Monday, December 23, 2013

Presidents as Tough Guys

This is the time of year when bloggers post their Favorites of 2013 lists or Best Books for the Holidays lists but the Iron Guy, never afraid to do things differently, is going to do something, well, different. I'm going to recommend a couple of biographies. These would make great reading over the break. As well as doing some fun reading like Unstoppable: No Where to Run, it's good sometimes to read about real-life people and learn from the great lives they led. Two of the best biographies I've read in a long time are To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport and Lincoln: A Photobiography by the great Russell Freedman. (BTW, this blog post also appears in the Nonfiction Monday blog)

The first one is brand new; in fact, I got it just a couple of days ago. It's a terrific story of a remarkable man.
Theodore Roosevelt was, in some ways, one of the toughest guys ever in the White House. He herded cattle for three years in the Dakotas, led the Rough Riders in the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War and galloped around Washington DC every morning on horseback. but he didn't start out that way. Teddy was a sickly child--he "coughed, sneezed, wheezed, had raging fevers, and hardly ate. His asthma was so bad that he had to sleep sitting up in bed or in a big chair." But he didn't let that stop him. He lifted weights, climbed mountains and exercised enough to build his body into health. He also read "books about the soldiers at Valley Forge and frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone" saying, "I felt a great admiration for men who were fearless. I had a great desire to be like them." As a politician and president, he fearlessly took on corrupt police departments, city governments and business monopolies. Not only that, he explored the western wilderness, fell in love with and preserved much of the great outdoor USA as National Parks. TR lived an epic life and this is an epic book. The story is interesting and the illustrations are great. And it's a Good Quick Read. I finished it in about a half hour, but it has stayed with me. What a guy! What a story! What a book! And it's a fun read too--just wait until you read about the giant tortoise escapin in his college dorm room!

The other book is older (it came out in 1987) but it's still good. In fact, it's one of the most remarkable books I've read this year. Lincoln: A Photobiography is another epic story about an epic life. Abraham Lincoln was the essential American success story; the poor uneducated boy who became President. He was born in the middle of nowhere to parents "who couldn't read or write at all." but decided to educate himself out of poverty. He borrowed books whenever he could and read all the time. He would even "carry a book out to the field with him, so he could read at the end of each plow furrow while the horse was getting its breath." Eventually he learned law and went into politics. Not only was he physically tough ("his hard physical had given him a tough, lean boy with muscular arms like steel cables") but he was morally and mentally tough, taking on things that would have crushed many other men. He kept the country going during the Civil War when most everyone wanted to give up, fought tirelessly to end slavery, endured criticism for years (being called once "the original gorilla") and all this time having to fight against sever depression. But, in the end, he triumphed. He won the war, ended slavery and became the most respected man of his time. Until his tragic end. I need to say it again--What a guy! What a story! And what a book!! Russell Friedman is a powerful writer and really brings this tremendous story to life. I've read a lot about Abraham Lincoln but still found myself turning page after page to keep reading this incredible story. And it won the Newbery award for best kids' book of the year in 1988. Rightly so.

And do you what these two great men had in common? Other facing up to great challenges? Other than leaving their worlds better places? Other than bringing themselves up out of bad childhood situations?





That's right, guys. One of the ways they brought themselves out bad circumstances was reading books. Roosevelt inspired himself with books about soldiers and frontiersmen. Lincoln read books and educated himself into a better life. READING CHANGES LIVES. Remember that. That's why I run this blog. Get books into your hands, boys, and who knows what you could accomplish.

Well, thanks for letting onto my soapbox. If you want to read about how reading changes lives, click on the "Being Teddy Roosevelt" tab under this post under this post and see my review of that terrific book. If you'd like to read about another book by Russell Freedman (about Valley Forge!), click on the "Russell Freedman" tab. Same thing if you want to learn about more biographies.

 I hope all of you have a great holiday season.
 And be sure to write in to us!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Unstoppable--More 39 Clues Excitement!

The votes are all in from the Battle Bunny vs Barbarian Battle Bear poll and guess what--we had a tie!! So neither of them won! Would that mean they'd be locked in everlasting battle? I was afraid that would happen but then the quick-thinking Iron Guy did what he does best--he got out the right book. Battle Bunny got into it so much that he forgot his plans for world domination.

And what book was it? You guessed it-- Unstoppable: Nowhere to Run by Jude Watson. It's the first book in the newest 39 Clues series. And it's good!

