Monday, December 26, 2016

7 Books in 2017

2017 is merely days away, and if you recently received gift cards to your favorite local bookstores or online bookshops, you may be anxious to redeem them. Here are seven titles coming out in 2017 that may appeal to this blog's readers - and to this blog's writer, too! :)
I have always been fascinated by Rumspringa, a rite of passage for teens in some Amish communities. Snowbirds by Crissa-Jean Chappell, coming out first thing in January, follows Lucy as she searches for her best friend Alice, who has disappeared in the middle of Rumspringa. "I really hope she finds her," I said to myself when I read the book summary; I am also simultaneously steeling myself for something akin to As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway, just in case...
Three February titles are attracting my attention: the illustrated novel Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola and Tom Sniegoski, the anthology Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen, and the novel We Are Okay by Nina LaCour.

Mignola, famous for creating Hellboy, among other things, teams up with my pal Tom Sniegoski for an illustrated pulp novel about two unusual heroes fighting evil and seeking justice. If you like Mignola's collaborative works with Christopher Golden, like Baltimore and Joe Golem and the Drowning City, check out  Grim Death and Bill.

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen features pieces from 44 different contributors, including illustrators, musicians, novelists, dancers, and leaders. I feel like Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec would appreciate this book. Sending a virtual high-five to Kelly for assembling these essays and illustrations.
If you haven't read a Nina LaCour novel, you are missing out, and you need to rectify that immediately. Go get Hold Still and her other works, read 'em and weep, then prepare for her next book, We Are Okay. The protagonist is halfway through her first year of college, so this book is ready for readers in that end-of-teens/early-20s spot who are searching for a story that reflects their current experience.

Ararat by Christopher Golden comes out in April. It's adventure time: A newly-engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, gets hit by an avalanche, and discovers a cave that some believe is Noah's Ark. When they uncover what's really trapped inside the vessel - and when they, too, are trapped by the blizzard - things get even stranger, and deadlier. I'll read anything Christopher Golden writes, and as I am not one for climbing mountains or going outside during a blizzard, I look forward to reading this page-turner while bundled under a multitude of blankets and drinking cocoa and shouting things like, "Go back! Go back!" to the characters, even though I know they can't hear me. Golden's books are like movies pressed between two covers.

Sarah Dessen's thirteenth novel Once and for All will be available in June. The main character, Louna, is the daughter of a wedding planner. Typically told in first-person and led by a female protagonist trying to make her way through this world, Dessen's novels appeal to those who like realistic contemporary fiction with elements of romance, family, and community.
 September will bring us Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough. Between the buzz of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony award-winning musical Hamilton and the presidential race, 2016 brought politics to the dinner table, the watercooler, and school cafeterias alike, igniting conversations between people of all ages. Those who dug Hamilton (like me!) might be interested in picking up this non-fiction book and learning more about the ten-dollar founding father. Just you wait...

These are just seven of the books I'm looking forward to checking out when they are released in 2017.  There are plenty more where that came from, and I have a running list of them at my blog, Bildungsroman. What 2017 releases are you aching to read? Leave a comment below and let me know! Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Dogs by Allan Stratton

Cameron and his mum are on the run.

Cameron's dad is a maniac, an abuser and all around psycho. That is, at least, what Cameron's been told since he was young.

After five years of jumping around, they settle on an old farmhouse in a place called Wolf Hollow.

Right away Cameron senses something's not right. He feels he's being watched from the cornfield, from the old disused barn, from the road, everywhere. He tells himself it's just his imagination, but with his mum filling his head with horror stories about his dad, he can't really be sure.

Then there's the boys at school, and the stories about the farmhouse that he's just moved into. The former owner went nuts, murdered his family and was eventually torn to pieces by his own guard dogs. Cameron can't figure out if this is true or just small town gossip.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Fever Code by James Dashner

Image result for the fever code

How was the maze built?   Is WICKED good?   These are just some of the questions that fans of this series have been asking themselves for the past few years.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

We are recommending science books.....

.....because science does not change depending on your political persuasion. It never has, and it never will. If you choose not to believe in science then we here at Guys Lit Wire would appreciate it if you would please remove yourself from all conversations on the subject. (And also all science-related Congressional committees.) (And also all cabinet level positions that involve running departments staffed with scientists.)


Now onto the recommendations!
1. The entire SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD series. These books work for a wide age range and are notable not only for their stellar content but outstanding design as well. The author/photographer combo embed with a variety of scientists working in areas from sharks to frogs to volcanoes and space travel. The chapters are concise, the photos clear and intense and the focus is always on the fascinating work being done by scientists (male, female, all races, American & international) in the field. A personal favorite for me is Tracking Trash which was a page turner for everyone who saw it on our coffee table a few Christmases ago. (And got us all talking about the garbage in the oceans.) Check these titles out - I can't recommend them enough.

2. The books of Mary Roach. From Grunt, (on the science of war), to Packing for Mars and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (+ more), Roach has carved out a fascinating niche as an author who immerses herself in a subject and then presents it in a highly engaging and readable fashion. Check all of her work out & read this recent interview with Wired on Grunt.

3. Next of Kin by Roger Fouts & Stephen Mills on years of researching chimpanzees (and development of sign language communication with them) which led to Fouts's turn against biomedical research using  chimpanzees.  With a forward by Jane Goodall, this will appeal strongly to animal lovers. (And younger teens should also check out Jim Ottaviani's graphic novel Primates for short bios of Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas.) Jane Goodall has written a slew of books, all worth checking out - 50 Years at Gombe is especially impressive.

