Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Two Terrific Books by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel
Summer Reading is always the busiest time of year for the Iron Guy and this year has been no exception. I meant to tell you about two really good books that I read/listened to during the 48 Hour Book Challenge back in June but I got soooo busy with Summer Reading that I'm just now finding the time to let you know about them. But that doesn't mean my enthusiasm for these truly terrific books has waned in these two months--in fact, I'm still excited about them and hope you'll check them out. Both of them are by the outstanding Kenneth Oppel, an author I've heard a lot about but have never read his stuff. Well, I am here to say undoubtedly that I'm now a fan! This guy packs a lot of action, mystery, adventure in his books. And there is even some depth in them that would make great topics for discussions.

The first is The Boundless and it was recommended by our friend Micah. I'm glad I took him up on this recommendation because I really enjoyed this! What's it about? The library's catalog page summarizes it well:

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across Canada, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life! When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past. In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will's father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

Yep, that's a good summary. but is leaves out a few things. The train is 1000 cars and about seven miles long! There are actual sasquatch and other creatures of legend (some of them really nasty) living in those Canadian woods. I can't begin to tell you how much action there is in this story! It's an epic tale and you'll really get into it. Besides, it doesn't tell you that Will joins the magicians in the circus and learns a lot of their tricks. That leads to a lot of question of what is real on the train and what's a trick, an illusion. (told you there'd be good discussion topics!)

The second is Airborn. What a great story! I actually listened to this. It's what they call a Playaway--basically an MP3 player with a book loaded on it. And what a tremendous job they did with it. It was produced by Full Cast Audio, a company put together by that great kids' author Bruce Coville. They hire one actor to read the book (and, in this case, play the main character) and have other actors to be the other characters. It really works and makes the book play out like a movie in your head. Here's what the book is about:

 Matt Cruse has the life he has always dreamed of as a cabin boy on the Aurora, a luxury passenger airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean. Then one night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies who are completely real and utterly mysterious. Matt eventually teams up with Kate, a wealthy young girl traveling with her chaperone, team up to search for the existence of those mysterious winged creatures. Why? Because the dying balloonist was her grandfather! But, before they can start their search, they run across---well, I'm not going to tell you! Ha ha ha  ha! But, believe me, it changes everything and makes things much, much more dangerous.

Interested? I bet! You really gotta read this one. Or get the Playway version and listen to it. It's long--about 10 hours and it takes the first four chapters to build this marvelous world--but, once the action starts, you won't be able to pull yourself away.

So go out and get these. But be aware, these are listed as YA books primarily because of the length and complexity which would make them more suitable for older readers guys. (I bet someone from 10--14 would like them) Also, although, there is nothing really graphically graphic in these books, the bad guys meet gruesome ends. But, for your older or more advanced reader guys, I couldn't think of anything more perfect!

And, to whet your appetites, here's a book trailer for The Boundless. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Blast from the Past--the Barnstormers/Sluggers Series

Getting-near-the-end-of-summer greetings, guys. Some of you have already started school and some of you (like the kids in Charlotte) have another whole week until that first day. But in either case, it's
still summer. Glorious summer! There are still sports to see and play, there are still places to go (a lot of people in Charlotte head down to the beach) and there are still cool books to read. So that's why the Iron Guy wants to recommend what may be the perfect summer books--the Barnstormers/Sluggers series by Loren Long and Phil Bildner. I read these and wrote about them a long time ago but I still see them getting checked out, so I know kids are still reading them. As I said, these are perfect for summer--they have baseball, magic, travel, danger and suspense, all wrapped up in six terrific books. You want to know what they're about? Here's a brief summary I wrote in 2008:

It's about the Payne family; the three kids Griffith, Ruby, Graham and their mom. Where's the father? He didn't come back from the Spanish-American War (the books are set in 1899) The father's friends from the war (they were all in Colonel Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders) formed a baseball team called the Travelin' Nine. They plan to go around the country and play exhibition games in order to raise money for the Payne family, who owes ten thousand dollars! The father left them his baseball, but when the kids put their hands on it, strange things, and I mean really strange things, happen during the games. Could the baseball be magic? And who is this creepy guy called The Chancellor and why does Uncle Owen tell the kids to beware of him? Why does Uncle Owen tell them that they are in  very great danger, particularly young Graham? And, whatever they do, don't let the Chancellor know about the ball!!!You got to read these books!!! They'll suck you into the story and make you want to get the next one right away!!

