Showing posts with label science fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science fiction. Show all posts

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wrinkle in Time: the movie, the novel & the graphic novel (ages 9-14)

In her Newbery medal-winning classic, A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle created Meg Murray, an angsty, angry, passionate, heroic young girl on a quest to save her father and vanquish evil from the universe.

Does Ava DuVernay's film adaptation capture the story and L'Engle's characters? Most certainly yes. I can also certainly say that the movie is best seen alongside reading both the original novel and the recent graphic novel adaptation. Yes, see this movie AND read the book.

A Wrinkle in Time is a visual splendor. DuVernay catapults us into the fantastical otherworlds of Uriel, Ixchel and Camazotz. Even more than that, she gives us a Meg we can easily identify with, a young teen struggling with bullying at school, a missing father and a world that doesn't seem to recognize her gifts. As A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times,
"It is the first $100 million movie directed by an African-American woman, and the diversity of its cast is both a welcome innovation and the declaration of a new norm."
I especially appreciate the way Meg is an introverted, brainy heroine who struggles to control her emotions. I am grateful for the additional layers that DuVernay added with Meg's biracial identity. She is a young teen many girls today can relate to.
Storm Reid as Meg Murray, in A Wrinkle in Time
Meg is called on a classic hero's quest, and through her journey she battles her insecurities, claims her purpose and discovers hope for the world. Storm Reid plays her with a perfect balance of straightforward every-girl and brainy teenage heroine. She is rightfully frustrated at the injustices around her, and she discovers that the answers lay in both her heart and her critical problem-solving.

The Mrs. W's were imaginatively realized in the movie. Although they were not what I had imagined when I first read this story, they came alive on the screen as fully realized characters. I must say that Oprah's Mrs. What captured the inner voice of wisdom and guidance much more than the original text or even the audiobook, in which her language came across as hissing or stuttering.

While the movie captures the emotional development and visual tone of the story, its rushed ending left me thinking back to the book. I missed Aunt Beast's careful tending to Meg, helping her discover the light and hope in the world. I wondered how Calvin reunited with Meg.

I hope those questions will lead children back to reading or rereading the books, both Madeline L'Engle's original A Wrinkle in Time and Hope Larson's graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.
In the end, I so appreciate the way Ava DuVernay embraced and captured this imaginative, passionate heroine. Meg wrestles with the existence of good and evil, she embraces love and hope, she claims her identity as a geeky girl who can figure out how to solve problems much bigger than herself. As Madeline L'Engle said in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech in 1963,
"We have the vocation of keeping alive Mr. Melcher's (the founder of the Newbery award) excitement in leading young people into an expanding imagination. Because of the very nature of the world as it is today our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure, that they must be guided into creativity."
Yes, that is just it. Books help young readers discover expanding worlds. Stories lead to stories, ideas create more ideas. I can't wait to hear what others think of this movie and whether it will bring them back to reading the stories.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Eye of the Storm, by Kate Messner - exciting futuristic adventure (ages 9 - 12)

There's no doubt about it - so far, the weather in 2012 has been bizarre, from coast to coast. Here on the west coast, we had no rain at all for the entire month of January and February. Now as we are being deluged for 5 straight days, the east coast and midwest are experiencing 70 degree weather in the middle of March!

And yet it's the power of severe storms that really frightens us. Just this week, a tornado ripped through a rural southeast Michigan community, damaging or demolishing homes (USA Today article). Earlier this month,  a large number of tornadoes wrecked havoc "across the South and the Midwest on Friday, leaving behind at least 27 deaths, hundreds of injuries and countless damaged buildings in several states", the New York Times reported.

Kate Messner's newest novel, Eye of the Storm, envisions a not-to-distant future where out-of-control weather threatens everyday life. Tween readers will love the way Messner develops an exciting, suspenseful story in this dystopian novel.
Eye of the Storm
by Kate Messner
NY: Walker Books, 2012
ages 9 - 12
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
preview available on Google Books
In this future world, monster storms and huge tornadoes rip through communities, forcing people to hide in safe rooms beneath ground. Thirteen-year-old Jaden Meggs is fascinated by the science behind these storms, and is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps figuring out ways to dissipate these life-threatening storms.

Jaden is excited to spend the summer at Eye on Tomorrow, the exclusive summer science camp that her father has founded. But are her father’s intentions purely noble? He has made a fortune creating Placid Meadows, a StormSafe community that no tornado can touch.

