Monday, November 30, 2009

RASL The Drift

Imagine you can jump through different levels of time and space! That's what Robert can do! How would you spend your time and where?

In this over sized, black and white graphic novel, Robert jumps around using time travel equipment that he and a fellow university scientist invented. His equipment looks like airplane engines that he straps on his shoulders and legs to propel him into his next "jump" in time. Its very bulky and he stashes it in garbage dumpsters and car trunks when roaming about in vehicles like pick up truck in what seems like modern time.

In the beginning of the novel, we find Robert stealing Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist painting to sell in a different time. He "jumps" to avoid the police takes time to drink, smoke, get laid (all graphically shown), he jumps because a strange lizard man attacks him. In his second jump location, he does another booty call which again involves drinking and smoking. Since he gets into a verbal fight with the booty call girl, he leaves her and goes to a strip joint (which, of course, has thong wearing pole dancers). Lizard man shows up, kills his booty call girl and destroys the Picasso painting - this, of course, becomes the story of the Drift Volume One, which continues on with an open ended ending that leads the reader to future Drift books.

"Graphic" novel really defines this book. Robert is not a good role model for students, unless you are teaching stealing, sex, drinking and smoking to your students! This is not your usual comic book superhero book!

I chose this book because I liked the storyline of time jumping, but I would suggest you skip this novel and "jump" in Steven Gould's Jumper Books and the movie The Jumper, here are the links to a better read:,2178/

Mary Beth Hutting

Columbo in the Sands

Do you remember the old TV series Columbo? Peter Falk lazily wandered around in a crumpled overcoat solving mysteries. Detective Columbo took his time getting the facts and eventually piecing the solution and all aspects of the murder. In Finding Nouf, Nayir bumbles around trying to solve the who and why of the death of Nouf Ash - Shrawi, a 16 year old daughter of a wealthy Arabian family. Her body is found in a wadi (a desert area that suddenly floods with flash flood waters) and her family has her death ruled a suicide and gets on with their life. But one step-brother, Othman, feels Nouf was murdered and wants to know the truth so he enlists desert guide and friend Nayir to find out why Nouf was killed and by whom. Othman also enlists his fiancee' Katya Hijazi, a forensic worker to work on the case without coronor approval. So Nayir and Katya slowly piece together facts and evidence to solve the mystery.

So read to find out: Did Nouf kill herself? Who did kill Nouf? How did a 16 year old female steal a camel and a truck and get away unnoticed? What is a miswak? What is a misyar? Nouf was engaged to be married in two days, but was pregnant! Who is the baby daddy? Did he kill her to hide the pregnancy on a girl that was suppose to be a wedding virgin? All this taking place in the strict religious world of Arabia, where your sandals melt to the sidewalk, yet men go buy coats at the coat bizarre. But don't forget, if an Arab get bored he can drive the one main street around and around to relieve frustrations because gas is only .52 cents a gallon and there is nothing but desert and the Red Sea in all directions! Its a cooky Columbo episode in the sand!

Although reviews have claimed this book is "fast-placed", it is as fast - paced as a turtle. It takes 300 pages to solve the mystery of Nouf's death. Nayir, like Columbo, is in no hurry.

Throughout the book the reader is exposed to the many aspects of current Arabian caste system with its expectations for men and women. How and where men talk, how and where women talk, arranged marriges, prayers and beliefs of Allah are all part of this book. This would be a great book for older teens and young adults that are studying the Arab society. But have ready to look up Arab words that the author thinks everyone knows the meaning of (context clues don't really help unless you know Arab society and terms).

On a positive note, there is slight humor - Nayir eventually does compare himself to Columbo after he buys a "Columbo coat" to wear at the coat bizarre in 95 degree sunshine and Nayir lives on a house boat. Although Nayir is a pious man, strange sexual tension tingle between Nayir and Katya which is forbidden in strict Arab society and is troublesome since Katya is Nayir's best friend's fiancee!

A great book if you want to learn about life in Arabia or have students that are looking for a positive portrayal of the Middle East lifestyles and beliefs.

Author's question and answer section about Finding Nouf on her website

In case you don't remember Columbo

RD's life is Messed Up!

