Monday, October 29, 2012

Sleepy Hollow High by Christopher Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore

The Headless Horseman has returned to Sleepy Hollow just in time for Halloween.  When Aimee and Shane Lancaster discover the stuff of legends has come back to threaten their sleepy little town, there will be no rest for the siblings or their friends until they have stopped the onslaught - and they might not all live to tell the tale.

The Sleepy Hollow High series by Christopher Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore offers twists, turns, and things that go bump in the night. Small town, new folks, old grudges, family ties, legendary hauntings, running through the woods - check, check, and check! All four Sleepy Hollow High books - Horseman, Drowned, Mischief, and Enemies - are quick reads, perfect for reluctant readers who are looking for something spooky to read. As someone who enjoys the original story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and who loves Christopher Golden's writing, I raced through these books.

I also look forward to seeing what Fringe creators Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci do with Washington Irving; they too are working on a new adaptation of the story of Sleepy Hollow for a television pilot now. If that pilot airs and goes to series, you bet I'll tune in...but I'll be wishing that Aimee and Shane Lancaster were part of the show, too!

Also out just in time for Halloween: Father Gaetano's Puppet Catechism, an illustrated novella by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. Stock up on their previous collaborations, the gothic Baltimore (vampire-meets-Hans-Christian-Andersen-retelling) and the steampunk-tinged Joe Golem and the Drowning City. You won't be disappointed!

Friday, October 26, 2012

I Slept With Joey Ramone by Mickey Leigh and Legs McNeil

How’s that for a title that gets your attention? No, this isn’t one of those glamorous, tell-all, rock star groupie memoirs. In fact, I cannot imagine any of the members of the punk rock pioneers, the Ramones, even using the word “glamorous” in a sentence…except perhaps to describe a pizza.

I Slept with Joey Ramone is the affectionate account of lead singer Joey Ramone’s complicated relationship with his kid brother Mickey, who also wrote and played music, but lived in Joey’s shadow.

The sections relating the brothers’ childhood in Queens were especially informative, and had the same sense of deep camaraderie that I loved in Frank McCourt’s first memoir Angela’s Ashes, with just a couple of brothers looking out for each other in the big bad city. You learn about their fascination and burgeoning love of rock music, thanks to the Beatles and Phil Spector’s wall of sound.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Election! A Kid's Guide to Picking the President by Dan Gutman

Election: A Kid's Guide to Picking the President by Dan Gutman (2012)*

Dan Gutman has written approximately one million books, and this is the first I've ever read. Election is a nice, basic guide to the election process. It's set up to be a series of questions and answers. The answers are nice and straightforward, making the process at least understandable, even if the candidates and their rhetoric aren't particularly easy to understand.

While the writing was easy to follow and the questions were logically answered I did have a little problem with the tone. I know this book is geared towards upper elementary and middle school students, the tone was occasionally condescending, and even kids pick up on that. Take this, for example, from the introduction.
Every four years, the grown-ups of America go a little crazy. You see grown men and women wearing funny hats and T-shirts, waving flags, putting goofy bumper stickers on their cars, buttons on their shirts, and signs on their front lawns. There are silly songs, slogans, ads and balloons. It's like one big yearlong party. 
The language is problematic, very much like a "grown-up" making jokes and winking at a child. Ho ho, Child, I am making jokes and amusing! I am talking to you on your level! Ho ho!

Still, if you're looking for a quick way to help a kid learn about the basic process of electing a president, this is a pretty good book to use.  It is refreshingly non-partisan in tone, and by this point in election season, I'll take a little goofy condescension over mud slinging any day.

This is cross posted at my blog  (Library Lass) Adventures in Reading. Check out the other awesome reviews over there. There are a lot of graphic novel reviews going up for Cybils season.
*copy courtesy of NetGalley

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Ballou Book Fair ends on a high note! THANK YOU!!!!

