unRequired Reading Blog
Just in time for Valentine's Day, here is Cupid, by Julius Lester. In this retelling from Greek mythology, we are introduced to Psyche. She is the daughter of a king and so beautiful that every time she walks outside people stopped and stared. They even stopped working. In fact, it was getting so bad that it was affecting the infrastructure of her community--and not in a good way. Her father, the king, felt it was in the best interest of his kingdom and his subjects to restrict Psyche from her daily walks. He decreed that she could only walk outside the castle gates once a month.
Word quickly reached Mount Olympus about the young beauty and the effect she was having on the other humans. Venus, the goddess of love, was not pleased at all when she learned of this young woman, She viewed her as a threat and decided to dispatch her son, Cupid, to do away with her. Never one to disappont his mother, Cupid quickly plans how he will get rid of this pesky human. However, when Cupid lays his eyes on Psyche, he is immediately stunned by her beauty, and he falls in love with her himself. He vows that she will become his wife, but he is reluctant to let his mother in on his little plan as she is a formidable force with which to be reckoned.
Dateline: Hampstead, London, 1851
Telemachos, the son of Odysseus, must go in search of his father whom he has never met. In the book The King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett, we join Telemachos on his journey. He was just a baby when his father left the island of Ithaka, but lately the residents have decided that Odysseus must be dead and it is time to find a new king. They want to decide who that will be. This would also mean that the queen Penelopeia (his mother) would have to marry that person. Telemachos decides that he will set sail to find his long-missing father. There are a few obstacles that he will have to overcome. One is that he hates the sea. The other is that he has no idea where to begin searching. In order to find the right direction to go in search of his father he must consult Daisy. Daisy is old...really old and, oh, yeah...she has three heads. She is also really mean, and, when you go to see her, you run the risk that she will kill you.
Telemachos has to be very careful in his approach to Daisy. He decides that he will bring an offering to Daisy in an order to appease her. He brings a basket of eggs and tiny baby rats. Despite the stench of decay, Telemachos finds Daisy and asks her counsel on how to find his father the King. Daisy tells him to "return to the place that is not on the day that is not bearing the thing that is not." With that cryptic message, he sets sail with his best friend Brax, who is a Centaur, despite his mother's protestations that Brax will eat all the food. After having set sail for a day or so Telemachos and Brax discover that they are not alone on the ship. Hopefully, the food holds out.
Sometimes we make choices that have unexpected and devastating consequences. In Dark Water by Laura McNeal, 15-year-old narrator Pearl begins her story with just such a dark foreboding. Then, page by page, chapter after chapter, the shocking story unfolds.
Sometimes you love a book so much that it becomes like an old friend. When you need the memory of that book, it comes back to you and comforts you from time to time. Green Angel by Alice Hoffman is like that for me.
Two years after the September 11 attacks, I decided that my 13-year-old son didn’t read enough books during his summer school breaks. I decided to host a book club for him and four of his best friends. We always met at fun places to discuss the books we read – poolside, pizza parlors, water parks, etc. We read about five books that summer, but the book we all loved the most was Green Angel. The book is about Green, a moody 15-year-old girl. She was the daughter of a farmer who grew produce which the family sold in the city. One day, after a fight with her family, she insists on staying home when they go into the city. There is a huge explosion in the city which causes her to lose some of her vision, and ash keeps falling for days.
Kerry Williamson is 15 years old and suddenly has been selected by three of the most popular girls in school to be a part of their group. In Richard Peck's book Three Quarters Dead, we meet Tanya, McKenzie, and Natalie, the three girls who rule the school and are the meanest girls around. Kerry is surprised by this sudden attention from these three who previously ignored her. They sit with her at lunch, they include her in their shopping expeditions, and she is invited to their party preparation meetings. Tanya is clearly the ring leader of the group. She is in charge of all the activities and the wardrobe decisions. While at lunch with Tanya, Kerry begins to notice that time seems to stand still and lunch goes on much longer than it has in the past although the clock has not stopped. There are several significant occurrences like this that Kerry notices but she is so happy to be part of the group that she ignores any signs that things may be weird.
High-school junior Mason suffered severe facial scarring from a dog attack as a child. People tend to avoid the intimidating six feet three, 230-pound football player. But Mason’s gruff exterior hides a character that is a smart, quiet hero in S.A. Bodeen’s latest bestseller, The Gardener.
Having grown up never knowing his father – except for a DVD of the faceless man reading a children’s book – Mason longs for answers. When he plays the video for a group of comatose teens at the nursing home where his mother works, the inexplicable happens–a beautiful girl wakes up. Mason learns that the teens are part of a hideous experiment designed to create autotrophs—genetically engineered, self-sustaining life-forms who don’t need food or water to survive. The discovery sparks Mason’s heroism, sending him and Laila on the run for their lives as they try to learn who the mastermind behind the gruesome plan is.
All of us have had that sense, at one time or another, of seeing something inexplicable out of the corner of our eyes. It may be a flash of light, a reflective glint, or just a shimmery difference in the air around us. And then it usually goes away. But for Aislinn in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, it’s a different story. She has always been able to see faeries around her, and they aren’t cute and precious like Tinkerbell. The fey are at times hideous or breathtakingly beautiful, cruel or mocking, and always a danger. They often pinch and mock the humans that they follow and then don glamours to blend in with humans (and often lead them astray) when it suits the faeries’ needs.
“I think sometimes you think you’re the hero of the story, and sometimes you think you’re the victim…but you’re not either.”
Banished from their small village, three small, bald cousins aimlessly wander in the desert. The one with a star on his shirt is greedy and sneaky. The tallest one is jolly but dim-witted. The quietest one is a hero in the making, though he doesn’t know that yet. They quickly become separated and when they reunite they are wrapped up in the beginnings of a brutal war involving humans, dragons, and a frightening race of giant rat-creatures…stupid stupid rat creatures.
Jeff Smith’s graphic novel series Bone manages to combine the look and humor of Disney cartoons while tackling the sort of epic adventure that one might find in J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.