Steampunk: A Flight

September 12, 2014

Steampunk'd And now for something completely different.  Steampunk anyone? While it’s not a new genre, it has a strong and dedicated following, and since its initial surge in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, it has become a literary phenomenon and spread to all ages.  We even have steampunk board book recommendations!  So what is it?  The setting for steampunk literature is typically in the 19th century, usually in Victorian England.  But not the Victorian England we recognize historically.  Steampunk’s hallmark is science fiction/fantasy with fictional technological inventions, like computers, appearing way ahead of their time.  While it has some elements of cyberpunk, it is much less dystopian and has a more positive tone, though it is edgy in a fun way. Gotta say, we love the women’s fashions, too. For read-alouds, your family might enjoy a classic in its own right, and a delightful new picture book on the joys of octopuses (yes, that’s the correct plural!) as pets.

Family Readalouds:

 The-Golden-CompassThe Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

I used to think of this amazing series (His Dark Materials) as a more modern Narnia-type fantasy.  But now I see it as a Steampunk fore-runner, set in a mythical British empire /parallel universe with its own set of scientific rules and with fantastical machines.  The Golden Compass of the title of the first book in the series is itself a machine that Lyra is miraculously skilled at reading. Exploring themes of religion, friendship, politics, family, the notion of magic and of other worlds, it touches on every major theme that resonates with families for great readalouds.  The orphan (or is she?) Lyra Belaqua, and her animal familiar (daemon, they call them) Pantalaimon are our guides into this world.  The second book continues in our own world with another abandoned youngster, Will.  Their worlds and many others will collide before the adventure is finished.  These phenomenal books hold up to (in fact, they practically demand) several readings.  And they make a perfect introduction to the world(s) of steampunk literature.

And

octopusWalking Your Octopus:  A Guidebook to the Domesticated Cephalopod by Brian Kessinger

Victoria Psismall teaches us about the current craze that is sweeping London:  octopuses as the perfect pet.  She and her own pet Otto are the models for how to train and enjoy your own cephalopod, with hilariously illustrated do’s and don’t’s.   Victoria and Otto inhabit a very different Victorian England–steampunk, of course.  The whimsy is contagious in this 30-page beautiful spread of the duo as they play croquet, cook, bathe, bike, and more.  Really, the whole family will enjoy this delightful volume, and be ready to dip further into the world of steampunk.

Infants, Toddlers and Preschool:

steampunkSteampunk Alphabet by Nathanael Iwata

With no less than six new steampunk alphabet books, it’s tough to choose, but we love the stunning art, inventiveness, and tough construction of this nifty little board book.  The author and illustrator, Nat Iwata, has been doing steampunk artwork for the videogame industry for years.  He brings a wonderful whimsy and accessibility to the genre.  Every page is an illustration of a familiar object in our world–say, and apple–then reimagined as steampunk.  Then he places these objects within his imagined world.  Really, a great read for the family, as toddlers will love the alphabet and illustrations, and older kids and adults can revel in the imagined steampunk universe.

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Her-MajestyHer Majesty’s Explorer:  A Steampunk Bedtime Story by Emilie P. Bush, illustrated by William Kevin Petty

Look no further for the perfect bedtime story to introduce your little one to the wonder of steampunk.  St. John Murphy Alexander is Her Majesty’s Explorer, roaming around world, exploring for the Queen.  He loves it, but it certainly is a dirty job, as he encounters incredible landscapes, surprising creatures, and a range of weather patterns.  He is ready for relaxation and sweet dreams at the end of the day.  Love the mini-book on Steamduck at the end.  A charming and whimsical story, all Steampunk, with gentle rhymes and plays with words, and delightful illustrations.  And if you and your family enjoy this one–and we think you will–you’ll also want to read the sequel Steamduck Learns to Fly:  A Steampunk Picture Book.