We end the second book fair for Ballou High School in 2012 with deep thanks to everyone who shopped the Powells wish list, spread the word, and supported our efforts to build this most worthy of school libraries. Over 175 books were bought off the wish list and many others were sent direct by authors (thank you!). You've already seen how the students were there to unpack the boxes, and reading the Ballou Library tweets will show you just how excited librarian Melissa Jackson is to see those new titles arrive to fill her shelves. This has been great and it has had a real and significant impact on the lives of many book loving teens. We did a good thing here and on behalf of everyone at Guys Lit Wire, I thank you for taking part. See you in the spring when we return to Ballou again!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy students at Ballou High School going through new books

We are winding down the book fair for Ballou SR High School - please shop the list now and help us get as many books as possible to this most deserving high school library in our nation's capitol. And thank you to all who contributed thus far!
I know people wonder if their donations matter; if what they do is appreciated by others. I wanted to be sure you all saw this picture of students going through the newly arrived books from Powells so we could put that fear to rest. The books that are sent to Ballou as part of the Guys Lit Wire book fair are a big moment in their day this week. Along with librarian Melissa Jackson, the kids are tracking the wish list to see what is purchased and eagerly awaiting the boxes. More than a few books are being checked out before they even hit the shelves.

You did this. You made this happen. You put books into the hands of grateful readers who would not have them otherwise. This matters - alot - and you all should know that.

The book fair for Ballou High School in Washington DC continues. The wishlist at Powells Books is still open. There are more books to buy and more moments like this one to savor. Thanks everybody, and keep spreading the word!

If you have any questions, or have never participated in the book fair for Ballou, please follow the first link. For a list of books we'd really like to see purchased, please see this recent post.

All Hallow's Read, a new tradition

Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman series and the Newbery-winning Graveyard Book wants to start a new tradition this year, All Hallow's Read.

As Neil himself explains in this charming video, All Hallow's Read is a simple idea. This Halloween, give somebody a scary book. It can be a new book or a used book, it can be a picture book or a novel, just give somebody a scary book.

Anyone who's familiar with the sway Neil Gaiman holds over the internets won't be surprised that his All Hallow's Read idea is already taking off. There are already book recommendations, printable mini-books to give away, posters, and a bunch of other stuff.

This is a simple, brilliant idea that deserves to be a permanent tradition. Let's do our part to make sure it sticks around!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Series of Series Continues

You have to wonder if it's even possible today to write a YA novel, just one book that tells one story from beginning to end without prequels, sequels, a seven part series or an eight part movie franchise. For Rick Riordan, it doesn't seem so. Out recently is his novel The Mark of Athena, the third installment in the Heroes of Olympus series, which itself is a sequel series to his seven part series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. You following?

A quick recap of all the Greek demi-god action so far. In the original series, Percy Jackson is an ADHD kid with minor behavior problems who discovers he's the son of Poseidon when his mother is kidnapped by a minotaur. Percy is sent off to Camp Half-Blood, a secret camp where demi-gods secretly train for various quests that secretly affect the outcome of world events. He hooks up with a girl named Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and manages to save his mom from Hades. Later he and his demi-god (and satyr) friends save the whole world from the resurgent Titans, the evil parents of the Greek gods.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Some shopping ideas for the Book Fair for Ballou Library

The Book Fair for Ballou Sr High School has been great - about 150 books bought off the Powells Books wish list all of which will be much appreciated by Melissa Jackson and the many students who use the library everyday. There are still plenty of books left to be purchased and in case you are still thinking to buy, we wanted to provide you with a list of titles that would be especially useful this semester. Ms. Jackson is working on an International Day for the school in December and so these books would work really well for that theme:

What the World Eats ($22.99 in HC)BOUGHT!  
Lonely Planet Badlads: A Tourist in the Axis of Evil ($14.99 PB) BOUGHT!
 Kids of Kabul by Deborah Ellis ($15.95 HC)
Eating Mudcrabs in Kandahar ($29.95 HC)
A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain (SALE - $7.98 in PB) BOUGHT!
The Bizarre Truth: Culinary Adventures Around the Globe ($14.99 PB)

Also these novels:
The Queen of Water by Laura Resau ($16.99 HC)BOUGHT!
The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle ($16.25 HC)
Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace ($17.95 HC)
The Good Braider by Terry Farish ($16.99 HC) BOUGHT!

And we have a situation where the later titles in a series were purchased, but not the first book - which makes the reading kind of tough! So please consider this title:

Kekkaishi #1 ($9.99 PB) BOUGHT!