Readers will enjoy the action as Jaden and her friends run from their lives from the deadly storms, and work hard to figure out ways they can apply science to solving life-threatening problems. I particularly liked the way that Messner creates a dystopian novel that will draw in children ages 9 - 12; these children are the young side for the brutal violence of The Hunger Games, but they are fascinated by the dark possibilities that our actions today might bring.

Messner spoke this month at the TED conference, sharing her thoughts on why children are drawn to dystopian stories.
Kate Messner begins by asking us, “How many of you have ever played with Legos?” Those of us who have (which is most) already know about world building, and the power of What If? Messner is a writer, and all of her books grow out of What If.
She went on to talk about how through these stories children are able to think about the impact of our current policies and lifestyles, the impact that our decisions today might have on the world tomorrow. I'm hoping that her talk will be shared on the amazing TED video channel.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Walker Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke - fun fantasy graphic novel (ages 9 - 12)

I love getting drawn into a fantasy world that is intriguing but not terrifying, exciting but not too dark. Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke, is a wonderful new graphic novel that is going to be a huge hit with our 4th and 5th graders. Students have really enjoyed this book, recommending it for readers who like adventure and fantasy. Zosia said, "It was hard for me to put down because I wanted to find out what happened next. I was so curious about what was going to happen, especially when Zita's friend got sucked into the other world."
Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke
NY: First Second, 2011
ages 9 - 12
available at your local library or on Amazon
Zita is just your ordinary girl, spending the afternoon with her best friend Joseph, when they stumble across a giant pit left by a meteoroid. They find a device with a bright red button, and Zita knows she just has to push it. "Noooooo!!!" cries Joseph. But, come on - it's a big red button! It might as well have a "drink me" tag attached to it. Suddenly, a hole appears in space, and giant tentacles reach out and grab Joseph! Zita is shocked and distraught that she pushed the button, causing her best friend to be yanked out into who-knows-where. But she leaps to the rescue and follows Joseph into this new world.

Zita finds herself in this strange new planet, filled with neurotic robots, giant clay creatures, and humanoid chickens. Zita must find her way in this new world, figure out where Joseph might be and who might help her rescue him. She launches into a classic quest with determination and courage.

I especially like the tone and themes of this story. Zita's loyalty toward Joseph and her new friends gives her strength and purpose throughout the story. Ben Hatke creates a world filled with strange creatures that are odd, cute and never too frightening. It reminds me of the feeling of the adventure and world-building of The Search for Wondla, by Tony DiTerlizzi, combined with the comic feel of Raina Telgemeier's Smile. Watch this trailer to get a sense of Zita's story and world:

You can also look at a preview of the story here, thanks to FirstSecond books. If you have a child who adores graphic novels, keep your eye out for FirstSecond Books. They consistently produce a wide range of graphic novels that draw children into stories.

I purchased a copy for my home library collection and for our school library. Follow Ben Hatke's blog here - I'm hoping for another installment of Zita's adventures soon! If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sidekicks, by Dan Santat - superhero pets take over a graphic novel (ages 7 - 12)

Superheroes, pets, friends loyal to the end, and illustrations with enough POW to knock your socks off - it's a winning combination for the new graphic novel Sidekicks, by Dan Santat. I predict that young kids are going to beg their parents to read this aloud to them, and older ones are going to read it again and again, relishing in the action, the exciting story, and the multi-layered details. If you have a child who loves superheroes or comic books, definitely check this out.
by Dan Santat
NY: Arthur Levine Books / Scholastic, 2011
ages 7 - 12
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
Roscoe the Dog and Fluffy the Hamster might seem like ordinary pets, but don’t let appearances deceive you! They’re the loyal pets of Captain Amazing, protector of Metro City, hero far and wide. But Captain Amazing is having trouble these days, and needs to bring in a new sidekick. He’s determined not to have his own pets serve as a sidekick because of a painful experience years back, and now he just wants to spend time at home. He’s even bought a new pet, a chameleon he names Shifty. But these pets are just as determined to prove their own worth and become Captain Amazing’s new sidekick. So they set out to fight crime throughout the city and learn how to use their own superpowers.

With exciting writing and dramatic illustrations, Dan Santat has created a graphic novel that will have kids hooked from beginning to end, reading it again and again. This story will appeal to both girls and boys because it’s got just the right blend of action, adventure, friendship, humor - all with just the right level of fighting to make the story exciting but not too violent. One child told me it’s “an edge of the page sort of book,” with cliff-hangers that hook you in and make you want to keep reading.

