Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day! And Who DID Win the Boys vs Girls War?

Ah, faith and begora, and it's a happy St. Patrick's Day I hope you're having! This is Iron Guy O'Carl, wearing his green and enjoying the day. St. Patrick was a really remarkable guy. I hope you find some good biographies of him at your library because it's quite a story--being abducted by slavers, escaping and going back several years later to minister to the very nation who had captured him. That takes a truly MANLY MAN! But beside that, you could make a very strong argument that we might not even have libraries today if it had not been for Patrick of Ireland. He established a lot of monasteries around those Celtic isles and they were about the only places that had books. After Rome fell and the tide of barbarism swept over Europe, bringing in the Dark Ages, those monasteries kept books and reading alive. So we owe a lot to that man and have a good reason to celebrate!

And I have another reason--I've finally finished the Boys vs Girls series by the great Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It's been a lot, a lot, a LOT of fun to read and I'm sorry that it's over! If you haven't read any of my reviews of the other books, (which you could do by clicking on the Girls Against the Boys tab under this post) here's the background:

The books take place in the town of Buckman, West Virginia and involves two families, the Hartfords and Malloys. The Hartfords have four boys: 11-year-old twins Jake and Josh, nine-year-old Wally and seven-year-old Peter. Their best friends are their neighbors, the Benson boys. But then, Mr. Benson, a coach, takes a job in Georgia and the Malloy family rents his house for a year. The Hartford boys really miss their friends but look forward to having new boys move in. Imagine their reactions, then, when they learn that their new neighbors will be girls!! They decide to pull so many tricks on these new girls that their lives will be miserable and they'll  move away--but they don't count on the smartness and resilience of the three girls--eleven-year-old Eddie (Edith Ann), eight-year-old Caroline and nine-year-old Beth. Sometimes the tricks against the girls work but then the girls pull pranks of their own! And sometimes things happen that no one expects! That's when things get really funny!

But, with these last three books, the school year ends and the Malloys may have to move back to Ohio. The boys AND the girls start reflecting on all their tricks and pranks and realize what fun they've had. Good heavens--will they actually MISS each other???

Girls Rule--it's the last month of school. It's also the month for the annual Strawberry Festival. The kids who make enough money for the new children's wing of the hospital get either all the strawberry snacks they want or a chance to get into the parade. How will they make enough? After a lot of failed ideas, someone thinks of a car wash. But the girls and boys have to work at it together--can that possibly happen?


Boys Rock (oh, yeah!! Gotta love that title!)--the school year is over and summer living is easy. But there are summer assignments for school. Either they have to read books off a list or put out three issues of a newspaper. They decide on the newspaper but guess what? Eddie gets to be editor-in-chief! Will that cause trouble? What do you think! And what does Caroline see in the window of the old (maybe haunted) house? And what does Wally think lives under the trapdoor of Oldakkers' bookstore? You won't guess--but you will smile when you read about them! (ps--Mr. Malloy has to decide if he'll stay in Buckman or move back to Ohio)

Who Won the War?--now it's the end of summer. Will the Malloys move or stay? I won't tell you!! You'll have to find out for yourself! But there is a big twist in the middle that may be the best incident yet. And also--will Mad Bomber Bill actually blow anything up?



One of the very great pleasures of running this blog is finding books that don't get as much attention as the latest and hottest favorites. These books are some of the most fun I've read for a long while and they certainly deserve to have  more guys reading them. So get over to your library! Read them! Enjoy them! I bet you'll have as much fun as I did.

Note to the grownups: These books are like a breath of pure fresh air. Our good friend Ms Yingling has complained about all the depressing books published these days. Well, here's a welcome antidote to all that. The kids pull pranks but nothing seriously bad happens, although, in the spirit of reality, some things could have happened and the parents make sure their kids know it. And that's the great thing--all the parents are alive, they care about their kids and they are smart and involved. And both the boys and girls are good but not unrealistic. They do chores without complaining, are respectful but yet sneak off to pull a prank or fulfill a dare.
One more thing--there are twelve books in this series. The first came out in 1993 before email, smartphones or widespread use of the Internet. When one girl gets locked in a shed by the boys, she waits until her sisters come by and she yells. Some of your readers might say, "Why didn't she just whip out her phone and call for help?" And the boys send actual letters to their friends in Georgia in the first few books!! Could your kids even imagine that these days? These things may make the earlier books hard to relate to but both boys and girls can relate to all the funny stuff that happens. One more thing--the last book came out in 2006. By then the boys send emails to their friends, play video games and the girls use a story off the Internet to fool the boys. Much more up-to-date. Yet they spend a rainy afternoon playing Monopoly and summer days on a rope swing--not staring at hand-held devices. More fresh air.