Amy and Dan Cahill are back but now they're facing their greatest challenge yet. A big media mogul named J. Rutherford Pierce has sent his minions to photo Dan and Amy and smear their names in his tabloids. And muscular goons are following them--and nearly killing them! J. Rutherford Pierce looks unnaturally healthy. He put together a huge media empire in 6 months, when he had failed at all his businesses before. How did he get to be so crafty and smart? And why his goons super strong? Why don't they get tired? Is it possible that Pierce found the formula to the Cahill serum? If so, he truly is unstoppable! That's bad news for the rest of the world. Are Dan, Amy and friends even able to stop the unstoppable. For the world's sake, they'll have to! Otherwise--well, it's too terrible to think of what will happen!

This book has all the things we guys love about The 39 Clues--fast-paced action, narrow escapes, ultra-bad villains, old secrets hidden in cryptic codes and exotic locations. All our friends are back too; Jake and Atticus, Ian Kabra, Jonah Wizard and Hamilton Holt, as well as new ones like Pony, the ultimate computer geek. And new villains too, like J. Rutherford Pierce and Waldo, who is really April, the ultimate computer hacker. Plus, as always, there's a coded message. Can you crack it, guys? (hint--Greek alphabet)
I really enjoyed this one and hope the rest of the books in this series will be as good. I was, frankly, disappointed in the last book of the Cahills vs Vespers series--too many loose ends and no real background to Vespers One's identity and no explanation of how the Doomdsay device worked--but the first book in that series was really good. I was disappointed when that series, that started out so well, ended the way it did. I hope this one stays as good as this first book. But if they are--well, we have a really fun ride ahead!

I know this book has been out for a while but, if you haven't read it, it would be great to have over the holiday break. If you haven't read The 39 Clues, start with The Maze of Bones and read the whole series. The 39 Clues website too. it's a lot of fun! What a great way to spend all those days between now and the day after New Year.

And are there any 39 Clues fans out there? Any Agents? If so, what branch are you? I don't mind saying that I'm a Tomas. Just the right branch for the IRON GUY!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Battle Bunny Invades the Library!!

I was in the library, minding my own business and reading one of my favorites

when I heard a voice say, "Today is my special day and I will take over the world!" I looked behind me and saw

Battle Bunny!!

"I'm the Iron Guy and I'll stop you!" I said as I prepared to defend my library.

But, with his special powers on his special day, even the Iron Guy wasn't tough enough.

I thought the library was doomed until I heard another voice say, "Unhand my friend!" We looked up and saw

Birthdayarbarian Battle Bear!!

The two enemies squared off--but who will win?

Will Battle Bunny take over the library and the world?? Or will Barbarian Battle Bear stop his evil plans?

 Only YOU can decide!! 

Vote on the poll on the left-hand side of the page. I'll leave it up through December 15. On December 16, I'll let you know whether Battle Bunny or Barbarian Battle Bear wins. So vote, guys--the fate of the library and the world is in your hands!!

UPDATE--OK, the battle between the two titans is still raging, so I'll extend the deadline. The poll will now stay open through December 19. VOTE!!! And may the best battle animal win!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

You're Never Too Old for Battle Bunny!

Even though the holiday season is upon us and Thanksgiving is past, I'm still thankful for great writers like Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett who consistently give guys hilarious books. Mr. Scieszka has, of course, made us laugh and thrill with the Time Warp Trio series and also The Stinky Cheese Man. Mac Barnett has earned his Guy Reading stars with the Brixton Brothers mysteries as well as Count the Monkeys. This time they've combined their tremendous talents (along with marvelous illustrator Matthew Myers) and given us Battle Bunny, one of the most fun and original things I've read in a long time.

Here's what you need to know before you start--this book has not been messed up!!! Some one did not come into the library and go crazy with a Sharpie! The idea is that this book was originally one of the sugary-sweet, cutesy-wootsy picture books about a sweet little bunny on his birthday--the kind of book that's OK to get when you're four years old. However, some good-intentioned grandmother gave it to a boy named Alex, who is obviously too old for it. Yet the grandmother apparently still thinks he's four! Alex, who is a good boy I'm sure, probably received it graciously but quickly got tired of it, went to his room, crossed out parts and wrote his own story in there. And what a story it is--just the kind any GUY would like!! The cute little bunny is now Battle Bunny and starts off through the woods (chopping through the woods instead of hopping through them), mentally enslaving the other woodland animals in his evil plan to take over the world. No one can stop him!! The president is desperate and calls the one person who may be tough enough to end the evil scheme-and that person is ALEX! But can he fight off all the other woodland animals?? Will battle Bunny actually dominate the world??

YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THIS, GUYS! It's funny!! Don't worry that it's in the picture book section; you'll be really glad once you find it. Go and check out Battle Bunny--before he comes and chops through your woods!