This is graphic novel writing at its best, with interesting details in the illustrations, snappy dialog and compelling characters - a story kids will want to read many times, discovering new story elements each time they read the story. It will pull kids in with bold colors and humor, but it will immerse them in a well-developed superhero fantasy, with detailed setting, compelling plot, and characters that you care about. This will make a great read aloud for younger kids, or perfect independent read for middle grade readers.

Take a look at this fun book trailer. It gives a great sense of what the book’s about and the art style.

If you like this, you’ll want to explore other books illustrated by Dan Santat, like the whacky Oh, No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World and one of my student's favorites of the year: Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies. You’ll also like adventure graphic novels like Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale or Into the Volcano by Don Wood. We’re certainly hoping that Dan Santat has more adventures for Roscoe, Fluffy and Shifty in the works!

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers at Scholastic, but I’ve already purchased three copies for our school library. I predict that they’ll be out constantly, and kids in grades 2 through 5 pass it from friend to friend.

Definitely explore Dan Santat's great website to find out more information about this great book. You can also follow his adventures on Twitter.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi (ages 12 - 16)

Tweens and teens adore exciting science-fiction that pulls them into a world that feels so real that they can imagine themselves right there. And yet this new world is just enough different from our own that you can look out on it, with all its disturbing reality, from the safety of your own home. It's a delicious juxtaposition, one that's both frightening and fascinating at the same time. Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi, is a gripping sci-fi that pulled me through from beginning to ending. I highly recommend it for fans of thrilling dystopian novels like The Hunger Games. Like The Hunger Games, Ship Breaker has several disturbing scenes of violence. This is not a book for every tween, but many will be enthralled by it.
Ship BreakerShip Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi
NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2010
preview on Google Books
audiobook narrated by Joshua Swanson
NY: Brilliance Audio, 2010
ages 12 - 16
available on Amazon and your local library
The action starts on Bright Sands Beach on the Gulf Coast, as Nailer - a scrappy 14 year old - earns his living as a ship breaker. In this post-global-warming society where fossil fuel has run out, Nailer works light crew, scavenging the parts of abandoned hulking ships that only those small and thin enough can get into. Nailer dreams of sailing an elegant clipper ship like those he sees out in the gulf, but that's a life only the swanks, those rich and privilege, can afford. In this post-apocalyptic society, there is a keen divide and stratification between social classes. Nailer's days are consumed with making quota, scrapping enough to eat, and avoiding his father's drug-fueled rage.

After a "city-killer" hurricane rips through Bright Sands Beach, Nailer and his best friend Pima find a washed up clipper ship filled with incredible scavenge - and a hurt girl. This girl is a swank, and Pima's sure that the best thing to do is cut her gold off and leave her to die. But Nailer sees a different choice, a choice to help this girl, this Lucky Girl, and this choice sets him on a wild adventure. As Nailer and Lucky Girl flee for their safety, trying to find her family and a different life for Nailer, Bacigalupi brings together fast-action plot interwoven with thought-provoking themes about luck, fate, choices and responsibility.

Ship Breaker has won great admiration and many awards. Bacigalupi has won this year’s Michael L. Printz Award for young adults, awarded by the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Ship Breaker was also a National Book Award Finalist, and is now a finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (winners will be announced May 21st). As Printz Award Committee Chair Erin Downey Howerton said,
“This taut, suspenseful novel is a relentless adventure story featuring nuanced characters in thought-provoking conflicts. Bacigalupi artfully intertwines themes of loyalty, family, friendship, trust and love."
I found the audiobook of Ship Breaker particularly compelling. Joshua Swanson did an excellent job creating distinct accents and personalities for each character. I found that these accents heightened the ethnic identities of each character, making me appreciate the multicultural cast of characters even more so than when I read the book. Usually when I listen to a gripping audiobook, I am compelled to find the print version because I can read much faster than listen. But I found that Ship Breaker came alive even more in audio format than in print. Listen to a sample from Brilliance Audio here.

An interesting question that I wonder about is what age group to recommend this to. School Library Journal recommends it for grades 7 and up, which I would agree with. Fans of The Hunger Games series will love this. I do think the raw nature, especially the violent character of Nailer's father, will disturb many tweens. But tweens who want riveting stories with life-or-death drama will eat this up.

