The Devil on Trial

March 30, 2009

devilontrialIt’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about a book for Non-fiction Monday.  Recently I read The Devil on Trial: Witches, Anarchists, Atheists, Communists, and Terrorists in America’s Courtrooms by Philip Margulies.  The book covers 5 specific controversial court cases, ranging from 1692 to 2006.  The first described is the Salem Witch Trials. Next up is the Haymarket bomb trial, followed by the Scopes Monkey Trial, and the trials of Alger Hiss and Zacarias Moussaoui.  Each section offers background of the time, what happened, why the trial was significant and controversial, the outcome, and what it means for the present and the future.

The book is well organized and kept my attention more than most non-fiction books I’ve attempted to read.  The large book format and occassional pictures help make the book manageable.  I had varying degrees of knowledge on each of the cases, but after reading about them, I feel pretty informed on all of them.  For example, I knew about the case of evolution vs. creation, in general, but I hadn’t realized that the ACLU searched for someone to raise the issue or that John Scopes was only 24 at the time of the trial.  The Devil on Trial would definitely be great for young adults interested in any of these subjects or on how the justice system works in general, especially in times of controversy when the trials may seem unfair.


March 23, 2009

zorgamazooZorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston is definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year!  It’s an adventure story filled with strange creatures, a reluctant hero, mystery, bravery, and so much more.  Here’s the best part:  It’s written entirely in verse!  The whole book — all 283 pages — is in perfect rhythm and rhyme, which is certainly not easy to do, but Weston appears to write his story so effortlessly.  This book would be great for either a solid individual reader or for reading aloud.  These words would be fantastic read aloud, and the story is filled with excitement and drama.  It’s an absolute must read!

Need a second opinion?  Hear what Jen has to say here!

Iowa Book Awards

March 18, 2009

Yesterday I was at Barnes & Noble and noticed that they had a display for the three Iowa 2009-2010 book awards.  I’m not sure exactly when they’re released, but I was excited to see them.  I love booklists!  Here they are…

Iowa Children’s Choice Award:
One-Handed Catch — M.J.  Auch (2006)
Surprises According to Humphrey — Betty G. Birney (2008)
The Black Tower — Betsy Byars (2006)
No Talking — Andrew Clements (2007)
The Lemonade War — Jacqueline Davies (2007)
Julia’s Kitchen — Brenda A. Ferber (2006)
Eleven — Patricia Reilly Giff (2008)
The Liberation of Gabriel King — K.L. Going (2007)
The Homework Machine — Dan Gutman (2006)
Double Identity — Margaret Peterson Haddix (2007)
Winnie at Her Best — Jennifer Richard Jacobson (2006)
The Year of the Dog: A Novel — Grace Lin (2007)
A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray — Ann M. Martin (2006)
Snap: A Novel — Alison McGhee (2006)
A Friendship for Today — Patricia C. McKissack (2007)
Patience, Princess Catherine — Carolyn Meyer (2005)
Being Teddy Roosevelt — Claudia Mills (2007)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret — Brian Selznick (2007)
The Friskative Dog — Susan Straight (2007)
A Crooked Kind of Perfect — Linda Urban (2007)
Way Down Deep — Ruth White (2007)
Someone Named Eva — Joan M. Wolf (2007)
What I Call Life — Jill Wolfson (2005)
15 Minutes — Steve Young (2006)

Iowa High School Book Award:
For One More Day — Mitch Albom (2006)
City of Bones — Cassandra Clare (2007)
Deadline — Chris Crutcher (2007)
Blue Bloods — Melissa De la Cruz (2006)
Fade to Black — Alex Flinn (2006)
Burned — Ellen Hopkins (2006)
Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland — Mark Kreidler (2007)
Nineteen Minutes — Jodi Picoult (2007)
Dear John — Nicholas Sparks (2006)
Knights of the Hill Country — Tim Tharp (2006)
Blind Faith — Ellen Wittlinger (2006)
The Book Thief — Markus Zusak (2005)

Iowa Teen Award:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian — Sherman Alexie (2007)
The Looking Glass Wars — Frank Beddor (2006)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas — John Boyne (2006)
We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success — Sampson Davis (2006)
Gym Candy — Carl Deuker (2007)
Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl — John Feinstein (2007)
Invisible — Pete Hautman (2006)
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam — Cynthia Kadohata (2007)
Side Effects — Amy Goldman Koss (2006)
Hattie Big Sky — Kirby Larson (2006)
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life — Wendy Mass (2006)
A Small White Scar — K.A. Nuzum (2006)
Peak — Roland Smith (2007)
Kipling’s Choice — Geert Spillebeen (2007)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp — Rick Yancey (2005)

Paper Towns

March 16, 2009

green01Ok, I’ll admit it:  I like John Green more than I like his books.  I’ve read Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns now, and I’ll admit that the general plot is different in each, but other than that they’re all the same to me.

