Monday, October 31, 2016

Justin Steps Up to the Plate

Hey, everyone, we've got a great Halloween treat for you. Our good friend Justin has sent two reviews for the World Series of Reading Contest. Let's see what he's read lately:

No Talking by Andrew Clements 
Genre: Realistic, School Fiction
Age Group: Middle Grade (8-12)
Publishing Date: June 27th 2007 by Atheneum Books

Summary: Goodreads: ""You have the right to remain silent." However... 

The fifth-grade girls and the fifth-grade boys at Laketon Elementary don't get along very well. But the real problem is that these kids are loud and disorderly. That's why the principal uses her red plastic bullhorn. A lot. 

Then one day Dave Packer, a certified loudmouth, bumps into an idea -- a big one that makes him try to keep quiet for a whole day. But what does Dave hear during lunch? A girl, Lynsey Burgess, jabbering away. So Dave breaks his silence and lobs an insult. And those words spark a contest: Which team can say the fewest words during two whole days? And it's the boys against the girls. 

How do the teachers react to the silence? What happens when the principal feels she's losing control? And will Dave and Lynsey plunge the whole school into chaos? 

This funny and surprising book is about language and thought, about words unspoken, words spoken in anger, and especially about the power of words spoken in kindness...with or without a bullhorn. It's Andrew Clements at his best -- thought-provoking, true-to-life, and very entertaining"

What I Liked: I've read this book a thousand times and it's a book where it simply doesn't get old. The Harry Potter fan will say books like Harry Potter never get old, but we all know that eventually, it's boring. But for some reason No Talking has always been my go to book whenever I'm at the library, even though I literally know exactly how it is going to play out. No Talking is a fast-paced book, and it's a battle-of-the-sexes which results in pure hilariousness. I've always loved Clements work, and this is the poster child of my argument.

What I didn't Like: If I will say something, this book is by no means for the literary genius who earns to read books like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby every hour. This books was targeted for the eight, nine, and ten year old kids who want a fun book to read. I'm not sure why a fourteen-year old freshman like me decides to feature books like this, but I feel like they're worth talking about. 

Rating: 8.6 out of ten.

Why? I mean, it's a classic, but it does have it's flaws, some of which the fact that it's not a very long book, which means that at times I wanted a little more description. 

 Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

Summary: Benjamin Ripley, a 12 year old living your average middle school life is being recruited for a science academy, secretly a spy school. Oh it's just another typical recruitment with a top-notch spy appearing in your living room after a long day of school. Ben has a "cryptography" skill and even though he bombs his SACSA's (basically a pre-assesement in self-preservation) he's kept in the school because of his "talent" for cryptography. Along the way he meets Erica Hale- the most beautiful girl he's ever seen, the best student in spy school's history, and a legacy (she's even related to all time spy legend Nathan Hale) But the introverted isolated Erica reaches out to Ben and reveals he has no skill whatsoever. Instead, he's being used as bait for something called Operation Creeping Badger, a plan created by the CIA to weed out the mole in Spy School. Ben decides to hop on the
train for one main reason: getting to spend time with Erica. I mean for three years she's practically been lonelier than a rock on a deserted island and now she reaches out to a nerd like Ben? Not only does it bring us his coolness by a mile, but spending time with your crush is the best feeling ever. But is it worth if it you end up being dead? Follow Stuart Gibbs's fantastic thriller through elaborate plans, midnight escapes, and lots of gun fighting as Ben and friends try to answer the question: Who's the mole? Oh and try to not get killed in the process.

What I liked: Everything? But seriously, it's just a well-written book. Humorous moments were weaved well into the diverse book. Lots of actions scenes, which of course you'd expect from a James Bond-esque book. I definitely liked the inclusion of a legacy in a book. I mean if you think about it any time you read about a private school there's always someone "who's great grand-father was the founder" or something like that. Not only is Erica's deceased relatives the founders of the school, but the country in general has been at the mercy of their family. I could talk for about 10 pages of how this book is awesome, but I feel like there wouldn't be any point to it.

What I didn't like: Let me just start out with saying: the cursing. Yes, there are bad words in this novel, but keep in mind this: I talked to the author himself and he said that he only stuck in the various language because it could give some character to the book, to spice things up. He was advised to do so by somebody (an editor I think?) and so he did and he received a million hate comments for it. He's removed all bad language from the rest of his books (unless you consider "stupid" "dumb" and "idiot" bad words) Another thing I didn't like was the classic format for all middle grade books. While it varies, in MG if we're talking about a kid and school it's always: There's a loser at blah blah school. Suddenly he catches a break and he talks to his crush. For half the book everything is really awesome with only minor flaws. Then there's a huge conflict at the end. The ending is either "YAY! We made it!" or "Aw, we lost" I feel like I could explain the plot of this book at a general level using the normal MG format, and while it's not bad, it's just overused.

Final Thoughts: A really, really, really great book with some minor flaws but nothing enough to make it bad.

Rating on 'the scale': 9.5 out of ten

Why? Minor flaws but nothing major. Really a great books that keeps things exciting and fresh.

Related: Spy School series by Stuart Gibbs/ Playing w/ Fire series by Bruce Hale/ Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Wow, Justin, these are very thorough reviews! Thanks! A lot of guys like Spy School and that whole series gets checked out of our library all the time. Andrew Clements writes terrific books. You'll probably read Frindle some time in high or middle school but he has, as you can see, written other good stuff. And that was a great idea to give us related books for Spy School.

All right, guys, just as Chicago has created excitement by forcing a Game 6 of the World Series, Justin has created excitement by scoring points for his reviews--a Single for his No Talking review and a Double for Spy School, giving him a total of three points! That's a very good starting lead but I bet there are other guys out there who could hit some Doubles and Triples of their own--maybe even some Home Runs! Will YOU be the one? Send in those reviews and build the suspense in the World Series of Reading!

PS--check out Justin's terrific blog, Justin Talks Books.

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