Thursday, July 21, 2016

Reid Reads Again!---I Mean, Writes Again!--I Mean He Reads AND Writes Again!

Tars Tarkas, Martian warrior chief
Hey everyone, this is the Iron Guy, keeping busy during this ultra-busy summer season. I tell you, this summer keeps me hopping! I'm checking out books faster than light speed. Sometimes I wish we could hire one of those four-armed Martians from the old John Carter books in order to keep up!
And when it gets this busy, even a MANLY MAN like the Iron Guy has trouble keeping up with his reading. That's why I'm glad we have faithful friends like our good pal Reid! He has sent us a review of something that sounds really good. Let's hear what it is:

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart is a cool book that hooks me and keeps me on the edge of my seat at all times. It is really fun to read because it is about smart people like you and is really good. It is about 4 people named Reynie,Constance,Sticky,and Kate. They go on an adventure together to a place called the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened or LIVE for short. They become Messengers and help with the Whisperer project. The Whisperer is a scary device able to remove,steal,and communicate thoughts. 

The Mysterious Benedict SocietyThanks, Reid! This is another one of those books that keep getting checked out over and over and over again. I can see why from your review! This is the first book in a series and I hope you read the rest of them. Let us know if you do! BTW, the audiobooks must be really good. I know someone who would listen to it in the car and, when she got home, would run run inside and slap the disc in the cd player to keep playing the story!

How about the rest of you reader guys? Have any of you read this book? Or any of the others in this series? Or listened to the audiobooks? Send us a review in the "Comments" section--or send us a review of ANY book you're enjoying this summer.

Monday, July 11, 2016

It's Monday--What Are You Listening To?

Summertime greetings, guys! What sort of fun activities are you doing? Swimming? Baseball?  Movies? Traveling? I certainly hope you're doing more than playing video games all day and night! (it's OK to do that but there's so much more fun stuff out there) I hope you're finding fun stuff to read as well. And if you are traveling or even just getting driven around town to camps/sports/etc., one of the most fun things you can do in the car is listen to audiobooks. That's what the Iron Guy loves to do. If I'm driving to work or even just going to the store, I'll always have an audiobook going. It's great fun and I get to hear some truly cool stuff. That's why this post is called It's Monday--What Are You Listening To? A bunch of grownups host a weekly meme called It's Monday--What Are You Reading? but I thought I'd change it and give it an audiobook focus. (btw, you can find that meme at Teaching Mentor Texts)

So what am I listening to? The Serpent's Curse by the amazing Tony Abbott. It's book number two in that incredible series, The Copernicus Legacy. I'm a HUGE fan of those books. Action! Danger! International conspiracies and 500-year-old secrets! Plus some spectacularly evil villains and generous dashes of humor. So when I saw the library has audiobook versions, I knew I HAD to check out one. I'm only on disc 2 so far but I'm enjoying it a lot. The actor who reads this book, MacLeod Andrews, paces the reading just right to get the maximum suspense and humor out of the story. (especially when he reads the part with Dr. Beverly Billing...ham, one of the funniest episodes in any book from the last couple of years!) And he gets the voices just right too--the kids sound like kids and the villains--well, you couldn't find more perfectly-done voices for all those smooth or brutal or bone-chillingly frightening bad guys. If you're going to spend some time in the car, find these Copernicus Legacy audiobooks! You will get hooked and you may even find yourselves sitting in your driveways at the end of your trips because you just have to listen to a few minutes more!!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Big Fun With Big Nate!

Hey, guys, I hope you're all enjoying the summer. The Iron Guy certainly does. Even though summer is busy at the library and it gets miserably hot in Charlotte during June, July and August, the summer always has that laid back, let's-all-have-fun vibe that I love. So, in the spirit of fun, I decided to check out some Big Nate books. I see those things get checked in and out, in and out, all the time. This has been going on for quite a while. So, after seeing these books keep coming through the checkout line, I figured they must be really good. So I found three of them and guess what??

I'm Charlotte's newest Big Nate fan!!

These books are great! Truly terrific! They are funny, funny, funny. The story lines are fun and the characters are believable--well, in a cartoonish sort of way. I picked out three books at random and here they are:

Big Nate: Mr. Popularity (all of these books are by Lincoln Peirce)

Big Nate running for class president??!! What a goofball idea. But then, the election results might surprise you! Along the way, you'll learn Big Nate's basketball game prep, what happens between Nate and Jenny (could it be looovve?) and why Nate's dad never got Nate a wallet. And you'll laugh the whole time.