Oh The Joys of Middle School Times Three

RD is a Mexican 15 year old 8th grader, well 8th grader for the third time. He keeps getting retained because he refused to do any classwork or homework. He considers himself a big zero in life. But how else could he feel when he doesn't know anything about his father, his mother is locked up in jail, his grandmother just moved out and left him in a run down house with a seventy five year old step grandfather that has breathing problems due to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. You'd be messed up too!

Then one day, RD comes home to find Grandpa Earl dead on the bathroom floor. Now he is completely alone, only has 18 dollars, no food in the house and even if he did have food, he doesn't know how to cook!

RD doesn't want to become a ward of the state and be sent to a group home so he keeps his home life a secret. Struggling with the downers in life, RD teaches himself to survive even though he bleaches his jeans, forgets to bathe for three days, thinks Earl's ghost is in the house and doesn't know how cook food (he yells at a frozen chicken - "You'd taste good if I knew how to cook you!").

RD has more problems than most teens, but many teens will relate to RD and his struggles for self sufficiency, deals with school, girls and everything else that come with living in a poor neighborhood. Although RD has a bad school past, this book shows a positive turnabout of a Hispanic teen. He chooses to make the right decisions to make himself a better life. This book could lead to discussions of gangbanging, drugs, consequences of your actions and decisions in a positive and negative directions that they take you in life.

Warning:Fairy tale/lame ending! The book is realistic and great until the final three chapters.Have your students write a new ending to keep it real.

How Hungry Are You? The Hunger Games Await

Remember the Greek myth about the Minotaur that lived in King Minos' labyrinth in Crete. Every nine years, seven boys and seven girls were tossed as sacrifices to the minotaur into the labyrinth to see if they could escape, kill the minotaur or be killed by the minotaur. That was the story that influenced the futuristic idea behind the Hunger Games.

Every year, to punish the starving people of Panem (what use to be the USA) for a rebellion against the Capitol, each district must send one boy and one girl (chosen by lottery of 12 to 18 year olds) to battle in the Hunger Games. Twenty four kids go in and only one can survive. Every year the arena is different because the Gamemakers like to make a good "show". The Hunger Games are televised all over Panem, sometimes the only time when the capitol gave its residents electricity other than to electrify the chain link fences that divide up the 12 districts of Pamen. The Hunger Games have children pitted against children and if the Games get to slow, the Gamemakers cause fires, animals and other additions to the arena to stir things up and all everyone can do is watch their loved ones compete. The single victor and its district are rewarded greatly with food, so winning is more than your survival.

I am currently teaching the Hunger Games in my English class. We are at the point where the game is beginning. My students moan that the book is 27 chapters (375 pages) but the games are pulling them in. This book is fast paced and you want to keep reading to find out what happens to everyone in the Games. This book talks about overcoming hard family issues (Katniss' father was killed in a mine accident and mom became a manic depressant, so Katniss had to find ways to feed her family, as did Gale, her friend, is in the same situation) through illegal hunting and gathering wild edibles both families learn to survive until the Hungar Games take Katniss away. Katniss is a strong female personality with great outdoor survival skills (which is shared to the reader). This book reminded me of the books, My Side of the Mountain and Hatchet.

There is a book called the Maze Runner
that looks like a darker version of the Hunger Games.

I highly recommend this book be available in classrooms, its a great read, great storyline and a very awarded.

Here is a website that shows how much students love this book.

Scholatic website has lots of background info on this book at:

I read and reviewed the second book, Catching Fire, but don't read that post or Catching Fire's book jacket if you want to read the Hunger Games without spoiling the end.

PS this book has killing in it, but it is not graphic with blood and gore. Junior high and up would find this book engaging.
Mary Beth Hutting

Catching Fire IS on Fire!

Some Advice I learned the hard way - Don't read the book jacket of Catching Fire if you are not done reading The Hunger Games! It gives it all away! Don't read this review if you want to read the Hunger Games because it gives details of what happened in book one.

