Monday, December 15, 2014

Matthew Myers and the Iron Guy--The Man and the Fan

View full imageHey ho, reader guys everywhere! The Iron Guy got to meet someone exciting last week. It was none other than Matthew Myers, the genius illustrator behind Battle Bunny, the most original and fun book of last year--or many other years, for that matter. If you haven't read Battle Bunny, go straight to your local library, do not pass "Go," and check out a copy! If you'd like to see how very much I liked that book, you can read my review here and read a fun post regarding Battle Bunny here. Anyway, I was at an all-day conference and Mr. Myers was a guest speaker. He was great! He talked about illustrating picture books and told us a lot of fascinating facts--for instance, did you know that an illustrator rarely sees the author when they work on a picture book? (although he worked very closely with the Battle Bunny authors) Or that it could take a year and a half to complete the illustrations? Afterwards, he gave us autographed copies of his books. Naturally, you know what book I wanted! Then I found out he was hanging around talking to people, so I got in line. He was gracious enough to listen to a Battle Bunny fan and let me talk about this blog. He was a terrific guy and also very funny. What's more, he was willing to take a picture with me! Since this is a true GUY book, I asked him to strike his most macho pose as the  real MANLY MEN we are:

Ummm--that's not quite what I had in mind.

THAT'S more like it!

Thanks, Mr. Myers! We hope to see you again and keep illustrating those terrific books!

PS--my autographed copy!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Space: The Magnificent and the Silly

Hey Guys, the Iron Guy is back after his stomach-expansion workout last week. I certainly hope you all  had a good Thanksgiving and are enjoying the holiday season now. As always, I've been on the lookout for good reads for guys and have found a couple of great ones.

The first is Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight by Tony DiTerlizzi with illustrations by Ralph McQuarrie. This one is really great. We all know the story but it's still moving, especially when you read all of Luke's story in one sitting. Tony DiTerlizzi (you may know him from the Spiderwick or Wondla books) does a good job summarizing the original Star Wars trilogy but what makes this book truly terrific is the magnificent, jaw-dropping artwork by the legendary Ralph McQuarrie. He was the conceptual artist for Star Wars--in other words, he was the artist who talked with George Lucas to come up with the look for the movies. This book gathers those paintings and puts them together to tell this terrific tale. This is a terrific book  for ALL guys. If you're a Star Wars fan or even if you're not, this is one book you've gotta read! The story is exciting and the artwork is amazing. What more could you want? And if you are a fan, it will be fun to look at these paintings and see how they differ from the movies. (C3PO looks way different, for example!) PS--this book is in the picture book area of your local library but don't be embarrassed to go there and get it. It's truly a book for MANLY MEN like us!

The second book is the total opposite in almost every way, but in a good way. Whereas the Star Wars book was all about magnificent artwork and story, Hamster S.A.M.: Odd-ventures in Space by Dave McDonald is all about silliness and fun. Something is desperately wrong at the Hamsternational Space Station and the only Secret Adventure Mission (S.A.M.) Hamster can rescue the day! He and his trusty sidekick Fescue T. Fieldmouse must brave the dangers of interstellar dust bunnies and King Crud (descendant of Julius Sneezer) to reach the Station. Can they get past King Crud's nose-shaped space station or will they blow it? The only way to find out is to read this book! And if you like goofy humor, silly jokes, cartoony artwork,  lots of slapstick and lots of references to spit, snot and...other stuff, then you'll like this book. And what GUY doesn't like stuff like that?? Plus there's an interview with Gregory Johnson, a real astronaut, at the end. So check it out guys--and support a local artist. Dave McDonald lives right next door to Charlotte in Fort Mill, SC. And check out his website at

In fact, Mr. McDonald has generously donated an autographed copy of this book and I'll give it to the
first boy who writes a review to the blog. You don't even have to review this book; just review any book--fiction, nonfiction, biography or graphic novel. I'll post your review on this blog and give you the book. You can come to the Myers Park library to pick it up but if you live too far away, I'll find a way to get it to you. All right, guys, it's the season of giving and I'd love to give this away! All the instructions on how to write a review are on the left-hand side of the page under "Here's How Our Blog Works," but if you don't understand something or have any questions, contact me at the Myers Park library.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

