Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Mrs N's Been Reading - Leviathan

I've been swamped with prep for summer reading (Speaking of which, registration starts June 1. Use the link to the right.) so haven't gotten around to posting on this one. In fact, the book just perked to the top of a pile on my desk - I had forgotten about it. It's Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan. I've liked just about all of the Westerfelds that I've read. This one's no exception, but I thought it was written quite differently than his other ones. This one falls under the steampunk category. It takes place just as WWI is breaking out, but in an alternate Europe. Science has progressed a bit differently than it did in our world. Europe is split between the Darwinists, who have harnessed the secrets of DNA and crossed the DNA of very different species to get new altered species that are used for things like travel, and the Clankers who rely on machines. The story is told from 2 alternating points of view. The first is Prince Alex of Austria, who's parents have just been assassinated and he is being whisked off into hiding by men loyal to his late father. The Austrians are Clankers. The other is Deryn, a young girl disguised as boy to try to join the British Air Service. The British are Darwinists. Deryn ends up on a giant airship/beast called Leviathan. It is composed of primarily whale DNA, with other things mixed in that allow it to produce hydrogen from the food it eats and use that to levitate and fly. Passengers can ride in a gondola attached to the beast, or actually crawl around inside it. That seems to gross out some folks who hear about this book, but it didn't faze me. Of course the 2 main characters paths intersect, just as war is breaking out. I liked it a lot. I'll warn you that it ends screaming for a sequel, and one is in the works. I'll be getting that as soon as it's available. It's a cool alternate look at both science and history. Nothing objectionable for middle school readers, but enough meat to keep high school students interested as well, especially if you're into the genre.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weekly Challenge #1 June 1-12

OK, here's the first Weekly Challenge. It will actually run for 2 weeks, until everyone's out of school. Remember to signup for the overall summer program, Summer @ the Fredricksen for Teens, first (use the link on the right). Then when you have the answer, see the nice, friendly folks at the Information Desk to get your ticket for the weekly prize drawing.

On every birthday since I was born, I have had a cake decorated with the appropriate number of candles.
I have blown out 210 candles so far.
How old am I?

Good luck!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mother's Day Plaques

As usual, when I just go into the supply closet and bring out everything but the proverbial kitchen sink, and turn kids loose, they make much cooler stuff than when I give them detailed directions or too much guidance. Today's Mother's Day plaques were no exception. Check out a few examples below. Great job guys! And an extra thanks to Grace and Rebekah for some big cleanup help! Happy Mother's Day to any moms out there!

What Mrs. N's Been Reading - The Foreshadowing

Actually finished this one a week or so ago, but in all of the zaniness of getting ready for summer programs, school visits, etc., the book got buried under a pile on my desk and just now resurfaced as a reminder to post. I've liked all of books by Marcus Sedgwick that I've read before, and The Foreshadowing is no exception. His stuff has just the right edge of creepiness to keep to turning the pages, but not enough to keep you from sleeping at night. I like that! This one takes place in England, just as WWI is breaking out. 17-year-old Sasha, is the daughter of a doctor, who just wants her to act like a lady and marry someone of the proper social standing. Sasha wants to be more useful, and wants to become a nurse. Her 2 brothers are polar opposites. Edgar is the tough guy, eager to enlist in the military as the war starts. Tom is a gentle-spirited soul who wants to become a doctor and help, not hurt people. Sasha had a premonition of a playmate's death back when she was just 5 years old, suddenly simply blurting out "Why does Clare have to die?" All of the adults within earshot were aghast, and she really frightened poor Clare. But shortly after that, Clare came down with tuberculosis and did, in fact, die. This became an episode that simply wasn't ever mentioned again. Until the premonitions start again at the age of seventeen. Her family still doesn't want to talk about it, and refuses to believe that Sasha is actually having premonitions. After accurately predicting Edgar's death, when Sasha foresees Tom's, she sets out to try to stop the premonition from coming true.
There are some grisly, but not overly graphic, descriptions of war injuries, and lots of talk about death, so not for the really weak-stomached. But other than that, there is nothing objectionable for older middle-school students, and fine for high school students. A good read that gives you a look at the WWI era and how the war affected everyday people, especially those who went off expecting glory, not the unprecedented amount of death and destruction.
Check it out!

Monday, May 03, 2010

What Mrs N's Been Reading - The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Just finished E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I've really liked anything I've read that Lockhart has written, and this one was no exception. In fact a co-worker and I were just talking about this book earlier this morning, and we both thought it was fantastic to find a female character, in a teen book, that is as strong and independent as Frankie. Frankie attends an elite boarding school, where, in her freshman year, she was more part of the geek group. She blossoms during the summer before her sophomore year, and at the beginning of the school year, attracts the attention of the most popular senior guy at the school and starts dating him. She finds out that Matthew, her boyfriend, is the current leader of a decades-old, all-male secret society at the school. Her father had been a member back when he attended the same school, and the members use the connections made there to full advantage for the rest of their lives. As Frankie tries to sort out in her own mind, why society tolerates this sort of discriminatory behavior, she starts to question a lot of other things as well. This leads her to take on a misleading online identity, which she uses to get the members of the secret society to pull all sorts of elaborate pranks, that she is masterminding. As various things are brought to light, as all of this plays out, the book really gets you thinking about all sorts of societal issues like sexism, elitism, societal rules in general, security and it's effects on freedom, etc. As I was reading, I found myself mentally cheering Frankie with "you go girl!" No surprise to anyone who knows me, since since I have the "Things to Do Today" poster which includes "shake things up" and "cause a scene" hanging in my office. The book starts a little slow, but hang in there. Once it gets going it's great. There's mention of some drinking and making out, but it's pretty cursory, and definitely not explicit. Even with that said, though, I'd recommend this one more for high school students, only because younger kids just won't really take away what they should from this one, simply due to lack of life experience.