Yes, indeed, you've got to read these books! The library system has plenty of copies, If you'd like to know more about them, click on the "Barnstormers" or the "Sluggers" tabs under this post. (the series changed its name from "Barnstormers" to "Sluggers" halfway through the series) Don't waste a moment, boys--you're gonna love them!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dave McDonald Visit and a Terrific Bone

Making a character by simply drawing ovals and circles
Hey there and middle-of-August greetings to all reader guys everywhere. We had a great time with author/illustrator Dave McDonald yesterday. He's very cool, a lot of fun and the author and illustrator of the Hamster S.A.M. books. (see my review here) We had a really good time. First he told us a little bit about himself, then about comics and graphic novels in general. Then he took us on a fun adventure, showing us how to create our own comics. It was amazing because he showed us that we could make very cool comics using simple shapes. First he showed us how to create one by drawing an oval. Be adding smaller ovals and lines, we created Super Egg characters flying at super speed! Of course, being GUYS, one of us created a MONSTER EGG!
The Monster Egg!
Then he showed how to make super heroes with simple shapes and finally made a very cool character in 20 seconds by drawing a square! (if you ever see Mr. McDonald, be sure to ask him about the friendly hairy monster in the ice cream tree forest and the evil Mr. Melty) As I said, we all had a very good time and even learned a lot. Thanks, Mr. McDonald! If he ever comes to another library near you, be sure to see him.

When he talked about graphic novels, he mentioned the Bone series, one of the best ever created.(find out what we've written about them  here) There's a great new edition of the first book in the series. It's Out from Boneville: Tribute Edition by Jeff Smith. Why is it a Tribute Edition? Because Scholastic book publisher kicked off its Grpahix line by printing the first full-color versions of the Bone graphic novels. This one has the Out from Boneville story, a preview of the second book plus a new original piece by Jeff Smith and several pages of artwork inspired by Bone done by famous artists and illustrators. I couldn't think of a better gn to check out for the long-time or first-time Bone reader. Don't miss it, boys!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hamster S.A.M. Author Visit!

That's right, the one and only Dave McDonald, author of the funny
Hamster S.A.M. books will be here this coming Tuesday, August 11 at 2:00 pm

He'll show us how to create our own comics. Sounds like a lot of fun! Call the Myers Park library at 704-416-5800 to register. (this program is for ages 7 and up. Of course, girls are invited too!) Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Oh, Yeah, Yeah,Yeah

Summertime, summertime! Life is good, you're out of school, theme parks are open, you're out of school, burgers are on the grills, and you're out of school--I think you get the idea. Life is also busy at the library during the summer. In fact, it's our busiest time of year and that's why the Iron Guy hasn't written much lately. We've been fortunate to have guys like Winnux send in cool reviews but now I'll talk, over the next week or two, about a few things I've read and liked.

The first is Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! The Beatles, Beatlemania and the Music That Changed the World by Bob Spitz. It's a terrific book, a really good story and chock full of information for old Beatles fans like me or new fans--maybe like you!

The Beatles----there's never been a group like them and there probably never will be again. Their music is still fresh and exciting after 50 years and it still rocks! They started out as raw teenagers and became the most accomplished group of musicians rock and roll ever produced. They were the first rock band to receive awards from British royalty. The Shea Stadium concert in 1965 was the first big outdoor rock concert. They lived a legendary life in a legendary time and this book makes you see and feel how amazing it all was. The story is certainly enthralling--four unknown boys from Liverpool, England become the most famous band in the world. Along the way they encounter great success and fame but also meet tragedy, drugs and the enormous costs of all that fame. Eventually the band broke up, of course, but their music lives on and on. This book tells the story very well, making you cheer for the boys when, after many setbacks, they hit the big time and then feel for them when things don't go as well. Bob Spitz is a good writer and makes keep reading and reading, dying to find out what happens in each chapter. I couldn't put the book down--even me, who knew the story because I lived through that whole era! And there are lots of sidebars with great info on the songs, the fans and the Beatles themselves. This is a good one, guys, so head over to your library and check it out. Then download some of their great tunes or ask to borrow your parents' Beatles cd's (the best one to start out with is the collection of Number 1 hits) or, better yet, check to see anyone your parents know has any vinyl Beatles albums. (Hey, vinyl has become cool again!)

And to prove how great those guys were, here is a video of the Beatles in their early days doing "Twist and Shout." It's a compilation of their different styles in their earlier days but just listen to this--hear that snarl in John Lennon's voice, then listen in wonder as he strains it upward for the upper reaches of what a voice can do, and watch Paul and George rock out on bass and rhythm guitar and see Ringo beat those drums as the whole group rocks the song to its max.

Rock on, guys, and check out that book!