4. Multiple Exposures by Catherine Caufield and The Age of Radiance by Craig Nelson both take a long look at the history of the Atomic Age and the "use, misuse and control of the power of radiation from the discovery of x-rays and radium to the present day." Also check out Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss which combines a biography of their tragic research into radioactivity along with Redness's unique artistic presentation. Jonathan Fetter-Vorm has an outstanding graphic novel history of the Manhattan Project with Trinity and Jim Ottaviani's Feynman is everything you would ever want to know about what of the greatest physicists of all time. (Also see Richard Rhodes's definitive history, The Making of the Atomic Bomb.) Finally, Shelly Emling (who wrote the wonderful Fossil Hunter about Mary Anning) has a biography of the Curie family: Marie Curie and Her Daughters which covers the decades-long period after her husband's death and Curie's constant battles against sexism as she continued to work.

5. The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein. Tons of accolades for this one &amp, as it chronicles of the story of a teen, it has been appeal for readers in his age group. From Booklist: "Silverstein recounts how Hahn, while a high-school student in the early 1990s, tried to assemble a breeder nuclear reactor in a garden shed. Seeking the origins of such audacity, the author extensively interviewed Hahn and worked backward from the day in 1995 when EPA personnel clad in ventilated moon suits took away Hahn's radioactive material. To Silverstein, Hahn was two things at once: a kid out of time who imbibed 1960-style nuclear optimism from a chemistry book published that year and a kid of the times, the product of divorce. Neither parents nor stepparents, consumed by work and personal problems, supervised young David, who, utterly heedless of danger, re-created the experiments of Marie and Pierre Curie with a monomania that fed his fantasy of going nuclear. Aghast at Hahn's recklessness but amazed by his mad-scientist resourcefulness, Silverstein regales readers with an irresistible tale."

6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  It should be on high school reading lists everywhere, not only for the science issues it tackles but the moral issues that demand classroom discussion. Skloot has written a masterpiece, plain & simple. Read about what she is doing for Lacks's descendants in this NY Times article. And then just buy it. Really. Just buy the book.

(Here's a bit from the NYT review that really stayed with me: "But The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is much more than a portrait of the Lacks family. It is also a critique of science that insists on ignoring the messy human provenance of its materials. “Scientists don’t like to think of HeLa cells as being little bits of Henrietta because it’s much easier to do science when you dissociate your materials from the people they come from,” a researcher named Robert Stevenson tells Skloot in one of the many ethical discussions seeded throughout the book.")

7.  Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. I reviewed this one for Booklist and I'm so glad it has been made into a movie. It's a classic example of forgotten/hidden history and along with Margaret Hamilton receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom last month, an excellent stab at shining light on the historic record. From my review for Booklist: "....many of the women, particularly African American women, were employed not as secretaries but as “computers”: individuals capable of making accurate mathematical calculations at staggering speed who ultimately contributed to the agency’s aerodynamic and space projects on an impressive scale. Shetterly does an outstanding job of weaving the nearly unbelievable stories of these women into the saga of NASA’s history (as well as its WWII-era precursor) while simultaneously keeping an eye on the battle for civil rights that swirled around them. This is an incredibly powerful and complex story, and Shetterly has it down cold. The breadth of her well-documented research is immense, and her narrative compels on every level."

Take a minute and check out the trailer for the upcoming movie which looks AWESOME:

Also check out Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt on the women who were employed early at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and T-Minus, another great graphic novel from Jim Ottaviani, on the race to the moon and, if you can bear to have your heart broken, Laika, by Nick Abadzis, the story of the little Russian dog who became the world's first space traveler. (I prefer the ending to that tale found in the picture book Laika: Astronaut Dog by Owen Davey. It's wonderful.)

8. Elements by Theodore Gray is both visually stunning and very well written (even funny). Gray has a ton of fans and for good reason. He actually collects the elements which seems...impossible, but is true and is a great way in which to make the whole Periodic Table a real thing and not some abstract poster that hangs on a classroom wall (which is how most of us see it). Gray has also written Molecules and fans can get a puzzle of his version of the Periodic Table and a photographic card deck which allows users to create their own table. 

I'll be adding more to the post in the coming days. (I haven't even gotten to the Darwin books yet!) And please feel free to make your science recs in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

An amazing Cyber Week of gift-giving for Ballou Sr High School Library!

Our hope for the Cyber Week book fair for Ballou Library was that 50 new books would be bought from the amazon wish list for this underfunded Washington DC school. After the annual book fair in late October (that kind of got lost in the election madness), we saw over 100 books head to the school which was fabulous but, as always, we here at Guys Lit Wire hoped for more. (Don't hate us for being greedy about books for school libraries. We will never tire of wanting more books for school libraries.)

But you guys - YOU GUYS! - we blew past our modest goal and saw more like 150 books go to DC during Cyber Week and it is so awesome!

So many generous people bought so many wonderful books for Ballou. Tons of graphic novels were sent, along with some excellent novels, some biographies, a cookbook, THREE DC Encyclopedias, (Yep, there was a contingent really waiting on those as you can see) and so much more. I could go on and on about how much the kids wanted these books and how excited they are to receive them.

Some folks even paid for gift wrapping the books which was just so kind; so incredibly kind. The students at Ballou will be out of school soon for winter break but now they head off to the holidays with, between the two book fair events, nearly 300 new books on the shelves of their library. We will certainly be working with Ballou's librarian, Melissa Jackson, in the new year to send more books to the school and hope you will help us again. A lot of things are happening in America right now and more than ever supporting our public schools is the job for everyone. Thank you for what you did for Ballou at the closing of the year.

 Thank you so very very much!

