Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

This is the story of Nobody Owens, a baby who becomes an orphan when his family is murdered by a secret society of evildoers.  “Bod” narrowly escapes the attack by hiding in a nearby graveyard, where thousands of ghosts extend their protection to him.  Seeing that he has no one else to support him, the ghosts decide to shelter and care for Bod themselves.  He grows up to become a mostly normal boy…one who just happens to live in a graveyard, surrounded by restless spirits and hunted by ruthless evildoers!

I’ll be honest, the unique setting is what drew me into this awesome book.  Everyone grows up thinking that their home life is normal, but I had never even imagined what it must be like to live in a graveyard!  At first glance, the plot reminded me a little of “Harry Potter”--- an orphaned boy is hunted by evildoers and things kind of go on from there.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, though, and let that be a lesson to me not a judge any book by its (back) cover!  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the great thing about books is that you can take a single basic idea and then run with it in any direction.  If you gave the same idea to a hundred different authors, you’d probably come up with a hundred stories that were completely different.

Can you think of any particular places that you find interesting, even if they’re not necessarily one of your favorite spots?  Maybe a shopping mall, a train station, or even one of your classrooms at school?  Which of these places could be turned into a fascinating setting for one of your own stories?  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hard Gold, by AVI

Early Whitcomb comes from the state of Iowa, where he’s never traveled very far from his family’s farm.  That all changes during the droughts of 1859, when his father falls behind on the mortgage and the local bank threatens to foreclose on their land.  Left with no other choice, Early heads out west to track down his cousin Jesse, who had set off to Colorado in search of gold.  Along the way he discovers that Jesse is actually wanted for robbery, and that law and order have a completely different look in the Wild West!

Although Early’s story only concerns his family and friends, it takes place at a very busy time in our country’s history.  John Brown’s raid on the town of Harper’s Ferry served to spark a heated discussion about slavery, and southern states were seriously considering secession.  I thought that the author did an awesome job of painting these historical events into the background, while still keeping the focus on Early.  I also appreciated all the details that were included in this adventure.  It’s one thing to know that covered wagons traveled for months at a time, but when you start to think about what these settlers ate and where they slept, you almost start to feel as if you’re right there alongside them!

I love reading about this period in American history since it seems like adventure was around every corner, for better or for worse!  It still amazes me to think of how settlers could take such a huge risk in search of a better life with absolutely no guarantee of success.  If you had everything you own piled into a covered wagon and were traveling to someplace new, do you think that you might be just a little worried about what lay ahead?  What might you do if things didn’t work out? 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Last Newspaper Boy in America, by Sue Corbett

On his twelfth birthday, Wil David is anxious to take over his new paper route.  The route has been handed down through his family for generations, and he’s spent years training for this moment.  What should be a moment of glory is ruined, however, when his paper announces that they plan to stop home delivery to Wil’s town!  Will’s letter to the editor goes unanswered, at least until he starts spreading the bad news to his subscribers.  Their reaction shows him just how much the town depends on their newspaper…and on him.

One thing I noticed is that at the beginning of this book, Wil didn’t really seem to know his neighbors.  He knew their names, addresses, and how they liked to get their papers, but he didn’t really interact with them.  As his campaign to keep home delivery went forward, though, his meetings with his neighbors became more frequent when he got to know them personally.  I don’t want to ruin the awesome ending, but I will drop a hint about how Wil’s neighbors come to his aid.  One lesson to take away from this book is that an organized group of people will always accomplish much more than just one person can.

“The Last Newspaper Boy in America” is actually more about community organizing than it is about a newspaper route.  Still, I felt that it was an awesome book, and one with a good message.  But that leads me to ask if you’ve ever felt that something happening to you was unfair?  What was it, and what did you do about it?  Do you think that writing a complaint letter could have made a difference?