Deadweather and sunrise – The Chronicles of Egg

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Deadweather & Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey (the Chronicles of Egg ;1) Published by Puffin, 2012. 288 p. Available in NZ bookshops rrp $19.99.

From the publisher:

A stunning middle-grade debut–full of heart, humor, and nonstop action

“It’s tough to be thirteen, especially when somebody’s trying to kill you.

Not that Egg’s life was ever easy, growing up on sweaty, pirate-infested Deadweather Island with no company except an incompetent tutor and a pair of unusually violent siblings who hate his guts.

But when Egg’s father hustles their family off on a mysterious errand to fabulously wealthy Sunrise Island, then disappears with the siblings in a freak accident, Egg finds himself a long-term guest at the mansion of the glamorous Pembroke family and their beautiful, sharp-tongued daughter Millicent. Finally, life seems perfect.

Until someone tries to throw him off a cliff.

Suddenly, Egg’s running for his life in a bewildering world of cutthroat pirates, villainous businessmen, and strange Native legends. The only people who can help him sort out the mystery of why he’s been marked for death are Millicent and a one-handed, possibly deranged cabin boy.

Come along for the ride. You’ll be glad you did.”

Book trailer:

Geoff Rodkey talking about this book:

What do I think about this book?

Loved it! Seriously good adventurous, romping, swashbuckling good fun! The author mentioned (in his video interview above) that people had told him they thought the book felt like a younger version of the Princess bride and I can see why they would think that. I thought this book had so many great elements, that the reader couldn’t pin down all the influences, making it feel like a highly original story. There is a subtle quirkiness to this story… a very slight ‘Lemony Snickett type change of circumstance’ that you sense rather than acutely observe, with some humour there as well. The jokes and humour aren’t as obvious as Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean either…more that when you read about the pirates there is a little barely suppressed giggle you feel bubbling up from deep inside. The book is a fantasy, given it is set in a made up land and time, but because it is without any magical or supernatural elements it feels realistic and spookily historically accurate (sort of!) It is so cleverly done that I am struggling to describe why I found it so readable…it just is fantastic…

I started this and then just had to read through to the end – when I got to the last page I felt like I had been in the story with the characters. It is an absolutely delightful book and I could see it being a runaway hit as a movie (provided a director could make it look as wonderful as the story I saw in my imagination). Boys and girls will both thoroughly enjoy this book. Egg is a great character that I really liked from page one and he’s pretty brave so boys will think they are reading a “boys book”, but Millicent is an eccentric, strong, feisty and principled character that girls will love too.

Recommended 9+ by the publisher but would be a good read up to year 8/9. This is the first book in a planned trilogy, the second book is out mid year.

Highly recommended!

Author website (very funny and quirky): http://geoffrodkey.com

A story to capture your heart and never let it go… ‘The One and only Ivan’

It is almost impossible to describe the impact this book has on everyone that reads it.

“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.” 

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The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Published by Harper Collins, 2012. Available in NZ bookstores in the PB edition pictured here, rrp.$18.99

From the publisher:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

Book trailer:

Reviews and praise:

Kirkus Reviews (starred review): “How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage. … Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates.”

Gary D. Schmidt “This book will break your heart—and then, against all odds, mend it again.”

Source: Author Website

What do I think about this book?

Another book I am reviewing and recommending late in the piece. Like Wonder by R.J. Palacio, I am hoping this book wins a Newbery Honor if not the Newbery Medal (announced January 28th 2013).

I challenge anyone young or old to read this and not see animals in captivity in a new light.

The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, but the inspiration for this imagined tale lies with a true story. Ivan, a real gorilla, lived at Zoo Atlanta, but on the way to that happy ending, he spent almost three decades without seeing another of his own kind before being moved to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.” Katherine Applegate

The story is told by Ivan from his point of view. I love the way the author captured the way an intelligent creature might see humans (his captors) and how he would rationalise his captivity. We come to really understand him, where he came from and who he is.  The way he rises above his own struggle for survival in order to help the baby elephant Ruby is a lesson for all children in understanding empathy, caring, kindness, hope and love.

This is a beautiful and moving narrative and is powerful as a read aloud. Useful for teaching both narrative and simile. Chapters are mainly short with lots of white space giving the book an airy poetic feel. The structure and layout is great for reluctant readers who struggle with too much text.

Highly and heartily recommended for Year 5-Year 8. Copies in both our Junior Library and Middle Senior too.  (From Year 4 or 8 years old as a read aloud with lots of discussion and tissues!)

