Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow Day Reading

Luckily, I was prepared! My favorite of the day was Christine Hurley Deriso's Talia Talk. It's not Newbery material (I was so pleased with the selection this year that I actually recommended some Newbery books to students throughout the day), but it was fun, well-written, and just A Nice Read. Talia's mother is on television and gives commentary on "everyday life"-- usually meaning Talia's life. Nothing is secret, so when Talia gets a chance to be a commentator on her school's video morning announcements, she's able to tell some of her mother's foibles. There are a lot of other things going on as well-- Talia's widowed mother starts dating, there are some friend issues that are so prevalent in middle school, and all of the issues were woven together in a realistic way that vey convincingly mirrored what goes on in middle school. Deriso has a real talent for that-- her Do-Over, while a fantasy, still is a good picture of how difficult middle school can be.

Of course, that's a walk in the park compared to the world in Susan Vaught's Exposed. Loved the tag line on the cover-- "Looking for love in all the wrong chat rooms". That's not what Chan does, though. She knows all the parental rules governing computer use. She goes to approved chat rooms, meets a boy whom she thinks is nice, and slowly and convincingly starts to ignore the rules-- with predictable but no less dire consequences. The way that she starts falling behind on homework, fighting with her friend, and generally being out of sorts is nicely portrayed. This is a title for older students; although there is nothing graphic, there is talk about the fact that Chan was in a relationship with a boy in her school, and she ended up with herpes, and the problems that she has with the boy online are certainly mature-- she posts video of herself without a shirt on in order to make money. Still, a good cautionary tale for students who think that they can handle everything that they do online. My question for the parents would be-- why did the girls have computers in their bedrooms? Made me feel better about our really slow dial up connection!

In honor of the Newbery, I read the 1965 winner, Maia Wojciechowski's Shadow of the Bull. There must have been a MUCH larger interest in bull fighting back then than there is now. It's a decent enough coming of age story. Manolo's father was a premier bullfighter who died when Manolo was very young. People in his village think that he can be as good a bull fighter as his father, and he is groomed to follow the same path, even though he doesn't want to hurt animals. This would be a hard sell-- bullfighting is very mean, and I can't think that students are that interested in it. Times change.

Read The Mystery at the Snowflake Inn, a Boxcar Children book, and was surprised to see that the activities were written by Nancy Krulik, who is now writing her own fun books for middle grade students. Also picked up Vivian Vande Velde's Ghost of a Hanged Man, which is a short if somewhat improbably story of a hanged murderer coming back and taking revenge on the people who convicted him. This will be good, though, for students who leave their Accelerated Reading go for too long-- it's 2 points long but on a 5.1 reading level.

While I liked Liz Kessler's Tail of Emily Windsnap, I wasn't as crazy about Philippa Fisher's Fairy Godmother. Another case of too many similar books. This was like the new Rallison one I didn't care for-- dysfunctional fairy godmother who is unhappy having to help a human. And I hate to negatively review Peter David two days in a row, especially since his books are interesting and well-writte, but they just aren't what my students are requesting. Tigerheart was an intriguing Peter Pan-type story, but both the lyrical, archaic quality of the prose and the direction of the narrative make this more of a tale for grownups who liked Peter Pan. Also, there have been other Pan reworkings lately-- from McCaughrean to Barry and Pearson.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Peter David's Mascot

I'm going to have to file Peter David's Mascot To the Rescue under "Huh?". It looks like a book that would appeal to students who like comics or graphic novels. Josh, a big comic book fan, thinks that everything that happens to Mascot, a character in a Captain Major comic, happens to him. When pages are leaked that suggest that Mascot dies, Josh enlists a new friend to find the author and change the course of the comic.

This has some potential to be great fun, and there are some illustrations in the book by a comic book artist. However, children who pick this up because they like comics or think the book will be amusing will be disappointed. Josh has some serious mental health issues going on-- he is often deluded that he IS Mascot and behaves accordingly, which causes the school to contact social services, because Josh's mother, who is recently divorced and struggling, does not treat the problem seriously enough.

