Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year's Treat--A Review from Graham!

Happy New Year's greetings, guys! I tell you, we've been really lucky and hit the jackpot with book reviews at the end of the year. There's been one from Mighty Micah, one from Mr. Keesler, the CEO of the library and now we have one from Graham, a great boy who is also a big fan of The Copernicus Legacy series by the amazing Tony Abbott. (sorry, I don't have a picture) He's going to tell us about The Forbidden Stone, the first of these thrilling books. Let's hear what he has to say:

The  Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott

Wade and Darrell, along with their Cousin Lily and her friend Becca are summoned to Germany with their father by an old family friend. Upon arriving they quickly determined there frined had been MURDERED. This discovery and the kidnapping of their mother, drags them into a relic hunt which leads them across the globe. They work to discover the mytserious relics of Nicolaus Copernicus, the famous astronomer, while being chased by the knights of the deadly Teutonic order. This book is like a roller coaster curvng and sswerving around the world. I liked this book because of the thrilling adventures that live inside the pages of Copernicus Legacy.

Thanks, Graham!  I'm a HUGE fan of these books and I'm glad you are too. (if you'd like to know what I've said about them, click on the "Copernicus Legacy" and "Forbidden Stone" labels under this post) Take a note, boys--this book is recommended by a reader guy just like you. It's not just the word of some boring old grownup. Another boy liked it and I bet you will too. Go to your local library and check out a copy. After all, now that Graham has reviewed The Forbidden Stone, this book is--


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Something Great Right After Christmas--A Review From--Well, It's Pretty Incredible!

Mr. Lee Keesler, CEO of Charlotte Meckelnburg libraries
Happy Day After Christmas, guys! Hope you had a great time. I certainly did. Here's one more present I found under the blogging tree--a review from the CEO of our library system! He's Mr. Lee Keesler and he's the Big Kahuna, The Exalted Emperor, the Great Galactic Overlord of the Charlotte Mecklenburg libraries. Like the Iron Guy, he's a MANLY MAN and lover of books. He's also one of the nicest guys you'll ever be lucky enough to meet. Mr. Keesler been good enough to ask my advice on good reads. I recommended a grownup book to him once and he liked it, so he asked my opinion a second time. Well, that was a great opportunity to tell him about one of my very favorites, Leviathan by the talented Scott Westerfeld. (check out my original review here) I've always thought that it's a book that grownups as well as boys would enjoy, so that was my chance. We found a copy and, not only did he read it, he even sent in a review! Here it is:

Hey guys, Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan is great reading fun.  Part history, part fantasy, it is 100% adventure from the very first pages.

The story is set in the historical context of the beginnings of World War I.  Aleksandar’s father and mother are assassinated, and that sets off a chain reaction across Europe that turns into “the Great War.” Aleksandar flees to Switzerland where he collides with the separate but equally exciting story of Deryn Sharp, an English commoner who loves to fly.  Both teens distinguish themselves and their young contemporaries by leading and setting examples for their older adult companions.  It is the quintessential story of the triumph of youth.

Leviathan is made more fascinating and adventuresome by Westerfeld’s blending of animals and machines, a nod to Charles Darwin in the person of Darwin’s daughter, Nora Darwin Barlowe. Aleksandar and Deryn learn to bring out the best qualities of animal, machines and their combined forms to serve their interests.

Leviathan is a fast read with rich descriptions of beasts and battles. I recommend it highly.

Thanks, Mr. Keesler! We really appreciate it. And, as I've always said, any guy who sends in a review for the first time gets a free book. And that means any guy! So feel free to pick one out of our ultra-cool prize box sometime.

Well, the holiday season isn't over yet. Kwanzaa begins today and New Year's Day is Friday, so, if I don't post anything before then, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year to everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Just in Time for the Holidays--Mighty Micah's Present!

Ho ho ho and happy holidays, guys! What a great piece of luck--one of our reader guys got an early present today. His name is Mighty Micah and he came to our Boys Read and Write Club over the summer. He also sent us a review of that terrific sci-fi book, The Roar by Emma Clayton. The Iron Guy, whose generosity is exceeded only by that of Santa Claus, has always said that the first time any boy sends in a book review, that boy gets a free book. So Micah came in today to claim his prize from our ultra-cool prize box. Of course, he went right away for the Calvin and Hobbs book, which he said was a favorite of his grandmother. (of course, a lot whole lot of guys like Calvin and Hobbs) As a holiday bonus, he also got a Capt'n Eli coloring book, which comes from the fabulously-cool Capt'n Eli series of graphic novels.
Mighty Micah and his free books
Congratulations, Micah! I hope you send in some more reviews soon. And, guys, this goes to show that other boys are excited about reading. It's proof positive that--


Reading is an occupation for MANLY MEN!!

All silliness aside, I really hope all of you have a great a great holiday season. And to make your season merry and bright, here's a video I shared a few years ago. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Two Terrific Books for Hanukkah

Hey, guys, I recommended a holiday book to you in the last post and I've got a couple more for you today. Both of them are picture books but don't just roll your eyes when I say that. Some guys would think that picture books are only for little kids. Wrong! These are good for guys at any age, even for a MANLY MAN like the Iron Guy. Both of them are about Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, that is going on this very week. If you've never read the history of Hanukkah, be sure to check it out. It's a really great story--an evil emperor (Antiochus), a small band of rebels (the Maccabbees) and a miraculous intervention. (hmmm--does this sound like the story of a certain set of movies? And the new one comes out this very month? Coincidence??? You tell me!) Both of these books can be read quickly but the memory of these books will last a really long time, maybe even long after the holidays. Maybe even the rest of your lives.

