Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This Turkey Is Thankful For...2015 edition

Greetings, reader guys everywhere! Every year around Thanksgiving, the Iron Guy writes
a post about things for which he is thankful. If we think about it even for a little while, I'm sure we all could come up with a lot of things to be grateful for. Here are just a few for me:

First, it's been a good year at our library. We had visits from two local authors, one from E. K. Smith, author of the Alien Dude series, and one from Dave McDonald, the Hamster S.A.M. author and illustrator. These books are especially good for guys--in fact, Ms. Smith said she came up with the Alien Dude books when she couldn't find any early reading books that her son would like! (take a look at the Alien Dude and Hamster SAM labels under this post to find out more)

Second, we had a good time with the Boys Read and Write Club this year. Several different guys came between April and July, read books and wrote reviews of them for this blog. Eventually I had to discontinue the club because we couldn't get enough boys to show up every month (it's hard to keep a book club going, especially during the busy school year) but it  was very good to see boys get excited about reading.

Third, the Iron Guy was very honored to have an interview in July with the great Phyllis Reyonlds Naylor. She's a very well known and respected author and wrote, among many other things, the very funny Boys vs Girls series. I'm very thankful that she gave an interview to this humble blog and I'm glad to say that she's a delightful person! I've also seen the first book in the series, The Boys Start the War, get checked out several times and I'm very thankful that others are getting turned onto these terrific books.

Fourth, I'm very grateful for author Tony Abbott and The Copernicus Legacy, that ultra-fantastic new book series. I haven't been so excited about such new books in years--not since I read The Lightning Thief way back in 2007. It would take me all day to talk about these books, so click on "The Copernicus Legacy" label under this post and see my enthusiastic reviews. I've just started The Golden Vendetta and am happily looking forward to getting lost in it.

Finally, in light of all the terrible events of  the last week, I'm grateful that we live in a country where we are free to read what we like. Any one of you  reader guys could go into your local library and check out whatever you'd like (with your parents' permission, of course) And you don't have to worry about soldiers banging on your door in the night because of the books in your house. That's not true in some places in the world. We shouldn't take this lightly, everyone.
And I'm very thankful for the brave men and women in this country and others who defend that  right. And I'm very glad to be in the fine Charlotte Mecklenburg library system that makes sure boys (and girls) have free access to books. And I'm also thankful for the many bloggers like our good friend Ms. Yingling who keep me and other grownups informed of terrific books.

So let's put this into practice--what books are you thankful for this year? Is it something you've read already or something you're reading now? Tell us in the Comments section--we'd love to know!


Update--today, Nov. 23, is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, hosted by author Shannon Messenger.
Check it out to find some truly cool books.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Blast form the Past--The Last River

Every once in a while I like to talk about a book I've read and reviewed before. That's what I call a Blast from the Past. Sometimes it's because I'm too busy to make a new recommendation; sometimes it's because I enjoyed a book so much that I just have to tell you about it again. And sometimes an event will trigger the memory of a terrific book that I had forgotten about. That's the case for The Last River: John Wesley Powell and the Colorado River Exploration Expedition by Stuart Waldman and illustrated by Gregory Manchess. I was fortunate enough to go to the Grand Canyon a couple of weeks ago and it made think of this book that I had reviewed waaayyy back in 2008 and hadn't thought of in years. What a terrific book! What a great adventure story! What a remarkable guy!

To be brief, John Wesley Powell was a geology professor. He had also fought in the Civil War and lost an arm. But he wouldn't let a handicap stop him and, driven by his desire to learn and see new things, he took off in 1869 to explore the Green and Colorado rivers.The only thing was that no one had ever done it before. No one. It was too dangerous. The climate was too harsh. There was no one to rescue you if you got into trouble. But, driven by his desire for adventure and knowledge (determination, adventure and learning--three things that make a guy a GUY), he set out with a band of explorers to chart this unknown territory. Did he make it? You'll have to read this unbelievable story to find out! But what a story you'll get--adventure, adventure and sheer dogged determination in the face of impossible conditions. And the illustrations--wow, they will knock your socks right off! They are beautiful, dramatic and fit this incredible story perfectly.

