Sunday, January 27, 2008

Susan Beth Pfeffer. THE DEAD AND THE GONE

I got my lucky hands on an advance copy of the companion novel to LIFE AS WE KNEW IT* by Susan Beth Pfeffer, called THE DEAD AND THE GONE (due out in June). When I first heard about the book, I thought it was a sequel, and I was anxious to see what happened to Miranda and her family after the disaster. Then I learned that this is actually a companion novel, and I came to realize that this was a much more interesting direction to go in (which is why the author decided to write this story, I’m sure). We get to go back to the same events in the first story, but see them in a completely different city, with different people. In this novel, we get to see how these events affect New York City. Now that I think about it, I was curious how this disaster would play out in other areas in the world while I was reading the first book. So, it seems natural that the author would explore this from another point of view, and I am glad she did.

We join Alex Morales on the day of the asteroid hitting the moon. He’s working at the pizza parlor. He doesn’t even realize what’s happened for a while, since it was a cloudy night. Then when his uncle shows up later that night at his house to take them all to his grocery shop to gather up all the food, he begins to see how bad things are. Alex’s mom has been called to work at the hospital. His father is away in Puerto Rico. His brother is away in the Marines. Alex, who is only seventeen, is left to take care of his two younger sisters. Since it’s on the coast, New York is affected by the flooding from the tsunamis. Whole boroughs of New York are being evacuated. People who can leave are leaving the city for safer places. The city slowly declines to feeling half-dead. Alex isn’t sure if he should leave the city, since he’s hoping his mom and dad will return.

This was just a gripping as the first novel. Ms. Pfeffer evoked the same eerie mood just as brilliantly as in the first book. I was glad to visit this world again, even as depressing as it was. It was intriguing to see how different people handle this type of tragedy. Alex was carrying a tremendous weight on his shoulders, and I was amazed that he could continually find the strength to go on. It makes you wonder how you would handle it yourself. The drama was heart wrenching and completely realistic. And yet somehow, the book ends with hope. I’m still thinking about how haunting the first book was, so now I’ll have two versions of the story to haunt me!

*My review of the first book is here


By the way, sometimes the cover on the Advance Reading Copy is different from when the final copy is published. I really, really hope they keep the cover on this one. I love it. It portrays the mood of the book so well. And isn't it just beautiful!

Ms. Pfeffer's written a ton of other books. Check it out here:
http://www.iblist.com/author8156.htm

More about her at her blog:
http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com/

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

A few of my favorites in honor of the day:

My favorite quote:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My favorite books:
The first two are picture books and the last one is an amazing account of MLK, the Southern Christian Leaderhip Conference and the whole movement.



MARTIN’S BIG WORDS by Doreen Rappaport & Brian Collier.
This is a simple, yet moving book. It says a lot with minimal words and magnificent illustrations






I’VE SEEN THE PROMISED LAND
by Walter Dean Myers & Leonard Jenkins.
This one also has glorious illustrations and depicts much of life during this time period in a succinct but meaningful way.




BEARING THE CROSS
by David J Garrow
1987 winner of the Pulitzer Prize
If you want a detailed, comprehensive account of the life of Dr. MLK, Jr., this is the book. Garrow draws on over 700 interviews with those who worked with him, as well as those who opposed him. Plus, he had access to King’s personal papers and thousands of FBI documents. It’s over 800 pages and by the time you finish it, you’ll feel like you lived through it yourself! **not a book for middle schoolers, this is definitely an adult book due to content.

Meg Cabot. JINX

Even though Jean isn’t crazy about her name, she’s even less enthusiastic about her nickname, Jinx. But, she has been called Jinx for a reason. Bad luck seems to follow her everywhere. It even follows her from her small hometown in Iowa to New York, where she has escaped some “events” that she doesn’t like to talk about. Her parents arranged for her to live with her cousins, aunt and uncle in the big city. Unfortunately, she thought she could leave her luck and nickname back in Iowa, but her cousin Tory is all too happy to tell everyone about her nickname. Then her cousin begins to plot against her. She accuses Jinx of stealing her best friend & boyfriend with such an evil look in her eyes that it really worries Jinx. Especially since Tory has a very dark side. Maybe Iowa wasn’t so bad after all.
Since I was already familiar with Meg Cabot, (who isn’t) I knew I’d enjoy this one. The woman is so prolific. Every time I turn around, she’s written another book. This one was a fun, satisfying read, with a little bit of mystery and a little bit of love.

