Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guy Friday (on Thursday!)-- Boys... in... spaaaaace

Well, okay, at least in a dystopian future. Greg Van Eekhout (as well as Sarah Prineas and Paolo Bacigalupi) is going to be in Columbus, Ohio for a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Lennox Town Shopping Center on Olentangy River Road on Saturday, April 16, at 7:30pm, I read the ARC of his new book that he kindly sent me, even though it doesn't come out until 21 June 2011. Mr. Van Eekhout also did the fun Kid vs. Squid.

Van Eekhout, Greg. The Boy at the End of the World.
Fisher is "born" as a young adult with built-in knowledge after the pod life support system that was nurturing him is damaged. With the help of a robot he names Click, the two make their way across a post apocalyptic landscape to find

Strengths: While it's a little bumpy, Fisher's birth and rapid acclimation to fully functioning personhood is believable and is an interesting way to approach a post apocalyptic world. There is plenty of action and enough references to places that we can set the book in a greatly altered US. This will be a good addition to my science fiction collection.

Weaknesses: The cover is not great (at least on the ARC), there wasn't much of the fabulous humor that is evident in the first book, and there were talking prairie dogs. Who had an accent. Frequent Readers know how I feel about talking animals. Must say, though, that the use of prairie dogs was very good!

Bransford, Nathan. Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow.
ARC received from Penguin Putnam.

Jacob and his friends Sarah and Dexter are frequently in trouble in school, especially with substitute teachers. After a particularly bad afternoon that results in his mother having to skip a meeting to remove him from school, Jacob is offered a space ship in exchange for a corn dog, and the friends take off on an intergalactic journey. After "breaking the universe" and running afoul of the space police, they meet Mick Cracken, the worst space pirate in the galaxy, who is running around in his sister's former princess ship and uncover a secret planet of substitute teachers. Will Nathan be able to reconcile himself with his father's absence after his experience in space? And will he go back? I think he might.

Strengths: This will be a quick, funny read for elementary students who appreciate books that include how to spell naughty words on calculators. The writing is facile and engaging and shows clear understanding of the way children's minds work. I also appreciated having a biracial main character in a book that was not about the character being biracial. However...
Weaknesses: ...this falls pretty firmly on the elementary side of the Pilkey Line. Just a bit too goofy for most of my students. Also, while it helped establish the character's identity, I thought that the missing father didn't add much to the story, and the parts where Jacob is longing for his father seem like a later interpolation.

Seegert, Scott. Vordak the Incomprehensible.
If you work with elementary school students, please take a look at this book, since it will be very helpful to younger students whose plans to rule the universe may be in need of some assistance. They will love Vordak's snarkiness and the fun, comic book style layout. From the Publisher: "A top supervillain offers rules and advice to readers on how to develop an evil plan to rule the world.

However, this lands on the elementary side of the Pilkey Line, and I don't see this book getting out much. The illustrations will insure that it never leaves the shelf after December, when the 6th graders stop reading Dav Pilkey.

This is a pity, because Scott Seegert also has a book called It's a Guy Thing: Awesome Real Innovations from the Underdeveloped Male Mind that I thought it was very necessary to mention to Frequent Readers. His web site is a lot of fun. I'll certainly keep an eye out for his other work. I'm thinking a realistic, funny book involving the misuse of skateboards would be awesome, Mr. Seegert!

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