Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Two Cool Events

Hey guys, have you ever noticed that, once October gets in full swing,  there are fun events going onall around you. It's certainly the case in North Carolina. There are apple festivals up in the mountains, a Blackbeard Pirate festival on the coast, a barbecue festival in the central part of the state. There's even a Wooly Worm festival. Well, the Charlotte Mecklenburg library is getting in on the fun and so is the Boys Read blog. Let me tell you:

The author of this book will be there
On November 4, the library is going to hold its EpicFest at Imaginon, our extremely-cool place that is like no other place in the country. There's going to be a lot  very fun stuff that day, so don't miss it! Plus there will also be several authors there, including Eric Litwin of Pete the Cat fame and David Lubar, who is a favorite of a lot of guys.  I went last year and had a great time.
will be a lot of

And the Iron Guy is not going to let October go by without a big event, so this year he's going to bring back The World Series of Reading Contest that was so great last year. It will start on October 24, the same day as the actual World Series, and I will post all the rules the day before. (It will be simple--boys write in reviews of books and get points. The three boys with the most points win) So check this blog on Monday, October 23 to find out how it will work and start sending in your reviews on the 24th. (If you'd like an advance look at the rules, check out this post from last year. The rules will be almost the same this year) Last year's Contest was as thrilling as last year's history-making World Series, so let's see if we could make this one even better!! (and grownups--including teachers--if you know any boys who'd like to participate, let them know, even if they live outside of the Charlotte area. We could work things out)

The Major League Baseball World Series and the Boys Read World Series of Reading--two great events!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Isn't This GREAT?? An Interview With Laurie McKay

October greetings, reader guys everywhere. Fall is here now but that doesn't mean I can't remember some of the fun I had over the summer, especially all the fun I had reading The Last Dragon Charmer fantasy trilogy by Laurie McKay. All three of them are terrific books and they're set in Asheville, NC, which is only a couple of hours from Charlotte. (click on "The Last Dragon Charmer" tab under this post to see reviews of them)

Well, guess what--I've got an interview with the author! How cool is that? Let's  not waste any time but let's hear what Ms. McKay has to say:

The talented Laurie McKay
I’ve heard this nasty rumor that it’s uncool for boys to read. I bet you disagree. Tell us why.

Oh, yes, I completely disagree. Boys who read are cool. How could they not be? Reading takes kids to other worlds – some very real and some very imagined and all fantastic. That is amazing.
There are so many great stories out there, too. Personally, I like stories with dragons and swordfights, and mystery, magic, and humor - so that’s what I write books about. Who doesn’t find dragons cool?
Even if you’re not into dragons, there are un-put-down-able books about anything and everything: school, life in another world, life in another time, bullies, monsters, superheroes, sports. There are funny books and super-serious books, long books and short books and books of poetry. The list goes on and on. And, if you don’t want to read a book, you can read a comic book or a graphic novel or a short story or a manga.
There are a hundred cool stories just waiting for the right reader to choose them.

You’ve written a very terrific fantasy. Did you read a lot of that growing up? If so, what were your favorite books or series? Did you read a lot of other sorts of books as well? What were your favorites?

I read a little bit of everything growing up and fantasy was one of my favorite genres. I especially liked ‘portal fantasies’. That’s where characters go from one world to another like in The Wizard of Oz. The Oz books are a series and I read most of them. I also loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. I’d reread them over and over until I’d found all the possible endings. 
Two of my very favorite books growing up were The Girl with the Silver Eyes – it is about a group of kids with psychic powers, and The Mixed-up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler – it’s about a brother and sister who run away from home and live in a museum.  
I also read Garfield and The Far Side Comics. So I suppose I read a bit of everything. I still do!

Why did you decide to set your books in Asheville?

I picked Asheville for three specific reasons:
One, I’m from North Carolina and I wanted to set the book in this state. 
Two, Asheville has a fiery name, rocky slopes, and mountainous terrain. It seems an ideal home for a dragon!
Three, Asheville is this modern, artsy city set among the Appalachian Mountains. Shops sell t-shirts that tout the city as ‘Asheville Weird’. There are a lot of worlds and people colliding so it seemed a good place for people from another world to blend with the locals.

I don’t normally ask questions like this but these books got me to thinking. You seem to have a theme going—that language is powerful and knowing how to use it properly (even the old languages) can give you power. Is that right?

Definitely. There is a lot of power in words and in language. Words can hurt and heal. They can bring peace or war. Deciphering ancient languages, helps us understand peoples of the past, and sharing common languages lets us communicate. As the books progress, Caden comes to understand and harness some of that power. He uses it for good, but he has to think about what to say, what he means, and what the consequences of his words will be.

