Monday, October 25, 2010

Take a Second Look: Booktalk 3

 [Booktalker's note: I personally would only booktalk this one to high school students due to some subject matter. I'll do another title suitable for middle school on this "take a second look" theme.]

New kids at a school often have difficulty fitting in, but not Jake. It’s as if he came out of nowhere and just fit in perfectly, especially with the cool, football player set. When Rick first meets Jake, he finds him almost annoyingly cool: his clothes, his smile, his Friday night parties, and his one-mindedness. But Rick comes to like Jake anyway, and they grow closer. It soon becomes obvious that Jake’s true interest lies in Didi, a beautiful girl who is already “taken” as the official girlfriend of the school’s popular quarterback, Todd. Disturbingly, the more that Rick finds out about Jake, the more disturbed Rick is by two basic facts: one, Jake seems incredibly un-bothered by Todd’s hatred of Jake; and two, Jake seems ignorant of the fact that Didi is just toying with Jake’s affections. At first look, Jake seems to be golden. At second look, he is amazingly ignorant of the truth of his own personal situation. Jake, Reinvented is by Gordon Korman.

Jake, Reinvented by Gordon Korman. 213 p. Hyperion, 2003. Booktalk to high school.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Take a Second Look: Booktalk 2

[Hold up cover.] This is Loeb. He’s a middle-school zombie. Just like the title tells you, he eats brains for lunch, as the other zombies at his school do. The zombies have flies, maggots, and when they roll their eyes, their eyes fall out of their heads. So Loeb’s got quite a middle school – there are three groups of kids. You’ve got the zombies, the Lifers [regular human beings], and the chupacabras [blood suckers, also called Chupos]. Weird, huh? Well, this is one weird book. It is written entirely in haiku form. Why in haiku? I mean, there’s nothing creepy about haikus! Loeb the zombie likes to hang out in the school library. The librarian, Mrs. Fincher, recognizes that he’s really smart and a good writer. She urges him to enter his haikus at open poetry mike night at school. Oh, and to complicate things, he sort of has a crush on a pretty lifer named Siobhan. Loeb’s friends sure don’t want him to succeed: after all, there are unwritten rules about what zombies can and cannot do. But Loeb is kind of cool, and smart, and funny. So what if his ear falls off from time to time?

Brains for Lunch by K. A. Holt. 86 p. Roaring Book Press, 2010. Booktalk to 5th, middle school, high school.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Take a Second Look: Booktalk 1

Samantha – also called Sam --  is one of the most popular girls at her high school, and she’s part of a tightly knit group of four girls. It’s Cupid Day, the day at their high school where the students get and receive roses with notes from friends and admirers. It’s a fairly normal day, with one exception: Sam dies, and I’m not giving away the ending, because it’s not really the ending. Even though she’s dead, Sam wakes up the next day – and it’s Cupid Day again. This time Sam makes some minor adjustments in how her day goes, because she knows full well how it ends. And she starts noticing little things that she hadn’t noticed before. Then she starts making some changes in what she says, who she interacts with, and ways she treats people. Little things: like eating lunch in the bathroom with a unpopular girl, or giving roses to another girl who is called “Psycho.” Other little things: like noticing her boyfriend Rob is sort of a jerk, and that another guy, a non-popular friend from her childhood, is actually the most interesting guy around. Sam gets to replay her day over several times, and the more she does it, the more she realizes exactly how important words and actions are, even to the point of determining whether another student lives or dies. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. 470 p. Harper, 2010. Booktalk to high school.

Monday, October 4, 2010

From Russia with Love: Booktalk 3

Most princesses have a pretty cushy life, right? When we first meet the princess Anastasia Romanovna, her life does appear to be privileged and comfortable. She’s the daughter of the Russian tsar, and she’s got servants, beautiful clothes, and the best food and education available.  She’s pretty, smart, and kind. However, as privileged as she and her sisters and brother may be, their elevated status as royalty is threatened. There are ominous signs all around them that the Russian people [and others] feel tremendous anger and resentment towards Anastasia’s entire royal family. So, how does Anastasia know all this? She’s got a secret boyfriend, Alexander [nicknamed Sasha], who’s in the military.  He’s one of the guards she meets at her palace, and they strike up a friendship. When he’s sent off to war to fight for Russia, he suffers blindness in one eye. When he is recovering from his injuries, Sasha tells Anastasia about how there may be a revolution soon, or anarchy. Anastasia’s days as a princess are numbered, and Sasha warns her about this. Yet Sasha is determined to stay near Anastasia, even when her father abdicates the throne and her mother is arrested. Soon thereafter, Anastasia goes from being a princess to being a prisoner, one whose life is in great danger. Based on a real historical princess, Anastasia’s Secret gives an insider’s account the death of royalist Russia.

Anastasia’s Secret by Susanne Dunlap. 333p. Bloomsbury, 2010. Booktalk to high school.