Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recommendations From Other Library Guys (and One Honorary Guy)

Hey, everyone, this is the Iron Guy, doing what he does best in the summer--taking it easy and reading lots of  good stuff. Of course, much as I hate to think about it, August is more than halfway over and that means summer will be over before too long. (of course, in Charlotte, summer's not really over until after Labor Day)
That's why the Iron Guy uses all his iron determination and willpower to squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of the last of summer. That includes reading lots of cool  books. I'm in the middle of some really great reads and hope to tell you about them soon but in the meantime, I thought I'd ask some of the other guys in the library system to tell us about the books they've liked. We got some great responses, so let's get right to them.

The first one is from a really good guy, Malcolm Plummer at the Hickory Grove library. He says:

The Encyclopedia Brown Series has always been a favorite of mine. When I was younger, I used to like watching detective shows on television. So when I picked up one of Donald Sobol's books it was just like watching a Columbo episode on tv. Solving mysteries is fun for the inquisitive mind. And guys with curious minds will like this series

Thanks, Malcolm! The Encyclopedia Brown books have been around for a long time but they are still challenging guys to use their brains

The next is from another really great guy, David Singleton, the Director of Libraries for the Charlotte Meckelenburg libraries. That's a fancy way of saying that he's in charge of the whole library system's day-to-day operations. Quite a big job! Here's what he likes:

While the Clock Ticked by Franklin W. Dixon.   I was a big fan of the Hardy Boys series, and this one, about a secret locked room in a spooky mansion, kept me on the edge of my seat.
·     Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary.   Henry is an ordinary boy who finds himself in hilarious situations, often accompanied by his dog Ribsy.   I found myself laughing every time I read this book.
·      Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.    After a crash in a small plane, a 13-year-old boy is left to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness with little except a hatchet, a recent birthday gift from his mother. An exciting book about survival and becoming a man.
·      Wonder by R.J. Palacio.   10-year-old August Pullman is average in almost every way, except for a severe facial deformity.    As he enters public school for the first time, he learns about cruelty as well as the true meaning of friendship.   If you’ve ever felt different from other people, you will love this book.

T    Thanks, Mr. Singleton! These are indeed great reads. Boys have been thrilling to the Hardy Boys and Hatchet for many years and Beverly Cleary's books are still funny.

      Our next set of good reads comes from a truly exceptional guy, Lee Keesler, the Chief Executive Officer of the Charlotte Library system! Here's what he has to tell us"

 Our Mom used to take us to your library in the summer to get books.  Once I had learned to read, I read primarily biographies of historical and sports figures.  I remember reading a biography of George Washington; of Benjamin Franklin; of Thomas Jefferson; and of Willie Mays; Jackie Robinson; Mickey Mantle.
T    Thanks, Mr. Keesler! We really appreciate your taking time form your very schedule to share with us. (btw, when he talks about "your library," he means the Myers Park library, where the Iron Guy works!) The library system has lots of good biographies of these people and one of the most popular series for boys is the "Who Was... set of biographies. (in fact, I saw a couple of boys in here yesterday, going excitedly through the Who Was... books) All of the books I've read from this series have been interesting, full of good information and quick to read. (they're what I call Good Quick Reads) Here are a few:

                     Who Was George Washington?
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       Who Was Ben Franklin?
            Who Was Thomas Jefferson?

      Who Was Jackie Robinson?
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Unfortunately, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle aren't in this series but the library system does have biographies of them. And there is a chapter book about Mickey Mantle that I really enjoyed--it's Lucky: Maris, Mantle and My Best Summer Ever by Wes Tooke. As I said, I really enjoyed it and you can see my review here--and an interview with the author here.
      And, finally, we have a recommendation from Sandy Nicholls of the South County library. She's been with the system a long time and is really cool. You see her picture here--she is holding up a shark's tooth that she doubtlessly pulled straight out of a shark's mouth. Quite a gal! She recommends two books for all the reader guys out there. One is Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle and the other is Squish, Super Amoeba by Jennifer Holm. She reviewed them on the library's great BookHive site, which is a terrific place to find great reads, and here's what she said about Mountain Dog:

Book CoverTony is sent to live with his great uncle in the Sierra Nevada Mountains after his mother was sent to prison for training fighting dogs. It is a different world for this city boy. His great uncle Tio Leonilo is a search and rescue dog trainer and Tony quickly becomes fast friends with a search and rescue dog named Gabe. Written in a prose format, the story alternates between the voices of Tony and Gabe the rescue dog. The facts about search and rescue dog training, the wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas, and Tony’s newfound friendship with a classmate named Gracie make this story honest as well as charming.

