Stay Tuned for Our Discussion of The Maze Runner on Cinefantastique!

I recently recorded a discussion of the new movie The Maze Runner, based on the bestselling YA novel by James Dashner.  We had a great discussion about this boy-oriented action-packed dystopian story, and our star ratings turned out in a way that no one would have expected!

Maze Runner movie still

Our discussion will be appearing on the Cinefantastique website and on iTunes very soon!

 

 

Booktalk: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

The White Darkness cover

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean has one of the most unusual premises of any young adult book I’ve ever read.  A girl, who is in love with a long-dead explorer, ends up going to the same part of the world where he died and risks following him to the same fate.  There’s danger, drama, and adventure on the outside while on the inside there’s an ongoing conversation between two people, one living and one dead.

There are times that I read books that have won the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and I think, hmmm … I can see why they thought that was a great book, but I would find it hard to recommend to most teenagers I know and I definitely couldn’t booktalk it to an entire class!  But The White Darkness has enough appeal and enough unique layers that as soon as I finished reading it I knew that I wanted to share it with a larger audience.

BOOKTALK:

Sym has always had trouble fitting in.  She doesn’t have many friends, and a lot of kids in school make fun of her.  Her father didn’t like her very much either, but he’s dead now, so that doesn’t really matter anymore.  Her mom is okay, but Sym actually gets along better with Uncle Victor, who isn’t really her uncle but more a friend of the family.  But Uncle Victor is the only one who really understands just how much she loves the Antarctic.  How much she dreams of following in the footsteps of the brave explorers who went on doomed expeditions to the South Pole, many of whom lost their lives surrounded by miles of ice and snow.

In fact, while Sym has never had a boyfriend, there is one man who she loves more than anything in the world, and that man is Titus Oates.  As in, the late Titus Oates.  You see, Titus is one of those explorers who never came back from the Antarctic alive.  But Sym has read so many books, seen so many videos, and learned so much about Titus’ life that she feels like she knows him.  She even has long conversations with him inside her head.  But that’s not a secret Sym tells anyone — not even Uncle Victor.

Now Sym’s life stays pretty much the same until the day that Uncle Victor offers to take her and her mother to Paris for the weekend.  Sym thinks this is a great plan, even though the plan keeps changing.  First her mother’s passport went missing, so she was unable to go with them.  Then the weekend trip to Paris turned into several weeks in Antarctica.  Since Sym has always wanted to go there, she’s delighted.  But it’s when they reach the end of the world that Sym’s dream turns into a nightmare.

Sym is going to learn some very painful truths … about Antarctica, about Uncle Victor, and about herself.  She will find herself in incredible danger while surrounded by miles of ice and snow in every direction.  And her only hope of survival will be to rely on everything she’s ever learned about the Antarctic, her intuition, and the voice of a long-dead explorer that only she can hear.

Hey, Guys! I’m Going to Be a Cybils Judge!

Cybils JudgeOkay, so it has now been officially announced that I’m going to be one of the Cybils judges this year — I’m going to be a first round judge in the category of young adult fiction.  I usually read a lot of YA fiction, but this year I’m already reading a TON because I’m on a “best teen books of the year” committee for my library system.  And so I volunteered, and so I was accepted, and now I see that our goal is … “to read until our eyes bleed”???  Well, THAT sounds like a challenge!

If you’d like to learn more about the children’s and young adult bloggers’ literary awards known as the Cybils, please visit their website.

And wish me luck!!!

 

 

 

Booktalk: Dog Shaming by Pascal Lemire

Dog Shaming cover

I first heard about Dog Shaming on a reluctant readers booklist.  I was already familiar with the idea of embarrassed owners putting signs on their dogs from the hilarious Dog Shaming blog, so I ordered several copies of the book for my library.  Today was the first time I ever booktalked it, and the 7th graders who came to visit were delighted with this book and checked out my copies right away!

The most important thing about booktalking this book is that your audience needs to see the book while you’re talking about it (so yes, it’s not ideal for an audio podcast, but such is life).  I marked off the pages I wanted to talk about beforehand — see my sticky notes in the picture above — and then I showed the class the pictures as I talked about the book. You should all get copies of this book and share your own favorite pictures!

BOOKTALK:

In 2012, Pascal Lemire had several dogs who were sometimes destructive.  One night she and her fiancee Mike were at home when they heard a weird chewing noise coming from under the bed,  When they went to investigate, they discovered that their dog Beau had been chewing on Mike’s underwear.  Some of it was in pieces and some of it was gone because the dog had eaten it.  Mike made a sign that said “I am an underwear eating jerk,” put it next to the dog and the half-eaten underwear, and took a picture of it.  Pascal posted the picture to her blog, and within 24 hours the post had nearly a thousand comments.  The Dog Shaming blog took off after that.

Here are examples of some of the many dog shaming pictures that readers have shared with Pascal, and you can look at these pictures and decide for yourself if you think these dogs are ashamed or not!

  • I knocked over the fish food so I could eat it.
  • My family went to Disney without me, so I ate my bed.
  • I have a high heel fetish.
  • I occasionally enjoy a battery with a side of remote.
  • I DESTROYED this couch.
  • I like to “paint” like my mom when she’s gone.  Wish I hadn’t gone with blue …
  • I refuse to eat my food out of my bowl.  I stand in front of the bowl and cry until my mom puts some on the floor for me to eat.  I am spoiled and I am not ashamed!
  • I got chocolate and tried to eat the hand that wanted to save me.
  • Irene,  I’m sorry I ate your flash drive (again).  Who knew that was homework?
  • I bit the landscaper and now have a record!
  • I ate nine red velvet cupcakes.  Including the paper.  They were delicious.

