Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Super Human by Michael Carroll

All hail... Gilgamesh! [class repeats the name after "all hail....."]

Ancient Mesopotamian texts written 4000 years ago in cuneiform script suggest that Gilgamesh did not walk the earth as a mere mortal. These ancient tablets claim he reigned supreme as half-god, half-man. Stories of his super-human strength and how he used it to vanquish his enemies are legend. In the eyes of Gilgamesh, might always made right.


In the book, Superhuman, by Michael Carroll, the reader is asked to imagine what would happen if a super-human like Gilgamesh could be transported over 4000 years into the present. Why anyone would want to do this is another question.


Members of a cult called the Helotry of the Fifth King believe the stories of Gilgamesh were based on the true life of Krodin, an ancient ruler of Mesopotamia. The Helotry think it has now discovered a way to bring the ancient ruler they have worshipped as a god over millenia into the present by manipulating an energy field to cause a rip in time.

All hail...Krodin!

The Helotry-of-the-Fifth-King plans to bring Krodin into the present to establish a new world order. Warped as it may sound, the Helotry believe Krodin’s superhuman brand of strength and cruelty will restore peace and order to our present world. To carry out their plot, they've engineered a flu virus to disable the entire adult population of earth from standing in the way. Vaccinated from the pandemic, the members of the Helotry plan to put the second phase of their operation into motion-to take over a nuclear power plant.

However, like a super-cell of unexpected tornadoes, the Helotry don't count on a race of super-human teenaged heroes that have lived in relative anonymity until now. Although their fledgling powers are not yet under control, the teenage super-humans pack enough punch to distract the Helotry's attention, at least for a little while.


Unknown to these super-human teenagers, a young boy very much like themselves sits locked-up in the strongest fortified prison in the world. If let out, he could easily take the form of pure energy. The Helotry desperately seeks his special power.

Who will find the boy first? Why does the Helotry need him? What will happen if the kids cannot stop Krodin from traveling into the present?

If you like fast paced action oriented stories, if you normally prefer graphic novels (although this isn’ t one), if you like super-heroes, then you might want to take a look at, Super Human by Michael Carroll.

You might also like:

Beowulf, by Gareth Hinds

Friday, August 20, 2010

Billionaire's Curse by Richard Newsome

[Insert pictures for slideshow or picture book to introduce, The Billionaire’s Curse, by Richard Newsome.]

Page One: [Australian Alps] Gerald Wilkins is more than happy to ditch middle school for holiday break. His family has planned to vacation at a ski resort in the Australian Alps. His snowboard might just alleviate the abysmal embarrassment Gerald suffered at the hand of his history teacher, Mr. Atkinson. Why did Mr. Atkinson have to display in front of the whole class a portrait Gerald drew of the girl he had a crush on in the front row? Let's skip the revulsion she felt for Gerald now.

Page Two: [England] The distraction Gerald Wilkins hoped to receive from his vacation soon vanished, however. Gerald’s mom and dad informed him that their plans had changed. There had been a phone call. A great aunt had died. A great aunt Gerald had never met. Too bad, so sad, Gerald thought. Clearly the news hadn’t sunk in. There would be no ski trip. They were to leave Australia immediately for the funeral in England!

Page Three: [Tear drop]In the apparent shock of events, Gerald’s mom held a handkerchief to her nose and tears rained down, smearing make-up down her cheeks. She blurted out, “I can’t believe she’s dead!” She sobbed: “Isn’t it just…..wonderful!” Her tears were tears of joy.

Page Four: [Airbus A380] Gerald and his mom and dad flew on an Airbus A380. The plane known for its size and luxury made Gerald feel disconcerted; something wasn’t quite right. How could his parents afford a flight on such a plane? Also, wasn’t it a bit odd that they were the only passengers aboard except for a butler and flight crew?

Page Five: [Andy Warhol] As they disembarked, a tall thin man dressed in black with chalky white skin and silvery hair grabbed Gerald’s arm with a vise-like grip. Undetected, the man pulled Gerald into the darkness underneath the plane. Gerald noticed he smelled like bleach and wore sunglasses even though it was night. As Gerald struggled to get free the man with the chalky white skin calmly spoke as if he knew Gerald’s great aunt, but hinted that she had been unable to help him with something. Before Gerald wriggled free, the man said, “I think you may be of enormous help to me.”