The review copy came from Audible, the site I love for audiobooks. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Nomansland, by Lesley Hauge

Tweens and teens are drawn to dystopian novels and have been for years. I remember being fascinated by dystopian novels as a teenager: Nineteen Eighty Four, Brave New World and The Lord of the Flies. There is something fascinating about delving into an imaginary world of the future where everything seems to be going wrong. If your teen - especially a girl - loved The Hunger Games, you might try looking for Nomansland, a debut novel by Lesley Hauge.
by Lesley Hauge
NY: Henry Holt and Co., 2010
ages 12 - 16
available on Amazon or your local library
Set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian society, Nomansland delves into the inner turmoil of Keller, a young teen, as she struggles with her own values and identity in an oppressive society. In a population made up entirely of women, Keller's society defends itself vigorously against invasion by men from the outside world (yes, the title is supposed to be No-Mans-Land, but it took me a while to get that...). The girls in the society are taught to avoid the seven Pitfalls—Reflection, Decoration, Coquetry, Triviality, Vivacity, Compliance, and Sensuality—and to reject warmth and friendship.

The leaders have created a tough, self-reliant society, and yet allegiance to these values and to the leadership is cracking at all levels. One of Keller"s fellow "Trackers" discovers a buried ruined house of the "Old People." The girls' excitement over the fashion magazines, makeup, and high heels they discover leads first to fascination and soon to peer pressure and a bizarre fashion show. It ends in death and disaster when their repressive, pleasure-hating leaders find out and punish the girls.

Young teens - especially girls - will be fascinated at an outsider's look at our "modern" society with all the trappings of consumer culture on show. This is a novel for reflection on peer pressure, trust, and identity and is not a story for readers who want exciting action.

I would give this to lovers of The Hunger Games and Graceling who are clamoring for more dystopian literature with strong female leads. It is more introspective than either of those, with less plot/drama/action. But interesting premise and compelling story that pulled me through.

The review copy came from my local library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Search for Wondla, by Tony DiTerlizzi

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
Albert Einstein - quoted in the beginning of The Search for Wondla, by Tony DiTerlizzi.
When I was a child of about 9 or 10, I used to pour over illustrated fairy tales like Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book and Blue Fairy Book. My favorite was Old French Fairy Tales, by Sophie Rostopchine, Comtesse De Segur. These were long, complicated tales rich with illustrations that captivated me. I was delighted recently to read Tony DiTerlizzi's newest novel, The Search for Wondla, a highly illustrated adventure which draws as its inspiration old illustrated fairy tales, modern quest stories and creates a richly drawn science fiction world.
Search for Wondla
by Tony DiTerlizzi
NY: Simon and Schuster, 2010
also available on audio
Teri Hatcher, narrator
ages 9 - 13
available on Amazon and at your local library
Young Eva Nine has grown up entirely within the confines of her underground Sanctuary, under the watchful guidance of Muthr, a robot charged with her upbringing. Now twelve years old, Eva Nine yearns to explore above ground and meet other humans. Her dreams are fueled by a scrap of paper that has the words "Wond" and the letters "L" and "a", showing a picture of a young child walking hand in hand with a robot - her "WondLa". But Muthr (pronounced "mother") insists that Eva must wait a bit longer so she is truly prepared.

One day, the Sanctuary is attacked by a vicious beast and Eva escapes with only the clothes on her back and her Omnipod, a handheld computer device. Suddenly Eva is thrust above ground and must survive on her own. All around her are strange plant forms and living things which her Omnipod cannot identify. She meets Rovender Kit, a strange, blue creature who ends up becoming Eva's trusted friend and guide, and she is ruthlessly pursued by the beast who destroyed her Sanctuary. Together, Eva, Rovender and Muthr search this strange, fascinating world for other human life forms.

Tony DiTerlizzi, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, has created wonderful illustrations to highlight his richly imagined world. Each chapter begins with a double-page illustration that captured my interest. I actually listened to this as an audiobook, but each night found myself pouring over the illustrations in the book. In some places, I found the text did not provide quite enough description, as it assumed readers were also looking at the illustrations. But Teri Hatcher's narration captured the voice of Eva perfectly, combining an annoying Tween girl's attitude with her mother's restrictions, with her wonder and fear as she explored this new world. DiTerlizzi has also created an interactive visual map which you access online through WondLaVision. This intrigues some students, but I found it hard to break away from my reading habits, bring the book to the computer, and explore this world.

Several students in my elementary school have started this but not finished it. Its length is definitely daunting. But for those who want to get lost in another world, I'd highly recommend this. Another excellent science fiction series is Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve. Several of my 5th grade students have loved Fever Crumb and are thrilled that the Mortal Engine series is being re-released in paperback this spring.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.