I find it rather amusing that my 9-year-old son can’t handle seeing tiny hairballs on the floor from his beloved pet cat but that he was completely enthralled by the FOUR POUND tiger hairball (picture on pg. 9) that was the size of a basketball! Looking through these books with my son, I always alternate between fascination and disgust. And even though my own disgust sometimes outweighs my fascination, there’s something magical about bringing home a book that makes your child jump up and down with excitement and beg for just a few more pages before he has to go to bed.
Some of the most fascinating items in this issue were:
- the skateboarding mice who can even jump through a ring of fire (pp. 14-15)
- a woman named Barbie Thomas who, despite losing both of her arms at 2 years of age, has gone on to compete in fitness contests (pg. 97)
- the man who took a picture of himself every single day for 12 years — a total of 4,514 photos! (pg. 152)
- the Canadian base jumper who, after becoming paralyzed in a 2004 BASE-jumping accident, now jumps in his wheelchair (pg. 175)
- the pumpkin artists (pp. 208-209) who are capable of turning pumpkins into sculptures of ghouls, goblins, and monsters
And some of the more disgusting items were:
- the bedside table made from an actual, stuffed sheep (pg. 29)
- the Sufi holy man who used a sharp stick to practically gouge out his own eye during the Urs religious festival in Ajmer, India (pg. 41)
- the short-horned lizards that quirt blood from their eyes as a defense mechanism to scare of predators (pg. 90)
- the “snot shots” (pg. 201) from artist Ulf Lundin’s Bless You project, in which people sneezed at a camera without covering their mouth/nose… ack!
If you’re looking for a conversation-starting/engrossing book to share with a tween, the Ripley’s books are a pretty sure bet.
Thanks to this audiobook, I now know that September 8th is the anniversary of the day that Stargirl (aka Susan Caraway) first laid eyes on Leo Borlock. As she strolled through the Mica High cafeteria with her ukelele and sang Happy Birthday to some other unsuspecting stranger, she saw the fear in Leo’s eyes as he worried that she might come and sing to him. Of all the stuff that happened in this story, Stargirl’s remembrance of that day was a pretty small thing, but it really stuck with me. Why? Because *MY* birthday is September 8th! Though I seriously doubt Jerry Spinelli wrote that into his book for me, I wonder if he’s friends with Jon Scieszka and used that reference as a shout out to him. (Yeah. I share a birthday with Jon Scieszka — and Jo Knowles – how awesome is that?!?)
Anyhow… I like the fact that this book was written as a letter from Stargirl to Leo in diary form. It was cool to see things from her perspective this time. I mean, it was easy enough to see from Leo’s narration (in Stargirl) that she was a free spirit, but it was kinda cool to see exactly how her thought process worked. I am most definitely a “Type A” personality, so it took a lot for me to get into her head and to understand where she was coming from, but it made a little more sense as she explained herself. Living without clocks, for example, seems kinda cool — but I think I would go batty after only a day or two.
Anthony “Antsy” Bonano was one of the few people in the world who ever noticed Calvin Schwa (aka The Schwa). As Antsy said, The Schwa was “functionally invisible,” and it seemed that he was right. Kids would walk right past him without seeing him, even if he wore ridiculous clothing. Teachers would look past his raised hand or even mark him absent despite his presence/attempted participation in class. And his own father would often not realize he was home. Antsy first tested his hypothesis — with the aforementioned ridiculous clothing — and then he did his best to capitalize on The Schwa Effect. He figured people would pay good money for someone who was able to spy without getting caught or who was capable of slipping a late assignment into a teacher’s bag unnoticed, and he was right. The only thing he didn’t really consider was the fact that The Schwa was a person with emotions like everyone else. Sure, it was cool that he could sometimes get away with things other kids couldn’t… but being invisible can get pretty lonely, too.
Fans of the Unwind Dystology might have a hard time believing that this book was written by the same author, but they won’t likely be disappointed — as long as they can appreciate a wry/sarcastic sense of humor, that is. Here’s a little taste of Antsy for people who are on the fence:
“Life is like a bad haircut. At first it looks awful, then you kind of get used to it, and before you know it, it it grows out and you gotta get another haircut that maybe won’t be so bad, unless of course you keep going to SuperClips, where the hairstylists are so terrible they oughta be using safety scissors, and when they’re done you look like your head got caught in a ceiling fan. So life goes on, good haircut, bad haircut, until finally you go bald, and it don’t matter no more.
I told this wisdom to my mother, and she said I oughta put it in a book, then burn it. Some people just can’t appreciate the profound.”
