Monday, October 31, 2016

Justin Steps Up to the Plate

Hey, everyone, we've got a great Halloween treat for you. Our good friend Justin has sent two reviews for the World Series of Reading Contest. Let's see what he's read lately:

No Talking by Andrew Clements 
Genre: Realistic, School Fiction
Age Group: Middle Grade (8-12)
Publishing Date: June 27th 2007 by Atheneum Books

Summary: Goodreads: ""You have the right to remain silent." However... 

The fifth-grade girls and the fifth-grade boys at Laketon Elementary don't get along very well. But the real problem is that these kids are loud and disorderly. That's why the principal uses her red plastic bullhorn. A lot. 

Then one day Dave Packer, a certified loudmouth, bumps into an idea -- a big one that makes him try to keep quiet for a whole day. But what does Dave hear during lunch? A girl, Lynsey Burgess, jabbering away. So Dave breaks his silence and lobs an insult. And those words spark a contest: Which team can say the fewest words during two whole days? And it's the boys against the girls. 

How do the teachers react to the silence? What happens when the principal feels she's losing control? And will Dave and Lynsey plunge the whole school into chaos? 

This funny and surprising book is about language and thought, about words unspoken, words spoken in anger, and especially about the power of words spoken in kindness...with or without a bullhorn. It's Andrew Clements at his best -- thought-provoking, true-to-life, and very entertaining"

What I Liked: I've read this book a thousand times and it's a book where it simply doesn't get old. The Harry Potter fan will say books like Harry Potter never get old, but we all know that eventually, it's boring. But for some reason No Talking has always been my go to book whenever I'm at the library, even though I literally know exactly how it is going to play out. No Talking is a fast-paced book, and it's a battle-of-the-sexes which results in pure hilariousness. I've always loved Clements work, and this is the poster child of my argument.

What I didn't Like: If I will say something, this book is by no means for the literary genius who earns to read books like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby every hour. This books was targeted for the eight, nine, and ten year old kids who want a fun book to read. I'm not sure why a fourteen-year old freshman like me decides to feature books like this, but I feel like they're worth talking about. 

Rating: 8.6 out of ten.

Why? I mean, it's a classic, but it does have it's flaws, some of which the fact that it's not a very long book, which means that at times I wanted a little more description. 

 Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

Summary: Benjamin Ripley, a 12 year old living your average middle school life is being recruited for a science academy, secretly a spy school. Oh it's just another typical recruitment with a top-notch spy appearing in your living room after a long day of school. Ben has a "cryptography" skill and even though he bombs his SACSA's (basically a pre-assesement in self-preservation) he's kept in the school because of his "talent" for cryptography. Along the way he meets Erica Hale- the most beautiful girl he's ever seen, the best student in spy school's history, and a legacy (she's even related to all time spy legend Nathan Hale) But the introverted isolated Erica reaches out to Ben and reveals he has no skill whatsoever. Instead, he's being used as bait for something called Operation Creeping Badger, a plan created by the CIA to weed out the mole in Spy School. Ben decides to hop on the
train for one main reason: getting to spend time with Erica. I mean for three years she's practically been lonelier than a rock on a deserted island and now she reaches out to a nerd like Ben? Not only does it bring us his coolness by a mile, but spending time with your crush is the best feeling ever. But is it worth if it you end up being dead? Follow Stuart Gibbs's fantastic thriller through elaborate plans, midnight escapes, and lots of gun fighting as Ben and friends try to answer the question: Who's the mole? Oh and try to not get killed in the process.

What I liked: Everything? But seriously, it's just a well-written book. Humorous moments were weaved well into the diverse book. Lots of actions scenes, which of course you'd expect from a James Bond-esque book. I definitely liked the inclusion of a legacy in a book. I mean if you think about it any time you read about a private school there's always someone "who's great grand-father was the founder" or something like that. Not only is Erica's deceased relatives the founders of the school, but the country in general has been at the mercy of their family. I could talk for about 10 pages of how this book is awesome, but I feel like there wouldn't be any point to it.

