Sunday, November 30, 2014

Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg

I love reviewing the occasional picture book, especially if it’s one that older audiences can enjoy as well!  Chris Van Allsburg’s story is about Judy and Peter, two ordinary kids who discover a mysterious board game called Jumanji.  The game is actually infused with magical powers, so the kids find themselves faced with all the dangers of the jungle!  Wild animals running loose, a powerful monsoon, even an erupting volcano!

One thing I enjoyed about Jumanji (and this is true for all of Mr. Van Allsburg’s books!) is how his illustrations can simply suck you into the story.  In this book, it almost feels like you’re playing the game right next to Judy and Peter!  The awesome illustrations don’t just tell the story along with the narrative, they support it by helping you to imagine yourself in those surroundings.  It’s no wonder that this book is so popular with boys of all ages, especially those with a healthy sense of adventure!

Let’s imagine for a second that you could actually get drawn into one of the games that you have at home.  Is there any particular game that you’d like to experience the way that Judy and Peter did?  Would it be a board game like Monopoly or Sorry!, or would you like to get drawn into a video game?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

Sometime in the not-so-distant future, Earth has survived two invasion attempts from an alien species known only as “The Buggers”.  In anticipation of another onslaught, the nations of Earth create an international space fleet to defend themselves.  As a young child, Ender Wiggin is selected for training at their academy, where he learns the fundamentals of combat by participating in battles against other student armies.               

I’ve never really been a huge reader of science fiction, but I strongly recommend this book because of the underlying themes.  Younger readers might want to hold off because there is some violence, as well as some curse words, but probably nothing that your average fifteen- or sixteen-year old young man hasn’t been exposed to already.  Besides, anyone who’s overly disturbed by these things has obviously missed the whole point of the novel.  “Ender’s Game” doesn’t just have my recommendation--- it’s also endorsed by the US Marine Corps, and it’s required reading for their officer candidates!

“Ender’s Game” is a book that I would recommend for almost all high-school boys, but especially for any of them who’ve ever considered joining the military.  I had the unfortunate opportunity to see combat in Iraq, and for me, it was a life-changing experience.  By putting the realities of warfare into a fictional setting, the author allows us to get a huge amount of insight into what war really is.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein

When I first picked up a copy of “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, I didn’t realize that it was a book of poetry.  My older brother just told me that it was a good book and that I should read it, so of course I did.  To be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn’t have started reading it if I’d known it was poetry, but once I opened the cover it was too late to quit.  Shel Silverstein’s hilarious line drawings sucked me in, and the outrageous verses kept me turning the pages.

This is a poetry book for boys who don’t like poetry, so it quickly became one of my favorites.  I really appreciated the fact that you can open it to any page and pick a poem to read at random, so there’s no need to read the book from beginning to end.  Of course, you’ll undoubtedly end up with a few (or a few dozen) favorite poems, so there’s a handy index included at the back of the book.  Silverstein wrote many other books, including a couple other compilations of poems, so there’s a lot more to enjoy after you finish “Where the Sidewalk Ends”!    

One thing I enjoyed about Silverstein’s writing style is that he’s just so much fun!  The silly poems and outrageous drawings will get a laugh out of almost anyone.  Also, this book is a great inspiration for your own writing projects.  The topics are simple, dealing with things like chores or annoying siblings.  Even a kid who never thought about writing poetry would be tempted to put a few verses down on paper after reading Silverstein’s work!