This would be fine if this looked like a problem novel from the onset. Students who like to pick up problem novels are going to be put off by the format. I did consider buying this, since it could circulate if explained well, but I had issues with the overweight girl in the book (Really? Large Lass? That's a superhero name?) as well as the deus ex machina ending wherein social services arrives but is made to go away because the writer of Captain Major is going to take Josh under his wing. Maybe a purchase for larger libraries, but ultimately I decided to pass.

In case you missed it, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book won the Newbery Award this year. I am very surprised, since I bought two copies of this AND the children like it. See? It is possible to have quality books that children actually read. I loved this comment, as reported by The New York Times: "Rose V. TreviƱo, chairwoman of the Newbery committee, said the popularity of Mr. Gaiman’s novel had nothing to do with its selection. “We chose the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” she said."

We've had this whole discussion several times. I'm just happy.

Receiving honors were The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (I have on reserve at the public library) , Savvy by Ingrid Law (ditto, although it doesn't sound appealing) The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (poems), and After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson (which I bought and has circulated better than other Woodson titles).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Knucklehead : tall tales & mostly true stories about growing up Scieszka

Jon Scieszka's memoir was the most hysterical thing I have read in a while. The only problem I have with it is this: Why has this man not done a fiction series of books for middle school boys just like this? Yes, the picture books are fun, the Time Warp Trio is good, but all of these are a little young for middle school. We want OUR turn, O God of Boys' Literature. I'm sure you could mine your adolescent years for some funny stories about life, love and acne.
Picked this one up at lunch and flipped through it, and had to quote some choice parts. Couldn't wait to get home to read it. The cover is great, and will certainly attract boys. The prose is simple, wonderfully engaging, and the humor quick and off-the-cuff. In a family with six boys, there was obviously a need for a good sense of humor.
There's not really any plot, just a bunch of really amusing anecdotes. I was forced to read the chapter about the cat throwing up the nut roll all over the car to my family because I was laughing so hard about it. This one will be the best circulating autobiography in my library.

Two depressing books: Blundell's What I Saw and How I Lied sounded interesting-- girl goes to Florida with mother and stepfather after World War II and gets involved in some intrigue. However, the intrigue involved the girl's interest in an older man and her mother's possible affair with the same man. I might have liked it more if it had more of a retro feel, but it didn't. Maybe for high school.
Kathe Koja's Headlong was another dysfunctional private school book. Social outcast scholarship student Hazel becomes friends with legacy Lily and they become fast friends despite all the meanness surrounding them. A lot of gratitous language in this one. Again, more of a high school story.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reader Response Request

First of all, my mother is fine.

A dear, dear neighbor of ours, however, passed away this week. I'm not finding anything in my catalog that will really help my 15-year-old daughter, who is devastated by his death. If anyone has book lists, please send them. There must be books out there for teenagers that deal with death, especially the death of a grandparent. Not the whole book; it's not like sitting down with a five year old and a picture book, and reading it to the child to help him cope. But books that include the death of a grandparent.
Mr. Wayne Kempshall, 100, will be sorely missed for his sense of humor, fun stories (he once killed portions of his yard with Round Up, so just spray painted the dirt green), and his joy in living. Every year on his birthday, at 5:00 a.m., he would set firecrackers off in the street. We did not meet him until he was 85, but I am so glad that my children got a chance to know the type of older gentleman who would always give them a quarter or a cookie when they would visit and was always glad to take the leaves and twigs that they would bring to him. My daughter still runs faster during cross country meets if I shout his name to her.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Randa Abdel-Fattah's Ten Things I Hate About Me is even better than her first book, Does My Head Look Big in This? It is a welcome addition to multicultural fiction. I have found very few other books that include Muslim teens that aren't about war or terrorism.

Jamilah, who is Lebanese-Australian, doesn't want peers at school to know her ethnic background, fearing that they will call her a "wog". So, she goes by Jamie, bleaches her hair, and wears blue contacts. She has a crush on an Anglo-Australian boy and hopes to be able to go with him to the 10th grade formal. Things work against her. Her family has it's share of dysfunction-- her mother passed away years ago, her sister is a social activist, and her brother spoiled and unhelpful. Jamilah's father is strict.

Through her youth group, Jamilah is in a Lebanese music band. She enjoys her culture, her family, and all that her ethnic identification entails-- she just doesn't want to share it with others. She gets involved with a boy in a chat room, and shares these details with him. Of course, he is understanding and encourages her to tell her peers; of course, he turns out to be someone who goes to her school.