Catching Fire is book two in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Set in the far off future, Panem (what used to be the USA) makes families send children into a death arena to remind the families that the government controls them and must be obeyed. Its not George Orwell's 1984 all over -its different. That's book one - the story of Katniss and Peeta from District 12 - they played the game as star crossed lovers ans both survived the Games. Now it is months after the Games and the winners must be paraded around all the districts. Katniss and Peeta get to see how good or bad life in other district are. They both thought District 12 was the worst, but its actually not policed. The winners find out their suicide pact in the arena has stirred up rebellion all over Panem. Katniss' pin, a Mockingjay, has become the symbol of rebellion. But there is more trouble - every 25 years, the Hunger Games have a double twist added - this "Quarter Quell" forces all living previous Game winners to go back into the Arena to fight against each other - all of which are great friends and mentors to each other! Peeta and Katniss must go back to fight to the death with other victors of the games and only one winner can survive this time! The twists and roller coaster storyline keep you reading just like the Hunger Games did and the ending makes you scream because you have to wait until Suzanne Collins finishes writing book three!

This is blog that questions whether the Hunger Games Trilogy will be the next Harry Potter or Twlight series!

Here are some sites about Catching Fire: is a fan created website about the series

Liongate studios has obtained the right to the Hunger Games and is planning a movie of book one in 2010.
Mary Beth Hutting


For years Grace had been fascinated with the yellow eyed wolf that had saved her life when she was young. He is her wolf. And he becomes her obsession. This young wolf is Sam, and their love had been growing from a distance. Little did Grace know that Sam was also able to take the form of a human in the warmer months of the year. Little did these two know that they would be thrust together by a terrible tragedy. The death of a local teen brings about a wolf hunt that threatens Sam's life, but also Sam's ability to become human. Would Grace and Sam be able to foster this passionate love growing between them? Or would Sam be taken from Grace at the moment she realizes her wolf is also a human. The story delves into the true love between these two characters, but also the struggles of teenage relationships. These struggles are paralleled in a science fiction type way through the love of a human and a wolf. Stiefvater makes the love between a human and a werewolf completely believable and may possibly surpass the connection between Bella and Edward in the Twilight saga (which young adults should also check out: It is basically the Team Jacob version of Twilight with striking similarities to Stephanie Meyer's series. Although Stiefvater provides a more romantic connection than between Bella and Edward with much more snuggling, cuddling, and embracing.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, not only because I am a Twilight fan, but because I really enjoyed Stiefvater's portrayal of teenage romance. Also how teenage romance can come in any form between any two matter how different they are. I also enjoyed how Stiefvater portrayed Grace as a strong young adult woman who remains level headed throughout her passionate relationship with Sam. She seemed mature beyond her years and understood the deep connection between her and Sam. My only problem with Stiefvater's style of writing was that the point of views were somewhat confusing. The novel is mostly from Grace's perspective, but I think that Sam's voice sometimes got lost in the narration. I found this video interesting because it is one reader's perspective on what the characters from this novel would look like... (I surprisingly kind of agree!)

I think that this book would be very appealing for Young Adult readers because of the vampire/werewolf phenomenon, but also the subject matter. This book provides a social commentary on relationships between two different kinds of people...this could relate to anything from a werewolf/human relationship to something like an interracial relationship. I think classroom discussion would be focused on the emotional parts of this story and the questions brought about when someone is potentially losing a love. It also focuses on finding love as a teen and building a strong relationship. To find more info about building healthy teen relationships look here: I would definitely recommend this book to young adults or any Twilight fans because it will not disappoint!

For another perspective on this novel check out this blog at:

A new shade of Green in "Paper Towns"

Radar is the last to get off the phone, and when he finally does, he says, "I'd like to make an announcement. My parents are very annoyed that I'm missing graduation. My girlfriend is also annoyed, because we were scheduled to do something very special in about eight hours. I don't want to get into details about it, but this had better be one fun road trip."
- Paper Towns

And it certainly is. As I read John Green's Paper Towns I realized how thematically connected it was to his earlier novel Looking for Alaska. Both stories deal with teenage affection (and all of its complexities), both have a strong female character (in this case Margo), and both do not follow conventional paths in reaching their conclusions (this one has an elaborate clue-hunt to find Margo). While Looking for Alaska dealt with a select group of individuals, and their experiences at school, Paper Towns expands on similar levels while operating far more elaborately in terms of setting and action. We have contrasting characters, for instance: Quentin (introverted geek), Margo (ninja-clad, extroverted beauty), Radar (his dialogue with Quentin in the novel was a highlight for me) and Ben (Quentin's best friend). Like Looking for Alaska, Green gives us some of the most memorable Young Adult Literature characters yet, instilling them with humor, intellect, emotion, and vibrancy.

