Posts tagged boys

"The Dragon's Tooth" book cover

Action-packed Fantasy (with a bit of history and mythology, too)

The Dragon’s Tooth by N. D. Wilson

In the middle of America (Wisconsin, to be precise), twelve-year-old Cyrus Smith and his older siblings Antigone and Daniel are living their everyday hum-drum lives. Of course, their version of “hum drum” involves living parent-less, managing a run-down motel, and eating pancakes for just about every meal while pretending to the outside world that all is well. But when a strange tattooed man claiming to know their deceased father shows up, a strange turn of events (and one wild taxi ride) takes them to Ashtown and the steps of the Order of Brendan, the secret society of famous explorers throughout history. Thrown headfirst into a world of conspiracy, secrets, and adventure, they fight to prove themselves and stay alive in what is a sometimes crazy, sometimes scary, and always entertaining journey.

N. D. Wilson, author of the 100 Cupboards series, has created an adventurous and magical world that could almost exist in your own backyard. Think Harry Potter but in America and with real historical people as characters. (more…)

What's So Special About Planet Earth? by Robert E. Wells

Planet Earth Is Home

What’s So Special About Planet Earth? by Robert E. Wells

Sometimes Earth can be uncomfortable with weather that’s either too hot or too cold, and huge storms seem to come out of nowhere. In this introductory book about the planets, author Wells invites kids to pretend they’re visiting each of the planets in our solar system to find a new place to live. (As he says, “If you’re thinking about moving, you’d want to visit first, to see if the planet was right for you.”) The journey brings us to all eight planets in our solar system, Earth included, and at each we learn about distance from the sun, planet diameter, orbit time, number of moons, temperatures, and more. Each planet is interesting, but none seem to quite fit the bill for what humans, plants, and animals need in a home. When we finally travel back home to “our” planet, Wells explains why Earth is just right for us and the animals and plants we live with. He also tells us that we haven’t always taken good care of our home (pollution, etc.) and there are ways to make it better. He talks about recycling, reducing use of resources, and reusable energy. After all, planet Earth is pretty special–we’d better take care of it!

Bright, cartoon-like illustrations make the book fun, and some pages are written and drawn at different angles so readers have to rotate the book, which makes it interesting. In some ways, What’s So Special reminds me of The Magic School Bus series (more…)

Wolf Won't Bite by Emily Gravett

No Matter What, “Wolf Won’t Bite!”

Wolf Won’t Bite! written and illustrated by Emily Gravett

In a seeming role reversal from the original fairy tale, three little pigs capture a big, toothy wolf and put him on display in their very own circus where, no matter what they do, “wolf won’t bite!”

Sure of their safety despite their antics, the three little pigs (dressed in a strongman leotard, ringmaster suit, and frilly tutu) continue to up the ante in their circus acts, rejoicing in the knowledge that they are safe no matter what. Kids will delight in going from one page to the next as the pigs lift Wolf in the air, make him jump through hoops, and even shoot him from a cannon. While the pigs twirl in excitement, safe and sound, wolf looks confused at his predicament, and kids will laugh at the ridiculous pictures and, in a twist from the original story, perhaps even feel sorry for the poor wolf as he’s dressed up and put on display. In the end, predictably, wolf is tested to his limit and the three little pigs… Well, let’s just say things don’t go according to plan! (more…)

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

History Turns Into Itself in This Newbery Winner

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos has a whole summer planned full of baseball, history books, and war movies when suddenly, caught in the middle of his quarreling parents, he becomes “grounded for life,” ruining everything. Even though he lives in the dying town of Norvelt (originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to help poor families) and there’s not much to do, when his mom volunteers him to help an aging neighbor type up the town’s obituaries, he’s less than thrilled. Soon, though, Jack finds himself absorbed in the town’s history and the “original” Norvelters, as his spunky neighbor calls them, and he’ll do anything to get out of house arrest and over to help her in her task. Soon he’s involved not only with the obituaries but in a feud with an old man who ride’s a trike, play-acting the Grim Reaper, distributing Girl Scout cookies, digging a fake bomb shelter, and a near-constant nose bleed, not to mention a potential murder. Suddenly his summer is anything but dull!

