Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day! And Who DID Win the Boys vs Girls War?

Ah, faith and begora, and it's a happy St. Patrick's Day I hope you're having! This is Iron Guy O'Carl, wearing his green and enjoying the day. St. Patrick was a really remarkable guy. I hope you find some good biographies of him at your library because it's quite a story--being abducted by slavers, escaping and going back several years later to minister to the very nation who had captured him. That takes a truly MANLY MAN! But beside that, you could make a very strong argument that we might not even have libraries today if it had not been for Patrick of Ireland. He established a lot of monasteries around those Celtic isles and they were about the only places that had books. After Rome fell and the tide of barbarism swept over Europe, bringing in the Dark Ages, those monasteries kept books and reading alive. So we owe a lot to that man and have a good reason to celebrate!

And I have another reason--I've finally finished the Boys vs Girls series by the great Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It's been a lot, a lot, a LOT of fun to read and I'm sorry that it's over! If you haven't read any of my reviews of the other books, (which you could do by clicking on the Girls Against the Boys tab under this post) here's the background:

The books take place in the town of Buckman, West Virginia and involves two families, the Hartfords and Malloys. The Hartfords have four boys: 11-year-old twins Jake and Josh, nine-year-old Wally and seven-year-old Peter. Their best friends are their neighbors, the Benson boys. But then, Mr. Benson, a coach, takes a job in Georgia and the Malloy family rents his house for a year. The Hartford boys really miss their friends but look forward to having new boys move in. Imagine their reactions, then, when they learn that their new neighbors will be girls!! They decide to pull so many tricks on these new girls that their lives will be miserable and they'll  move away--but they don't count on the smartness and resilience of the three girls--eleven-year-old Eddie (Edith Ann), eight-year-old Caroline and nine-year-old Beth. Sometimes the tricks against the girls work but then the girls pull pranks of their own! And sometimes things happen that no one expects! That's when things get really funny!

But, with these last three books, the school year ends and the Malloys may have to move back to Ohio. The boys AND the girls start reflecting on all their tricks and pranks and realize what fun they've had. Good heavens--will they actually MISS each other???

Girls Rule--it's the last month of school. It's also the month for the annual Strawberry Festival. The kids who make enough money for the new children's wing of the hospital get either all the strawberry snacks they want or a chance to get into the parade. How will they make enough? After a lot of failed ideas, someone thinks of a car wash. But the girls and boys have to work at it together--can that possibly happen?

Boys Rock (oh, yeah!! Gotta love that title!)--the school year is over and summer living is easy. But there are summer assignments for school. Either they have to read books off a list or put out three issues of a newspaper. They decide on the newspaper but guess what? Eddie gets to be editor-in-chief! Will that cause trouble? What do you think! And what does Caroline see in the window of the old (maybe haunted) house? And what does Wally think lives under the trapdoor of Oldakkers' bookstore? You won't guess--but you will smile when you read about them! (ps--Mr. Malloy has to decide if he'll stay in Buckman or move back to Ohio)

Who Won the War?--now it's the end of summer. Will the Malloys move or stay? I won't tell you!! You'll have to find out for yourself! But there is a big twist in the middle that may be the best incident yet. And also--will Mad Bomber Bill actually blow anything up?

One of the very great pleasures of running this blog is finding books that don't get as much attention as the latest and hottest favorites. These books are some of the most fun I've read for a long while and they certainly deserve to have  more guys reading them. So get over to your library! Read them! Enjoy them! I bet you'll have as much fun as I did.