Although a little predictable, this was a solid novel. While ethnic identity was certainly central to the story, there were other teen problems involved, making it accessible to all students. My only reservations about it are that it is set in Australia (although those details are not as strong as in the first book, it was weird reading about autumn descending in April!), and the plot is a bit convoluted and long. This objection is slight, and I voice it only because many of my Muslim readers are still struggling with English, and it would be nice if they could see themselves in a book that was easier for them to read. Very worthwhile addition to a middle or high school collection.

Did not care for Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill. It follows the children whom the Pied Piper of Hamelin steals into a horrible and violent world from which they must escape. There are some other books about Hamelin, but this is maninly fantasy, and since it wasn't a pleasant world, I didn't want to spend time there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not quite right

Look and Pham's Alvin Ho: Allergic to girls, school and other scary things was great fun, but too young for my boys. Alvin is so scared of everything that he can't even talk in school. Still, he manages to have a few friends who help him, and gets in a number of scrapes, including starting a chicken pox epidemic. The illustrations are great, and Alvin's coping skills and mechanisms are interesting, but this is more for second or third graders.

Service's My Cousin, the Alien struck me as too young as well, but I will run this by some of my readers today. Zach;s cousin has long said that he is an alien prince, and Zack starts to think this may be true. There are lots of goofy science fiction, and the illustrations on this were a bit odd.

Rallison's My Fair Godmother struck me as more of the same as well-- there are a number of dysfunctional fairy godmother stories out there(Meacham's A mid-semester night's dream, Codell's Diary of a Fairy Godmother, Banks' The Fairy Rebel, Bauer's Thwonk). I love this author, and she is very popular with my readers, but I may pass on this one.

Barkley and Helper's Jars of Glass has a cool cover and sounds like the sort of problem novel my readers would like (mother is hospitalized with mental illness, and family, including adopted Russian boy, must cope), but something about the characters did not draw me in.

That was also the problem with Juby's Getting the Girl, which seemed like a humorous/romance book boys would like. ("Sherman investigates the "Defilers", a secret group at his high school that marks certain female tudents as pariahs, at first because he is trying to protect the girl he has a crush on, but later as a matter of principle.") Sherman's voice was not quite right, he was a bit too quirky, and I didn't buy the premise of the "defilers". More of a high school title, I think.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Every Soul a Star

Wendy Mass' newest book was a perfectly fine way to pass the afternoon, but I can't see buying this story of slightly dysfunctional characters gathering to watch an eclipse for my library. The characters are well developed and even likeable, and there is a pleasant if slight plot. Interesting setting. (Far north camp ground where people are able to see the night sky.)

However, this author and I just don't get along. I don't have people asking for the kinds of books that she writes. Happens sometimes.

And my apologies for lack of postings-- The following equals no book reading: No school because of cold temps, my uncle's funeral, my mother in the hospital, and painting the living room. I have a stack of books to read tonight!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Don Wulffson's Toys!

This was a tremendously fun title. Warning: Do not read this unless you can frequently tell the people in the room with you odd, random facts about toys. About every other page I felt compelled to say "Hey, did you know that Legos didn't come to the US until 1961?" or "Did you know that the Super Bowl was sort of named after the Super Ball?"

This is a great nonfiction title to have on hand. It is a topic with which children are familiar, and the prose is easy to read and immediately gripping ("Play-Doh began as a product for cleaning wallpaper. The seesaw was first used as a prop in the bloody spectacle in the arenas of Ancient Rome. Long ago there were kites so large that people could be flown on them. Behind every toy there is a story."(page 3) Wulffson also did the excellent Soldier X, which is completely different but also very good.

One thing that I sometimes forget is that many boys are not fiction readers. I have one student now who has finally started to read because I have a set of books on different vehicles. He's finally passed some AR tests and is reading one short book a day. You can bet that I will have Toys! on hand when he stops by to see me today.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Alden Carter's Walkaway

This book is an absolute must for middle school and possibly high school libraries. Equal parts problem novel and adventure story, it will appeal to boys on many levels.

