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:

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.

Zombie Apocalypse… yeah!

Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate. The Last Kids on Earth. (Viking, 2015)
Monsters running amok, zombies everywhere, society broken down, no rules, no adults… what an opportunity for a cool monster-slaying, post-apocalyptic, middle school super hero! (Just ask him…)

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team, by Steve Sheinkin.

Quick, name the greatest football player and coach combination ever to play the game… Think innovations so great that the rules would be changed every time they started something new; think hurry up offense and dynasty. No, not Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots. Brady never punted the ball 60 yards, ran under it and caught it in the air, broke four tackles and scored on the return; that wouldn’t even be legal today! If you are a football fan, or a history buff, this story of the Carlisle Indian School, Jim Thorpe, and Pop Warner will take you from the Civil War through World War I, and you’ll meet the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Omar Bradley on the way.

How About a New Teen Series for the Summer?

Scott Westerfield, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti. Zeroes. (Zeroes, Book 1) Simon Pulse, 2015.
Not all powers are super. Not all consequences are intended. And when you are a teenager with abilities you don’t understand and nobody else has, using that power is always dangerous. What do you do? Where do you turn? And is teaming up with a handful of other teens in the same boat a comfort, an alliance, or just a chance to multiply all that power, be it beneficial or destructive?

Book Two: Swarm (2016)


Taran Matharu. The Novice [Summoner #1] (Feiwel and Friends, 2015)
An excellent start to a dark fantasy series. The human world are count between competing wars with the orcs on one front and the elves on another, and must contend with the dwarves as a subjugated people within their empire. The battlemages are their greatest weapons, unleashing magic and demons on the enemy. But there are far too few; so few that commoners and other marginalized adepts are now being trained. But a nameless orphan from the very edges of the empire? Ultimately, what really matters is power, and power can come from all kinds of sources. For those who love Jonathan Stroud, wish John Flanagan had more of a supernatural edge, or have simply outgrown Harry Potter.

Book #2: The Inquisition (2016)
Book #3: The Battlemage (2017)

Creepy & Cool, Lockwood & Company

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Stroud, the creatively twisted mind behind the Bartimaeus Trilogy, brings another sure-fire, darkly gothic world to life in Lockwood & Co.  When ghosts drifted out of the closet half a century ago, a whole new social order, economy, and profession for young adepts came to life… defending the world against the dead. Yet even with the crucial talent in the hands of teens and pre-teens, adults can’t help manipulating them for their own ends. Enter Anthony Lockwood, a dashing, brash, and proud teen determined to fight “The Problem” on his own terms. With his two young associates, Lockwood & Co. take on the most haunted place in the world, and a living enemy that may be far more dangerous.