Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

After his parents die in a tragic house fire, Hugo Cabret becomes an apprentice to his uncle, who lives inside the walls of a Paris train station.  Hugo learns how to maintain all of the station’s clocks, and he takes over the job when his uncle mysteriously goes missing.  When Hugo recovers a mechanical robot from the ashes of his old home, he embarks on a quest to repair the delicate machinery that serves as the only link to his family.

While this thick book can look quite intimidating at first, it’s actually a very fast read.  Over half of the pages are illustrations, which definitely add a lot of weight to the story.  You’ll find yourself flipping through the illustrated scenes of action and suspense so quickly that you’ll feel like you’re reading a movie!  I won’t give away any of the ending to this awesome book, but I guarantee you’ll appreciate the visual format once you’ve followed Hugo into his discoveries about the origins of French movie-making!

This book is kind of an amazing invention itself, and it was neat to get a chance to explore the history of popular culture.  Most of the history classes I’ve taken were more concerned with war and politics than with culture, even though things like movies and television shows can have a huge impact on the way we live our lives.  Take a moment to look around at some of the “modern technology” you use every day.  How do you think that the next generation will feel about our iPhones or iPads?  Will they appreciate how this technology has changed our lives, or will they just laugh at these old antiques? 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

In Jonas’ community, children are raised by an assigned set of parents.  They’re given the chance to try out different career paths, and they’re assigned jobs once they turn twelve years old.  Unlike most of his friends, Jonas isn’t sure what he wants to do, and he ends up being selected to become the community’s Receiver of Memory.  This prestigious job requires him to be cut off from most other people except for his mentor, an old man known as The Giver.  Eventually, Jonas learns the forgotten secrets of his community…as well as some secrets that were meant to stay buried.

This book’s amazing setting takes place in the future, in a “utopian” society which is supposed to be perfect in every way.  Lying or stealing is not tolerated, and no one dares to break with the way that things have always been done.  When Jonas learns the truth about his community, though, it seems as if his whole world has turned against him.  This remarkable book will have you rooting for Jonas every step of the way.

An important part of growing up is taking on new roles, and exploring until you find your own place in the world.  But what do you think would happen if you came to feel like Jonas did, as if you just didn’t fit in with your home, your school, or your community?  Do you think that you’d be more likely to try to change the things you didn’t agree with, or would you try to find another place where you’d be more likely to fit in?