This book has been around a while but I'm glad to say that the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system still has five copies. And it's short enough to be a good quick read but long enough to really get into.
Don't waste a moment, guys--get out right away and bring it home!

PS--Today is Nonfiction Monday. Check it out to learn about other great nonfiction books.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Fun Read for Halloween--or Anytime

Hey, guys, today is Halloween, one of the great guy holidays of the year. I mean, what other day can you get gobs of candy and not have one grownup tell you "No"? (although the smart grownups won't let you eat it all at once) Well, the Iron Guy thinks Halloween should be all about fun and I wrote a post about that last year. And I still believe it, so I'm going to tell you about a really fun book that's perfect for Halloween.

It's Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe. This book has been around for a long time (it  was published in 1979) but there's a good  reason why it's still  around--it's a very fun read! This is the story of a vampire bunny. Written by a dog. That's right! A vampire bunny and a dog that types. Told you this would be good. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Monroe family comes home one night (a dark and stormy night) from seeing a Dracula movie. At the theatre, the youngest boy found a little rabbit on a seat and they all brought it home. Both Harold, the family dog and Chester, the cat, are curious about the newcomer but Chester notices strange things about the bunny. It has markings that look like a cape. And it has something no bunny should have--fangs! Over the next few days, they see that the the bunny sleeps all day, stays awake all night and seems to get out of its cage without unlocking it. Then--beginning with the tomato, the thing with red juice--all the vegetables in the refrigerator turn white as if something had drained all the juice out of them! Oh, no! Could this cute little bunny really be a vampire??

Oh, boy, you will truly get a kick out of this book! It's funny, it's absorbing and it's a good quick read. It's funny because it's told from Harold's goofball dog perspective. It's absorbing because you really want to find out what's going to happen with Chester trying to convince his people there's a vampire rabbit in the house. And it's only 98 pages long, so it's the perfect read for any of you who are avid readers or what the grownups call a reluctant reader. Check it out--it's a perfect and fun read for the Halloween season or any time of year. And if you've read it, write in and tell us how you liked it.

PS--there is a whole series of Bunnicula books now, so dive right in and read them all!
PPS--in the Monroe family, the dad is a college professor and the mom is a lawyer. No wonder they have a dog smart enough to write and a cat who can read.
PPS--in the spirit of fun, tell me what your favorite Halloween candy is, even if you read this review a few days later. After all, any smart kid makes Halloween candy last until Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Becca and the Prisoner's Cross--These Books Just Keep Getting Better!

Wow. Some book series just get better and better with each new installment, even when you think they can't possibly get any better. That's the case with Becca and the Prisoner's Cross by the amazing Tony Abbott.This is the fourth book in this fantastic series and I'm just amazed at how good they are, how the thrills keep coming and the mysteries deepen.

By now the plot has gotten so complicated that it would take all day to summarize it. I'll just say that 500 years ago the great astronomer Nicholas Copernicus invented a time time but when the thoroughly evil Order of Teutonic Knights tried to get it, Copernicus took the machine apart and gave twelve pieces of it to Guardians for safekeeping. Galina Krause, the current head of the Order is obsessed with finding those Relics but Wade Kaplan, along with his family and friends, race around the world to stay one step ahead of the Order and retrieve those Relics. Galina is also obsessed with time travel in general. The Order had actually invented a machine of their own but it didn't work right.

That's important to know for this book. Becca Moore, one of Wade's friends got partially zapped by Kronos, the Order's time machine, so she goes back and forth in time. In the process, she learns some incredible things, especially about Crux, the fourth Relic. Of course, the Order and its bad guys are there at every turn, stopping at no bad deed to keep the Relic from Becca and company. And how does the Order know where they will be all the time? How could one family hope to outwit trained assassins? If Becca goes back in time, why does her body stay in the present? And she gets her most important information from---well, I don't want to spoil things by telling but your jaw will fall open when you find see!