Described as “melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional,” Dead End in Norvelt is a most-times funny and sometimes heart-breaking story of a boy coming of age in an old town past its prime full of wacky yet believable characters. Both darker and lighter themes blend with Gantos’ humor as Jack finds himself imbedded in nearly everything going on in town. The relationships between Jack’s parents and himself are enough to fill a book, but author Gantos has woven an entire town’s worth of personalities and interactions together seamlessly. (more…)

The Great Wide Sea

Surviving Stormy Seas & Family Alike

The Great Wide Sea by M. H. Herlong

When their mom is killed in a car accident, fifteen-year-old Ben Byron and his younger brothers Dylan and Gerry are devastated, struggling to put the pieces of their family back together even as their own father becomes distant. Unable to cope with the pain of memory, their father packs them off to Florida where he buys a 30-foot sailboat and insists that the family–broken as it is–sail around the Bahamas for one year. Ben is beyond angry at the loss of first his mother and now his familiar everyday life. Not only must he take care of Dylan and Gerry as his dad remains emotionally absent, but now he must follow the “captain’s” orders, maintaining the boat day in and day out in the middle of nowhere. Things are shaky at best between Ben and his father, and in these close quarters, tension and frustration flare. When the three brothers discover their father missing one morning in the middle of the ocean, they work together to try to find him until a storm carries them off course, shipwrecking them on a small, deserted island with little for food our resources. It becomes up to Ben and his brothers to survive the elements while piecing together their lives and relationships with one another, all the while hoping for a rescue.

The Great Wide Sea is a book of survival and force of will, but it is also a book of emotional frailty and relationships, focusing on a fractured family of boys and men, a husband who has lost his wife and children who have lost their mother and, for a time, any connection to their father. Herlong creates a compelling narrative on multiple levels in this coming-of-age story about resilience, love, and hope.

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The Death Cure (book three)

Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part II)

PART II of our interview with James Dashner, bestselling author of The Maze Runner trilogy and the 13th Reality books, as well as the upcoming Maze Runner prequel and a new series in progress!

Check out PART I of the interview here.

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PART II – Interview with James Dashner

Jenny: Okay, sorry—back on topic! The Flare: did you base that on any historically known disease or academics, outbreaks, or was it just the worst thing you could think of?

In the end they made me do some research to make sure it fit, but really my initial idea […] I just have this fascination with insanity. Humans are powerful beings; we can do incredible, amazing, terrifying things, and if you take away your sanity and your conscience and your ability to choose right and wrong, I can’t think of anything more terrifying. So really, I wanted a disease that didn’t turn people into zombies back from the dead or anything like that, just made people utterly insane. I think that elicits some zombie-like behavior, but anything else that happens to them like sores, injuries, or ravenous hunger to eat other people, anything like that is an after effect. The only thing the Flare does to them is drive them completely insane, and I just thought it was a cool concept.

Ruby: Okay, on to my favorite subject: every teen series has a love triangle. With the introduction of Brenda in the second book, had you intended to start a love triangle between Thomas, Brenda, and Theresa?

I can honestly say no. I still don’t think there’s a true love triangle in the series. I wanted another main female character, and Brenda was one of the characters that grew more important than I originally thought. It kind of ties in to what I said earlier about how Thomas and Theresa can never be the same again. In most love triangles, it seems like you meet both of them—both of the girls or both of the guys—from the beginning or relatively soon, and I’m not a big romance guy, but it sure seems like usually they end up with the first one. It seems like they fall in love with someone and then someone else comes in the picture but then they go back to the first one. Is that true?

Ruby: I think 95% of the time it’s true, but when I was reading your books what was rare for me is the fact that it’s a guy and two girls, ‘cause in all teen books it’s a girl and two guys. It’s like, oh for cryin’ out loud! [Laughter]

[Laughs] And I thought this story was so dark and so quickly paced that are you really going to pause and go watch the sunset with someone you love? I mean, there really is no room for romance in this.