Author website:

http://theoneandonlyivan.com/book/

Teacher’s resources:

http://files.harpercollins.com/HCChildrens/OMM/Media/OneAndOnlyIvan_DG_4.pdf

Extra Ivan goodness :

Interview with Katherine Applegate (Publisher’s weekly) about how the story of the ‘Real Ivan’ was Katherine’s inspiration: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/49777-q-a-with-katherine-applegate.html

Teachers – see this moving video by wonderful 4th Grade teacher Colby Sharp – I love how he talks about how this book affected his students. This is a teacher passionate about books and reading! Link to Mr Sharp’s blog here

Quotes from the book (Compiled at Goodreads) can be found here

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Jack you’re not an ordinary boy…’Sorrowline’ an exciting adventure

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Sorrowline by Niel Bushnell. (The Timesmith chronicles), Published by Andersen Press, 2013.  331 pages. Available in NZ bookstores RRP $20.95.

“You have a rare gift Jack: you’re a yard boy, a voyager through graveyards. You can travel through the Sorrowlines. They’re tunnels, tunnels through time. Every grave, it’s connected to the date of the person’s death by a Sorrowline. Yard Boys like you, Jack – they can open up a Sorrowline and travel along it, right into the past.”

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Jack Morrow is used to life being complicated. His mother died five years ago, and his father is now headed for prison. But then Jack discovers he’s a Yard Boy – someone with the ability to travel through Sorrowlines, the channels that connect every gravestone with the date of the person’s death – and he is quickly pulled into an adventure beyond anything he could have possibly imagined. Finding himself in 1940s war-torn London, with his then – teenage grandfather, Davey, Jack soon realises that his arrival in the past has not gone unnoticed. The evil forces of a secret world are determined to find him – and to find out all he knows. As Jack struggles to survive, he comes ever closer to unlocking the dark secret at the heart of his family, and to – just maybe – changing his own destiny…

Book trailer:

What did I think of this book?

There are quite a few original elements that make this different from other time travel books, but plenty of things that will make readers feel they are in comfortable and familiar territory. The time travel method of traveling back to a period of time tied to a person’s date of death is new – it makes for some excitement in the story because if the characters need to travel to a particular date then they need to find a gravestone first (or get chased around a graveyard while they look for one!)  The other thing that is noticeably different about this story is that the period in which a lot of the book is set is in the 1940s during the Blitz in London. This seems very vividly drawn and well described and adds another frisson of fear into the story – before the villain catches up with our hero Jack, he could be blown to bits by a bomb or trapped in debris or a burning building. It is here that Jack meets his own Grandfather as a young man and Jack learns more about his family.

The contrast between Jack’s seemingly ordinary life in 2013 London couldn’t be more different than what he experiences in the past. It is here that we find the fantastical elements of an alternate world story with many interesting characters with unusual roles both good and bad along the way.

I think this will be a hit with many of my students – the blend of fantasy world, time travel and modern day adventure will appeal to the kids who enjoy Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicle’s type adventures.

A theory of Time Travel – if you are interested in the science behind the “time travel paradox” you might find this YouTube video of an interview with Dr Ronald Mallett (a theoretical physicist) interesting. I found this brief article from brainpickings.org here: “Einstein, Goedel, and the science of time travel (or Meeting your future grandchildren in a rotating universe) by Maria Popova, brainpickings.org 19 July 2012″.

THE READER MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

Don’t judge a boy by his face… ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio

A book that has made a huge impact since it’s debut and release in early 2012 – I think it is a stimulating story for teaching about the PYP attitude ‘Empathy’ and encouraging Kindness. This is a powerful narrative – brilliant for reading aloud.

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Published by Random House, 2012. Paperback available in NZ book stores rrp: $19.99

Synopsis:

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

Reviews & Praise (source author website):

Kirkus Reviews December 2011: “After being homeschooled for years, Auggie Pullman is about to start fifth grade, but he’s worried: How will he fit into middle-school life when he looks so different from everyone else?”

“Palacio divides the novel into eight parts, interspersing Auggie’s first-person narrative with the voices of family members and classmates, wisely expanding the story beyond Auggie’s viewpoint and demonstrating that Auggie’s arrival at school doesn’t test only him, it affects everyone in the community. Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too. A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.”

Publisher’s weekly: “…Though he has some expectedly horrible experiences at school, Auggie has lucked out with the adults in his life–his parents love him unconditionally, and his principal and teachers value kindness over all other qualities. While one bully manages, temporarily, to turn most of Auggie’s classmates against him (Auggie likens this to becoming the human equivalent of “the Cheese Touch,” a clever Diary of a Wimpy Kid reference), good wins out. Few first novels pack more of a punch: it’s a rare story with the power to open eyes–and hearts–to what it’s like to be singled out for a difference you can’t control, when all you want is to be just another face in the crowd. “ 

Book trailer:

Author interview:  R.J. Palacio talks about her inspiration and has some ideas for teachers wanting to use the book trailer as a provocation for discussion:

What do I think about this book?