In Paper Towns, Quentin lives next door to childhood-friend-turned-popular-goddess Margo Roth Spiegelman.  One night near the end of senior year, Margo appears at Quentin’s window, and the two set off on a mysterious and adventurous night executing Margo’s well-planned pranks.  The next day, Margo is not in school…nor the next, nor the next, etc.  Margo’s parents assume she’s run away from home yet again, but Quentin knows she’s off on another adventure waiting for someone to find her.  Quentin, with the help of his friends, follows the clues he believes she’s left him and embarks on his own adventure to find the Margo he knows and loves.

Although Paper Towns is probably my favorite of John Green’s three YA novels, this one did drag on a little after awhile.  Quentin, the nerdy awkward guy, and Margo, the beautiful I-don’t-care-what-you-think girl, seem just like the lead male and female characters of the other books, although I disliked the incredibly selfish Margo more than Alaska and Lindsey.  Still, Paper Towns has more mystery and adventure, which made it more exciting than the others to me.  Even though I didn’t think it was amazing, I would still go see the movie.

Prairie Town

March 11, 2009

prairieBonnie Geisert has written four picture books based on various types of towns in the United States.  Each one was illustrated by her husband Arthur Geisert.  The first, published in 1998, is Prairie Town.  Next came River Town, which was followed by Mountain Town and Desert Town.

riverAlthough I haven’t read Desert Town yet, I expect it to have the same style as the others.  In each one, Geisert uses simple narration to describe the town over the course of a year and explain how the seasons affect it and the people living there.  Her husband’s birds’-eye-view illustrations make readers feel they are silent, secret observers.

mountainThese books are great for depicting towns and people across the United States.  They are realistic examples of specific parts of America.  Although they’d be great for geography lessons, these books work best in one-on-one reading.  The details in the pictures are best seen up close.  With so much detail in the pictures, however, the story is new every time it’s read.

desertAt the end of each book, Geisert also includes a note to mention events that happened throughout the year (a wedding, carnival, dedication, etc.) that the reader may have missed.  It’s fun to go back through the pages of the story to find evidence of those events in the town.  These are definite reads for anyone interested in small towns across the country.

Robot Dreams

March 11, 2009

robotdreamsI first heard about this 2007 graphic novel by Sara Varon at ALA in Anaheim last summer.  The cover looks so friendly, and I love bright crisp illustrations, so I decided to give it a try.  Here’s the plot:  Dog orders and builds Robot.  They soon decide to take a trip to the beach, where Robot discovers he cannot move after playing in the water with Dog.  Dog leaves Robot on the beach.  Months pass, and they both contemplate what happened and experience separate things.

The plot of Robot Dreams seems like it would be sad and dramatic because of the ill-fated friendship, and occasionally it was, but for the most part, it mostly came across humorous and disturbing.  There were several unsettling moments beginning with Dog abandoning Robot at the beach.  I expected the book to be happy-go-lucky, but it certainly wasn’t.  Maybe if you go into it knowing that, you’ll be able to appreciate the story for what it was.

I did enjoy the illustrations, and I would recommend it as long as you know what to expect.  I know the book is very popular, and I’m interested to hear if anyone else agrees with me.

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Best Friends and Drama Queens

March 9, 2009

bestfriends1The third installment in Meg Cabot‘s new series comes out today!  Luckily for me, last month I won an ARC for Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Best Friends and Drama Queens and got to read it early (and then got to have it autographed by Meg when I met her at her signing at Anderson’s Bookshop and the Children’s Literature Breakfast).

I quickly read the first two, Moving Day and The New Girl, and loved them both.  After reading Best Friends and Drama Queens, I concluded that it’s even better.   In this one, a new girl from Canada comes to Allie’s new school and disrupts everything by chasing boys at recess.  Pretty soon she has declared Allie and her friends immature for not wanting to “go with” boys.  Allie tries her best to handle the mean things Cheyenne says, but suddenly it seems too much to take.

Allie is a fantastic character.  She’s so full of spunk and independence and throughout all three books, she writes down rules to help her get through everything.  Some of my favorites:  Don’t stick a spatula down your best friend’s throat, Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good, Treat your friends the way you’d want them to treat you, and It’s impolite not to bump someone’s fist when they are fist-bumping you.

I highly recommend the series, especially for fans of Judy Moody, Ivy and Bean, or Clementine!  Allie definitely belongs in their “Spunky Girls” club!