unRequired Reading Blog

05/12/2016 - 9:31am

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.

08/23/2010 - 7:30am

This is Week 6 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

What matters to you? What really, really matters in your life?

What if someone told you that nothing in life matters? NOTHING AT ALL.
"It's all a waste of time ... Everything begins only to end. The moment you were born you began to die. That's how it is with everything." What if they kept saying it over and over again and you couldn't make them shut up?

This is exactly what happens to the students in class 7A at Taering School in Janne Teller's novel Nothing.

08/16/2010 - 4:23pm

This is Week 5 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta, is a book for readers who don’t mind losing themselves. The land of Skuldenore is not always a pleasant place to be lost – in fact, it is often heartbreakingly dark. But I didn’t mind being lost within it, as long as I was with Finnikin.

Skuldenore is comprised of several countries, such as Osteria, Charyn, and Yutlind. Each country has its own interesting characterization, and there is much that goes into the world-building in this book, which makes it so successful. The country we care most about is Lumatere, Finnikin’s homeland.

Ten years ago, a power-greedy cousin infiltrated Lumatere’s royal castle, slaughtering the king, queen, and princesses. This violence set off another chain of violent events, which ended with the entire country being cursed and sealed off from the rest of the world. Those events are called “the five days of the unspeakable.” The people who escaped during that time roam the other countries, exiled, ignored, and mostly despised. They die from fever, starvation, and at the hands of other countries’ kings. It is not a good time to be Lumateren.

08/23/2010 - 7:34am

This is Week 4 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review. 

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
Tad Ibsen is a scrawny kid who walks into the classroom on crutches, muttering angrily to himself, with a huge red scar across the side of his head. Why does the teacher seat the new kid next to Jeffrey Alper? “Suddenly I get it,” Jeffrey explains to the reader. “I don’t always catch on so fast, but this time, I put two and two together…I lean over and whisper, ‘Hi, I’m Jeffrey. I had cancer, too.’ He looks at me like I’m a particularly loathsome slice of school-lunch meat loaf and says, ‘Wow, congratulations! What do you want, a medal?’” Of course, they’re best friends from that moment on. 

08/23/2010 - 7:35am

This is Week 3 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

"Where they burn books, they will end by burning human beings." - Heinrich Heine

This is the opening quote in Ashes, the story of thirteen-year-old Gabrielle Schramm who is living in Berlin in 1932 during the turbulent days of Hitler's rise to power.

Hitler has not yet seized control when the story begins, but there are signs of what's to come. Sightings of Hitler's private army and his personal guard, the "SA" and the "SS," are becoming more frequent, as are attacks on Jewish neighborhoods, businesses and synagogues.

For the most part, Garbrielle is a typical thirteen-year-old girl. She goes to school, talks about movies and movie stars with her best friend Rosa, and occasionally gets in trouble at school for having her nose stuck in a book during math class. Gabrielle is a serious book lover. Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller, Mark Twain ... she devours them all. She's already lost two of her treasured books to her math teacher Herr Doktor Berg.

08/16/2010 - 4:36pm

This is Week 2 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

Jem has a secret. When she looks into someone's eyes, a number appears in her head. But not just any number - it's the date of their death. She has seen the numbers ever since she was a little girl, but she didn't know what they meant until her own mother died of an overdose. Since then, Jem has had a rough life, being thrown out of one foster home after another, labeled as a problem kid in school and put in "special" classes. She has built an impenetrable wall around herself so she doesn't have to see anyone's number, and no one so far has been able to be close to her. Until Spider.

Spider is an impossible tall, fidgety boy from school, who Jem runs into one day while skipping class. Through different events they become close, and Jem realizes that she has let herself care about someone for the first time since her mother's death. One day they go together to see the London Eye, when Jem notices something disconcerting. She sees the same death date in every tourist's eyes. Unnerved, she grabs Spider's hands and convinces him to run away from the London Eye, which explodes shortly thereafter. They are caught on security camera fleeing from the scene and are considered suspects. All of a sudden - Jem and Spider, two "troubled" kids from London's projects, are on the run.

01/31/2011 - 11:23am
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Cafe Book Thornburg voted on May 28th.  Fifty nine students cast their votes and picked the following winning titles.

Top Pick:

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.

Other Favorites:
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Allison Goodman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Happenstance Found by P.W. Catanese
Messed Up  by Janet Nichols Lynch
Somebody by Nancy Springer
The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner

08/16/2010 - 4:38pm

This is Week 1 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

For me, summer reading is all about escaping somewhere else. The new vista doesn't have to be pretty, but it does need to be interesting. The world of Incarceron, introduced in the novel Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, delivers an escape like nothing else (for the reader, although not for the poor souls trapped within). Incarceron is a prison, but not like the prisons we are familiar with. It is a world unto itself, with areas of ruins and forests, and some wildernesses so wild that they are only whispered of but never traversed. Incarceron is also aware in a way that most prisons are not - it reacts to the prisoners' actions, manipulating them, and watching them with a pulsing, Sauron-like eye.

Our hero in the world of Incarceron is Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner who is considered "cell born" and remembers only vague memories of his life before he became aware three years ago. He is part of a band of rogues that troll the prison, called the Comitatus. He also has some freaky fainting spells, complete with visions. He believes that he was born "Outside" but no one believes him because that is very rare.

01/31/2011 - 11:20am
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Cafe Book 2010 has come to a close at Heim Middle School.  We had a great time sharing new books and talking about them all while eating lunch.  7th and 8th grade students came together, ate, and talked about new books in the school library.  After all the final votes were tallied ... the results are...

Top Picks:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.

Eon Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Sixteen-year-old Eon hopes to become an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune and learn to be its main interpreter, but to do so will require much, including keeping secret that she is a girl.

Other Favorites:

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Messed Up by Janet Nichols Lynch

The Tomorrow Code by Brian Faulkner

Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman

If the Witness Lied by Caroline Cooney

08/16/2010 - 4:44pm

If you're a fan of the Chaos Walking series, you'll be excited to hear that the third book in the trilogy, Monsters of Men, will hit U.S. bookstores on September 28, 2010. In the meantime, you can enjoy this trailer and maybe re-read The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and The Answer.

If you haven't heard of this series yet (and you love intense, action-packed, dystopian novels), check out this blog post.

Pages

Subscribe to unRequired Reading Blog