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.