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Staff Picks: Books

Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Want to hook a young reader on a fantasy series? Try out the Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. 15 books of classic good vs. evil in a land run by owls. Owlet snatching, moon blinking, chaw building, battle claws, trees, weather, flashbacks, ceremonies, maps, sorcery, polar bears, nest maid snakes….it’s all in this series! Fun fast paced chapters that always end on a cliff hanger. Each book leaves you rushing to get the next one. Readers will find many correlations to human social psychology and politics using real owl science. This has been a fun series to read aloud with my tween. The movie is a fun tie in too, check it out!


FatKid Rules the World, by K. L. Going

Fat Kid Rules the World, by K. L. Going (Kelly)
c.2003

I really liked this story. It has substance, believability and great character development.

Troy Billings is a 300 lb. high school senior who lives in New York City with his retired ex-Marine father and Dayle, his freshman jock brother. Troy’s mom died when he was nine years old. The story begins with Troy standing treacherously close to the subway tracks, contemplating whether or not to jump when he is suddenly and purposely interrupted by Curt MacCrae. Curt attends the same high school as Troy and Curt is a guitarist extraordinaire. Curt is filthy, skinny, and he’s a junkie. Curt and Troy form a friendship; Curt nicknames Troy “Big T” and he likes that moniker. Curt recruits Troy to be a drummer in his punk rock band, he knows that Troy has what it takes to pound the drums for the sounds he craves.

Troy thinks of himself as a loser; he overeats and he has no friends. Curt really helps Troy move beyond himself. Curt is sweet, unpredictable, and caring, but he’s a victim of abuse and neglect. His father is gone and his mom is married to an abusive alcoholic. Curt pops any prescription pills he can steal to self-medicate.

Troy only played drums in junior high. Curt takes Troy to a music club where they practice playing their music. Troy meets two other musicians and takes a few lessons from the drummer. Troy goes to a punk rock concert with Curt and he has a blast. By now Curt has visited Troy’s house and met Dayle and his dad who is very direct with Curt. He is glad that Troy has a friend, he buys him a drum set. Troy buys drumming books. He practices. Then he doesn’t. When he finally does play on stage for the first time, he is humiliated. Troy is disgusted with himself and he ignores Curt’s phone calls. Soon, however, Troy discovers that Curt is deathly sick and he takes him to ER where Curt is diagnosed with pneumonia and he’s in the hospital for several days. While hospitalized Curt steals prescription drugs and hides them in a planter. Some critical decisions arise: Where will Curt stay upon release from the hospital? What about his addiction? Will Troy force an ultimatum on Curt?

Fat Kid Rules the World is a Printz Honor Award winner for literary excellence for young adult literature. K. L. Going acknowledges Curt Cobain in the writing of this book which has been made into a movie.


Words with Wings

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes is a short story told in poetic verse. The story is about a girl named Gabriella and, although her grade and age aren’t revealed, she’s probably in junior high.  Each page is a poem with a one or two word title that captures a day in the life of Gabriella who was named after the Angel Gabriel.   Her parents are now separated, she has moved to a new school, and Gabriella uses day dreaming as a way to escape life… separation from her father and being the shy new kid in class.  She day dreams when she hears any particular word and her thoughts are carried away on wings.  For example, the word Dragon takes her riding on a dragon across the sky till the sun dives into the sea.  However, both her mother and her teacher, Mr. Spicer, tell her to quit day dreaming.   “Mom names me for a creature with wings, then wonders what makes my thoughts fly.”  When Gabriella finally does stop day dreaming her mom and Mr. Spicer know that she is unhappy.  Will Gabriella ever return to day dreaming?


I like this book because it is an effective poetry story.  It is interesting that Grimes uses two different fonts to categorize the moods of the poems.  Nikki Grimes is an award winning author and this book received a 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.  Kalamazoo Public Library owns many books by Nikki Grimes.


I Kill the Mockingbird

After the sudden death of their favorite teacher, three middle schoolers conspire to get everybody to read one of his favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird, by misshelving and hiding copies of the classic first in their town and eventually in libraries and bookstores far and wide. Lucy, Elena, and Michael publicize what they're doing with posters and social media while making the book scarce until their plan takes on a life of its own. Like Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, I Kill the Mockingbird is a fast and witty read that celebrates the love of books and reading. 

Book

I Kill the Mockingbird
9781596437425

The Boy on the Wooden Box

Leon Leyson was number 289, the youngest on the list.  The list that would eventually mean life for more than a thousand Jews.  Leon was Number 289 on Schindler's list.  His powerful memoir, The Boy on the Wooden Box  tells his story to the young people of today what it was like surviving the Holocaust.  The reader sees this horrific time through the eyes of a child.  His youthful perspective brings a powerful message of survival and humanity.  Leon was only a boy during WWII, spending most of his years from 10-19 in Jewish ghettos, work, concentration and displaced persons camps.  The hunger, loss, pain and suffering are real.  Separated for months at a time from his family, Leon found the will to survive inside of him.  If you are a reader at 40 or a child at 10 reading this book, you will feel the struggle. You will hold your breath as the family is forced to separate.  You will wonder how evil can exist.  You will wonder if Leon ever sees the faces again of his brothers.  Share this book with your children or students. 