      And here's the one for Squish, Super Amoeba:

View full imageFollow Squish the Amoeba on his many adventures in middle school with his family and also with his microorganism friends, Pod and Peggy. Discover how different the life of an amoeba truly is! This story has science facts throughout which makes it fun to learn about global warming and various types of molds. This is a great first time graphic novel for the reader looking for something different. The simple black and white illustrations with a hint of green will delight the eyes.

 Thanks, Sandy! As you see, we don't mind when girls write in to our boys read blog. In fact, we're happy about it and we encourage it! Indeed, we are so happy when they do that we give them the greatest honor we could possibly give and make them Honorary Guys.
      Yes, Sandy, you are now an Honorary Guy. That means you can crack all the dumb jokes you want, make obnoxious noises at sporting events and eat insane amounts of food with no nutritional value. No, no--you don't have to thank us! We do this because we're guys and that means we're by nature generous and sharing. So we don't need thanks--knowing we've shared our great honor with you is thanks enough!

 GUYS--that's what we are and that's what we do!

   Seriously, though, I hope you check out these books and also go and see Sandy and Malcolm at their libraries. And tell them Iron Guy Carl sent you! And write in and tell us if you've read these books! I'll publish YOUR reviews on this blog! All the instructions are on the left-hand side of the page. Hope to hear from you soon!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sea of Monsters Movie and Titan's Curse Graphic Novel

syndetics-lcSummer greetings, everyone, from Charlotte's # 1 Percy Jackson fan. I LOVE the Percy Jackson books. Do you hear me? I don't just like the Percy Jackson books; I LOVE them. LOVE THEM!! Got that? I'm such a fan that you see me here at last year's Greek festival in my Camp Half-Blood t-shirt--given to me by Mr. Riordan! So I was happy to finally get hold of a dvd copy of The Sea of Monsters, the second Percy Jackson movie. Yes, i know it came out last August, but I was busy that summer and missed it at the theatres. Anyway, I enjoyed it a whole lot and wanted to recoomend it to all you reader guys. In fact, I enjoyed it much, much more than The Lightning Thief movie, which seemed to be thrown together in a hurry and didn't catch the spirit of the PJ books. This one did--mostly. There was lots of action, of course, as well as plenty of monsters, fights with monsters, narrow escapes from bad guys--all the things that make a great GUY movie. But this one also had the wacky humor of the PJ books, which was missing from the first movie. Just watch the scenes with the "cab drivers" or the encounter with Hermes. Or the Confederate "zombies." And the effects are incredible! Witness the scenes inside Charybdis or the ride on the hippocampus. Of course, there were a few flaws--Clarice was in this one (she wasn't in The Lightning Thief movie) but she didn't look at all as she is described in the books and she wasn't nearly mean enough. Plus, if I remember correctly, there were big departures from the book near the end of the movie. All in all, however, this was a very fun movie and you'll get a kick out of it if you haven't already seen it. Or, even if you have, I bet you'll enjoy it the second time. The library system has plenty of copies, although it's relatively new, which makes it a Rental movie that costs $2.00 to check out--but I'm sure you have that money from your allowance and/or the work you do at home, right?

syndetics-lcThe day after I saw the movie, I found a copy of The Titan's Curse graphic novel here at the Myers Park library (we didn't have a copy of the Sea of Monsters gn that day), so I checked it out and had the same reaction that I had to the Sea of Monsters movie. In other words, I liked it a bunch and found to be much, much better than The Lightning Thief graphic novel. That one was lame. The artwork wasn't that good--the characters looked like badly-made Play-Doh models--and the story was hard to follow. The artwork's ten times better in this one and the gn catches the feel of the book--mostly. The story can still be a little hard to follow and Atlas doesn't look nearly big and threatening enough. But, as with the movie, it was a lot of fun and you guys would definitely enjoy it. The Charlotte Mecklenburg library system has plenty of copies--one of which is still here at the Myers Park library. Come in, check it out and give me a high five!