So listen up, boys! Play your video games on your computers if you'd like but ride bikes! Play board games! Read books! There's a lot of fun in these things.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Once Again--It's March Madness, Baybeee!!

Yes, yes, yes, reader guys, March has come once again. Wonderful, glorious March, the month for March Madness. This is one of the great sports events of the year and it's exciting every time. Each year there are stunning upsets. Each year some unknown Cinderella team comes up from nowhere and, even for a moment, startles the whole world. And, in the last few years, the teams that ended up in the finals were NOT the teams everyone predicted. It's great! The games are exciting and a party atmosphere fills the country. Therefore, in honor of this great event, I'm going to do something I haven't done in a long time--hold a March Madness of Reading contest! This will be a lot of fun--you get to read cool books and three guys will win prizes from our ultra-cool prize box. The contest starts now and will continue through March 31. I'll announce the winners soon after that.

The rules are simple--you write in book reviews and you get points. The three guys with the most points at the end of the month wins. As I said, simple. You could write about any book, fiction or nonfiction. Or a graphic novel. Or a biography. (I'll tell you how to send in your reviews in a minute) Every book review is worth at least one point. Got that? Each book is worth at least ONE POINT.

But then, there are some books that I don't think get enough attention. So, each review of one of the following books is worth TWO POINTS:





Any book in the Brixton Brothers series by Mac Barnett

Any book in the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look



    Any book in the Boys vs Girls series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

    Or any of the Lunch Lady graphic novels

    Or any one of the three Fangbone graphic novels




    Or the nonfiction book Stubby: The War Dog





Got that? OK, I've got more. There are some longer books that also don't get enough love. Each review of one these is worth THREE POINTS:





Any of the truly great Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales graphic novels


Any book in the Leviathan trilogy by the talented Scott Westereld



Lincoln: A Photobiography by the great Russell Freedman

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by the terrific Alan Silberberg




But wait--there's more! I have three favorites that really should be read more often. They are much longer, all three are older and a bit harder but not that difficult. And they are GREAT STORIES!!
                                                                                               


The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (one of The Books Every Guy Should Read)      









The Yearling by Marjorie Keenan Rawlings (an epic story of growing up in the Florida wilderness)











Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (the greatest pirate story of all time)                      
                         


All right, ready to start reading and sending in your reviews? Good. Here's what you do:

1. Go to the "Comments" area under this post or any post.
2. Type up your review in the blank space under where it says "Leave your comment." Be sure to give us the book's title, its author, a BRIEF summary of the plot and why you did or didn't like the book. Don't just say, "This book was cool"; tell us WHY you liked it.
3. Here's the tricky part--under the Comments area is a place that says "Choose an Identity." It gives you a choice of signing up with a Google account, an Open ID account, or you could use a name and a URL or you could be anonymous. (I wish you wouldn't be anonymous; how would I know who to give the prize to?) You DON'T have to create a Google account! And you DON'T have to use Open ID. The best thing, if you've never written to us before, is to use the Name/URL option. You don't have to put in a URL but we would appreciate leaving your name--either your full name or your first name or you could make up a name. (like Turkeyhead)

If you have any questions or don't understand something, call me at 704-416-5800 or come by the Myers Park library and see me. I'll post the reviews and points at least once a week. OK? Then get going and may the best guy win!!!

PS--if you want to see some of the past March Madness contests, click here and here and here.


                       

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Boys Reading and Writing Club

Hey guys, I've got great news! The Iron Guy is going to start a Boys Reading and Writing Club here at the Myers Park library. The first meeting will be Saturday, March 7 at 2:00 pm. What will the club do? Well, we won't do anything boring! What we WILL do is check out books, read them and write your reviews of the books, which I will post on this blog. Plus we'll do some other fun stuff. Plus, we'll have snacks.


Here's how it will work: At the first meeting, we'll do a fun activity. Then I'll show you a bunch of books and talk about some of those books, recommending them. You can look through them, then check them out. You'll take your books home and read them--but that's not all. You'll also write a review of what you read and I'll post it here on the blog! Then, at the next meeting, I'll bring another set of books, you'll check them out, etc. We'll meet the first Saturday of March, April and May. If you like it and have fun, we'll continue meeting through the summer.

