Thursday, December 1, 2011

No Passengers Beyond This Point by Jennifer Choldenko

India, Mouse, and Finn have just lost their house due to a financial crisis, and now they are on a plane, alone, on their way to Uncle Red's house in Colorado.  Soon after take off, strange things begin to happen, but the three siblings are distracted by their own frustrations.

India doesn't want to leave her friends and school, and she can't believe her mother is making her babysit her younger brother and sister on the way to Colorado.  They are so annoying!

Finn is worried about everything and sad about leaving his manager position on the basketball team.  Things will never be the same, and they barely even know Uncle Red.  He just doesn't see how everything can work out with so many problems in their path.

Mouse notices everything, and while her older brother and sister are worried and annoyed that she will drift away, she is frustrated because no one is listening when she tries to point out important signs and information.

When the land, they aren't in Colorado.  They are in a place that seems too good to be true.  They soon discover that what seems like paradise really isn't and that they might just want to go back to their normal lives.  But is it too late?  Time is strange in this new place, and it's running out fast.

This book is told from the perspectives of the three kids, so you get different versions of the story.  It gets a little confusing as you read, but it will all make sense in the end, even the reasons why it is a little confusing. :)  Visit Gennifer Choldenko's website for more information.  I recommend this for everyone, especially if you like a little fantasy in your life!

The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Tessa has never known a world without war.  For longer than she or her parents have been around, the country has been at war.  This has left the people depressed, poor, and struggling to survive.  Tessa is happy to hear that a childhood friend and neighbor, Gideon, is winning a medal for his military service because she hopes this will inspire her community and give them something to live for.

But Gideon isn't happy about his award at all.  He is filled with guilt about what he has done and determined to do something to make things right.

As Gideon, Tessa, and an orphan named Dek set out on one final mission, they begin to realize a shocking truth about this always war that has consumed everyone's lives for generations.

This is a quick read and interesting perspective on war and intelligence.  The Always War will make you think about war and truth in a different way.  As you read, look for place names that sound familiar but are a little off.  See if you can figure out the real places Dek, Gideon, and Tessa discuss and visit.  I recommend this for everyone, 6-8.  Enjoy!

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

This is a reimagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which just means the author took the basic ideas of the original story and looked at them in a different way or in this case, fleshed out part of the story.  Oppel looks at Victor Frankenstein as a teenager.  Victor and his twin brother, Konrad, are best friends, but that doesn't mean there isn't a touch or jealousy and competition in their relationship.  This competitiveness only increases for Victor when he thinks of the lovely Elizabeth. 

Life is relatively peaceful until Konrad becomes unexpectedly ill, and all medical efforts fail.  Victor remembers a dark library hidden in the house with alchemy books and papers.  He struggles to create an Elixir of Life to save his brother and to glorify himself.  Victor and Elizabeth must battle vicious creatures and cunning enemies to meet their goal, but Victor finds the danger exhilarating. 

This book was a heart pounding thrill ride that manages to be character driven at the same time.  Oppell looks further into Victor's motivations than the original story does, and he creates a character who is believable and disturbing.

The best compliment I can give This Dark Endeavor is it inspired me to read the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'd never read it, but I thought I knew the story based on a jumble of movie clips and cultural references.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong and that Shelley's novel provokes questions about loneliness and personal responsibility.  We also have Shelley's book here in the library.  Both are challenging reads, so I would recommend them for 8th graders and 7th graders who are strong readers.

This Dark Endeavor was also named as part of the 2012-2013 Lone Star List!