BTW, the fifth and final book in The Lost Hero series, The Blood of Olympus, is scheduled to come out on October 7. I've reserved a copy from the library already! Get your library cards out and you could do the same! Can't wait!!! And be sure to check out Myth and Mystery, Mr. Riordan's blog, to keep current with info about this terrific books.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Great Dan Gutman Question Anwered--For Now

Greetings, all my fellow reader guys. I hope you're enjoying your summer--and I hope youhave signed on for Summer Reading. If not, there's still plenty of time and lots of cool stuff to get for reading. I'm going to talk toady about an author that guys everywhere love. It's Dan Gutman, he of the My Weird School, Baseball Card Adventures, Genius Files series, as well as several other books. Many boys have written in over the years and told us how much they like his books. Not only did they like them, boys LOVED them! Especially the My Weird School series. Don't believe me? Click on the "Dan Gutman" tab under this post and see! Anyway, I've read a few of his books over the years (plus it was one of my 2014 Iron Guy Resolutions) and--and--well, I hate to admit it but--------

I wasn't impressed.

View full imageNow don't get me wrong. I didn't think his books were terrible; I just didn't think they were all that great. Let me give you a little background. I really liked the first DG book I read. It was Qwerty Stephens: Stuck in Time with Benjamin Franklin and I really liked it. In fact, I LOVED it! (see my review here) So I naturally thought all his books would be that good. And I was disappointed. I read Getting Air and it was OK. (see that review here)  I read another, The Homework Machine, wasn't impressed at all and didn't even review it. I even tried a couple of the My Weird School books but couldn't get into them. "So what's up with this?" I wondered. "Why do all these guys rave about Dan Gutman? Am I missing something?" It got to the point that I thought about making a special Controversy Post about him and calling it The Great Dan Gutman Question. I've done two Controversy Posts before. One was about Harry Potter (I'm not a big fan) and the other was about the Wimpy Kid books (I think Greg Heffley's a jerk) The Iron Guy is never afraid of expressing a reading opinion when it's not popular, but, in true MANLY MAN fashion, I decided to rethink my position before saying something I'd regret. Truly MANLY MEN always think before speaking!! Anyway, I checked out two My Weird School books and, wow, am I glad! These books are indeed terrific!!

The first one I read was the first one in the series, Miss Daisy is Crazy! Here we are introduced to AJ, who hates school. But even he can read, write and add. So how come his teacher, Miss Daisy, can't do any of those things? A teacher who can't read? Write? Add? Hey, that might be cool after all--that teacher couldn't make you work! But AJ and his friends  still hate school anyway--which gives them an idea. Maybe they could buy the school and turn it into a video arcade. Sounds great, huh? Do you think they can do it? You'll have to read to find out!

View full imageThe other one was Mr. Jack is a Maniac form the My Weirder School series.In this one, a guy rides up onto the school playground on a motorcycle! Turns out that he's new martial arts teacher who's going to teach the some self-defense moves, how to breathe and to expect the unexpected. So what does Mr. Jack do when the truly unexpected happens--like a bear walking into the gym!! What will Mr. Jack do? Check out this book to find out!

These books are funny, funny and I need to say one more thing about them--they're funny!! The situations are wacky, the grownups are wacky and the kids are truly like second-grade kids everywhere--like being impatient with martial arts training. Except they come up with some wacky ideas too--like buying the school!
I really enjoyed these books and I can see why guys everywhere like them. Not to mention they're fast, good and quick read. Enthusiastic readers, as well as those the grownups call reluctant readers, will enjoy these books. So count me in as a Dan Gutman fan! At least, for now. I like these books a lot but I'll have to read some of the other series, like the Baseball Card or Million Dollar books to see if I'm a DG fan or a My Weird School fan.

Which means I'm going to need YOUR help! I want to read one of the books in the My Weirder School series. But which one should I get?? There are a lot of them out there--which one should it be?? I'll wait until I hear from you and the one that gets the most recommendations is the one I'll read. So write a title in the Comments section under this post and let me know!!

And one more thing. I'd like to get on my Fourth of July soapbox for a moment. Without getting all political, I'd like to remind you that we live in a country in which we're free to read. That's not true in many places of the world. Here we can go to the library, bookstore, online book site and select whatever we'd like and read it without having to worry about who's going to break down our door for having that book. As I said, that's not the case everywhere. So, while you're having fun on the Fourth, remember to celebrate your independence!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lunch Lady Madness!

Hey, guys, its summertime and the living is fun! School is out, the theme parks and swimming pools are open, camps are underway and there are sports to watch and sports to play. (and don't forget the library's Summer Reading Program!) In the spirit of fun, I'm going to tell you about some graphic novels, which, as all  guys know, are fun reading!