Andy's father, a successful lawyer, cannot control his drinking. From time to time, the family stays in the backwoods of Wisconsin, where the father's drinking is supposed to get better, but it doesn't. It falls to Andy to try to rein in the drinking, drive his father places, and cover up for accidents. This does not help Andy's state of mind, which is already fragile, since he is reluctant to take the medications he uses to control his mental illness. At one point, the pressure at home is too much, and Andy takes off into the woods to get away.

Just read the official reviews of this, which included thoughts that it was plodding, dated, overly descriptive, and lacked character development. I just didn't see this. What I liked was Andy, despite his problems, and his perserverance. Even running away is something that he does because he somehow thinks this will help him cope. The father's actions are rather interestingly drawn, and there were friends, acquaintances, and other characters that I thought helped make the whole picture of Andy's struggles clear. Carter's Between a Rock and a Hard Place is almost worn out, and I just requested his Up Country, which I have somehow missed. Worth looking at, but I'm going to process this one right away.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Some good books, but hard sells

This Bill Wallace title from 1994, Blackwater Swamp, has a terrible cover. It's also a bit hard to get into-- Wallace spends a lot of time talking about how the main character moved around and has trouble making friends before jumping into a suspenseful mysteries with a number of nice twists. Ted and his family are living on the bayou in Louisiana, and there is a "witch" living nearby, as well as several local juvenile delinquents, one of whom befriends Ted and steals his autographed copy of Robert's Scared Stiff, which was sort of funny. I'd start students with something by this author like Trapped in Death Cave, and recommend this one without showing them the cover!

Received Karen Schwabach's The Hope Chest in my blogger exchange from I really liked the tale of a young girl in 1920 who travels to New York City in search of her sister, who is working as a Suffragist and has been ostracized by the family. Violet finds letters that her sister Chloe has sent her, but which her parents have hidden. When she gets to New York, she finds that Chloe has moved on, but with the help of Myrtle, an orphaned African-American girl, she finds her sister's coworkers and travels to Nashville where she is part of a Suffragist rally. A little written about period of history, and well done.

Erratum. The Other Book. Inkeheart. Endymion Spring. And now David Michael Slater's The Book of Nonsense. Sigh. I am so tired of evil books with controlling powers that I fear I will not do this one justice. Dex and Daphna's mother was killed shortly after their birth, while looking for unusual books. They are being raised by a family friend and their father, who continues their mother's work. Daphna has found a new antiquarian book store and spends a lot of time there-- before she visits with her father when he tries to sell a book he found and emerges from his encounter with the evil Mr. Rash not quite himself. Daphna must go and read for Mr. Rash, who is blind, and starts to uncover an evil plot that involving The First Tongue, a language which, if know in its entirety, can grant the speaker unlimited power. There's a lot of action and adventure; perfectly fine fantasy and I will look into obtaining the other four in the series. (For EFreak, the ISBNs for the book are
ISBN-13: 978-1-933767-00-0 ISBN-10: 1-933767-00-6)

Still, irked by two things. BAD LATIN ALERT: Page 123- Videre per alterum, which is translated as "to see through others". Per takes the accusative, but alterum is both neuter and singular. Alteros is what is needed. People, people. I know I am the only one who will find this error, but I haven't taught Latin for 15 years! Call up a university department of Latin, please. They will be thrilled to help you!

And really? The publisher is Children's Brains are Yummy, and their motto is "Creating the banned books of tomorrow." Okay. The name is disturbing, and the motto somehow ... just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But it's Friday, and I may just be tired and cranky.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fouling Out by Gregory Walters

This book came in a lovely blogger exchange package from Semicolon. There are several others that look great, and I will be reviewing those later. Also, thanks to this blog for reminding me about the Cybil's 2008 Best Book Finalists. I seem to be behind in my reading AGAIN.

Craig and Tom have been friends for a long time. They both like basketball, dislike school, and have parents who irritate them. Unfortunately, Tom's father is an abusive alchoholic, and his behavior keeps getting worse. After Craig is part of an incident that involves a gun going off and accidentally hitting a nearby home, he decides to distance himself from Tom and to do better in school. This is difficult, because of the length of the relationship, and when Tom goes missing, Craig gets drawn even further into his friend's problems.