Big Nate Lives It Up

A new kid comes to P.S. 38, Nate's school, and the principal assigns Nate to be his "buddy" and show him around the school--but this kid is the complete opposite of Nate and how will they ever get along? And Nate keeps thinking he's met this kid before. Then there are 100-year-old cartoons, Randy and his fellow bullies and a massive scavenger hunt with a most unexpected find. THEN NATE REMEMBERS when he met the new kid before--and it's not pleasant...

Big Nate Makes the Grade

Ah, the first day back at school! Is it a chance to start a year of fresh possibilities or for Nate to re-enter "my own personal chamber of horrors"?
He finds out pretty quickly when he hands in homework with Cheese Doodle dust on in it, has "Hot Feet Syndrome" and tries to tell jokes during school announcements. Plus the teacher's reaction when Nate shows him where he created his art homework. Plus the surprising things he does in the chess tournament. (well, thy're normal for Nate!)

I tell you, I have become totally hooked by this little guy with his big mouth, big attitude and big capacity for getting into trouble! I see now why all the kids keep checking out these books. Guys, this is your chance for great fun. If you haven't read Big Nate, then run down to your local library and check out some before everyone else does. And if you are already a fan of Nate Wright, then go to the "Comments" section under this post and tell about the books you've read.

And I hope all of you have a great fourth of July weekend! I know I've said this before but it's worth saying again--don't  forget that we we live in a country in which you are free to read what you like. Which is not true everywhere on earth. I recently listened to an audiobook in which a woman decided to travel the old Silk Road route from China to Italy. Part of the route took her through a central Asian country ruled by a dictator. The capital city had a big modern library and the shelves were full, only they were full of copies of one book--a biography of the dictator, written by the dictator! Boys, remember to celebrate your right to read this weekend. Head to your library! Read widely! Read what you like. Read something you've never looked at before. Read people you agree with. Read people you don't agree with. Read something fun. Read something challenging. Always remember--



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Justin Tells Us About Spy School!

Guess what, guys? A new friend has sent us a review! His name is Justin, he's 14 (almost) and he has quite a story. He used to hate reading; in fact, he was "that kid who would read short 20 page nonfiction books for my weekly assignment." Then he found the book Playing with Fire by Bruce Hale and was hooked. Since then he has read lots of other stuff and now runs a blog about books! (like the Iron Guy) That blog is called Justin Talks Books and you can visit it here. He has run the blog for two years and is a particular fan of Stuart Gibbs. Mr. Gibbs even gave Justin a special shout-out once. How cool is that! Justin will tell us about one of Mr. Gibbs's most popular books.

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

Spy SchoolSummary: Benjamin Ripley, a 12 year old living your average middle school life is being recruited for a science academy, secretly a spy school. Oh it's just another typical recruitment with a top-notch spy appearing in your living room after a long day of school. Ben has a "cryptography" skill and even though he bombs his SACSA's (basically a pre-assesement in self-preservation) he's kept in the school because of his "talent" for cryptography. Along the way he meets Erica Hale- the most beautiful girl he's ever seen, the best student in spy school's history, and a legacy (she's even related to all time spy legend Nathan Hale) But the introverted isolated Erica reaches out to Ben and reveals he has no skill whatsoever. Instead, he's being used as bait for something called Operation Creeping Badger, a plan created by the CIA to weed out the mole in Spy School. Ben decides to hop on the train for one main reason: getting to spend time with Erica. I mean for three years she's practically been lonelier than a rock on a deserted island and now she reaches out to a nerd like Ben? Not only does it bring us his coolness by a mile, but spending time with your crush is the best feeling ever. But is it worth if it you end up being dead? Follow Stuart Gibbs's fantastic thriller through elaborate plans, midnight escapes, and lots of gun fighting as Ben and friends try to answer the question: Who's the mole? Oh and try to not get killed in the process.

What I liked: Everything? But seriously, it's just a well-written book. Humorous moments were weaved well into the diverse book. Lots of actions scenes, which of course you'd expect from a James Bond-esque book. I definitely liked the inclusion of a legacy in a book. I mean if you think about it any time you read about a private school there's always someone "who's great grand-father was the founder" or something like that. Not only is Erica's deceased relatives the founders of the school, but the country in general has been at the mercy of their family. I could talk for about 10 pages of how this book is awesome, but I feel like there wouldn't be any point to it.