I recently had a great time reading four of the Lunch Lady graphic novels by the fabulous Jarrett Krosoczka. These gn's have been around for about five years and have been favorites for me and other reader guys. (if you want to see what we've said about them, check out the reviews here and here and here. I told you guys like them!) For those who don't know, Lunch Lady and her assistant Betty are not only school cafeteria workers but also super crime fighters, taking down bad guys with karate kicks, fish stick nunchuks and ketchup-packet lasers.Take a look, guys:

View full imageLunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta

 Mr. Scribson, famous author of the Flippy Bunny books, is coming to the school! but everywhere he goes, gym teachers disappear. Coincidence? Lunch Lady doesn't think so!

View full image Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit

The school is having a bake sale to raise money for the school trip. But all the treats disappear during a blackout. Lunch Lady must investigate--and serve lunch with soggy taco shells!

View full imageLunch Lady and the Video Game Villain

 All the electronic gadgets are disappearing and the school bully is running for student council president. Lunch Lady must get to the bottom of things--but what she finds will shock her!

View full imageLunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle

The evil school superintendent, Dr. Van Grindheimer, has fired Lunch Lady! Some nefarious plot is underway but Lunch lady just sits at home and eats junk food. Can anyone arouse her to action before it's too late?

These are good, quick and fun reads. There's enough action, mystery and campy humor to satisfy any guy! And these are only four--there are TEN in all. And the Charlotte Mecklenburg library system has them all!  So don't just sit around--get your spork phone, call your friends and check out the Lunch Lady graphic novels. Good gravy, they're a lot of fun!

PS--be sure to check out the Lunch Lady website!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Black Diamond, Heart of a Samurai and Summer Reading

Hey, guys, I've recovered now from my exertions from the 48 Hour Book Challenge and am now, of course, crowned with honor for my MANLY achievements over the weekend. Actually, I finished two really good books then and would like to tell you about them.

The first was Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues by Patricia C. McKissack and
Frederick McKissack, Jr. and was quite a good read. Baseball is an iconic, even mythic, American sport and the people who played it, especially in the old days, were larger than life. That's why books on the old days of baseball are so much fun to read. So I enjoyed this one and reading about fascinating people I'd never heard of and learning new things about famous players I thought I knew everything about. Baseball goes back a long time(some of George Washington's troops played a version of it) and was so popular after the Civil War that it organized into professional leagues. Of course, racial prejudice was strong back then too. A few African-American players got in and even earned some respect but the haters were too strong and there were too many of them, so African-Americans were barred from professional leagues. With all the resilience of oppressed peoples everywhere, however, they formed their own leagues and even held their own World Series. And they had some incredible players! Get this book and you'll read about James Thomas "Cool Papa" Bell, "the fastest runner who ever stole a base", Walter "Stretching Buck" Leonard who "posed a threat every time he approached a plate" and you'll also get the inspiring story of Jackie Robinson, the sad story of Josh Gibson and the incredibly long and successful career of the amazing Satchel Paige. As I said, these guys were larger than life and this book does a good job telling their stories.

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus. Wow, oh, wow, did I ever enjoy this one! Have you ever gotten so
caught up in a book that the rest of the world seems to disappear? That's exactly what happened to me as I read this one. And it's all based on a true story! In 1841, Manjiro, a Japanese boy, is on a fishing boat with other guys from his village when a storm drives them out to sea. they wreck on a lonely island, not much more than a piece of rock, and are at starvation's point when an American whaling boat rescues them. Now they can go back home, right? Wrong! Japan is closed off to the rest of the world and anyone who leaves can be imprisoned. So here he is, stuck on a ship full of "foreign barbarians" but he eventually learns their language and their ways and comes to like them. The captain likes him too and takes Manjiro home as a son. But can he ever be a part of this new land? Everyone is good to him in America (well, not quite everyone) and it really is a land of opportunity and freedom but he's still too different to fit in. He misses his family wants to go back to Japan but will he be imprisoned if he does? You've got to read this one to find out! This is a truly terrific book, one of the best I've read in a long time--maybe even the best book this year. It will pull you in and make you keep reading until the very final page. And just wait until you see how the true story ties in with the fictional one! I finished this book with a big smile.

Speaking of reading, did you know you could get cool stuff for reading this summer? You sure can by signing up for the Summer Reading Program with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. This year's theme is Fizz, Boom, Read and has a SCIENCE theme!That means there will be lots of cool programs going on at your local library, so go by there and find out. Of course, you could read anything you want this summer--fiction, graphic novels, nonfiction, biographies, magazines, whatever. You'll get great stuff for signing up and for reading 10 and 20 hours. You have until August 9 to do so but don't waste any time! Summer can go by quickly, so head on down to your local Charlotte Mecklenburg library and sign up for Fizz, Boom, Read!