Green's strength is evident in his ability to communicate teenage relationships to the reader, mainly through the use of comical dialogue and well-defined characters. The basic story involves our narrator Quentin Jacobsen (a Holden Caufield type, there is even a Dr.Holden in the novel) and his adoration of his female neighbour Margo (a mysterious childhood friend). The plot follows their collaboration on a night of pranks, a backstory that involves a grim discovery from their chilhood, Margo eventually vanishing, and an extremely engrossing road trip section that is fantastically executed and by far the highlight of the novel for me.

I would highly recommend this to anyone that enjoyed Looking for Alaska and would even go as far as to say this is a superior novel in many ways. Green has matured in his writing here, and I loved how varied his style was (such as writing instant messages on the page, and the diary style of the road trip). He also shows his love of great literature by inserting references to Whitman's Leaves of Grass and Melville's Moby Dick. This is a perfect novel to teach to a teenage audience as it stays within the boundaries of decency, while also dealing with its themes in a very accessible and humorous way.

Blogged by Stuart Millar

Drugs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

People hear about hard-core drug addicts, maybe see them in movies or even know a few in or from their school. But what if that junkie was your best friend of fifteen years, and suddenly you didn’t know that person anymore? In the book In Ecstasy by Kate McCaffrey, this is what happens between best friends, Sophie and Mia.

Sophie is the popular one, while Mia is more reserved and shy. So one night at a party when Sophie decides to try ecstasy, Mia follows her lead. Sophie enjoys the high and has fun, but for Mia it’s a completely different world. Ecstasy gives her the courage and self-esteem she lacks on her own. She is able to socialize with the crowd and even finds herself talking to one of the most popular boys in school. Mia has the time of her life.

The girls attend a few more parties together, and each time Mia is determined to take ecstasy as a way to become this new, improved person. Yet as the time goes on, Mia doesn’t need Sophie anymore. She becomes attached to her new boyfriend, Lewis, and even more attached to this other person she has started to become. Sophie tries rekindling their friendship but discovers the duo no longer has anything in common. Mia begins taking more and more drugs in order to successfully be this happy, popular, carefree girl. Her grades slip, she continually loses weight, fights with her parents and convinces herself Sophie is simply jealous of her new life.

One night at a party at her boyfriend’s house, Mia is brutally awakened to not only the dangers of drugs but to the type of person her boyfriend truly is. Yet at this point Mia is so addicted that she will stop at nothing to get her fix. Meanwhile Sophie and Mia’s family are forced to watch Mia destroy her life. To listen to various real-life drug addicts who discuss similar situations and emotions seen in In Ecstasy, check out this video.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. One aspect that really stuck out for me was simply that McCaffrey does not lie about drugs. Through Mia, the reader sees that yes, drugs can make a person feel incredible. They can give them that extra courage or help they think they need to become popular and even make people believe their lives are better. Yet at the same time McCaffrey shows the true effects of drugs. Mia doesn't become a cool, popular kid; she becomes an addict who potentially loses everything important in her life. I also enjoyed this book because it is told from both Sophie's and Mia's point of view. It is interesting to see both characters and their personal situations through each others' eyes. It gives the reader a deeper perspective into the characters.

I think this is an excellent learning book for students but I do not know if there is any way that parents and/or administrators would allow this to be taught. Obviously this book is primarily about drug abuse, but along with that there are issues of sexual assault, teenage sex, peer pressure, and theft. Because of these serious issues and fairly graphic details, I would recommend this book for older students who are mature enough to handle them. Additionally I might recommend this book to parents. Not everyone knows the signs to look for if their child is doing drugs, and I think this book is especially informative and honest about drug abuse. Since this is told from two female's perspectives, I also think girls might get more enjoyment out of this book than boys, although regardless of the gender, this is still a very informative book on drug addiction.

As a whole, this book is entertaining, interesting, sad and extremely realistic. Mia and Sophie really come alive for readers, and I empathized with them throughout the book. These characters remind me that being an impressionable teenager is not easy, something that as an adult, I think it's sometimes easy to forget.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lost by Jacqueline Davies

“The new girl was lost. Anybody could see that. I looked up from my machine to see her coming down the last aisle…right off I could tell she had taken a wrong turn, ended up in the wrong place, and was trying to figure out how to get back.”

