Saturday, April 30, 2016

Teen review: Two Oz Series

Editor's note: George has submitted four book reviews--two from the original Oz books by L. Frank Baum, and two from the brand-new young adult series about Oz by Danielle Page. Nice thematic reading and reviewing, George! So we will run them in order as a kind of series of their own.

The Marvelous Land of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
200 pages
Fantasy series, book #2

Reviewed by George Sakellariou, grade 8

In the first sequel to L. Frank Baum’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Tip is an ordinary munchkin boy who serves the witch Mombi. He hates the witch Mombi, for she makes him do gruesome tasks as a slave. To play a prank on her, Tip makes a pumpkin-headed man, which Mombi brings to life with a recently bought powder of life from a magician. To keep the “pumpkin head” from becoming her slave, and to prevent himself from becoming a marble statue, Tip runs away with the Pumpkinhead, Jack, to the Emerald City to find a new life. Along the way he meets the Scarecrow, the ruler of Oz,  and the Tin Woodsman otherwise known as Nick Chopper; he brings a wooden horse to life; and he meets the Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated Wogglebug. However, the Emerald City is under attack by an army of girls armed with sewing needles, so Tip and his companions step in to restore Oz to its natural state.

I would rate this book 2 out of 5 stars due to how short it was and the lack of an interesting plot. I have read the entire 13-book series, and found much joy in the pages of the other books. One of the new characters, the H.M Wogglebug T.E., was such a show-off, babbling on about stories of how smart he is, over and over again. The only reason you should read this book is to get to the joy of the other books or to check some Oz history. So finish this easy read, and continue the series. Only 11 more to go!

(I must say, however, that the art displayed in this book is some of the best works in the series. The cover, for instance, displays the army of girls disguised as sunflowers, slowly closing in on Tip and his companions.)

Editor's note: The illustrations for the Oz books, except for the first, were by John Rea Neill, who was known for illustrating more than 40 stories about Oz, including Baum's, Ruth Plumly Thompson's, and three of his own! You can see a good array of the images on this Pinterest page about him.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What we're reading: Illuminae!

There has been a lot of buzz about Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and so I chose it as one of the new books I would illustrate for the cover of this year's Reading Log for teen summer reading. And since I had illustrated it, I thought perhaps I should also read it!

The size of the book (599 pages) was rather daunting for a weekend, but Anarda assured me that it would be a quick read, because the whole story is told through a "dossier" of hacked documents that includes emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and other miscellany, so the page content of readable material is not dense. I found this to be true, and for the first 50 or so pages, I also found it to be irritating! The fancy format, especially as regards a bunch of graphically challenging black pages with teensy tiny gray writing that is laid out like a pinwheel or a wave, frustrated me to no end. Authors of teen books: Remember that elderly people such as librarians also read your books, and make the type bigger!

Once that initial reaction was worked through, however, and I kept reading (having faith in Anarda's good taste), I rapidly became first fascinated by and then totally immersed in the story:

In the morning, Kady and Ezra broke up. Or rather, Kady dumped Ezra for a variety of reasons even she isn't clear about. In the afternoon, the planet on which they live, and where their families work in an illegal mining operation, is attacked by a rival corporation. A fleet of three ships manages to escape the planet with the surviving settlers on board, hotly pursued by the remaining warship belonging to their attackers.

To complicate matters, a deadly plague breaks out on board ship, and the Artificial Intelligence in charge of the fleet may have been sufficiently damaged in the battle as to have "lost its mind." Kady is on one ship, and Ezra is on another, and much of the communication is related to one or the other of them, some of it between them but much of it also involving other personnel at various levels on all three vessels.

The story starts slowly, but soon ramps up into quite the ride. Invasion, retreat, strategy, plague, zombie-like people, a rogue artificial intelligence, a plucky heroine, and a little bit of romance--and you cannot beat it for suspense. I think the fact that I devoured it in less than 24 hours says something!

Pick it up, hang in there through the frustrating gleaning of information from random bits and bytes (which actually, as it turns out, makes you go slowly enough to mine it for all its content), and you won't put it down until the amazing conclusion.

And there will be a sequel!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tuesday night

We have a lot of teens who are in their junior or senior year, or who are just entering community college or university, and one of the things many of them will be doing is getting their first job. Previously, your only connection with credit was EXTRA credit for school, but now, suddenly there's money in your pocket, and you have to think about a different kind of credit--a credit RATING. of the many things no one teaches you as a teenager or new adult is how to manage your money. If you don't have a parent, teacher, or friend who is looking out for you and will inform you of your options, you can get into trouble quickly! So we decided to put together a program designed to inform you about such things as opening checking and savings accounts, your first credit card and how to manage it, budgeting so your bills get paid without you going into debt, and the value of a good credit rating!

Teachers and students from the Burbank High School Finance Academy will make a presentation and answer your questions, and then Joanna Tomlinson from Burbank City Federal Credit Union will talk to you about your credit rating. Be proactive--get the information FIRST, and be the only person in your circle of friends who isn't thousands of dollars in debt by your mid-twenties!

Tuesday night, 7:00 p.m.
Buena Vista Branch
300 N. Buena Vista Street
818 238-5620

The program is for teens and new adults, but you are welcome to bring your "people," whether that's parents, friends, siblings, or whoever! We hope to see you there!