Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bogus to Bubbly by Scott Westerfeld

Bogus to Bubbly: an Insider's Guide to the World of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is especially for fans of the Uglies Series.

In this book the author describes how he created the fictional world of, The Uglies. From the invention of gadgets to the formulation of the rules of society, the author gives us a glimpse of how a science fiction writer pulls together ideas from a number of sources to combine them into the cohesive elements of a story that his characters can live, move and interact in.

Setting: If you haven't read the series, you would need to know that the story takes place 300 years in the future and society is divided into the "uglies" and the "pretties." The surgically beautified pretties are separated from the "uglies" who haven't been surgically altered, yet. The "pretties" live in the sanitized, perfectly-ordered, pristine conditions of cities. Outside the orderly world of the city are the remnants of a damaged world, replete with ruins, ecological disasters, and wild places. Basically, jealousy and ugliness are blamed for why so much of the world has been damaged and the only way for the world to recover is to artificially transform everyone into a "pretty."

Characters: The main character in the story is Tally Youngblood. The author says that he needed a name that wouldn't be common today, but might work as a possible name in the future. The word, tally, refers to counting, but it's a word today that isn't used too often and the author liked the sound of it. Westerfeld created her last name from two phrases that are familiar to him: "Young Turk" & "Fresh Blood." The first one implies someone who is an upstart and the other someone that is a newcomer. Both fit the character he had in mind.

Theme: One of the author's intentions is to get us to reflect on our concept of what makes someone beautiful. Westerfeld has a section in the book about the science of beauty. One idea from the past that influenced the author is called the Symmetry Hypothesis. In the first book, Tally and Shay make a morphos mask of themselves by taking an image of one side of their face and folding a copy of it over to the other side of the mask to create a symmetrical match. [show an example] The Symmetry Hypothesis has probably been the most scientific attempt at explaining beauty. Studies have been conducted in which people were asked to look at computer generated photos and then were asked to select the pictures they preferred. The ones they most often selected were the ones that were symmetrical. "Even babies stare longer at symmetrical faces than uneven ones." This principle also operates in the animal world, not with faces but with symmetrical markings instead. According to Westerfeld, symmetry is preferred because it indicates a strong immune system. Being sick at a young age interferes with the growing process slightly, but enough to make our faces appear uneven. All of us get sick, so there isn't anyone who is perfectly symmetrical.

Find out more about how the world of the Uglies was created in, Bogus to Bubbly by Scott Westerfeld.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod) by Heather Brewer


"A tree branch slapped John Craig across the face, scraping his skin, but he kept on running and ignored the stabbing of pine needles on his bare feet. He could hear the man's footsteps behind him, echoing his own.

The man was getting closer.

A fallen branch grabbed John's ankle and he fell forward. Time slowed to a crawl as his face neared the leaf-covered ground. Cold air whipped across his skin. His heart drummed in his ears. The man's pace quickened, and just as John's cheek smacked against the earth, the stranger grabbed a fistful of John's hair and pulled his head back. John screeched. 'What do you want from me?' but his attacker didn't answer.

John swung his arms behind him to knock the man down, but his hands were caught effortlessly in the air and bound behind him. John's head jerked back as the man gave his hair a violent tug and growled, 'Where is he?'

Tears coated John's cheeks and he shook his head, refusing to answer.

Something warm and slick ran down John's forehead. Through red-tinted glass, he looked at the forest around them. He screamed for help until his lungs burned, but help wouldn't come.

'Where's the boy? Where's Vlad? [The attacker was looking for a boy named Vladimir Tod.]

John wriggled. the man's face was near his. cold breath beat down on the back of his neck, and something sharp grazed against his skin.

'Tell me or die.'

John opened his mouth to speak, but it was too late for lies. The man bit down. Fangs popped through John's skin, cutting deep into his neck."

As the days pass, Vlad, or should I say Vladimir Tod, an eighth grader at Bathory Junior High becomes more disturbed about the mystery of his favorite eighth grade teacher's whereabouts. Vlad is so concerned that he goes to his teacher's house in the middle of the night. A thought that the police may have missed something crosses his mind. When Vlad reaches the house, to his surprise he discovers a strange symbol carved into the wood across the porch. It looks like this [draw the symbol on the board].

Something moved. Someone's in the house. Vlad goes in.

Is it his missing teacher, or has someone else set a trap, hoping Vlad would come?