When Harriet Abbott walks into the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, sixteen-year old Essie Rosenfeld wonders why an upper crust-looking girl would be working in such a place. Harriet can hardly sew, and her hands look like she has never worked in her life. However, with Essie’s help, Harriet is soon sewing shirtwaists quick enough to keep up with the other girls. Essie and Harriet become fast friends. Yet, Harriet is secretive. She refuses to tell Essie where she lives and anything about her past. Essie is curious, but she has secrets of her own. Essie walks the dark streets of the Lower East Side alone desperately looking for fabric to finish a hat for her younger sister, Zelda. However, when Essie comes home late at night looking for her sister, Zelda seems strangely absent.

One day while walking on the street, Essie sees a lost notice for a woman who has a strong resemblance to her friend Harriet. Essie begins to seriously question who Harriet is and why she is working in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. As Essie confronts Harriet, a horrible fire breaks out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The fire tests the strength and resiliency of Essie and Harriet and forever changes both their lives in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1900s.

Although Lost is historical fiction, Jacqueline Davies weaves her story closely around two significant New York events of 1911: the strange disappearance of the wealthy, New York socialite Dorothy Harriet Camille Arnold and the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Please click on this link to read the New York Times article from January 27, 1911 on the disappearance of Dorothy Harriet Camille Arnold:

Please see the attached video which gives a description of the tragic events of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911.

If the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire has sparked your interest, I encourage you to check out historian David Von Drehle’s 2003 book entitled Triangle: The Fire That Changed America. Von Drehle was interviewed by Gwen Ifill about this work on the PBS NewsHour TV Show. A link to a transcript of this interview is also included below:

Davies’ inclusion of these two significant historical events adds depth to her coming of age story to create a fascinatingly realistic fictional narrative that centers on the young adult themes of friendship, loss, and resiliency of the human spirit. This book has been approved for young adult readers 12 years-old and older. However, there are some disturbingly graphic scenes surrounding the fire that make this book perhaps more appropriate for the 14-16 year-old young adult reader.

Just After Sunset

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever feared for your life? Do you think dreams come true?

In his latest collection of short stories, Just After Sunset, Stephen King writes about ghosts, near death experiences, dreams that come true, and abuse among several other serious and scary topics.

King opens with a story called Willa. Willa and her fiancé, David, are stuck at a train station after their train derailed. Willa, David, and the other train riders are patiently waiting for Metra to send a new train to rescue them, but Willa is growing impatient and wanders off. David decides to travel into town, which is several miles away, to find Willa. He finds her sitting in a booth at a local bar listening to music. We quickly realize that Willa and the others aren’t quite what they seem.

The second story is called The Gingerbread Girl. The Gingerbread Girl is about a woman named Emily. She had recently lost her baby and turned to running to deal with the pain and grief. One day, she cannot stop and does not just run down the street, but all the way to a hotel. Then, she decided that was not far enough and continued to run all the way to her father’s summer home. Emily continues to run and run and run. One day she stops and talks to Deke Hollis who is in charge of the draw bridge on the island. On this particular day, Deke mentions that Pickering was back and continues by saying that he is not a nice man. Emily does not think much of it and leaves Deke to run back home. On her way, she notices that Pickering’s gate is open and she sees hair hanging out of the trunk of his car. She moves closer and realizes it is a dead woman and then the world goes black.

King continues his eerie writing in the third short story called Harvey’s Dream. Harvey’s Dream opens with his wife’s description of him. Harvey has good days and bad days and Janet, his wife, knows a lot has changed since they were young and in love. On most Saturdays, Harvey is not with it, but on this Saturday, Harvey is very aware and coherent. He begins to tell Janet about a dream he had the night before. As he is telling the story, Janet realizes that his dream is coming true. Harvey begins by telling Janet that he woke up early and looked out the window and saw a dent in the neighbor’s car, which ironically Janet had actually noticed that very morning. Then, in Harvey’s dream the phone rings and it is Trisha, their oldest daughter. Through sobs, Harvey learns that the police called Trisha because they couldn’t get a hold of him to tell him that one of his other daughters had died. The next thing he knew, he was awoken by his own screams. Janet does not enjoy this dream at all and begins to feel very sick. Then, the phone rings and Harvey gets up to answer it.

Read Just After Sunset to find out how these stories end!

