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Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (Video)

Bibliographic Information (APA): Antonini, L., & Josh Feldman. (Producer), & Hendler, S. (Director). (2012). HALO 4: Forward Unto Dawn [Mini Series, YouTube Channel]: USA. Microsoft Studios, & 343 Industries.

Category: YouTube Web Series (Video)

Descriptive Summary: The year is 2525. Set in the Halo Universe (begun with the Halo Series video games) this five-part mini series, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, features a military Cadet by the name of Thomas Lasky training at a military academy to fight in a civil war. Lasky has his doubts about the cause he is supposed to be fighting for, and this makes him question what he is doing, despite the pressure to follow in his family’s military footsteps. Before he and his fellow-recruits can graduate, however, the planet is attacked by The Covenant, a group of religious extremist aliens bent on wiping out the human race because they view humans as a plague. Mankind (and especially Lasky) will never be the same again as these events set an entirely new path of direction for the human race. This series is a stark reminder that every thing has a price and every action has a consequence.

Book Talking Hooks: The creators of the show did an incredible job with the graphics and special effects. The fight scenes are charged with suspense and were beautifully filmed (Episodes III and IV). The series had a real “big-movie” feel to it despite the production’s relatively small budget of ten million dollars for a production of its size.

This series will appeal to gamers familiar with Halo, but the main character, Master Chief, is lacking in emotional depth and a ‘human’ element that makes him relatable. Thomas Lasky is a lot more likeable and three-dimensional so this series may entice people not yet familiar with the game itself because of the interest generated in the male protagonist.

Halo is an enormously popular gaming franchise that will appeal to teens that already play the game, but might also entice other teens to investigate the games and/or web series. This series acts as a prequel to the wars with The Covenant, and thus allows a viewer and/or a gamer to understand the larger context to the game and personally invest in story development.

Filmed in the forests surrounding Vancouver on the Canadian west coast, the series has a three-dimensional and realistic perspective, as well as excellent costumes and props. For example, viewers may recognize the army vehicle called a Warthog, designed by the Weta Workshop for another production, Landfall (Episodes I, II, III, IV, and V).

Another bonus of this show is the behind-the-scenes features that allow the viewer to look at all the CGI effects, special effects, direction, production, and interviews with the cast, and production team. This is a really interesting feature for young adults that might be interested in the making of Forward Unto Dawn in itself, or they might be interested in film production in general. This behind-the-scenes feature encourages those interests.

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. This series is not just about action, cool graphics, and special effects. Set in a futuristic war, the protagonist is led to question the righteousness of his actions and the cause he fights for; this is also a thought-provoking drama that reminds the audience that circumstance can change your whole perspective.There are several suspenseful scenes in which the protagonist must prove that he is a worthy soldier, to himself and to others but the series manages to successfully draw out that tension until the very end.

If there is one criticism, however, it is that the show does end a bit abruptly. It is an ending that makes sense in connection with the game, but there is a lack of closure that leads a film-viewing audience to think that an opening for a full-length feature movie has been created. Certainly, the series was definitely enjoyable enough that there would be considerable interest in a feature-length film if one were to be made.

Readers Advisory Notes: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn was action-packed, fast-paced, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, emotionally intense, extremely visually descriptive, and richly detailed.

Reason for Inclusion: A viewer can buy the series on DVD and Blu-Ray, but it was originally released for free on YouTube, and can still be retrieved in smaller 15-minute segments on the Internet. This makes the series accessible, and a person can decide if they would like to invest in the purchased copy.

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn was nominated for several categories in the Streamy Awards and won Best Drama Series, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing in 2013. This series is in relation to a very popular video game available on Xbox 360 and PS3, so there is a lot of associated positive buzz with this production from the same creative team that made the game. Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn was also the winner in the Golden Reel Awards in 2013.

Suggested Audience: I would recommend this series to anyone who is vaguely familiar with the gaming world, or an interest in world-building. Due to the slightly graphic and violent nature of the show, I would recommend it to teens aged 17 and up (not because the violence is especially graphic, but because of the more mature themes of war, suffering, sacrifice, and loss).