One Cool Guy Interviews Another

About Me!About Me!There's a terrific guy book blogger named Daniel Johnson who runs a site called The Readers and Writers Paradise. He started blogging when he was TWELVE and has been at it for five years, making some really great recommendations along the way. He also writes his own stories and--get this--makes audio recordings of great short stories! This guy does it all! You can find his reviews in his Archives sections and his stories and recordings under the proper tabs on his page. Daniel is now seventeen and still writing about books boys like, although, since he's grown up a bit, he has started writing about YA stuff. We became blogosphere friends this year and he was good enough to interview me in his latest post. Take a look here. Thanks, Daniel! I'm really thankful for guys like you carrying the word about great guy reading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This Turkey Is Thankful For...

It's November again and that means it's time to think of all the good things I have to be thankful for.
NO, it's NOT the time to start putting Christmas presents under the tree, although most of the world seems to think that way if you look at the stores. It's the month for THANKSGIVING! Then next holiday can wait until December. It's time to look around and see how much we can be grateful for. And if you think even for half a minute, you could come up with a lot.

Here are a few random things of my own:

I'm thankful that the Charlotte Mecklenburg library is in such good shape. We have survived the massive budget cuts of 4 years ago and are thriving once more. And I'm grateful for leaders like Mr. Lee Keesler and Mr. David Singleton, who guide us faithfully and well, as well as Trilby Meeks, my own supervisor, who not only makes the Myers Park library a terrific place to work but also encourages to write about guy books!

I'm thankful for great loggers like Ms. Yingling and Betsy Bird, two grownup bloggers who have turned me on good books and some of my favorites series like Percy Jackson, Brixton Brothers and Alvin Ho. I'm also thankful for boy bloggers like Erik and Daniel, actual boy bloggers who spread the good word about guy reading.

And I'm grateful for truly cool books for guys that are out there now. The pickings were rather slim when I was a lad; now there so many that I can't keep up them all! Here are two, just in time for
Veteran's Day. And they are about World War I, a war that, as I heard, "is fast fading from memory." That's a shame because it was a huge part of our history and deserves to be remembered.

View full imageWar is full of terrible things (you'll see that in the next review) but sometimes it brings out the best--courage, friendship and loyalty. That's what makes Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I's Bravest Dog by Ann Bausum such a terrific book. It's the story of  a WWI soldier, the dog that latched on to him and what happens to them in the Great War. While, J. Robert Conroy, a young man from New Britain, Connecticut, drilled with his fellow soldiers on the athletic fields of Yale University, he attracted the attention of a stray Boston  bull terrier. They called the dog "Stubby" because his tail had been clipped so short. Soon Conroy and Stubby became best friends. Stubby was a smart dog; Conroy even taught Stubby to salute! All the men loved Stubby and he became the unit's mascot. But then they had to ship overseas (this was before the days of air flight) to fight in France. How could Conroy sneak a dog onto a ship? And even if he did, how could a dog survive the trenches, shelling and gas attacks of WWI? You won't know if you don't read this book! But what a story! There's a special bond between a guy and his dog that nothing, not even a war, can break and this is one of the best such stories I've ever read. And those pictures!! How could anybody resist that friendly, smiling dog? Every guy will wish he had a dog like Stubby!

View full imageOne of the most entertaining, exciting and extraordinary new book series is a set of graphic novels about----no, not interstellar shootouts or magicians blasting each other with wands or spies fighting ninja-style. They're about HISTORY! Who'd of thought it? But that's what Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series is about. And these books make history not only come alive but fill it with adventure and excitement--not to mention a big dash of humor. (You can see my review of one of the books, Big Bad Ironclad, here) This one, Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood is all about World War I. I've read a bit about WWI over the years but few things have ever made it as compelling as this.
If you don't know the story, the whole idea behind this series is that Nathan Hale, the American Revolutionary War spy who was hanged by the British, fell into a giant history book and knows what will happen to the United States. He gets the hangman and the British officer to keep from hanging him by telling them stories from America's future. In this book he tells the terrible story of the first World War. And what stories he tells them! You will long remember the soldiers who got lost in the fog during the battle of the Argonne, the fate of Private Juan, and the German officer who got a fort to surrender by knocking on the door! Yes, there is a lot of humor in here, much of it provided by the hangman who likes cute little animals. (Wait a minute--a hangman who likes cute little animals!!??) Anyway there's lots of humor, as in his other books, but there's also the awful conditions and the terrible cost of war. In the end, was it worth it? You'll have to decide but you'll get plenty of information between the covers of this terrific book. Nathan Hale (yes,that really is the author/illustrator's name!) makes the complicated issues of this war easily understandable--in fact, I never understood the causes of WWI as well as I did after reading this. But don't worry, guys; this is not some boring, dry history textbook--this is history brought to vivid life with exciting stories and outstanding artwork. Guys, if you love graphic novels and good stories, you'll want to check this one out. And grownups and teachers, if you want a good resource on WWI, this is IT! Be sure to get to your local library and get one.

