Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak by Brian Katcher

Here's the link.
 The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak by Brian Katcher

The first chapter is Zak's.  We meet his stepfather, Roger, and we find out that Zak is NOT into sports.  He's not into school so much.  He's into games, and comics, and stuff like that.  And he misses his Dad.

Then, in the next chapter we meet Ana.  Here's what we learn about Ana.  She does a lot of stuff and she does it all well and she does it ALL because it will look good on her college applications.  And she doesn't have time for fun.  Her sister was the fun one.  "I don't have a sister anymore."

If these two characters were a Venn diagram, their edges would barely touch.  That touch would be the fact that they go to the same school.  That is ALL they have in common. Oh, and they are both smart.

So, Zak lifts his health essay straight from Wikipedia.  And his flustered-seeming health teacher catches it.  And his punishment is to serve as the alternate at the Quiz Team - of which Ana is captain - tournament.  This is a HUGE punishment because the tournament is on the very same weekend as the Annual Washingcon - the comic con event that Zak has not missed in 5 years.

Then Ana's younger brother - also on the Quiz team - goes AWOL from the hotel.  And Ana - whose parents are kind of scary - has to find him.  And Zak helps because he knows that Younger Brother, Clayton, has run off to Washingcon.  So, Zak gets to go after all.  And there are a lot of people in costumes and some mayhem, and a wedding and a battle and an altercation with an underworld figure of the criminal persuasion - not of the supernatural sort.  And Clayton is Super at eluding capture.  And Zak is a Washingcon celebrity of sorts and Ana learns a LOT.  And, oh wookies! Are they in a bunch of trouble!

Also, some parental drama occurs in which things get dealt with.  'Nuff said.

The parent in me wants to add:  Do NOT try this at home.  But if you do and you find a lost valuable item, leave it where it is, ok?  Just report it to the front desk and go your merry way.

Cons look like fun.  For younger people.  I'll just don my Chrestomanci bathrobe and pour another mug of coffee, right here, at home.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I am Princess X




No, seriously, I am.  Except I wear purple sneakers, not read ones.  So maybe I am Princess Y?  Or Princess...

Libby and Mai met in 5th grade, sidelined from gym.  Strangers at first - then Mai grabbed a chunk of chalk.  And Libby started drawing.   And Mai started telling stories.  Three years - and boxes and notebooks of Princess X comics later - Libby's mother drove her car, with Libby in it, off a bridge over the Puget Sound.

Now, Mai is sixteen and back in Seattle visiting her Dad.  The first Princess X sticker takes her by surprise.  And then, she sees another.  But, here's the thing.  All the notebooks, the boxes of comics?  They were all thrown away after Libby's body floated to shore.  So, who is drawing these comics?

Mai has never been sure that that body was Libby.  As she reads the webcomics about Princess X, Mai is thrilled to think that her best and truest friend might still be alive.  But, why has she kept her survival a secret - especially from Mai?

Princess Y - that's who I am.  I ask the questions.  Why?  Why is the computer nerd, Patrick, not going to UW in the Fall?  Why didn't Libby's father find Libby?  Why is that skinny pale skater watching Mai?  Lots of whys, here.

The graphics inserted among the text give the reader and Mai clues to what might have happened. This book is a bit creepy, suspenseful, and off the wall.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

No Parking at the End Times


http://645e533e2058e72657e9-f9758a43fb7c33cc8adda0fd36101899.r45.cf2.rackcdn.com/harpercollins_us_frontbookcovers_648H/9780062275417.jpgAbby and Aaron are living in a van in San Francisco.  The Rapture that their parents dragged them across the country to join was a bust.  Although they are twins, their reactions to this "disappointment" diverge.  Abby wants to keep the family together.  Aaron wants to go home.


Abby and Aaron aren't the only homeless teens in the Bay area.  And Brother John, the charismatic preacher that the twins' dad follows slavishly, is not the only cruel parasite in San Francisco.

Bryan Bliss tells a story of dashed hopes as Abby must deal with her growing awareness that her parents can't take care of themselves, let alone the family, anymore.  Aaron's desire to make money to fund his trip home leads him to disastrous choices. 

I don't enjoy making decisions but I don't understand the desire to abdicate all control over one's life.  Maybe temporarily, I'd like someone else to "take over" for awhile.  To follow blindly seems to have always been a lifestyle choice.  This book poses a question that I struggle with.  Why would Faith in anything ask people to seek the end of life on earth?