What I didn't like: Let me just start out with saying: the cursing. Yes, there are bad words in this novel, but keep in mind this: I talked to the author himself and he said that he only stuck in the various language because it could give some character to the book, to spice things up. He was advised to do so by somebody (an editor I think?) and so he did and he received a million hate comments for it. He's removed all bad language from the rest of his books (unless you consider "stupid" "dumb" and "idiot" bad words) Another thing I didn't like was the classic format for all middle grade books. While it varies, in MG if we're talking about a kid and school it's always: There's a loser at blah blah school. Suddenly he catches a break and he talks to his crush. For half the book everything is really awesome with only minor flaws. Then there's a huge conflict at the end. The ending is either "YAY! We made it!" or "Aw, we lost" I feel like I could explain the plot of this book at a general level using the normal MG format, and while it's not bad, it's just overused.

Final Thoughts: A really, really, really great book with some minor flaws but nothing enough to make it bad.

Rating on 'the scale': 9.5 out of ten

Why? Minor flaws but nothing major. Really a great books that keeps things exciting and fresh.

Related: Spy School series by Stuart Gibbs/ Playing w/ Fire series by Bruce Hale/ Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Thanks, Justin! We really appreciate it. Stuart Gibbs is a popular author with guys. Our friend Reid told us about this book back in March. I may have to look up some of his books myself. Please keep in touch and send us more reviews.

All right, boys, this is a good start to summer! School is almost over and there will be lots of fun stuff to do but don't forget that reading is one of them. As you can see from Justin's story, reading is a great thing for guys. So write in and tell us over the summer what books, graphic novels, biographies or nonfiction you're reading. After all, the Iron Guy (and Justin and Reid and lots of other boys) believe that--


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer Break = Summer Fun!

HomeHey guys, I guess I don't need to tell you that summer is almost here! Our guy radar is already picking up the end of school and the beginning of summer fun. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has also kept its radar out for summer and we've got something great to keep you reading and having fun. It's our new Summer Break program. (it's what we called Summer Reading in years past) We've changed it up a bit. You can get credit for reading, of course, but you also get credit for doing other cool things. You can also read, write, create, explore, play and give. At the end of 20 hours of doing such fun stuff (10 hours of it would be reading), you get a free book! You also get a coupon for a free Junior Frosty at Wendy's and a $5.00 fine waiver card (which means you can escape $5.00 in overdue fees) for signing up. Does this sound good? You bet! Got more questions? I'm sure you do. Check out the Summer Break website to find out more and to sign up. (and, guys, be sure to tell your parents they can sigh up too!)

The Iron Guy loves reading, of course, but is also excited that we can do other things as part of Summer Break. Here are some things I plan to do:

Keeping up my MANLY physique

Engaging in mortal combat with killer barbarian animals

Transporting myself back in time to train with other Ancient Greek demigods

Yep, it sounds like this will be a great summer. Sign up for Summer Break, boys, and start Living Summer to the Fullest!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Memorial Day Blast From the Past--Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parry

Greetings right before Memorial Day, guys! The library will be closed that day, so I wanted to recommend something before then. Sometimes I go and find a book I've read before and tell you about it. I call these Blasts From the Past and I've got a good one today. It's Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parry, which I read way back in 2009 and it has stuck with me all these years. (you could read my original review here) This is a remarkable story, all about what a 12-year-old boy goes through when his dad is deployed to Iraq (that war was in full swing when this was written), his older brothers go off to college or the army and he has to run the family ranch with his grandparents. This is realistic fiction, which means there are no swordsmen or magicians, no powerful families running worldwide conspiracies and no spaceships outrunning Imperial cruisers. But it is all about real-world real problems faced by a real-world boy. The library has plenty of copies, so be sure to get one, read it and think this weekend about all the brave men and women who have fought and died to protect our right to, among many other things, read freely what we like.

