Tag Archives: earth

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 Continue reading Planet Earth Is Home

A Home for Every Creature on Earth

Even an Octopus Needs a Home by Irene Kelly

In this charming picture book, Irene Kelly offers diverse coverage of the habitats of animals and insects world-wide. How do bees build the honeycombs they live in? What does a parakeet nest look like? How many paper wasps can live in one hive? Where does a polar bear raise its cubs? Kelly’s colorful and detailed picture book will answer these questions and more. Describing the homes and their rationale for everything from termites and badgers to coral reefs and chimpanzees, Kelly covers a lot of ground.

Even an Octopus Needs a Home is loosely organized into house types to offer clear transitions between very different animals. (Categories include tree houses, towers, lodges, burrows, floating homes, mobile homes, and bubbles.) At times the paragraphs themselves aren’t visually linear, which might confuse some kids, but the integration of the text in the illustrations—including some close-up pictures with labels—will help to keep the books’ subject matter interesting for most. The illustrations are a mix of ink and watercolor, and best of all, they’re accurate depictions of the animals she describes. Continue reading A Home for Every Creature on Earth

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.


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. Continue reading Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part II)

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.


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. Continue reading Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part I)

A World Above and Below the Ice

First Light by Rebecca Stead

Thea lives in Gracehope, a world cut deep into the ice sheet below Greenland. She is the last in a long line of daughters who created Gracehope, a peaceful haven of safe living where hunters from the past cannot track down her people for supposed witchcraft. Thea knows, though, that Gracehope must expand if her people are to continue successfully, and she yearns to see the forbidden surface of the Earth and experience the sun and stars for herself.

Peter lives in New York City but is on vacation in Greenland with his parents as they conduct research in the barren ice-lands. Peter’s dad, an expert on glaciers and the effects of global warming, and his mom, a microbiologist, claim to be taking data for a study and writing a book, respectively, but Peter can tell they’re looking for something more. Only when he discovers Thea and her life below the surface does he realize what that something is…

Together, two kids from completely separate–yet surprisingly connected–worlds join together in a struggle for survival and the truth. Stead writes a compelling story that will draw readers in as they root for the underdogs and experience the fantastic worlds and abilities of both Thea and Peter. In Peter’s world science is king, and Stead includes it readily and skillfully in her narrative. In Thea’s world it is history that reigns supreme, though she is quick to learn that history can be re-written by anyone with enough power and reserve. Continue reading A World Above and Below the Ice

Alien Invasion and Morphing into Animals!

The Invasion by K. A. Applegate (Animorphs series)

What would you do if you knew your world was under threat? Would you fight? Or would you run?

Thirteen-year-old Jake is just hanging out with firends one night when an alien spacecraft crash lands in the construction site behind the mall. Shocked, he and his classmates Cassie, Marco, Rachel, and Tobias, witness an injured Andalite–an alien like a blue centaur with no mouth, stalks for eyes, a scorpion tale, and telepathic speech–as he makes his last stand against Visser 3, a leader in the alien invasion of Earth.

Before the Andalite dies, he warns Jake and his friends: aliens are here. Andalites and other species across the galaxies have been fighting to keep Earth free, but the evil Yeerks–slug-like aliens that slurp into a creature’s brain and take over control–have already taken many humans, people from everyday life across the world. Kids they might be, but the Andalite warns them to fight, learn, and survive, and he bestows a gift upon them: the ability to morph into any animal they touch. Besides their anonymity, it is the only chance for Jake, Cassie, Marco, Rachel, and Tobias if they choose to fight the ongoing invasion.

Mind you, this all happens in the first few chapters. As the kids explore their new ability–morphing into horses, tigers, elephants, family pets, hawks–and learn that friends and even family members may be imprisoned in their own bodies by the Yeerk invasion, they agree that they have to fight. They are the last chance Earth has. Continue reading Alien Invasion and Morphing into Animals!

Yellowstone Erupts: The Apocalypse is Now

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

(Review based on ARC of the book.)

In this thrilling, debut novel of “cataclysmic natural disaster,” Alex Halprin lives in modern-day Cedar Falls, Idaho, playing video games and arguing with his little sister on a regular basis. One day when his family has left for the weekend to visit an uncle, the unthinkable happens: Yellowstone erupts in a volcanic super-eruption, leaving thousands of miles under layers of ash and projectile rock with no modern form of communication and few resources for immediate survivors. Alex begins the harrowing journey to Warren, Illinois, where his family is–he hopes–safely harbored with other relatives.

Alex’s journey is laborious and often heart wrenching as he cross-country skis through the ash. He makes his way through cities, towns, and open, desolated land, meeting friends and strangers alike and finds himself running from cutthroat murderers, looters, and others like him just trying to survive. At one stop, Alex passes out from injuries and ends up at a farm where strangers Darla and her mother nurse him back to health; a steady relationship begins to bond the two teenagers. When tragedy strikes again and forces them back on the road, Darla accompanies Alex on his journey to Illinois, and they continue to skirt danger, both environmental and man-made. Continue reading Yellowstone Erupts: The Apocalypse is Now

Fighting to Survive in a Flooded World

X Isle by Steve Augarde

In the not-so-distant future, climate change has taken over and the earth has been submerged, oceans covering the majority of land on Earth. The survivors are few and struggling, trying to live with limited resources and virtually no technology. There is one beacon of hope: Eck’s Island. Jokingly renamed X Isle, it is a place where a select few–young boys only–are taken to work and, as payment, are properly fed and cared for by the divers and salvagers who hire them.

When Baz is selected to board the Eck brothers’ boat, it seems like a dream come true. Along with Ray, another recruit, Baz excitedly awaits their arrival, only to realize that their paradise is tainted, not the safe haven they were promised. Clustered in disgusting conditions and forced to work on little food at exhaustive tasks, they take physical and mental abuse daily from their so-called saviors. Baz and Ray protect one another as best they can, and soon they bond with the other boys, trying to survive the brutal labor and the crazy sermons of “Preacher John,” the Eck’s father and manager of the salvage operation they run. As tempers rise and Preacher John’s religious declarations of the apocalypse escalate, the boys realize they’re in a dangerous game of survival, and they must plot a way to either escape or be the last ones standing. Continue reading Fighting to Survive in a Flooded World

Geology Rocks!

The Wonders Inside the Earth by Jan Stradling

A short while back I absolutely ripped apart an introductory geology book because, well, I didn’t like it. That is not the case this time around.

The Wonders Inside the Earth explores everything from the external forces of weather and planetary rotation to the geology and hydrology that has shaped the world. Each page spread covers a single concept, breaking it down through images and specific examples and diagrams, almost like a large, expanded glossary. See-through page layers give this book an interactive feel and help to expand the understanding of some terms. The illustrations are large and colorful, utilizing images as well as diagrams of processes to engage the reader. Images of animal life and human interaction—penguins, antelope, clams plus surfers on the waves, sunken ships on the sea floor—give some depictions a fun touch, allowing kids to relate to what they’re seeing. A series of chapters on human relationships with the earth, such as oil and coal usage, is straight forward and non-judgmental—issues such as pollution and global warming are clearly not the intended focus of this book. Continue reading Geology Rocks!