mildly dislike them, they hate them! To show what I mean, I saw a sign on the back of a car once that said, in Star Wars letters, "What prequels?" The Iron Guy doesn't fall into either camp, though. I enjoyed The Phantom Menace all right--didn't love it or hate it, just thought it was OK. It did have a lot of superficial characters and mindless action but at least it wasn't boring. I liked the second movie much more and the third was so good that it made the other two better. So what do you think? Were the Prequels a big waste of time? Were they great? Or just OK?

Is The Force Awakens the best of all the Star Wars movies?

Ooohhh, boy, I bet this will start some arguments! It's like asking a random group who their favorite sports team is or if Michael Jordan or LeBron James is better. People will argue that stuff for days. Same thing with Star Wars. Everyone has a favorite movie and can tell you lots of reasons that particular one beats all the others. Well, for years I always said The Empire Strikes Back was the best but, after The Force Awakens, I may have changed my mind. Yes, it's basically the same plot as Episode IV but it has a lot more going on. And I don't mean just the action, either, although there was plenty of that! Rey's mysterious background, Kylo Ren's conflicted nature and Han Solo's fate grabbed hold of me in a way that none of the other movies did. Did that happen to you, boys? Or to you, grownups? Maybe or maybe not. But I could also add that the action, the effects and the humor were every bit as good in this movie as in the others--and I think they were even better! So that could mean this is the best of the bunch. What do YOU think? Leave your comments under this post and don't be shy!

(PS, if you'd like to see what people said in the Harry Potter Controversy or the Greg Heffley Debate, click on those labels under this post)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Two Very Cool Star Wars Books

Greetings, guys and Star Wars fans everywhere! It seems that the Iron Guy has devoted the month of May to the saga of the galaxy far, far away. And why not? The movies are full of what guys love--Adventure! Blasters! Good Guys chased by Bad Guys! Space Battles! Not to mention strange-looking aliens, light sabers and lots of things that blow up. Well, there are lots of Star Wars books that have all this as well. Here are a couple that I've read lately and liked a lot.

Star Wars Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo and Chewbacca Adventure by Greg Rucka

OK, how could you not like a book that features this wise-cracking guy who's always one step ahead of trouble and his big, shaggy companion? In this story, which takes place right after the Battle of Yavin (when the Death Star was blown up), Princess Leia sends a reluctant Han Solo on a mission to retrieve a man who knows the location of the next Rebel base before the Empire captures him. But when Han arrives on the planet, not only is the Empire there but also a bunch of bounty hunters looking for the money for his capture! Can even Han Solo get away from both of them? This was a terrific read that kept me turning the pages. And it has a great villain that I wish would show up in a movie,

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Michael Kogge; based on the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J.
Abrams and Michael Arndt

Didn't you just LOVE this movie?? Yes, yes, yes!! It had everything we enjoyed about the original Star Wars trilogy while breaking new ground. This book is a faithful retelling of the movie and, even if you know the story backwards and frontwards, it doesn't get boring. It's like hearing a favorite song all over again. I enjoyed reliving Finn and Po's crash landing, Rey and Han Solo escaping Jakku in the Millennium Falcon and and Hux and Kylo Ren meeting the Supreme Leader. (which leaves me with the question I had from the movie--is Kylo Ren really a villain or just a big whiny kid with a light saber and no impulse control?) Anyway, read this and have a good time!

And one more bit of fun--both books have a tie-in with each other. What is it? I'll give you a hint--both of them mention the names of those who stole the Millennium Falcon. Write in and tell us if you find out. And tell us about any other Star Wars books you've read!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May the Fourth Be With You--Again

This has to be one of the favorite days of the year for GUYS! "And just why is that?" you may ask. Because today is May 4, aka May the Fourth Be With You. Or Star Wars Day. Which makes this day great because just about all boys everyone LOVE Star Wars.

In fact, this whole month is special because it marks the 40th anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Yep, it was May 25, 1977. The day that introduced Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Death Star, the Millennium Falcon, C3PIO and R2-D2 to the world.

And the world has been a lot more fun ever since.

Anyway, I'll talk more about it this month. I hope to recommend a few books to you, ask which one of the movies is your favorite, etc. etc. But, for today, let me show a few things that I've liked, along with links to the original reviews:

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy 


The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight

Very good retellings of the original trilogy and good reminders why we love this story so much

Star Wars The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary

Oh, yeah! The saga continues! This is the book for anyone who enjoyed this movie. Lots of photos, lots of cool information and a good introduction that gives you the backstory to this movie.

