Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer is here

I didn't make it to 80 Young Adult books this year - but I will continue until I do. I have read so many books for all age levels and enjoyed almost all of them. I am so pleased I gave myself this assignment. I wonder what I will do for next year? I have the summer to think about that. I will be reading and blogging over the summer. Watch that total creep even higher.

One of the hardest things about working in an International School is that every year families move away. Transfers, end of contracts, new opportunities all mean that we say good-bye to one third of our school community. Our headmaster, Peter Welch, has a weekly blog and this week he wrote about saying good-bye. Below is a quote from that blog.

"What I value is the richness of experience that an international life offers and the opportunity to keep learning. It seems to me that it is important to be ‘present’ in all our social and professional relationship and be open to proper connections. We should allow ourselves to be sad when people we care about move on. And we should try to properly appreciate people before they go and say that they have made a difference to us."

So we are busy with summer borrowing, sign outs and  autographing year book pages - it is the last day of school for the year. Happy Summer everyone. I will be spending some of it in the winter of New Zealand.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book 65 - Lady Macbeth's daughter by Lisa Klein - Scotland

I think I have mentioned before that I love Shakespeare and I  love fiction works that relate to Shakespeare and his plays. This book was so good in that it asks "what if?". Lisa Klein takes the line, "I have given suck, and know/ How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me.." (I.7.54-55) and imagines the babies Lady Macbeth is referring to. She gives her a some from a previous marriage and a daughter to Macbeth. The daughter, Albia, is born with a deformed foot and is rejected by her father who was expecting a son. He sends the babe to be left outside the walls but Lady Macbeth's maid rescues her and takes her to her own sister to raise. Her sister is one of three sisters who meet Macbeth and prophesy his rise to new status. 

Klein very cleverly entwines many parts of the play into a realistic story line. Albia is taken to be foster daughter to Banquo and his wife Breda after their own daughter dies of a fever. There she meets and develops a love for their son Fleance. Albia is also aware that she has a gift of the sight and \can see things in the future. Which is both comforting and terrifying at the same time. 

The Author's note at the end is worth reading. I know this play well and I wonder if others who do not know it would enjoy it as much. I believe they would. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book 64 - The beginner's guide to living by Lia Hills - City anywhere in the Western world

Why read books? In the pages of a book you can experience, voraciously,  feeling, actions, ideas, adventures, pain and joy. It the safe scare, the thinking through of what would I do? Lia Hills offers this to her readers in the novel. Will, 17 years old, starts to write down all his major questions about life, the universe and everything. He begins this journalling process seven days after his mother is killed in a car accident. The pain and anger he feels is so raw. On the day of her funeral, Will meets Taryn, the daughter of some friends of his parents. She seems to understand, she gives him her friendship and her love, more than the sympathy and awkwardness his school friends are offering. Will falls into and through some major life events in the few weeks after his mother's death. His first sexual experiences with Taryn, reading philosophers, attacking his brother, experimenting with drugs, vandalism, he runs away and tries to commit suicide. All of this and any of this could be true to life - I do feel that to put it all in the novel was a little too much. This is Lia Hills' first novel and she certainly created believable and sympathetic characters. Will's father simply not coping with the emotional toll of his wife's death withdraws and is distant. His older brother, Adam, is aloof and critical. Taryn is alos a well drawn character and I think it is the characters who make this book more of a success rather than the huge number of events Will goes through in a few weeks. Lia Hills also draws heavily on writers, poets and Macbeth as Will examines some of the thoughts about death and dying. A good read overall.

Above are the two different covers to the book. An interesting study in cover art and what teemagers' prefer.

Excellent review from Emily Hainsworth

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book 63 - The Dark Beneath by Alan Gibbons - Oxfordshire, England

16 year old Imogen has finished her exams and now to prove to her parents that she can be independent she has just started a new job waitressing at the local, village cafe. The regular customers - three men she nicknames 'The Boys' who work at the local nuclear power station are full of opinions and react badly when she disagrees. Imogen's family are seasoned protesters from way back - even protesting against the nuclear power station. The latest controversy in their community is the possibility of a remand centre ofr asylum seekers being built there. The locals hate the idea, keep foreigners away. Imogen and her parents also hate the idea - don't lock up asylum seekers at all is their view.

Also in this village is Anthony - the troubled albino son of the cafe owners.  He has an instant crush on Imogen and begins to stalk her secretly taking photos of her. Imogen meets Farid - an asylum seeker from Afghanistan and finds herself strangely attracted to this strong, silent man. 

All of these factors make for a tense story full of people's prejudice, fears and misunderstandings. Imogen learns who she can trust and who is surprisingly untrustworthy. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book 62 - Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted - USA

Billed as a modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast this novel is told by the two main characters Lucius and Aurora who meet on the school bus their first day at a new school. Aurora is instantly accepted into the popular crowd while Lucius' only friend is the security guard at school.

Lucius has hooks where his hands should be. He lost both his arms in an explosion which he caused while experiemtning making a bomb in the basement of his house. His whole family lost thier home and, like Lucius, almost lost their lives. Now they are starting over - in a new town.

Aurora too has expereinced loss - her mother recently died of cancer. Now she and her father, the school librarian, are starting afresh in a new school. Her tragedy has softened her and she is determined to view the world through sympathetic eyes despite what others might say or do.

This novel explores so many themes and so well. I recommend it for teens - to make them think and understand.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book 61 - Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers - New York

Meet 14 year old Reese - locked up in the Juvenile Remand home called 'Progress'. The irony of this title doesn't escape him or the reader but Reese is determined to try to make progress. He is chosen for a work release scheme where he is to work in an old people's home. There he meets Mr Hooft, a man who has not forsaken his prejudices against races other trhan his own. As Reese gets to know Mr Hooft, the old man tells himof his own time in lockdown - as a child captured in South East Asia by the invading Japanese army during World War II. While the circumstances are very different, survival in the situation is not. Mr Hooft provides Reese with much needed perspective on his own situation. Reese has to overcome his own family circumstances and the streets of Harlem that continually rise to try to reclaim him.

This is a gritty read allowing the reader to confront their own prejudices and explore the themes of loyalty, bullying and changing oneself.

This book trailer was created by Savannah Dobson, who is an eighth grader from Pawnee, Texas. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book 60 - Mortal Chaos by Matt Dickinson - Heathrow, Everest, Mali.

This is Matt Dickinson's first novel for Young Adults and it is gripping. I usually do not cope well with novels that have multiple characters but the people who are linked  by the events of this one day are portrayed in such a realistic manner. The whole novel revolves around the concept of chaos theory and indeed starts with a butterfly in a wooded area in England. The characters who become tangled together find themselves linked in a chain of potentially disastorous events. What lifts this from being a bleak twist of fate novel is that some of the main characters show real compassion and concern for others. Their selfless actions help redeem some of the carelessness of the others.

This would be a great novel to share with teenagers. I would like to hear what they have to say about the theme and to explore this notion of chaos theory. This is the first book in the chaos series. The next book starts in Sydney, Australia.... can't wait to get hold of it.

Matt Dickinson came to our school a week or so ago to talk with grade 9,10 and 11 about his experiences on Everest and how he came to write this series. He spoke about teams, leadership, resilience and the whole experience of summitting Everest. If you get the chance to invote him to your school or to hear him speak do.

Matt's website. The Telegraph's review. A promo for the book