References

Golden Reel Awards (2013). “Golden Reel Award Winners and Nominees, 2013.” Retrieved from http://mpse.org/goldenreels/2013awards/othernominees.html

Halo Waypoint (2012). “Warthog: Built for Battle.” Retrieved from http://www.halowaypoint.com/en-us/universe/detail/de3445e7-b024-4674-a49f-e5f466eac720/warthog-built-for-battle

IGN (2012). “HALO 4: Forward Unto Dawn.” Retrieved from http://ca.ign.com/articles/2012/10/05/halo-4-forward-unto-dawn-part-1-review

Movie Metropolis (2012). “HALO 4: Forward Unto Dawn – Blu Ray Preview.” Retrieved from http://moviemet.com/review/halo-4-forward-unto-dawn-blu-ray-review#.UUTaKaUsE20

Through Her Eyes, by Jennifer Archer

Bibliographic Information (APA): Archer, Jennifer (2011). Through Her Eyes. Harper Teen: New York

Category: Mystery, Thriller, or Suspense

Subcategories: Fantasy, Science Fiction, or Horror

Descriptive Summary: It is never easy being the new kid and 16-year old Tansy Piper has felt like that a lot since her book-writing mother always moves them to the locations of her writing projects. When Tansy and her mother move to the small town Cedar Canyon in Texas, Tansy just wants to belong and have real friends, so when she find the belongings of a boy, Henry (who is long-dead) in her old house, she is intrigued by how she feels like she knows him and he her. She begins to be pulled into his ghost-like world through the photographs she takes of her surroundings and Tansy begins to lose sight of the boundary between her life and his.  Tansy must solve the mystery that surrounds the strange Henry and his death, and the house she lives in if she is going to be able to hold onto herself and her life. Ultimately it’s a story about growing up, and deciding who and what you’ll be. Most of all, it’s about realizing that life can still be a great adventure even if it wasn’t the one you thought you wanted.

Book Talking Hooks: Henry’s ghost and his haunting of the house where he lived (and particularly of Tansy) are central to the novel. We, as an audience, are fascinated by the supernatural and we like being entertained by it. The Paranormal Activity movie series for example, are one of many publications about just that, for example; a hostile environment with a mystery figure, and a sinister or ominous story to tell.

The first time you encounter something supernatural early on in the novel secures the reader’s interest (Archer, 2011, p. 1). What makes those supernatural glimpses all the more intriguing is that you’re not entirely sure what the motives of that awareness are; it could be innocent, or deeply malevolent. This mystery heightens an-already tense atmosphere! The intermittent returns to Tansy’s “real-life,” and the supernatural breaks up the tone, thus offering a variety in pace for the reader (Archer, 2011, p. 95, 131, 162, & 201).

The abrupt jumps between Tansy’s thoughts, feelings (elated one second, and crushed the next) are good examples of what it is like in a teen’s mind as they try to make friends and fit in in new places and schools. Tansy does this a lot as she meets people her age who are mean to her, like some girls at her school, while others are decent and friendly like a boy she meets (Archer, 2011, p 26-30, & 99). This makes the novel something a teen could relate to easily.

Evaluative Comments: 3/5. This books is suspenseful read with mystery and a great many questions that need to be answered before Tansy will be able to reclaim herself and her stake on life. While still being a fictional tale involving the supernatural, the novel is still grounded in reality as the narrator speaks through the eyes of a lonely and isolated teenage girl; many of us can relate to that feeling of isolation at some point in our lives, so the books does an excellent job of maintaining the balance between the fantastic and the realistic (Archer, 2011, p. 27, 97, & 149). It’s an easy book to relate to, with just enough flavor of the supernatural to make it something a reader can be detached from.

The setting of the house also creates an atmosphere of silent watchfulness and creepy mystery that people occasionally find appealing in some houses and places. It is a strength of this book that you can never quite shake the feeling of a pensive silence, especially when Tansy is at her house. The author does an excellent job of communicating atmosphere. The objects Tansy finds (a leather book, a crystal pendant and a small pocket watch) also appeals to people who enjoy looking for interesting finds in out of the way places (Archer, 2011, p. 17, & 141). It lends an exploratory feel of discovery to the setting that readers are bound to like!