There are also some great sale titles still on the list as well as several fairly inexpensive paperbacks. We're keeping it open a couple of more days in hopes that some of these international titles in particular are scooped up. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your support thus far!!! For all the information on the book fair (as well as some great pictures of the library and students) - see our initial post.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pastoralia, by George Saunders

For information on the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Ballou Sr High School in Washington DC, please see our post from last week. Over 150 books have been bought from the Powells wish list thus far! -CM From Dickensian orphans to Tom Joad, literature has found rich territory in the lives of characters struggling to get by. While they may not be imprisoned in the Marshalsea, the characters who populate George Saunders’s short story collection Pastoralia share the burden of being trapped in lives they know to be far from ideal.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ballou Library tweets the arrival of the first book fair books

In case you were wondering how the books are received at Ballou:

For more, check out Ballou Library on twitter and don't forget the book fair continues; we have hundreds of books still to purchase from the Powells wish list. For all the information see our main post from last week. THANK YOU!!!!

Lawn Boy and Lawn Boy Returns

I would've posted this earlier, but I had to finish Lawn Boy Returns first. Sequels are not usually as good as the original, but Lawn Boy Returns is an exception to the rule. It is at least as good (and funny) as Lawn Boy, and possibly better. It completes the story, I guess you'd say.

One day I was 12 years old and broke. Then Grandma gave me Grandpa's old riding lawnmower. I set out to mow some lawns. More people wanted me to mow their lawns. And more and more. . . . One client was Arnold the stockbroker, who offered to teach me about "the beauty of capitalism. Supply and Demand. Diversify labor. Distribute the wealth." "Wealth?" I said. "It's groovy, man," said Arnold.

If I'd known what was coming, I might have climbed on my mower and putted all the way home to hide in my room. But the lawn business grew and grew. So did my profits, which Arnold invested in many things. And one of them was Joey Pow the prizefighter. That's when my 12th summer got really interesting.

By the end of Lawn Boy, he has close to four hundred and eighty thousand dollars.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In a Glass Grimmly

For information on the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Ballou Sr High School in Washington DC, please see our post from last week. Over 100 books have been bought from the Powells wish list thus far! -CM
Lately I've been wondering if we do more harm than good by making childhood too safe. I'm not thinking about car seats or non-toxic flame-retardant materials, but a sort of intellectual safety that prevents curiosity and the development of common sense more than it protects. We would prefer to believe it is more important to teach children to fear strangers than to develop an internal sense of knowing when and whom to fear.

The problem (for those who find it a problem) is that without a hard and fast set of rules we have the dual issue of teaching the difficult (intuition) coupled with an unacknowledged root source (adult responsibility, or lack thereof). The sad thing is that there is a solution, its been with us for hundreds of years, and we take it for granted: storytelling. There's a lot that can be learned in a story, and they don't have to be overly moralistic or didactic, and they can occasionally be quite fun. Horrifying, gory, disagreeable and yet unexplainable good fun.

And the best part is that kids really like it.

For those who haven't gleaned it from the title, In A Glass Grimmly, Adam Gidwitz's "companion" to A Tale Dark and Grimm, takes as its source the folk and fairy tales once told to children back when people lived closer to a world full of inexplicable horror. Lacking medicine, much less the concept of hygiene, there were invisible things far scarier than the shadows that dwell in the nearby woods, ah, but what wonderful stories could be constructed from those shadows. As a result, though these tales were as full of the sort of caution we might dole out to our own kids these days it was done with a great deal of adventure, magic, and humorous absurdity as well.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

For information on the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Ballou Sr High School in Washington DC, please see our post from last week. Over 100 books have been bought from the Powells wish list thus far! -CM It being October, it means that Halloween is right around the corner. Although Halloween has become associated with scary stories, it is more rightly associated (historically) with the telling of stories. Period. And what better stories than those found in The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe?

