Monster

Hello all. So I had been meaning to read a book by Walter Dean Myers for a while, but I really wanted to after I saw him at the National Book Festival last year. He was definitely interesting to listen to, and his book sounded equally intriguing. So I got one from the library. The book in question is Monster, the story of teenage Steve Harmon, whose life may be a tad different from yours. He’s in jail.

The book tells the story of how he ended up there, as well as what’s it like for Steve, being on trial for murder and all. For me, it was kind of like Night, by Elie Wiesel, in that it offered an up-close and personal look at what it’s like for a kid going through an awful and striking experience, the kind of look that sort of smacks you in the face and makes you think, “Wow.” Myers really succeeds in making his story seem real, which is one of the best things about it. The book is also written in a unique format. It’s a mash-up of Steve’s journal entries and the script for a movie he’s writing, to help him cope with what he’s going through. At first, I was worried that this would take away from the enjoyment of the book, but it didn’t; it was actually pretty interesting. The plot is gripping, especially since Myers continuously holds off on letting the reader know if Steve is actually guilty or not. The characters are just as well-written and interesting, and Myers definitely manages to make Steve, a suspected criminal, a human being, despite the prosecutor’s assessment of him–that he’s a monster. One of the other things I liked about the book was that it offered a look at life in and relating to the courtroom that was pretty new for me, which only makes the book better. All in all, I would definitely suggest you read Monster. It’s an important book, and it deserves it.

Literary Quote of the Day: “When you’re young, you make mistakes. The big thing that’s different now is that when I was a kid, you could survive your mistakes. We didn’t have guns. Today, kids have access to guns. The same kids that would have been in trouble and gotten a stern talking-to are now going to jail for fifteen or twenty years. Instead of bloody noses there are bodies lying in the street with chalk outlines around them. The values are basically the same, but it’s easier to mess up.” –Walter Dean Myers

Odysseus in the Serpent Maze

As I’ve said before–and if you’re actually following this blog, you should know this–I am a mythology nut. As in, you’re reading something written by a kid who takes LATIN, even though it’s practically a dying language (Sorry, Ms. K., it’s true!). But anyway, this is one of the best mythology-based books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot). Odysseus in the Serpent Maze, a collaboration between Jane Yolen and Robert Harris, follows the adventures of young Odysseus and his best friend Mentor, and is one of those books I’ve read who-knows-how-many times. Odysseus is well known for being mischievous and getting into trouble a lot, but it still comes as a shock when he and Mentor are kidnapped by pirates, and meet Helen of Sparta and her clever cousin, Penelope. Eventually they find themselves on the island of Crete, home to the infamous Minotaur. However, the Minotaur is dead–the question is, what new terrible monster now dwells inside the maze? This book is full of action, danger, and just a bit of romance. It’s one of the reasons I got so obsessed with mythology when I was younger, and I think both boys and girls will enjoy it. You should definitely go take a look. (Oh, and there are other books, too! Just not about this particular hero.)

P.S. There was no image available at Powell’s Books for a link, so it’s here it is.

The Future of Us

Okay, let me just start off with this: I love the idea of this book. It’s 1996, and the Internet is just getting its start. Not everyone has computers. Google doesn’t exist yet. Neither does Bing. But when two teenagers log onto America Online for the first time, they discover something shocking–themselves on Facebook, 15 years in the future! (Come on, you have to admit that’s kind of cool.) Meet Emma Nelson and Josh Templeton–once best friends, but who have barely interacted at all since the events of last November. Emma’s got a new computer, and Josh has gotten a free CD-ROM in the mail. Little did they know what they would find once they booted it up. As they grapple with coming to terms with who they end up marrying, or where they’re living, or whether they should even believe it at all, they begin to discover that even the slightest change in their present can alter their future. And the future is not something you take lightly. And while trying to figure out how destiny works, they’re also starting to wonder, more than ever, if their friendship will ever be the same again. This book is a collaboration between Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher, and it’s a really solid read. Like, really solid. Okay, fine–I couldn’t put it down for most of the time I was reading it. As I said before, I love the originality and the potential of the idea, and the writing’s the icing on the cake. So I definitely recommend you go get it from the library! (Soon.)

The Wild Queen

Well, I suppose it’s high time for another post, isn’t it? And, luckily, I just finished a book that is definitely post-worthy. The Wild Queen, Carolyn Meyer‘s newest installment in her Young Royals series, details the life of Mary Stuart, famed Queen of Scots. Six days into her life, Mary Stuart is declared queen after the death of her father. Only several years later she’s packed up and shipped off to live with her betrothed, the dauphin of France, Francois, and his family, only to return to Scotland later in life after his death. The book follows Mary over the years, through three marriages, civil war, giving birth to a son, and a whole lot of danger, as well as an ongoing stalemate between her and Elizabeth Tudor considering a certain treaty(believe me, it’s more interesting than that last bit made it sound). And as said danger escalates, leading to Mary being accused for conspiring for the murder of Elizabeth, it leads to her inevitable end. This book is extremely well-written, and the plot keeps you sucked in to no end. What I love about these books is that they’re not history lessons–they make the main characters, whether they’re Cleopatra or Elizabeth Tudor, come to life and seem incredibly real. The Wild Queen is no exception. So I strongly suggest you go pick it up from the nearest library, bookstore, etc. Now.

Author Tidbits: Sharon Creech

I realized that it’s about time for another Author Tidbit. This one’s subject is Sharon Creech, author of Granny Torelli Makes Soup, Love That Dog, The Castle Corona, and others. Sharon Creech was born in South Euclid, Ohio, where she lived with her large family. They often went on trips, and some of the places they visited worked their way into her stories, such as Quincy, Kentucky, which became Bybanks, Kentucky, and was featured in three of Sharon’s books. She has lived in not only America, but also England and Switzerland. Sharon did not immediately want to be a writer. She had several things she wanted to do when she was a child, such as be an ice skater, but ultimately studied stories and writing in college. She then went on to become a teacher in these subjects herself. It was through these experiences that she became what she is now, a published author. Although Sharon at first started out writing for adults, she soon moved on to writing for kids, and her first book geared towards this younger audience was Absolutely Normal Chaos. A later book, Walk Two Moons, which was the first to be published in America, succeeded in winning the Newbery Medal. Lots of Sharon’s books are about kids going through tough times, but others are more fantastical. However, speaking as one who has read nearly all of them, I would recommend any that catches your eye. I know I’ve read a few more than once, and with good reason. Sharon Creech lives with her husband in Chautauqua, New York, and has two grown children.