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

This is my metric for success as a reading teacher: When a student checks out a book from our classroom library, reads it in one night, returns the next day to ask if the next book in the series has been published, and seems legitimately crushed when he finds out the answer is no. Such was the case with Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study in Charlotte, Book One in the Charlotte Holmes series.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Spoken Word Revolution Redux

Billy Collins has a great poem called "Introduction to Poetry," where he suggests how students could enjoy a poem, but it ends,

"But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

"They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means."

That pretty much describes how school taught me to hate poetry. But it turns out, I don't have to find out what it really means! And I can enjoy a poem best if I hear it read aloud. Best of all is if I hear the poet read it. The Spoken Word Revolution Redux lets me do that with the included CD. It includes slam, hip-hop poetica, dub poetry, musical interpretations, European performance poetry, and some youth poetry too. There are readings by Billy Collins, Ted Kooser,and Mark Strand, who have all been U.S. Poets Laureate.

There are some eye-opening, ear-pleasing, sweet readings to listen to. I haven't actually read the book yet - it's mostly the text of the poems, along with some commentary introducing the writer. What I have done is gotten the first volume, called The Spoken Word Revolution (slam, hip hop & the poetry of a new generation), and started listening to it. It's awesome too!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Daniel and Natasha meet and Daniel immediately falls for her. He knows in his bones that he is destined to be with her. He just KNOWS! Classic boy falls for girl, girl reacts with measured enthusiasm. Daniel knows that if she gives him one day, he can make her fall for him too. What he doesn’t know, is that one day is all she has to give. Natasha and her family are being deported back to Jamaica that very evening.

As the two spend the day together, luxuriating in each other's presence, their story becomes more complicated. Each of them is actually supposed to be doing something else instead of having this amazing day together, things that neither really wants to tell the other.

When they go to his parent's store on an errand, it becomes clear that his Korean immigrant parents do not want Daniel to be dating a black girl.  Likewise, when Daniel meets Natasha's family, sparks fly.

Yoon has created realistic, funny, warm, and touching characters. Characters a reader is drawn to read page after page to know more about.

This is a book for fans of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park, for all the hopeless romantics out there. 

Nicola can be found at:
On Twitter: @NicolaYoon
And as team member of We Need Diverse Books (I love this site!)

Monday, December 5, 2016

This is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart has written many books for teen readers including One Thing Stolen, Going Over and Small Damages. Her writing is particularly appealing to teenage girls as she has a knack for seeing the world through their eyes and showing a great deal of empathy for her exceedingly complex characters. She accomplishes all of that and more with her latest book, This is the Story of You but I also think she offers something unique to teenage boys with this title as well.

While the novel's protagonist is most assuredly female, what seventeen-year old Mira endures in this [literally] storm-tossed title is the sort of adventure that any coastal dweller must be on the lookout for. She also happens to be keenly observant, whip smart and laboring under an enormous amount of pressure. Basically, all teens facing demons of their own, both domestic and meteorological, are going to find a great deal to love in this story.

This is the Story of You takes place on an east coast barrier island, six miles long and a half mile wide. Mira and her friends are the "year-rounders", members of a local community who rely on the tourists for economic survival but long for the off season and the island's quiet beauty.

(Confession time: I grew up on a barrier island just south of Cape Canaveral. It's larger than Kephart's Haven, but with the same tourism ebb and flow. The beach in July is a madhouse; come October it's a gem. So Mira's world is familiar to me, even though we had more than one bridge to get us to the mainland.)

As the book opens Mira and her friends are enjoying the quiet of September, their small, eclectic island school (really great stuff here about a vibrant learning environment) and casting about for info on the new kid. (Yep, it's a guy, yep there's some wondering about his romantic status.) Mira's world is dominated by her close friends, her determined, hard working single mom, her smart, cool younger brother and the chronic and dangerous disease he is battling. This is life in Haven and with Kephart's always impressive writing, it's a lovely place to spend some time.

What upends the book and everyone in it is a massive storm that builds and turns in unexpected ways (shades of Hurricane Matthew) and slams into Haven when few people are prepared. Mira's family is caught on the mainland, someone breaks into her house, folks go missing in the deluge, and on and on. Everyone pulls together but there are mysteries to solve in the wake of the storm, people to find, people to mourn, a disaster to recover from. Haven will never be the same and, of course, neither will Mira or her friends.

What I enjoy so much about Beth Kephart's books is the depth of emotion her characters experience. It is not that horrible things happen to them, but that they are unashamed to feel so much on every page. In Kephart's novels, people say what they think and what they mean. They look at the world and ponder what they see. They insist on taking part in their surrounding community. They are real - everyone Kephart creates is achingly, breath-takingly real. In some ways, they are more real then the rest of us, which is something to aspire to I think, as readers, as writers and as people.

This is the Story of Us is an excellent read and a hard one to forget. You'll fall deeply for Mira and all the denizens of Haven. I certainly did and I'm finding them still with me, even months since I first read this book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Timeless Titles holidays, everyone!