The first one is Hanukkah at Valley Forge by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Greg Harlin. What a
great story! It takes place during the Revolutionary War. During the brutal  winter of 1777, General George Washington and his troops were camped in Valley Forge. Things did not look good for them. Some of the men didn't have shoes or coats. No one had enough food. And the British showed no sign of leaving. As Washington made his rounds, he saw one soldier lighting a candle in one of the cabins. The general was curious, so he asked what the soldier was doing. The young man said he did it for Hanukkah and, since Washington had never heard of it, told him the story of the ancient fight and the great miracle. Could that tale from long ago restore the general's faith in the Patriot's cause?
As I said, this is a great story. And the illustrations are truly outstanding. The very first one sets the tone for the desperate state of the Patriots. There's a lone soldier, patrolling the camp in the snow. He has no gloves. He's trying to keep warm in his thin coat. BRRR! I could feel the bitter cold! But as the soldier relates the Hanukkah story, the illustrations shift back and forth form Valley Forge to ancient Israel, thereby showing the parallels between the Maccabeean revolt and the Revolution. It works really well and heightens the terrific emotional impact of this story. As I said, you'll read through this book quickly but you won't forget it anytime soon!

And the second is a truly terrific book, Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel. This is another book in which the words and pictures combine to make an unforgettable experience. It's 1938. Oskar and his family live happily in Europe until The Night of Broken Glass, the beginning of the Holocaust. His parents put him on a ship to America so he can stay with his Aunt Esther. His father tells him, "Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings." He arrives in New York on the seventh night of Hanukkah, which also turns out to be Christmas Eve, with only a photo and address for his aunt. And no money. Even if he looks for the blessings, could that be enough for one lone boy walking 100 blocks in a strange city?
Wow! I really felt for Oskar all alone in the big city. But I also felt good, really good, when the blessings came. And I don't mean feeling good in some cheap, cheesy way, like the feeling you get in many of the sugary and sentimental books you see this time of year, It's a good and uplifted sensation. The way you feel when something good comes out of a bad situation. And the artwork!! It really moves the story along and helps you to see things from Oskar's perspective. What a terrific book! This one should not be missed. In fact, you'll probably want to read and reread this one every year.

You'll notice that both these books take place in two of the darkest periods in history, times when things seemed hopeless. Yet these people persevered when they, like the soldier at Valley Forge, remembered the old story or, like Oskar, remembered his father's words. Their trust, their faith, if you will, got them through like a candle in the dark. I've heard a lot of grownups talk about how these festivals of lights, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa with their candles or Christmas with its lights or even Diwali, take place around the winter solstice, the darkest time of the year. It's as if something in the human spirit cries out that light will overcome darkness eventually and we need to remind ourselves of that when things are darkest and coldest. That's not easy to do--in fact, keeping that faith during hard times is the toughest thing you'll ever do as a guy. (or a girl) That's why reading is so important! Reading books like these gives us the mental and emotional fuel to keep going. Not only is reading fun and exciting, it builds you up and strengthens you on the inside, where it really counts. That's one reason I keep telling you about terrific books. Reading strengthens and enriches your lives. Don't forget that!

Well, I hope you don't mind my going deep on you. Really great books can do that to me. Before I go, I also want to thank my online friend Heidi Estrin for giving me the idea to review these books. I had been meaning to read them for some time but when she told me about #Readukkah, an event hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries that encourages people to review Jewish books this week. And I'm glad she did because I really enjoyed them. Thanks, Heidi! And be sure to check these books out and tell all your friends and families about them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Holiday Blast from the Past--Kringle by Tony Abbott

Hey, guys, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are now in holiday mode. If you're not, I have just the book for you. It's Kringle by the great Tony Abbott. I first read this book about 8 years ago and have recommended it at the holiday season several times since then. And for a good reason--it's a terrific story! A rich epic fantasy about how Santa Claus became Santa Claus. "Oh, man," you might say about now, "not another sugary-sweet story about Santa." Not to fear, reader guys! This is a real good-vs-evil struggle between the badly-outnumbered good guys and  the goblins, the mean, nasty, vicious bad guys. Those who crave excitement, danger and adventure in their books (and what GUY doesn't?) will really enjoy this one.

I tell you, there just seem to be no end to Mr. Abbott's talents. He can write full-length thrillers like the amazing Copernicus Legacy series, fantasies or mysteries for younger readers like The Secrets of Droon or Goofballs or a mystery book for older guys like The Postcard, one of the most terrific books I've read--and they're all really, really good! No matter what sort of book you like, Mr. Abbott's has probably written one that you'd enjoy. Be sure to check your library and Mr. Abbott's website to see.