I am rather late highlighting this book – when it came out last year I wasn’t working as a children’s librarian and I hadn’t started this blog. I read it late last year as a copy was held in the Middle School section of my library. Recently my family listened to the audio book as we made a road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. I was incredibly moved by the book when I read it and again, as my whole family aged 10-49 were enthralled by the story (there were times we all had tears rolling down our cheeks – the next minute we would be laughing out loud). It is both sad and uplifting at the same time – and the author never lets things get too maudlin, the sadness is tempered with just the right amount of humor. This is one of those memorable stories that stays with you weeks and months after reading it, probably for life!

‘Choose Kind’ will be the focus of the first Library display I make this year. I would love to inspire all my students to start the year thinking about others and how to treat everyone in their lives, and everyone they meet, with kindness and caring. This book has a powerful anti-bullying message. Recommended for ages 9/10 through to adult!

CHOOSE KIND CAMPAIGN:

Blog at Tumblr

Teacher resources:

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Wonder_EG_WEB.pdfReviews:

Teach mentor texts post on Wonder: http://www.teachmentortexts.com/2012/04/wonder.html#axzz1rpDrD0mC

Author website for RJ Palaciowww.http://rjpalacio.com

Spinning a magical tale…The Spin by Rebecca Lisle

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The Spin by Rebecca Lisle, Published by Hot key Books, 2013. 357 pages.

From the publisher:

His destiny lies across a dangerous sky….

Stormy is an orphan and a kitchen skivvy. He tends the compost, he scrubs the floors, and watches feasts make their way up the mountain as he survives on bread and water. A skivvy is all that Stormy can hope to be. But Stormy has a secret. He wants to be a sky-rider, to soar amongst the clouds on spitfyres: flying horses that spit fire and smoke, and answer only to their riders. A chance meeting with an escaped convict turns Stormy’s life upside down. Sent up to the Academy he uncovers a web of lies, deceits and neglect, at the centre of which lies the mysterious thirteenth horse. Can Stormy save Thirteen, defeat the dark forces at work within the Academy and prove himself worthy as a sky-rider?

From the editor: “THE SPIN is an utterly charming story, perfect for fans of Harry Potter or How to Train Your Dragon, who like their adventure with magic, heart and humour. Rebecca Lisle has woven a wonderful adventure story inspired by Dickens’ Great Expectations – a story featuring a lonely but plucky little orphan Stormy, a mysterious benefactor and a stuck-up, enigmatic young girl – and a healthy dose of flying horses. Heartwarming and thrilling by turns, it’s a story to be loved by all the family, with the feel of a classic.”

What do I think about this book?

I absolutely loved it! Some books stay with you long after you have finished them and this was one of them. It has taken me a few days to write this post as I kept thinking about the characters (even then I am lost for words, which just proves I am not a writer – it’s very hard to do this book justice and not sound trite!) As I was reading this story I felt that I had been transported into Stormy’s world with the magical alternate world within it. The writing is fresh and original, it may have had Great Expectations as its inspiration but it certainly is a modern book and not having read Great Expectations recently, I really felt this was a “new” tale. It is so refreshing to read a story about a magical creature that is unfamiliar – I have read lots of stories featuring a pegasus or dragon but a gutsy flying horse that breathes fire and sparks (and isn’t a playful pony), is a novelty. The plot is complex without being complicated – it requires careful reading so that the reader can savour it. I was torn between wanting to find out what happened next whilst luxuriating in the story and not wanting it to end!

This story will be a great read for older children from year 5 up into year 8/9, with plenty of drama and suspense. It would also work very well as a family read aloud for slightly younger children.

Can I also add how much I love the cover – thank heavens it is not the typical dragon/pegasus fantasy style cover – the silhouetted figures against the spiral are really eye catching and I can see lots of students picking this out when it is on display.

**At the time of writing Hot Key Books publications are not distributed in New Zealand**

I have it on good authority that this situation will change this year…which is brilliant because I can honestly say I have enjoyed every title I have read…in addition each book has this handy “key” printed on the back of the cover or on the website. Here is the key for this book which indicates the content as follows: (50% Fantasy adventure, 25% Flying horses, 25% friendship).

hotkey spin

Extra bits of Spin related goodness:

Here is a blog post from the author, where she talks about her inspiration for the story and how some of the characters and plot developed.