If you're searching for a good book to give to the kids and teens in your life and you're overwhelmed by all of the titles in the new releases section, I suggest getting some timeless titles - especially if it's a series or author that you yourself adored when you were older. That makes the selection and the sharing all the more special. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Classic Staples (all ages)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
Call of the Wild by Jack London
White Fang by Jack London Adventures (for ages 8 and up)
The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Young Wizards by Diane Duane (start with So You Want to be a Wizard)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs
The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring by John Bellairs
The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is my favorite)
The Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix (start with Mister Monday)
Magic Zero quartet by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski (formerly titled OutCast)

Cute Comedies
(for ages 8 and up)
* Note that each of these titles, with the exception of Sixth Grade Secrets, is the start of a series!
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Everyone Else's Parents Said Yes by Paula Danziger
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar

Mysteries, Murder, and Mischief
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Body of Evidence series by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala (teens and adults; there are ten books in the series, starting with Body Bags)
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene (many books; #1: The Secret of the Old Clock)
The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon (many books; #1: The Tower Treasure)

Secrets on the Homefront: World War II (ages 9 and up)
The Diary of Anne Frank
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

For additional suggestions, pop over to my book blog Bildungsroman where I have booklists galore for all ages in a number of categories. Many for the aforementioned titles are part of my Suggested Sets booklist. Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Buy a book for Ballou SR High School on Cyber Monday!


The Book Fair for Ballou Senior High School in Washington DC is back open!

We were delighted to help Ballou librarian Melissa Jackson and her dedicated book club build a wish list on amazon so 175+ books could be bought and sent their way in October. This annual book fair is the primary way in which Ballou HS obtains books the students want and knowing that so many of them are now reading books they have been waiting for (novels! travel guides! history! biography!) has thrilled us to no end.

Seriously, we love helping this incredibly dedicated school librarian out every year!

Here's the drill for the Cyber Monday reopening - the wish list will be open this whole week and then shuts down for 2016 as Ballou gets ready for winter break. This is your last chance to buy a book for this underfunded & very deserving school library! The book club had a few more books to add last week and we got them in there and there are plenty of deals to choose from. Over 340 books are on the list and there is literally something for every price point. (PLENTY of books under $10!)

Buy a book, spread the word, do something good for our future. (And no, I'm not going to get all political right now but seriously - Do Something Good!)

Here is the tinyurl if you want to share it far & wide on social media (and please do!):

The mailing address is already loaded up on the wish list, so all you need to do is shop & the books will be on their way.

Follow @BallouLibrary on twitter (or facebook) for more pictures as books arrive!

The full link to the Ballou wish list:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Part of the Sky by Robert Newton Peck

With all of the new fiction books that have been published it would be easy to choose one of those books to review. I have found however that some books dealing with times gone past have many life lessons to impart.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Throwing down the gauntlet & getting serious

As you may have noticed, it's been a bit quiet around Guys Lit Wire.

Several of our long time posters have had to leave the site and those of us on the organizing end have been busy with our own projects and work and have not been diligent about filling those slots. We got lazy and while still doing good things (book reviews, the Book Fair for Ballou High School), we have certainly not been doing what I would call important things.

That changes now.

Like most of America, we are kind of freaked out by the current political landscape. No one seems to know what is happening next or what direction the country is taking or what that means for anyone. We are especially sensitive to the concerns of our primary readership: librarians, booksellers, parents and teens who are looking for books that will appeal to reluctant teen readers, especially guys. We think it's time to double down on our initial mission and also, now more than ever, embrace in the broadest possible terms the diversity that makes America such a wonderful place to live.

Diversity is everything in America. 

Let me say that again - diversity is everything in America. It's what matters most. It's what we love about our country and it is what we want to encourage, in ever way possible, in the literary world.

As the granddaughter & great granddaughter of immigrants, and the child of someone who primarily learned to speak English in school, I feel very strongly about this. We have not been doing our job around here on the diversity front and, I promise you, that changes now.

We will still be posting book reviews from a group of varied contributors. We will still be writing about all kinds of books and in some ways, readers will notice hardly any changes at all. We are doubling down however on diversity, in formats (more nonfiction! more poetry! more graphic novels!), in characters, in subject matter and in authors. In addition to reviewing, we are also going to do our best to share news and interviews with diverse authors who we think will appeal to teen readers. We see this as shining a light on the work of those who might be overlooked in the massive coverage of the latest "big thing". And while we certainly enjoy a best seller as much as the next person (and you might very well see a few here that we can't resist noting), we really hope that we can help make a dent in the many issues the literary world is suffering from when it comes to diversity.

More than anything, we will always keep our primary mission of getting the word out on great books but we acknowledge that part of what makes a book great is diversity

The thing that is driving us right now is doing what we can to mitigate the fear that so many American children and teens are feeling. We want to do what we can to make sure they know they are not alone. For so many of us, at one time or another, books were important lifelines. We have not forgotten that and want to make sure today's teens can find the books they need to make it through until things get better.

This is an evolving process at Guys Lit Wire - the final rollout of the slightly redesigned site will likely not take place until the end of the year. We are also going to see about partnering up with some other teen focused sites to do some cross-blogging and more.

And we will be back on Cyber Monday to reopen the Book Fair for Ballou High School and hopefully get more books to that Washington DC school library!

I guess my big message with this post was to thank you for hanging in there with us and let you know to watch this space. There are so many things we all need to be doing these days and we hope you will support us as we do what we can in our little corner of the internet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fantasy Sports by Sam Bosna

I loved Fantasy Sports, I'd never heard of it before in my life and decided to buy it for the library based solely on the cover.

I'm glad I did. It's like Big Trouble in Little China if Kurt Russell had to play a game of basketball to defeat Lo Pan.

Wiz and Mug are an unlikely pair. Wiz is a small, snarky, intelligent wizard with a lot to prove. She's working for Mug, a Zangief-esque brute who thinks with his fists before his head. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp is told in short chapters, sharing the story of a school shooting in “real-time,” told from the perspective of four students with various connections to the shooter, filling in some blanks and gaps as we proceed breathlessly to the inevitable conclusion.