I think the dedication page is its own recommendation for reading this book:  "To my brothers, Tsalig and Hershel, and to all the sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents who perished in the Holocaust.  And to Oskar Schindler, whose noble actions did indeed save a "world entire." - Leon Leyson

Book

The Boy on the Wooden Box
9781442497818

Prepare for fall movie releases with summer reading...

Film adaptations of three recent novels and one middle school classic are scheduled for release this fall. Why not take advantage of summer reading season to read, or perhaps re-read, the books that have inspired these upcoming movies:

The Giver by Lois Lowry - August 15 release

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - October 3 release

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks - October 17 release

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - November 21 release

Book

Gone Girl
9780307588364

The Mad Potter

The arresting photo on the cover of this book caught my eye and I was quickly drawn into the quirky world of George Ohs, who called himself The Mad Potter.

Born in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1871, George Ohs was a largely self-taught potter, making items like no one had ever seen before. It wasn’t until long after his death that the art world came to appreciate what he called his “mud babies.”

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius tells his fascinating story and is illustrated with intriguing historic photographs.

Book

The Mad Potter
9781596438101

Introducing... Isabelle

Isabelle, a young dancer, is the newest girl in the American Girl series. Isabelle by Laurence Yep is the first book in the series, 2 others: Designs by Isabelle and To the Stars, Isabelle have also been published.

The first book, Isabelle, sets up the characters, her family, friends and the setting. Isabelle is excited about starting her first year at the Anna Hart School of the Arts, a prestigious school for the arts in Washington D.C. She can’t help comparing herself to her older sister, Jade, who also attends Anna Hart and is an amazing ballerina. Actually all the kids at Anna Hart are exceptionally talented. Isabelle questions her dance ability and wonders if she can navigate the new school.

As Isabelle prepares with her class for the Fall Festival, she continues to doubt her own ballet ability. What she doesn’t doubt is her desire and sense of style for designing Jade’s and her own costumes for the program. As the Fall Festival draws closer, Jade gives Isabelle some spot on tips for her dancing that allows for her to finally give the performance she has been dreaming of. And Jade and her both have amazing costumes as well. Both Jade and Isabelle are noticed by a professional Director and dancer and are asked to perform in the Nutcracker – a dream come true.

Fans of American Girl will enjoy this new series. The books are fun and read quickly.

Book

Isabelle
9781609583712

The Wish List

I love the way Eoin Colfer writes. I was hooked on his book “Benny and Omar” then I got hooked on the Artemis Fowl series. I just finished his book “The Wish List” and am still happy with his brand of writing. In The Wish List Meg and Belch are robbing an old man. Meg is reluctant and basically a good girl but Belch is rotten. When the old man pulls a shotgun Belch sic’s Raptor, his Rottweiler on the old man. Meg tries to help out, Belch is not happy. Meg jumps out the window and Belch follows her. Belch has the shotgun and in the ensuing struggle it goes off and a gas generator explodes killing Meg, Belch and Raptor. Now the twist, up until then it was a regular story but Eoin Colfer does not write just regular stories. Meg finds herself given a second chance. St. Peter gives her a chance to redeem herself and he sends her back to earth to help the old man. Belch has merged with his dog Raptor and the Devil has sent back him back to make sure Meg fails so he could get her soul. It makes an entertaining read.

Book

The Wish List
9780786818631

I love Ghost Zeb

Eoin Colfer is best known for his teen books the Artemis Fowl series. In Plugged he is targeting the adult audience and as it is an adult audience he lets the language get foul. Not Fowl as in Atemis Fowl but Foul as in let’s let the cuss words fly. Personally I could do without the cussing but if your main character is an Irish bouncer/ ex-army type of guy, I guess some language will come with that. Daniel McEvoy is an ex-army most recently Lebanon. He is a big guy and is an expert killer especially with a knife but also with a gun. Daniel McEvoy is a bouncer at a club called Slots. He used to be a “Protection” guy and a friend for Zeb. Daniel is a very macho guy and can kill you in a dozen of ways but he is going bald and is very vain about it. Zeb, a very unsavory character and is giving Daniel hair plugs. When I first heard the title I thought plugged referred to being killed by bullets not hair plugs. But indeed Daniel and a mob type boss are both vain enough about their hair, hence the title of the book. This book was a little too flash back and now present but I really liked Daniel talking to Ghost Zeb. Daniel goes to Zeb for another treatment and a mob henchman is there and as mob hence men tend to be he tries to kill Daniel. Daniel being OUR hero kills the bad guy. Then the mystery ensues of why is the bad guy here. Ghost Zeb keeps coming to Daniel and talking to him. I listened to the audio book version and loved listening to Zeb talking to Daniel. Daniel has to figure out who killed Connie (a hostess he liked), and what happened to Zeb.

Book

Plugged
9781590204634