This was just what I needed yesterday, because one of the language arts teachers assigned a realistic fiction book. To successfully complete the accompanying assignments, these usually have to be problem novels, and the vast majority of these tend to be weepy girl books. Fouling Out is highly readable, fast-paced, and very matter-of-fact about everything-- no hand-wringing in sight. Since it is a paperback, I didn't have to read it, but I got sucked in by the first few pages and had to keep going! Mr. Walters is an elementary school principal, and his writing shows that he knows how students really act. I hope to see more titles from him.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Adam Selzer's I Put a Spell on You

It is the rare author whose books I will purchase without reading, but Adam Selzer tops the list. There is something pitch-perfect about his characters and his humor that invariably has me laughing until tears stream down my face. His newest is no exception; if nothing else, buy this for the "motivational" songs in the appendix. (To the tune of America the Beautiful, the chorus: "Now I'm a homeless junkie and/I live on crumbs and gruel/'Cause no one ever told me that/it's cool to stay in school." pg. 241)

In short, Gordon Liddy Community School is gearing up for the annual spelling bee. And they take their bee seriously-- everyone from Mutual (a home schooled child who enrolls so he can take part, even though he doesn't have to), to the principal (who is essentially evil and involved in questionable activities), to the parents (one of whom breaks into the building), to the workers at the nearby Burger Baron (who are running a betting pool). The chapters are from the point of view of different characters, which was slightly confusing for me because I have comprehension problems, but this gives wonderful insight into all of their personal vicissitudes.

That's the appeal of Selzer's books. The plot is fine, and moves quickly (who will win the bee, and what are all the interpersonal conflicts that will emerge in the meantime?), but it's the description of the characters that I love. They all have their flaws and quirks, but I still would like to know them all, even Chrissie, who is leading the investigation into the scandal AND knows what kind of underwear everyone in her class wears! There's something sympathetic about the portrayal of each character that all young adult authors should note well-- you can have characters who are weird as long as they know this, and know how other people perceive them! Bravo, again! A great, funny book for ALL middle school students!

I was glad to read this, because I thought I was cranky and not liking anything. Kathryn Lasky's Born to Rule was okay, but I was somehow expecting more from this author of the excellent The Last Girls of Pompeii.
This will be fine for reluctant sixth grade girls who are still in the Disney Princess phase. Camp Princess is full of quasi-medieval princesses in their elaborate dresses, but they do embark on some character-building exercises at camp when they are not worrying about how their crowns look on their hair. This is going to be a series. I'll see how popular the first one it.
Must not have been in the mood for Pink and Fluffy books, because Hogan's Susanna Hits Hollywood also seemed a bit cloying to me. Susanna gets the opportunity to go to an awards show, and goes through all sorts of shenanigans to obtain interviews with especially desirable stars. Will be popular. The first book is Susanna Sees Stars. Do love the covers.

Also loved the cover for Dear Julia, but that was all. The main character was instantly unlikable, and there were too many technical cooking terms for me to care for very long. Here is the description of Elaine, the main character: "She wore a retainer to school. Her blouses were too loose, her slacks too tight, and her jeans cut too high at the waist. She had a tendency to use big words and complicated syntax..." (p. 6) This would just not go over well with my students. Pinot and Prose liked it as a book for foodies.
Also took a dislike to Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go. The nonstandard language usage and the boy having a conversation with his dog about the dog needing to poo (really, on and off for 12 pages?) just didn't appeal. Jen Robinson is reading it right now, so I'll see whether I need to give this another chance.
I'll have to be less cranky tonight!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Catching Up

Janet Lee Carey's Dragon's Keep was a good, solid Medieval-ish fantasy for fans of Tamora Pierce's Alanna series. Roasalind was born with one dragon's claw on her hand, which her mother has carefully kept from public view, but she is destined to save her kingdom. Of course, her kingdom is besieged by dragons, which presents a bit of a problem. This book was compelling to read, and I really liked the setting and the prose style even though I wasn't crazy about Rosalind, disliked her mother, and didn't find anything unusually original about it. I will buy this one, but perhaps it was the ancient British setting and the dragons that seemed a bit trite. Well-written, though, and fun to read.

