Friday, April 2, 2010

Middle Grade Book Review:

Sir John Hargrave's Mischief Maker's Manual

A day late and a dollar short, this should have been your April Fool's gift for that young boy in your life. This book may not appeal to everyone (read: moms, dads, sisters, teachers) primarily because they will end up the target of some of the most humorous little pranks.

This manual is not simply a list of horrible things to do to the people in a kid's life. It has some surprising depth. It forces the prankster to plan and organize the prank and even follow - in some cases - a scientific method and step-by-step instructions to pull it off.

This might be the ultimate boy book, not only because of the subject matter, but because of its structure. It is written in stand-alone pranks. Often reluctant readers don't pick up most books because it is intimidating to read a 250 page book end to end. With MMM, a boy can read the one chapter that interests him and come back at a later time if he wishes.

Rating: 4 1/2

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tween Book Review:

Schooled - Gordon Korman (Ages 11 - 14)

This is a book I've had on my 'to read' list for years but kept bumping for the 'newest' book to land on that list. Finally, I put and end to that business and I'm happy I read it. Most books I read because someone said you should definitely read this. Unfortunately, that hype sets me up for the inevitable letdown. I think this happens too often for the reluctant reader. High expectations are established, and the reader is disappointed and not as willing to pick up another book.
Schooled isn't going to make my best list this year. However, it is a fun and easy read. It motivated me to pick up another Korman book, Son of the Mob, another very good read. Schooled tells the story of 8th grader Capricorn Anderson, a boy raised on a long forgotten hippie commune by his grandmother, Rain. When she is hospitalized, Cap is forced out of homeschooling into publich middle-school in the modern world of televisions, cell phones and commericalism. An interesting choice of the author was to tell the story in first person with chapters alternating between a half dozen major characters as narrator. This was bold but turned out fantastic as Cap, other middle schoolers, and adults each viewing the other practically as some alien life form.

Every kid at this age can relate to that issue of trying to fit in to a social situation that seems completely unnatural, even alien to him. Despite conflict and hearache, this is an uplifting tale of acceptance and tolerance. For me, Schooled delivers a 'B'.

Friday, January 29, 2010

John Green Does NOT Need My Help!!

Every librarian I know has a crush on the guy and gets all flush when his name is brought up. Roguish good looks and deep thinking male characters who can express genuine feelings, not to mention the book contracts - and yeah, I admit it. A bit of jealousy on my part. Even so, when I read his work in all my jadedness, I have to admit that these are some of the best YA books I've read - not just in the past few years but since I've started calling myself a Young Adult writer.

Enough girls read his stuff that his books gets labeled pseudo-chiklit. Do yourself a favor and give them a shot.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Boy Books in Disguise

Librarians, educators, parents and readers themselves too often get hung up on a male protagonist as the first point of definition for a 'boy book.' There is too much to gain, too much to appreciate from the perspective of any thoughtful, well-developed character. There are barriers to many readers, but when a plot is accessible to both boys and girls those barriers can be melted away. It might be as simple as encouragement or a recommendation on a book to give it a shot with a male reader in the first place.

Here are a few of the best books that boys might have discounted, ignored or put down out of 'principle'.

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
Skin Hunger - Kathleen Duey