If you’ve been living under a rock & aren’t already familiar with Meg Cabot, here’s her website:
http://www.megcabot.com/

Her blog: http://www.megcabot.com/diary/

I love the Princess Diaries series, again- who doesn’t. But, my two favorite series by her are:



The 1-800-Where-R-U Series begins with WHEN LIGHNING STRIKES
and has FOUR more books after that. Jessica Mastriani is one of the most enjoyable main characters I’ve encountered. Cabot has written her with such humor and wit. I just really love this series.






The Mediator Series begins with SHADOWLAND and has FIVE more books after that. In this series, the main character, Suze, communicates with ghosts. The ghosts won’t leave her alone until she helps them with their unfinished business.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sherman Alexie. THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN.

I went into this one not knowing what to expect. I had read the rave reviews. But, I had no idea what the book was about. The title didn’t reveal much either. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a refreshing book about a boy learning to make his way in two different worlds. Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, is a Spokane Indian living on a reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. After receiving a textbook in geometry class that belonged to his mother more than 30 years ago, he becomes disgusted with education on the reservation. He makes a bold decision. He is going to attend the high school in the next town in Reardon. It’s an all-white school. So, not only does he have to face the guilt of deserting his reservation, but he must face the scrutiny and racism at the all-white school. But, he knows if he is ever going to make something of himself, he must go to a better school. All this sounds pretty serious, and the book does have some heavy topics. But, it has its fair share of humor as well. When describing the rules of fighting on the reservation, Junior explains his fighting skills:

"Yes, I was a terrible fighter.
I was a human punching bag.
I lost fights to boys, girls, and kids half my age.
One bully, Micah, made me beat up myself. Yes, he made me punch myself in the face three times. I am the only Indian in the history of the world who ever lost a fight with himself."

Yeah, it definitely makes you laugh, but it also makes you sad, happy, and hopeful. As an added bonus, the illustrations scattered throughout the book are downright hilarious!

For more on Alexie, click here: http://www.fallsapart.com/

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Kieran Scott. A NON-BLONDE CHEERLEADER IN LOVE.


The third installment of NON-BLONDE cheerleader is just as much fun as the original two! I had forgotten how well Ms. Scott writes and how funny she is. We join Annisa after their thrilling win at nationals. The team has finally gelled and is getting along great. Then, Coach Holmes makes a decision that throws the team into turmoil again. She’s decided to bring guys onto the team. That's right, the first boy cheerleaders ever in the history of Sand Dune High! Annisa is thrilled, since her boyfriend, Daniel, tries out & makes the team. She figures she’ll get to see him all the time. Plus, they’ll get to do much more difficult stunts However, the guys have other plans. The battle of the sexes begins. Will the squad ever be the national champion squad it once was? I enjoyed this one & look forward to the next one. Loved it!

Kieran Scott's next book comes out May 29th. It's called GEEK MAGNET. How cute is this cover!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Cynthia Kadohata. WEEDFLOWER

Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Americans of Japanese ancestry (either born in Japan or born here as American citizens) were relocated to relocation/concentration camps. Twelve-year-old Sumiko lived with her family on their flower farm. Then one day her uncle and grandpa are taken away. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the family is told to pack a small bag and report to a relocation camp. They sold what they could, but mostly, they lost everything. The rest of the story is about how Sumiko and her family deal with living in camp. After losing their freedom, it’s amazing how well they were able to cope. The camp was in Arizona, the hottest of all the camps. Yet, even with the desert conditions, Sumiko and her neighbors are able to grow beautiful gardens. They are kept in the dark about the events of the war, so they have no idea how long they’ll be in the camp. Then, Sumiko’s cousins and the other men are asked to enlist in the army. They must decide if they can fight for a country that doesn’t even trust them with their own freedom. This is a beautifully written novel about a time in our history that many people conveniently forget. The details are amazingly real. This is historical fiction at its best, because you are living in this time period experiencing these events through Sumiko.

By the way, the author also wrote the Newbery Award Winning book for 2005, called KIRA-KIRA

Here’s her website: http://www.kira-kira.us/index.html Check her out!