PS--click the "Kringle" label under this post to see my reviews from the past. (if you do, say "hi" to the Kandy Kane Kid)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This Turkey Is Thankful For...2015 edition

Greetings, reader guys everywhere! Every year around Thanksgiving, the Iron Guy writes
a post about things for which he is thankful. If we think about it even for a little while, I'm sure we all could come up with a lot of things to be grateful for. Here are just a few for me:

First, it's been a good year at our library. We had visits from two local authors, one from E. K. Smith, author of the Alien Dude series, and one from Dave McDonald, the Hamster S.A.M. author and illustrator. These books are especially good for guys--in fact, Ms. Smith said she came up with the Alien Dude books when she couldn't find any early reading books that her son would like! (take a look at the Alien Dude and Hamster SAM labels under this post to find out more)

Second, we had a good time with the Boys Read and Write Club this year. Several different guys came between April and July, read books and wrote reviews of them for this blog. Eventually I had to discontinue the club because we couldn't get enough boys to show up every month (it's hard to keep a book club going, especially during the busy school year) but it  was very good to see boys get excited about reading.

Third, the Iron Guy was very honored to have an interview in July with the great Phyllis Reyonlds Naylor. She's a very well known and respected author and wrote, among many other things, the very funny Boys vs Girls series. I'm very thankful that she gave an interview to this humble blog and I'm glad to say that she's a delightful person! I've also seen the first book in the series, The Boys Start the War, get checked out several times and I'm very thankful that others are getting turned onto these terrific books.

Fourth, I'm very grateful for author Tony Abbott and The Copernicus Legacy, that ultra-fantastic new book series. I haven't been so excited about such new books in years--not since I read The Lightning Thief way back in 2007. It would take me all day to talk about these books, so click on "The Copernicus Legacy" label under this post and see my enthusiastic reviews. I've just started The Golden Vendetta and am happily looking forward to getting lost in it.

Finally, in light of all the terrible events of  the last week, I'm grateful that we live in a country where we are free to read what we like. Any one of you  reader guys could go into your local library and check out whatever you'd like (with your parents' permission, of course) And you don't have to worry about soldiers banging on your door in the night because of the books in your house. That's not true in some places in the world. We shouldn't take this lightly, everyone.
And I'm very thankful for the brave men and women in this country and others who defend that  right. And I'm very glad to be in the fine Charlotte Mecklenburg library system that makes sure boys (and girls) have free access to books. And I'm also thankful for the many bloggers like our good friend Ms. Yingling who keep me and other grownups informed of terrific books.

So let's put this into practice--what books are you thankful for this year? Is it something you've read already or something you're reading now? Tell us in the Comments section--we'd love to know!


Update--today, Nov. 23, is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, hosted by author Shannon Messenger.
Check it out to find some truly cool books.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Blast form the Past--The Last River

Every once in a while I like to talk about a book I've read and reviewed before. That's what I call a Blast from the Past. Sometimes it's because I'm too busy to make a new recommendation; sometimes it's because I enjoyed a book so much that I just have to tell you about it again. And sometimes an event will trigger the memory of a terrific book that I had forgotten about. That's the case for The Last River: John Wesley Powell and the Colorado River Exploration Expedition by Stuart Waldman and illustrated by Gregory Manchess. I was fortunate enough to go to the Grand Canyon a couple of weeks ago and it made think of this book that I had reviewed waaayyy back in 2008 and hadn't thought of in years. What a terrific book! What a great adventure story! What a remarkable guy!

To be brief, John Wesley Powell was a geology professor. He had also fought in the Civil War and lost an arm. But he wouldn't let a handicap stop him and, driven by his desire to learn and see new things, he took off in 1869 to explore the Green and Colorado rivers.The only thing was that no one had ever done it before. No one. It was too dangerous. The climate was too harsh. There was no one to rescue you if you got into trouble. But, driven by his desire for adventure and knowledge (determination, adventure and learning--three things that make a guy a GUY), he set out with a band of explorers to chart this unknown territory. Did he make it? You'll have to read this unbelievable story to find out! But what a story you'll get--adventure, adventure and sheer dogged determination in the face of impossible conditions. And the illustrations--wow, they will knock your socks right off! They are beautiful, dramatic and fit this incredible story perfectly.

This book has been around a while but I'm glad to say that the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system still has five copies. And it's short enough to be a good quick read but long enough to really get into.
Don't waste a moment, guys--get out right away and bring it home!

PS--Today is Nonfiction Monday. Check it out to learn about other great nonfiction books.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Fun Read for Halloween--or Anytime

Hey, guys, today is Halloween, one of the great guy holidays of the year. I mean, what other day can you get gobs of candy and not have one grownup tell you "No"? (although the smart grownups won't let you eat it all at once) Well, the Iron Guy thinks Halloween should be all about fun and I wrote a post about that last year. And I still believe it, so I'm going to tell you about a really fun book that's perfect for Halloween.

It's Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe. This book has been around for a long time (it  was published in 1979) but there's a good  reason why it's still  around--it's a very fun read! This is the story of a vampire bunny. Written by a dog. That's right! A vampire bunny and a dog that types. Told you this would be good. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Monroe family comes home one night (a dark and stormy night) from seeing a Dracula movie. At the theatre, the youngest boy found a little rabbit on a seat and they all brought it home. Both Harold, the family dog and Chester, the cat, are curious about the newcomer but Chester notices strange things about the bunny. It has markings that look like a cape. And it has something no bunny should have--fangs! Over the next few days, they see that the the bunny sleeps all day, stays awake all night and seems to get out of its cage without unlocking it. Then--beginning with the tomato, the thing with red juice--all the vegetables in the refrigerator turn white as if something had drained all the juice out of them! Oh, no! Could this cute little bunny really be a vampire??