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Through Her Eyes is a good choice for any young adult reader that likes intricately-plotted and plot-driven storylines with a mystery to unravel, with the fantastic or supernatural thrown in. All of Tansy’s insecurities and struggles with being the new kid in town and her personal grief create an angst-filled tone and an altogether human portrayal of a teenage girl. Young adults who like this sort of tale will also enjoy Dark Souls by Paula Morris, or The Host by Stephanie Meyers.

Reason for Inclusion: Through Her Eyes was recommended to me by a librarian at the Halifax Public Library, and it also received consistently positive reviews from readers on Amazon and Goodreads. Booklist, for example, also reviewed it positively saying it is a, “A tightly written time-travel fantasy. The quirky characters; romantic triangles; and ghosts and haunted houses make for a winning, mixed-genre offering that’s sure to attract a wide audience of teen readers” (Amazon, “Through Her Eyes,” 2011). Publishers Weekly also said, “An evocative and unusual ghost story. Archer’s engrossing story gracefully weaves together the contemporary and historical into an eerie mystery, while examining relationships, reality, and the power of the mind” (Amazon, “Through Her Eyes,” 2013).

Suggested Audience: I would recommend this book to anyone with a taste for the supernatural and books that are told through a first person narrative. I would also recommend this book to any young person having a hard time adjusting to a new living situation, especially if he or she has moved around a lot; Through Her Eyes is very empathetic in understanding the difficulties of that situation for a young person. Teens aged 14 and up should read this book.

References

Amazon. (2011). “Through Her Eyes.” Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Through-Her-Eyes-Jennifer-Archer/dp/B006QS1P1I

Goodreads (2011). “Through Her Eyes.” Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8428110-through-her-eyes

Harper Teen (2011). “Through Her Eyes: About the Book.” Retrieved from http://www.harperteen.com/books/Through-Her-Eyes-Jennifer-Archer

Rotten Tomatoes (2007). “Paranormal Activity.” Retrieved from http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/paranormal_activity/

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (narrated by Carolyn McCormick)

Bibliographic Information (APA): Collins, Suzanne (2008). The Hunger Games. [Audiobook, narrated by Carolyn McCormick] Scholastic Press: USA

Category: Audio Book (Audio Recordings)

Descriptive Summary: Set in the post-apocalyptic landscape of what used to North America, The Capitol (a totalitarian regime that controls the people of the 12 Districts) controls the land of Panem, and demands tribute of one boy and one girl to participate in the Hunger Games held once a year. All 24 contenders fight to the death for the honor of their District. 16-year old Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute when her younger sister, Prim, is picked at random. Armed with nothing but her wits, hunting skills, and sheer will to survive, Katniss must fight to the death against her fellow-tributes for the entertainment of Panem, and to remind the people of the Capitol’s power over them all. In her fight to live, Katniss must decide if life is worth preserving over humanity at all costs or if some things like love and selfless sacrifice are more important.

Book Talking Hooks: This book received excellent reviews when it was released, but it has really been launched into popular culture when the first of the three books was released as a feature-length movie in 2012. It has been wildly popular with readers and moviegoers of all ages, and it is a good pick to appeal to cross-over audiences in both forms of entertainment.

There is excellent character development in this novel. For example, initially a character like Peeta Mellark is a mystery, and you don’t understand his motives. You don’t know if he really has feelings for Katniss the way he says he does, or if he is just playing a strategy for the Hunger Games (chapter 2, 4, 6, 9). For example, Katniss gets even more uncomfortable with him after they have the chance to really talk about their situation in private. She does not want to like him because she is going to kill him (chapter 9). After a while, however, you begin to realize that feelings and emotions do not necessarily preclude other multiple points of motivation for his character and you begin to appreciate his complexity as the novel reaches its end. He does not want the Hunger Games to change him into some kind of monster before it is over (chapter 11). Katniss herself tries hard to be emotionless and unforgiving, but deep down she is quite compassionate person that is more complex than she seems on the surface (Chapter 1, 3, 4, 9)

There is action and danger in the arena such as the bloodbath at the opening of the Games (chapter 11), but there is also humanity, and emotions that evoke empathy in the reader/listener for the desperate situation the main characters find themselves in. When Rue, another tribute, dies Katniss is overcome with grief and the reader is reminded that she is still a person, no matter what inhumane things the situation might demand of her (chapter 18). When Katniss and Peeta think they are both going to live and then the Capitol changes its mind, you feel real disappointment for their dashed hopes (chapter 25).