Now that I've damned that one with faint praise (although I did enjoy reading it), I feel bad waxing enthusiastic about Leslie Margolis' Boys are Dogs. Annabelle has to move to a new school because her mother moves in with boyfriend. She gets a dog to compensate for all of the changes, and starts to read a dog training manual. She finds that it works just about as well on the boys in her school who are being annoying, typical middle school boys. This one was fun because it was very true to life, and I can see my more astute girls trying these techniques!

For more girl empowerment, there is Laura Schaefer's The Teashop Girls. Annie's grandmother runs a funky teashop that is suffering because of competition from chain stores. She and her friends set out to help the shop, while dealing with interpersonal problems, cute boys, problems at home and the everyday difficulties of being a teen ager. This was light and fresh and just the sort of thing that I enjoy. Teaming this with Naomi Shihab Nye's Going Going and Adam Selzer's Pirates of the Retail Wasteland would make for social statement reading!

Ben Mikaelsen's Ghost of Spirit Bear falls into the "Fans of The Outsiders" category, dealing with an inner city school and problems with gangs and violence. In this sequel to Touching Spirit Bear, Cole returns from spending a year on a remote island learning to deal with his anger in the aftermath of his beating of Peter. Cole and Peter still have injuries that make them the target of bullies. Using the tribal philosophies from the first book, the two try to foil the bullies and improve the atmosphere of their school. While this is a little pat, I did enjoy it and think that it sheds a positive light on inner city schools that is sadly lacking in other stories.
Two older titles: Barbara Brooks Wallace's Ghosts in the Gallery is another great Victorian orphan book that fans of Lemony Snicket will like. Many of these titles are out of print, but hopefully you are lucky to have this author on your shelf. Perennially popular, these are good to use as historical fiction for lovers of mystery and horror. Vivian Vande Velde's There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around was a good twist on ghost stories, being set in a suburb that isn't spooky, and ties in some history nicely. Brush both of these off if you have them.
Disappointments: Robin Merrow MacCready's Buried was a little too creepy. Spoiler Alert: Claudine's mother is an alcoholic who frequently takes off for days at a time. This time, Claudine tries to look after herself, and obsessively cleans their mobile home and the garden. Unfortunately, this is mainly because her mother did not run off, as Claudine is telling everyone; she died after hitting her head and Claudine buried her in the garden. This one didn't have a good conclusion-- Claudine didn't end up in jail for abuse of a corpse? A little language, too.
I love Walter Sorrel's First Shot and Fake ID, but Erratum was very different from his usual work and too similar to some other things I've read. Also included iconoclastic main character whom I did not like. Jessica finds a book that describes everything that happens to her but can change if she changes situations; she is supposed to use it to save the world. After The Other Book, Endymion Spring, and even a little bit of Inkspell and Maze of Bones, I was not pleased to be chasing through a weird and every changing library where there were evil librarians and frequent explosions. Tired of saving the world, as well. Not a bad book, just one that didn't appeal to me. Do check out the author's other titles, though-- he does a GREAT modern, realistic pshychological mystery!
Think I'm caught up from over the break now!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year and Welcome Back !

As part of my on-going interaction with Boys Read! Boys Rule!, I am pleased to bring you my challenge video-- librarian with a light saber. (Schools blocking Google Video, including my own, will not show this clip.) I refuse to burp the alphabet, mainly because I tried and failed. Yes, that's Darth Vader, saying "The force is strong with this one." The boook with which I subdue him is Royce Buckingham's Goblins! An Underearth Adventure.

Far and away the best book I read over break is David Gilman's The Devil's Breath. It was absolutely spellbinding, AND is the first in a series-- The Danger Zone.

Max Gordon is a student at a prestigious and demanding quasi-military school when he suddenly becomes the target of an assassin! Why? His father is an international environmental adventurer and advocate who has angered some very powerful people. He's been kidnapped, and it's up to Max to find him. He travels to Namibia, where he must foil the evil Shaka Chang, who has evil intentions for controlling all of the water rights in the area, at the expense of hundreds of indigenous people.

Wow. The plot is demanding, the characters interesting and likeable, and the book a little longer than some action books for middle grade students, so it's perfect for 8th graders who have "read everything". I can't wait until I can get my hands on Ice Claw and Blood Sun! Like Will Hobbs, Gilman has done his research into all of the exotic locations, so reading The Devil's Breath was a great way to travel over break without leaving home! I may have to break with my policy and buy THREE copies of this for the library!