Oh, boy, you will truly get a kick out of this book! It's funny, it's absorbing and it's a good quick read. It's funny because it's told from Harold's goofball dog perspective. It's absorbing because you really want to find out what's going to happen with Chester trying to convince his people there's a vampire rabbit in the house. And it's only 98 pages long, so it's the perfect read for any of you who are avid readers or what the grownups call a reluctant reader. Check it out--it's a perfect and fun read for the Halloween season or any time of year. And if you've read it, write in and tell us how you liked it.

PS--there is a whole series of Bunnicula books now, so dive right in and read them all!
PPS--in the Monroe family, the dad is a college professor and the mom is a lawyer. No wonder they have a dog smart enough to write and a cat who can read.
PPS--in the spirit of fun, tell me what your favorite Halloween candy is, even if you read this review a few days later. After all, any smart kid makes Halloween candy last until Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Becca and the Prisoner's Cross--These Books Just Keep Getting Better!

Wow. Some book series just get better and better with each new installment, even when you think they can't possibly get any better. That's the case with Becca and the Prisoner's Cross by the amazing Tony Abbott.This is the fourth book in this fantastic series and I'm just amazed at how good they are, how the thrills keep coming and the mysteries deepen.

By now the plot has gotten so complicated that it would take all day to summarize it. I'll just say that 500 years ago the great astronomer Nicholas Copernicus invented a time time but when the thoroughly evil Order of Teutonic Knights tried to get it, Copernicus took the machine apart and gave twelve pieces of it to Guardians for safekeeping. Galina Krause, the current head of the Order is obsessed with finding those Relics but Wade Kaplan, along with his family and friends, race around the world to stay one step ahead of the Order and retrieve those Relics. Galina is also obsessed with time travel in general. The Order had actually invented a machine of their own but it didn't work right.

That's important to know for this book. Becca Moore, one of Wade's friends got partially zapped by Kronos, the Order's time machine, so she goes back and forth in time. In the process, she learns some incredible things, especially about Crux, the fourth Relic. Of course, the Order and its bad guys are there at every turn, stopping at no bad deed to keep the Relic from Becca and company. And how does the Order know where they will be all the time? How could one family hope to outwit trained assassins? If Becca goes back in time, why does her body stay in the present? And she gets her most important information from---well, I don't want to spoil things by telling but your jaw will fall open when you find see!

There's plenty of danger, excitement, action and mystery for any reader here. Plus the kids have to solve arcane puzzles and codes to locate the Relic. Plus there's a lot about the mysteries and dangers and contradictions of time travel. Plus there's an emotional punch and depth to these characters that you don't always get in thrillers or scifi. And this is truly one the most unusual but successful marriages of scifi and thriller I've ever read.

I've got the next full-length book, The Golden Vendetta and can't wait to start it! If you're a fan, go find it. If you're not already a fan, don't waste any time but go check out the first book, The Forbidden Stone, and get all caught up in the world of The Copernicus Legacy!

This gets the Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One Really Terrific Book!

PS--this is actually the second book in the Copernicus Archives books, which are sort of "in between" books. They take place between the full-length books and each one is narrated by one of the characters.  (Yes, it's a little complicated but, since this is an"in-between" this "second" book in this series is actually the fourth book in the overall story) But don't think you could skip these! A lot of important information comes out here.

PPS--there's a good Copernicus Legacy website.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library--a Fun Book

And what a fun book it was! And what a library it was! Holographic librarians, 10-foot tall images projected onto a Wonder Dome, anti-gravity boots that take you up to the top shelves of high bookcases--but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.

In the little town of Alexandriaville, Ohio, the town's library was torn down twelve years ago but the
billionaire game designer Luigi Lemoncello has rebuilt it in the old bank building. As a grand opening, he will choose some kids to participate in a game--find a way out of the library within 24 hours after being locked in. (there's a good reason why he was so attached to that old library and decided to build the new one) But to get into the contest, each kid has to write an essay on why he or she should be chosen.
Kyle Keely, seventh grader, has played all of Mr. Lemoncello's board games and video games and would love to get into the grand opening game but forgot to write the essay. So, about 30 minutes before it's due, he scribbles down on one page. But guess what--he gets chosen! Along with his friends Akimi and Miguel, the cheerleader Haley Daley, the bookworm Sierra and spoiled rich kid Charles Chiltington. The whole town cheers as the kids go into the library for the game--and this is no ordinary library but a high-tech grand palace of a library, complete with marble floors, a cafe, holograms, a private suite with video games, and a basement where robotic arms retrieve books from the shelves. But getting out will be a lot tougher than they thought. Mr. Lemoncello is, to say the least, eccentric. They all have to decipher clues to get out and those clues lie in odd places all over that enormous library. And they are much more difficult to decode than expected. Can Kyle and friends even find them all? If they do, could they possibly understand those obscure references? And don't forget that bratty Charles Chiltington is planning to win and keep all the fabulous prizes for himself--and Chiltingtons never lose!

This was a very fun book. Chris Grabestein knows how to keep the action moving along. You also get a chance to figure out the clues along with the characters, which is always fun. (check out the puzzle in chapter 28)  I found myself really rooting for the characters, some of whom really need to win this contest. And there are references to other great books all over, as in chapter 36 when the kids ask Mr. Lemoncello the consequences of losing a round of a game and he says, "Something bad...In fact, something wicked will probably this way come." And you guys will just LOVE the eccentric and unpredictable Mr. Lemoncello, who will remind you a lot of Willy Wonka. How could you not like a guy who wears shoes that make burp-sqeeking noises! In short, this is a book guys would really enjoy. This guy did! Plus, there's a really cool interview with the author at the end of the book. So how could you lose? Check this one out, boys. And don't forget that it's the Community Read Book for this year.

