Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: Going Solo

Going Solo
Roald Dahl
Narrative Nonfiction, Adventure, Autobiography

Book Review by: James Lawrence

Going Solo by Roald Dahl is more than just another boring autobiography. For one, Roald Dahl is an author, not a movie star or sports player who knows nothing about writing. But that is far from all that is good about this book. Going Solo is about Dahl’s adventures working for Shell Oil in the African Savanna and flying fighter planes in World War II.

Dahl embarks on many exciting adventures, fights for his country, and sends readers on an adventurous thrill ride. Another great thing about this book is the writing style. It is a non-fiction book, but it is narrative non-fiction, which means it feels like you are reading a fiction novel. Many people find non-fiction books boring and this is a great book for people like that. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, adventurous read.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Review: Seraphina

Rachel Hartman
Fantasy, Mystery, Romance

Book Review by: Joanna Zhang

In the book Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (where the main character is Seraphina Dombegh) there are humans. Some live in the kingdom of Goredd and are part of the royal family, some are “common folk”, and others, like Seraphina, serve in the palace. Then there are dragons, which are reptiles and silver-blooded and coldly logical. But bear in mind: these are not the silly or cute little dragons you find in fairy tales. These dragons are very erudite; they have sharp teeth; they can spit fireballs; they can eat humans. They can change into a human form – although, since emotional behavior is suppressed and tightly guarded against by dragons, you might see one of these saarantrai behaving weirdly. Some dragons-changed-into-humans even teach complicated physics and mathematics to young humans – not that the humans would admit it, of course.
The 40th anniversary of the treaty between humankind and dragon kind is coming to Goredd, and so is Comonot, the Ardmagar of the dragons. Both humans and dragons have big plans for the leader of all dragons. The book is from the point of view of Seraphina, who is neither human, dragon, nor saarantrai. Her father is a human, but her mother was a saar who rebelled against the idea that love is a disease. And Seraphina is about to step into a mystery that brings the people around her ever closer to her secret.
This book has dragons and fantastical creatures in its pages, but Seraphina is a more realistic character to me than any other character I’ve met so far (even in realistic fiction books). I especially liked the character development in Seraphina and the way she is portrayed.
One last note: Do not start this (or even re-read it) on a school night. You will forget about your homework. You will get lost in the world of Seraphina and stay there until you finish the book.
With that in mind, if you love fantasy, mystery, romance, or if you want to see in action how books can help you learn vocabulary, read Seraphina!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: HALO: Contact Harvest

HALO: Contact Harvest
Greg Bear and Joseph Staten

Book Review By: Jack Benjamin, 8th Grade Student

It is the 26th Century. The United Nations Space Command colonized a habitable planet named Harvest. Harvest, a peaceful, prosperous farming colony, is on the very edge of human-controlled space. All seemed well, until the Covenant came…
The Covenant is a Empire made of several Alien races, led by a race known as the San' Shyuum, a group of deceitful, biased, and religious leaders. Humanity is now about to go into a war; not against each other, but a common enemy: the Covenant.

This Novel follows Staff Sergeant Avery J. Johnson, a UNSC Marine. He and his fellow soldier, Petty Officer 1st Class Healy, UNSC Navy, are about to become the first UNSC Soldiers to come face to face with the Covenant.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book- not because I play the game and not because it is just about war. Not only was it was well written and well thought out, I loved it because it put me in a universe where humanity’s existence is at stake and where surrender is not an option. I have always been wondering about what type of organisms or creatures are in space; this book gave me possibilities on what could be out there.

I sometimes wonder what could be out there, deep in space… Maybe a Covenant… Maybe other habitable planets… We will know sooner than you think...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Personal Book Recommendations

Here's an opportunity for you to help others make good choices in the library! Print out one of these to make recommendations to your peers here at Smith.

Use the big block to either put a picture of yourself or draw a picture of a pivotal or memorable scene from the book. If you'd like to submit a full review here, just email it to me and then use a QR code generator to link people directly to your review! This way, you can become part of the Smith Middle School Library Media Center legacy!

The picture to the right is a good example. You can download the template below or create your own. Make sure you show it to me or Mr. Bullock before you place it on the shelf!

