Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Emil and Karl

Read the forward of this book before you begin the book. Yankev Glatshteyn wrote this book in 1940 in Yiddish. A little knowledge of world history will tell you that this is a time before most American realized what was happening in Europe to the Jews and other minority groups.

As the book opens you meet Karl, who lives in Vienna, as his mother is brutally taken away by Nazis. Not knowing where to go, he turns to his friend Emil, a Jewish boy who has been recently persecuted at school. He finds Emil’s father has been taken by the Nazis and murdered. As the story continues, the boys are homeless.

In the midst of all the hatred that was perpetrated by the Nazis, there are still good and kind people who are willing to help these boys and other people like them. I found this book mesmerizing! To think that this novel was written in 1940!

This is a must read for those of you who want to learn about the Holocaust and how it began.

To learn about the author (also known as Jacob Glatstein)

Holocaust Timeline

What is happening in the world in 1940


Sometimes when I pick a book, I am first drawn to the illustrations. This is one of those books. Most of you probably don’t look at the copyright page, but with this book the author Philip Reeve has added something not ordinarily part of that page -- "The pages of this volume are impregnated with Snagsby's Patent Folio-dubbin to preserve them against the depredations of space moth and paper bats."

The full title of this book is Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space, and it is authored by Philip Reeve

Art Mumby is the narrator in this novel. He and his sister Myrtle and their father live in a house, Larklight, that orbits the Moon. This novel has some H.G. Wells, as well as some Madeline L’Engle. It is a fantasy different than many – it is set in Victorian times yet the Martians are being observed and there are all manner of creatures. One of those is the villainous Mr. Webster, an arthropod. The adventure also includes pirates.

The website that goes with this novel is very intriguing too.

Side Effects

Fifteen year old Izzy tells her story. “You go along, minding our own business (more or less), then BAM! You win the lottery, a piano falls on your head, you’re struck by lightning and fried to a crisp. Or, like Izzy Miller, your plain old swollen glands turn out to be a kind of cancer you never even heard of before.”

Many of my students know I am not a fan of the “death and dying” novels, but this one is somehow different. Izzy takes the readers with her as she suffers all the treatments and indignities that often accompany fighting a disease like cancer. I could not put this book down and read it in one sitting! I felt her suffering, her anger, her humor, and her depression. This is not the typical book about a kid with cancer probably because Izzy is not the stereotype character. Once again Amy Goldman Koss has written a great book.

Find out about Hodgkin’s

Mayo Clinic

American Cancer Society

Friday, February 09, 2007

Black Duck

Janet Lisle has written this historical fiction novel about the smuggling and black market during prohibition.

“A rumrunner had lived in town, one of the notorious outlaws who smuggled liquor during the days of Prohibition, that was the rumor. David Peterson heard he might still be around.” David wants to be a journalist so he is following this lead. His desire leads him to meet Reuben Hart and learn the story of the Black Duck.

In 1929, Reuben and his friend Jeddy found a body washed up on Coulter’s Beach. Somehow this man had been involved with the mobs and smuggling liquor. Reuben takes something from the body and puts himself in grave danger. The story unfolds as David interviews the old man, Reuben Hart. The reader learns about the era of Prohibition and some of the social issues that surrounded it and the Depression of the same time. The Black Duck is a legend. The story alternates between the present and the past.

Learn more about the Black Duck or
legend of the Black Duck

Find out about rumrunners.

Rumrunners and the Coast Guard

Blood on the River: James Town 1607

Travel with Samuel Collier on the Susan Constant with Captain John Smith. Like many who came to the “new land,” Samuel was in trouble with the law. Coming to Virginia was an option many considered only slightly better than going to the gallows.

Samuel discovers that the New World was not overflowing with gold and riches. The people who already lived there were not always friendly. There was much work to be done, but many of the “gentlemen” who came to Jamestown were not interested in working. Samuel learns the Algonquin language which helps him survive and be a valuable asset to the settlement.

The reader is also introduced to Captain Smith and the captains of the three ships that sailed to the New World for the Virginia Company.

This book is based on historical facts and presents a very readable history of what being at Jamestown in 1607 was like.

The lightning thief

This is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. This series is different than many of the fantasy novels today in that some of the characters are the gods and goddesses from ancient Greek myths. The children in this novel are half-god, half-human like the heroes in the Greek myths – Hercules and Jason. These children are part of the 21st century – their parents are one a god or goddess and the other a mortal.

Percy Jackson is the main character and he discovers that he is one of these children. No wonder he has had so much trouble in school! He learns that he has this heritage and is thrust on a quest to save the world from a war of the gods. Percy first meets Grover in one of the schools he has been sent to, they are best friends. He meets Annabeth at a summer camp. Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and Grover, a satyr, help him on this quest to return Zeus’s master lightning bolt. Durng this time Percy meets his father for the first time.

Don’t be scared away by the gods and goddesses topic being too difficult; this is a great book and very readable.

There will be 5 books in this series.

Look here to learn what a satyr is.

Learn about the 12 gods of Olympus

The astonishing adventures of fan boy and goth girl

I have to say that I found this book strange, not that I didn’t read it and want to keep reading to find out what happened, but just strange. Maybe this is because I do not relate to either of the main characters in any way.

This is about a boy who believes he is “geeky” and he definitely is bullied. He has problems partly because his parents are divorcing and he does not understand or like this. He meets Kyra, goth girl, who also has issues, just different than his.

Read Chapter 1