Early Readers:

A-Steampunk-TaleA Steampunk Tale of the Curious Canine, His Best Friend,  and the Lady Who Flew by Charlotte Whatley

Just a warning:  this looks like just set of very cool paper dolls with heavy cardboard covers and lots of amazing steampunk clothes for them all to wear.  While it is that for sure, there is so much more.  The “more” being a storybook in the middle of the paperdoll collection that is an awesome tale that you can also make your paper dolls act out(!)

PaperdollsPart-time poet “Fin” (Finley Landbroke) is the jaunty and compelling young man in this romantic tale.  Equally important  (and appealing) is Avey Tiptree (aerialist and seamstress).  And of course, the “curious canine” aka Professor Watts.  This short story is clever, funny, and romantic–and you can treat the 3 friends to all sorts of adventures in their steampunk fashions.

Tweens and Teens

Fever-CrumbFever Crumb by Phillip Reeve

Though you wouldn’t know it from the title, Fever Crumb is a person, a young woman to be exact. Fever is the adopted daughter of Dr. Crumb, and the only female member of the Order of Engineers.  Though set in the future, this London is still in the middle ages, though the antiques, junk, and remnants of the past show a more advanced history (circuit boards and microchips litter the landscape.  A complex and almost indescribable fantasy novel. For example, Fever is raised in the gigantic head of an unfinished stature. Though this stunning novel stands alone, it also is a prequel to Reeve’s Hungry Cities/Mortal Engines series. It’s an intriguing world, and fast becoming a steampunk classic.

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WorldshakerWorldshaker by Richard Harland

Colbert Porpentine  (Col) is born to the elite class in this  steampunk version of Great Britain.  He’s in line to follow his grandfather as future Supreme Commander of Worldshaker.  This huge roving community is over 2 miles long and one mile wide, and definitely class-oriented.  Col lives a refined life in the Upper Decks, but a Filthy stowaway  (Riff) from below decks introduces him to other Revolutionaries who are working for social justice.  Though not very subtle in its message, it’s still great science fiction with strong characters and an intriguing plot.

Young Adult:

LeviatanLeviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Here’s a very different take on World War I:  while the Germans and Austrians put their faith in machines (the “Clankers”), the British Darwinists develop new species for the war effort. Prince Aleksander flees Austria in a Cyklop Stormwalker, a war machine that walks on two legs.   Air”man” Deryn Sharp hopes no one discovers she is a girl as she serves on the British  Leviathan, a massive biological airship that resembles an enormous flying whale and functions as a self-contained ecosystem.  It’s a world of crazy machines and un-natural animals, all of it bizarre–and fascinating.  The main characters are rich and complex, too.  Suspense, action–and a lot of fun.

Friday-SocietyThe Friday Society by Adrienne Cress

Love this book!  Maybe our favorite of the book flight. The setting?  Steampunk Edwardian London as a kind of exotic Old West.  Three charming, clever, and brave heroines:  Cora, a young and brilliant lab assistant; Michiko, truly amazing martial arts/samurai-in-training; and Nellie, a clever, pretty magician’s assistant who loves sparkles, costumes, and social engineering. This trio forms the Friday Society, and band together to solve a murder mystery and save their friends and loved ones.  These young women are strong and sassy–and love good fashion at the same time!  It has the feel of “first of a series,” but we don’t see any evidence of a follow-up of this terrific novel.  We can always hold out hope. . .

Adults of All Ages:

SoullessSoulless  (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger

Victorian romance, with a twist.  Kind of a lot of twists.  First of all, in this steampunk world, there are vampires and werewolves, among other creatures.  Our protagonist is a rarity; she is soulless.  Upper class Alexia Tarabotti is also a no-nonsense, clever “spinster” of 25.  Sparks fly when she meets Lord Conall Maccon, a Scottish Alpha werewolf.  A very witty parody of sorts, and the start of the Soulless series.

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Annubis-GatesThe Anubis Gates  by Tim Powers

We close with a classic:  the Philip K. Dick Award-winner of adventure, comedy, time-travel, and ancient gods and wizards, all set in 17th-century England. The mythology is mostly Egyptian, but with werewolves and other supernatural creatures thrown in. It’s also a great introduction to Tim Powers’ other works.  Enjoy!

