Book Buzz Blog

First Light by Rebecca Stead

First Light by Rebecca Stead is a compelling story told by two different narrators. First there is Peter, the only child of two talented scientist parents. His father, a glaciologist, receives a grant to travel to Greenland and study global warming. He takes along Peter and Peter's mother, a molecular biologist, who is writing a book about mitochondrial DNA. Peter, like any normal 7th grader, is excited to leave behind New York City for 6 weeks, but he's worried about his increasingly frequent headaches. Is he going to end up like his mother, whose headaches cause her to simply "check out" for days at a time?

Second, there is Thea, a 14 year-old girl who lives in Gracehope, a community entirely hidden under Greenland's ice. Thea's ancestors fled here a long time ago to escape persecution. Thea has never seen the sun. Her people's population has expanded to the point where resources must be severely rationed and births are limited. Thea feels that her people were meant to return to the surface, but her grandmother, who leads Gracehope, is set against expansion.

Peter and Thea's tales alternate as the plot's tension increases, and they eventually come together in this exciting story that mixes adventure with science and fantasy. Both characters are strong and independent thinkers, trying to make the best decisions with their limited knowledge. The adults in this novel seem strangely paralyzed by the past in many respects, unlike Peter and Thea, who are constantly looking forward to and advocating for the future.

You can read an excerpt from the book here and explore the world of First Light in its own Web site. A similar read is The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. The library owns both the book and audiobook, which our family enjoyed listening to. Recommended for ages 10-14.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

 by Jacob Puckett, an 11 year-old guest reviewer

 
"Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts. Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs....
 
...But only in my head.

I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old." (Excerpt from Chapter 1)
 
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is a striking book about a girl named Melody Brooks who has cerebral palsy, a disease that disables you so you can’t walk, can’t control your body movements, and, most frustrating to Melody, can’t talk. Every "normal" kid at school thinks that all the "special" kids are either dumb as dirt, crazy, or both! But most kids don’t know that just because you can’t speak or walk doesn’t mean that you’re not smart.
 
Melody is a genius, but nobody suspects it, except Ms. V, Melody’s sitter. Melody can see and smell different styles of music. For example, classical music appears bright blue and smells like fresh paint to her. Jazz is brown and tan and smells like "fresh dirt." Her favorite music, country, appears yellow and smells like sweet lemons. She also has a photographic memory and can outsmart her doctor, especially since he's not that smart.
 
Melody communicates through word cards, but she wants a more sophisticated way so she can be better understood. Eventually, she is given a special computer that lets her communicate with her thumbs. For me, this is the happiest part of the book.
 
This was not a book that I would have picked up off the shelf to read, but after we read it orally in class, all 26 of us loved it. We were begging our teacher to read more every day. I’ll say that there are some sad parts at the end, so more sensitive readers may want to be ready for some surprises!
 

Helen Cresswell: Imagination at Play

"Log on to your imagination - that's the real internet - and you can access it just by opening a book." – Helen Cresswell

She is considered to be one of the best modern writers of English literature for young people. From folk tales to picture books to modern stories to screen plays, Helen Cresswell’s deft ways with words have made her works favorites of readers of all ages.

A Nest for Celeste

 

Celeste, the star of “A Nest for Celeste” by Henry Cole, is a sweet and gentle mouse. She enjoys making beautiful baskets in the safety of her comfy mousehole, which is located within Oakley Plantation in Louisiana. She is occasionally bullied by two nasty, lazy rats, who force her to retrieve food for them from the dining room. The cat is a constant danger in her life, and during one of her food expeditions Celeste is chased away from the safety of her home and must seek refuge in another bedroom.
 
It turns out that this room is occupied by Joseph Mason, a young apprentice to the great wildlife artist John James Audubon (1785–1851). Mason and Celeste form a tender friendship, and Celeste loves riding in Mason’s pocket around the house and watching him paint.

 

Books on the Big Screen

Along with summer’s sizzling heat comes a slew of blockbuster movies - the Twilight saga continues with "Eclipse," and "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" were also recently released. Before you cool off in dark, air-conditioned theaters, stop by the library and pick up or reserve a copy of the books.

These and many other popular movies were bestselling books before they hit the big screen: "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" was inspired by a beloved picture book, as was "Where the Wild Things Are." "The Princess and the Frog" was partially based on E.D. Baker’s "The Frog Princess." And "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" came from well-known author Roald Dahl. Check out the latest list of Books on the Big Screen and read before you watch!

Get Away with a Graphic Novel

Whether you call them graphic novels or comic books, adventure stories told with a lot of pictures are a fun way to laze away a hot summer afternoon. You can journey on the high seas with Greek heroes, go on the hunt for Bigfoot, outwit forty thieves, or find your own way in a Twisted Journey with these colorful tales. The CRRL has many from which to choose, but this sampling is a good place to begin:

Kadir Nelson, Passionate Illustrator

Listen and watch a video of Kadir Nelson and you will get to know one of the most wonderful children’s book illustrators of our time. The soft-spoken Nelson has accomplished, before the age of 30, many things. He has worked on a Stephen Spielberg film, Amistad, and won the Caldecott Honor Award for Illustration for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom, in 2007 and in 2008, won it again for Henry’s Freedom Box: a True Story from the Underground Railroad.

Born in Washington, D.C, Kadir began drawing at the age of 3 and at the age of 12 was apprenticed to his uncle, an artist and art instructor himself. Nelson won many contests and ultimately won a scholarship to and attended the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn, New York. He currently lives and works in San Diego, California.

Nelson has a passion for African Americans and their plight and has illustrated beautifully many books and has created many works of art for celebrities that have sought him out.

New Book List: Poetry Breaks

Summer is the perfect time to sit down and read some poetry. Grab a picnic and a blanket, and lay down under a shady tree with a few of the books in our new booklist, Poetry Breaks. You'll have a fun afternoon laughing at Lee Bennett Hopkins' poetry in "Oh No! Where are My Pants?" or musing over the "reversible verse" in Mirror, Mirror that puts a twist on familiar fairy tales. Poetry is so much more than just a haiku assignment at school. It can be hilarious, sad, clever, and profound, sometimes all at once.

Walter Farley's Black Stallion Still a Winner

“Alec heard a whistle—shrill, loud, clear, unlike anything he had ever heard before. He saw a mighty black horse rear on its hind legs, its forelegs striking out into the air. A white scarf was tied across its eyes. The crowd broke and ran.”

Walter Farley first imagined the Black Stallion, a wild creature of blazing speed and mysterious origins, when he was a teenager and high school track star in 1930s. He kept working on the story, sometimes turning parts of it into class assignments at college. After graduation, he began writing for a New York advertising agency, but he still kept working on his horse stories.

Star Wars + Legos = Awesome

At our house, there are little collections of Legos in every room, in different stages of construction. But the Legos that are most coveted by every kid are part of the Lego Star Wars collection. To learn more about these, we checked out Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, which is a truly awesome compendium of all minifigs, vehicles, and other vital brick facts from the original Star Wars and the Clone Wars. You can also see a cool timeline of all of the Star Wars Legos that have ever been made, although I'll warn you now that you will be really wanting some of the older, impossible-to-find models.

Here is a clip to inspire your Star Wars Lego building: