In the two weeks since my last post, I've finished Riordan's The Lightning Thief, Gerstein's The Old Country, and Stead's First Light, and am almost done with Anderson's The Game of Sunken Places.
Ha, ye of little faith, who do not think I will reach my goal! Actually, I am quite worried, but I'm having a good time doing it. I have yet to run across a 'miss' in any of the books by these authors, which just reinforces my joy at having them come to the conference in March.
At least a quick bit about each of these books is in order. First of all, I picked up The Lightning Thief, oddly enough (and truly unplanned), the day after my husband and I had watched the remake of Clash of the Titans. I have to say - that really enhanced my enjoyment of the book, although I would have loved it otherwise as well. I was just already in 'titan' mode, I guess, and really liked connecting the dots, so to speak, as I read about the beings that I had just seen in the movie. I'm sure everyone knows about this book by now, especially since it was made into a move (I need to see that, too). But bear with me as I add just a few notes for those few folks who may not be familiar with it. First of all, this book has GOT to appeal to middle school boys; the main character is a boy about 12 years old,
one who has spent most of his life sent away to boarding schools. He has dyslexia and does not necessarily enjoy school. Turns out there's a perfectly good reason for the boarding school bit, and it has nothing to do with the dyslexia. He also has a creepy stepfather. That said, I can also see the book appealing to girls. There are a few girls who figure into the plot, but that shouldn't matter, as far as I'm concerned. I don't think the gender of the main character of a story should necessariliy impact anyone's enjoyment, but maybe I'm being naive. Anyway, as with other fabulous reads, the author creates wonderful mind-pictures so that the reader can connect easily with what's going on in every scene. Anyway, it turns out that this middle school boy, who is not very successful in school, and isn't happy about the fact that he doesn't have a lot of friends, since he goes to a different school every year, is in fact quite significant to the fabric of the world. He has a quest to complete that has tremendous implications for humanity. I love the fact that the underdog, someone who is not the most popular kid in school, suddenly gains remarkable importance. I also like the fact that there are factors worked into the story that might seem trivial but that really do have a point, like the fact that Percy's mother is married to a creepy stepfather. There's a reason. But to return to the reason I am reading this book in the first place, I want to remind you that this author is NOT coming to the conference, but the illustrator, John Rocco, is. I found a site with lots of illustrations he's done about the Percy Jackson series. They're beautiful and you can purchase them from that site.
On to Mordicai Gerstein's The Old Country. I picked this up not long after finishing the last book in Patrick Carman's Land of Elyon series, and found an immediate connection between the two. First of all, a bit of a plot summary: a young girl unwillingly changes places with a fox. And when I mean changes places, I mean her heart / soul / personality / spirit goes into the body of the fox, and vice versa. Yup. And this is not something that makes the girl happy, but it sure makes the fox happy. Much of the story is devoted to the girl-in-the-fox trying desperately to get back to her family. The connection with Carman's series is that there exists an ability to communicate between animals and humans. Whereas in the Land of Elyon, one must have possession of a Jocasta stone, in The Old Country the communication must take place in a certain meadow. There must always be a condition for such a magic to happen, and these two authors just used different conditions. But on to the story. For me, there are two characteristics of this book that make it special. One is that it was told in a fashion close to "Once upon a time," set in 'the old country,' although the reader never knows what country that is, specifically. This is done purposefully, I'm sure; that kind of anonymity is part and parcel of fairy tales of old. The other is that it really does require the reader to consider "...the question of what it is to be human" (quote taken from the back of the book). I'm an animal lover, so there you have it. And of course there's a surprise ending - love those! But truly, this book was a joy to read. While The Lightning Thief kept me on the edge of my seat a lot, this book made me snuggle into the covers at night, in anticipation of joining Gisella in her quest to return to her family.
First Light for the next one, when I'll also talk about The Game of Sunken Places. But I did want to post a picture here, too. It's of the Conference Shirts and my display for the 2011 Illinois Reading Council Conference! While I don't love pictures of myself, I love the shirts and the display and wanted to share them with you. Don't forget: you can order shirts online!