Thursday, January 26, 2017

January Book Clubs

Last Tuesday, the 6+7 Book Club met to (briefly) discuss the book Flipped, by Wendelin Van Draanen. We then positively galloped through the voting process for our March read, with the result that I don't remember the book we ended up choosing! Can anyone help me out here? I need to order the books! And why all the rush? So we could then screen the movie version of Flipped, which everyone seemed to enjoy greatly.

We will meet in February on Tuesday the 7th, to talk about
The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson.

The list of other books we considered is on the same piece of paper (that I lost) with the book choice for March, so we may have to start from scratch with our nominations next time, which isn't necessarily a bad thing!

This week, the 8+9 Book Club met for the first time on its new night (the 4th Tuesday of every month), and the consensus was that The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, was a really good book! People liked the skills and talents of the five main characters, and thought both the characters and the story-telling were good. Several were a little too creeped out by the chapter headings written in the voice of the killer, but all enjoyed the book, particularly the fact that the murderer was so hard to guess, and most plan to read all three sequels. The final rating was a high 9!

Next month we will read and discuss Jackaby, by William Ritter, and the book for March will be Crash, by Lisa McMann.

Other books we considered, in descending order by most to least votes:

How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon
Trouble Is A Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromly
A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro
The Wonder of All Things, by Jason Mott
The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Kingdom Keepers, by Ridley Pearson
Sabriel, by Garth Nix
Enchanted Ivy, by Sarah Beth Durst
And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

February's meeting will be Tuesday the 28th.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What we're reading: Edgy teen tale

I read Blink and Caution, by Tim Wynne-Jones, for the first time more than five years ago, and I'm not sure whether I ever reviewed it here, since our blog has only been in existence since 2012. But I recently decided to reread the book, since I was considering talking about it with a group of prospective teen librarians, and was delighted to see that it held up and that I still liked it upon second read; so I thought I'd feature it. Also, even if I did review it before, five years is a lifetime in which 8th-graders graduate from high school and probably quit reading this blog, so why not?

Blink and Caution are two kids in trouble. The story starts with Blink (because he has a tick that causes him to blink a lot), a street kid who has dressed in his preppy teenager "costume" (which consists of clean khaki pants and the right kind of shirt and shoes, to help him blend) and has gone into a hotel and up to the 16th floor (a random choice) looking for breakfast. The goal is to stroll down a hall with people's room service trays sitting outside their doors and see what food you can scavenge from them without being noticed or caught. He's working on that when he inadvertently witnesses a kidnapping--or is it? The guy didn't look like he was under duress. He also left behind a bunch of stuff in the hotel room, including money, and a phone with a pretty girl's picture on it--who could resist taking it? But this has put Blink in the spotlight with some not-so-nice guys, and he's trying to figure out how to hide out from them but also do the right thing regarding the kidnapping.

Caution (as in "use caution") is on the run for a different reason--she put herself into a relationship with a sleazy drug dealer when she first hit the street; now she has run away from him, and he wants her back, partly because she's an asset, and partly because she's ripped him off. She collides with Blink and takes advantage of him too, but then feels unexpected remorse and lets herself get caught up in his plans and fate.

I like the book because the tale of the kids' street life gives the story a gritty, realistic feel and provokes various thoughts about social justice. But it also includes a suspenseful thriller component, as the two of them get tangled up in solving the mystery of the kidnapping, which is equally engaging.

I also enjoyed it because of a quirk of the writing style, although I was initially worried it would put me off; the book is told from the points of view of both of the teens, and while Caution's story is a standard third-person narrative, Blink's is told in second person, a trick usually reserved for poetry. When you first start reading it, the narrative can be confusing and maybe a little irritating ("It's noon; you are in the park. You look around and what...?"), but soon it hooks you in and makes Blink's experience more immediate and more compelling.

That isn't to say that Caution's story, told in a more traditional manner, isn't equally fresh. Wynne-Jones's characterizations of everyone in this book (particularly the two protagonists) are vivid and immediate. The only possible flaw of the book is that it takes a long time for the two to cross paths; I think I would have liked it better had that happened sooner. But other than that, I can't find fault!

The final comment I have is that while this novel offers a true picture of two teens who fall through the cracks, it offers redemption and hope in the end. One of the other edgy teen books about kids living on the street that I frequently recommend to people is Almost Home, by Jessica Blank, and although I liked it for some of the same reasons, that book as a whole is unrelievedly bleak. This one definitely leaves you with a better outcome, although that seems doubtful at moments.

We own an audio book version of Blink and Caution as well. Check it out!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Robots at the library!

Join us at the Buena Vista Branch on Tuesday, January 24 at 7:00 p.m. for the program "From Fighting Bots to Space Rovers: The Many Worlds of the Robot"!

JPL Robotics Engineer Megan Richardson will survey the field of robotics in a talk that will feature some amazing clips of robots in action. She will explain some basic principles about what a robot is, why we build them, and how they work (vision and mobility). She will give an overview of current and possible future developments in the field of robotics, and talk a bit about how the technology developed for space is linked to new or anticipated technology advances in our daily living, like the self-driving cars that have been in the news recently.

Ms. Richardson’s specialty is designing and building robots for space exploration. She is currently working with the Curiosity Rover on Mars, leading a team at JPL that is trying to solve some recent problems with the drill mechanism. So you will get to learn something about the excitement and challenges of working in this field from someone with hands-on experience.

Ms. Richardson will be bringing along a special guest to this event: NASA’s little demonstration space rover Rov-E, who we understand will do a few tricks involving audience participation. It should be an informative and fun evening!

Please note that students who attend this program for extra credit will be given a proof of attendance sheet at the end of the program.