Note to the grownups: These books are like a breath of pure fresh air. Our good friend Ms Yingling has complained about all the depressing books published these days. Well, here's a welcome antidote to all that. The kids pull pranks but nothing seriously bad happens, although, in the spirit of reality, some things could have happened and the parents make sure their kids know it. And that's the great thing--all the parents are alive, they care about their kids and they are smart and involved. And both the boys and girls are good but not unrealistic. They do chores without complaining, are respectful but yet sneak off to pull a prank or fulfill a dare.
One more thing--there are twelve books in this series. The first came out in 1993 before email, smartphones or widespread use of the Internet. When one girl gets locked in a shed by the boys, she waits until her sisters come by and she yells. Some of your readers might say, "Why didn't she just whip out her phone and call for help?" And the boys send actual letters to their friends in Georgia in the first few books!! Could your kids even imagine that these days? These things may make the earlier books hard to relate to but both boys and girls can relate to all the funny stuff that happens. One more thing--the last book came out in 2006. By then the boys send emails to their friends, play video games and the girls use a story off the Internet to fool the boys. Much more up-to-date. Yet they spend a rainy afternoon playing Monopoly and summer days on a rope swing--not staring at hand-held devices. More fresh air.

So listen up, boys! Play your video games on your computers if you'd like but ride bikes! Play board games! Read books! There's a lot of fun in these things.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Once Again--It's March Madness, Baybeee!!

Yes, yes, yes, reader guys, March has come once again. Wonderful, glorious March, the month for March Madness. This is one of the great sports events of the year and it's exciting every time. Each year there are stunning upsets. Each year some unknown Cinderella team comes up from nowhere and, even for a moment, startles the whole world. And, in the last few years, the teams that ended up in the finals were NOT the teams everyone predicted. It's great! The games are exciting and a party atmosphere fills the country. Therefore, in honor of this great event, I'm going to do something I haven't done in a long time--hold a March Madness of Reading contest! This will be a lot of fun--you get to read cool books and three guys will win prizes from our ultra-cool prize box. The contest starts now and will continue through March 31. I'll announce the winners soon after that.

The rules are simple--you write in book reviews and you get points. The three guys with the most points at the end of the month wins. As I said, simple. You could write about any book, fiction or nonfiction. Or a graphic novel. Or a biography. (I'll tell you how to send in your reviews in a minute) Every book review is worth at least one point. Got that? Each book is worth at least ONE POINT.

But then, there are some books that I don't think get enough attention. So, each review of one of the following books is worth TWO POINTS:

Any book in the Brixton Brothers series by Mac Barnett

Any book in the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look

    Any book in the Boys vs Girls series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

    Or any of the Lunch Lady graphic novels

    Or any one of the three Fangbone graphic novels

    Or the nonfiction book Stubby: The War Dog

Got that? OK, I've got more. There are some longer books that also don't get enough love. Each review of one these is worth THREE POINTS:

Any of the truly great Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales graphic novels

Any book in the Leviathan trilogy by the talented Scott Westereld

Lincoln: A Photobiography by the great Russell Freedman

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by the terrific Alan Silberberg

But wait--there's more! I have three favorites that really should be read more often. They are much longer, all three are older and a bit harder but not that difficult. And they are GREAT STORIES!!

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (one of The Books Every Guy Should Read)      

The Yearling by Marjorie Keenan Rawlings (an epic story of growing up in the Florida wilderness)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (the greatest pirate story of all time)                      

All right, ready to start reading and sending in your reviews? Good. Here's what you do:

1. Go to the "Comments" area under this post or any post.
2. Type up your review in the blank space under where it says "Leave your comment." Be sure to give us the book's title, its author, a BRIEF summary of the plot and why you did or didn't like the book. Don't just say, "This book was cool"; tell us WHY you liked it.
3. Here's the tricky part--under the Comments area is a place that says "Choose an Identity." It gives you a choice of signing up with a Google account, an Open ID account, or you could use a name and a URL or you could be anonymous. (I wish you wouldn't be anonymous; how would I know who to give the prize to?) You DON'T have to create a Google account! And you DON'T have to use Open ID. The best thing, if you've never written to us before, is to use the Name/URL option. You don't have to put in a URL but we would appreciate leaving your name--either your full name or your first name or you could make up a name. (like Turkeyhead)

If you have any questions or don't understand something, call me at 704-416-5800 or come by the Myers Park library and see me. I'll post the reviews and points at least once a week. OK? Then get going and may the best guy win!!!

PS--if you want to see some of the past March Madness contests, click here and here and here.