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Tag Archives: Books for Boys

Round one: Glory O’ Brien’s History of the Future VS Grasshopper Jungle AKA Chronicles of the Apocalypse

In Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King, Glory O’Brien has no future. Despite her impending high school graduation, and her talent as a reflective and creative photographer, Glory has applied to no colleges and made no plans. Glory has become paralyzed by the fear of becoming her mother, Darla. Darla O’Brien, also a smart, funny, creative young woman and a gifted photographer, committed suicide when Glory was four years old. Glory’s father never recovered, giving up on his own career as a painter and eating himself to 400 pounds; he has stopped truly living. Glory has a “best friend,” Ellie, who is a friend only by default of proximity. Though Ellie brags about one day running away from her family’s controlling hippie commune, she too has no future plans.Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

When Glory and Ellie drink the desiccated remains of a bat, the two girls can suddenly see the past and future of each person they meet. And Glory sees horrific things. Everyone’s future culminates in a second Civil War, the history of which Glory begins to write down. She seeks out new people to piece together the story of this future she uncovers, and in doing so discovers her own past, present, and future. She gains the courage to ask questions about her mom, sets healthier boundaries with the parasitic Ellie, and reconnects with her dad. Readers watch a frightened teen become a compassionate, courageous young adult who not only turns away from numb despair toward hope, but helps others do the same. Despite the dark future Glory sees, knowledge that she will play a role in the future empowers her. She has the power to build her own future and begins to do just that.

A more visceral apocalyptic tale, Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle is quite literally a story of piss, shit, blood, and semen – the very stuff of life. The dust jacket promises catastrophic action, with 6-foot, man-eating praying mantises, yet these monsters don’t appear till almost 150 pages into the story. And while they do provide pretty provocative action, they are but a metaphorical and atmospheric backdrop for Austin Sczerba’s quest for truth. Austin is chronicling the history of the end of the world as these giant bugs take over. And much like the giant bugs, EVERYTHING in the history of the end of the world makes Austin horny – most of all his girlfriend, Shann, and his best friend Robby. They are both in love with him, and he with them.  Austin can’t decide between the two people he loves more than anything in the world and he smashes both their hearts trying not to decide between them. But this is not the real crux of the story either.

As Austin tells his Grasshopper Junglepersonal history of the end of the world, he recounts the history of his Polish immigrant ancestors (and their glamorous urinals), vagrants, cooks, neighbors (and their testicles), friends, strangers, politicians (and their testicles), teachers, Saint Casimir, a mad scientist (and his semen), cave painters, and humanity itself. In the larger narrative created, we are a bunch of messy animals, trying and failing miserably to prevent the repetition of our own mistakes. And the inevitability of it is gut wrenching, terrifying, and tragic. The bugs, Austin, his friends, and family become a metaphor for all of humanity desperately chronicling their terrible mistakes in an effort to create some tiny change in human history. It’s funny and clever, crude and uncomfortable, raw and poignant, and absolutely heartbreaking. This is a story, like all of Andrew Smith’s, that will stay with me.

These were excellent books to juxtapose – both about teens finding themselves amidst tragedy, the unraveling of civilizations, and the connectedness of past, present, and future. But the history chronicled by Glory O’Brien pales in comparison to that written by Austin Sczerba. Glory’s magical visions of the future are almost unnecessary to the novel. They are emotionally distant, lifeless, lacking detail. But her story is more accessible than Grasshopper Jungle. I will be book-talking Glory’s story to my students, not Austin’s. Yet Grasshopper Jungle wins this competition, hands down. Austin’s history of apocalypse is acerbic, poetically profane, and epic in scope. The many layered meanings of Austin’s story, while creating a rich and complex picture of the human condition, do make it impenetrable to an inexperienced teen reader. This book requires a special student – one with advanced reading skills but also liberal appreciation of scatological and sexual references. For that reader, however, this book will dig inside and crack them open like the giant bugs of MI Plague Strain 412E.

P.S. I’m glad that Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim, Shaun of the Dead) has signed on to direct the movie version of Grasshopper Jungle. If anyone can do this book justice, it’s the creator of The World’s End.

Winner: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

 

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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in Book Review, Tournament of Books

 

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Books to programs to books

Why fight it?  Books are libraries brand.  When programming, just go with it.

Programming revolving around books isn’t a new idea.  We’ve been doing it for years, they’re called book discussions.  Take it a step further by turning the content of a book into your program.  The following is a list of books and ideas for programming that go with it.  This list is in no way comprehensive as there is no limit to a librarian’s creativity.