And if you know any veterans, be sure to thank them for all they've done for us.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Fun!

Hey, guys, this is some kind of great! I get to post book reviews twice in one week and that hasn't happened for a very long time. (Of course, I shouldn't be so impressed with myself--the incredible Ms. Yingling posts book reviews every day!)

I'm going to take a chance and go into full-blown Old Geezer Dude mode. I've lived long enough to say, "When I  was a kid..." and will take full advantage of it. And with what I think is good reason. When I was a kid, (told you I'd say it!) Halloween was all about FUN. Candy. Putting on a cool costume. Trick or Treating. Candy. Going door-to-door with your friends and getting enough candy to last until Thanksgiving. Yes, I know kids still do that but now other stuff has crept in. Gruesome stuff. Grotesquely scary stuff. You know what I mean. You see it everywhere--in yards, in stores and don't even ask about what you see on TV or movies.  Back in my day you'd see bed sheet ghosts in trees or paper bats in stores. Yeah, there were scary movies and stories but all that was part of the fun. It was scary like being on a roller coaster was scary--you knew what to expect, you screamed but knew you'd be safe and you talked about how great it was afterward. And the grownups wouldn't let you do it until you were big enough. But I'm not being an old grump here: there's a reason all this stuff bothers me these days. You ARE what you put into your minds, guys. That why I don't want to fill my head with all the gruesome stuff that comes around (and gets worse) every year. That also why you don't see me reviewing truly scary books. So let's concentrate this year on FUN. And to do that, I'm going to recommend some really good books that guys everywhere would like and are all about FUN.

syndetics-lcThe first is from the terrific The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series. All of these are about the "pretty weird grownups" that come to Bailey school--and may be more than they appear to be. Or maybe not. In this one, Dracula Doesn't Drink Lemonade by Debbie Dadey and Marsh Thornton Jones, Bailey School gets a new guidance counselor. He's from overseas and has a foreign accent. He all pale, doesn't come out during the day and the kids who see him--well, they all turn all pale too! Could he really be...? No, couldn't be! But maybe...This book was a lot of fun and even the few chills were fun.

View full imageThe next is a My Weird School Special by Dan Gutman. All guys know these books and how much fun they are. This one is no exception! In It's Halloween, I'm Turning Green, A.J. and friends go trick or treating. They hear that Mrs Yonkers has a special Halloween treat just for them. But no one knows where she lives. So they try to find her house but get lost! And they meet the Halloween Monster, who steals their candy. Will they ever find Mrs. Yonkers? Do teachers really paint him green? And what is the MicroMole 4000 Expandinator? You won't find out unless you read it, guys! And you'll laugh a bunch along the way.
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The first two books are short and you can read them really quickly. It's kind of like eating one of those bite-size Butterfingers in your trick-or-treat bag. (I read this one in about 30 minutes) The next one is a little longer but still reads quickly. And this come about almost by accident. I'm trying to finish up the reading from my 2014 New Year's Resolution (yes, a MANLY MAN sticks with a resolution, no matter now long it takes!) and this one was on my list--and it turned aout to be about Halloween! And it was a fun read! It's part of the War of the Girls and the Boys series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. In case you don't know, It's about the Hartford boys and the Malloy girls. The Benson boys were best friends with the Hartford boys but then they moved away. Mr. Benson rented the house to the Malloy family. The Hartford boys want their friends to move back, so they figure that, if they pull enough tricks on the Malloy girls, they will move away and the Bensons move back. Only thing, the girls pull as many tricks as the boys! In The Girls Get Even, the Hrtford boys and Malloy girls bet each other that they can win best costume in the Halloween parade.The losers have to be the slaves of the winners for a month. So they spy to find out what the others are amking. But nothing turns out they way they expect! What happens? Well, once again, I won't tell! You've got to read to find out! (PS--this sereis was written back in the Eighties, which explains why the Hartfords waited for weeks for the Benson boy to write. They waited for a letter!)