This book would work well for high school students, most likely eleventh or twelfth graders. King covers several serious topics such as death, near death experiences, and abuse. Younger students would not have the maturity or mental capacity to read these stories. I personally found this book to be boring. The first three stories were captivating and I couldn’t stop reading, but the remaining stories were not as interesting to me. I think students would enjoy this book because of the short stories. It would be easy for a student to sit down and read one or more of the stories. I think some students would be apprehensive to read this book because of its size. It is over 500 pages and might seem intimidating to some. I do not think this book could be used in other content areas. I do not think this is a good book to teach in a classroom setting. The majority of the characters are not adolescents so it might be hard for students to relate to the stories. I think it should be used as a choice book.

A.D. New Orleans after the Deluge

“This is not a test. This is the real deal” (p.37). At 10:03pm on August 27, 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin encouraged the residents of New Orleans to evacuate. Less than an hour later, the wrath of Katrina began. Residents were forced to make a potentially life altering choice – leave and hope or stay and lose. Residents, who chose to leave, quickly packed their most cherished items, while those who chose to stay, gathered food, first aid supplies, and guns to fend off looters.

In A.D., Neufeld depicts the reality of Katrina through the eyes of seven different New Orleans residents. Denise, Abbas, Darnell, and Brobson (The Doctor) chose to ignore evacuation warnings while Leo, his wife, Michelle, and Kwane and his family heed warnings and leave New Orleans.

Denise and her family are told they have a room at the local hospital where her mom works, but once they arrive, they learn that their room has been given away. Denise goes home and barely survives the night. The next day Denise and her family head to the Super Dome. Denise describes the conditions and problems surrounding the Super Dome and discusses how supposed “thugs” were more helpful than the U.S. National Guard.

Abbas and Darnell decide the stay because they think it will be cool to be in New Orleans when Katrina hits. They stay in Abbas’ store. Every few hours they have to move their supplies and themselves to higher ground due to the flooding. When they are stationed on the roof, a boat comes by and offers to bring them to safety, but the men decline. They want to wait it out.

Brobson (The Doctor) stays behind primarily because he is not concerned with Katrina. He is older and has lived through several hurricanes. He is so nonchalant about the whole thing that he throws a hurricane party. In the after math, Brobson plays a key role in helping survivors.

Leo and his wife leave New Orleans and head to Houston. They pack up some clothes and their dogs. Leo is apprehensive about leaving his large, valuable comic book collection. He briefly toys with the idea of moving the boxes to higher ground, but in the end, decides not to.

Kwane and his family head to Tallahassee, Florida to stay with his older brother at college. Kwane’s father is a local pastor and he is stressed about what will happen when people return to New Orleans. Kwane and his family pray for safety and hope that all will be well in New Orleans. As the storm worsens, Kwane’s family begins to realize they may not be going home for awhile.

A.D. is a superbly drawn and written graphic novel. Neufeld uses lots of colors to show changes and emotions. A.D. would be great for students who do not enjoy reading novels. It could easily work as a book to introduce students to different types of books and could lead to a love of reading. I would recommend this book for mature middle school students or high school students. There is some inappropriate language and I worry that some middle school students would be too immature to look past it and read the story. This book might also attract readers who have experienced some sort of natural disaster and they may be able to relate to some of the characters and their feelings. In addition, A.D. could also be used in conjunction with a history lesson on Katrina or other natural disasters that the U.S. has experienced.

Whether you experienced Katrina directly or indirectly, this book will hit home. A must read that shows Katrina in a new light!

Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott

“Zahira was born for this death…If instead she lives, many other lives will be changed also, now and forever…there will be a price.”

Ten years ago, the merciless King Abheron and his Serdorne warriors burned the land of the Rua people to the ground. From the forested mountain tops, in a small, Rua village, sixteen-year-old Zahira trains in the martial arts eager to avenge her people’s sufferings against King Abheron and the Sedorne people.

While visiting a Rua resistance fighter secretly in the village of Mesgao, Zahira witnesses a robbery. She jumps into the middle of the fight to save the injured man. However, she is repulsed to discover afterwards that this man is a Serdorne lord! The lord, Sorin Mesgao, promises to help Zahira if she is ever in need. Zahira scoffs at him and leaves Mesgao trying to forget the incident. However, when King Abheron’s Sedorne soldiers attack the Rua people again, Zahira must make some difficult decisions. In the midst of tragedy, Zira discovers a powerful secret about her past, her family, and what it means to be the Daughter of the Flames.