I finished This Is Where It Ends the day before our faculty spent a morning undergoing active shooter response training, training that served as a morbid fact check for Nijkamp’s novel.

We were told that nearly all school shootings involve a single shooter (Columbine being a notable exception).

We were told that in nearly all school shootings the shooter is a young male.

We were told that nearly all school shootings end only when the shooter is killed or kills himself.

We were shown ways to distract, attack, disable, and disarm a shooter.

We were told that locking classroom doors and hiding, as we have been trained to do in the past, is often not the best way to deal with an active shooter scenario.

We were not told how we would react if this scenario became a reality. We were not told this because none of us know. None of us know whether the fear will paralyze us, whether self-preservation will make cowards of us, whether self-preservation is even cowardice, or whether some potent cocktail of adrenaline and morality will lead us to heroic actions. We were not told whether these heroic actions will be where it ends for us or for the shooter or both.

Nijkamp tells us where it ends for Tyler, the lone gunman. She tells us where it ends for his sister. She tells us where it ends for his sister’s girlfriend. She tells us where it ends for teachers and students alike. She tells us in staccato bursts, like gunfire, ricocheting between narrators, disorienting us at times. She shows us sacrifice and heroism and fear and terror and panic and cruelty.

Some readers may want more about where it began, more about how Tyler broke bad, more about character relationships. But Nijkamp’s novel is not primarily about those things (if you want those things, I recommend We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver). This is a novel about how much your life can change in an hour. This a novel about the short sharp shock of where it ends.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Scary Stories We Love

In the days leading up to Halloween, during conversations about costumes, candy, and celebrations for the coming spooky holiday, I asked authors, friends, and teen readers alike:

What was your favorite scary book as a kid?

Here are some of their responses.

"Well, I was always a fan of Where the Wild Things Are...that was one of my favorites year round. As I got older, I sorta skipped kids' books and went right into the old Doc Savage pulp reprints. After my pulp phase, I discovered Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and there was no going back. I found my love in horror and there was no looking back. That book scared the crap out of me. From there I discovered Stephen King, devouring Carrie and Salem's Lot, but it was The Shining that again reduced me to a quivering mass...but I loved every second!" - Tom Sniegoski

"I LOVED Baby-sitters Beware, The Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #2 by Ann M. Martin. The girls were stalked by a creepy dude. So unsettling for a BSC book!!!" - Courtney Summers

"As a kid: Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. As a teen, I read memoirs about tragedy, which scared me plenty!" - Courtney Sheinmel

"Ghost Cat by Beverly Butler changed how I felt about ghosts, cats, and Wisconsin farms. Spooky and a little quirky, which is my favorite flavor of spooky. Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn was suggested to me by my bookish friend in grade school. What I remember most about this book are the fires, the liars, and the skeletons. I'm sure I'm making it sound less chilling than it was for me at the time. It scared me. Also, Carrie was scary. I was the first Stephen King book I ever read. I was in high school and I think it's the only frightening novel I read at that age. I metabolize horror very slowly and read it sparingly. My husband is the scary writer. I'm the funny one." - Kristen Tracy

"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. It gave me nightmares." - 15-year-old reader

"There was this book about a kid who was visited by monsters every night and the monsters broke his toys. Every night. Until one night when he asked them not to do it anymore, and then they fixed his toys. I can't remember the title." - another 15-year-old reader (If anyone is familiar with this book and knows the title/author, please share the info in the comments below!)

"By far, the scariest book I remember as a young reader was James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. After all, what could be more horrifying than rolling around the countryside embedded deep in the dark, cloying, moist tunnels of an enormous piece of fruit while surrounded by huge insects? If you don't suffocate in there, you run the risk of a tunnel collapse or that the enormous spider might decide to sting you and wrap you in its web. And even if all else goes well, what if the peach stops rolling with the opening facing down? Buried alive. I still shudder at the thought of that book... I was also frightened by Shel Silverstein's foot." - Eric Luper

How about you, gentle reader? What was your favorite scary book as a kid? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Want to check out some of my favorite scary stories? Looking for more books to pick up this Halloween? Here are some booklists I created that you might enjoy:
Go Gothic
Monster Mash
Vamping It Up
Mind Readers and Ghostly Visitors

Teen Mystery and Horror Books

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Matt Cruse feels most comfortable when aboard an airship. He loves being in the air aboard the Aurora as a cabin boy. On watch one night, Matt discovers a damaged balloon with an elderly man in it. As they attempt to rescue the man, he mutters incoherently about a fierce and massive cat-like creature that flies through the air and then dies of his wounds.

As the Aurora embarks on a flight to Sydney Australia, a small air vessel docks with the Aurora and disembarks Kate de Vries and her chaperone. We find out that Kate is the granddaughter of the man who died as the Aurora rescued him. She is set on proving to the world that her grandfather was not crazy and the creatures he was muttering about actually do exist.

In due course, the pirates arrive, a massive storm hits, the Aurora crash lands on a deserted island, Kate and Matt are kidnapped and a romance buds. A terrific swashbuckling steampunk adventure. Lots of gizmos and gadgets are discussed and used, the Victorian era holds strong, and readers are bound to fall for our two heroes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

100 Books Heading to Ballou Library - LET'S KEEP GOING!!!!

The first boxes of books from the amazon wish list have arrived at Ballou SR High School in Washington DC and as you can see, the students are delighted! Thanks so much to the many people who have bought books and helped spread the word on the Book Fair for Ballou. Your assistance and support are very much appreciated by all of us at guyslitwire & Ballou Library.