Why was that symbol etched onto the porch?

Why didn't Vlad run, why did he have to go inside?

If you like vampire stories, I would recommend The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ripley's Believe It or Not! 2009 Edition

Ripley's Believe It or Not! books are always winners in our opinion here at CLMS.

For more information on Ripley's go to

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Minnesota Wild by Lisa Simon

Minnesota Wild Trivia

Who dropped the ceremonial puck for the opening game of the Minnesota Wild in October 11, 2000?
a. Jesse Ventura
b. Norm Coleman
c. Herb Brooks
d. Al Franken

Which of the following names were considered for the team?
a. Minnesota Blue Ox
b. Freeze
c. Northern Lights
d. White Bears
e. Voyageurs

Did the Wild win, lose or tie in their first game?

Which 6' 7" player on the Wild is known as a quiet person off the ice but on the ice he is known for being an enforcer?
a. Marian Gaborik
b. Niklas Backstrom
c. Mikko Koivu
d. Derek Boogard

Which of the following is unlike most teams but true about the Wild hockey team:
a. The team's arena, the Excel Energy Center, has a lighthouse in the image of Split Rock Lighthouse in one corner.
b. The team rotates captains every month.
c. The team song includes the words: "The day they try to take this game is the day the gloves come off." (meaning, Minnesota won't stand to lose another hockey team).

Swords by Ben Boos

Swords, by Ben Boos, is a book rich in illustrations. [look at pp. 9, 48-49, 60-61] For those of you who like to draw, this book can give you some terrific models to follow for drawing ancient weaponry. Besides that, though, I like the information tiles dispersed throughout the book. Here's an example of one describing how wild boar were once hunted in Europe by using a sword:

"Dangerous Game. Some of the animals hunted in the dense European woods were quite dangerous, including the wild boar, a large feral pig. Especially brave hunters of these tusked beasts favored the sword as a weapon of choice. It surely would have been easier to use a bow or a spear, but hunting boars with a sword was considered sporting [like the idea of "fair chase" hunters abide by today]. It must have taken great skill to fight these beasts at such close range while avoiding being gored by their fearsome tusks. Boars were said to have such bloodlust that, once provoked, they would willingly impale themselves up to the hunter's sword hilt just to get in close enough to deal the hunter a deadly blow." p.22.

I'll read that last part again. Can you believe that?

[show son's wooden sword] What is a sword hilt? Do you know what the other parts are called? What part do think is the cruciform? Where do find the tang on a sword? Where do you find the blood groove on some swords? How are swords made?

There are a few mysteries about swords. Old Norse or Viking legends said that if you blew on the blade of a Viking sword an image of a snake would appear. Some Viking swords have been discovered that have parts for which the exact purpose remains a mystery.

You may think this is a quick read, but that depends on how much you get hooked into looking at the detail of all the swords presented in, Swords, by Ben Boos.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

i before e by Judy Parkinson

Subtitle: Old-school ways to remember stuff.

June, is too soon,
July, you should stand by,
August, prepare you must,
September, remember (to stand by),
October, it's all over.

Have you heard this before? I bet people in Louisiana have.

It's an example of a memory technique-it's a mneumonic.

I like the hurricane season poem as a way to remember when it starts, peaks and finally ends. June is too soon, but July you start hearing in the news about hurricanes forming in the Atlantic Ocean. In August weather news will begin to show us possible paths hurricanes might take before reaching landfall. It seems like landfall has been occurring in places like Florida and Louisiana with more frequency and more destruction in recent years. And the season doesn't stop until the end of October.

How about this mneumonic: Do you know which months of the year have 31 days and which ones have less? Take your hands and make two fists. Put your fists side by side. Start with the left knuckle of the left hand and name it January. Look at the valley inbetween and call it February. Keep going until you finish on the right hand. Don't include the thumb knuckles. If you did it right you should have all the months with 31 days designated on your knuckles, and all the rest with less in the valleys.

To be honest, I can never remember how to properly set a table, but here's a helpful mneumonic trick. Think of the words left and right. the word 'left' has 4 letters, and the word 'right' has 5. Tableware with names with 4 letters go on the left, those with 5 on the right. Where should you put a fork, knife and a spoon?

This book has hundreds of mneumonic tricks, some you can even use for school. I think this is a perfect book for you when you need something light to read and only have just a few minutes-like silent reading day on Wed.
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