View full imageThe last book was from the great Barbara Robinson, who wrote The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, one of the great books of all time. This one, The Best Halloween Ever, it's all about the Herdman kids again. The Herdmans. The worst kids in the world. They stuff kids in revolving doors. They take anchovies off pizzas and replace them with guppies. They hide during Halloween and steal everyone's candy and gum and money. They've gotten so bad, in fact, that they mayor called off Halloween. But the school decides to hold Halloween there, hopefully to keep Herdmans away. But Imogene Herdman finds out and tells all the kids that any place will be safer than school on Halloween night. So what happens? The lights go out. Kids go missing. And then--and then--well, the last thing you'd expect happens! This book  was great fun. Even reading about the Herdmans is fun. And funny. Get this and read it, guys! And it mentions Chunky Fruit and Nut candy! How long has it been since I've had one of those? They were yummy!

In fact, read all of these! Did I say they were fun? Maybe once or twice. They are Good Quick Reads and full of the humor guys love. Well, thanks for letting me get on my soapbox. Get these books,  enjoy them and, just for fun, tell me what is your favorite Halloween candy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alvin Ho--The Third Terrific Book of the Season

View full imageEveryone loves to laugh, right? Right! Guys especially enjoy a good loud laugh. That's one reason the Iron Guy is such a fan of Lenore Look's terrific Alvin Ho series--I always get good loud laughs from them. Just recently I finished the sixth book, Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions, and got several chuckles and smiles once again. And the smiles at the end were feel-good smiles and that's one of the reasons this books is so terrific.

If you haven't met young Alvin, the second-grader, then you should know that he's afraid of everything. And there's so much to be afraid of, especially when you family is going to China to show off your new baby sister to the Chinese relatives. There's a 16-hour flight in a flying tin can full of recycled air, which as everyone knows, is full of viruses! Fungi! Bacteria! Then there are elevators in China on 34-story apartment buildings and who knows about the wires holding up those things! And what happens if you get LOST in this country of one billion people! Yes, they're a lot to be afraid of and it sure is funny when you see how Alvin reacts. Just wait until you see what happens when he goes through airport security! (they said to remove his shoes and clothes) Or when he's actually on the plane. Or waking up in China.

Or when he loses his dad's passport, which is about the worst thing to happen in a foreign country. Then Alvin has to face the consequences of his actions and grow up a bit. Then he and his dad really do get lost in Beijing, the capital city of this country of one billion people. What happens then? Will he totally freak out? You've got to read to find out!

I've heard that this is the last book in the Alvin Ho series. That's too bad in a way because I enjoy these books SO much, but, if it's true, then this is a good place to end. I was starting to worry about little Alvin. He's so afraid all the time and it's funny while he's a second-grader but he's got to grow up sometime, If he stays this way, he'll become one of those weird neurotic grownups. ("neurotic" is grownup word for "almost crazy") That's why the end of this book makes you feel so good. Alvin does some things that make you smile in a positive way. Without letting any spoilers loose, I can tell you that Alvin learns to put aside his fears and think about someone else's needs--which, all my joking aside, is the REAL definition of manliness. So you'll close this book feeling really glad--Alvin makes you laugh and then he makes you proud.

So got out and find this one, guys! Especially if you've read the others. (you don't have to read them in order but you'll enjoy this one more if you start with the others) And, like the others, it's a Good Quick Read. (grownups and teachers--if you have boys who may not like to read, this series is a good place to start) If you want to find out more, click on the "Alvin Ho" or "Lenore Look" tabs under this post. and if you  ARE a fan of Alvin, write a comment or a review in the Comments section under this post. OK? Go forth and read! Comment! Review! And enjoy!

This book gets the Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One Terrific Book

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some Funny Series Books for Boys

Hey, everyone, I've just read a post called 8 Funny Middle School Series for Boys at this terrific blog called Story Time Secrets. There are some really good recommendations there, so take a look. And let me know if you've read any of them. Thanks, Katie Fitzgerald, for telling reader guys about these great reads!