Friday, August 28, 2015

A new student review of The Anatomy of Curiosity by Brenna Yovanoff Tessa Gratton Maggie Stiefvater

Star360 posted a new student review of The Anatomy of Curiosity by Brenna Yovanoff Tessa Gratton Maggie Stiefvater. See the full review.

Many readers have wondered how their favorite YA authors go about writing a novel. With The Anatomy of Curiosity, their questions can be answered in a clever, unforgettable way.

 

The beauty of this book was how fun it was to read it! I’ve read articles about how to write a book and seen videos of authors talking about their journey to publication. Those are good resources, but this book took it a step up and showed readers how it’s done. Fantasy authors Steifvater, Gratton, and Yovanoff each wrote a novella and explained to readers how they decided on the climax, the setting, a certain phrase, and all the other fidgety little details that make up a fine story.

 

Reading those notes is like watching a movie with the director’s comments on – you’re enjoying the plot, but you also get valuable insight into the making of the work. People can choose to ignore the notes completely and simply enjoy the story, which is a good idea for those who don’t want even the slightest hint of a spoiler. But I highly recommend that readers at least skim the notes, because there’s a lot to learn from the three talented women.

 

The novellas themselves were each unique and memorable. Steifvater’s was about a shy girl who reads poems for an elegant yet strange old lady; Gratton’s was about a boy at war whose love hides a great secret; Yovanoff’s was about the haunting qualities of drowning. My personal favorite was Steifvater’s ‘Ladylike,’ but all three will have an appeal for a diverse audience.

 

The Anatomy of Curiosity should be on the to-read list of anyone who wants a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a novel.

A new student review of Iron Rails, Iron Men, and the Race to Link the Nation: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad by Martin W. Sandler

moseso posted a new student review of Iron Rails, Iron Men, and the Race to Link the Nation: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad by Martin W. Sandler. See the full review.

This book is full of lots of important and valuable information on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. It is slightly confusing in the beginning, but eventually, all is explained and the reader can read without any more confusion. For anyone who is looking to write a report or just to learn about this awesome railroad, this is a great resource book. Some of the information could have been arranged in a different way so that it would be more easily understood. Kids 12 and up would best understand this book. Overall, this book is a great read for anyone interested in the Transcontinental Railroad!  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A new student review of Flying Mutant Zombie Rats by Kat de Falla

jotaf posted a new student review of Flying Mutant Zombie Rats by Kat de Falla. See the full review.

I thought Flying Mutant Zombie Rats was an enjoyable and humorous book, one with a funny plot line. 

It was hilarious that the portal to another dimension opened while Pea was doing a back-flip on his BMX bike. Another part in the book I enjoyed was when a cat named Maximillian started talking; it was funny when Pea was surprised by it. 

This book was a new kind of book for me. I have never read a book quite like this one; adventure, friendship, and tongue-in-cheek humor made it interesting. I felt that the storyline slowed in some parts, although it wasn't that often. At times weird, at times gripping, this book would appeal to many boys. I would have given this book five stars, but I didn't appreciate some of the gross humor. I would recommend this book to students ages nine through fourteen, or to anyone that enjoys books where kids overcome impossible odds. 

A new student review of Flying Mutant Zombie Rats by Kat de Falla

nictaf posted a new student review of Flying Mutant Zombie Rats by Kat de Falla. See the full review.

Flying Mutant Zombie Rats was an exciting book full of adventure and fun. Kat de Falla created a wonderful story! The characters were very funny and well described. For example, she wrote "Paco stood by the gate with his sparkling, almost all chrome, GT bike. He had a habit of constantly shoveling food in his mouth, but in spite of that he was wiry--and someone good to have on your side in a fight."

Pea was a funny, nice kid. He was very likable. I felt this book was too short; I wanted it to keep going because it was so enjoyable. I’d love to read the second book! This book is great for ages 9 and up.
 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A new student review of Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson

Gwendolyn posted a new student review of Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson. See the full review.

The first aspect of Symphony for the City of the Dead that captured my attention was the cover art. With its eye-catching uses of color, the cover of this non-fiction novel reminds me of propaganda posters seen during World War ll and the Cold War. It perfectly fits the atmosphere of this book. Although I tend to discourage judging a book by its cover, if I had seen M.T. Anderson's new work in a book store, I am certain that the cover art would have immediately drawn me in and motivated me to pick it up.

 

I was naturally drawn to this book both as a musician and as an appreciator of music, but also because I have a passion for modernist music, particularly by Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovich. It was an interesting experience for me to learn about Dmitri Shostakovich's life in such detail, because, despite the fact that I love Shostakovich's work, I had hardly any knowledge of his life or the impact that he had, prior to reading this non-fiction novel. Reading his story gave me an even deeper appreciation for Shostakovich's compositions. 

