Saturday, 27 September 2014

Review: William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

The title alone was enough to make my reading list come to a grinding halt. I had to have this book. I don't consider myself a big Star Wars fan, but throw William Shakespeare into the mix, and this book becomes a must-read. And no surprise, I loved it! 

Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope is reimagined in the language of the bard, incorporating key passages from some of Shakespeare's most well-known plays including HamletMacbeth, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, As You Like It, Richard III, Julius Caesar, and various sonnets.

Summary: Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.

What I love most about this book is its potential to help young adult readers with Shakespeare. The Shakespearean unit has garnered a reputation as being extremely difficult, so much so that it's become a type of mental block for students; I was the same way! Even the name Shakespeare was intimidating at that age.

But most kids have seen, or at least heard of, Star Wars. They know about the Force. They know Darth Vader. Heck, they may have even heard iconic lines such as "These aren't the droids you're looking for" and "Han shot first!" If kids understand, are amused by, and are interested in the plot, they aren't held back by language. This novel is an extraordinary tool for teachers and parents to help students with the Shakespearean unit by providing a fun and well-written introduction to the language, iambic pentameter, and to several plays and sonnets! 

Star Wars in Shakespearean language is witty, fun, and fantastic. Elizabethan-style drawings of key scenes are an added bonus throughout the text. My favourite moment was a little joke for Star Wars fans after Han shoots Greedo: "[Aside] And whether I shot first, I'll ne'er confess!"

William Shakespeare's Star Wars is a must-have for home and classroom libraries! Ian Doescher has done something extraordinary and his bridging of two timeless properties is certainly something to be celebrated!

This book was published by Quirk Books in July 2013, and is available wherever books are sold. You can check out the hilarious book trailer below!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went is the sequel to Gayle Forman's touching YA novel, If I Stay. I'll admit I was hesitant to read the sequel. What if it ruined everything I loved about If I Stay? How could the story even go on? But I'm so glad I finally decided to give it a chance. But Gayle Forman has written something beautiful to follow up to Mia and Adam's story; something that every teen who has ever felt pain and heartbreak and loss will be able to appreciate. And those who haven't will still feel the power of this tearjerker. 

Summary: Picking up several years after the dramatic conclusion of If I Stay, Where She Went continues the story of Adam and Mia, from Adam's point of view. Ever since Mia's decision to stay - but not with him - Adam's career has been on a wonderful trajectory. His album, borne from the anguish and pain of their breakup, has made him a bona fide star. And Mia herself has become a top-rate cellist, playing in some of the finest venues in the world. When their respective paths put them both in New York City at the same time, the result is a single night in which the two reunite - with wholly satisfying results.

This is a novel about fate and of what's meant to be. It's a story about loss, learning to cope, moving on and, of course, of true love. Adam and Mia's story does end with this novel and you won't be disappointed. In fact, you'll be hooked on every word as Adam and Mia are unexpectedly reunited in a moment of fate and are given a second chance to fix the massive rift between them.

Teachers and educators: Where She Went contains several content warnings including: swearing, sexual situations, and mature content. Before adding this novel to your classroom, you should be aware of the darker subject matter than that of If I Stay. However, the content is handled with purpose and care. Adam's fallout after the accident allows readers to explore tough issues such as psychological trauma, depression, unhealthy relationships, and anxiety.

Gayle Forman is an incredibly talented author. Her duet of novels are unforgettable and will resonate with teen readers everywhere. I loved both of these books and consider this YA series to be one of the best available to teen readers today. 

4 Stars

You can check out my review of If I Stay by clicking here.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Review: Grimmtastic Girls #4: Rapunzel Cuts Loose by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

I love this series so much! Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams are the authors behind the popular Goddess Girls series and have brought their charm and talent to writing stories about fairy tales! 

Grimmtastic Girls is a series written for readers aged 8-12, who love fantasy, fairy tales, mystery, and adventure! The story is set at Grimm Academy, where most of our beloved heroes are students or teachers, and the iconic villains we love to hate are lurking within the school borders. The series is very age-appropriate and centres on four best friends: Cinda, Snow, Red, and Rapunzelall of whom who are positive role models for readers in many ways!

Summary:  Rapunzel's magical fast-growing hair can be a nuisance, especially when an accidents gives it magical powers she can't control! But Rapunzel can't let her grimmiserable hair woes distract her — she and her friends, Cinda, Red, and Snow are trying to save Grimm Academy from the E.V.I.L. Society. Once Rapunzel tracks down her magic charm, she won't let a bad hair day get in the way of stopping E.V.I.L.!

