Okay, folks, I have some great door prizes to give away at the conference - mostly books, which should not come as too much of a shock. Here's how you can get one: When you see me at the conference, come up to me and tell me something you learned by reading this blog. If you do, I'll hand you a ticket good for a door prize that you can pick up at the registration desk. That's all it takes! Oh wait - there's one little glitch: what you tell me has to be something that no one else has told me yet. And how in the world are you going to know that? I don't know. That's up to you. You might want to jot down several items to carry with you on an index card. I'll give out tickets until the door prizes are all gone, but there are quite a few of them.
I also want to share with you a couple of links that M. T. Anderson sent to me to put on the blog. The first one is a mini-movie that he made to accompany The Suburb Beyond the Stars, which you'll see reviewed below:
And here's a link to what he calls "...a complete, entirely erroneous tourist's guide to Delaware..." that he created to accompany another of his series - the Pals in Peril. These books have incredibly creative, fun titles, like Whales on Stilts, The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, and Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware.
I've finished reading Suburb Beyond the Stars, and loved it just as much as Anderson's The Game of Sunken Places. If you click on the title, it will take you to another blogger's review of the book, and I have to say, she is a much finer blogger / writer than I, so please check it out. I had posted a brief comment on her blog back in November, and she responded that we will enjoy him because he's a terrific speaker. I am SO looking forward to this conference! But wait, there's more: If you click on that link and go to her blog, read it, yes, but toward the bottom there is a link to "the tie-in interactive web site that Scholastic has put together" for The Game of Sunken Places. (Of course, I just linked the phrase to that web site as well, so you don't really have to go to her blog. But I recommend it. I think I included her review as a link on this blog last November as well.) If you've read The Game of Sunken Places or are planning to, this will be a fun addition. Oh yeah, your students might like it, too.
But even though the other blogger is a better writer than I am and does such a marvelous job of reviewing this book, I do need to talk about The Suburb Beyond the Stars anyway because .... because ... because I just have to!
This one is, of course, a sequel to The Game of Sunken Places, so it has some of the same characters. The two main characters, Gregory and Brian, get themselves into a heap of trouble again. It concerns the Thussers and the Norumbegans, the same races of creatures who we were introduced to in The Game of Sunken Places. This time, the Thussers are just being aggressive, nasty babies because they want what they want, and they want it now. They want Earth. They figure they can begin their takeover by assimilating themselves into a remote suburb, and they do so by building the suburb themselves and stocking it with unwitting humans.
Okay. Gregory and Brian, while planning the next 'game,' run into some problems. Brian is being followed by some creepy guy with a red face - a violent bloody red. Not good. On top of that, he and Gregory realize that Cousin Prudence seems to be M.I.A. and they go to Vermont to see what's wrong. They soon figure out, through their keen observation, that something is rotten in Denmark, or at least in the suburb that has been built up around Prudence's house, on the side of the mountain where Gregory and Brian had their first great adventure with the game. Fortunately for them, even though they don't find Prudence right away, they do stumble upon their old friend, Kalgrash the troll, who has undergone a transformation of sorts and now has a little more heft and strength to him.
There are points in this book, as in with the first one, where I almost felt I shouldn't be laughing, but I had to. When the Thussers start practicing mind control on the humans, I saw them (meaning the humans) as a combination of creepy / Stepford Wives / silly that just made me giggle at times. I am a very visual reader, so I picture everything while I'm reading. And I'm a bit warped, so there's that.
Humor aside, I have to tell you that once again, M.T. Anderson uses his tremendous command of the language to create a landscape of characters, setting, and plot that suck the reader right into this make-believe world, one that obviously is a part of the northeastern United States but is populated by creatures that only a hugely creative mind can develop and then describe in such as way as to make the reader tremble in spite of him / herself. Wow, that was a long sentence. I apologize, but I meant every word. Here’s an example of quintessential M.T. Anderson writing:
“Many centuries ago, when the people of Europe still dressed in pelts and scavenged like animals, back when queens pulled birds apart with their teeth, and kings lived in wooden shacks they called feasting halls, a race of sublime, elfin creatures dwelled in the hills. These creatures held court in gemmed ballrooms and delighted themselves with subtle games and whispery fantasias played on instruments of silver. They were reasonably fond of the human animal, though the humans tended to smell bad, eat too much, cry about angels, and leave their droppings on the floor. When the human beasts started to multiply, however, many of the elfin race felt there was no longer enough room for their airy castles and subterranean cities in the hills of Europe, and so a party of them set out for the New World, having read that the human population there was more scarce and not so given to delving in the ground and knocking down sacred groves.
They crossed the Atlantic Ocean in their hovering coracles and galleons. In the mountains of what is now Vermont, they founded a fabled kingdom called Norumbega. Beneath the hills they built palaces and cathedrals and the City of Gargoyles, with stone streets and squares where they held their weird games and rituals for many centuries. They lived there happily – practicing falconry in the forests, holding sub-aquatic jousts in mountain lakes, playing golf with greens and holes in other worlds –until one day when another eldritch race, the Thusser, came to challenge them.” (from pages 13 – 14)
Now, lest you worry, (who uses words like ‘lest,’ unless they’ve been reading M.T. Anderson?) the entire book is not written with this rich language. If you read my entry on November 22, you’ll see the kind of banter that goes on between Gregory and Brian, along with some other excerpts from the book. And here’s another excerpt from Suburb Beyond the Stars that’s a little more … common:
“The cat box was full. It sat by the front door, the turds old, dry, and frosted white. That explained the smell.” (from page 39)
So yes, it’s another fabulous book, and it makes me more anxious to read the next one. I’m going to try to put a picture of the book cover in this blog, as I’ve been doing all along, but it’s becoming harder and harder to find images that will actually allow me to save them and insert them. I apologize for all of the text, text, text in the blog. I know that most people like a few pictures along with their words. Since we can’t have everything, though, for now you'll just have to do what I do: settle with the pictures that M.T. Anderson creates in your own head.