Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hungry for More

Hunger: A Gone Novel
After finishing Gone, by Michael Grant, I was grateful I had already stocked the second book in the series, Hunger, so I could start it right away. These books may seem unnecessarily large, but it is hard to put them down, and you find yourself flying through them like nothing. By the end I am not quite sure why the story took almost 600 pages to complete, but I know I wasn't bored for one single page.

After the big showdown between Caine and Sam that destroyed a number of buildings in Perdido Beach, things haven't gotten any better. More and more kids are developing supernatural powers, food is becoming more and more scarce, and Caine and the Coates Thugs are becoming more and more desperate. Sam has tried to organize the kids to harvest food from the fields, but between the kids' lack of motivation to do anything but play video games and watch movies and the terrifying worm mutations in the fields that can devour a kid in less than a minute, the food stays in the fields rotting away.

The food situation isn't the scariest thing facing the kids in the FAYZ, though. The deep, scary darkness in the mine shaft that gave Drake Merwin his whip arm has its grip on both Caine and Lana. Now its hungry and wants Caine to help it. That involves a fuel rod being taken to the mine shaft from the power plant and all the consequences you can imagine. Now Sam is involved in the fight of his life and has to stop Caine and the others from destroying the power plant and all the kids along with it. If only the gaiaphage- the mine shaft creeper- didn't have such a control over the minds of the most powerful kids.

This was a great follow-up to the first book in this proposed six book series. These kids have been left to survive, and some are rising to the occasion and maturing too quickly, but others are just kids. They want their mothers, they want to be taken care of, and they don't understand the concept of taking care of themselves. Most importantly, they can't imagine having to work in order to eat- especially when Sam, Astrid, Edilio and the others have worked so hard to keep them fed. They are just kids, and they act like they are just kids.

The best part of this book is that it gives kids a chance to really see how they would react to a situation like this. Some of the other dystopias and PA young adult fiction out there makes it a bit difficult for kids to imagine themselves in a similar situation, but the Gone novels give them a chance to figure out which kid they would be. Would they be a leader like Sam, a thinker like Astrid, a right-hand man like Edilio, or an opportunist like Quinn? Would they get up and go pick cabbages instead of playing their PS3 or Wii's? Would they be controlling like Caine, logical like Diana, or terrifying and monstrous like Drake? How would they feel if they developed powers and their friends didn't, or vice versa? This book is filled with questions that make for incredible comparisons and discussions. And it will leave you craving more. I have already started the third book, Lies, and am disappointed to wait months for the fourth book to be released!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Dunderheads

Welcome to our guest bloggers, Ms. Loftus' 6th Grade Literature Class, from The Kildonan School.  Read what they have to say about their class' recent read, The Dunderheads, by Paul Fleischman.

The Dunderheads 
If you like a story of a nasty, fiendish teacher named Miss Breakbone, you will find The Dunderheads to be a thrilling tale of adventure and mystery. “Never have I been asked to teach such a scraping together of fiddling, twiddling, time- squandering, mind-wandering, doodling, dozing, don’t knowing dunderheads.” She reminds us of Cruella Deville! We love the creative characters like Nails whose nails become different shapes and sizes, customized to fit and unlock a safe. He’ll always have a file on hand! Hollywood is an obsessive movie watcher. “She’s got every movie that was ever made and has watched them all eleven times.” She’s been in so many movie theaters that she has night vision. She helps the gang by using her night vision to see in the dark and by using her sixth sense to guess what will happen next. Google Eyes read a book about hypnotism and can now put people into a two week trance. Just ask the librarian. We loved how the kids broke into their teacher’s house to take back a confiscated toy. Some of our readers thought the book was a bit over exaggerated and definitely not for very young kids who might be frightened by their teachers. Most of us sixth graders at The Kildonan School loved this book. So read The Dunderheads and look out for the meanest teacher in town!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I was a Goner in Only Five Pages!

One would think with the crazy first weeks of school, I would have no time to plow through an almost 600 paged book, but Gone, by Michael Grant, does not give you the opportunity to put it down. From the first five pages, this book grabs you by the seat of the pants and hurls you through a creepy post-apocalyptic world where all people over the age of 14 simply disappear- *poof* and gone.

Sam, also known as School Bus Sam after he rescued his school bus full of kids when the driver had a heart attack, was once a hero, but has faded back into the wallflower he is happiest being. When all the adults and kids over 14 disappear in Perdido Beach, though, Sam is the one all the other kids start looking to for guidance. No one know what happened to the adults, but right in front of their eyes, they all just disappeared. Sam is reluctant to be their leader, but when he rushes into a burning building to save a little girl, it is clear heroism is simply in his nature. With the help of his friends, Astrid, Edilio, and Quinn, they set off to find Astrid's autistic little brother and hopefully some adults. What they find, however, is that a giant, electrified border has made a circle around the whole area- exactly a 10 mile radius all around the nuclear power plant. Nothing can come in and no one can get out. Something strange is also happening to everything and everyone living within the wall. The animals are mutating and some of the kids are starting to develop powers.

The real showdown, however, starts when the Coates Academy kids (a school for delinquent rich kids) come down from the school to take over as leaders of Perdido Beach. Their leader, Caine, is all too willing to use his powers to gain control or let his evil sidekick, Drake, wield his menacing punishments. Kids are beaten to death for defying Caine's rules, food is an ever-growing concern, and safety becomes a luxury. Can Sam come to terms with his own power? Can he, with the support of his friends, become a true leader among the kids inside the wall?

This is an amazing story about kids forced to grow up quickly. When they have to defend themselves with guns found at the power plant, Sam finds himself struggling with the idea of asking 8th graders to wield guns while being horrified at asking a 5th or 6th grader to defend themselves. This story has a lot of Lord of the Flies themes as civilized life quickly breaks down. The lead characters are the embodiment of good and evil, with consciences and cravings for power being the ultimate battle. Kids are quickly given roles of nurse, day care operator, guard, and cook. These same kids had parents and adults to take care of them not 24 hours earlier. It is a harsh new world where anything is possible.

The reading level is relatively accessible, but the story is very, very long. It is action packed and there isn't a dull moment in the whole story, but 500+ pages is a lot to ask of a middle school student. Therefore, I would save this great story for an older kid who reads a lot or is really into this type of story. It might overwhelm a struggling reader who isn't ready for such a long book. Otherwise, I would suggest everyone give this book a try! It has a little bit of everything from an apocalypse to supernatural powers! You can't ask for much more! Just be careful when picking up the next two books. The second book is Hunger, and the third is Lies. I accidentally picked up the third book and ruined a little of the second story before I even got a chance to read it! Oh well. It won't stop be from reading the next two books!!