That's about as deep as I can go today.  No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss was a thought provoking read.  Don't do it!!! was a constant mental refrain as I turned the pages.  Don't do it, Dad!  Don't do it, Aaron!!  Abby, don't do it!  And Mom, how could you??

Monday, August 17, 2015

Finding Serendipity


Finding Serendipity (Tuesday McGillycuddy #1)Tuesday McGillycuddy hopes that her mother has finally finished the very last Vivienne Small book.  But when Tuesday gets home, her mother is gone.  The attic window is open and a small box with silver words "The End" sits on the table next to her mother's typewriter.


Denis, Tuesday's father, doesn't seem concerned.  But Tuesday is afraid her mother is lost somewhere out there in the night air.  She sits at the typewriter and types out the beginning of a story about a girl who lost her mother.  The next thing she knows, Tuesday is in a magical library which leads to the land of Vivienne Small, the Peppermint Forest and the evil pirate Mothwood.  Tuesday is sure she will find her mother here.

Davis' setting reminds me of Never Never Land.  There is a sweet quality to the forest, the treehouse and even to Vivienne and Tuesday - to say nothing of shaggy dog, Baxterr.  Do NOT be fooled.  The adventure is not saccharine at all.  As soon as we meet Vivienne, she is shooting arrows and throwing knives and felling pirates left and right.  The sweetness helps as the action switches back and forth from Vivienne's land of imagination and Tuesday's home where her mother - now returned - must find a way to bring Tuesday back.

The book pays homage to the imagination required to create a new world and a story from start to finish.  Other authors gather in the magical library to find food for thought and inspiration.  The librarian forces Tuesday to finish what she has begun.

Although this is an action-packed fantasy-light with a super hero and a noxious villain, anyone who has written or tried to write a story will love Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks.  And Baxterr - who is an awesome dog of hidden talents.

Friday, August 14, 2015

PA Youth Storytelling Showcase

If you are a young storyteller, between the ages of 7 and 17,  you can register to tell at the Pennsylvania Youth Storytelling Showcase.  Well, you CAN, if you live in Pennsylvania.  If you are a not so young storyteller and you know of a younger tller who might qualify, let them know about this!

Here's what you do;
1. Pick a story you really like.  Fairy tales or folk tales or original stories are best.
2. Learn how to tell it - WELL, without the book or any paper.
3.  Make sure that your performance of the story is between 5 and 7 minutes long.
4.  Get your parent's permission to perform in the PaYSS.
5.  WITH YOUR PARENT'S HELP AND PERMISSION, fill out the registration form.

BIG HINT:  If you want to tell a published story, for instance, Wimpy Kid or Diary of a Worm, you absolutely MUST get written permission from the publisher and/or author.  Most publishers have a link on their websites for this kind of thing.
If you want to tell the story of the day your next door neighbor burned down the shed, you absolutely MUST get your neighbor's written permission to share the story.  You must get written permission to tell any true story about another person from that person or, if that is not possible, from a family member of that person.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends


The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelly.

Best friends, Val and Lanora, meet in Central Park to plan their entrance into M.S. 10.  Lanora has plans that don't include Val.   Lanora decides to use middle school as a chance to re-invent herself.  (My hopes were on the high side.)  She intends to fill Val in on what is going on, eventually.  There is a road paved with good intentions.


Val, in the meantime, has plenty to do while she misses Lanora.  She follows the park's feral cat to a dusty antiques store, owned by an old coot and staffed by an odd young boy.  She plays soccer - constantly and well.  She joins a group of word obsessed self proclaimed outsiders.

When Lanora's plan leads her off the straight and narrow, Val tries to find a way to save her old friend.  With the Book of Dares for Lost Friends, that strange boy, a pair of feathered wings and a midnight excursion, Val tries to bring the old Lanora back.

A great cast of characters, a hint of magic, superstition and the setting of a vibrant city add up to a suspenseful middle grade read.  Readers will moan in disappointment and lean forward in hope as these kids muddle through adjusting to a new school and family drama.  Questions remain about some of the characters.  So maybe??

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wild Ideas - thanks Brain Pickings

Whoa!  Look at these illustrations.  The book is about solving problems but the dioramas are want-inducing.  Oh, if I could give a space to one of these pieces of art!  Hmmm, but then, I'd have to dust it and worry about it and keep it out of the bright sunlight and make sure it has enough light and...  No, this book will do.

Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking
See what I mean???

http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/13/wild-ideas-kelsey-kim/