Will there be any more books about Caden and Razzon?

I have an idea for two books set in the Greater Realm with Caden and company. I’m working on a few other books right now, but I’d like to get these written and out in the world one day! The actual writing just takes a while…

I always ask these last two questions. Which do you prefer—cheeseburgers or pizza? What do you like on them?

I like pizza. My favorite toppings are not olives and not anchovies. All other vegetables, meats, and cheeses are welcome.

Thanks, Ms. McKay!! We really appreciate your taking the time to answer our questions--and for writing those terrific books! We're so grateful, in fact, that we're going to give you the highest honor we could possibly bestow and make you an HONORARY GUY.

Yes, that means you now have the right to make obnoxious noises at sporting events, crack all the dumb jokes you'd like and eat insane amounts of foods with no nutritional value. We know that you're probably so stunned and overwhelmed by the greatness of this honor that you can't even say anything. Don't worry--your terrific books have said everything for you!

Well, all silliness aside, we truly appreciate this interview. Be sure to check out these books, guys, and let us know what you think of them!

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Truly Epic Read

Hey, guys, the word "epic" gets tossed around a lot. As in--"Wasn't that an epic party, man?" or "That was a truly epic hot dog, dude." Well, this book has the word in its title and it really does tackle an epic subject--a journey from earth to the giant outer planets of the Solar System and beyond. It's Voyager's Greatest Hits: The Epic Trek to Interstellar Space by Alexandra Siy and it is one amazing story!

Way back in 1965, some graduate students started thinking about "using gravity to propel a spacecraft from one planet to the next, indefinitely." That way an exploratory spacecraft could explore huge amounts of space with a minimum of fuel. Scientists then realized that a "rare planetary alignment would occur during the 1980's"--a perfect time to use the gravity effect to explore the outer planets. So NASA built two space probes, named each one "Voyager" and launched them on August 20 and September 5 of 1977. (Hey, that makes this the 40th anniversary!) The rest of the book tells this incredible story. It's amazing--two lone space craft, operating on 1977 technology  travel vast distances to discover things no one ever suspected existed in the Solar System, like volcanoes on a moon of Jupiter! And those Voyagers are still transmitting data to us today from interstellar space. If this doesn't qualify as an epic story, I don't what does!

Image result for nasa voyager photos
Photo of Saturn taken by Voyager
This book is truly an enthralling read and any guy will enjoy it. It can be read in about an hour and is full of great stories of interplanetary travel, thrilling discoveries, fascinating scientists (you'll be happy to know that a lot of them were women) and strange facts that people have still not figured out. Plus the story moves right along. It could have gotten bogged down in a lot of technical terms or lengthy scientific explanations but doesn't. You get enough background, maps and charts and to make you understand what's going on and appreciate the challenges the mission had to overcome but these don't interrupt the flow of the story.  Plus there are breathtaking photos taken by the Voyagers all throughout the book. Plus there is a really interesting final chapter on the "golden record," a very good note from the author on why she wrote the book, a very helpful glossary, good book recommendations and a fan-tastic list of websites, some of which I've checked out already and had to make myself stop before I spent all afternoon on them! Boys, this book is not just for astronomy nerds, not just for science geeks but for everyone! Go check it out. It's epic!

Image result for nasa voyager photos
A Voyager spacecraft--can you find the golden record?

All right, guys, you can stop here if you'd like but if you wouldn't mind, the Iron Guy would like to add a PS to my review and it's about what may be the most incredible fact of all. Try to wrap your brains around this--the two space probes that are still zipping through space at 35000 mph and still sending us data from outside from interstellar space were built with, equipped and still operating with 1970's technology!! Think about that for a moment. Would you use a computer from the 1980's? Or trust a phone or tablet that was more than five years old? Yet we are still hearing from equipment that was built before 1980. For crying out loud, the info on the Voyagers is recorded on eight track players!! Go ask your grandparents about those if you want to get a perspective on how ancient that technology is.

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Yes, boys, go ask your grandparents about eight track players (don't ask the  Iron Guy how he knows about them!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Four Random Good Quick Reads

Hey, guys, one of the great things about working in a library is the chance to pull books at random that look really cool and then read them. You can find some good stuff that way and sometimes get introduced to a whole new series. Or even find a new book in an old series.

