Bibliographic information: The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1). Jonathan Stroud. Miramax, 2003. $17.95. 462p. ISBN-13: 9780786818594.
Summary: After incurring the wrath of Simon Lovelace, a powerful magician, ten-year old Nathanial, a magician’s apprentice, decides to summon a 5,000 year old djinni named Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace. Bartimaeus could care less what his assignment is, he just wants to get back to the spirit world and be left in peace. The djinni’s sole goal is to get the amulet and then get back at Nathanial for summoning him. Bartimaeus preferred his earlier master, Ptolemy, to Nathanial and takes every opportunity to say so. Although, since this is a rather difficult assignment, Bartimaeus and Nathanial get caught up in a flood of magic, rebellion, and murder that the two have to work together to survive.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 12 and up IL: grade 6 and up
Review: Filled with interesting characters and a plethora of magic, this book will catch your attention and pull you in for a tantalizing ride. The tale is narrated by Bartimaues, a 5,000 year old djinni, who takes sarcastic to a new level. His hilarious script paired with the dark and foreboding tale makes for an intriguing story that is sure to lure you in and you won’t want to wait for the sequels. Stroud’s elaborate descriptions and great details make the images of the story pop into your head. While narrating the story Bartimaeus will make side comments that are numbered and can be found at the bottom of the pages in Chicago style writing. Tweens will get a kick out of the crazy tricks that Bartimaeus and Nathanial pull off together.
Readers’ annotation: Nathanial feels confident enough in his magical powers to summon up a 5,000-year-old djinn, but he is in for a rude awakening.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: The various supernatural monsters in this book would help children fight their fears. Many teens have monsters in their lives that they are afraid of and reading about some will help them cope and get past these fears whether they be make-believe or real.
Issues present: There is magic and supernatural monsters present in this novel that people may object to. It may go against their beliefs and they will not want their children reading such things, however, children use such books to fight their fears against monsters make-believe and real. Also, different viewpoints on religion gives children a broader scope of the world.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Nathanial and Bartimaeus’s characters,
What happens when you summon a 5,000 year old djinni who thinks he’s a know it all?
Genre or subject: Fantasy: magic, djinn/demons, wizards
Readalikes: Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, The Demon Lexicon, Hex Hall, The Golden Compass
Author’s website: http://www.jonathanstroud.com/
Awards: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature (2006), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2004)
Reviews: Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jonathan-stroud/the-amulet-of-samarkand/; School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-11762353.xml; Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/The-Amulet-of-Samarkand-Jonathan-Stroud/pid=4545860; Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7868-1859-4
Why I chose it: I found this book a the list of challenged books while I was working on one of my projects for class and thought I would read it and add it to my collection.
Bibliographic information: Gemini Bites. Patrick Ryan. Scholastic Press, 2011. $17.99. 240p. ISBN-13: 9780545221283.
Summary: Kyle and Judy are twins, who do not get along. Judy is always trying to win against Kyle. It is a large household and takes a lot to get some attention. Kyle has just told his family he is gay. To his relief, the family accepts it and moments later are distracted. Not to be one-upped by Kyle, a few days later Judy tells her family she is born-again and has found God. However, she is met with the same reaction that Kyle got. Later, over dinner, their father tells everyone that they are having a mysterious guest stay with them until the end of the school year. The mysterious guest is a boy, Garret Johnson, from Kyle and Judy’s class, but nobody knows much about him. Kyle gains information from a fellow student who says Garret is a vampire. After moving in, Garret plays on the vampire thing saying he really is one and gradually he starts to take an interest in both Kyle and Judy. Both intrigued by this, they start to compete for his affections.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 14 and up IL: grade 8 and up
Review: Gemini Bites is a delightful story of sixteen-year-old twins of a family of nine, Judy and Kyle, tend to compete over anything and everything. Kyle is gay, but Judy is born-again. And their newest competition, Garret Johnson, is…a vampire? After moving into their attic, claiming to be a vampire, Garret starts to take an interest in both Judy and Kyle. They can’t figure out whether he is gay, straight, into twins, or if he really is a vampire, but they compete for him anyhow. This book is written so that every chapter alternates between Kyle and Judy in the first person. All of the characters in this book have their own unique personalities that make them easy to remember. Teenagers will have an easy time relating to the language. This is a wonderful story with a twist at the end that may just surprise you. Covering a variety of problems teens may face in life, this book illustrates how you may get through them.
Readers’ annotation: A mysterious character takes up residence in Kyle and Judy’s home claiming to be a vampire, all the while leading them both on. Gay, straight, twinsexual, or vampire? Which one is Garret Johnson?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book encourages teen to be proud of who they are and their sexuality. They do not need to hide behind facades to be excepted by their parents and friends. And they should not hide who they are.
Issues present: Not only is there a couple of gay boys in this book, but one of them claims to be a vampire. People may object to these two things thinking they are wrong and possibly too frightening for children to handle. However, we should be able to encourage children to be who they are and not balk at their sexuality. Also, supernatural monsters in books help children fight their fears in a safe way.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce the twins and Garret’s characters.
Gay, straight, twinsexual, or vampire?
Genre or subject: GLBTQ, twins, relationships
Readalikes: Boy Meets Boy, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Totally Joe, Boyfriends with Girlfriends, Rainbow Boys
Author’s website: N/A
Awards: Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Debut Fiction Nomination, Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Nomination
Reviews: Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/Gemini-Bites-Patrick-Ryan/pid=4491838; School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-19814097900108.xml; Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-545-22128-3; Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/patrick-ryan/gemini-bites/
Why I chose it: This book had a different way of introducing gays into the book and Ryan threw in a popular topic by using vampires to twist up the story a bit. I couldn’t hold back from reading it.
