Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Current Obsession

OK.  I will admit it.  I'm currently obsessed with dystopian and postapocalyptic literature (YA Lit. primarily).  It all started two years ago when I read Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  The idea of an asteroid hitting the moon and causing various natural disasters to ripple across the world was fascinating.  I found myself trying to figure out what I would do if I was in such a situation.  Would I be as whiny as Miranda?  Would I be as resourceful as Miranda?  Would I be as heroic as Miranda? To top it off, gas prices were on the upswing around that time (just as they are now) and I started thinking...what if?  What if there was a shortage of water?   What if there was a shortage of food? What if I needed to work with my neighbors to make it through the ordeal?  Needless to say, I started keeping some bottles of water handy and got to know at least one of my neighbors.

After reading the book, I baited my students with some of the same questions; I introduced the book during a book talk (preceded by a short video I created with One True Media). The kids were hooked; I ordered more books and even selected it as a book club selection.  Dangling from a hook without a care, that's what I was:)

As I waited for the sequel to Life as We Knew It, I further entangled myself by reading other dystopian literature such as Epic by Conor Kostick (unexpected and delicious morsel), The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (original, phenomenal and exhilarating bite) and Unwind by Neal Shusterman (satisfying treat).

Currently, I'm attached to a series of books by Michael Grant called the Gone series.  In Gone, kids are shocked when everyone over the age of 15 disappears in Perdido Beach, California.  Adults.  Older siblings. All gone.  What remains?  Just kids - some who have acquired special powers and some who are afraid to deal with the changes in their environment (mutated animals and an orb that seems to have surrounded the whole county) due to a thirteen years of unknown exposure to radiation.

I'm reading the third book in the series, Plague, and I am looking forward to reading the other books in the series.  I'm also looking forward to finding more selections to whet my appetite and looking forward to my next bite of dystopian/apocalyptic literature.

What are you reading?
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Flygirl Soars

There are two well-known criteria for a good piece of historical fiction (HF).  
1.  The HF should teach you something about the time period.
2. The HF should accurately present the time period through dialogue, setting and accurate facts.

I'd like to add a third.  HF should be so good you forget you’re learning something and just be entertained.  The third requirement, I fear, would be a statement that would be met with some resistance (especially if you love historical fiction).  For that reason, I will stick with the two.

For these two reasons, Flygirl by sherri l. smith is a great novel.  This is the story of Ida Mae Jones, a teenager growing up in Louisiana during the early forties.  She and her family live a meager life as they deal with the loss of her father, a former pilot. Ida Mae's chances of becoming pilot are lessened by the fact she is woman; however, the door is completely closed when she realizes that only Caucasian women are allowed join the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP).

It is after her brother is declared missing, after he enlists in the Army, that Ida Mae decides to use one attribute that she's seen as hindrance to her advantage - her light skin color.  Ida Mae decides to "pass" and pretend to be white in order to join the WASPS.  During her training, Ida Mae learns how to control and navigate planes, as well as how to blend in with the other women in her unit.  It is during these learning experiences that she also learns about her own strength, the strength of her family and the strength within her own community.

The strength of the book is the writer's ability to blend in the historical facts regarding the WASP program, as well as her ability to use dialogue that draws the readers into the lives of the characters.  From idealistic and tenacious Ida Mae to gung ho and rebellious Jolene and naive and resilient Lilly, smith maneuvers through various topics while piloting a masterful example of historical fiction.

Pop Packs Quite a Wallop

Pop by Gordan Korman took me by surprise.  Typically, I don't go for his books.  I know. I know. He's a popular author; he's written popular books.  For some reason, I wasn't his biggest fan. Until now.  Whether your a football fan, a fan of realistic fiction or you just love books with teenagers who have issues, this book is for you.

The book opens with Marcus, the new kid who hopes his dreams of joining his new school football team as the quaterback will be realized...just as soon as he works on his passing.  It's only after he meets a kooky, old man during one of his solo practices that he realizes he also needs to work on his ability to pass under pressure, as well as his ability to pass without fear of being hit.  This fear of the "pop" is lessened with each impromptu practice with the old man who seems to have the strength of a stallion.

It's only after he goes to football try outs, that he realizes his dreams of being a quarterback on a previously undefeated team won't be realized, especially when he is made back up quarterback, iced out by the star quarterback, Troy, and ostracized by his teammates. The iciness between Marcus and Troy only increases when Troy's ex-girlfriend, Alyssa, shows interest in the new kid.

The push and pull Marcus and Troy is a good one, and the back and forth banter between Marcus and Alyssa is entertaining, but the heart of the story is the relationship between Marcus and his football guru.  A man, he later learns, is a retired NFL player, Charlie Popovich, known for making hard hits. It's through a series of hits (on and off the field) that Marcus realizes the toil the constant pops have made on Charlie's life.

 Read an excerpt here!!