Which is exactly what happened when I saw Akimbo and the Snakes by Alexander McCall Smith. These books are truly terrific and I thought I'd read all of them, so imagine how great it felt to find one I had missed! Akimbo is a young boy who lives on a game preserve in Kenya, where his father is the head ranger. We find out, in this book, that his uncle runs a snake park. How cool is that! What's even better is that his uncle invites Akimbo to work at the snake park over the summer. Akimbo enjoys it, of course, and learns a lot about snakes when his uncle tells him some villagers have spotted the deadliest of all poisonous snakes--the green mamba! They go out to capture it but--well, I won't spoil it for you but I will tell you that what happens is one of the scariest things I've ever read in any book! This book is short, only 66 pages, but, man, does it ever pack a wallop! Plus, there are some good facts about snakes after the end of the story. (find out about more Akimbo books here)

I Survived The Great Chicago Fire, 1871Then I found out this great new series, the I Survived books by Lauren Tarshis. Well, I should say that they're new to me. I've seen these get checked out of the library all the time and decided it was time to read one for myself, so I randomly grabbed this one, I Survived the Great Chicago Fire 1871. And then it grabbed me! What an exciting story! I'm going to show you the summary from the library's catalog because it tells you better than I could:

Oscar Starling never wanted to come to Chicago. But then Oscar finds himself not just in the heart of the big city but in the middle of a terrible fire! No one knows exactly how it began, but one thing is clear: Chicago is like a giant powder keg about to explode. An army of firemen is trying to help, but this fire is a ferocious beast that wants to devour everything in its path, including Oscar! Will Oscar survive one of the most famous and devastating fires in history?

That really gives you the sense of danger throughout this edge-of-your-seat book. It's short, only 96 pages, but you won't stop after you turn that first page. And there's a section at the back with information about the actual fire with a recommended website and book to find out more.

Of course, that meant I needed to know more, so I read What Was the Great Chicago Fire? by Janet B. Pascal. Everyone knows how good the What Was... and the Who Was...books are and this one is every bit as good as all the others. There are lots of interesting facts, a myth or two exploded and exciting stories that you just wouldn't believe--except that they really happened! This particular book has something that most of the books in this series don't--photographs! Really good ones too. (why don't more books in this series have them?) And, as always, there are a couple of timelines and a list of recommended books and websites. At 108 pages, this book can be read quickly and is another that you just won't put down once you pick it up.

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find ThemThe last one is another book that's not new at all but was completely new to me. It's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by the great J.K. Rowling. I'm sure all of you Harry Potter fans have already read it but if you're a new fan or just anyone who wants to have some fun, this is just the book you need. It purports to be a textbook for wizarding students and even has "comments" written all over it by a student--and just wait until you see who it was! There's no story but an alphabetical list of all the magical beasts that live in Harry Potter's world. This is one of those rare books that will make kids and grownups smile and smile all the way through. It's not long--only 88 pages--but one that you'll completely enjoy from beginning to end.

All right, boys, I know you all are busy now that school is back in full swing but if you need to take a break or even if you've got all your work done and have some free time, these are the books for you! They are what I call Good Quick Reads. (check that same label under this post to find more) And all you teachers and other grownups who are looking for books your boys would like, these are the ones you're looking for. Who knows--I bet you'd enjoy them yourselves!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Third Really Good Book of the Summer--and What a Terrific Book It Is!

Realm BreakerSometimes, after a great movie or a hard-fought sports game or a truly delicious meal, all you can do is sit back and just say, "Wow. Wow." over and over again. That's exactly how I felt after finishing Realm Breaker, the third and final book in Laurie McKay's terrific trilogy, The Last Dragon Charmer. Wow. Oh. Wow. What a terrific read!

If you've read my review of Quest Maker, the first book, and the review of Villain Keeper, the second book, then you already know what's happening. If you haven't, here's a brief synopsis:

Prince Caden, eight-born son of King Axel of Razzon in the Greater Realms, gets pulled into our world, along with a sorceress named Brynne, and they end up in Asheville, North Carolina. They get taken into a foster home and sent to a school that turns out to be a place of banishment for villains from the Greater Realms. Rath Dunn, the worst of all the villains, has been secretly preparing a spell that would break the barriers between the two realms. But to do so would also destroy Asheville and Razzon. In this book, Rath Dunn puts the four-part spell into motion and Caden and his friends must stop him. Right--a few kids with rudimentary powers must confront the most powerful and cunning villain in the history of the Greater Realms. Could they even hope to win? You won't know unless you read this book! But what a great, fun and amazing ride you'll have. The villains are slick, evil, creepy and unstoppable. The action scenes are thrilling, the characters are people you really care about and the magic scenes are--well, pretty awesome. Not to mention that little-old-lady Miss Primrose turns out to be one of the most awesome and memorable characters I've ever encountered in any fantasy story. And there are flashes of humor too--just wait until you see what happens to Caden in the end! As I've said, this was a great read and I couldn't tear myself away from. I bet you won't either!