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Revisiting Fairy Gardens

September 6, 2014

~posted by Ruth

Fairy-Garden-1Welcome back to our Fairy Garden!  Last summer, we began a summer tradition of inviting the fairies to our garden, writing notes and books back and forth, and leaving sweet treats for them.  (Check out Fairy Gardens:  A Backyard Adventure).  This summer, we added a beautiful hand-painted gazebo, a beer bottle cap walkway (thanks, Grandpa!), and tiny seashells from a visit to the Oregon Coast.  We were rewarded by many sweet notes from Trula, and Bon Bon, and even a visit from the Tooth Fairy!  They loved the tiny sugar cookies, blueberries and chocolate chips we left so much they even invited Tinkerbell to visit.

Fairy-garden-2Molly is sure that Bon Bon is a sweet treat fairy, and that Trula is a water nymph fairy.  This fall, we are planning to read up on the flower fairy visitors to our Fairy Garden, too, with a classic illustrated guide.  Next year, we’ll be having special invitations for little winged friends of the floral variety!  Got your own recommendation for fairy books or backyard adventures?  Be sure to let us know!

Flower-FairiesFlower Fairies of the Garden by Cicely Mary Barker

In the 1920’s, Cicely Mary Barker created a classic resource for Flower Fairy fans, with poems and water colors of about two dozen flowers and their guardian fairies.  While it was out of print for many years, the book has been brought back in a new edition (in 2008) and it is simply stunning.  I remember the illustrations as captivating from the earlier edition, but I have a new appreciation of the lilting poems.  If you like this particular book, you’ll want to try the others in Barker’s Flower Fairy series.

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Super Ninjas!

August 29, 2014

~posted by Ruth

Ninja-girlWe had the excitement and pleasure of a visit this summer from the Super Ninja Twins, none other than our own Molly and Jacob.  Lessons from Uncle Cory, Stealthy Ninja Super-Uncle, piqued their new-found interest in becoming ninjas.

Cory-ninjaAs you can see from the photos, they took to it with fascination and devotion.  So in celebration of our memorable summer ninja adventures, here are a couple of new ninja picture books we love.

Ninja-Red-Riding-HoodNinja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Pity poor Wolf!  He is sick and tired of getting beaten by his prey, so he sneaks into a martial arts school to hone his fighting skills.  Feeling confident when he returns to the hunt, he decides upon Little Red Riding Hood as his next meal.  But guess what!?  She is a graduate of Ninja School and no easy prey.  Luckily for Wolf, a visit from a tai chi master helps put Wolf on a new spiritual path:  “The wolf was a mess./He’d had way too much stress./’I guess I’ll give yoga a try.'”  Terrific illustrations, rhyming text, and fun word bubble dialogue make this a winner.  Love it as a readaloud, too! (And if this whets you appetite for more Little Red Riding Hood, check out our Red Riding Hood Flight. )

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The-Boy-Who-Cried-NinjaThe Boy Who Cried Ninja by Alex Latimer

Reviewers use words like “hip and trendy”; “offbeat”; “quirky”; “goofy, cheerful, and subversive” to describe this picture book.  So you can figure that it’s right up our alley here at Lit for Kids.  Young Tim has many excuses for the  destructive behavior that occurs around him–and it turns out he’s telling the truth!  He gets surprise visits from everywhere in time and space from an astronaut, a giant squid, a pirate, a sunburned crocodile and a time-traveling monkey, but he figures out a way to resolve his difficulties AND get 100 ice creams from his apologetic parents who had doubted him.  Great spin on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”  Gotta love that cake-kicking yet stealthy Ninja, too.


Rayna Recommends MIDNIGHTERS: THE SECRET HOUR by Scott Westerfield

August 23, 2014

MidnightersMidnighters: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld

Recommended by Rayna Mazhary- Clark

Have you ever wondered if there is a secret world in your own that you don’t know about? In Midnighters: The Secret Hour, Jessica Day learns about one when she moves to Bixby. Author Scott Westerfeld gives great details on how everyone feels about Bixby. As you read it you get sucked in and can’t put the book down. It’s just so interesting!