Now I know there are questions, so let me address a few. First, we won't just sit around and talk. I'll have a fun activity to do. And we will have snacks. Second, I said I'd bring a bunch of books. Well, I'll bring a wide variety to each meeting, so you'll have plenty to choose from. And I'll bring books that you'll like. Have I ever steered you wrong before? I've been recommending guy books for a long time and think I know something about books boys like. However, if you absolutely don't see anything in my selection that you'd like, I'll work with you to find something you would. Or if you have a book that you're dying to read and I don't have it, I'll be sure to get it. And, yes, I will show you how to write a review. BTW, this club is for boys ages 9--12. If you're a little older or younger and would like to come, call me at the library.

OK, if you have any more questions or would like to sign up, call the Myers Park library at 704-416-5800. Hope to see you there! Yes, it will be a different type of club but I think it will be fun. And this club will start just in time for the blog's March Madness Contest! (more about that later) Above all, don't forget--

BOYS RULE--BOYS READ!!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

More Boys vs Girls

All right! All right! The Iron Guy must shamefacedly admit that I STILL have not kept my 2014 Resolution of reading all the books in the Boys vs Girls series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. So if you want to flog me, go ahead and get the wet noodles. In the meantime, let me tell you about the ones I have read recently. These are great and each one gets better. If you want to see what I've said about the other books, look here and here and here. And if you haven't read any of these before, here's the lowdown on the story:

The books take place in the town of Buckman, West Virginia and involves two families, the Hartfords and Malloys. The Hartfords have four boys: 11-year-old twins Jake and Josh, nine-year-old Wally and seven-year-old Peter. Their best friends are their neighbors, the Benson boys. But then, Mr. Benson, a coach, takes a job in Georgia and the Malloy family rents his house for a year. The Hartford boys really miss their friends but look forward to having new boys move in. Imagine their reactions, then, when they learn that their new neighbors will be girls!! They decide to pull so many tricks on these new girls that their lives will be miserable and they'll  move away--but they don't count on the smartness and resilience of the three girls, who are eleven-year-old Eddie (Edith Ann), eight-year-old Caroline and nine-year-old Beth. Sometimes the tricks against the girls work but then the girls pull pranks of their own! And sometimes things happen that no one expects! That's when things get really funny!

OK, got that? Then we'll start with:

A Spy Among the Girls--The unthinkable has happened! After holding hands in that play, Josh and Beth actually--like each other! Josh says he's only pretending so that he can spy on the girls but then why does he and Beth go out of their way to be with each other? All the time? And then Eddie decides to do a science fair project to prove that boys are more gullible than girls. ("Gullible" means that you'll believe stupid things easily) And if all that weren't bad enough, Caroline decides, after watching Beth, that she wants to feel romance and tries to make Wally fall in love with her. No way!

The Boys Return--Hooray! The Hartford boys get great news! The Bensons are coming back to Buckman for a week during spring break. And all the Benson boys will stay at the Hartfords' house! What could be more fun? Well, how about a plan from the Benson boys to make the Malloy girls think their house is haunted? Will the girls fall for it? Maybe. But what's that noise Caroline hears late one night?


The Girls Take Over--Now it's April. The boys and girls make a bet--all of them will throw bottles with messages in them into the Buckman river. The bottle that travels the farthest by the end of the month will win. If a boy wins, the girls have to be his slaves and vice versa if a girl wins. Good idea, right? Wait--what if the boys try to cheat in order not to be slaves? And what if the girls try to cheat? Somebody had better do something quickly! And--Jake and Eddie both try out for pitcher on the school baseball team. Jake is known to be really good but the boys have watched Eddie practice and guess what? She's as good as he is! While all this goes on, Wally and Caroline both get into school's spelling bee. One will do well and the other one ends up in a disaster. Which one? Gotta read to find out!

Boys in Control--What an embarrassing development! The Hartford and Benson boys had taken some goofy pictures of each other for fun before the Bensons moved away--things like spaghetti your nose and wearing bunny pajamas two sizes too small. Guess who finds them in the basement--that's right, the Malloy girls! What could happen if those pictures got out! Caroline, however, strikes up a deal with Wally to get them back--but whenever Caroline gets an idea, there's usually unexpected (and funny!) trouble ahead.