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. As an audiobook, this story becomes accessible to more people that may not be able to read or would just like to listen to the story. Carolyn McCormick does an excellent job of reading in a clear voice, a paced tone with expression, and slightly different accents and depths for the different character’s voices. The voice she gives Effie Trinket, for example, is an entertaining projection of a completely fake, self-absorbed, annoying, and grating bureaucrat with no empathy for the tributes’ predicament (which she is).

This audiobook also appeals because it is the first of three installments, which will encourage more reading in a young audience that becomes interested in the story. The more reading popular stories encourage, the more it will improve literacy. However, Although they would only be small details, perhaps the audiobook would be improved with some background sound effects, or some indication that signifies the end of a chapter.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: The Hunger Games is action-packed, very suspenseful, and really clever! In many ways the storyline is disturbing, but also thought-provoking as the darker fringes of a dystopian society are explored. Quite gruesome in some places, the novel is also strangely emotional and moving as you understand the character’s reactions to their experiences. It is certainly absorbing and entertaining.

Reason for Inclusion: The New York Times reviewed the novel positively, saying that it had “terrifyingly well-imagined futures and superb characterization” and that it is a “brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced novel” (New York Times, “The Sunday Book Review: Scary New World, 2008) Kirkus Review approved of its “impressive world building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns,” highlighting what an intriguing read The Hunger Games was for many readers (Kirkus, “The Hunger Games,” 2008). The Hunger Games was also awarded Publisher’s Weekly “Best Books of the Year” award in 2008 as well as the California Young Reader Medal in 2011 and many other notable awards. Finally, there is just the fact that every single person who has read it and told me about it (and there are many) have had nothing but positive things to say about it. I finally read it for this assignment and I was not disappointed.

Suggested Audience: This audiobook is a good match for any young reader that is fascinated by post-apocalyptic dystopian novels. The vocabulary is not very complicated but given the slightly brutal and violent content of the story, I would recommend this book for teens aged 15 and up. This book is definitely for people who enjoy lots of suspense, action, but also some intricate character development.

References

CYRM (2013). “Booklist – Young Adult.” Retrieved from http://www.californiayoungreadermedal.org/winners.htm

ImdB. (2012). “The Hunger Games.” Retrieved from  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/

Kirkus (2008). “The Hunger Games.” Retrieved from

http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/suzanne-collins/the-hunger-games/

The New York Times (2008). “The Sunday Book Review: Scary New World.” Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/books/review/Green-t.html?_r=0

Publishers Weekly (2008). “Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2008.” Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20081103/11419-pw-s-best-books-of-the-year.html

Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol

Bibliographic Information (APA): Brosgol, Vera. (2011). Anya’s Ghost. First Second: New York, USA.

Category: Graphic Novel

Subcategories: Award-winning, & Mystery, Thriller, or Suspense

Descriptive Summary: Anya is a lonely high school girl who could just use a friend. Someone to talk to, about how her Russian mother won’t let her adapt to being American without a fight, how she doest like school work, or how that other Russian boy, Dima, at her school is a social pariah and he wont leave her alone, or how she likes that popular boy Sean but he doesn’t even know she exists. All she wants is someone who understands her. Anya gets all that and more when she accidentally falls down an abandoned well where she finds the skeletal remains and the ghost of Emily (a girl who also fell down the well and died 90 years ago). At first, Anya thinks her new friendship with Emily is pretty cool and comes with all sorts of benefits. There are, however, troubling things about Emily’s past that Anya begins to wonder about and it doesn’t take long before Anya begins to investigate Emily as she starts to become more of a problem than a friend.

