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!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods--The Second Terrific Book of the Season

Hey, you truly rocking reader guys, you may remember that I said that I love this time of year because that's when the coolest books come out. As proof of how right I was, I offer as evidence Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by the incomparable Rick Riordan. This is one TERRIFIC book that guys everywhere will enjoy. If you're a Percy Jackson fan, like me, this is the book you MUST read! And if you're not (and it's hard to imagine anyone who's not a Percy Jackson fan), this is still the book you've gotta read. It will make you laugh, thrill and choke and shudder at some of the stuff those old Greek gods did.

Where to start? There's so much good stuff to say. Well, why do we love the Percy Jackson books so much? Because of the action and the adventure. Yet there's one thing more. The one thing that Mr. Riordan does better than anyone else--the humor! And that's what this book has LOTS and LOTS of! This book is LOL with capital L's. I Laughed completely out Loud while reading this thing. So will you! I mean, just look at some of the title chapters--"The Golden Age of Cannibalism"---"Athena Adopts a Handkerchief"---"Apollo Sings and Dances and Shoots People"--"Dionysus Conquers the World with a Refreshing Beverage." How great are those? And then you get into the stories of those old Greek myths with heaps of Percy's trademark humor. For instance, when Demeter, the goddess of agriculture disguises herself as an old woman and takes care of a mortal baby. "She sang him nursery songs from Mount Olympus, like 'The Itsy-Bitsy Satyr' and 'I'm a Little Cyclops.'" Or when Apollo goes to slay Python, the giant snake and says:

"Yo, snake!"

Python opened his eyes. "What do you want?"

"To sing you a song about my awesomeness."

"Oh, please, just kill me now."

"Okay!"  Apollo drew his bow and shot the snake between the eyes.

There are so many more examples. Just wait until you hear Athena and Arachne trash talk either other before the weaving contest. But there's more than just humor. We must remember that these old myths were stories. There are still reasons we tell them thousands of years later. They are still great stories. They still excite and move us. We want to find out what happens next. Take a look at the story of Typhoeus. Or the story of Persephone. And no one tells a story like Mr. Riordan. This book will keep your attention, make you laugh, make you thrill, make you disgusted (some of those gods were disgusting--more about that in a minute) or do all those things at the same time. I haven't enjoyed a Rick Riordan book this much since I first read The Lightning Thief these many years ago and a whole new world of enjoyment opened up for me. This is it, guys! Get to your local library and check one out.

BTW, did I mention the totally great illustrations by the fantastic John Rocco, the guy who's done the Percy Jackson book covers? Well, he has created the absolutely perfect pictures for this book. Drama, awsomeness, creepiness, more awesomeness. That's what you'll see in these illustrations.

OK, I do need to add a NOTE TO THE YOUNGER READER GUYS AND OR THE GROWNUPS. If you are a seven or eight or even a nine-year old or if you're the parent of one, this may not be the book for you. These old Greek myths dealt with some revolting stuff, like the stories dealing with the Titans and their encounters with the gods. And the gods themselves were pretty disgusting at times, willing to transform poor mortals into yucky things or put them in awful tortures for the pickiest reasons. And they spent most of their time chasing around for...well, you know. The brilliant Mr. Riordan presents all those stories entirely appropriately for older kids. I'd call them PG rated. If you are or have a younger reader guy, you might want a book such as D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Mythsa G-rated book and an oldie but goodie and maybe the best intro to Greek mythology for kids ever.

All that said, however, reading this book has been some of the most fun I've had all year and that's why it gets--

The Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One Terrific Book

(Not to mention it's a really big book and great for building up your muscles!)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Return of Sammer!

Sammer and T. A. Barron
Hey everyone, one our old friends has written to us after a long absence. His name is Sammer and he used to write to us all the time, telling us about terrific books. He even used this blog to help bring author T. A. Barron to Charlotte! Let's see what he recommends to us today:

Hey, I haven't checked in on this blog in forever! I just thought this would be a good way to get out a realy goodbook series that not a lot of people read,Wereworld. Wereworld is a book series based on WereWolves, but Curtis Jobling(The Author) goes in much further with it. He creates a 6 book series about WereLords. WereLords are called therianthropes. Therianthropes are humans that have the ability to change into animals. In the first book Rise of the wolf , we meet the main character Drew Ferran. Drew is a simple boy who lives on the farm with his Mom, Dad, and brother Trent. One day Drew is out in the field collecting crops, when he feels as though he is being watched. He goes inside to go to safety. Soon, the beast that was in the field with him, jumps in through their window and kills his mother. Drew gets angry while the beast is still there and starts to change, his body becomes bigger, hairier and bulkier. He doesn't know what is going on with him, but he starts to fight the beast in front of him. The beast is too powerfull for Drew, but Drew manages to rip a scar across the beast's chest. The rest of Drew's family comes in and think Drew killed his Mom. Drew then flees and lives in the forest as WereWolf in the forest until he comes upon two people named Master Hogan and Whitley. From there on you must read the book to find out what happens next.

Thanks, Sammer!  These books sound good and the library has several of them--in fact, I think we have the whole series. Take a look, guys, check some out and tell us what you think!