Page Six: [Bill Gates] Gerald’s aunt was the heiress to the multi-billion dollar Archer family estate and invested wisely to amass an even larger fortune. To gain favor with her rich aunt, Gerald’s mother had named Gerald after her. Geraldine Archer, like a Bill Gates, had committed a large portion of her fortune to altruistic causes, giving billions to charity, but a fortune of 20 billion pounds still remained. Like the rest of the Archer family, Gerald’s mom looked forward to the funeral with great anticipation. The reading of the will would commence immediately after the service.

Page Seven: [Letter with a seal] The family, friends, and servants of Geraldine Archer all received a letter with the Archer family seal. All were instructed to wait until after the executor had read the will before they tore into their individual envelopes.

Page Eight: [Koh-i-Noor diamond] One tiny detail-just before or just after the death of Geraldine Wilkins, I can’t tell you for certain, in a securely guarded chamber in a British Museum, the near priceless Noor Jehan Diamond was stolen.

Who will receive Geraldine Archer’s fortune? How is the theft of one of the world’s most priceless diamonds connected with the death of Gerald’s aunt? Who is the thin man dressed in black and what does he want from Gerald? Money and fame have a way of making those who possess them into their prisoners. And, like sparkling diamonds, they could easily distract Gerald's attention away from what is really going on. For example, did anyone question how Geraldine Archer died? If you like mystery and adventure, then I would like to recommend, The Billionaire's Curse, by Richard Newsome.

You might also be interested in:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan and the 39 Clues Series.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Pablo Picasso is considered one of the world’s great art masters. He is known for a style of painting called cubism. A cubist painting looks like a canvas that has been cut up into pieces and then reassembled so that each piece appears to crash into the others in bizarre angles. Time, space and reality receive a distorted or bent look in a cubist painting. Maybe the intent of cubism is to shock our senses so we are forced to view reality from another perspective. Take a look at one of Picasso’s famous paintings titled Guernica: This painting doesn’t draw us in by how life-like the art is, but shouts at us with mishaped figures of agony. Look at the cut-out shape of the screaming horse. Notice the one dimensional person flailing his arms? I can almost imagine myself pressing a volume button to turn off the shrieks of pain.

Did you notice the eye? The eye especially disturbs me for some reason. The eye watches over everything. Like a video camera, it seems to record and capture all the horror and suffering of the scene below. Nothing escapes the eye’s gaze. I’m not surprised that the eye in the painting flashed to my mind as I encountered an equally unsettling orb in the book called, Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher.

The Eye of Incarceron had studied Finn almost his entire life. Was the mind behind the eye merely artificial or was it alive? Could it prove to be more than a technological tool to monitor all inmates such as Finn? You could say Incarceron served as a high security prison of sorts, like an Alcatraz perhaps. Yet, to say Incarceron was merely a prison, doesn’t adequately describe the experience. Similar to a cubist painting, Incarceron seemed to defy space, time, and reality. How can a normal prison conceivably hold a billion prisoners and possibly guard them only with an electronic eye?

Over the years a cherished myth passed down from inmate to inmate. The myth told of a prisoner named Sapphique, the only one who had successfully escaped Incarceron. Like an inmate on Alcatraz, Finn desperately lived by the thread of hope that someday he too would again live free under the stars above.

Finn wasn’t extraordinarily tough or clever, but he had managed to survive the violence and horrors of confinement within Incarceron’s acrid chambers. Most inmates left Finn alone, not for the fact he was young, but because of his convulsions. Many of the inmates considered Finn special because of his disorder, like he was some kind of prophet or seer. Some even thought Finn had convulsions because Sapphique revealed the secrets of escape in those tormented episodes when his body shaked, flailed, and betrayed him. For these reasons his fellow inmates also kept a close eye on Finn. He just might be their ticket out.

Finn believed he hadn’t always been a prisoner of Incarceron, but that was impossible. Everyone currently alive in Incarceron had been born inside. Finn firmly believed he was different, the only one in the immense dungeon to have once lived free under the sky. Even those close to him doubted his claim, but Finn had proof. Unlike any other inmate, Finn’s arm bore the mark of an eagle clearly in the form of a red tattoo.

What did the tattoo symbolize? Did Finn really have visions that could lead the way out of Incarceron? If the Eye could see and record everything, how can Finn and the other inmates possibly escape? Is the prison like a Picasso painting, with so many distorted twists and turns that there is no way out? Will Finn and the others regret their attempt to defy the Eye of Incarceron?

If you like a hard edged fantasy adventure take a look at, Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.

You also might like:

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer or Compound by S.A. Bodeen

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