You can see these and many more dogs who embarrassed their owners in …

Dog Shaming by Pascal Lemire

Please Excuse Me While I Take a Brief Hiatus

Hiatus

Hello readers, listeners, and booktalk fans!

I just wanted to let you know that since I’m in the process of moving to a new home, I’m going to be adjusting my internet services, as well.  So while I’m deciding which internet service is best for me and then having installers come to set everything up, my internet access will be limited to what I can do with an iPad and a hotspot.  So while I will be able to do the most basic things (like check my email and play Plants vs. Zombies 2), I won’t be recording and uploading new Be a Better Booktalker episodes until I get my new home internet service set up.

I expect to be back up and running in a week or so.  I’ll record some booktalk episodes in September, and then I’ll go back to incorporating my monthly “in depth” episodes starting in October.

If you have any questions, comments, or housewarming wishes, please send them to beabetterbooktalker at gmail dot com.

Thanks, as always, for your support, and thanks for listening!

Booktalk: How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous

How They Choked cover

If you’re looking for nonfiction books that will entice older kids and younger teens, How They Choked by Georgia Bragg is an excellent choice.  Since it’s a collective biography, readers will have the option to read it all the way through or to jump back and forth between chapters to read about the people who interest them the most.  And if this is the kind of book that your kids and teens will like, make sure you also check out Bragg’s earlier book How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous!

BOOKTALK:

This is is an unusual book that covers different famous people throughout history who made some pretty big mistakes, including …

  • Marco Polo, who lied a LOT about where he’d been and what he’d seen
  • Queen Isabella of Spain, who started the Spanish Inquisition
  • Montezuma, who thought that the mysterious visitor named Hernan Cortes was actually a god
  • Anne Boleyn, who thought it would be a REALLY GOOD IDEA to marry King Henry VIII
  • and General Custer, who thought it would be a REALLY GOOD IDEA to lead several hundred soldiers in an attack against several thousand Indians.

Every person in this book made bad decisions.  Some of those bad decisions affected or ended the life of one person.  But many of those bad decisions affected the lives of hundreds or thousands of other people.  All of the stories in this book are true, and they’ll all help you understand why these people were “awfully famous.”

Booktalk: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars cover

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart seems like an ordinary story at first.  It almost seems like a “why am I reading this?” story, because teenagers who spend their summers on a private island are more likely to attract envy than sympathy.  And yet, and yet, and yet …

Cadence is the center of a story that seems ordinary but has an undercurrent of something being wrong but we don’t know exactly what.  She is an unreliable narrator, but it’s not her fault because she doesn’t remember what happened when she had her accident two years earlier.  And since her family won’t tell her what really happened SHE doesn’t know, so WE don’t know …

This is definitely a book to read, discuss, absorb, and remember.

BOOKTALK:

Cadence is upset with her so-called friends.  The four of them spent every summer together on her family’s private island, but then two years ago everything changed when she had an accident and almost drowned.  Then last summer when she was traveling with her father she emailed her friends, but they never answered.  Maybe they forgot about her, or didn’t care after all.

Now this summer she’s back on the island and Johnny, Mirren and Gat are acting like it’s old times again, like their friendship stayed the same.  Now it’s just Cadence’s family acting weird.  They keep acting like she’s fragile, like she can’t be trusted, like every time she gets one of her headaches it means more than it should.  Things haven’t been the same since the accident she had two years ago, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t live a normal life now.  It’s important for Cadence to get back to normal.  It’s important for her to be with her friends again, because when her family starts driving her crazy, her friends are the support system she needs.

And even more important than their support, Cadence realizes that her friends know what happened during her accident, the one she can’t really remember.  She already knows that her family is lying to her, or at least not telling her the whole truth.  But she has to find out what really happened.  She has to make her friends tell her the truth that her family has been keeping from her.  After all, what are friends for?

Visit Cinefantastique to Hear our Discussion of The Giver!

We just recorded a conversation about The Giver, the new film based on the award-winning CR/YA crossover book by Lois Lowry.

The Giver movie poster

Are dystopias dead?  Was this a good adaptation of the original novel?  Will you be pleased or disappointed if you’re a fan of the book?  Tune in to the Cinefantastique podcast to hear my latest guest appearance, and learn the answer to these and other questions inspired by this movie.  The episode should be up on the CFQ website and on iTunes very soon!  ETA: The episode is up right now!

 

Booktalk: Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose

Dear Nobody cover

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose is a powerful and painful story about a girl who was plagued by bad luck and bad choices.  Give this book to your teens who are looking for real-life tragic stories.  As the editors say in this interview about the book in School Library Journal, Dear Nobody is “the authentic version of Go Ask Alice.”

BOOKTALK:

Mary Rose kept a diary where she wrote about all the things that were going wrong with her life.

She wrote about how her mother kept getting back together with Joe, even though they fought all the time and even though he’d been violent with both of them.  About how they moved to a new place to get away from Joe, but how Mary Rose was lonely because all the other kids already knew each other and none of them wanted to be friends with her.  About how drinking made her feel better, even if it made her sick.  About how taking drugs made her forget how unhappy and lonely she was, even though they made her forget things sometimes, like who she could trust or how she woke up in this strange place.  About falling in and out of love with different boys.  About going to rehab to try to break her addiction to drugs and alcohol … and failing.

Mary Rose is a real person who kept a diary.  THIS is that diary.

Revisiting Graphic Novels

Here are some of the best graphic novels I’ve read since last year’s episode!

Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongHyperbole and a HalfShackleton

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Battling Boy by Paul Pope

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll [featuring the short story "His Face All Red"]

Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign by Takaya Kagami

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