Ruby: Well maybe love triangle is the wrong phrase, but there’s some kind of tension between the three of them.

It’s definitely a triangle of some sort. And I don’t think Brenda and Theresa ever like each other, they never get to know each other. Thomas, I think, doesn’t have time to think of romance, but he is number one devastated and hurt by what Theresa does to him. He thinks about it a lot, and he does just naturally form a bond with Brenda. I think when you go through something terrifying with someone you probably do have a bond, and I think Brenda slowly gains his trust and loyalty throughout book three. It was never really intended as a Team Brenda or Team Theresa type thing.

Ruby: Yeah, that’s not how I read it either. I had an intense dislike for Brenda when she was first introduced. I was like, “Who is this person who’s all over the place? I want Theresa back!” And then the betrayal happened, and that was really shocking to me because I’m a romantic at heart, and I thought there would be no happy ending for them!

The way it all ends is really the only way I feel like it could end. This won’t spoil anything, but I feel like there was only one way for Theresa to feel redeemed. She is a tormented soul from even before the Maze Runner. She believed in what WICKED was doing much more than Thomas did. […] It’s like I said, the line between good and evil in this series…  that doesn’t make her worse than Thomas. If you could save billions of people by doing [the trials], can you really fault someone for thinking that it’s right? I don’t know. I wanted it to be complicated. (more…)

Author James Dashner

Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part I)

Drum roll, please… The long-awaited interview with The Maze Runner‘s bestselling author, James Dashner, is here! We talked about Dashner back in October about his Maze Runner trilogy, including the final book The Death Cure and the upcoming prequel, as well as movies, favorite kids’ books, Dashner’s take on Harry Potter, and a handful of nerdy stuff. In fact, since our interview with him lasted over an hour, it’s so long we’ve broken it into two big posts. We’re huge fans of The Maze Runner trilogy, so this was pretty exciting (we’ll post a review at some point too). Ruby and I had a ball chatting with him, and we’re grateful that we were given the opportunity to pick his brain!

(Please forgive the posting delay: life got busy, but a big reason was that we were sworn to secrecy about The Maze Runner prequel, The Kill Order, that’s being released August 14, 2012!)

One word of warning: while there are no big spoilers involving book three in this interview, readers who haven’t read The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials yet might want to step carefully. Check it out and ENJOY!

If you’ve already finished Part I, read Part II here.

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Jenny: First off, congratulations on completing the trilogy! How does it feel to be done?

It feels bittersweet. There’s some sadness for it to be over, but I’m also just so thrilled that people finally get to read some of these scenes that have been in my head for so long and to see how it ends. The fact that we’re probably going to do a prequel now [The Kill Order] has got me really even more excited, because to me the prequel becomes the most exciting [book] once you know how it all ends, and I just think it’ll be very interesting to go back and see firsthand the stuff that happened before The Maze Runner. So it’s sort of a mixed bag of feelings, I guess, but mostly excitement.

Jenny: As far as these books go, did you plan a three-book series?

I envisioned it as a trilogy.

Ruby: In your books there’s a trend throughout the whole series in which Thomas always gets singled out and separated from the rest of the group. Is there a reason behind that for his development as a character or for the story as a whole?

I’ll say this: I think even from The Maze Runner we know that Thomas and Theresa are special. They were singled out to be more involved than everyone else in the stuff that happened before the maze and leading up to the maze. Throughout the process they are looking for what is called a “final candidate”. To me the whole concept of the “final candidate” shows that there is a side of WICKED [that doesn’t] want to be completely cruel and evil; they’re at least trying to narrow [the candidates] down to one person for what [WICKED] wants to do in the end. But in my mind, WICKED had always thought that Thomas and Theresa—and then in group B, their two counterparts—would probably [be the final candidate], and so they did plan some of the trials and variables to single them out, to capture some of their patterns, to try to finalize what they’re doing. I just thought Thomas was special and predicted to be what they would need. Probably one of my favorite things in The Scorch Trials is when [Thomas] gets shot with the gun. That was not something WICKED foresaw, and they were not willing to let Thomas die, so they broke against their normal protocol and swooped in to try to save him. (more…)