Book Talking Hooks: Anya’s Ghost is a really great portrayal of all the things that many teens struggle with; being accepted, being popular, having crushes, and dealing with occasionally annoying family. This book is really relatable to the real-life experiences of young adults. All the frustrations that Anya experiences are neatly encapsulated, as well as beautifully and graphically expressed from a teen’s perspective (Brosgol, 2011, p. 12, 63, & 70).

Anya’s harrowing adventure is a really interesting one in that it happens right out in the open, and yet the real truth of what is going on remains a secret. Only she knows about Emily, and grapples with the consequences of her actions. It is a really interesting inside-and-outside perspective of the situation that develops. In a way, this is very much like a teen’s experiences and personal problems (minus the creepy ghost, of course!) (Brosgol, 2011, p. 49, 55, 69, & 170).

People are not who they seem. Anya is so sure she has Elizabeth (a girl she does not much like) all figured out, but she does not and it turns out she does not really know Sean either (Brosgol, 2011, p. 121, 142, 69, 170, 220). Anya begins to realize how important it is to get to know someone before you judge them.

Evaluative Comments: 5/5. Anya’s Ghost is really well drawn, and makes good use of black, white and grey, which matches the spookier sides of the story. The expressiveness of the character’s faces and the eloquent body language compliment the minimal use of script really nicely. For example, Anya’s terror and panic when she stuck in the well is really well communicated through facial expressions and body language (Brosgol, 2011, p. 14-16).

It is a real compliment to this novel that really crucial plot elements to the story have been beautifully communicated without words. Certain things about Emily’s past, for example, are a real revelation, and the stark clarity of the images with no speech still communicates everything a reader needs to know (Brosgol, 2011, p. 153-156).

also did a really good job with the gradual increase of the “creep” factor. Emily seems really wholesome and friendly and (despite being a ghost) so “normal.” Her gradual slip into darker mannerisms is so subtle; you do not realize what is going on at first before the darkness quickly escalates right at the end (Brosgol, 2011, p. 112, 159, 170, & 179).

Ultimately, I really liked how this story shows that courage comes in many forms, both the physical and moral kind. Sometimes it takes a moment to realize that you are being selfish and using people badly, or that you are so wrapped in yourself and your own problems that you don’t look up and notice that other people feel as alone as you. Eventually Anya not only remembers to really live her life, but to live life on her own terms!

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Anya’s Ghost came as a pleasant surprise with its intricate plot and excellent use of atmosphere. At times there was a dark sense of foreshadowing and foreboding that blended really well with the creepy, and menacing but also the darkly humorous.

Reason for Inclusion: Anya’s Ghost has received many awards, and seemed like a popular choice. For example, Anya’s Ghost is a 2011 Kirkus Best Teen Book of the Year Title, and one of The School Library Journal’s and one of Hornbook’s Best Fiction Books of 2011.

Vera Brosgol, the author, was awarded the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in 2012 for Best Publication for Young Adults and the Harvey Award in 2012 for the Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers (both for Anya’s Ghost). This book was also recommended to me by several people who had already read it and liked it, so I thought I would give it a try and I really enjoyed it!

Suggested Audience: I would recommend Anya’s Ghost to any teen interested in comics, and graphic novels as an introduction to other forms of graphic art if they already read genres like anime and/or manga. Although the storyline can be a bit scary, I would recommend it to young adults aged 12 and up as there is no real violence or nudity.

References

Comic-Con International (2012). “2012 Eisner Awards.” Retrieved fromhttp://www.comic-con.org/awards/eisner-award-recipients-2010-present

Kirkus Reviews (2011). “Best Teen Books of 2011.” Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/best-of/2011/teen/

The Harvey Awards (2012). Retrieved from http://www.harveyawards.org/2012/09/09/congratulations-to-the-harvey-award-recipients/

Hornbook Fanfare (2011). “Our Choices for the Best Books of 2011.” Retrieved from http://www.hbook.com/2011/12/choosing-books/recommended-books/horn-book-fanfare-2011/

School Library Journal (2011). “Best Books 2011: Fiction.” Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/articlereview/892885-451/best_books_2011_fiction.html.csp

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Bibliographic Information (APA): Wein, Elizabeth. (2012). Code Name Verity. Double Day Canada: Canada