Download the first chapter here.

Author website: http://www.rebeccalisle.com

RELATED POSTS:

The worst thing about my sister

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The worst thing about my sister by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt. Published by Doubleday, 2012. Available in NZ bookstores $18.99.

From the publisher:

Being a sister isn’t always easy… but what’s the very worst thing about your sister? Marty and her sister Melissa couldn’t be more different. Marty loves her Converse trainers, playing football, hiding in her secret den and helping her dad with his DIY. But Melissa loves Justin Bieber and all things pink, girly and pretty.

The sisters can manage to live together, despite their occasional scraps but then Mum tells them they have to share a room. For Marty, having to share her bunk beds and lose her private sanctuary turns out to be the very worst thing about having a sister. But the girls soon discover that being too close for comfort can have unexpected consequences, and when an accident happens, the sisters realise they are closer than they thought.

Book trailer:

From lovereading4kids.co.uk:

“Best-selling Jacqueline Wilson understands perfectly how the needle sharp jealousy of sisters is matched only by the strength of their underlying affection. Marty and Melissa are not in the least little bit like each other; Marty is a tomboy and Melissa is as girlie as a girl can be. What on earth will happen when they have to share a bedroom? What looks like a disaster turns out surprisingly well as the girls learn just how important they are to one another – despite their differences!”

What do I think about this book?

I’m pleased to have this book in our collection because I know this will be popular with younger Jacqueline Wilson fans. My daughters both read this story even though it was really too young and easy for my eldest girl. Both girls wanted to read this because it’s a story about two sisters who don’t always get on (in fact they fight a lot…) just like my two girls! I found it a little ‘underwhelming’ after recently reading the Hetty Feather trilogy, but I do need to remind myself that this is for younger girls. As much as this is a story of sisters it is also a story about fitting in with other friends and girls at school and in life. This is a great story for girls needing some positive reinforcement and acknowledgment that it is OK to be a bit different, perhaps a bit quirky and to stand out from the crowd (why blend in when you are born to stand out!)

Author website: http://www.jacquelinewilson.co.uk

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Does this book make my story look fat?

As much as children judge books by their covers they also decide whether they want to read titles by seeing and feeling the thickness of the book and looking at the size of the font. Some kids find the sheer size of titles overwhelming and daunting. The ‘problems’ with large thick books are these: if hardcover, then the book weighs a ton, if paperback,  then after a few weeks of being pulled in and out of backpacks the covers end up dog eared and the spines weak. The thickness of the book often means that to hold it open and read comfortably you have to press it reasonably flat, thereby causing the pages to ultimately fall out of the cover. If the book is printed in a smaller font then you end up with text so small that it makes it exhausting to read. No matter how great and wonderful the story, for a reluctant reader the size is going to be off-putting.

I really identified with the students that turn up their noses at big fat books today, when I decided to buy a copy of Eragon by Christopher Paolini.

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My children haven’t read this book and neither have I. I should be familiar with the size of it as at least two of my teachers are always recommending this book to their students. They have read and loved it and I wanted to see what I thought of it and whether it is the sort of fantasy book I would be happy to recommend to students (I really believe that in order to recommend books you have to be totally familiar with them and reading them is the only way!) This book and it’s sequels are perennially popular in my school library. Copies of the first book especially, are always out on loan and due to the size of the book they can never be returned by the due date (all our copies are out at the moment and we usually have at least two reserves for book 1…resulting in the need for me to buy my own!)

Happily browsing in the book store I glanced down and saw the copies of Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance. Unfortunately they were the variety I dislike – smaller sized paperback but still very thick, with thin covers and a teeny weeny font size. The book store didn’t have it, but I believe there is also a deluxe edition of three of these books in one volume. Surely this would be much too big to handle? This is where given a of choice between print and digital I will opt for buying the ebook version every single time. With an ebook I can make the text larger as necessary, if I find myself unable to put the book down I can read late into the night with a backlit screen without annoying my husband. If I need a break from reading it, I can bookmark the page and come back to it later without worrying about the overdue date at the library. For my family I find it easiest to buy children’s ebooks from the Kindle store -that way we can share the Kindle account between our devices.

I want to love these stories and I am sure I will when I read them!

My school is looking at how we will provide ebooks in our library and I have been looking at popular titles and their availability in epub format. Let’s just say that these 4 books are at the top of my list! In the meantime if you are considering a book for your child that is on the hefty side – consider buying the ebook instead. There may be a greater chance of it being finished without pressure.