What I didn't like: Let me just start out with saying: the cursing. Yes, there are bad words in this novel, but keep in mind this: I talked to the author himself and he said that he only stuck in the various language because it could give some character to the book, to spice things up. He was advised to do so by somebody (an editor I think?) and so he did and he received a million hate comments for it. He's removed all bad language from the rest of his books (unless you consider "stupid" "dumb" and "idiot" bad words) Another thing I didn't like was the classic format for all middle grade books. While it varies, in MG if we're talking about a kid and school it's always: There's a loser at blah blah school. Suddenly he catches a break and he talks to his crush. For half the book everything is really awesome with only minor flaws. Then there's a huge conflict at the end. The ending is either "YAY! We made it!" or "Aw, we lost" I feel like I could explain the plot of this book at a general level using the normal MG format, and while it's not bad, it's just overused.

Final Thoughts: A really, really, really great book with some minor flaws but nothing enough to make it bad.

Rating on 'the scale': 9.5 out of ten

Why? Minor flaws but nothing major. Really a great books that keeps things exciting and fresh.

Related: Spy School series by Stuart Gibbs/ Playing w/ Fire series by Bruce Hale/ Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Wow, Justin, these are very thorough reviews! Thanks! A lot of guys like Spy School and that whole series gets checked out of our library all the time. Andrew Clements writes terrific books. You'll probably read Frindle some time in high or middle school but he has, as you can see, written other good stuff. And that was a great idea to give us related books for Spy School.

All right, guys, just as Chicago has created excitement by forcing a Game 6 of the World Series, Justin has created excitement by scoring points for his reviews--a Single for his No Talking review and a Double for Spy School, giving him a total of three points! That's a very good starting lead but I bet there are other guys out there who could hit some Doubles and Triples of their own--maybe even some Home Runs! Will YOU be the one? Send in those reviews and build the suspense in the World Series of Reading!

PS--check out Justin's terrific blog, Justin Talks Books.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

We Interrupt This World Series of Reading Contest--

--to bring you my annual Halloween rant. You may have seen it last year and the year before, in which I basically say that Halloween should be FUN. Scary, yes, but in a fun way. Not with all the gruesome stuff you see nowadays that would give nightmares to your nightmares. But enough about that--
I'm going to tell you about some books that are good for Halloween and are a whole lot of fun. And most of them are about Mad Scientists.

That's because the library has held a Community Read event in October. The grownups read the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, a story about a scientist whose experiment worked--and with bad and unforeseen results. For kids, the library picked The Fourteenth Goldfish, a book about a scientist whose experiment succeeded but with unforeseen results. Were they bad? You have to figure that one out!

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Ellie's brilliant scientist grandfather, Melvin Sagarsky, (who has a fan club in Finland) has invented a serum that reverses aging. The problem is that it turned him into a 13-year-old boy! The police didn't believe he wasn't just a kid and took him to live with Ellie and her mom. But he still acts like a cranky old guy. And he has to go to middle school again. And he wants to let the Nobel committee about his wonderful invention. He's bound to get one--after all,  it would be great to be young forever, right? Right? Maybe...
This book had a good story that moved right along. It was fun to see the interaction between Ellie, her grandfather (looking like a kid) and Ellie's mom. It also brings up lots of good ideas for discussion and has lots of interesting info about notable scientists at the end.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

Oh, man, now here's a book to bust your gut from laughing! Brilliant kid inventor Frank Einstein is living for a while with his brilliant scientist grandfather, Al Einstein. (not that Einstein!) Frank tries, like Victor Frankenstein, to create something living out of inanimate matter--in this case, a web camera, a Shop Vac, a jumbo kitchen trash can and other parts. Does he succeed? And can he actually create an endless supply of energy using matter/antimatter? The only way to find out is to read this terrific book! And you'll find laughs and thrills while reading, along with a chimp that spells "Peace out" in sign language, a robot that tells stupid jokes and a giant Antimatter Squirt Gun.

Science FairScience Fair by Dave Barry

Oh, man, what a GREAT audiobook! I heard this many years ago and never forgot it. One of the funniest things you will ever listen to. It would take too long to explain, so let me simply say that Dave Barry creates an amazing laugh ride out of a high school science fair and national security, spies from the country Krpshtskan (led by the dictator Grdankl the Strong) who become obsessed with shopping channels, a floating frog, a mysterious dude in the mall's science store who makes mysterious things happen, and the biggest Nuclear Mentos experiment of all time!