Category: Historical Fiction

Subcategories: Award-winning, Realistic Fiction, & Mystery, Thriller, or Suspense

Descriptive Summary: What wouldn’t you be willing to do to try and save your friend from death? That is the dilemma facing two very different young women in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War. Opening in the style of a confessional, a woman writes out her ‘confession’ of guilt to her Nazi captors, but all is not what it seems. Maddie Brodatt, (a part-time radio operator and civilian pilot) and Julie Beaufort-Stuart (a radio operator and part-time spy/ informant), try do their part for their country England, and a series of events lands them both in hostile territory. Told in the voice of a ‘mystery woman,’ what follows is their struggles of trying to find each other, to survive, and to go home to England once more. Code Name Verity is a truly inspiring, and riveting story about the bonds of friendship and love in a time of great danger and risk.

Book Talking Hooks: Code Name Verity is a sure hit for any reader that enjoys historical fiction surrounding warfare and military themes (particularly the World Wars). The story is fictitious, but made very realistic through multiple references to specific planes, weapons, military tactics, and technology of the era. All the attention to the smaller details does make it seem as though the story could be real (Wein, 2012, p. 25, 153, 172, & 223). In this way, the novel is relatable to real-life experiences through the inclusion of certain props that create a three-dimensional image in the reader’s mind.

There are several passages full of suspense as one of the women is in hiding from the enemy and she comes close to being caught so many times (Wein, 2012, p. 208, 217, 227, & 255). Sometimes she is saved by her wits, but more often it is luck, and you never know when that luck is going to run out.  Espionage, play acting, subterfuge and keeping one’s nerve in the most strained of circumstances is crucial to this story and there are passages surrounding interrogation where you are sure the interrogated has to break, but they do not (Wein, 2012, p. 70, 75, 160, 172, & 294). The suspense just keeps building and building!!

Evaluative Comments: 5/5. The writing is clear and easy to follow. The story kinds of jumps back and forth as the writer relates what happens in the past and also muses on her own thoughts. The plot line is never lost, however, which is a testament to the talent of author Elizabeth Wein.

One of the main reasons why I would include this novel is because it really does bring home the message that there is always a consequence to one’s actions, there is always a price to pay (it is not always you that pays it), and ultimately even heroes are hurt, wounded, and even die one day. Bad things happen to good people in this novel, but you never lose sight of the redeeming courage, love, and strength that sustains the characters and the reader alike. Amidst the so-called glamour, glory and romance of war, there is a cost that must be reckoned and Elizabeth Wein’s masterpiece gracefully and eloquently reminds the reader of that fact.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Code Name Verity is powerful in its character creation, plot development and intricacy, suspense, action, and great emotional intensity. It is a haunting but deeply moving story that will keep you thinking and remembering long after you have finished the novel.

Reason for Inclusion: Code Name Verity was recommended to me by a number of fans of YA literature and this corresponds to the number of awards this book has won along with  honorable mentions, and booklist inclusions. For example, Code Name Verity received positive received a six-star review from Hornbook, PW, SLJ, Kirkus Review, and Bulletin. Code Name Verity was also awarded the Michael L. Printz Honor Award in 2013, as well as a Best Books 2012 from Amazon.

Suggested Audience: Code Name Verity will appeal to teens of historical fiction, or readers who enjoy dramatic and serious reads. Young adult readers who are fans of spy novels, espionage, and war stories will certainly find this a rewarding pick. Due to the slightly more gruesome scenes involving torture and psychological trauma encountered in the scenes of interrogation, this novel would probably be best for a slightly older audience of 16 years and up.

