Monday, February 25, 2008

Movie Trailer: Coraline

I reviewed this book, here.
I really liked it and this trailer is very promising. I hope it is as good an adaptation as Stardust was (read my book review for that or the movie review).
Here's the film's IMDB page.
p.s. it's blurry because it's in 3D and this is a bootleg.

(3d always makes me think of weird al. sweet!)

The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440421241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440421245
  • List Price: $6.99
  • I finished this book on Feb. 22
Okay, so: good covers, increasingly less cool stories. Seriously: you read this whole book before you even know how it fits into the series.
This is the story of what happens before the "end" of the world that results in the creation of Ember. Nickie and her aunt come to Yonwood to clean out and sell an old family estate. Nickie has three goals: 1. Keep Greenhaven (the estate) 2. Fall in love (p.s. she's like 11) 3. Help the world (oh yeah, the world is in on the brink of war - and the 11 year old can fix it).
So, here's why this book annoyed me. Lots of stuff was unrealistic. First off: what kind of aunt is in the care of their niece and lets her get into major trouble and is so inattentive she doesn't even know the girl is hiding a dog. In their house. Also: religious crazies. They make me furious in real life and even more angry when people actually listen to them in books. That's what's going on in Yonwood. Everyone has taken a dose of the god crazies. Seriously, the whole town. Mike Huckabee would be jealous (he kind of looks like a walleye pug pup, no?).
Anyway, major shenanigans ensue and then everything is cleared up in a few pages at the end. It's like super speed round denouement. Seriously, I felt my hair ruffle as the end came speeding at me out of nowhere.
So, out of this series my favorite is the first, and though these are great for younger kiddos I think I'm over them.

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375828257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375828256
  • List Price: $5.99
  • I finished this book on Feb. 20
This is the sequel to The City of Ember, and it follows the story of the people of Ember after they escape the underground city into the real world. On the plus side: they have escaped from a dying city which was running out of electricity and supplies. The bummer: it's a post apocalyptic world and it kind of sucks to never have been outside in the sun and heat before.
So, our pilgrims find themselves in the city of Sparks, one of the only fledgling cities of survivors that is finally starting to prosper. The town decides that they have to take in the residents of Ember, which about doubles their population. This, of course, puts a huge strain on the resources and tolerance of the people of Sparks. Eventually, tensions rise, until there is a confrontation between the two peoples.
What is cool about this story is how well DuPrau tells both sides of the story. You can really feel for both the citizens of Sparks and the Emberites. Also, there are jerky people on both sides of the fight and cool people. Eventually things are wrapped up with a neat bow, as you'd expect. This is a very middle school moral of the story kind of book. Predictable for me, but perfect for young readers.
Here's my thing, though: I know why they didn't want the people in Ember to know about the outside world. But...why keep it a secret from the world once it's over and done with? The people of Sparks don't even believe them...ever. Very annoying and implausible, I feel. There is one lame nursery rhyme meant to remind people, but even that is misinterpreted. I feel I would have left some info, maybe a general game plan for re-entry. Just sayin...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Looking for Alaska by John Green

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin (December 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142402516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142402511
  • List Price: $7.99
  • I finished this book on Feb. 9
Okay, I will give you the shortest review of this book ever so that I may talk about what's really pissing me off: the shenanigans surrounding it right now.
Review: Miles asks his parents to go to a boarding school so he may search for the "Great Perhaps." Miles collects famous last words (awesome). He meets a diminutive boy with anger management issues (The Colonel) and a gorgeous free spirit (Alaska) who is the kind of girl boys like Miles fall in love with in books like these. What makes it unique is that the characters are amazing and interesting and flawed. Reading Miles' thought provoking essay at the end is enough of a gift to take away with you and you're just lucky you get to have the rest of the book. It's beautiful and sad and important and that's all I'm going to say because you should just go read it.
The shenanigans: It began with me seeing this:

First of all: that's big time bad ass. Huge. I, of course, 100% agree with this and I am rightly fired up over it. Also: Depew is in my neighborhood-ish but no, I couldn't go to the meeting (which is probly a good thing, because I believe I would have been kicked out due to cursing at people or thrown up because this makes me so angry I could puke).
Go here to read the write up of the meeting in the Buffalo News (this link won't be good forever because the archives aren't free). Seriously: the cancer quote makes me want to stab out that guy's eyes and piss in his ocular cavity.
Yes, there is swearing it the book. There is swearing in shitty rap music too, and I promise the kids listen to that. Yes, there is talk of a blowjob. I personally do not think the scene in question is that graphic and Mr. Green is correct in saying that it is not in the least titillating.
I work in a high school and I have ears. Therefore I think I am qualified to say that the things they say to each other are a hundred times more obnoxious than anything printed here. And I know plenty of them who would benefit from/appreciate/love this book. Kids are smarter than we think, folks, and pretending they aren't is a shitty plan (and yes, the view is nice from my soapbox, thanks).
Not to mention that this book is an ALA Printz award winner and that they actually hand out teaching guides to go along with them (though they contain hateful spoilers).
In searching more for info about John Green I have discovered that his awesomery goes even further. Exhibit one: his website. Cool links to anagrams, book info and his blog. You should stop reading this blog and add his to your RSS feeds. Go ahead, I'll wait. Exhibit two: Nerdfighters, and Brotherhood 2.0. Brotherhood 2.0 is a year long vlog exchange between Green and his brother (Oddly, I had heard his brother's Accio Deathly Hallows before and not known the story behind it). This vlog also inspired an entry into Urban Dictionary, another badge of coolness. DFTBA, which means, "Don't forget to be awesome."
Extra thanks to Eli for letting me in on all of this via Twitter :)
Moral of this blog:
I loved Looking for Alaska, and I have a crush on John Green. Also: book banners can suck my balls.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375822747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375822742
  • List Price: $5.99
  • I finished this book on Feb. 8th
This is the first book in a series for middle schoolers. I bought it at a mega sale over the summer and it's been sitting around chatting with other books in the "To Be Read" pile for a while now. I decided it was time to dust it off (literally) and give it a go.
The book is based in the post-apocalyptic underground City of Ember. It seems that the city was built and set up with stores of food and electricity and the people of the city forgot over time what the real world is like. They are left with one set of instructions to get out after what would presumably be a good amount of time for the world to become safe again (250 years).
We meet our heroine, 12-year-old Lina Mayfleet on "Assignment Day" at school. This is the day where they effectively graduate from formal education and are randomly assigned a job (which totally sucks). Lina wants to be a messenger and, of course, pulls the crappy job of pipeworker. Doone, a social upstart who wants to save the failing city pulls messenger and is annoyed. So, you guessed it, they pull the old switcheroo.
Next Lina finds a piece of paper which seems to detail something important, but has been munched on by her baby sister. It is, of course, the instructions for getting out of the city. The problem is, no one knows they are supposed to be looking for it. She and Doon set out to decipher the broken message and save the day.
The idea of the underground city is cool. They have greenhouses, but most of their supplies come from storehouses and of course, the canned good and lightbulbs are rapidly depleting. Which brings me to another point. It's hard for us to imagine a world that's entirely dark but that's how this place is. It is lit only by overhead lights and at night instead of dusk and sunset it just goes dark at lights out. Yikes. Also: the power is failing. And there are occasional blackouts. Can you imagine? During these blackouts the lights are off completely and everything is pitch dark. Here that's not the case, even when there is a blackout there are still stars, there's still the moon, but these people live in fear that the lights will go out forever and that will be it. For some reason, they haven't figured out candles. (Lame).
The story is interesting and creative and the characters are good. The reading level is low, so I'm sure it would be very easy for this to be read by the 9 year olds that Amazon suggests. This series is very popular in the elementary and middle schools that I've seen. Here's a few links to some lesson plans for the book: Random House reader's guide, or the Teacher's @ Random teaching guide.
Oh, and it's going to be a movie with Bill Murray. I just got my paws on the rest of the series so you can expect those reviews soon.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Book Meme

The Vampire Librarian (who I have a nerd-crush on) had a meme on her blog which I have (stolen) volunteered to re-post. Mostly because I have a book on my desk, and it's the next one I'll be reviewing so it's like a little sneak peek.


1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pgs.)
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people

This is from City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

"Mostly insects," said Doon. He told her about his collection of drawings and the worm he was currently observing.
To Lina, this sounded far less interesting than an undiscovered city, but she didn't say so.

I'm not gonna be presumptuous and tag people, so if you're interested let me know in the comments and I'll link to you.