Bibliographic information: Clockwork, or, All Wound Up. Philip Pullman. Scholastic, 1996. $5.99. 144p. ISBN-13: 9780439856232.
Summary: In the old day in Germany an apprentice clockmaker named Karl, an innkeeper’s daughter named Gretl, and a writer named Fritz start the gears turning on the story of Clockwork. The townspeople gather the night before the unveiling of the new figure for the town clock, although, Karl has failed to make the figure. Fritz reads his latest story about a local aristocrat, Prince Otto and his son, Prince Florian. When Prince Otto dies on a hunting trip his heart is replaced by clockwork that helps him find his way home. Fritz is at a loss for an ending. However, his story starts to come true when the evil Dr. Kalmenius comes to the tavern, leaving Fritz to run in fright. The Dr. offers Karl a clockwork figure named Sir Ironsoul and Karl accepts.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 10 and up IL: age 12 and up
Review: This is a haunting tale of a writers made up story that ends up becoming a true nightmare. Fritz never expected to see one of the characters from his story in flesh and blood, but when Dr. Kalmenius walks through the door of the tavern, he can’t believe it and runs in terror. Accepting Ironsoul for his apprentice’s clockwork piece was a bad move for Karl. Gretl, in an act of unselfishness saves Ironsoul from death. All of the stories of the characters start to come together to form one story and when they meet in the end it is not what you were expecting at all. This fast-paced nightmare of a tale represents the sacrifices that humanity has taken with becoming mechanical, quite well. You could read it several times over.
Readers’ annotation: What started out as a bedtime story, turns into a real life nightmare.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: We have all had to sacrifice one thing or another in our lives, whether it be small or large, and it is not an easy thing to do. This book lends readers insight into the sacrifices, the good and the bad ones. It lets them know that they are not the only ones who have had to sacrifice something in their lives.
Issues present: This book is quite scary and it has violence. Some people might be against these topics. However, children use such topics in books to help them cope this these things in their daily lives.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce individual characters.
What if the story you thought was fiction became real?
Genre or subject: Science fiction: steampunk
Readalikes: Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Graveyard Book, Leviathan, The Girl in the Steel Corset, Soulless
Author’s website: http://www.philip-pullman.com/
Awards: Whitbread Award Nominee for Children’s Book (1996), School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (1998), New York Public Library Best Book of the Year (1998)
Reviews: Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/Clockwork-Philip-Pullman/pid=379878; School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-8999500.xml; Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/philip-pullman-2/clockwork-2/
Why I chose it: This book looked incredibly interesting and I discovered that it was very eery and then wanted to add it to my collection.
Bibliographic information: The Halloween Tree. Ray Bradbury. Yearling, 1972. $5.50. 145p. ISBN-13: 9780375803017.
Summary: A group of eight friends, all boys, get all dressed up in their best costumes and head out to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night. They soon discover that a ninth Friend, Pipkin, has been taken away on an adventure that could be the end of his life. With the help of a shrouded guy named Moundshroud, the boys chase after their friend across space and through time. Traveling through such places as Ancient Egypt and Greek all the way to Mexico on the Day of the Dead. The origins of Halloween is revealed through their travels, as well as, the role of death and how it has shaped civilization.Will the boys reach Pipkin in time to save him and will he be the same in the end?
Reading level and interest level: RL: ages 10 and up IL: ages 12 and up
Review: Ray Bradbury’s work always has a meaningful core that slaps you in the face and makes you understand things on a whole new level and that is just what The Halloween Tree does. The Halloween Tree represents the influences for the traditions of different cultures have about Halloween and how they all merge into one. Pipkin is taken on a journey of life and death and his friends chase after him trying to keep him alive, along the way they learn the origins of Halloween and how other cultures celebrate the holiday. In the end, each boy gives up a year of his life for Pipkin so that he can live. Children will love this story’s lyrical text and learning about the origins of Halloween.
Readers’ annotation: On the night of Halloween 8 friends are swept away by the devil on a fantastical adventure to chase after a ninth friend who is battling death.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book discusses the death of a friend. Teens can read this book as a way to cope with a friend of theirs who may be struggling with a terminal disease or with a friend who has died. The kids in this book are brave and able to look death in the eye as a way to help their friend through this tough time. This will encourage kids to not be afraid of their situation.
Issues present: Many people may think that this title is too scary for young adults. It mentions death casually and has some scary creatures that could be considered frightening to some. However, children could use this book as a way to fight their fears of death and dying and be able to look at it with a different perspective. Also, they can fight their fears of things that go bump in the night be reading about these courageous kids and their adventures.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce various characters. – especially Pipkin.
Talk about general idea of Halloween, then how it used to be.
Would you take a ride with the devil, Death himself?
Genre or subject: Fantasy: Halloween, death
Readalikes: A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Secret of the Indian
Author’s website: http://www.raybradbury.com/
Reviews: Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ray-bradbury/the-halloween-tree/
Why I chose it: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a long known challenged book. Many of his other works are just as likely to be challenged and I wanted to add something of his to my collection, but Fahrenheit 451 is long overdone, so I decided on this one for my collection. Not as many people have heard of it, and it was a favorite movie of mine when I was younger.