References

Amazon (2013). “Codename Verity.” Retrieved from

http://www.amazon.com/Code-Name-Verity-Elizabeth-Wein/dp/1423152190

Yalsa. (2013). “Printz Award.” Retrieved from

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/printz-award#current

Youth Services Corner (2013). “Starred YA Book Reviews, 2012.” Retrieved from

http://www.youthservicescorner.com/starred-ya-book-reviews/starred-ya-book-reviews-2012/

Kick, by Walter Dean Myers, & Ross Workman

Bibliographic Information (APA): Myers, Walter Dean, & Ross Workman (2011). Kick. Harper Teen: New York

Category: Urban Fiction

Subcategories: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Summary: Kevin Johnson is picked up by police when he crashes a car he stole into a lamppost. Both he and Christy, a girl the same age as Kevin in the passenger seat next to him, will not co-operate with the investigation that follows so Kevin is arrested. Police officer, Sergeant Jerry Brown, takes a special interest in Kevin’s case because Kevin’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. Brown doesn’t want to see a dead police officer’s 13-year old go to jail for grand theft auto, kidnapping, destruction of property, and giving false testimony. Officer Brown can try and help, but Kevin needs to decide if he can trust Officer Brown enough to tell him the truth about what happened, before it’s too late and Kevin is convicted of serious felonies. The story that unfolds is alternately narrated from the voice of Kevin, and Officer Brown.

Book Talking Hooks: Kick is a good example of a story that deals with real-life issues such as telling the truth, and accepting the consequences of our actions, but it is also compassionate and hopeful (Myers & Workman, 2011, p. 8). Officer Brown does not automatically assume that Kevin is a criminal, even though all the evidence at the scene of the accident would suggest that. Kick is about looking past stereotypes and past first appearances (Myers & Workman, 2011, p 16, & 146). The book also tells a valuable story about trust. Kevin will not tell the police what really happened because he does not want to get a friend into trouble, but sometimes, being able to see when someone else needs to accept responsibility and personal accountability is also a part of the process (Myers & Workman, 2011, p. 53 & 84).

Evaluative Comments: 3/5. Kick also strikes a strong balance between the alternating voices of Sergeant Brown’s voice and Kevin Jonhson’s. It highlights the importance of remembering that there are always two sides to any story, and it is important to listen to both before passing judgment on a situation. It’s very easy to get caught up in your perspective, and not even pause to think about someone else’s.

The pace of the book changes intermittently whenever Kevin is playing in one of the soccer matches that he enjoys so much (Myers & Workman, 2011, p. 17, 45, 125, & 189). This brings the reader back to the happier and lighter side of life which can often get forgotten when things are a little tough, and the change in pace is a welcome break from the sobering situation Kevin finds himself in when he is off the soccer field.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: Kick has an interchangeable mix of pace with an intricate plot and a look at serious issues such as juvenile misdemeanours and behavioural problems. Kevin Johnson seems very angst-filled at times, but not without hope and empathy, making him a likeable and relatable character for a young reader (Myers & Workman, 2011, p. 89 & 164). Walter Dean Myers’ other works address similar types of real-life, gritty situations that make for gripping stories. Fans of Kick might like to try some of Myers’ other works like Fallen Angels (a particularly controversial work), Bad Boy – A Memoir, or Monster. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is also a good connection choice for this genre, because it touches upon similar struggles and issues of young adults, especially boys coming from disadvantaged circumstances.

Reason for Inclusion: Walter Dean Myers is a famous bestselling author with a lot of successful novels in young adult literature. He has won the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature in 2000, as well as winning the Coretta Scott King Award for African American Literature five times (along with four Corretta Scott King Honors), and many other short lists and awards. As an author, Myers comes highly recommended, so Kick seemed a good pick for this genre as it is based in an urban setting. Kirkus Reviews appears justified in saying that Myers is, “arguably one of the most important writers of children’s books of our age” (Walter Dean Myers, “Reviews and Awards,” 2013).

Specifically, Kick was written in partnership with a teen fan of Myers, Ross Workman. This creates a unique perspective and an interesting, realistic, and young voice that many other young adult novels might lack (although they may be interesting for other reasons). The chapters are of a manageable length, and the style is young and quick to read.

Suggested Audience: Kick is a good book for teenagers from ages 12 to 18 in terms of its length and vocabulary. Given that Walter Dean Myers wrote the book in partnership with teen fan called Ross Workman, this is an inspirational choice for any teen that wants to be a writer as well. Teens interested in soccer might also find this story elements appealing.