 

After reading the official summary for Symphony for the City of the Dead, I was unaware that it covers more historical events than the Siege of Leningrad. It begins with chronicling Dmitri Shostakovich's childhood during the Russian Revolution, and then indicates issues with communist Russia and Joesph Stalin's leadership, and Shostakovich's impact on and experiences with these times. I love that this non-fiction novel utilizes a not so well-known perspective on well-known historical events. While reading this book, I was given the opportunity to better understand a point of view disparate from the American perspective that I am more familiar with.

 

One thing is for certain, this book is packed full of information. It is clear that M.T. Anderson did his research. This is one of those books that I might not re-read in its entirety any time soon, but I am certain that I will continue to refer to for the useful information that can be found in its pages. It would be perfect to use for reference in a history class that covers these topics, because it shares such an in-depth perspective on some of the biggest moments in Russian history. 

 

The only drawback that I could think of with this book was that the way the author chose to narrate in certain areas. These areas feel a little unfocused. This isn't a necessarily bad thing, and once I adjusted to the atmosphere I was able to enjoy it. In order to tell Shotakovich's story, you have to understand what was happening in the world around him, therefore the information the author includes makes sense and proves useful in fully experiencing the book as a whole.

 

In conclusion, M.T. Anderson's Symphony for the City of the Dead is a slow-paced yet informative tome that I feel would be better enjoyed gradually and leisurely, but a well-written and well-researched historical compilation nonetheless. I highly recommend this non-fiction novel to those interested in Russian history and creative arts during the 20th century.

 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A new student review of Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson

Gwendolyn posted a new student review of Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson. See the full review.

The first aspect of Symphony for the City of the Dead that captured my attention was the cover art. With its eye-catching uses of color, the cover of this non-fiction novel reminds me of propaganda posters seen during World War ll and the Cold War. It perfectly fits the atmosphere of this book. Although I tend to discourage judging a book by its cover, if I had seen M.T. Anderson's new work in a book store, I am certain that the cover art would have immediately drawn me in and motivated me to pick it up.

 

I was naturally drawn to this book both as a musician and as an appreciator of music, but also because I have a passion for modernist music, particularly by Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovich. It was an interesting experience for me to learn about Dmitri Shostakovich's life in such detail, because, despite the fact that I love Shostakovich's work, I had hardly any knowledge of his life or the impact that he had, prior to reading this non-fiction novel. Reading his story gave me an even deeper appreciation for Shostakovich's compositions. 

 

After reading the official summary for Symphony for the City of the Dead, I was unaware that it covers more historical events than the Siege of Leningrad. It begins with chronicling Dmitri Shostakovich's childhood during the Russian Revolution, and then indicates issues with communist Russia and Joesph Stalin's leadership, and Shostakovich's impact on and experiences with these times. I love that this non-fiction novel utilizes a not so well-known perspective on well-known historical events. While reading this book, I was given the opportunity to better understand a point of view disparate from the American perspective that I am more familiar with.

 

One thing is for certain, this book is packed full of information. It is clear that M.T. Anderson did his research. This is one of those books that I might not re-read in its entirety any time soon, but I am certain that I will continue to refer to for the useful information that can be found in its pages. It would be perfect to use for reference in a history class that covers these topics, because it shares such an in-depth perspective on some of the biggest moments in Russian history. 

 

The only drawback that I could think of with this book was that the way the author chose to narrate in certain areas. These areas feel a little unfocused. This isn't a necessarily bad thing, and once I adjusted to the atmosphere I was able to enjoy it. In order to tell Shotakovich's story, you have to understand what was happening in the world around him, therefore the information the author includes makes sense and proves useful in fully experiencing the book as a whole.

 

In conclusion, M.T. Anderson's Symphony for the City of the Dead is a slow-paced yet informative tome that I feel would be better enjoyed gradually and leisurely, but a well-written and well-researched historical compilation nonetheless. I highly recommend this non-fiction novel to those interested in Russian history and creative arts during the 20th century.

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A new student review of The Green Teen Cookbook by Pam McElroy

ClarissaAdeleMorgenstern posted a new student review of The Green Teen Cookbook by Pam McElroy. See the full review.

This cookbook was well organized, and appealing photos add color to the recipes.  I tested several of the recipes.  Some of my favorites were the energy bars and the Caesar salad.  I made the apple chips but I had to shorten the cooking time because they started burning.  A few of the recipes’ directions could have been more specific (For example, multiple recipes didn’t specify which size baking dish to use.), but overall the instructions had enough detail for an amateur cook who doesn’t know many fancy cooking techniques.  Because different teens contributed each recipe, a wide variety of cuisines and diets (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.) is included, which makes this book useful to practically anyone—and not only teens.  I would recommend this book to anyone, young or old, who wants to eat a little healthier and reduce their carbon footprint.

A new student review of Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

Boomer123 posted a new student review of Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. See the full review.