At 341 pages, this novel would be most appropriate for the 15-17 year-old young adult reader. Marriott’s novel definitely falls under the fantasy genre of Young Adult Literature. Fantasy readers will find this book engaging and fast paced. I believe that Marriott’s novel will typically draw in a greater female audience, but with all the discussion of martial arts, male readers may find Marriott’s novel captivating as well.

This is Zoe Marriott’s second novel. Her website is an informative resource for teens to visit and explore Marriott’s other writing. If this book interests you, the link below will bring you to Marriott’s website where you can read the first chapter of Daughter of the Flames.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Eternal Smile

The Eternal Smile: Three Stories
A fantastical adventure through the worlds we live in and the worlds we create. From Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
come three tales, the story of a prince who defeats his greatest enemy only to discover that maybe his world is not what it had
seemed. The story of a frog who finds that just being a frog might be the way to go. The story of a women who receives an e-
mail from Prince Henry of Nigeria asking for a loan to help save his family and gives it to him. These stories are held together

through the themes of greed and escapism. The first story Duncan's Kingdom is a medieval fantasy about

a young knight,(Duncan) who is in the service of a king that gets killed but evil agents. This quick plot is very

straightforward, but makes everything seem kind of cloudy and leaves it up to the reader to figure it out. There’s a twist in the

story where things turn out not to be just what they seem, though Duncan does show more than enough heroism before it’s all

done. Gran’pa Greenbax starts off looking like a parody “Uncle Scrooge," with the characters transformed to frogs: Gran’pa

Greenbax is a nastier, greedier version of Scrooge, and all of the other characters fall into place. Gran’pa does eventually find

peace, in a sense, but the story doesn’t end in anything like the way it begins,and leaves the reader in awe. Then the third

story, Urgent Request, is about an office assistant, Janet Ho, whom no one respects. The art for most of this story is in moody

blue tones, with few panels scattered across the pages, to add to the depressed, isolated feeling you get while reading this

story. She then she gets one of those Nigerian-prince scam e-mails, and gives her banking information to her “Prince

Henry.” Urgent Request has some twists itself, but they’re all on the same level as the original story the first two stories

in Eternal Smile have story-changing where you know it is wrong changes. All these story seem to be modern day fables

revisited and have the comic type feel to them. According to the copyright at the end, Yang wrote the stories and Kim drew

them. Kim’s work is impressive because all the stories have different type of artwork styles in them. Duncan has a

high fantasy look, Gran’pa has crisp, clean-lined styles, and Request has more of an american type

look to it. For those of you who were fans of American Born Chinese, this book is very different from it. While it does have

the three stories with the same theme as did American Born Chinese, that is the only similarity throughout the book. I was a

little disappointed because I did not enjoy this book as much as I did with American Born Chinese. These books are great for

middle school children who do not enjoy reading because this has art work and pictures to help tell the story, that most books

do not have for children this age.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is about a fireman name Guy Montag. The story takes place in a futuristic society. Instead of putting out fires their job is to start them. In this society books are banned and very often burned. People are preoccupied with television and radio and are not concerned about other issues in the world and indulge in risky behaviors such as speeding.
Montag starts to doubthis way of life when he meets a young girl named Clarrisse. She is full of life and enjoys every moment. Montag becomes curious about whether there is more to life besides television and seashell radios. He turns to books in search of answers.
There is trouble for Montag when his boss realizes that he is reading books instead of burning them. Things really become difficult for Montag. Something terrible happens to Clarrisse. His wife betrays him and he is forced to take drastic measures after his boss demands him to burn his own house down. Ultimately the city as he knows it is destroyed.
Montag enlists the help of a group of men who hold an appreciation for books and what they stand for. Together they will work to recreate a new found society.
Fahrenheit 451 depicts a society that must conform to a certain way of life; a totalitarianistic way of life. A life void of books, love, and nature. A life filled with television, radio, and risky behavior. This book can be very confusing in the beginning until you realize it is set in the future. The talk of burning books, and the hound being set free really has you guessing what actually is going on. Although it is a bit unrealistic, it is a fun read just as well. Junior high students might really enjoy this book because of the futuristic ideas. This could provide for a very entertaining discussion in a junior high classroom. I believe a book such as Fahrenheit 451 can really get the creative juices of junior high students flowing.