So let me ask a couple of questions to start a community discussion:

Why is the town called "Alexandriaville"? (hint--it has to do with a library)

Remember Mr. Lemoncello's quote about "something wicked"? What book did it come from? And who was the author?

What would you rather have--a tour of Willy Wonka's candy factory or Mr. Lemoncello's library?

All, right, guys, can't wait to hear those answers!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Community Reads a Very Cool Book

That's right, guys, the library system will hold a Community Read from September 27--October 17. That means we'll try to get as many people as possible to read the same book. This year we've got a really fun book for all of us reader guys--it's Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.

So what's the purpose of a Community Read? The grownups say, in fancy grownup language, "A Community Read is designed to bring people together to talk about a single book and to establish a community of readers and learners." In other words, we want to get a whole lot of people in the Charlotte area to read a particular book, talk about it, have fun talking about it and even get into some interesting discussions. That's what I'd like to do with Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. I'll write a review soon (I'm about halfway through the book) and it would be great if a lot of boys sent me reviews on this book. I will also, later on, post some questions related to this book and you could answer them. That could make for some fun and lively discussions! Remember that the instructions for sending in reviews are on the left-hand side of this page.

By the way, if you haven't already noticed, the library has redesigned its website. It's very cool and a lot easier to use. If you go to the site,, click on the Services box, then click on the Children's Services box and scroll down, you'll see a section of eight resources for kids and adults. Included in that section is this blog! Pretty neat, huh? I owe a great debt of thanks to Jessica Davis and Katy Rust, two of the library's technical magicians, who worked long and hard to get it there. (and don't mind that this blog is located in the Children's section--the library didn't have room to create a MANLY MAN section to put our blog)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thrills, Adventure and Big International Conspiracies

Listen up , guys, and look at this blog's mission statement up in the upper left-hand corner. What does it say? "A place for boys to find terrific books and tell other boys about great reading." Got that? Well, I recently finished one of the most terrific reads of this year or for the last couple of years, for that matter. It was the second book in the unbelievably good, exciting and utterly absorbing Copernicus Legacy series by the terrifically talented Tony Abbott. Which book was it? The Serpent's Curse. Wow. What a great time I had reading this book!

To give you a little backstory, let me repeat the synopsis from another review:

"Wade Kaplan's father, astronomer Roald Kaplan, gets a mysterious message from Uncle Henry in Germany. When the family goes to investigate, they find Uncle Henry murdered! Then they find out that they are involved in something they couldn't have imagined--a world -wide search for hidden artifacts that could determine the destiny of the world. They learn that famous scientist Nicholas Copernicus invented a time-traveling device 400 years ago but the thoroughly evil Teutonic Order of Knights tried to get hold of it. To stop them, Copernicus dismantled the device and gave the twelve key components to Guardians to hide around the world. Wade and family and friends must travel the world to solve puzzles and clues to find the relics before the Order does."

So, at the beginning of this book, we find out that Wade's mom, Sara, has been kidnapped by the tremendously evil  Galina Krausse, head of  the Teutonic Order. It turns out that the Order created their own time machine and Galina wants to send the Sara back in time to spy on Copernicus! So not only do the Kaplans have to find Serpens, the next Relic, but they have to rescue Sara before she's sent on a one-way trip back in time! Is it possible?  Against the world-wide and incredibly powerful Teutonic Kinghts?

Wow, wow, wow! What a great thrill ride this book was! There's a car chase in Manhattan, a narrow escape from an exploding apartment in Moscow, a speedboat chase in Vienna and a pulse-pounding finale in an abandoned fortress. Do you guys want mystery? It's here--what's the background on Galina Krausse? Why does she seem to have vivid memories of Copernicus? Why does she have such a strong reaction to the name "Rubashov?" What is it about creepy Bartolo Cassa that "is simply not quite right"? Do you want humor? It's here--just listen to Dr. Rosemary Billinng...ham talk!

In other words, boys---CHECK THIS BOOK OUT! And if you haven't started the series, go get The Forbidden Stone (see my review) and READ THESE FANTASTIC BOOKS!!

This gets the Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One REALLY Terrific Book!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Two Terrific Books by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel
Summer Reading is always the busiest time of year for the Iron Guy and this year has been no exception. I meant to tell you about two really good books that I read/listened to during the 48 Hour Book Challenge back in June but I got soooo busy with Summer Reading that I'm just now finding the time to let you know about them. But that doesn't mean my enthusiasm for these truly terrific books has waned in these two months--in fact, I'm still excited about them and hope you'll check them out. Both of them are by the outstanding Kenneth Oppel, an author I've heard a lot about but have never read his stuff. Well, I am here to say undoubtedly that I'm now a fan! This guy packs a lot of action, mystery, adventure in his books. And there is even some depth in them that would make great topics for discussions.