References

Walter Dean Myers. (2013). “Reviews and Awards.” Retrieved from http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/reviews.html

The Encyclopedia of The End: Mysterious Death in Fact, Fancy, Folklore, and More, by Deborah Noyes

Bibliographic Information (APA): Noyes, Deborah (2008). Encyclopedia of The End: Mysterious Death in Fact, Fancy, Folklore, and More. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, USA.

Category: Nonfiction, Homework

Descriptive Summary: This encyclopedia is an alphabetical listing of topics surrounding death and the afterlife, beginning with, ‘Amulet,’ going all the way to, ‘Wreaths’ (Noyes, 2008, p. 1, & 136). The book does not just take note of facts, and contemporary traditions, but also the mythic fancies and traditions of the past. It is interesting that not only does Noyes discuss factual objects, such as ‘coffins,’ but also abstract concepts and traditions such as, ‘appeasing the dead,’ and why many cultural traditions would practice ritualistic forms of appeasement (Noyes, 2008, p. 3 & 26). In this way, the book demonstrates that it is not just a factual recount of the otherwise gruesome and maudlin, but is also an interesting commentary on cultural traditions and an insight into the way people thought and why they acted the way they did (or still do, in some cases). This book is a fascinating read for general knowledge and a valuable resource for school projects as well!

Book Talking Hooks: Indeed, “death and the sun are not to be looked at steadily” (Noyes, 2008, Introduction, IX). The topic is taboo. The simply fact of the matter is, most people are fascinated by death. Death is the other unavoidable end of life as we know it, and yet we feel as though we should not be caught looking directly at it. Although death and rituals surrounding it exist, this general societal attitude of looking at death peripherally (in most Latin-based western cultures at least) has drawn a mysterious veil over the topic of death, but that has not subdued our interest. This book speaks directly to that interest without being unnecessarily gruesome, sensational, or disrespectful.

If anything, our fascination has risen to new heights and we view death through the indirect channels or we are removed from direct experience through books and movies. This book is one such access point that a young adult can use to safely acquaint themselves with that most taboo of topics. The Encyclopedia of the End establishes numerous links to popular culture as the fascination with topics such as (to name just a few of many) Halloween, hauntings, and near-death experiences, continue to be in evidence in many other forms of popular entertainment (Noyes, 2008, p. 62, 65, 96, & 126).

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. The author has done a careful job of keeping the tone of the book from sounding sensational and as though it is trying to scare the reader instead of educate. The entire alphabetical list has also got lots of beautiful images that compliment the text and become integrative to the theme being discussed. The language and the tone is respectful but not superstitious, or as though the author has a religious or a political agenda to promote.

Almost every culture has frightening, or disturbing legends that children and teens want to find out about. Whether they want information for a school project, personal interests, or hobby research, or just stuff to try and scare to each other witless at the next sleep over party this book is a good resource! I would recommend this book to children approaching their teens and older as they begin to become involved with more in-depth school projects. The content does not use especially complex language and terminology, but there is more text than images, and concepts covered in the book can be quite abstract, such as the ‘hereafter’ (Noyes, 2008, p 69).

Readers’ Advisory Notes: The Encyclopedia of the End is an interesting blend of the candid, introspective, reflective, and thought-provoking as it approaches a potentially sensitive issue, as well as being haunting, faintly gruesome, and strangely compelling simply by virtue of its content and topic. This book would pair nicely with other culturally focused books or anthropological works, as well as a good camping take-along for a few shivers!

Reason for Inclusion: As the author says, “Death is interesting…. Death is important.” (Noyes, 2008, Introduction VIII). This is not a topic that can be avoided, and a healthy acceptance of it may help a developing person to become well adjusted and comfortable with the concept of mortality. Although religious beliefs and influences are included in the entries, they are not the primary focus of the text, and I think this is a healthy way for a young reader to see death and dying as a more natural part of biological life as well as a cultural rite or ritual (Noyes, 2008, p. 77).

Suggested Audience: Young adults have also usually emotionally matured enough so that they are more easily able to absorb potentially mature content without feeling personally threatened by it (a younger child might not be able to make that distinction and become frightened without some careful parental guidance). I would recommend this book for teens aged 13 and up.