Monday, May 30, 2011

Boom! by Mark Haddon

Book Information
Haddon, Mark. Boom! (or 70,000 light years). London: David Fickling Books, 2009.

My Summary and Review
Boom! is a fast-paced alien teacher sci-fi spoof by Mark Haddon, author of the bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. James is having a hard time, and he is not all that interested in school. When James hears that he might be transferred to a different school, he and his friend Charlie bug the teachers' staff meeting and listen in. Instead of a regular meeting, however, he and Charlie soon hear some teachers speaking in an alien language. The adventures soon begin with a break-in, sinister brass bracelets, a cross-country motor bike trip and... space travel?

Readers will particularly enjoy the various science fiction references, from the light-bulg finger tips (E.T.?) to the aliens' strange speech and hover scooters. A funny, action-packed, breezy teen read. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mao's Last Dancer

My Summary and Review
An epic story of family life during Mao's Cultural Revolution in China: a young boy's ballet-oriented dreams and goals contrast strongly with his communist upbringing. A captivating book.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Solace of the Road

Book Information
Dowd, Siobhan. Solace of the Road. UK: David Fickling Books, 2009.

My Review
This twisting turn on the "road story" is an edgy teen read. The late Siobhan Dowd was gifted with creating complex characters, particularly Holly, who is so strong-willed, independent-minded, and so incredibly vulnerable at the same time. The fast-paced plot, the memorable characters who help Holly along her way to Ireland (and to self-knowledge), and Holly's many conflicting decisions, make this novel an incredibly gripping read. Highly recommended.

Book Summary
(from Memories of Mum are the only thing that make Holly Hogan happy. She hates her foster family with their too-nice ways and their false sympathy. And she hates her life, her stupid school and the way everyone is always on at her. Then she finds the wig, and everything changes. Wearing the long, flowing blonde locks she feels transformed. She's not Holly any more, she's Solace: the girl with the slinkster walk and the super-sharp talk. She's older, more confident - the kind of girl who can walk right out of her humdrum life, hitch to Ireland and find her mum. The kind of girl who can face the world head on.

So begins a bittersweet, and sometimes hilarious journey as Solace swaggers and Holly tiptoes across England and through memory, discovering her true self, and unlocking the secrets of her past.

SOLACE OF THE ROAD is a wonderful novel from one of the UK's most talented new writers for teenagers. Holly's story will leave a lasting impression on all who travel with her.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ideas That Changed the World

Book Information
de la Bedoyere, Camille, ed. Ideas that Changed the World. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley, 2010.

My Review and Summary
Interested in science or history? Check out Ideas that Changed the World, from Dorling Kindersley (publisher of the famous Eyewitness series). Ideas that Changed the World is filled with fast facts and interesting photographs about inventions and discoveries that have made history! This book is packed with the ideas that inspired creative inventors: the wheel, lasers, video games, GPS systems and cell phones.  Informative and action-packed, this book is appealing for learners of all ages!

My Notes
My brother-in-law, who is a mechanical engineer, pored over this book for at least half an hour! I introduced it to him because it had a page on the history of concrete (an area of specialty for his company), but he spent a good deal of time looking through the rest of it too!

I found the page on the invention of cash registers quite interesting, as they are quite sophisticated anti-theft machines. While working in a local museum a couple of summers ago, I actually created an exhibit featuring an early cash register -- the sheer weight of the machine was an anti-theft device in itself!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Excellent children's health websites

A few interesting and somber information services questions were posted to the American Library Services to Children email list about resources to help explain to children about health issues faced by their families. These issues were quite serious, and focused on car accidents and long term bed rest. In researching e-resources and website, I saw that there are comparatively few serious health online resources in this area appropriate for children, despite our society's growing focus on health.

An excellent website for children on health issues (varying in severity from nutrition to brain injuries) is KidsHealth at It's operated by Nemours, the organization that runs the Alfred I DuPont Children's Hospital. It features an online medical dictionary for children, whose definitions go far beyond the standards and include "biopsy" and "bruxism". In the category "Health Problems", the section on the brain was useful in answering the question on car accidents and their impact on the brain. The site presents the information using bright colours and drawings, and has fun quizzes and games to help kids grow their health knowledge. This website also has solid health information for teens and for parents too!

Additionally, has a section just for kids that explains the functions of different organs in the body and health concerns, including diabetes, epilepsy and pain management. As in the Nemours website, it has a variety of kid-friendly online informational games, quizzes and animation/videos.