My babe Bridget is in :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon M. Draper

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689842333
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689842337
  • List Price: $6.99
  • I finished this book on Feb. 2
Alright. Draper is a big name in YA lit. She writes urban realistic fiction and has won awards. This book is a Coretta Scott King winner. Here's the thing, I'm sure it's wonderful for a certain group of my students. The ones who like Walter Dean Myers would certainly like this book. And, truthfully, any student who told me they were going to pledge a frat in college would get this book from me. But me, personally? I just wasn't that into it.
First, aesthetically, I hate it. I don't like the cover, what is that? A kid in a Cosby sweater running away? Also: in addition to the Dr. Huxtable sweater, he's wearing a Denim Tuxedo. Ouch. Also: it's in Arial font. Hate! What kind of book is in a sans-serif font? Yuck. Also, on the first page of each chapter the words start over at the left of the page and sort of make a tricky triangle shape down to the normal spot. It's weird. And annoying.
Second: the dialog. Obviously I'm pathetically white and unhip, but these lines seem weak even to me. Examples: "Aw, quit dissin' yourself." and "You just jealous 'cause when the girls try to put their arms around you, they think they're grabbing a skinny old pencil instead!" Ohh, burn. Seriously, uber pwnage. The last person to use old as an adjective like that was Holden Caulfield. Only, you know, he was cool. And there's no swearing. I'm sure Draper did this so that the book was, I dunno, acceptable...but the truth is, kids swear. And something about this trash talk seems unbelievable to me.
Anyway, the story: Jericho and his cousin/best mate Josh and their pal Kofi are recruited to pledge for this cult/club/frat The Warriors of Distinction (which I kept reading as the Warriors of Destruction, which is cooler, and also conjures images of West Side Story-like knife fights. When you're a jet...) So there is hazing. Oh, and there's also a kick ass female, Dana, who tricks them into letting her pledge even though they've never let a girl in before. One of the members is an unstable date-rapist kinda guy who has a thing for her and gives her about ten tons more shit than anyone else. Truly, besides the things that happen to Dana, the pledge stuff is pretty tame (except they are made to steal stuff) until the end, when of course, tragedy ensues.
Here's some of the things that bug me. Dana was a real badass, but I wanted to see a "Suck my dick" G.I. Jane moment, or at least one where the other Warriors made that douche stop picking on her so bad. Also, the girl that Jericho is interested is a weird character with like, no personality, she's very one dimensional. And, Jericho is a trumpet player and misses the chance of his life to pledge and there is little fallout from that. Also: after the tragedy the parents are all offended. Why didn't someone watch them...etc. Um, why didn't you watch them? I hate that the parents expected someone else to be taking care of their kids instead of finding out what was going on. Also: I thought the wrap up was too quick. It was like 275 pages of buildup --> tragedy --> end. Lame. I would have liked the book to explore more what happened after the events on the last night of pledging.
Like I'm saying, this is not a bad book, it's certainly one I think students should read. It has some good characters, and a strong message. I'm just saying I wasn't crazy about it myself. Shrug.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374349460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374349462
  • List Price: $17.99
  • I finished this book on Feb. 1
After reading Zevin's Elsewhere, which I was in love with I was dying to read more of her stuff. When this came in at my library I was very excited, and thanks to a snow day last week, I read it in one day.
Here goes: Naomi (the second Naomi in a month, but I can't spell it anyway) looses a coin toss, goes back for an expensive camera and takes an epic spill down her high school's front steps. Head wound = amnesia. She can't remember anything that happened since 6th grade. This includes but it not limited to: her parents divorce (and subsequently not speaking to her mother or ever meeting her new sister), her best friend, the first time she had sex, and the fact that she kept a psychotic food diary (and probably had an eating disorder).
The players: When she has her accident a mysterious soap-opera quality brooder is there to call the ambulance, he's James. The best friend that she doesn't remember, Will, a Duckie-esque nerd boy who makes her plentiful CD mixes. Ace, douche name to go with a douchy tennis jock (yeah, tennis) who was Naomi's bf and former teen sex partner. From the get go it's obvious that 1. she can't stand Ace (neither can I) 2. Will is in love with her and 3. She digs on James, who is obviously cuckoo for cocoa puffs. Angst, fighting and self discovery, as I'm sure you can imagine, surely ensues.
It's a neat idea to imagine how you would perceive your life if you woke up and didn't remember it. Would you think your friends were assholes? Would you think you were an asshole? Very cool. Zevin certainly makes the most of the idea and even though I wasn't in love with Naomi as a character I really liked her story. I think Zevin's strength is that her characters are very realistic. They have good sides and bad sides and they are very honest.
While this traded the magic of Elsewhere for a more realistic drama I really liked this book. And, since I tend to trip a lot, now I'm all concerned that I'm going to loose my memory. Oy vay.