Over winter break, my family and I took my favorite kind of vacation–we went to a beach and basically spent the time sitting around the water, relaxing. One reason I love this kind of trip is that I have LOTS of time to READ, and this break was no exception.
Before we left, I headed to the San Jose Public Library‘s website and downloaded popular YA titles I’ve been meaning to read to my kindle, for free. I like doing this when we travel because they are books I want to read anyhow, but I don’t have to carry them all with me and worry about losing the library’s copy. I like using Digital Overdrive through SJPL because they have a lot of good titles, and I can narrow them based on format. I can also check out 10 at a time, which is cool. If you have an e-Reader or use an e-Reader app, I encourage you to try it!
So, I downloaded 10 books but only finished 4 1/2 (I’m in the middle of one right now, so I’ll review it later).
First, I read Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach. I chose this book because I had it out during “book speed dating” with some classes the week prior to break, and students always picked it up and then, while skimming through it, always laughed. I wanted to know what was so funny. The answer is, THIS BOOK! Gabe, aka Chunk, completes a health project with some friends and notices a connection between the soda machine and the health of himself and his fellow students. He also notices which type of students purchase sodas from the machine. Even though Gabe sees a connection between the sodas and his size, he rationalizes the purchases because the proceeds go to support the school marching band, which he loves. However, a new poster announces that proceeds will fund the school’s new dance team right when soda prices increase. Then, summer band camp is cancelled and the entire music program’s future is in jeopardy. Gabe knows he needs to take action. He rallies his “band” of misfits and confronts the powers that be, determined to rescue the music program.
Gabe’s a pretty funny guy, but the book isn’t all laughs. It deals with serious issues, like standing up for what you believe in, being a leader, confronting bullies, recognizing when you are being a bully, dealing with parents, loss, and more. It was a light, quick read (I started and finished it on the plane) that literally made me laugh out loud a few times. Pick this one up when your brain needs a vacation!
Next I decided to try The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, by E.K. Johnston. This book is set in modern times, but with one major difference–the world that Owen and Siobhan live in has dragons. Owen’s father and aunt are dragon slayers, so he is expected to be one as well. However, first he’s got to get through high school. Siobhan starts out as his tutor, because he’s not the greatest student. His aunt, however, has bigger plans. Dragon slaying has become pretty political, and she’d like to change that. One way she hopes to accomplish that is by reinvigorating the tradition of bards–musicians and poets who write songs telling of the dragon slayer’s battles. A good bard can make or break a dragon slayer, and can change the way dragon slayers work. Siobhan just happens to be a musician, so despite her parent’s concerns, she begins learning some dragon-slaying basics (for her own protection) and is soon accompanying Owen when he helps his father with dragon attacks.
I know you’re probably thinking this book sounds weird, but it was a really enjoyable read. It’s really cool how the author weaves dragons into the world–historical events, environmental factors, the economy–without getting too “fantasy.” It also strangely relates to the world today. How do countries allocate their resources (armed forces, first responders, etc.)? How do we ensure that all areas are protected, even the less populated ones? I also loved the way Siobhan’s inner bard shines through.
“Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival.” Give this one a try–you won’t be sorry!
I switched to realistic fiction with If You’re Reading This, by Trent Reedy. This one has been in the library since last year, but based on the cover I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Sometimes I’m not sure what cover designers are thinking. Ignore the cover and read this book!
I must confess that a big part of the reason I loved this book is that I strongly identified with the main character, Mike. When Mike was 7, his father was killed in Afghanistan. Right before he turns 16, Mike starts receiving letters from his father, written to him before he died, intended to be delivered in the event of his death before his 16th birthday. As someone who lost a parent as a child, I completely understood what those letters would mean to Mike. Even though my logical brain always knew that no such letters existed for me, I admit that at “milestone” events like my high school graduation or wedding, I hoped that someone had been saving something like a letter for me from my father. What makes the book worth reading beyond that connection, though, is the actions Mike takes in response to his father’s letters. The letters all contain a lesson or challenge, and Mike makes real changes and takes risks to meet those challenges, even when it means violating the rules of his overprotective mother and joining the football team in secret. He also has a mystery to solve–who is sending the letters? Exactly how was his father killed? And why won’t his mother talk about it?
I admit it–this book almost made me cry on several occasions. Based on the cover, I expected a sports book, and there is a lot of football in here, but it’s really about relationships and what it means to become an adult, be a friend, and stand up for what’s right. If you’re a cynic, you might not enjoy this book, but if you can set cynicism aside, you will probably enjoy it.
Finally, I read Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. Like Wicked or other Gregory Maguire novels, Tiger Lily takes the familiar story of Peter Pan and retells it from a different perspective, making you wonder how much of the classic J.M. Barrie story is the “real” story and how much was left out. Written from Tinker Belle’s perspective, the novel follows the character Tiger Lily (the daughter of tribal shaman Tik Tok) as she meets and falls in love with Peter Pan. In addition to her secret (and forbidden) relationship with Peter, Tiger Lily struggles with the arrival of Philip, and Englishman whom she originally rescues but comes to distrust. Philip seems friendly at first, but slowly starts to change the culture of Tiger Lily’s tribe, threatening her father’s way of life and the community she loves. Distracted by her relationship with Peter, will Philip’s actions go unchecked? How will Tiger Lily balance her tribal obligations with her desire to see Peter? And what happens when Wendy arrives?
I loved Anderson’s take on these characters and the way she took a classic story and made it relevant to today’s readers. Tiger Lily is not a “wilting flower.” She is a strong, independent girl and a warrior in her own right. She and Peter struggle to navigate their relationship because they are both so stubborn and competitive. Wendy’s arrival makes Tiger Lily question herself–does she need to act more “like a girl” to keep Peter’s affections? Do males need to feel superior to a woman to love them? When you’re torn between obligation and your heart, which one should win?
If you like reading classic stories with a twist, you will enjoy Tiger Lily.
So that’s what I read over break. How about you, Vikings? Did you pick up a good book? Submit a review here!
If you’re one of the 84 students who participated in Lynbrook Library’s Book Matchmaking Service (aka Date-a-Book), check your FUHSD gmail for information on how to rate your match and submit a review.