Jessica Day moves to Bixby, Oklahoma after her mom gets a new job. Soon she starts having weird dreams, (or what she thinks are dreams), and never gets a good night’s rest. Her new friends Dess, Rex, and Melissa were all born there. They are the only people who are able to move at midnight. The darklings come out then too and fight the midnighters. Join the midnighters as they explore their talents and fight the darklings during the midnight hour.

One reason I like this book is because the author’s style of writing is very interesting. For example, ‘’’Wow,’ came a familiar voice, ‘Hypochondriac killed the cat.’ The nonsense words were followed by a giggle.” This shows that he likes writing dialogue. He also writes in third person point of view and follows different people in each chapter. It’s shown when the first chapter is in Rex’s life but the second is in Dess’ life.

Another reason why this book is good is the setting descriptions. I like how he describes the Bixby High bright lights with the bright sun making the halls even brighter. It is also good when he describes the blue time during the midnight hour. An example of this is when the author writes, ‘The cold, blue moonlight seemed brighter every minute.’ This shows what Jessica sees.

Don’t hesitate to go find this book. It is a great read and will keep you wondering what will happen next! With an exciting storyline and great characters, the fun will never end! So go find this book and jump into the action of the Midnighters: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld!

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 Several of Rayna’s classmates have also allowed us to publish reviews of what they’re currently reading.  And for recommendations from kids of all ages, check out our Kids Recommend section.


Megan Recommends THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein

August 18, 2014

The-ArtThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Recommended by Megan Nall-Cook

“I’ve always felt almost human. I’ve always known that there’s something about me that’s different from other dogs. Sure. I’m stuffed into a dog’s body but that’s just the shell. It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human.” Enzo has always felt like a human and is irritated that he doesn’t have thumbs. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein goes through a dog’s life but starts at the end then goes to his childhood. This book was humorous and hard to put down.

Enzo tells the story of his life and uses a lot of racing references. Denny is his owner, he is a racecar driver, is married to Eve and has a daughter named Zoé. Enzo is a terrier-poodle mix and is very old. Denny and Enzo live in an apartment. Denny is tall with long lean muscles and a scruffy wiry beard. Garth Stein wrote this book from Enzo’s point of view which made it more likeable than if it had been written from a different point of view. This book is very funny and is deep as well. Three reasons to read this book are it refers to racing, has lots of humor, and shows the love between dog and owner.

Both Denny and Enzo often refer to racing, they both refer to terms like overcorrecting, freezing, and driving like there are eggshells on your pedals. When Enzo got left alone in the house for about three days he said, “When I was locked in the house suddenly and firmly, I did not overcorrect or freeze.” In the chapter before it was all racing references or terms to describe what to do and how he felt. Racing references are often used in this book; they also make the book what it is.

Humor is common as well. Enzo is jealous of monkeys because they have thumbs, he gives two reasons why he thinks humans are descended from dogs not monkeys. Evidence he uses is the dew claw and werewolf. He also talks about crows eating bags of his poop while he watched and laughed. The humor is subtle or outright in this book, it is laced with it.

Enzo is an old dog who has seen every aspect of life. In the beginning he peed on the floor, is trying to get up and tell Denny to let go, but Denny just picks him up and bathes him instead, throughout the book he tries to warn them or tell them something but he gets frustrated by his tongue that is keeping him from speaking. Overall, this book is love between dog and owner.

“The old soul of a dog has much to teach us about being human. I loved this book,” says Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants. I agree, between humor, racing references, and the love between dog and owner I think you should go right now and find this book so you can read it.

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 Several of Megan’s classmates have also allowed us to publish reviews of what they’re currently reading.  And for recommendations from kids of all ages, check out our Kids Recommend section.


