Friday, August 18, 2017

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780143107293
While wondering what to share at Guys Lit Wire today, I browsed my bookshelves and remembered how happy I was when Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman came out. I've always enjoyed classic fairy tales, and I thoroughly enjoyed Pullman's His Dark Materials series, so I couldn't wait to dig into this collection. Pullman selected fifty Grimm tales to retell, ranging from the well-known (Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White) to those perhaps not as well known to the general populace (Hans-my-Hedgehog, Lazy Heinz).

Pullman doesn't shy away from the violent aspects of stories, but he doesn't purposely make them overly gory either. For example, those familiar with the origin stories of Cinderella won't be surprised by what happens to the stepsisters' feet and eyes, but it shouldn't cause nightmares for those who shy away from horror movies. Pullman also keeps the light stories light, and retains the humor in stories with sassy scoundrels and silly sorts.

At the end of each story, Pullman notes the 'tale type' and the source of the story, lists similar stories, and often adds a few additional thoughts. It made me glad to see other storytellers named, including published authors and lesser known folks that the Grimms interviewed when they were collecting stories. If they hadn't shared those stories and the Grimms hadn't committed them to paper, they may have been lost through time. There's also a lovely introduction and a bibliography at the front of the book.

The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich is not one of my favorite Grimm tales, nor one of my least favorites. I've read it and seen it in many different forms. Somehow, though, I never encountered a version with Iron Heinrich, the loyal servant who had three iron bands placed around his heart to contain his grief when the prince disappeared, "for iron is stronger than grief." Upon the prince's return with his new princess, the bands on Heinrich's heart break, because "love is stronger than iron." That explanation and that image struck me deeply, and I'll never forget where and when I first read it.

Another fun discovery was Gambling Hans, which ends up being an origin story for "every gambler who's alive today."

Like I said, I've always liked fairy tales - but not necessarily for the typical reasons, for the "happily ever after" endings and the weddings and whatnot. I always have been and always will be surprised when characters up and marry other characters after knowing each other for five seconds! I prefer the journeys the characters take, the lessons they learn along the way, especially when they include twists, surprises, and talking animals.

If you enjoy TV series like Once Upon a Time and Grimm and feel the urge to re-read some of the original stories, pick up Philip Pullman's collection. Whether you pick at it little by little, story by story, or read it all over the course of one stormy night or one long weekend, if you like fairy tales, you're sure to enjoy it - and it may prompt you to pick up additional books related to the original stories or their tellers!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Simon is the most hated person in school.

As the creator of a gossip app called "About That," he regularly posts school rumours that often expose people's mistakes or secrets.

When four students find themselves in detention for something they all deny doing, they aren't surprised to find Simon in there with them.

Then, the unthinkable happens, Simon dies in front of them and within minutes they are all suspects. Each student has a reason to want Simon dead.

Each student is holding a secret that might uncover the truth, and the creepiest thing? Simon's "About That" app continues to run after his death. Rumours and gossip continues to spread and as the police and news reporters swarm their lives, the students find themselves pushed to the breaking point.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Posted by John David Anderson

x500.png (500×757) Disclaimer: My oldest son is going to middle school in the fall and I am concerned about bullies and general meanness. I know I am not the only one, quite a few parents had questions about bullying in the open house last month.

Middle school is an awkward time for kids. They are coming into their own and finding a tribe to protect themselves from wolves. The schisms between tribes are usually difficult for middle schoolers to navigate since they haven't experienced anything like that before.

John David Anderson's Posted explores what occurs in one such tribe at Branton Middle School when the principal bans cell phones. The story is told from the viewpoint of Eric, an awkward, somewhat nerdy but decent kid who hangs out with fellow misfits nicknamed Bench, Deedee and Wolf. They eat at their table every day during lunch period and play Dungeons and Dragons on Friday nights.

The cell phone ban at school forces the kids to go old school to communicate and they start using post-it notes in class and worse, on lockers. Anderson explores what happens when kids say things that are downright mean and also what happens when kids unintentionally hurt others. Eric's tribe must deal with turmoil in their own family life, mean kids at school, a new kid called Rose and the sudden stratospheric rise of one of their own on the sports field.

Anderson's characters are ones you root for instantly and the antagonists made my blood boil although I couldn't help wondering what they were dealing with in their own lives. This is a great little book although some of the themes explored might go over the heads of younger readers. I recommend it for fifth grade and up. If you have read every Wonder book and spin-off try this novel.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Gork, The Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson




Size matters. No dragon wants his horns to be too small or his heart too large, especially during the awkward teenage years. Suffering from both of these maladies, our hero Gork must navigate the toxic dragon masculinity of WarWings Academy and Planet Blegwethia.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Guys Read: Funny Business

Guys Read is "a web-based literacy program for boys founded by author and First National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka." Mr. Scieszka has put together several books collecting different types of stories, including this. Guys Read: Funny Business is the first that he published.
I've been enjoying reading the stories, though I haven't finished it yet. One of my favorites so far was written by editor Scieszka and Kate DiCamillo (who wrote the amazing Because of Winn-Dixie). "Your Question for Author Here" is told as a series of letters between middle school student Joe Jones and author Maureen O'Toople. Joe contacted her for a school assignment he considers "lame." She agrees to answer his questions if he will answer some she poses to him. I imagine that Scieszka and DiCamillo have received letters from students regarding "lame assignments," and they have fun with this story. Quoting from it won't work very well, so I'm going to just recommend you get the book, and see how it works out. The other stories are worth your while, too. Funny Business!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

CASTLE IN THE STARS: The Space Race of 1869 by Alex Alice

"Gory Gods of Gaul!" It's a steampunk alternate history involving Mad King Ludwig, King of Bavaria, some nasty Prussians (including one with a sword hidden inside his cane), a boy named Seraphin and his father, plus two Bavarian servants. In this book, the characters are concerned with the notion of aether, as proposed by the Ancient Greeks, and seek to make their way into space using hydrogen balloons and "aether engines". Those balloons are used to ascend nearly into space, with suggestions being made of future space travel.