The first is The Boundless and it was recommended by our friend Micah. I'm glad I took him up on this recommendation because I really enjoyed this! What's it about? The library's catalog page summarizes it well:

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across Canada, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life! When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past. In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will's father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

Yep, that's a good summary. but is leaves out a few things. The train is 1000 cars and about seven miles long! There are actual sasquatch and other creatures of legend (some of them really nasty) living in those Canadian woods. I can't begin to tell you how much action there is in this story! It's an epic tale and you'll really get into it. Besides, it doesn't tell you that Will joins the magicians in the circus and learns a lot of their tricks. That leads to a lot of question of what is real on the train and what's a trick, an illusion. (told you there'd be good discussion topics!)

The second is Airborn. What a great story! I actually listened to this. It's what they call a Playaway--basically an MP3 player with a book loaded on it. And what a tremendous job they did with it. It was produced by Full Cast Audio, a company put together by that great kids' author Bruce Coville. They hire one actor to read the book (and, in this case, play the main character) and have other actors to be the other characters. It really works and makes the book play out like a movie in your head. Here's what the book is about:

 Matt Cruse has the life he has always dreamed of as a cabin boy on the Aurora, a luxury passenger airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean. Then one night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies who are completely real and utterly mysterious. Matt eventually teams up with Kate, a wealthy young girl traveling with her chaperone, team up to search for the existence of those mysterious winged creatures. Why? Because the dying balloonist was her grandfather! But, before they can start their search, they run across---well, I'm not going to tell you! Ha ha ha  ha! But, believe me, it changes everything and makes things much, much more dangerous.

Interested? I bet! You really gotta read this one. Or get the Playway version and listen to it. It's long--about 10 hours and it takes the first four chapters to build this marvelous world--but, once the action starts, you won't be able to pull yourself away.

So go out and get these. But be aware, these are listed as YA books primarily because of the length and complexity which would make them more suitable for older readers guys. (I bet someone from 10--14 would like them) Also, although, there is nothing really graphically graphic in these books, the bad guys meet gruesome ends. But, for your older or more advanced reader guys, I couldn't think of anything more perfect!

And, to whet your appetites, here's a book trailer for The Boundless. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Blast from the Past--the Barnstormers/Sluggers Series

Getting-near-the-end-of-summer greetings, guys. Some of you have already started school and some of you (like the kids in Charlotte) have another whole week until that first day. But in either case, it's
still summer. Glorious summer! There are still sports to see and play, there are still places to go (a lot of people in Charlotte head down to the beach) and there are still cool books to read. So that's why the Iron Guy wants to recommend what may be the perfect summer books--the Barnstormers/Sluggers series by Loren Long and Phil Bildner. I read these and wrote about them a long time ago but I still see them getting checked out, so I know kids are still reading them. As I said, these are perfect for summer--they have baseball, magic, travel, danger and suspense, all wrapped up in six terrific books. You want to know what they're about? Here's a brief summary I wrote in 2008:

It's about the Payne family; the three kids Griffith, Ruby, Graham and their mom. Where's the father? He didn't come back from the Spanish-American War (the books are set in 1899) The father's friends from the war (they were all in Colonel Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders) formed a baseball team called the Travelin' Nine. They plan to go around the country and play exhibition games in order to raise money for the Payne family, who owes ten thousand dollars! The father left them his baseball, but when the kids put their hands on it, strange things, and I mean really strange things, happen during the games. Could the baseball be magic? And who is this creepy guy called The Chancellor and why does Uncle Owen tell the kids to beware of him? Why does Uncle Owen tell them that they are in  very great danger, particularly young Graham? And, whatever they do, don't let the Chancellor know about the ball!!!You got to read these books!!! They'll suck you into the story and make you want to get the next one right away!!

Yes, indeed, you've got to read these books! The library system has plenty of copies, If you'd like to know more about them, click on the "Barnstormers" or the "Sluggers" tabs under this post. (the series changed its name from "Barnstormers" to "Sluggers" halfway through the series) Don't waste a moment, boys--you're gonna love them!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dave McDonald Visit and a Terrific Bone

Making a character by simply drawing ovals and circles
Hey there and middle-of-August greetings to all reader guys everywhere. We had a great time with author/illustrator Dave McDonald yesterday. He's very cool, a lot of fun and the author and illustrator of the Hamster S.A.M. books. (see my review here) We had a really good time. First he told us a little bit about himself, then about comics and graphic novels in general. Then he took us on a fun adventure, showing us how to create our own comics. It was amazing because he showed us that we could make very cool comics using simple shapes. First he showed us how to create one by drawing an oval. Be adding smaller ovals and lines, we created Super Egg characters flying at super speed! Of course, being GUYS, one of us created a MONSTER EGG!
The Monster Egg!
Then he showed how to make super heroes with simple shapes and finally made a very cool character in 20 seconds by drawing a square! (if you ever see Mr. McDonald, be sure to ask him about the friendly hairy monster in the ice cream tree forest and the evil Mr. Melty) As I said, we all had a very good time and even learned a lot. Thanks, Mr. McDonald! If he ever comes to another library near you, be sure to see him.

When he talked about graphic novels, he mentioned the Bone series, one of the best ever created.(find out what we've written about them  here) There's a great new edition of the first book in the series. It's Out from Boneville: Tribute Edition by Jeff Smith. Why is it a Tribute Edition? Because Scholastic book publisher kicked off its Grpahix line by printing the first full-color versions of the Bone graphic novels. This one has the Out from Boneville story, a preview of the second book plus a new original piece by Jeff Smith and several pages of artwork inspired by Bone done by famous artists and illustrators. I couldn't think of a better gn to check out for the long-time or first-time Bone reader. Don't miss it, boys!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hamster S.A.M. Author Visit!