Sean Recommends THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

August 16, 2014

Hunger-GamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Reviewed by Sean Jacobson

Has your name ever been drawn from a bowl? Usually that’s a good thing right? Well you’re wrong! In the book, The Hunger Games, Collins writes a thriller about a girl named Katniss. She has to compete in a survival challenge vs 22 other killers. The goal is to kill out all your opponents and be the last person standing. Katniss’s little sister Primm got called to compete in this brutal challenge. But Katniss being her protective big sister and all, she volunteered to take Primm’s place. I love this book because it’s filled with mystery, action, and suspense. Will Katniss survive? Or will her very daring swap end up stabbing her in the back?

After Katniss volunteers to participate in The Hunger Games, she is taken by guards to a monorail where she meets her other district partner Peeta, and her adviser Haymitch. Haymitch was a past winner in The Hunger Games. Haymitch was drunk and he didn’t provide much help to Katniss and Peeta. When they get to the Hunger Games stadium she is forced through intensive training that includes agility tests, bow and arrow shooting, and stabbing things. Katniss excels at bow and arrow because she was raised in a place called District 12 where she did lots of hunting. There are 12 districts and 2 people from each district have to compete in the Hunger Games if called. Soon Katniss is called in a room where she will be given a score from the judges. During her evaluation the judges ignored Katniss because they were tired of seeing 23 other people perform for them. Since the judges were ignoring Katniss, she decided to do something drastic. It was so drastic that I can’t tell you, you need to find out when you read. Later Katniss gets put in a glass tube and gets lifted up in the Hunger Games arena. The Hunger Games have officially begun.

A reason to read this book is because of the great setting. This book takes place inside a chamber simulation made into a jungle. But what really makes this setting pop is the special effects. Have you ever had a fire ball thrown at your face? Have you ever been shot at by other people in the jungle? Well I don’t think so.

Another reason to read this book is because there is an emotional backstory behind this theme. Katniss fights for love, she fights to live. Her family is at home watching her on T.V, fearing for Katniss’s safety. The odds of Katniss winning are 24 to 1. Would you be worried if your loved one was in there? Her family deeply worries for her return home.

The Hunger Games is a book I recommend to all action lovers. If you get sad easily, this book might not suit you. I do have some advice that came from the book. First, never take food for granted, second, watch your back, and third, watch what you do. Why do I say that? Because first, the book is so addicting when I read it I didn’t eat anything and second a cat scratched my back when I wasn’t paying attention while reading the book. I hope you visit your local library and, read this book!!!

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 Several of Sean’s classmates have also allowed us to publish reviews of what they’re currently reading.  And for recommendations from kids of all ages, check out our Kids Recommend section.

 


Shaylea Recommends ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell

August 14, 2014

Eleanor-and-ParkEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Recommended by Shaylea Kristich

“Only for tonight, not forever”. Those words are from Eleanor and Park The title of this book is Eleanor and Park and the author is Rainbow Rowell. My opinion on Eleanor and Park is I really like it. It’s a cute love story between two teenagers who fall in love and I recommend it for you.

Eleanor and Park is about this boy and girl who meet on the bus on the first day of school and at first they both didn’t like each other, but after getting to know each other for a while they became boyfriend and girlfriend. Later on, Eleanor starts sneaking out with Park, then her stepdad Richie finds out.

I liked Eleanor and Park because of the romance. The romance between Eleanor and Park is really cute: they hold hands and hangout a lot ;they hug and kiss they sneak out together. They think about each other all the time. They love each other! For example, they hold hands and hug at school, they kiss in the alley between Parks house and his grandma’s house, they hang out at Parks house they sneak around with each other. One example of this is, “Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete and completely alive.”

In conclusion, one reason you should read the book is the romance and the thrill in it. My opinion on the book Eleanor and Park is that I love it. It’s amazing and I love the romance in it between Eleanor and Park. I fell in love with the book and after a few chapters I knew it was going to be good. I encourage you to read Eleanor and Park if you like love stories and thrillers. If you want to read it you can find it at Barnes and Nobles. It is a really good book.

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Several of Sahlea’s classmates have also allowed us to publish reviews of what they’re currently reading.  And for recommendations from kids of all ages, check out our Kids Recommend section.


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