(BTW, you could read an interview with the author here)

One more thing--I'm uploading a video that fits the spirit of this weekend. This is a scene from Henry V by Shakespeare. Now don't freak out on me, guys!! Shakespeare is very cool and this is a great scene. Henry and his English troops are about to fight the French at Agincourt. The English troops are badly outnumbered and Henry's cousin, Westmoreland, comments on it. Henry says, basically, "That's good. I wouldn't want one man more! Those who live through this fight will have enough glory to last until the end of time. Those who don't have the stomach for this fight can go home now and I'll give them the money to get back. But those who live through the day will celebrate this day (St. Crispin's day) the rest of their lives, even when they're old. They'll show their scars and tell what the story of what happened. Any man who stays with me is my brother, no matter how poor you are."

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers..."

And I'm using the old version from 1944. The British government asked that terrific actor Lawrence Olivier to make this movie because England, once again, found themselves badly outnumbered--except this time by the Nazis. England badly needed some inspiration. Listen to this and see if your heart doesn't swell:

(If you want a full modern-day rendition of this speech go to the No Sweat Shakespeare site here, read through the speech and then get it in today's language)

This really sums up the spirit of Memorial Day--remembering the bravery of those who fought in the past and, as in Heart of a Shepherd, more recent years.

And guess what--England won at Agincourt! And World War II.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Who Was, Where Is and What Is--Four Cool Nonfiction Books for Boys

Kids everywhere like the Who Was...biographies. I can tell because we can never keep them on our shelves here at the library. And there are good reasons behind that--the books are interesting, informative and make good quick reads. Plus the writers really know how to move the stories along and keep a reader hooked until the last page. Today the Iron Guy will tell you about a Who Was.. biography and three other books published by the same company. And what stories they tell!! Epic lives and epic struggles. Building magnificent structures under impossible conditions. Conquest, assassination, deadly diseases, endurance, heroism and dictatorship--all here in these terrific books!

The first is Who Was Julius Caesar? by Nico Medina and it starts off with a terrific story. When he was twenty-five, Julius Caesar, sailing from Rome to Crete, was captured by pirates, who intended to hold him for ransom. Did he he cry out in fear? Plead for his freedom? No, he laughed in their faces and told them he was worth more than twice the ransom they asked! Furthermore, he wasn't afraid of what they'd do to him; he thought about what he would do to them when he got free--and he did!
Julius Caesar was inspired by Alexander the Great and tried to accomplish great things--and he did! He  became governor of many provinces, spent ten years conquering new territories for Rome, and eventually was the most important man in Rome. And he became Rome's first permanent dictator. He carried many good projects but did he love power too much? Especially as permanent dictator? What finally happened to him? You'll have to read this book to find out! But when you do, you'll see why Julius Caesar and his story dominated the ancient world and still casts its shadow to this very day.

Then we have three books (Where is the Great Wall? by Patricia Brennan Demuth, Where is the Brooklyn Bridge? by Megan Stine and What is the Panama Canal? by Janet B. Pascal) that are related because they are about huge structures built with old technology that, incredibly, are still in use today. It's amazing that these things ever got built. People had to build on tops of mountains, under and over rivers and through dense, hot, steamy, disease-infected jungles. Brilliant people had to figure out, sometimes from scratch, how to build where no one ever attempted such things before, how to solve problems that no one had ever encountered and cure diseases that no one knew how to deal with. People worked long and hard on these structures for years and sometimes died--from yellow fever in Panama, from "the bends" on the Brooklyn Bridge or from just plain being worked to death on the Great Wall. But, in spite of all these obstacles, the work persisted and the projects were completed. We have the results of all that determination today in the Great Wall, the only human structure visible from space, and the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, which are not only still used but still marveled at by thousands of people every year.

And what larger-than-life personalities you meet in these books! Emperor Qin, the first emperor of a united China (believe me, you would not want him to be your boss!), Washington Roebling, who helped put out a fire in the "cassions," the underground foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge and ruined his health, his brilliant wife Emily, who ran the building of the bridge for many years, Ferdinand De Lesseps, the Frenchman who had built the Suez Canal and was certain he could build the Panama Canal (he was wrong!) and, of course, Theodore Roosevelt, one of the most colorful presidents this country ever had.

All four of these books tell the amazing stories of amazing people. You will definitely want to read these, guys! As I said, the writers know how to make the stories move and you will turn page after page to see what will happen. In addition, there are good timelines at the back of each book and bibliographies that lead to more books about these subjects.

How could you lose, guys? Check these out and read these terrific stories.

(PS to teachers--these books would be great if you ever have lessons on any of these topics!)

UPDATE--today is Nonfiction Monday. Be sure to take a look and see what other cool nonfiction books people are reading.