But wait -


The wish list remains active and the Book Fair is still going on. As you know from our original post, the book fair is the primary way in which the Ballou students receive books they dearly want. There are still many many novels on the list, as well as cookbooks, manga, graphic novels, some DC character encyclopedias AND SO MUCH MORE!

We are committed to getting another 100 books to Ballou and hope that you will help us. We can't do it alone - we need you to help us spread the word so we can get as many books as possible bought off the list.

Remember - Ballou does not have the budget to buy all the books their students want and need. (This young man dreams of visiting Paris - now he has a guidebook to help him plan!)

There are Spanish language books on the list (Like "One Fish/Two Fish/Red Fish/Blue Fish"!) that will be used in classes, there are biographies and histories, poetry and science and SO MANY NOVELS.

There is science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and a ton of teen dramarama. There are books to learn from and there are books to have fun with. There is, in the 350+ books remaining, literally something for everyone.

Honestly, there is so much to make us all angry in the world today - in America today - that something like helping Ballou becomes even more important. It's a small thing but it will have a big impact AND IT IS ALL POSITIVE.

This is a good thing we can do to make life better for a bunch of students and a truly awesome librarian. There is no downside to this effort - it's all wonderful, and it's all up to us.

Help us get more books into the hands of the students at Ballou SR High school; help us make more book dreams come true.

The quick link:

Long link:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeir

Catrina and her family are moving from the hot, desert-like conditions of Southern California to a location further north. Catrina's sister, Maya, is ill and the northern climate is thought to be better for her.

Catrina doesn't want to go, she misses her friends, she misses her old place. She tries her best not to complain, but she's a teen and that's what teens do. 

One their first night, Catrina and Maya decide to explore the town a little. They find a seemingly abandoned arcade. It's dark, creepy, and a awesome at the same time. It's here that they discover one of their neighbours, and he drops a bombshell on them. 

The town they just moved to is haunted. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

Pigs do not make good pets. Better said, pigs do not make good pets when you are a rural farm boy and times are hard. With a title like this one, you almost know what's coming and that is what makes this book so engrossing.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


It's that time of the year again!

As our regular readers know, Guys Lit Wire annually teams up with Ballou Senior High School librarian Melissa Jackson to host a book fair for this Washington DC high school. This is our 7th year doing a book fair and 5th with Ballou High. Why do we continue to work with this school in particular?

1. Because it has an incredibly dedicated & determined librarian who works hard everyday for her students and we want to do what we can to make her job a little easier.

2. Because the library's budget is extremely limited in the funds that can be used for titles chosen outside of the district lists and our list is built entirely under Melissa's direction and approval addressing the specific wants and needs of her students.

3. Because the students and teachers contribute titles to the wish list, meaning that it is full of books that appeal to a wide range of interests and reading abilities. There is literally something for everyone from romance, mystery and fantasy to guidebooks, Spanish language basics (for the classroom), manga, graphic novels and SO MUCH MORE.

4. Can I talk some more about the books on the list? We've got great big literary titles, intense biographies, history, science and heck......even Archie comics!

5. But mostly, we team up with Melissa and Ballou High School because this is what we all should do. We all should do our part to help the kids of this country get as broad an access to as many wonderful books as possible. We should do what we can to make sure that every student can check out the books they want; the books they have been yearning to read that will make them laugh and cry and think deeply.

It is no surprise that we love books around here and helping to make a school library stronger is pretty much a dream for all of us, and one we hope you will be on board with as well.


The Amazon wish list can be found here. It is also easily searchable at Amazon under "Ballou High School". If you would like to embed a link in a post or tweet (and PLEASE DO!!), use this one:

And here is the url in case the links are not working for you:

The mailing address is already set-up for checkout and there are nearly 500 books to choose from with a wide price range. We do hope you will find a book that you want to send to Ballou and help us make life a little better for a great bunch of a kids.

The Book Fair for Ballou High School Library will stay open for 2 weeks and we will keep you posted here on how things go. Be sure to follow @chasingray (GLW moderator Colleen Mondor's twitter feed) and watch the Ballou Library feed for shoutouts from Melissa (@BallouLibrary) as books show up.


The Ballou Book Club working on the list two weeks ago.

Pet Bugs: A Kid's Guide to Catching & Keeping Touchable Insects

I was not able to upload a picture of this book for some unknown reason, but here are the section headings in Pet Bugs: "Bugs that eat other bugs," "Bugs that have special tricks to avoid being gobbled up," "Bugs that look like something they're not," "Bugs that live and work in groups," "Bugs that communicate with each other in special ways," and "Bugs that multiply - before your eyes!" You'll find out about praying mantises, walkingsticks, spittlebugs, monarch butterflies, tent caterpillars, lightning bugs, stag beetles, cicadas (some people call them locusts), crickets, Japanese beetles,and even mealworms (hungry?)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TETRIS by Box Brown

What is black and white and yellow all over? Why, it's this new biography of the popular video game, TETRIS. (Do not adjust your screen - the cover image to the right isn't crooked; the cover itself depicts everything at a slant.)

I have to confess that I found parts of this biography to be a bit bewildering.

At first, despite the book being titled TETRIS, I assumed it would be the biography of the guy who created it. And the book starts out with him - a guy named Alexey Pajitnov, and his friend Vladimir Pokhilko. Alexey conceived of the game as part of his thinking about the importance of games, not just as diversions but as tools that help the brain solve problems and hone skills.

No sooner does the book go there, than it jumps back by thousands of years to the idea of the beginning of games following through the history of games to the development of the Nintendo Corporation. So I wondered whether this book was more about Nintendo.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

I recently pressed a copy of David Arnold’s Mosquitoland onto a colleague recently, only to find it sitting on my desk at school the next morning. This could mean one of two things:

1)  She hated it, gave up on it, and didn’t want to face my disappointment, or
      2)  She had read the entire book in one evening because it was unputdownable.