Poe, after all, invented detective fiction in the English-speaking world with his creation of C. Auguste Dupin, the detective in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue". (Dupin appeared in additional stories, "The Mystery of Marie RogĂȘt" and "The Purloined Letter". "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" feature a grisly double murder, made all the more baffling by occurring inside an inaccessible fourth-floor room that is locked from the inside. Ear-witnesses agree that they heard the attack, but cannot place the language used by the attacker. Dupin and his friend (the unnamed narrator) sort out what actually happened. Dupin, it should be noted, is not actually a detective, any more than Sherlock Holmes is - he is just a guy with an interest in learning the truth of the matter, who has the time and ability to track things down. Dupin is, in fact, a prototype for both Holmes and for Agatha Christie's detective, Hercule Poirot.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray

For information on the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Ballou Sr High School in Washington DC, please see our post from last week. Over 100 books have been bought from the Powells wish list thus far! -CM

Yes, Skippy does indeed die. On the fifth page. At which point the book jumps back in time and then moves forward to show us how/why Skippy died. The book (particularly the rollicking first half) is, as the kids used to say, B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Multiple characters (Skippy, his fellow Irish Catholic prep school boarders, their teachers, girls from the adjacent Catholic girls school and the two young thugs/entrepreneurs who are selling them diet pills) whose lives join somewhere in the Skippy universe. And what a universe it turns out to be in Paul Murray’s sprawling (661 pages!) coming of age novel. Or, more accurately, failure to come of age novel. Indeed, if justice exists in the literary world (hint: it doesn’t), Skippy Dies will eventually be the locus classicus of the twenty-first century failure to come of age genre.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Budget Cuts in DC Schools Mean We Step Up to Help Ballou SR High

Updated 10/7: Thanks for buying over 100 books already! Please continue to help us sell as many of our list of 450 books as possible - spread the word and let fellow booklovers know about Ballou!

Students in the library with books bought this spring by Guys Lit Wire readers

We here at Guys Lit Wire keep our fingers pretty close to the pulse of the DC school system as the Ballou Sr High School library is near and dear to our hearts. After three previous online book fairs to help stock the shelves, we were already planning to return to Ballou but the news that libraries in particular were facing major cost cutting measures in the city has just strengthened our commitment. When we began with Ballou in 2011 there were just over 1,500 books in the library, or 1.25 for each of the nearly 1,200 students. Now, they have 5,484 which means we are about a third of the way to our goal of meeting the ALA standard of eleven books for each student. The three book fairs for Ballou to date have resulted in over 1,000 books bought from Powells Books and many others donated directly to the school through the publicity we have helped generate. Now, we are back to Ballou for another round of gift giving from a list of 450+ great new books that has us all really excited.

This Fall Book Fair for Ballou has been EXTENDED through Wednesday, October 17th!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin

Usually, when the villain tells the hero to prepare to die, they mean right now.  But it’s points to Reaver that he has the idea to ask for a reprieve.  Well, not a reprieve so much as enough time to actually prepare.  And so the supervillainous Octagon grants him two weeks.  Two weeks in which Reaver has a lot of work to do.

Wait, back up.  Who are these comic book characters and why haven’t you heard of them?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Yes, They Made That Into a Movie Too

New movie tie-in editions of Yann Martel's Life of Pi are appearing on bookshelves, ahead of the release of the film based on the book later in November.

In the introduction to the book, author Yann Martel talks of its genesis, how after a failed novel, he was searching for a new subject. "I have a story that will make you believe in God," a man tells him. Martel promises to listen as long as the story isn't simply about Jesus or Mohammed. Instead, it's the narrative that evolves into the novel Life of Pi. The book recounts the story of a boy who survives the shipwreck of a ship carrying zoo animals as cargo. The boy ends up stranded on a lifeboat with 450 pound Bengal tiger.

There are books that make great movies. Despite the conventional wisdom that the book is always better, there are even stories that are improved when they are turned into movies (in college I always thought Dickens novels were better on film, though that stance has not stood the test of time).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

As of late, it seems as though there's been an awful lot of established adult science fiction / fantasy authors publishing books specifically for YA audiences. Some have been very successful (Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker won the 2011 Printz award), some have been of outstanding quality (China Mieville latest Railsea along with Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making), and a few have been, well, insultingly patronizing (David Weber's A Beautiful Friendship, whose problems require far more than parentheses). So when I saw that Ian McDonald (River of Gods, Brasyl, The Dervish House) was publishing Planesrunner as YA, I knew I had to figure out just where it fell in this spectrum.