I am almost 10 years old and this book was difficult for me to read.  My mom had to help me, there were a lot of words I didn’t know.  We read most of the book together.  I like books like the Land of Stories and I thought this was going to be like that but it was very different.  It was a little slow and I expected there would be many big adventures.  My favorite parts were the stories about Circus Mirandus, I wished there were more of them.  

I did like all the characters. Micah is very nice and finds a great friend in Jenny.  Grandpa Ephraim is interesting with all his wonderful stories, he’s a pretty great grandfather.  Aunt Gertrudis is not nice.  She doesn’t believe in magic and thinks Micah and his grandfather is foolish for believing in it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy books about believing in magic.      

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A new student review of Our Wild and Precious Lives by A.G. Russo

Sweetfable posted a new student review of Our Wild and Precious Lives by A.G. Russo. See the full review.

I thought this book was a very interesting and engaging read. From the very beginning, I felt immersed in the world the characters were living in, even though I have never lived in a situation anywhere close to the one Tom and Melly found themselves in.

That is the great thing about books like this one. I had the opportunity to feel like I lived in a different time than my own, and felt that I could have easily been in this difficult situation myself. The characters' problems were so realistic. They helped the reader understand that the difficulties the characters endured are universal.

An aspect of the novel I enjoyed was the military terms used; I learned a thing or two from reading the terminology. Although, at times it was a bit difficult for me to keep track of all of these terms. The same thing was true of the characters. They were all very interesting, but it was hard to remember who was who at times. However, I found myself invested emotionally in these characters, and really enjoyed learning about their lives and their struggles.

The one thing that I could really connect to in the novel was the experience of having a sibling that you love. I know exactly what it is like when you rely on your sibling for support and even protection. This is one of the most special feelings in the world. After reading this book, readers with siblings will be able to relate to the incredible bond and trust between siblings. For those who don't have any, the bond will still be understood. 

A new student review of Our Wild and Precious Lives by A.G. Russo

Star360 posted a new student review of Our Wild and Precious Lives by A.G. Russo. See the full review.

It’s rare to find a book that so vividly portrays the strong relationship between a brother and sister. In books for teen girls, the brother is often a hook to meet the cute love interest; in books for teen boys, sisters are usually minor characters. In Our Wild and Precious Lives, Tom and Melly’s love and devotion to each other was a touching storyline that reminded me of Jem and Scout’s bond in To Kill a Mockingbird. Having both young male and female perspectives gave the book an unexpected dimension, though Melly is the main focus.

 

Melly McCarron was a spitfire! She had an enthusiasm for life that could not be contained, and as she grew older, she became a remarkable young woman. But her pro-feminist spirit and quick tongue could not save her from falling into a relationship that was, at best, complicated. Wes, her boyfriend, was certainly not my ideal man. Readers will have strong views on the outcome of her youthful affair.

 

Brother Tom was less willful than Melly; his strength came through endurance and keen observations. In the dysfunctional McCarron family, he served as the reliable one. The few years he had on Melly were evident, since he made far less impulsive decisions and could see beyond a first impression.

 

I was surprised and pleased that in Our Wild and Precious Lives, the parents get to share their story as well. Jim and Lina could have simply been unimportant, irritating parents, but their past is threaded though the story and makes the novel stronger. Jim’s PTSD and Lina’s OCD have heartbreaking causes that trace back to the Second Word War. It was curious to think of how one moment can trigger a chain of events that both create and destroys lives. 

 

The story spans several years in Tom and Melly’s high school careers, so many supporting characters pass through the pages. Each has an important story to tell, and even the most seemingly insignificant person can twist the plot at an unexpected moment, whether it be the Hawaiian librarian or the pompous jock. Some, like sweet Gwen and gentle giant LJ, became my favorite characters.

 

History buffs will be thrilled with the many Cold War and 1960s references dropped in the book. Never fear: the information is not dull, nor does it feel like a duty textbook. There are many German words used, and the local color gives the novel an authentic flavor. Teens and adults can learn something new, whether it be a teen slang phrase or the architecture of an old European castle.

 

It’s helpful to point out that Our Wild and Precious Lives doesn’t have a conventional plot. I’d be hard pressed to find an exact rising or falling action, and there could be several perspectives on which scene is the climax. It reminded me of a TV show – there’s a point to the story, but it flows with the characters’ lives, not a single mystery or issue. 

 

In this dramatic saga of love, family, and hope, the McCarron siblings learn to define themselves during the critical years of the Cold War.

A new student review of Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye by Chelsea M. Campbell

sschu5 posted a new student review of Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye by Chelsea M. Campbell. See the full review.

I think this book is very good for kids to read for many reasons. First of all, the story has so many twist and turns it will keep you guessing until the very end. Second, the plot flows so smoothly by mysteriously it will seem like that is what was supposed to happen and that you should have seen it coming- but you won’t. Third, it is an exciting tale of adventures and past mistakes that come together to make the emotions real. And last but not least, the author describes it so clearly you can imagine it right in front of your eyes. It was one of the best books I have ever read.