Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey

Shane Woods is  a pretty typical twelve-year-old boy.  He plays baseball (in fact, he's his team's star pitcher), he's awkward around girls that he likes, he's working on a graphic novel, and his like to hang out with his best friend Josh.

But there's one way in which Shane is unlike most boys his age: although he has a boy's brain, he was born with a girl's body.   Before his parents divorced, Shane went to school in San Francisco, where everyone knew him as a girl (a "tomboy"), but since transferring to his new school in Los Angeles, everyone knows Shane as a boy.  And as he approaches adolescence, he has some tough choices to make about how he wants to grow up.

It certainly doesn't help anything when rumors start to spread around school.  If Shane's secret gets out, will he lose his friends?  Will people still be able to accept him as a boy?   It's a terrifying prospect for Shane, but with the support of his mother and other transgendered kids, he perseveres with courage.

The Other Boy is an emotional tale of being true to one's self, told from the perspective of someone we don't often hear from.  The characters are complex and real, the friendships ring true, and the illustrations by Sfe R. Monster complement the text nicely.  One of the great joys of reading is being able to learn about the world from someone else's perspective.  Shane is completely relatable, and makes for an admirable hero.

At the end of the book, the author has included some excellent resources for people wanting more information about transgendered people and the issues they face.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

I Survived... by Lauren Tarshis

The "I Survived..." books by Lauren Tarshis are already very popular, but if you haven't read one yet, you should check them out!

The books provide a fictional eye-witness account of disasters that really happened.  Some of the disasters are natural (like earthquakes and tsunamis) and some are man-made (like battles and terrorism).  They are fast-paced, gripping reads, with plenty of action and drama.  They also provide a lot of great details about different times in history.   Each book has information at the end about the particular disaster (presented in a question-and-answer format), along with ideas for further reading.

Great, fun historical fiction!

Titles currently in the series:

I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912
I Survived The Shark Attacks of 1916
I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005
I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941
I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001
I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863
I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011
I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944

And coming soon:

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79
I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871
I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011
I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster, 1937


Friday, November 27, 2015

Big Game by Stuart Gibbs

One of my new favorite authors, Stuart Gibbs, has a new book out!  Big Game is the third installment in his "FunJungle" series.

FunJungle, if you're not familiar, is an enormous zoo in Texas.  Actually, it's more than just a zoo, it's a wildlife theme park, and 13-year-old Teddy Fitzroy lives there with his parents.  In the first book in the series, Belly Up, Teddy helped solved the case of a murdered hippo.  Next came Poached, in which Teddy solved the mystery of a stolen Koala.

This time, it's a Rhino that's in trouble.  Early one morning, someone tries to shoot Rhonda Rhino.  Not only is Rhonda an endangered white rhino, she's also pregnant, making the near-killing especially chilling.  Who would do such a thing? 

Once again, Teddy is on the case, looking for clues and following leads with his wealthy and famous friend Summer McCracken (the daughter of J.J. McCracken, who owns FunJungle.)  As they are working on the case, two more attempts are made on Rhonda's life, and the killer seems to be somebody who has inside knowledge of the park.  Can Teddy and Summer stop the killer before it's too late? (And will their friendship grow into something more?)

What I really like about the FunJungle books is that, not only do they contain lots of action and danger, there's also a lot of information about animals and conservation efforts provided.  One possible motive someone might have to kill Rhonda is to take her horn.  In many cultures, people believe rhino horns have medicinal properties (they don't; they're made from the same stuff your fingernails are made from), and are willing to pay HUGE sums of money for them.   In fact, rhino poaching is a big problem that threatens the survival of rhinos today.  Did you know there are currently only five African white rhinos left in the entire world?  And just a few years ago, the northern African black rhino went extinct.  That means if you've never seen one, you never will - they are gone forever.

But don't get the idea that Big Game is depressing!  At its core, it's an action-packed mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end.   Read it for the rhinos!