Frankenstein Takes The Cake

Frankenstein Makes A SandwichFrankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex

And I can't post about Frankenstein without mentioning these two oldies but really goodies. These are books of poems (yes, poems!) that will make any guy laugh out loud. In the first, we wonder what happens when the Invisible Man gets a haircut, who would tell Dracula he has something green stuck in his teeth and if The Phantom of the Opera gets "It's a Small World" out of his head. In the second, Frankenstein gets married. But why can't Dracula eat anything on the buffet? And what is on the Headless Horseman's blog? And why does no one go to Skull Island anymore? And why does Frankenstein really want a harpist at the wedding? These books have been around quite a while and they still get checked out. You truly owe it to yourselves to find out why!

OK, boys, these are perfect for Halloween or any time of year. Check them out and have  a fun Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Batter Up! And Readers Up!

OK, boys, the WORLD SERIES OF READING CONTEST starts today! Check out yesterday's post to see all the rules. We;'re waiting to see who knocks some out of the park!

Cleveland/Chicago--first time for a championship in a long time
And what a time to hold our contest! The World Series often has a lot of drama and this year it has started even before the first pitch has been thrown. That's because the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians are playing each other. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. To put that in perspective, Teddy Roosevelt was president and Henry Ford introduced the first Model T car! The
Cleveland Indians have won a little more recently--their last championship was 1948! To put that into perspective, Harry Truman was president and World War II had been over for only three years. 
People were driving these the last time the Cubs won a World Series!
This World Series promises to be memorable, so let's make this World Series of Reading one to remember! Good luck and send in those reviews.

Monday, October 24, 2016

World Series of Reading 2016!

Hey, boys, here's a great contest for you--the 2016 World Series of Reading! We had a fun March Madness of Reading seven months ago and I thought it's time for another contest. And what better time than the World Series!

All America used to watch the World Series

It's not so popular now but you wouldn't believe how big the World Series once was. It was all that people talked about. The whole nation hung on every game. I remember a time that our teacher brought a TV into our classroom so we could watch a game. The players weren't just stars, they were heroes. Some of the games became legends. Imagine the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals combined. That's how big it was. Now it gets beat in the ratings by Dancing with the Stars. Sad.

Which is all the more reason to hold a contest during the week of the World Series. Our contest will start tomorrow, Tuesday, October 25, and go on through Wednesday, November 2, which would be how long the Series would run if it went all seven games. The rules will be simple; you read books and then you send in a review of each book or audiobook. Each review is worth at least one point. Some will be worth more points. I'll count up the points after Nov. 2 and the three boys with the most points will win. What will the winners get? Well, I'll tell you about that in a couple of minutes.

So how does the contest work? I'm glad you asked. Boys can read anything you'd like--fiction, graphic novels, nonfiction or biographies. And for the first time, I'll include audioboks because they are so great. Any review you send is worth one point. That makes it a SINGLE.

However, there are some books that are other boys have told us about during the year and I'd to like see more boys read them. Or there are some books that are really good and don't get enough attention. Reviews of these books will be worth two points, making them DOUBLES. These books are:

Any in the Alvin Ho, Stick Dog, Spy School, Mysterious Benedict Society, Brixton Brothers or Ballpark Mysteries series or any graphic novel in the Fangbone series.


There are other books which are really good but longer and more challenging.  Reviews of these books will be worth three points, making them TRIPLES. These books are:

Stubby the War Dog
, Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze, any book in the Leviathan trilogy or any nonfiction book about the World Series.

And, for the first time, any review of an audiobook will be worth three points.

But wait--there's more! A review of any book in The Copernicus Legacy series or a review of The Boys in the Boat or The Fourteenth Goldfish (the library's Community Read book for kids) will be worth four points, making it a HOME RUN.

So what would it take for a GRAND SLAM? A review of The YearlingTreasure Island, or The Hound of the Baskervilles. These books are older and also more challenging but also much more rewarding, making each review worth five points.

All right, guys, those are the rules. I will start accepting reviews tomorrow until midnight on Nov. 2. I'll try my best to announce the winners on Thursday, Nov. 3. Remember, when you send in a review, be sure to include the title, author, a brief summary of the plot and why you did or didn't like the book. Don't just say, "This book was cool. I liked it." Tell us why you did. Or didn't. There are instructions on sending reviews in the "Here's How Our Blog Works" box on the right-hand side of the page. Or you could call me at the Myers Park library at 704-416-5800. Winners will get prizes our of our ultra-cool prize box, which contains mostly books. All of them are ultra-cool, of course, but there may be a surprise or two.