That's right, the one and only Dave McDonald, author of the funny
Hamster S.A.M. books will be here this coming Tuesday, August 11 at 2:00 pm

He'll show us how to create our own comics. Sounds like a lot of fun! Call the Myers Park library at 704-416-5800 to register. (this program is for ages 7 and up. Of course, girls are invited too!) Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Oh, Yeah, Yeah,Yeah

Summertime, summertime! Life is good, you're out of school, theme parks are open, you're out of school, burgers are on the grills, and you're out of school--I think you get the idea. Life is also busy at the library during the summer. In fact, it's our busiest time of year and that's why the Iron Guy hasn't written much lately. We've been fortunate to have guys like Winnux send in cool reviews but now I'll talk, over the next week or two, about a few things I've read and liked.

The first is Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! The Beatles, Beatlemania and the Music That Changed the World by Bob Spitz. It's a terrific book, a really good story and chock full of information for old Beatles fans like me or new fans--maybe like you!

The Beatles----there's never been a group like them and there probably never will be again. Their music is still fresh and exciting after 50 years and it still rocks! They started out as raw teenagers and became the most accomplished group of musicians rock and roll ever produced. They were the first rock band to receive awards from British royalty. The Shea Stadium concert in 1965 was the first big outdoor rock concert. They lived a legendary life in a legendary time and this book makes you see and feel how amazing it all was. The story is certainly enthralling--four unknown boys from Liverpool, England become the most famous band in the world. Along the way they encounter great success and fame but also meet tragedy, drugs and the enormous costs of all that fame. Eventually the band broke up, of course, but their music lives on and on. This book tells the story very well, making you cheer for the boys when, after many setbacks, they hit the big time and then feel for them when things don't go as well. Bob Spitz is a good writer and makes keep reading and reading, dying to find out what happens in each chapter. I couldn't put the book down--even me, who knew the story because I lived through that whole era! And there are lots of sidebars with great info on the songs, the fans and the Beatles themselves. This is a good one, guys, so head over to your library and check it out. Then download some of their great tunes or ask to borrow your parents' Beatles cd's (the best one to start out with is the collection of Number 1 hits) or, better yet, check to see anyone your parents know has any vinyl Beatles albums. (Hey, vinyl has become cool again!)

And to prove how great those guys were, here is a video of the Beatles in their early days doing "Twist and Shout." It's a compilation of their different styles in their earlier days but just listen to this--hear that snarl in John Lennon's voice, then listen in wonder as he strains it upward for the upper reaches of what a voice can do, and watch Paul and George rock out on bass and rhythm guitar and see Ringo beat those drums as the whole group rocks the song to its max.

Rock on, guys, and check out that book!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Our Second Review from Winnux!

Our friend Winnux has done it again! Here's another review of a great-sounding graphic novel:

Title: LEGO LEGENDS OF CHIMA: The Power of Fire Chi

Author: Yannick Grotholt

Summary: Legos inspired me to read lego comic books. This book is about Laval, the lion... Cragger, the crocodile and Eris the eagle. They fight back against the ice hunters. And take back the skies of Chima using "The power of fire Chi".

Review:  I liked this book because they used awesome fire chi to save Chima. It includes four exciting adventures. My favorite adventure is the forth one because at the end Laval, Cragger and Eris jump of the ramp with speedorz! A racing vehicle!!!

Thanks again, Winnux! Boys are always looking for good gn's and this sounds like a winner. We appreciate it. Come to the library and check out some more. We'd love to hear what you think about them. And listen up, boys! This gn was recommended not by a boring old grownup but an actual BOY just like you! So head over to your library and get one.

Winnux's second review

Monday, July 20, 2015

Our First Review from Winnux!

Our friend Winnux
Greetings, everyone. Summer continues to rock at the library. First we had that terrific interview Ms. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and now we have a great review from our new friend Winnux. Let's hear what he says about one of the graphic novels he checked out:

Title: Aw Yeah Comics...and Action

 Author: Art Baltazar and Franco

                   This wonderful comic book is all about an amazing and wacky adventures of a cat and a bug. It all starts out with Cornelius (the cat) and Alowicious (the bug) are just an average comic book store employees. But when a certain trouble strikes, they became an…. Action cat and Adventure bug! With the help of an adorable cat and Shelly bug, they face off their archnemesis… the Evil cat and his Fiendish friends!

                    What I like about this comic book is that it has so many super crazy adventures. It shows good and evil characters of each one. After reading this book, I felt great. The pictures / drawings are also very colourful and looks cool. The jokes and poses made me laugh as well. It has four chapters and cool sketch pages at the end of the book. And I recommend it to others to read, especially those who are fun of reading comic books like me.  

By: Winnux

Thanks, Winnux! There are lots of guys who like graphic novels and I'm sure some would like to read this one. I sure would! Please keep writing reviews for us--and don't forget that the first time a guy writes in a review, he gets a free book from our ultra-cool prize box.

Winnux's review

Friday, July 17, 2015

How Unbelievably Cool! An Interview with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor!

