About admin

teacher, librarian, chess instructor, author, storyteller, expert on boys and reading. Email me at mike@talestoldtall.com.

Fake It Till You Make It

Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, art by Keith Knight. Jake the Fake Keeps It Real. (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017)
What’s harder than faking your way into an exclusive Arts school? Out weird-ing the weirdos there long enough to stay!

Run Free!

David Trifunov. Free Runner. (Lorimer, 2018)
It’s called free running, or the sport of parkour, and we have all been amazed by it either in online videos or TV commercials, with runners flipping off of walls, sprinting down railings, bouncing over dumpsters, and clearing walls at full speed. Free Runner takes you into the blood-pumping, sweat=flying reality of street level parkour in a short, intense story, where the action comes first… and second and third. Let fly, and to get in the mood, check out this video:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vfoyY9lshI.



Are You Scared, Darth Vader?

Adam Rex. Star Wars: Are You Scared, Darth Vader? (Disney, 2018)
Are you scared of ghosts, Darth Vader? Is it the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi? Yoda? Then no, Darth Vader isn’t afraid of ghosts, or… what? Can you guess before the last page is turned? For all the little Star Wars fans out there, and all the big ones that will be reading it to them.

Take to the Woods!

Justin and Gary VanRiper. The Adirondack Kids [Series]
Mixing action, humor, mystery, and a whole lot of the great outdoors, The Adirondack Kids shows off the best of regional fiction. If you are from the Adirondacks, you’ll be thrilled to see places, people, and animals that hit close to home. If you live in a city, well, here is your doorway into a world of bears, minxes, huge fish, skunks, eagles, and moose, with some bad guys, local legends, and buried treasure to boot. Quick reads and fast-moving stories from a land that was just made for kids.

#1 – The Adirondack Kids
#2 – Rescue on Bald Mountain
#3 – The Lost Lighthouse
#4 – The Great Train Robbery
#5 – Islands in the Sky
#6 – The Secret of the Skeleton Key
#7 – Mystery of the Missing Moose
#8 – Escape From Black Bear Mountain
#9 – Legend of the Lake Monster
#10 – The Final Daze of Summer
#11 – The Fall of Fort Ticonderoga
#12 – The Pond Hockey Challenge
#13 – The Carousel Case, the Bicycle Race & the Blackfly Bad Guy
#14 – Journey Into the Land of Makebelieve
#15 – Mystery Under the Midnight Moon – A Collection of Short Stories
#16 – The Outlaws of Cascade Falls
#17 – Spies on Castle Rock & the Secrets of the Secret Code

Attention Dino Geeks!

Stephen Brusatte. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World. (HarperCollins, 2018)

For all those guys who were dinosaur-crazy as a kid, here is the latest overview of the entire age of dinosaurs, by a scientist who was unabashedly dino-crazy himself. If you want that feeling of being able to name and describe every single dinosaur that ever lived once again, here is the book do it.

Weird… but True!

Weird But True: 300 Outrageous Facts. (National Geographic Society, 2017)
One of those books you can open to a random page and make a trivia question out of what you see… and some of these are REALLY trivial!

Schooled Again

Gordon Korman. Super Gifted. (Balzer + Bray, 2018)

In Schooled, Korman showed us a kid who belonged anywhere but public school thrown into a suburban middle school. In Ungifted, Korman showed us a kid designed for public school, thrust into a gifted and talented school. Now, in Super Gifted, that kid is back in public school, and he brought along someone whom nobody could imagine anywhere but the gifted and talented school. In each story, the power of one kid’s inner identity is pitted against the overwhelming pressure of belonging, with increasingly hilarious consequences.

I’ve often tried to explain why Korman seems to click with middle-grade readers. I’ve said it before, the man is twelve years old, and twelve-year-olds buy anything he’s selling. But I think I see it more clearly now. Korman knows how to write earnest, and kids being psychological purists understand earnest. Korman can write from multiple, and very different, points of view, and still make you believe every kid means every word he says.

See my review at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2317462841

The Quality of our Language

 New York Times
The Boys Are Not All Right

The article linked above is quite a read from the NYT. If I may add a small bit to this heartfelt discussion: the author talks about how we as males lack the language to talk about difficult feelings. At least part of that is a lack of broad language in general. As George Carlin reminded us, we think in language, and the quality of our language affects the quality of our thought. Boys will acquire more language tools through reading than any other method, and as for the depth of language, that comes through engagement in longer texts (not necessarily long books, but often long series where the reader can engage with characters through many situations). The fact that reading is seen as tied to age or skill level rather than brain development and psychological readiness alienates boys from reading, making it unnecessarily hard and pointlessly irrelevant. Boys often don’t read because we adults make reading foreign to many boys, the more struggling the boy, the greater the isolation. Do I think promoting reading in more boy-friendly ways will end mass shooting, violence against women, or teen suicide? No. But it may be one way to move forward against these stark and complicated realities.