This book was so good that I'm going to do something I haven't done for a while and give it the--

Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One Terrific Book!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Second Really Good Book of the Summer (Which Is Also a Second Book!)

Hey, guys, summer is still going on and we have been really busy this year! The Iron Guy has been as busy as a bumblebee after an explosion in a honey factory, so I'm going to give you a quick post today. It's about Quest Maker, the second book in Laurie McKay's terrific The Last Dragon Charmer trilogy. I really enjoyed this!

Prince Caden, eighth-born son of King Axel of Razzon in the Greater Realms, is still stuck in Asheville, North Carolina after being pulled into our world by a mysterious spell. So is Rath Dunn, the most dangerous villain in the Greater Realms, who's been banished here along with a group of other villains who are ruled over (at least for now!) by a powerful Elderdragon. It would take too long to summarize the story, so let me say briefly that the book opes with a bang--literally! A bolt of red lightning appears and from it appears the last person Caden would ever suspect. After this, Caden is given a quest by the Elderdragon. If he fails he'll be eaten! On top of this, the science room at his school blows up in a cloud of green (and stinky!) gas. There's an attack by an enormous swarm of bees. Who's behind all this? Could Caden complete his quest on time? And what is Rath Dunn up to in all this? The answer turns out to be worse for the Greater Realms and Asheville than anyone imagined!

Man, this book really was terrific! There's a lot of mysterious things going on, a lot of creepy villains, a lot of tension among the main characters and a lot of exciting action in the end when everything breaks loose! As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to like this book, so go and check it out! Actually, go and check the first one out (see my review here) and this one and the third one. Maybe, if you're not as busy as I am, you could spend an afternoon or a day or a couple of days reading them back to back to back. I couldn't think of a better way to spend some time this summer!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Really Good Quick Reads About Sports!

Hooo--eeee! This has been the busiest summer that the Iron Guy can remember. Things have been moving faster around here than the Millennium Falcon in hyperdrive. That's why I haven't posted anything lately. Fortunately, there are some really good, short and interesting books out there--what I call Good Quick Reads--and I have a few for you. Plus, in keeping with my Manly resolution for this year, they're about sports! How could it be any better?

The first is The Carolina Panthers Story, one in a new set of books about NFL teams. (sorry, but there's no picture of the cover) It's short, has lot of photos, a glossary of football terms, a website to learn more about each team, recommended books about each team and information the team's about great players, its history and even what the fans are like! There's a lot of good stuff here but not a lot of text (a fancy grownup term for the amount of words on a page), so these books would be good for younger reader guys, especially third or even second graders. It's good, it's quick and it's very interesting, even for this Charlotte guy who's followed the team from the beginning. I also read The Seattle Seahawks Story, The San Diego Chargers Story, The Jacksonville Jaguars Story, and the Atlanta Falcons Story. (booo! to the Dirty Birds, the big rival to the Panthers)

All these books follow the same format and, what's even better, the information is current! (another fancy grownup word which means "actually up-to-date and not 20 years old") Sports books are great but the problem is that things change so fast in the sports world that, by the time a book comes out, a team star could have left, a major player got traded or the whole team could have moved to another city! These books came out this year, so the information really is current. So that means you should run right out the door and get these books now. (PS--all the NFL teams are covered in this series, so if you have a favorite team or want to learn about one you didn't know about, there will be a book for you)

The second is The Best NFL Quarterbacks of All Time by Natt Scheff. Hmmm, this sounds like a title that could stir up a bunch of arguments! Well, this book provides a reasons why these guys really could be considered the best. It talks about 14 great quarterbacks, all the way from Otto Graham in the 1950's to Terry Bradshaw to Steve Young to Brett Farve down to Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Each section is only 4 pages but gives lots of good information about why each guy was great. For instance, who was the quarterback that was a 17-round draft pick but went on to win the first two Super Bowls? Who was called "Captain Comeback" and why did he earn that name? And why was Warren Moon, who never won a Super Bowl, so important to the game and many of today's quarterbacks? It's a very good read and there is also a recommended site, a glossary, recommended books and a list of quarterbacks who didn't make the list but are Honorable Mentions. (Will Cam Newton make the list one day? We'll see!) Go get this book too. You'll really enjoy it and will have plenty of info when someone asks, "Who really were the greatest?"