If you know of a good one for Android or any other OS, please send me the link so I can post it. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Our cover looks a little different
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Book 1)
Patrick Ness
Dystopian science-fiction

In one book, I suddenly have a new favorite author. Patrick Ness has written a series that captured my imagination and held it hostage until I was finished, with a world so well-built that you'd be hard pressed to not visualize every single aspect. When the book wasn't in my hand I couldn't help but wonder about it, and every time I'd close my eyes I was transported to it. This hasn't happened since I first read The Fellowship of the Ring.

To write a book review with more than what the back cover's summary provides would be to rob you of some truly shocking surprises. Suffice it to say that Todd, the story's protagonist, finds the facts of the world around him slowly unraveling, as new truths weave their way into his understanding. In a world where everyone's thoughts are laid bare for all to hear (and see), there are no secrets. It's with this basic certainty that the discovery of a patch of silence is the catalyst that propels Todd and his faithful dog Manchee into this new world where the rules don't necessarily apply anymore. 

"Todd and his faithful dog Manchee" is a phrase that might have turned me away from a book in years prior, but that's not the case here. In fact, every single character is so well-developed that even this relationship is grounded, and Manchee is just as crucial to the story as any of his human counterparts. I often find that characters develop too quickly or not at all, and Todd is definitely an exception to this. His development is believable. When your world gets turned around, there is no sudden epiphany that makes everything better. No. You struggle with it. You fight against it. When you accept it, it's only a tacit acceptance that you might eventually struggle against again. This is the case with Todd, and every other character. 

Be warned: the language could be an issue. Ness writes Todd's dialogue to mirror how he sounds. And Todd is illiterate, so you can only imagine; but please allow yourself to get past this. Even this decision plays into the larger themes of the novel and, eventually, the trilogy. There's also a few violent scenes that might be too much for some readers. Barring this, I highly recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go. 

NOTE: Recommended for mature readers only. 

Book Review: The Outcasts

The Brotherband Chronicles: The Outcasts

John Flanagan
Fantasy; Adventure

When I knew John Flanagan would be coming to Smith Middle School, I knew I'd need to quickly get caught up on his work. With my semester of Grad school winding down, and my workload ramping up, I struggled to find time to do so. I had a choice to make: start with The Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan, chronologically the first of his books, or dive right in to The Brotherband Chronicles: The Outcasts. I chose both, but I realized that he'd be promoting the latter series's newest release, so it was with Hal and the rest of the Herons that I decided to take flight. And it was a fine choice.

Botherband refers to a competition in which the young men of Hallasholm in Skandia (think Scandinavia) must participate. At the end of the trials, the winning team is given great honors, but all emerge with a set of compatriots for future exploits.  Like Will from the former series, Hal is different from the rest of the people of his nation. His ingenuity sets him apart from the rest of the town, and his Brotherband companions - albeit with different strengths - are no different. Stig, his stubborn best friend, is the muscle of the group; Ulf and Wolf are a hilarious set of twins who know no limits; Edvin is the studious one; Ingvar is the blind giant; Jesper can surreptitiously sneak around; and Stephen can mimic any sound or or voice. Each is given moments to shine in a way that doesn't feel too contrived. Hal's mentor-of-sorts is Thorn, whose past is mired by how we encounter him at the beginning of the novel- a drunkard without direction. With Thorn's advice and the knowledge of each members' strengths, Hal and his Brotherband face the challenges of the competition against some serious competitors, with each test more difficult than the one before. When I realized the novel would be structured around these events, I thought I was faced with a  predictable novel; however, Flanagan flipped a lot of my predictions on their heads, with some contests ending earlier than I would've thought possible, and some being resolved in very unlikely was. This lack of predictability, coupled with his urgent pace and well-developed characters, made the adventure all the more thrilling. It also helped that he provided nautical terms at the beginning of the book. 

This first novel is filled with adventure and makes for a good introduction to the world created by Flanagan. While most of the conflicts and the majority of the plot are driven by the Brotherband challenges, there is an ominous undercurrent that is realized at the end of the novel, propelling the Brotherband into further exploits in the novels that follow. My favorite character in the book is Thorn, whose redemptive arc is one of the best I've read in a long time, and whose mentorship of Hal calls to mind some of the better mentorships in literature, yet remains wholly unique and complex. 

I highly recommend this novel for fans of fantasy and adventure, or anyone who likes a cerebral main character. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reading Survey


In order for us to match you with the best texts, it's important that we learn about your preferences. It's best to read about topics you like first, then you can more easily transition to newer texts!

Click this link to take the interest survey.