As I said, each book gets better than the one before. Sometimes I even started to laugh even before all the tricks got under way because I KNEW their goofball ideas would turn out differently than what they planned. These books are so much fun that I look forward to whatever quiet minutes I find to read more. And the books are just the right length, about 120--140 pages, That way they're short enough to be fun yet long enough to let really get into the story. And you will really enjoy getting into these books, hanging out with the guys and girls, running back and forth between the Hartford and Malloy houses, crossing that swinging bridge or cheering for the Buckman Badgers baseball team. I'm going to miss that town and those kids when I finish these books.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Space Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra

Come on, guys, admit it--haven't you ever dreamed about being a pirate? Of course you have! What about being a space pirate? I bet you've wished that one too. That's what so great about this new book The Space Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry. Not only do you have a family of pirates, they are pirates in the asteroids and moons around Jupiter. Well, maybe they aren't exactly pirates--they're privateers, but I'll get into that in a minute.

Privateer ship of the old days
First, let me tell you about the world of this book. It's a little complicated but hang on. The story takes place some 600 years in the future. Humanity has inhabited the Solar System but the people who live around Jupiter broke away from Earth's central government and formed the Jovian Union. Sometimes the Union uses privateers to capture Earth cargo ships. (Privateers are sort of legal pirates--they have permission from their governments to capture enemy ships, even non-military ships. They follow the laws of war and don't wantonly capture and kill like true pirates. Both the British and Americans used them in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812) That's where the Hashoone family comes in. They've been operating in space for generations and have letters of marque from the Jovian Union giving them legal permission to board and capture Earth ships and sell the cargo. But something goes wrong right away and they're not allowed to hold onto a freighter they've captured because of some legal issues. Things don't look right but while they're waiting for the court to settle the matter, they receive a new and very odd assignment--search the most deserted and barren asteroid area around Jupiter. And what do they find? The  Hydra, ship of the illegal and deadly pirate Thoadbone Mox. Why were they sent to find it? Does it have anything to do with shady operations on Earth? And could they survive a second encounter with the most bloodthirsty pirate in space?

I really enjoyed this book. It's a good old-fashioned space adventure, complete with colorful characters (especially Grandfather Huff Hashoone), mysterious dealings behind the scenes and a fantastic battle at the end on board a space pirate ship. Although, I must say, that it takes a while for all the action to start. This book is obviously meant to be the first in a series and so takes a while to set up the world of the future Solar System, but, wow, once the action starts, it's great!! The library already has copies of the next book, Curse of the Iris, and I can't wait to check it out. But the Iron Guy must be true to his word and finish the Boys vs Girls books first.

So go get this one and don't wait! You'll enjoy it a lot. Plus there's a great glossary at the back to give you the meanings of words you may not understand. The author (and the characters) use a lot of terms from the old pirate days, so when the author talks a bout a kip or a pinnace, you'll know what he means or when a character says, "Avast" or "Belay that," you'll understand what they're saying.
And if you've read this book, be sure to hit the "Comment" tab under this post and send us a review!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Just a Reminder...

...that the Iron Guy is still hosting a giveaway! That's right--I will give an autographed copy of Hamster S.A.M.: Odd-ventures in Space by author/illustrator/funny guy Dave McDonald to the first boy who sends a review of any book. it could be any kind of book--fiction, graphic novel, etc. All the instructions are on the left-hand side of the page under "Here's How Our Blog Works." You could find out more about the giveaway here.




And be sure to check out these blogs run by actual reader guys just like YOU! The first is This Kid Reviews Books by our talented friend Erik Weibel--who just turned 13, by the way. Erik recommends really good stuff for guys of all ages. And he's written his own book! Be sure to visit his site, leave a comment or two and find some great reads.



About Me!The second blog is The Readers and Writers Paradise by another good friend, Daniel Johnson. He's 17 but has been running his blog and writing about cool books since he was 12. But that's not all--he's started an online magazine so kids can get their stories published! It's called Kid Writers Magazine and you can find out more on his blog or go here. Plus Daniel writes his own stories and has a book coming out as well. PLUS, he reads his stories and others. What a guy! Be sure to check this one out too and leave some comments.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year and a Shot at Redemption

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you had a great holiday season. Mine was fun even though I was sick for part of it. Too sick to do much reading. So that's one reason the Iron Guy is coming to you, asking for a chance for redemption. One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2014 was to read the entire Boys vs Girls series by the great Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Sad to say, I didn't make it. In fact, I've got six more books to read--well, five and a half, since I'm halfway through the sixth one. So the Iron Guy comes to you humbly, asking for a chance to redeem himself. To do so, I'll make every effort to read the rest of these books by the end of this month. Yes, I hear a collective gasp of astonishment from the cyber world but the Iron Guy is willing to go even that extreme to redeem himself from an epic fail!