Hey, everyone, this is Iron Guy Carl and our blog is honored today! One of the most well-known authors in the whole realm of kid books has given us an interview. I'm talking, of course, about the one and only Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of 140 books (!), including Shiloh, a modern-day classic and a great book for guys, one that you'll probably read in high school. Included in that noteworthy list of books is the whole Boys vs Girls series that I wrote about over the last few months. Those books were soooo good that I had to write Ms. Naylor and ask her a few questions. And she was good enough to answer them! Let's hear what she had to say:
Ms. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Iron Guy Carl: I’ve heard this nasty rumor that it’s uncool for boys to read. I bet you disagree. Tell us why.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor:  Why in the world would it be uncool for boys to read?  Guys write, don't they?  Some of our best stories and books are written by guys!  Boys often have great adventures and pretty wild imaginations, so it's not surprising that some of them write wonderful books when they grow up.
IGC:  I’ve heard the story of how you came to write the Boys vs. Girls series but most of our boys probably haven’t heard it. Would you tell it to us?

PRN: A publisher had asked me to think about writing a new series, but I wasn't sure I wanted to get involved with another one. I told them that if I could think of a universal theme, I might do it, but I'd have to think about it. Then one day I was going to speak to a huge crowd of students in an elementary school. As they entered the gym, they were laughing and shouting and having a good time, and it didn't bother me a bit, as I hadn't started my talk.  But it evidently did bother one of the teachers, because he yelled, "If you don't quiet down I'm going to seat you boy/girl/boy/girl, and instantly the whole gym was quiet. I thought this was pretty funny, and said to myself, "That's it!  The way boys and girls feel about each other at this age. I'll write a series, and the first book will be, "The Boys Start the War." The second will be, "The Girls Get Even."

IGC: I know it isn’t fair to ask this type of question of authors but I just have to know—what do you think is the funniest episode in those books? (there are so many to choose from!)

PRN: You know, it's been a long time since I wrote those books, but the first episode that comes to mind is in the very first book, after the boys have dumped some dead birds on the girls'side of the river to make them think the water is polluted.  So the girls, knowing the boys are spying on them, carry Caroline down to the water in a sheet, as though she is dead, and with a great show of tears, dump her into the water. 

IGC: There are twelve books in this series, one for each month of the year. That’s a lot!Was it hard to write that many books? Was it hard to keep coming up with so many funny incidents? And it took 13 years to write all of them. That’s a long time! Was it difficult to keep it going all that time? Did you keep writing only those books during that time or did you work on others? And did you plan out the whole series before you started or did you make it up as you went along? (Yes, these are a lot of questions under one question!)
PRN: Well, considering that I recently completed an "Alice" series, of 28 books, that took 28 years to write, twelve books didn't seem like so many.  A series book, once I know the characters and setting well, usually takes about six months to write, and then I have six months to write something else.  I kept a long list of various events  that could take place in each book, and once I got started writing, other things naturally came to mind.

   IGC: The town of Buckman, West Virginia is based on the real town of Buckhannon,        WV, where your husband is from. Did you go there very often? Have you been there         since the books were published? If so, has the town changed much? Is Oldakkers Book     Store still there?

 PRN: I've been there a number of times, both to research the series and for  college reunions. The last I heard, that bookstore is still there, with the trap door in the floor. (I climbed down the ladder to take a peek)  It's been several years since we were back, so perhaps the store has a different name now, I'm not sure. The first time my husband took me there after we were married, one of the swinging footbridges across the river was still there. When he was  growing up, there were two. The lovely college has expanded with a number of new  buildings, but the house on Island Avenue where my husband lived is much like it was.
IGC: One more thing—the first book was published in 1993 before there were smart phones or even cell phones. In the first book Caroline gets locked in a tool shed and has to wait until someone came around to let her out. Do kids ever ask you why she didn’t just use her phone to call her sisters? And there was no email. The Hartford boys actually wrote letters to the Bensons—and had to wait for letters to come back! Do any kids tell you it seems strange nowadays?
PRN: I've not heard that, but I suppose it must seem strange. Cell phones make huge problems for writers. It used to be that we had to think of clever ways to get the parents out of the picture so that when a kid was faced with a problem, he had to solve it himself.  Now, if every kid has a cell phone in his pocket, where's the conflict in that?  I think that's one reason so many writers write fantasy.  No problem about cell phones there.  Actually, I have a new book coming out in January called GOING WHERE IT'S DARK, in which a boy gets into great difficult inside a cavern. He has a cell phone, but there's no service.

IGC: The last question. I ask this of all authors. Which do you prefer—cheeseburgers or pizza?  What
do you like on them?

PRN: Hmmm. That's close. A thin-crust pizza with mushrooms and sausage, please.

Got one coming up! Thanks, Ms. Reynolds! We really appreciate it. If you guys would like to know more about Ms. Reynolds and her books, including the terrific Boys vs. Girls series, check out her new website at     

And in honor of your outstanding books and being so good to let us interview you, we're going to give you the greatest honor we could possibly bestow and make you an Honorary Guy.

That's right--you now have the right to crack all the goofy jokes you'd like, make obnoxious noises at sporting events and eat insane amounts of food with no nutritional value. Yes, I know you're stunned at the greatness of this honor but don't worry--you've earned it!
All silliness aside, we truly appreciate your coming here and talking to us. And I'm going to look for your new book! Thanks again and, boys, be sure to check out her website but, more importantly, head over to your local library and check out her books!
(PS--if you'd like to see what the Iron Guy has said about the Boys vs Girls books, click on the "Boys vs Girls" tab under this post)