It was the latter.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Like hilarious real-life anecdotes? Like them even more when they are accompanied by illustrations? Pick up Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. Inspired by her popular web comic - which you will probably be familiar with if you follow internet memes - this book collects stories from Allie Brosh's life, ranging from things her inept dog has done (or, rather, is unable to do) to her personal experience with depression.

Wikipedia accurately sums up Brosh's style as a combination of observational and absurdist humor. Brosh's reflections and admissions are like real life, but funnier -- and then you realize this IS her real life, and that makes it even funnier. Or sadder. Or both. Like the time her mother got lost in the woods with her two young daughters and tried to make a game out of it.

Though I love the entire book, if pressed to select my favorite portions, I would have to say The God of Cake and Thoughts and Feelings. In the cake story, a very young Brosh tells us about the time she was determined to eat her grandfather's birthday cake. Nothing could stop her, no matter what her mother said and no matter where her mother put the cake. That section reminded me, in part, of Cookies from Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel.

In many passages, Brosh speaks quite frankly about her struggles with self-perception, motivation, and more. She considers what she knows she should do vs. she wants to do vs. what she actually does. There's her internal monologue, right there on the page, with crude (not naughty, but simple) drawings created in Paintbrush. Brosh finds both the humor and the agony in simple and complex situations, and I give her a hearty high-five for her willingness to share her pain and her delights with others. If you like Natalie Tran's communitychannel vlog or comedians or sitcoms that find the fun and the shame in everyday situations, then you should check out Allie Brosh's stories.

This review was originally posted at Bildungsroman.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Watched by Marina Budhos

Naeem used to be a good kid. He used to do his homework, get decent grades, and help out around the house and store, until he started to hang with the wrong people. Person really, Ibrahim. Ibrahim was a loner, a pathological liar, and willing to get his friend into trouble without a second thought. One day, it goes too far and Naeem gets into some real trouble. The police take advantage of the situation, a Bangladeshi boy in a spot of trouble without anyone to help him. Naeem doesn’t want to, but the cops make it sound like he is in so much trouble and they can make it all disappear if he will just let them know what is going on in his neighborhood. Which of his neighbors might be of interest to the police. Plus, they promise to pay him for his skills and the tidbits he can share! Nothing wrong with telling that right?
As he gets into his job, Naeem starts to feel some pride in what he’s doing and the money he brings in really makes a difference to his family. Life starts to get better, his parents seem younger and more interested in new possibilities. But, as his police contacts start to push for more, he really starts to question if what he is doing – going from being watched to watching -  is really the right thing to do.
This is a very timely story. One never really knows who is watching as each and every one of us (though obviously some are watched more than others) move through our lives.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Five chilling tales of gothic horror are what await you in this beautiful graphic novel by Emily Carroll.
The stories are claustrophobic, dark and mesmerising. Almost all of the stories revolve around young women being transformed in a traumatic, psychological way. It's a graphic novel you could read one hundred times and still find a little nugget of creepiness.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cure for the Common Universe by Chris Heidicker

 Boys meets girl. Boy gets girl. The end. Right?  Chris Heidicker's new novel Cure for the Common Universe is a novel take on relationships between kids who aren't exactly a-listers at their schools.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

FASCINATING: The Life of Leonard Nimoy

Because you're never too old for a picture book. And because Star Trek just turned 50 last week. And because it's Leonard Nimoy.

Today's review is of Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy, written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Edel Rodriquez. Apart from Nimoy's autobiography, I Am Spock, this appears to be the only book biography of the acting legend, poet, photographer, and musician (so far). Richard Michelson, the author, is also a gallery owner in Massachusetts, who got to know Nimoy in real life when Nimoy displayed his work at the gallery.

The book explores Nimoy's childhood as the son of Russian immigrants living in Boston. Nimoy's first big break was singing "God Bless America" at a local playhouse, when the manager needed someone to do it and remembered a kid singing the Shema (a Jewish statement of faith) at their synagogue. Young Leonard Nimoy was bit by the stage bug at that moment, and never let it go, despite being urged by his family to find something that was guaranteed to pay him an income. Like playing the accordion.

Full of wit and wisdom - some from the author, some from characters in the book (including both Nimoy's grandfather and John F. Kennedy) - this book is about more than the life of Leonard Nimoy. It's about what it is to be part of an immigrant family in this country, a bit about what it is to be Jewish, a story about never giving up your dreams, about giving back, and - oh yeah - about the origin of Spock's hand gesture for "Live long and prosper".

Monday, September 12, 2016

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

To quote its narrator, Mara, Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer is “boom-boom bonkers.” Students in Mara’s senior class are spontaneously combusting, not so much bursting into flames as bursting into bits. Viscous bits. And the beginning of Spontaneous bursts with crackling energy, energy built of the conversational quality of Mara’s glib voice, energy built of an undeniably original premise. Indeed, the first one hundred pages of Spontaneous were explosively funny. (Oh, you thought I was above such a pun? You were wrong.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

PROMISE by Judy Young


Kaden doesn't remember much about his dad. When the man went to prison years ago, Kaden ended up living with Gram. Although a bit different, life with Gram has been good. Now Kaden is starting sixth grade and hoping to find a new friend, but the return of his father might change everything.

Living out in the woods in a series of five small cabins gives Kaden a lot of freedom. Gram keeps tabs on him and so does their neighbor Emmett, but Kaden spends most of his time hanging out at the top of an old fire tower with his pet crow Kubla.