Sam was always a bit of a loner. He found it difficult to connect with other people and had only a few friends. One night, while Sam was working at his fast-food job, he had an unusual encounter with a customer who took one look at him and started asking strange questions about where he came from and whether he was granted permission to move to Seattle. But, Sam had always lived in Seattle. And why would he have needed permission to move there anyway? So weird! Then, at the end of their shift, Sam and his friends got attacked by a huge man with superhuman strength. Things went from weird to scary pretty fast. It turned out that Sam never knew it but that he was a necromancer. Suddenly, many of the quirky things about himself and his family had supernatural explanations and started to make more sense. Sadly, “making more sense” and “making sense” aren’t exactly the same.
Lots of action, a bit of mystery, and sarcastic/twisted humor made this book hard to put down. Readers who enjoy books like Killer Pizza and I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It should definitely check this one out. I know I’m looking forward to reading the sequel (Necromancing the Stone) when my “to be read” pile gets a little shorter, though I’m a little afraid those chapter titles will also get a bunch of songs stuck in my head. ;-)
When this book won the 2013 Newbery Award, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read it. It just sounded too depressing. Luckily, a friend read it and said it was actually funnier than it sounded, albeit sad at times, and that she thought my son would also enjoy it. I decided to get the audiobook because my son and I share 60-90 minutes of audiobook time per day in the summer driving together to my library and his day camp. (We share a parking lot with the Y!) This was our first audiobook of the summer, and it was a *HUGE* hit. So much so that my son was pretty much devastated any time that his sister was in the car and requested that we “waste” any of our time listening to music.
Although Ivan and the other animals were being held captive in less than desirable conditions, their actions and stories they told one another were often funny. The humor sprinkled throughout the story definitely helped to keep it light. My son’s favorite new vocabulary word, and the discussion of which he often used to try to convince his sister to listen to the story with us, was me-ball. You may be asking yourself, “What’s a me-ball?” Why, it’s a rolled up, dried out ball of poop that gorillas like to throw, of course! ;-) He thought that was hilarious, and he loved the loving friendships between the animals. The best part of the story, in my opinion, was at the end when the author’s note explained that this story was based on the true story of a gorilla named Ivan. I think it will do a lot to help readers understand that, though the thoughts and specific stories told by the animals in this story were fictional, animals surely want (and deserve) companionship and appropriate living conditions.
With all of the attention The Fault in Our Stars has been receiving lately, many people are looking for read alike books. I wouldn’t necessarily put this in the same category, since it is magical realism as opposed to contemporary realistic fiction. (If you’re looking for another realistic contemporary read alike, you should check out Somebody Up There Hates You.) Despite the magical realism, though, I think many TFiOS fans will find that Noggin is “close enough” in that it’s a smart and funny book that challenges your preconceived notions of the world around you. Also, Travis Coates is a teenager who had cancer.
Because Travis Coates’ body was riddled with cancer and the treatments weren’t proving to be effective, he didn’t really have many options left. He could continue trying every experimental treatment possible, which often left him weak and ill; he could give up fighting and try to enjoy the time he had left; or he could go rogue and let some scientists cut his head off, cryogenically freeze it, and hope they could develop the technology to successfully reanimate his head on a donor body. Although they didn’t think they would have the technology to reanimate him before all of his friends and family were very old or gone altogether, Travis liked the idea of dying on his own terms. Potentially living again would just be a bonus. Imagine his surprise, then, when we wakes up and finds out that it has only been 5 years since he “died.” He’s still 16, but everyone he knows and loves has aged 5 years, and nothing is at all as he left it.
Toby really wants to become a chef and often fantasizes about becoming famous like the people he watches on the Food Network. He doesn’t exactly have any cooking experience, though, and recognizes that as a major barrier to his dream. So, he decides to apply for a summer job at a new restaurant called Killer Pizza. Working in the KP kitchen is fun and, in addition to making new friends (Annabel and Strobe), Toby gets major satisfaction out of knowing that he has some natural culinary skills. It seems that this is definitely the perfect job… until he is let in on a little secret; Killer Pizza is actually just a front for a monster hunting organization! There’s nothing quite like hearing that MONSTERS ARE REAL and that some of them have taken up residence in your town. And, as if learning about the monster infestation wasn’t scary enough, Toby, Annabel, and Strobe find out that they’re being recruited as MCOs (Monster Combat Officers) to help actually hunt down and kill the monsters.
This book was not quite as gruesome as The Monstrumologist, but I could see fans of that book choosing this for a light summer read. It’s probably somewhere between R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series and his and Fear Street series. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Cirque Du Freak because it’s a little funny, just a bit creepy, and even a little gross, but still tame enough that it didn’t give me nightmares (which is all too easy a feat). If you’d rather have a horror story that might give you nightmares, though, you should head on over to read Ashes by Ilsa Bick. [shudder]