Besides, I can't wait to tell you about these books. They are a lot of fun and I am having a really good time reading them. I reviewed the first one a long time ago (see the review here) and the second one back in October. (see that review here) Let me give you a little background before telling you about the others.

The stories take place in the town of Buckman, West Virginia and involves two families, the Hartfords and Malloys. (more about those names later) The Hartfords have four boys: 11-year-old twins Jake and Josh, nine-year-old Wally and seven-year-old Peter. Their best friends are their neighbors, the Benson boys. But then, Mr. Benson, a coach, takes a job in Georgia and the Malloy family rents his house for a year. The Hartford boys really miss their friends but look forward to having new boys move in. Imagine their reactions, then, when they learn that their new neighbors will be girls!! They decide to pull so many tricks on these new girls that their lives will be miserable and they'll  move away--but they don't count on the smartness and resilience of the three girls, who are eleven-year-old Eddie (Edith Ann), eight-year-old Caroline and nine-year-old Beth. Sometimes the tricks against the girls work but then the girls pull pranks of their own! And sometimes things happen that no one expects! That's when things get really funny. Here's a brief rundown of the books I've read:

Boys Against Girls--there's a mysterious creature lurking around Buckman called the abaguchie. Some say it's bigger than a cat or dog but not as big as one of the mountain lions that live in the hills. At least, that's what people say--no one ever seen it. Could Wally convince Caroline that there are abaguchie bones in the basement of Oldakker's bookstore? Could he convince her to sneak into the basement when no on'e's looking? And then what happens if he and his brothers stand on top of the trap door...? And then--are the two families really going to have Thanksgiving together??





The Girls' Revenge--Christmas is coming up and the teacher assigns a class project in which a student has to learn everything he or she can about another student and present their findings to the class. Much to Wally's disgust, Caroline Malloy picks him! But Wally doesn't know that Caroline is not only going to talk about Wally; she's going to BE Wally, dressing up like him even down to his underwear! On top of that, Wally and Caroline, without the other one knowing, decide to send prank Christmas gifts to each other--and Wally's embarassing gift to Caroline goes to the teacher!! And what happens when Mrs. Malloy drives into town but gets lost in a blizzard?



A Traitor Among the Boys--It's New Year's and, after some dramatic events at Christmas, the boys make a resolution to stop pulling so many pranks on the girls. But then, you know what happens to New Year's resolutions! In the meantime, the town of Buckman is celebrating a historic anniversary with a community play. Josh and Beth get dragged unwillingly into it--and then Josh has to "propose" to Beth in the play because the town was founded by a boy from one family marrying into the girl's family. Can he say that line convincingly to--to--a Malloy girl??




Yeah, these books are great reads! They may not make you hold your sides with laughter but they are funny. You'll smile a lot and truly get to like both the Hartford boys and the Malloy girls. I really got caught up in their lives, their feud and the town of Buckman seemed like a real place to me. I can't wait to finish the others. Don't you wait, either, guys! The library has plenty of copies. Don't delay; go start checking them out.

PS--some random notes:

There was actually a very famous feud back a long time ago in the West Virgina/Kentucky hills between two families called the Hatfields and McCoys. Hmmm--does that sound like Hartfords and Malloys?

The first few books in the series were written in the early 1990's before everyone had cell or smart phones. You should know that because it may explain a couple of things. For instance, in the first book, one of the girls gets locked in a shed and has to wait until one of her sisters comes along and finds her. You boys (or girls) may wonder, "Well, why didn't she just call/text someone to get her out?" Same thing when Mrs. Malloy gets lost in the blizzard; there weren't many cell phones at the time and no GPS devices that I now of. Don't worry--these things don't affect the stories or your enjoyment of them. They're just little curiosities. And it doesn't take long before the boys/girls are playing with Game Boys, sending emails and printing things off computers. Though you will notice in the first few books that the Hartford boys send letters to their Benson friends--and wait to get letters back! With all texting and Instagrams and Skype in the world today, have any of you boys actually sent a letter to a friend?

Our good friend Ms. Yingling has complained recently about all the depressing books for kids out there these days. In most of them, the parents are usually dead or severely disabled or really not very very good parents. Well, these books are a breath of fresh air because all the parents are living; they are not dead and they are not dimwits. The moms and dads are smart, caring and there when you need them. And furthermore, even with all  the pranks going on, no one is actually mean. It's refreshing to find books that are just plain good-natured fun. Try them, guys. You'll really enjoy them.