So step up to the plate, boys, and send in those reviews. I know it may be hard with school going on but I have faith in all you MANLY MEN out there! I can't wait to hear from you!

PS--if you want to find out more about any of the books I've mentioned, click on the title in the "labels" section under this post.

Friday, October 14, 2016

More Cool Reads (and One Cool Listen)

Greetings, everyone! The Iron Guy is pleased to present you a collection of cool stuff I've read lately plus one audiobook. These are in random order. No theme to this selection--just stuff that I pulled off the shelves that looked interesting. Most of these would be good for younger reader guys, like second and third graders, but older guys would also get a smile or two out them.

The Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey and illustrated by Dan Santat

Wow! Are these books fun! I read three--Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot, Ricky's Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs the Jurassic Jackrabbits from Jupiter and Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs the Unpleasant Penguins from Pluto. In the first, we meet Ricky Ricotta, who is "A little mouse with a big problem." The bullies at school make his life miserable plus he has a hard time making friends. Where could he find a buddy who could also keep the bullies away? Meanwhile, Dr. Stinky McNasty has created a giant robot to destroy Ricky's town of Squeakyville. Who could stand between it and the town's destruction? Could it be Ricky?
In the second, the evil General Jackrabbit has created three enormous killer rabbits with dinosaur heads to take over the Solar System. Could even a Mighty Robot withstand a Rabbidactyl, a Trihareatops and a Bunnysaurus Rex?
In the third, Ricky has insulted his cousin Lucy and tries (with the robot's help) to make up for it but that only leads Lucy to the spaceship of President Penguin, leader of Pluto, who is determined to punish the scientists of Squeakyville for declaring that Pluto is no longer a planet. And the giant robot penguins have a secret weapon that can stop even the Mighty Robot. How could anyone help? (you'd be surprised!)
As I said, these books are a lot of fun! And the artwork is nothing short of awesome! Besides, how could you not enjoy books that have Flip-O-Rama??

The Kung Pow Chicken series by Cyndi Marko

Gordon Blue and his younger brother Benny seem like ordinary school kids living in Fowladelphia but the have a secret--they are really superheroes!!

In the first, Let's Get Cracking, Gordon and Benny are at the annual Fowl Fall Festival. Things seem ordinary when, suddenly, all their classmates lose all their feathers! And, just as suddenly, there's an old granny selling knitted sweaters! Time for Kung Pow Chicken and Egg Drop to spring into action! But are Kung Pow's Drumsticks of Doom any match for the Naughty Knitting Needles?

Every hero has a sidekick, of course, and Kung Pow Chicken has his younger brother, aka Egg Drop. So, when in Heroes on the Side, Egg Drop gets invited to a sidekicks party in New Yolk City, things seem fine--until are the sidekicks are trapped by Ticklebeak and his Bad Eggs!! (Fortunately, Gordon and Benny were in their hotel room) The heroes rush in to save the sidekicks but the Bad Eggs get away. But wait--there's a plot to capture to heroes as well! Can sidekicks save the day?
These are also a lot of fun with goofy jokes and chicken superheroes. I ask you again--how could you not enjoy them?

The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon by Meghan McCarthy (author and illustrator)

Have you ever heard the expression that "truth is stranger than fiction"? Well, sometimes is it not only stranger, it's a whole lot goofier! You'll definitely believe that when you read this true story of the first Olympic Marathon held in America.
It was held in conjunction with the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. And it was summer. 90 degrees on the day of the race! And they ran on dirt roads. With cars that passed by and choked the runners with dust. Some runners were more interested in looking good than running fast. One guy got chased a mile off course by a dog! Another guy, from Cuba, stopped and practiced his English with cheering spectators! The doctor drove off a 30-foot embankment and the winning runner didn't win! Oh, man, that was a wild race and this is one very entertaining book. It's short, funny and a truly good Quick Read. Plus, there's a good section at the end that tells what became of the main runners after the race and about the 1904 World's Fair. This book would be good for younger and older readers.

The Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott

Wow, oh, wow, I have certainly saved the best for the last. This is the audiobook version of the first book in that amazing Copernicus Legacy series by the incredible Tony Abbott. If you have read this blog for a while, you'll know that I'm a HUGE fan of these books. (It would take too long to tell you about them, so click on the Copernicus Legacy or The Forbidden Stone label under this post to find out more) This recording by actor MacLeod Andrews perfectly captures all the things that are great about The Copernicus Legacy--the danger, the mystery, the almost-unbearable suspense, the coded puzzles, the creepy bad guys and even the humor. I found myself listening while driving around town, while coming to work, when coming home from work--and then sitting in the driveway to hear a little more! You won't want to stop listening either! BTW, this is long and complicated for younger guys but it would be perfect for fifth and sixth graders.

OK, here's a good selection of cool reads and listens. Don't tell me there's no time--these are quick and fun. And, if you get driven to school, this audiobook is the perfect way to pass the time. Besides, I bet the grownups will enjoy it too!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Four Cool New Reads

First week of October greetings, guys! The gorgeous fall weather has finally arrived, rewarding all us MANLY MEN for enduring the humid Charlotte summer. I've also found some very cool books that I bet you boys would really enjoy.

The first is Star Wars: The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry and illustrated by Phil Noto. It takes place
between Episodes IV and V, soon after Luke and the rebels destroyed the Death Star. Luke agrees to rendezvous with his fellow rebels in another system but, on his way, gets an urging to go to the planet Devaron. (could it be from the Force?) Luke finds an old Jedi temple there, destroyed by the Empire, and thinks it could be a good place to further his light saber training. But it's in the jungle and the only person willing to take him there is someone called The Scavenger. Doesn't sound good, does it?
I really enjoyed this! It had the feel of of one the the movies and I could picture every scene in my mind. Plus it has all the action, space battles and storm trooper attacks you'd expect form a Star Wars movie. And it's written by Jason Fry, who wrote that terrific Hunt for the Hydra book. (see my review here) Any Star Wars fan or simply anyone who enjoys a good read will like this.

The next is from the great Who Was... series. It's Who Was Roberto Clemente? by James Buckley, Jr. and illustrated by Ted Hammond. Roberto Clemente was the first Latin American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Born in Puerto Rico in 1934, he got into the major leagues when he was 19 and spoke very little English. And, like his contemporary Jackie Robinson, he faced discrimination. But no one could deny his talent and he became a hugely successful and popular player. And he always remembered his humble beginnings back in Puerto Rico and worked tirelessly to help out kids and improve their baseball skills. This book like, all the Who Was.. and What Were.. books, are interesting, informative and keep you reading until the last page. And, at 103 pages, it's just the right length for any boy who's looking for a good story, especially those who think they don't like reading. (plus it's relevant after the recent tragic death of pitcher Jose Fernandez)

Then we have two books that I've wanted to read for a long time. And am I glad that I finally did! These books are Stick Dog and Stick Dog Tries to Take the Donuts by Tom Watson. (who also draws the pictures) They are great! Funny! A whole lot of fun to read! The idea is that an elementary school kid, who tells you up front that he can't draw, has written stories in his notebooks about Stick Dog, a dog living in a drain pipe under Highway 16, and his friends Poo-Poo, Stripes, Karen and Mutt. Since they all live outdoors, they are always looking for food and the stories are about the goofball ideas those dogs come up with to get it. (Hey, they're dogs! They use dog logic) In the first book, they try to come up with ways to get hamburgers from a family cooking out in the park. These methods involve, in true dog fashion, running into trees and banging their heads, chasing their tails at whirlwind speed and howling with the baby. Great plans, right? In the second book, the dogs discover some round things with holes in the middle that taste really good but they're in a box on the back of a truck. Can the dogs figure out how to get those yummy round things without being discovered by the human working from that truck? You gotta read these book to find out!! And you will laugh loud and long when you do. Oh, yeah! Dogs that bounce, dogs on coffee, dogs with squirrels as mortal enemies--how could you not like them?

All these books are really good and can be read fairly quickly. (I read most of them in one sitting) Any guy, from the enthusiastic reader to what the grownups call a reluctant reader will get a kick out of them. Don't believe me? Check them out and see!