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

It’s Hard to Go Wrong with a Magic Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Castle Glower is a strange, magical place: one day the kitchen may be just next to the throne room, and the next it may be down three flights of stairs and through a winding corridor. Only the castle knows where things will be next, and only Celie–Princess Cecelia, youngest daughter of King Glower–bothers to chart the castle’s fluid blueprint. Celie is a combination archaeologist and architect, mapping out the ever-changing pathways and room arrangements of Castle Glower. She’s determined to be the first one ever to complete an atlas, and hers is stacked high with color-coded markings, for she knows the castle better than anyone. (The castle does, after all, like Celie best.) Along with her brother Rolf (heir to the throne), her older sister Lilah, and their parents (the king and queen), Celie lives happily with her royal family in their country of Sleyne.

When the king and queen, along with Celie’s eldest brother Brandt, go missing on an excursion to the wizarding college, a mutinous royal council declares them dead and their 14-year-old son Rolf to be king under a regency. Lilah, Rolf, and Celie, though, are not convinced, and as clues pile up–the castle itself continues to organize and decorate rooms as though their parents are still alive–they realize that something serious is amiss. When a foreign prince makes his way on the royal council and tries to become heir to the throne, the three Glower children must fight for the home–and country–that they love. Luckily they’ve got a magic castle on their side. (more…)

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

Oh my Zeus! Is that a Greek god in that book?!

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Really? you must be asking yourselves. Rick Riordan? Hasn’t the whole world pretty much reviewed his books, like, years ago?

Well, yeah.

But hey, I loved the books! (Also, I’d rather review The Son of Neptune than clean my room.)

On the off chance that nobody here has read (or heard of) the Percy Jackson series, here’s a brief overview: ancient Greek gods and goddesses are real, and they never disappeared–they’ve followed the rise of Western culture and currently reside on Mt. Olympus over the Empire State Building. Percy Jackson–main character, obviously–discovers he’s a “hero” or Greek “demigod”, a half-mortal, and his father is Poseidon, which turns out to be problematic. After a brief time at Camp Half Blood, he and his new friends are off on a quest full of mythical beasts, minor deities, and worldwide catastrophe. It’s rollicking good fun, incredibly smart, and impressively accurate on the ancient history/mythology level. Alas, after five books, the series was done.

But wait! There’s more! (more…)

Author Clete Barrett Smith

Author Spotlight: Interview with Clete Barrett Smith

A while back Ruby and I had the amazing opportunity to read an advanced copy of Aliens on Vacation and then have dinner with the author, Clete Barrett Smith. We loved his book and pestered him with tons of questions, but of course we didn’t have our notepads handy. That was months ago, but we’ve kept in touch, and for some reason he’s still willing to talk to us despite our annoying e-mails. We’re proud to finally share our interview with such a great, fun author! Enjoy!

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Aliens on Vacation is about a 13-year-old boy, Scrub, who is sent to spend the whole summer with his hippy grandma at her Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast (which turns out to be a vacation hot spot for aliens). How did you come up with the big idea?

I’ve always loved alien-visitation stories, but it seemed like everything that I saw at the time was really dark and violent; the aliens were coming here to enslave us, or eat us, or steal our resources or whatever. The spark of the idea was: “Wait a minute . . . what if they are just coming here to hang out?” I thought that would be a fun way to do an alien story with a lot of humor mixed in with the action.

Why aliens?

When I was ten years old I was sent from my little hometown to spend the weekend with my grandpa in the big city of Seattle. My grandpa was a great guy and real character . . . but not always the best babysitter. On Friday morning, he said, “I have to work all day, here’s $20. I’ll see you at 6:00 and we’ll have dinner.” I was pretty nervous in downtown Seattle, so I walked to the nearest movie theater to buy a ticket to anything so I’d have a safe place to hang out. The only PG offering was a brand-new movie premiering that day that I had never heard of: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. (more…)

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