While I haven't yet read Snow White's story, this book is the darkest yet. Rapunzel's villain (the witch who wants to lock her in her infamous tower) kidnaps her pet cat (the cat is released unharmed), immobilizes the girls in vines, and there's a VAGUELY chilling scene where the man behind the EVIL Society makes his first appearance. Nothing in the book is frightening or disturbing per se, but there was some real zing to the plot that I hadn't seen in books one and two.

It's notable that the series is aimed at female readers who, like Rapunzel and her friends, are beginning to realize their romantic feelings for boys. Fortunately, this series encourages readers to develop healthy attitudes about self-esteem and self-worth (girl power!). When Prince Perfect reveals he doesn't find Rapunzel pretty with short hair, she coolly tells him he's being shallow and superficial, and then shrugs it off and moves on, recognizing this boy isn't worth her time. Love the positive life lessons for impressionable preteens!

This is a charming series for readers who like girly, happily-ever-afters. A light and easy read for those new to chapter books, this series is a great choice for educators, too. Readers are exposed to a wealth of folklore, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and literary figures. There are plenty of opportunities for discussion and further reading! 

4 Stars

This book will be released on October 1, 2014! 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Review: The Iron Trial: Book 1 of the Magisterium by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Calling all Potterheads!

Clear off the books stacked on your bedside table. The next book you NEED to read is The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, published by Scholastic Inc. While the book is targeted for readers ages 8-12, much like the Harry Potter series, it is one that people of all ages can enjoy. It's a timeless story of strength, growing up, identity, and of course, magic, fantasy, danger, and darkness. 

Summary: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. 

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst — and fails at failing. 

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and sometimes I had to repress my ridiculous loyalty to Potter whenever I found plot comparisons. And there are many. But I also appreciate the book for its differences, and for the world that Black and Clare have created. This is a well-written story, especially due to the fact that it's impossible to tell it was written by two people. Clare and Black are powerhouse YA authors in their own right. Together, they have given young readers an extraordinary fantasy novel to be enjoyed again and again. 

Magic. Danger. Secrets. A shocking twist. Murder. There's nothing NOT to love about this book. You can revisit your love of Potter and magic with this book. It's exciting, action-packed, and quite addictive. It's certainly one of the best YA novels out there right now. 

Check out Scholastic' The Iron Trial series page for games, extras, and more content!

4 Stars

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review: A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius by Stacey Matson

A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius is possibly one of Scholastic Canada's best in recent years. Written for readers ages 10-14, this wonderful novel is told from the point-of-view of a young boy who struggles with a wide range of typical middle school problems, including girls, grades, and bullies. The entire story is told through Arthur's emails, letters, journal entries, assignments, and drawings. This is an easy, enjoyable, and fast-paced read with a charming main character and an endearing story.

Summary: Arthur Bean, soon-to-be a rich and famous author, has set two goals for himself: to win the school writing contest and to win the heart of his secret crush, Kennedy. But his life has had some major twists and turns lately, and the recent loss of his mother definitely complicates things. Arthur is in turns outrageous, defiant, and unintentionally hilarious as we peek over his shoulder at his reading journals, notes from his long-suffering teachers, his offbeat articles for the school newspaper — even the emails he sends to writing partner Kennedy. A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius is a fresh and funny story about a boy whose bad luck can't dampen his spirit — or his love of writing.

Arthur is witty, honest, and sometimes a little too bold. He makes plenty of mistakes, including taking claim of another boy's story for the writing competition. The reason for such an error?: pride, procrastination, and Arthur's having yet to come to terms with recent loss of his mother. Despite his faults, the reader will root for Arthur, but also reflect on his choices, behaviour, and his struggles at school. A big plus for teachers: Arthur's actions make for great classroom discussion on plagiarism, bullying, and more!

There is very little content to concern parents and educators. Arthur is bullied by a classmate, but it's made obvious that Arthur is also not an innocent party. Getting along is a two-person job! One great life lesson to take away is that you don't know what other people are going through. Arthur learns that his bully is mean partly because of what's going on in his life. When the boys admit to their own personal problems, they realize they have quite a lot in common after all.

Overall, this book is well-worth the read and is a great addition to classroom and personal libraries. Arthur's middle school woes are felt by every child at one point or another, and although his faults get him into some trouble, his intentions, heart, and spirit make him an admirable and memorable character for young readers. Funny and witty, Stacey Matson's novel is a great choice for readers who enjoy books such as Jeffrey Brown's Jedi Academy, Lincoln Peirce's Big Nate books, or L. Pichon's Tom Gates series.

4 Stars