The new music teacher's son, Yo-Yo, turns out to be just the crazy friend Kaden needs to convince him that not all kids are annoying bullies. Gram even thinks Yo-Yo is ok, and she's pretty hard to please.

When Kaden's dad shows up at the cabins, he brings with him secrets that threaten to tear apart the life Kaden has always known. He wants to trust the man and hopes that he has been rehabilitated, but the suspicious activity and hostile attitude that surround the ex-con make Kaden extremely uncomfortable.

PROMISE by author Judy Young is at times heartwarming and also heart-wrenching. Kaden learns that families are not easy and dealing with disappointments requires a strong individual. Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for providing a copy of this book for review.

Previously posted at

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar

When she's little, Laura's father tells her the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. She strikes up a deal with him: if she doesn't lie, she doesn't have to cut her hair. Fast forward to sixth grade: Laura has long hair and a bold attitude. She finds a hat at a garage sale that says PIG CITY on it and starts wearing it to school. No one other than Laura and her two best friends are allowed to be part of the Pig City club. Soon enough, her classmate Gabriel starts up a club called Monkey Town. The classic boys-versus-girls scenario plays out in the schoolroom and the schoolyard.

This is my favorite Louis Sachar novel, hands down. Kids in upper elementary school who can't wait to go to middle school will race through this book. Sixth Grade Secrets is both funny and realistic. It still holds up thirty years after publication. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Unstoppable by Bill Nye

I have been a huge fan of Bill Nye for a really long time. He has always seemed like a very reasonable voice for good in the world and as I read this book, that held true. In Unstoppable, he talks about the history of energy, our current energy crisis, and a ton of possible ways individuals can make a difference in the world through his "try everything all at once" attack on global warming. The faith in humanity that Nye shows is astounding, calling on the young people of today to grow into the next "Greatest Generation" and tackle head on the problem of climate change.
In order to achieve this he calls on nations to adjust their thinking and social structures to really focus on educating girls in the areas of science and technology because, as he points out, girls are half the population and why should we limit our problem solving minds to only one half of the population!?
Nye discusses the friendly competition he has with his neighbor and fellow actor and activist Ed Begley Jr. showing that change can be fun. I found this to be very inspiring and motivating to do my own part.
I may not agree with everything that he proposes, but I think that at least trying is better than the alternative - dying, as in our whole species.
This is funny, thought provoking and timely. Truly a great book for dreamers and doers, even those only wanting to do in their very own small scale changes. It all helps.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Child Soldier: When boys and girls are used in war by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine

 First person narratives are very powerful and more so first person narratives of harrowing experiences. We know there are conflicts going on all over the world but most of them hardly make the news cycle here in the United States. This site tracks some of them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Grunt by Mary Roach

In the yawning dog days of Summer, last chance for those still on vacation for some lazy summer reading, and a perfect time for last-minute escape to those who might already be back to the school year grind. When you don't have time or energy or the concentration for a novel, nonfiction makes for a good choice.

Mary Roach is the author of Stiff: The Curious Life of Cadavers, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, and the book I want to talk about, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. If there was one word to describe Mary Roach's approach to her subjects I'm going guess... curious?

As you can surmise from the title Roach like to take her curious mind and delve into the more unusual scientific aspects of warfare and its side effects. Told with occasional humor but always tactfully factual, boys will no doubt go into the chapter on genital transplants with a smirk and come out sobered about exactly the sort of "collateral damage" you don't learn in a first-person shooter game. Along the way are chapters on testing shark repellent, how one learns to drive around and over bombs, and the medical benefits of maggots on wounds.

Not for everyone, but for that particular boy out there, this is a goldmine of great nonfiction.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


If you read all the way to the very end of the Harry Potter series -- and I know some people did not, because they chose to skip the "epilogue" -- then the last time you saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione, they were adults sending their kids off to Hogwarts. Harry was sending his middle child, Albus, off - a kid in the same class as Draco's only child.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a form of continuation, but it is not a fully-realized novel with the sumptuous setting and details we've come to expect in Harry Potter novels. Then again, it's important to remember that this is not a novel. It is instead the script of a play in two parts. Pity the poor show-goers who got tickets for only one night and cannot see the entire play.

It came about because J.K. Rowling wrote a story, and John Tiffany and Jack Thorne turned it into a play. Which means there are slight set descriptions, stage directions, and dialogue. If you already know the world described in Hogwarts, including Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic and more, then this shouldn't post a problem to you. You don't need the full description of Platform 9-3/4 or the Hogwarts Express or the witch with the cartful of sweets who walks its aisles, because you can already conjure all that for yourself based on your knowledge of the prior books and the bits of setting and stage directions in the pages of The Cursed Child.

I'm not going to post any spoilers, which means I won't give you much in the way of details at all, except to say that Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Draco and other characters from the original series are actual grown-ups in this book, and their characters (19-22 years after Voldemort's death) logically relate to how they were when younger, but are not precisely the same, just as occurs with real people.

This story is much more interested in the younger generation, and especially focuses on Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy who are, against most odds, the very best of friends. And on the adventure they undertake, which -- this being a Potter story -- turns out much different than they expected, and also manages to involve the parents in an adventure of their own: working together.

If you are lucky enough to have tickets to see this in London, then I won't presume to tell you whether you should read this beforehand or not (though I will say that I know two people in that position, and both opted to read it, since they don't mind spoilers). Otherwise, it seems likely to be a LONG time before this play arrives in the United States or becomes a movie.

So read it, by all means, just don't expect it to read like a standard novel. Because, after all, it is a play.

And this play's the thing.