There's plenty of danger, excitement, action and mystery for any reader here. Plus the kids have to solve arcane puzzles and codes to locate the Relic. Plus there's a lot about the mysteries and dangers and contradictions of time travel. Plus there's an emotional punch and depth to these characters that you don't always get in thrillers or scifi. And this is truly one the most unusual but successful marriages of scifi and thriller I've ever read.

I've got the next full-length book, The Golden Vendetta and can't wait to start it! If you're a fan, go find it. If you're not already a fan, don't waste any time but go check out the first book, The Forbidden Stone, and get all caught up in the world of The Copernicus Legacy!

This gets the Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One Really Terrific Book!

PS--this is actually the second book in the Copernicus Archives books, which are sort of "in between" books. They take place between the full-length books and each one is narrated by one of the characters.  (Yes, it's a little complicated but, since this is an"in-between" this "second" book in this series is actually the fourth book in the overall story) But don't think you could skip these! A lot of important information comes out here.

PPS--there's a good Copernicus Legacy website.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library--a Fun Book

And what a fun book it was! And what a library it was! Holographic librarians, 10-foot tall images projected onto a Wonder Dome, anti-gravity boots that take you up to the top shelves of high bookcases--but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.

In the little town of Alexandriaville, Ohio, the town's library was torn down twelve years ago but the
billionaire game designer Luigi Lemoncello has rebuilt it in the old bank building. As a grand opening, he will choose some kids to participate in a game--find a way out of the library within 24 hours after being locked in. (there's a good reason why he was so attached to that old library and decided to build the new one) But to get into the contest, each kid has to write an essay on why he or she should be chosen.
Kyle Keely, seventh grader, has played all of Mr. Lemoncello's board games and video games and would love to get into the grand opening game but forgot to write the essay. So, about 30 minutes before it's due, he scribbles down on one page. But guess what--he gets chosen! Along with his friends Akimi and Miguel, the cheerleader Haley Daley, the bookworm Sierra and spoiled rich kid Charles Chiltington. The whole town cheers as the kids go into the library for the game--and this is no ordinary library but a high-tech grand palace of a library, complete with marble floors, a cafe, holograms, a private suite with video games, and a basement where robotic arms retrieve books from the shelves. But getting out will be a lot tougher than they thought. Mr. Lemoncello is, to say the least, eccentric. They all have to decipher clues to get out and those clues lie in odd places all over that enormous library. And they are much more difficult to decode than expected. Can Kyle and friends even find them all? If they do, could they possibly understand those obscure references? And don't forget that bratty Charles Chiltington is planning to win and keep all the fabulous prizes for himself--and Chiltingtons never lose!

This was a very fun book. Chris Grabestein knows how to keep the action moving along. You also get a chance to figure out the clues along with the characters, which is always fun. (check out the puzzle in chapter 28)  I found myself really rooting for the characters, some of whom really need to win this contest. And there are references to other great books all over, as in chapter 36 when the kids ask Mr. Lemoncello the consequences of losing a round of a game and he says, "Something bad...In fact, something wicked will probably this way come." And you guys will just LOVE the eccentric and unpredictable Mr. Lemoncello, who will remind you a lot of Willy Wonka. How could you not like a guy who wears shoes that make burp-sqeeking noises! In short, this is a book guys would really enjoy. This guy did! Plus, there's a really cool interview with the author at the end of the book. So how could you lose? Check this one out, boys. And don't forget that it's the Community Read Book for this year.

So let me ask a couple of questions to start a community discussion:

Why is the town called "Alexandriaville"? (hint--it has to do with a library)

Remember Mr. Lemoncello's quote about "something wicked"? What book did it come from? And who was the author?