Plus, the library system has copies of all the movies. And lots of SW graphic novels. Even audiobooks! So head on down to your library and pick one up!

So You Want To Be A Jedi?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson--a Terrific Read and Listen

Greetings, guys everywhere! The Iron Guy is sorry he's been silent for so long but I was away over Spring Break and have been sick since I came back. Between those two things, I haven't had much time to read, so I found this review that I had started in November, right after the World Series of Reading but, due to many circumstances, never posted. It's a great story and there's a terrific audiobook version. So check it out and enjoy!

Boys, here's a review of a terrific book that I read several years ago and never forgot. I remembered it while the World Series of Reading Contest was going on because the World Series and the Brooklyn Dodgers formed an important part of the story. I found a copy of the audiobook, listened to it and remembered why this book had such a lasting impact on me--as it will for you.

The book is In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord. In this book, a young girl, immigrates from China with her mom to join her father, who moved to America earlier to get a job as an engineer. They arrive in Brooklyn in the late 1940's in the same year that Jackie Robinson plays his rookie year. Her family has been in China for many generations but now the girl, who takes the "American name" of "Shirley Temple Wong" is now in a land of strangers. She doesn't understand their customs and they don't understand hers. She doesn't even speak English--and now she has to go to school in this new country! How will she ever manage? Especially when she runs afoul of the biggest and baddest girl in class?

Guys, this is one terrific read. And one terrific listen! There's a lot of humor here (just wait until you see what happens after she tries to fix the furnace for the apartment building!) and some wistfulness, as when they remember the Moon Festival back in China. But it's also a story that everyone can relate to, especially if you've ever moved to a new school or a new city and wondered how you'd fit in. Plus, after all that this girl goes through, the ending will make you want to stand up and cheer. So will her teacher's speech why being an American and playing baseball are so similar and so important. The audiobook version really makes this story come to glorious life. Narrator Christina Moore captures the tone of this book perfectly, as well as the voices of all the different characters from the Chinese great-relatives to a Hispanic neighbor to the tough Brooklyn kids. Either version is good, so find one or the other. but don't miss out--this story will stay in your memory for years and years.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Three More Terrific Books About Sports!

First day of April greetings, everyone! This is no fooling--I've got three really, really good sports books to tell you about. And what a great time of year for sports! Major League Baseball begins today. The NFL draft comes up soon. Hockey is still going on. I'm sure you've seen your schools' soccer teams play. The NBA regular season is winding down but the NCAA Final Four is on tonight! Of  course, the Iron Guy must maintain his strict impartiality about the Final Four games (Go Tarheels!) but, in the spirit of fairness, I hope that all teams play well (Go Tarheels!!) and may the best team win.

Ahem, as I was saying, I just read a truly terrific book about basketball. It's Legends: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Basketball by Howard Bryant. Wow! What a great book! It's so good that I'm bending one of my rules. I haven't actually finished it--I'm about three-quarters through--but it's so very great that I just have to tell you about it.

Why do we love sports, people? For the same reason we love movies--the drama, the excitement, the fun! In sports, as in movies, there are moments of suspense, dynamic action, and humor. There are unexpected endings and sudden changes in the story. There is the buzzer-beater shot, the impossible catch, the  quick-as-lightning steal or the come-from-behind victory. Sports has dynasties that dominate and underdogs that defeat those dynasties. And sports provide us with a lot of ways to bond. Guys (and girls, too!) have gotten close with their parents, their siblings and their friends through endless discussions about who's the best, why my team is better than yours and what would have happened if...

And nobody captures that drama, excitement and fun better than Howard Bryant. This book on basketball is full of great and terrific stories (plus fascinating facts) such as:
  • The 1970 Finals with Willis Reed and the Knicks, a story that should be a movie
  • How "Dr J". changed the way basketball is played today
  • The rival basketball league that also changed how basketball is played 
  • The epic rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
  • And, of course, the unbelievable 2016 Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers
Plus there are facts that I, a long-time basketball fan, didn't know
  • There was a time when coaches hated slam dunks!
  • Michael Jordan almost didn't make his high school varsity team because he wasn't tall enough!
And, when you're through, you could argue whether Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain or Oscar Robertson was the best player ever. (maybe we could add LeBron James or Steph Curry to that discussion one day)

If you're any kind of sports fan, you need to rush on down to your library and check this out. And if you're  not, you still need to rush on down because you'll find plenty high drama and excitement and fun in this book. Howard Bryant is a very good writer and he's given us one fine book.

