Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

Creepy!  This word best describes the feeling I had while reading The Real Boy by Anne Ursu.  I don’t mean creepy in a bad way, but in the way that sends chills down your spin with your mouth hanging open.

Oscar is a small boy that works for the most powerful magician in the land.  Years ago the wizards disappeared, but their magic is still around.  The city and forest are filled with sinister magic. (Sinister is used on the book jacket because it best describes what is happening!)  Oscar is the hand of the magician Caleb, and Wolf is the apprentice who hates Oscar.  I found out that the hand does the grunt work for the apprentice.  Soon after the book begins something horrific happens to Wolf, and Caleb leaves to find “answers”.  This leaves Oscar and his Callie to deal with the evil that is happening to the children of the city.  If I write more it really does get into the whole spoiler alert realm.  I’m not doing that!

While I was reading this at home I was reading Noah Barleywater Runs Away to my class.  At one point in that book the old man says, “I should have never become a real boy.”  This line stuck in my mind, so I kept wondering if the same was true of Oscar.  Well, it’s not.  I had trouble putting The Real Boy down.  It is an engaging story where twists and turns kept me reading.  There were many times where I just wanted to take Oscar in my arms and hug him and tell him everything will be alright.  Of course that’s not possible with a character in a fantasy book.  I like the perseverance of both Callie and Oscar, and their true understanding of what is good versus evil.  I’m not quite sure on this for third graders, but definitely for 4th grade and above.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Magic of Jennifer A. Nielsen

Truth be told I usually only read the first book in a series.  It isnt that I dont want to it is that I have enough trouble just getting through my TBR stack. This changed over the weekend.  Over the past few months there has been a lot of press and chatter about The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. 
My friend Carol blogged about it and encouraged me to read it.  She told me about the time Ms. Nielsen visited her school, and how delightful she was with the kids.  I, so much, loved reading The False Prince last week that when I was at The Bookies last Friday I bought The Runaway King, and devoured it over the weekend.  Only difference between the boys and me in the class is that I didnt beg my mom to get it.

Flash back to the middle of December.  The boys in Guys Read had picked The False Prince as their next book. The boys started the book and within two days a couple of boys stopped by my room to tell me they loved the book, had already finished, and got their mom to take them to Tattered Cover to buy The Runaway King (the next one in the series). 
Throughout the next week the discussion of The False Prince spread through my room.  It started with what happens in chapter 3.  The boys I think were in shock that a scene like that would be in a story they were reading.  I would watch boys walking over to other kids and say, Here, listen to this part.

The girls in the class were also talking about the book even though none had read it yet.  Given some of the girls in my class Im sure many read it over break.

Every morning I could hear boys asking each other:

·       What chapter are you on?
·       How far did you read last night? 
·       Wasnt it cool when.

Im sure when we meet next week the boys will have nothing to talk about in book club because it is all they have talked about in class.

Daily I watch kids read books.  The share books, borrow books, and discard books very quickly.  It is that special writer like Ms. Nielsen that gets kids out of their chairs to share the her words.  Over the years I have watched boys read the books for book club.  Sometimes they are totally engaged, and sometimes they arent that interested in the book. The only other book with this much magic was The Lightening Thief. 

Thank you Ms. Nielsen for taking the joy of reading to an even higher level.