What would you rather have--a tour of Willy Wonka's candy factory or Mr. Lemoncello's library?

All, right, guys, can't wait to hear those answers!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Community Reads a Very Cool Book

That's right, guys, the library system will hold a Community Read from September 27--October 17. That means we'll try to get as many people as possible to read the same book. This year we've got a really fun book for all of us reader guys--it's Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.

So what's the purpose of a Community Read? The grownups say, in fancy grownup language, "A Community Read is designed to bring people together to talk about a single book and to establish a community of readers and learners." In other words, we want to get a whole lot of people in the Charlotte area to read a particular book, talk about it, have fun talking about it and even get into some interesting discussions. That's what I'd like to do with Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. I'll write a review soon (I'm about halfway through the book) and it would be great if a lot of boys sent me reviews on this book. I will also, later on, post some questions related to this book and you could answer them. That could make for some fun and lively discussions! Remember that the instructions for sending in reviews are on the left-hand side of this page.

By the way, if you haven't already noticed, the library has redesigned its website. It's very cool and a lot easier to use. If you go to the site,, click on the Services box, then click on the Children's Services box and scroll down, you'll see a section of eight resources for kids and adults. Included in that section is this blog! Pretty neat, huh? I owe a great debt of thanks to Jessica Davis and Katy Rust, two of the library's technical magicians, who worked long and hard to get it there. (and don't mind that this blog is located in the Children's section--the library didn't have room to create a MANLY MAN section to put our blog)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thrills, Adventure and Big International Conspiracies

Listen up , guys, and look at this blog's mission statement up in the upper left-hand corner. What does it say? "A place for boys to find terrific books and tell other boys about great reading." Got that? Well, I recently finished one of the most terrific reads of this year or for the last couple of years, for that matter. It was the second book in the unbelievably good, exciting and utterly absorbing Copernicus Legacy series by the terrifically talented Tony Abbott. Which book was it? The Serpent's Curse. Wow. What a great time I had reading this book!

To give you a little backstory, let me repeat the synopsis from another review:

"Wade Kaplan's father, astronomer Roald Kaplan, gets a mysterious message from Uncle Henry in Germany. When the family goes to investigate, they find Uncle Henry murdered! Then they find out that they are involved in something they couldn't have imagined--a world -wide search for hidden artifacts that could determine the destiny of the world. They learn that famous scientist Nicholas Copernicus invented a time-traveling device 400 years ago but the thoroughly evil Teutonic Order of Knights tried to get hold of it. To stop them, Copernicus dismantled the device and gave the twelve key components to Guardians to hide around the world. Wade and family and friends must travel the world to solve puzzles and clues to find the relics before the Order does."

So, at the beginning of this book, we find out that Wade's mom, Sara, has been kidnapped by the tremendously evil  Galina Krausse, head of  the Teutonic Order. It turns out that the Order created their own time machine and Galina wants to send the Sara back in time to spy on Copernicus! So not only do the Kaplans have to find Serpens, the next Relic, but they have to rescue Sara before she's sent on a one-way trip back in time! Is it possible?  Against the world-wide and incredibly powerful Teutonic Kinghts?

Wow, wow, wow! What a great thrill ride this book was! There's a car chase in Manhattan, a narrow escape from an exploding apartment in Moscow, a speedboat chase in Vienna and a pulse-pounding finale in an abandoned fortress. Do you guys want mystery? It's here--what's the background on Galina Krausse? Why does she seem to have vivid memories of Copernicus? Why does she have such a strong reaction to the name "Rubashov?" What is it about creepy Bartolo Cassa that "is simply not quite right"? Do you want humor? It's here--just listen to Dr. Rosemary Billinng...ham talk!

In other words, boys---CHECK THIS BOOK OUT! And if you haven't started the series, go get The Forbidden Stone (see my review) and READ THESE FANTASTIC BOOKS!!

This gets the Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One REALLY Terrific Book!