And he has done the same for baseball in Legends: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Baseball
and football in Legends: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Football. (see my review of that book here)

Am I excited? You bet! That's why I've given this book (and the other two)--

The Iron Guy Seal of Approval as Terrific Books

Monday, March 13, 2017

It's Monday--What Am I Reading? Sports Books, Of Course!

There's a great meme out there called It's Monday--What Are You Reading? in which a lot of kidlit bloggers talk about what they are currently reading or have read in the last week. (you can find out more at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers) The Iron Guy has been so busy lately that he hasn't had a chance to review anything but he hates to go a long time without talking to you, so here are a few things I'm looking at now:

Legends: The Best Players, Teams and Games in Basketball by Howard Bryant

It's March and the thoughts of young men, middle-aged men, boys and old geezers turn to BASKETBALL! The regional tournaments have just finished and the Madness is about to begin, so what subject could be better than roundball? I've read the first chapter and it's really good--among other things, it talks about Wilt Chamberlain, the only player to have scored 100 points in a single game. And this was in days before three points shots! I've read Mr. Bryant's books about football and baseball, enjoyed them a lot and I think I'll enjoy this one too.

Soccer and Soccer on Sunday by Mary Pope Osborne

All guys, especially younger reader guys, know how addicting The Magic Tree House books are. Ms. Osborne has also written some nonfiction books to go along with them. I read the Soccer book and learned a lot. Can't wait to read the Soccer on Sunday book because it's about Pele, soccer's greatest star.

OK, everyone, this is my check in. Now tell me--what are YOU reading? The Iron Guy and all the other reader guys out there want to know! Hit that Comment button under this post and let us know.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Iron Guy Talks Books with a Bunch of Cool Guys

Damond Ford, the Iron Guy and all the MANLY MEN at the Boys Club
March greetings, everyone! This month is always great but let me tell about something that happened last month. The Iron Guy got invited to address a bunch of boys in the Boys and Girls Club of York County--Fort Mill, South Carolina, just over the NC/SC border near Charlotte. The head of this group is Damond Ford, a truly great guy. He runs a program for the Boys Club called Password to MANhood, which teaches boys to become responsible men. Damond asked me to bring some books about growth and change, so, after mentally checking through the enormous files of books stored in my MANLY brain, I came up with a few good titles, checked them out and took them down to Fort Mill.

There I found Damond and about 15 boys. They had just started the newest session of the program and the plan was for me to talk about several growth-and-change books. They would pick one and talk about it over the next 12 weeks. But first, we all talked about what it means to be a man and everyone agreed that it included:

Taking responsibility
Doing your best
Overcoming obstacles
Being respectful and considerate to others

(Anyone who tells you differently is WRONG!)

Then I shared several books with them. (I'll show you the list with you in a little bit) After a while, they finally decided on N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley. Does that sound like an odd choice? It might at first but think about it--the main character, a cool and popular guy, starts off by picking on all the nerdy kids in his school. Later on, when he's forced to join them to fight the villain, he understands them, takes responsibility for changing his attitude and learns to respect them. Not to mention he needs to do his best and overcome the obstacles the villain has set up for them. So not only is the book fun, it also has a good message about growth and change.

Here is the list of books I took with me. Some are fiction, some are biographies and one is nonfiction. All of them deal with growth, change, doing your best, overcoming obstacles, etc.---and they are all terrific reads!

N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley--as I said, a whole of fun to read with a good message as well. See my review here.

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry--one of the best books about growth and change I've ever read and one of the most thrilling stories I've ever read too! (It was also the first book I ever reviewed on this blog--check it out here)

The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight by Tony DiTerlizzi--everyone knows how Luke grew from a farm boy who plays with a toy starship to a true Jedi Knight and this captures that story in one book. Plus the artwork is amazing! (see review here)

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings--I didn't take this book with me but I have to include it because it's the best book I know about growing from an irresponsible boy to an adult. Yes, it's long but it's an epic story and you really get caught up in this boy's life. (see my review here)

Who Was...Roberto Clemente, Louis Armstrong, Muhammad Ali and Julius Caesar--four from the great Who Was...biographies and all of them are incredible stories of  true life. See reviews here, here and here--have not reviewed the Louis Armstrong book yet)

The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American's Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown--I can't say enough good things about this one! See my review here.

All right, all you guys and grownups, go check these out!  I've always said that reading is not only fun but also prepares you for life. These books are proof! And Damond (plus all you other cool guys in the Boys Club) let me hear from you while you read this book. Would love to hear what you think!

Cool guys doing the Dab