48 Hour Book Contest

June 8, 2009

48hbcOver the weekend I participated in the 48 Hour Book Contest hosted by MotherReader.  If you haven’t heard of it, the basic idea is to read as much as you can or want to over a consecutive 48 hour period.  Time you blog about your process or the books you’ve read also counts toward your time.  This year socializing – time you spent reading other participating blogs, commenting, or twittering – was also allowed to add into your time.  My friends and I decided to participate together at NerdGirlBlogging, the blog we share, so head over there if you want to see our posts.

I ended up with a grand total of 15 hours, 30 minutes and 1162 pages.  It was a great experience, and I got to read & hear about a lot of great books.  These are the books I read.

specialsSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

This is the third book in the Uglies series, published in 2006.  It has quite a bit of action in it, especially toward the end.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I had Uglies.  Probably because then the series and concept of the books were still new to me.  I  see Specials as the final act of the UgliesPrettiesSpecials trilogy.  However, there is a fourth book called Extras, but Tally is not the main character.  I wasn’t planning on reading it, but I’ve been told by others that they really enjoyed it, so maybe I’ll pick it up after a little break from the series.  I would definitely recommend Uglies to any YA reader, and you can read my review of that book here.

drums20girlsDrums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

This is a really great story from 2004 about Steven, a geeky 8th grader trying to deal with school,  a girl who doesn’t know he exists, and an annoying five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, all while finding time to get better on the drums.  Steven’s year quickly goes downhill when he learns that Jeffrey has lukemia.  Written in first person, Drums really gives us a feel for what Steven and his family are going through.  It has a lot of really sweet, sad, funny, angry, and quirky moments, and I cannot recommend it enough.

devilishDevilish by Maureen Johnson

This was my first Maureen Johnson book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It turned out to be a fairly quick read with supernatural elements.  Jane attends an all-girl prep school with her best friend Allison, who has somewhat of an inferiority complex.  Allison changes drastically when new girl Lanalee arrives at school, suddenly owning expensive things, dying and cutting her hair, and stealing Jane’s ex-boyfriend.  Jane soon discovers Allison has sold her soul to Lanalee, a devil-in-training who also wants Jane’s soul.  I enjoyed the character of Jane; she’s intelligent, witty, and fiercely loyal and protective of her best friend.  Devilish is a pretty light read, though it does have some slightly graphic descriptions at times, so I would recommend it to older readers who like out-of-the-norm supernatural books.

savvySavvy by Ingrid Law

This 2008 book has won numerous honors, including 2009 Newbery Honor and ALA Notable Book for Children 2009.  Main character Mibs is about to turn 13.  A big deal for anyone, yet in her family, turning 13 means you get your savvy — a special talent.  Mibs’ oldest brother creates electricity and another brother can cause hurricanes.  Two days before her birthday, Mibs’ father is in a bad car accident.  Mibs KNOWS her savvy is to wake him up, so she, her older brother Fish, her younger brother Samson, and the preacher’s kids Will & Bobbi embark on an adventure.  Along her journey, Mibs learns a lot about herself, her family, and growing up.  This was a fantastic story with great characters and an exciting adventure.  Highly recommended!  I’m looking forward to more from Ingrid Law.

lincolnsThe Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

I have only read the first two chapters of this massive book so far, but I’m enjoying it.  It’s a nice book to pick up every now and then to supplement reading typical chapter books.  I love the scrapbook feel, with the pictures and various chunks of text.  It’s such a great way to learn about two important figures in history and what living in their time was like.  I’m looking forward to finishing the book and learning more, but I can already see why it’s so popular and has earned so many praise.  A great book for a variety of ages!

masterpieceMasterpiece by Elise Broach

I’m still working my way through this chapter book too, but so far it’s very enjoyable.  Published in 2008, Masterpiece is the story of Marvin, a beetle who lives in a NYC apartment with a human family, including 10-year-old James.  Of course, the humans don’t know they are there, until one day when Marvin goes into James’ room to leave a birthday present and ends up creating a beautiful ink picture.  When James awakes and sees the picture, he’s amazed and even more surprised when Marvin reveals himself as the artist.  I love that the book is from the perspective of a tiny beetle.  I can’t to find out how Masterpiece ends.


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.


Our 50 States

April 16, 2008

This book by Lynne Cheney is filled with interesting information about all 50 states. The book has a loose plot of a family traveling throughout the entire country, but with each page dedicated to a state and jam-packed with pictures and trivia, the book certainly does not read like a story. The family vacation concept does pop up on each page though; if you’re paying attention you will find the two kids sending their grandma or friends emails and text messages about the exciting things they see or learn. Our 50 States is a great way to learn about geography and the diverse culture of the United States. With so much information on each page, this is definitely a book where each look may provide you with something new.

Mrs. Cheney has also written four other books for children, including A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women. Each of her books for children includes an aspect of American history, and most, including Our 50 States and A is for Abigail are illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser and feature fun, colorful illustrations.


John, Paul, George & Ben

April 10, 2008

This book by Lane Smith was easily my favorite from the selection for class last week. It combines history, Beatles references, and humor to create a very entertaining book. I highly, highly recommend it. Actually, the more I read Lane Smith books, whether they are his own or an effort with Jon Scieszka, the more I love his work. Not only are these books fun for kids, but also for adults who read with kids (or just for the fun of it on their own). This story shows a look at five American leaders as children and how their actions as children may have impacted them as adults.

Like with Martin’s Big Words, Scholastic also put out a video for this book. The video is definitely just as good as the book. It works in some new animation as well as includes music that sounds very similar to Beatles songs. James Earl Jones also narrates. The video is great to watch if you have the opportunity, otherwise check out the book. It will absolutely make you laugh.

Here’s an advertisement for the book and video.


Martin’s Big Words: Video/DVD

April 9, 2008

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. last week, I thought I’d revisit Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. Scholastic released a video version of the book, which I think contains different aspects. Instead of adding new animation for the video, Scholastic decided to give movement to the pictures from the book. The video zooms and pans across a page to make it appear as if the pictures are actually moving. This gives more detail to the pictures. The video also uses a narrator (actor Michael Clarke Duncan) but occasionally includes text that moves quite a bit on the page. Some kids who are learning to read may find this distracting.

Overall, I think the video is a good adaptation of the book, and it’s nice that Scholastic released it as part of their video collection.  It includes a portion of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in his own words. If you want to view, listen, or read the entire speech (which I highly recommend), go here.


Martin’s Big Words

March 30, 2008

With its simple, straightforward words by Doreen Rappaport and large, fascinating pictures by Bryan Collier, Martin’s Big Words serves as a great introduction to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. The biography begins with Dr. King’s childhood but quickly progresses to his efforts for change. Young readers will learn about major events of the Civil Rights Movement, from Rosa Park’s refusal which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis in 1968, which is dealt with very delicately.

Martin’s Big Words earned the Caldecott Honor achievement in 2002. Rappaport’s website includes a learning guide for this and other stories. A video version of the book also exists. Narrated by actor Michael Clarke Duncan and featuring sound clips of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the video provides another good way for readers to meet Dr. King.


Old Penn Station

March 23, 2008

William Low’s Old Penn Station is beautifully illustrated. The story presents the history of the station as if it were telling the life of a living, breathing person. The realistic, detailed paintings further bring the station to life. Old Penn Station romanticizes the older way of life, when trains were the primary means of transportation and grand stations were filled with travelers. It’s hard to miss the message of losing the past and “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” The book feels more like a coffee-table book than a children’s book, but older kids who enjoy trains, art, or history might appreciate it.