100 Most Disgusting Things on the Planet (Claybourne)

Having trouble getting the boys into the library…fret no more!  The grosser the program the crazier the boys go for it. The book is divided into two sections: disgusting nature and disgusting humans.  Many of the topics from the disgusting nature section can be seen in nature documentaries and online videos.  Have a couple videos queued for display.  For instance the Tarantula Hawk Wasp is shown in this video attacking a tarantula, paralyzing it and dragging it into her hole where she will lay her eggs on it allowing her babies a fresh food supply when they hatch.  The spider is alive the whole time.  My favorite chapter in the disgusting humans section is on “Civet Coffee” (Kopi Luwak) which is made from the coffee beans of the fruit that the Civet Cat eats.  After passing the coffee beans they are collected and ground into coffee at the price of $160 a pound or up to $80 a cup in a cafe.  Ahh, to be rich and drink sh…  Do you know where your coffee comes from?

Bro-Jitsu: The Martial Art of the Sibling Smackdown (Wilson)

OK, so this program might be dangerous.  Correction, this program WILL be dangerous.  Packed with 126 attack, defense, counter-measures, and counter-counter measures, Bro-Jitsu is a survival guide for growing up a sibling.  Treat this class like you would a beginner Yoga class.  Make sure that each participant has their own space (you know, to avoid getting blood on the carpet).  Run them through some of the more fun moves and then release them upon their unsuspecting families.

miniweapons2There are cool books to get idea for programming and then there are awesome books that you just rip-off wholesale and do an entire years worth of programs.  The Mini-Weapons of Mass Destruction is that series.  Our library had a huge hit with our Bad Boys Crafting Club in which we armed the youth of our town and send them on their way.  The projects range from catapults (from Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and clothes pins) to double-barrel rubber band shooters. After the teens have made the project set up an area with targets for shooting practice.  Be warned that some of these weapons work extremely well.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Programming

 

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So YA Like…the Alex Rider Series

If you have teens that are crazy for the Alex Rider series and are killing time before the next one comes out in November 2009 check out these titles.  These books are character driven mysteries and adventure stories.  They geared towards boys but can appeal to any action and thriller fans.

accelerationAcceleration Graham McNamee

Stuck working in the Lost and Found in the bowels of the Toronto Transit Authority for the summer, seventeen-year-old Duncan finds the diary of a serial killer. He follows the clues in the diary that lead him to two victims.  Duncan must find a way to watch both girls while managing to keep his job.

Blade: Playing Dead Tim Bowler

A fourteen-year-old British street person with extraordinary powers of observation and self-control must face murderous thugs connected with a past he has tried to forget, when his skills with a knife earned him the nickname, Blade.

Death and the Arrow Chris Priestley

After his friend Will, a pickpocket in London in 1715, is murdered as part of a series of mysterious deaths, fifteen-year-old Tom Marlowe asks his friend Dr. Harker to help find the killer.  This is the first in the Tom Marlowe Adventure trilogy.

Down the Rabbit Hole: an Echo Falls Mystery Peter Abrahamsdowntherabbithole

Like her idol Sherlock Holmes, eighth grader Ingrid Levin-Hill uses her intellect to solve a murder case in her home town of Echo Falls.  This is the first in the Echo Falls Mystery series.

First Boy Gary Schmidt

Dragged into the political turmoil of a presidential election year, fourteen-year-old Cooper Jewett, who runs a New Hampshire dairy farm since his grandfather’s death, stands up for himself and makes it clear whose first boy he really is.

Payback Andy McNab

As teenage suicide bombers terrorize England, seventeen-year-old Danny tries to help his grandfather, an ex-SAS explosives expert falsely accused of being a traitorous spy by the government’s intelligence agencies.

rashRash Pete Hautman

In a future society that has decided it would “rather be safe than free,” sixteen-year-old Bo’s anger control problems land him in a tundra jail where he survives with the help of his running skills and an artificial intelligence program named Bork.

Raven’s Gate Anthony Horowitz

Sent to live in a foster home in a remote Yorkshire village, Matt, a troubled fourteen-year-old English boy, uncovers an evil plot involving witchcraft and the site of an ancient stone circle.  This is the first volume in the Gatekeeper’s series.

SilverFin : a James Bond Adventure Charles Higsonsilverfin

Young James Bond, while attending boarding school at Eton in the 1930s, must battle against an insane arms dealer who, by using killer eels, is attempting to create a race of indestructible soldiers on the eve of World War II.  There are four books in Young James Bond series

The Recruit Robert Muchamore

James is recruited into CHERUB, a secret division of MI5 which consists of teenage spies. He successfully completes his training and goes on his first mission.  There are seven books in the CHERUB series.

The Road of the Dead Kevin Brooks

Two brothers, sons of an incarcerated gypsy, leave London and travel to an isolated and desolate village, in search of the brutal killer of their sister.

supernaturalistThe Supernaturalist Eoin Colfer

In futuristic Satellite City, fourteen-year-old Cosmo Hill escapes from his abusive orphanage and teams up with three other people who share his unusual ability to see supernatural creatures, and together they determine the nature and purpose of the swarming blue Parasites that are invisible to most humans.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2009 in Booklists

 

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