Monday, March 31, 2008

Heidi's Challenge List

Original posted at Adventures in Multiplicity.

Some of those memes that make the circuit of the blogging world are reading challenges. People commit to reading a certain number of books from a certain list in a certain amount of time. In fact, one of the challenge bloggers I'm joining is "absolutely obsessed with reading challenges." I've decided to participate in the Printz Award Challenge. I can handle reading 6 young adult books that I just might read anyway. I have until the end of the year. Indeed I've previously read 3 of the Printz books: Skellig by David Almond; Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, by Louise Rennison; and A Step from Heaven by An Na.

My list to read before 2009:

  • The Book Thief (audio) by Markus Zusak [2007 Honor book]
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson [2007 Honor book]
  • how i live now by Meg Rosoff [2005 Winner]
  • The First Part Last by Angela Johnson [2004 Winner]
  • Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going [2004 Honor book]
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers [2000 Winner]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The White Darkness review by Edgy


The White Darkness
by Geraldine McCaughrean
YA fiction. 363 pp.
HarperTempest. 2007.

the flap copy:
Sym is not your average teenage girl. She is obsessed with the Antarctic and the brave, romantic figure of Captain Oates from Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole. In fact, Oates is the secret confidant to whom she spills all her hopes and fears.

But Sym's uncle Victor is even more obsessed—and when he takes her on a dream trip into the bleak Antarctic wilderness, it turns into a nightmarish struggle for survival that will challenge everything she knows and loves.

I read this book because it won the Printz this year and because I added it to my Printz Award Challenge. It took me a bit of time to get into it, but I'm glad I continued to work through it, even if I did interrupt the reading with other books along the way.

I had initial difficulty getting into it because I just didn't like Sym. Fortunately, one thing she had going for her was that I could tell that I would more than likely end up liking her. I had to work at this, because she adores her uncle, who I could tell was a very bad seed from the get-go. And she's very passive, which I find to be an amazingly taxing trait to tolerate. She was also a bit slow on figuring out what was going on. I've noticed that I can handle this in third-person narratives, but I don't take it quite as well in first-person narratives.

Perhaps the oddest bit about this book is Sym's relationship with Captain Oates. In fact, it's the second British YA I've read in the last couple months where the protagonist has a real person as an imaginary friend. Whereas in Slam the imaginary friend only speaks in sentences lifted from his autobiography, in this one, Sym actually converses with Oates. On the one hand, that was weird. On the other hand, it brought Oates to life for me in a way that makes him rather intriguing.

After my experience with the beginning of the book, I was having difficulties understanding why it had won the Printz. By the end of the book, when I was actually liking the protagonist, I was able to notice the excellent use of language, and that is where I think the beauty of The White Darkness lies.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Edgy's Printz Award Challenge


Previously, I mentioned that I was participating in the Printz Award Challenge over at Dewey Monster. As you may or may not recall, the challenge is as follows:
To participate in the Printz Award Challenge, choose 6 books that have won the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature OR one of the Honor books. The challenge runs from January 2008 to December 2008. . . .

You may overlap with other challenges. You may change your list at any time.
I chose six titles to read, clutching to the "change your list at any time" clause in that four or five books would be added to the list in January.

Titles have been added, and so I'm changing my list. For starters, I am reading The White Darkness because it won the award this year. Unfortunately, it's a bit blah and I interrupt my reading of it with other titles, such as Repossessed, another book I can add to the list as it's an honor book this year and it has a much cooler cover than Darkness. (I also already finished reading it today, so it helps me come one book closer to completing the challenge.

Anyway, my new challenge list is as follows:
Edgy's Printz Award Challenge
  • The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Repossessed, by A. M. Jenkins (Completed today.)
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt (Another blah book, but since I already own it and have started reading it, it stays on the list.)
  • Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, by Jan Greenberg Abrams
  • A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly (I read the first chapter of this just after it was put on the award list, but it was another book I just couldn't get into. However, since I own it . . . )
  • John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, a Photographic Biography, by Elizabeth Partridge

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Keesha's House review by Abby

Keesha's House by Helen Frost. (Grades 9+)

(This review was originally posted at Abby (the) Librarian.)

I'm gonna warn you. You might have to read this one twice. I mean that in a good way, of course. Read it the first time for the story. Meet these great characters. Characters that might be written off by the people in their lives, but who find a place to come together. Then read the section at the end that talks about the poetic forms used in the book. Then start over and read each poem again now that you know something about the traditional forms of sestina and sonnet.

Maybe you already know about sestinas, but I definitely didn't. At first I didn't even realize that the poems were written in a strict traditional form. It looked like free verse to me. Once I knew a bit more about the structure of the poetry, I had a whole new appreciation for the book.

Keesha's house is a safe place. In actuality. it's not even her house. The house belongs to a guy named Joe. Joe knows what it's like to need a safe place to sleep, so he opens his house to kids in need. They can stay as long as they want. No one bothers them. So, the house is really Joe's, but Keesha's the one spreading the word whenever she senses one of her high school classmates might need a place to crash. So the house becomes known as Keesha's house.

Through poems, Helen Frost gives us the perspective of six different kids, each finding themselves connected to Keesha's house for different reasons. Stephie is pregnant and not sure what to do about it. Jason is Stephie's boyfriend, a basketball star who's not sure he's willing to give up his dreams to be a dad. Dontay is a foster kid whose foster parents don't seem to give a damn about him. Harris's father disowned him when he found out he was gay. Carmen's been arrested for a DUI. Katie's running from her mom's abusive boyfriend. Although there's some depressing material in here, the book really has a hopeful slant. If a place like Keesha's house can exist where these teens can find support and rest their heads, maybe it's possible for them to turn things around, for them to overcome the huge odds stacked against them.

Two parts of the book are written from the perspective of adults. These poems are written as sonnets, an effective way of showing how very differently the adults see the world. It would be a great book anyway, but I really love that Frost used traditional poetry forms. I don't always get novels in verse, but this is one I could really get on board with.

I read this for the Printz Award Challenge.