The format of this graphic novel is an oversized hardcover picture book measuring 8-3/4" x 11-1/2". It contains 62 oversized pages in full color throughout. It is Book One of what will be a two-part series (that was originally released in France in 2014 in newspaper format). The French text and illustrations were by Alex Alice; the English translation of the text contained in the new First Second edition is by Anne and Owen Smith.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Not A Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis

It's always just been Lynn and her mom in their house with their barn and most importantly their pond. She's never had any real contact with other people, except at the business end of the rifles they carry. Lynn lives in a world where those who have water live and those who don't, don't. They have it, and they mean to keep it. It's a hard life with a to do list that never ends. The two must purify their own water, gather firewood enough for a freezing cold winter, grow and can enough food to last through that same cold winter, and of course protect the pond from all who would like to take their water from it. 

Two new fires can be seen in the area and they make Lynn's mother edgy. who is out there? How many of them are there? When will they come for the pond?

McGinnis gives us a lot to think about in a world where weather is becoming more severe, oceanic water levels  and worldwide temperatures are on the rise, and the number of humans continues to increase with every day that passes. What would I be willing to do to protect what is mine? Would I be willing to share with anyone else? I'm thirsty just thinking about it...

This is the first of two books to keep you on the edge of your seat and see who survives. 

A great recommendation for fans of Divergent, The Hunger Games, and Article 5. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ararat by Christopher Golden


Looking for a story to help you escape the heat of summer? Christopher Golden's newest thriller ARARAT is bound to give you chills.

I found myself holding my breath more than once while reading this book - pretty much any time that they were climbing up or down the mountain. The stakes can't get any higher (no pun intended) than when you're dangling off the side of a mountain - unless, of course, there happens to be a demon in a mix. Then you're just bound for disaster no matter what happens.

Mount Ararat is a real place. It is, in the words of Wikipedia, a snow-capped and dormant compound volcano in the extreme east of Turkey. The novel features a multicultural cast of characters who have come to Ararat from all over the world - and for all different reasons. The storyline incorporates a good mix of action and character-driven stories with a touch of the supernatural. Some characters are explorers, others researchers; some believe they've found Noah's Ark while others are skeptic; some are fighting for their beliefs while others are simply trying to survive.

Here's the jacket flap summary for this action-packed story:

Fans of Dan Simmons' THE TERROR will love ARARAT, the thrilling tale of an adventure that goes awry.

When a newly engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces them to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah's Ark.

But when a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses - and when they break it open, they find that the cadaver within is an ugly, misshapen thing - and it has horns. A massive blizzard blows in, trapping them in that cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain - but they are not alone.


Read an excerpt now.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Encounters by Jason Wallace

When I was a kid I was obsessed with UFOs.

My dad witnessed the unexplained object streak across the sky at his home in Clark's Harbour Nova Scotia in 1967. It would be known as the Shag Harbour UFO incident because many locals claimed to have seen a craft crash into the ocean. Some told stories of thick orange foam covering the top of the water and Russian ships suddenly converging on the area.

Whatever it was, it was an experience shared by others and the stories remain to this day.

Encounters is all about a shared experience. Based on the Ruwa, Zimbabwe UFO incident when dozens of school children claimed to have seen silver discs land behind their school, Encounters follows the journey of six children that have their lives changed forever because of the alleged alien encounter.

Finding Mighty by Sheela Chari


51NUxUJi+yL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (329×499)
I grew up in the 80s and was always fascinated by the emergence of the hip-hop movement. From afar I watched as b-boys used the tenets of the movement (rapping, djing, b-boying and graffiti) to express themselves in the dawn of a new era. Thus, when I saw Sheela Chari's new book, Finding Mighty I was instantly drawn to the cover and the book did not disappoint.

Chari is of East Indian descent and the main protagonists are of East Indian descent as well, something that I had not seen in many middle grade novels but which was a refreshing change as I feel it is critically important for kids to read about different perspectives and cultures.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints- Myla, Peter and his older brother Randall, and centers around the mysterious death of the boys' father, Omar. Randall has joined a group of graffiti artists who tag different parts of the city at night. One night Randall disappears and leaves cryptic clues to help his brother find him. Peter starts to search but soon realizes that he can't do it alone.

In addition to all of the above, Myla and Peter have to deal with being new sixth graders and the transition that this entails. Myla for her part feels invisible and in one interesting exchange between her and Peter they reflect on the pros and cons of the different neighborhoods. Chari does a wonderful job of touching on some deep issues in a very sensitive manner.

There are more characters too including the boys' weird uncle, an ex-con called Scottie Biggs and a nosy reporter called Kai Filnik who has a knack of popping up in the most unexpected places. This is a mystery with twists, turns and a great deal of heart. Highly recommended. Natasha Tarpley's The Harlem Charade is another great mystery set in and around New York City. Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer series is a great series of intricately plotted mysteries for middle grade readers.

Read other reviews like this on my blog here!