Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Icefall by Matthew Kirby

Author Rick Riordan recently announced that he has signed a deal with Disney Publishing Worldwide to write a new series that will involve Norse mythology. “The Norse gods are so wild,” Riordan told the Associated Press. “They have this wild, barbaric energy you don't associate with the Greeks.” He said this series was in the works even before he wrote the Lightning Thief and the rest of the Percy Jackson series. The bad news is that we will have to wait until the year 2015 to see how he brings Norse gods such as Thor and Odin to fit in with today's world.

Riordan's announcement makes me think the book, Icefall, by Matthew Kirby couldn't have come at a better time. Despite the fact our school is in Minnesota, I do not know much about Norse mythology or much about the history of the ancient Vikings for that matter. Reading Icefall has made me much more curious about both.

For example: did you know the word berserk comes from the name for a type of viking warrior called a berserker? Today we could call someone that goes into an uncontrolled rage as going berserk. For a viking berserker, this wild rage was part of a trance like state necessary to prepare for battle. Berserkers in fact were said to have worn a wolf pelt and to have fought with the ferocity and strength equal to that of a bear. Berserkers were even known to bite their shields, maybe as a way to calm themselves down from their insane battle rage. An old Norse poem describes Odin's men like this:

I'll ask of the berserks, you tasters of blood,
Those intrepid heroes, how are they treated,
Those who wade out into battle,
Wolf-skinned they are called...
In battle they bear bloody shields.

In the book, Icefall, we are introduced to a berserker named Hake. Hake is sent by the King not to terrify but to protect the royal family from a war-mongering chieftain named Gunnlaug. Gunnlaug would like nothing more than to capture the king's son and his two daughters to hold as ransom. Gunnlaug knows that if he can discover the fjord in which they are hiding he can then exchange the son and one of the daughters for valuable territory. However, the King's older daughter named Asa is an entirely different matter. Like a Helen of Troy, a war could be simply fought over her beauty alone. If he finds them, Gunnlaug will probably force Asa to be his wife. However, what no one knows is that Asa's heart is secretly in love with her personal bodyguard named Per. Because of this secret, she might fear her father as much as she fears being captured by Gunnlaug. The king would never permit a royal marriage to a bodyguard.

Asa's sister, Solvieg, eventually figures out her sister's secret, but something more terrifying and mysterious captures her attention. Someone has poisoned the berserkers' food. Who will protect the king's family and servants if they die? Could one of the servants or bodyguards have done this or is it possible something more sinister is at work? Perhaps their hiding place may even be cursed by a nearby runestone?

According to legend the undead sometimes inhabited the grave of a fallen warrior. Could the undead, called haugbui (corpse giants), rise from the grave like "wisps of smoke" and float through the walls into their hide-out? Or, is someone secretly hiding in the forest like a wolf, waiting for their prey to slowly weaken until the calculated moment? Could any of these possibilities be part of Gunnlaug's master plan?

Find out in a book that is a combination of adventure, mystery, romance and even a bit of Norse mythology smashed in. Matthew Kirby's new book has it all.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

This may surprise you, but I sometimes have trouble connecting with books that I’m reading. Occasionally I will invoke the one-hundred page rule. If a book doesn’t grab me by page one-hundred, I will often let it go. I hate making such a decision because I often will miss out on an exciting ending.

The one-hundred page rule brings me to a book I heard about this past summer called Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading. Never mind page one-hundred, for this book I almost stopped at the title! Why would I want to read a book with a title like this? I wasn't sure if I even should share this book with you, but let's see why I got past page one-hundred...

Our unlikely protagonist is Charlie Joe Jackson. He proudly states he will stop at nothing to get out of reading. He even gives us twenty-five tips on how to cope with, or avoid, the reading trap. For example:


For Charlie Joe, reading is the enemy and he seems to have quite a following. Here are a few kids that would agree; maybe you'll recognize someone you know: [Show YouTube) Why does Charlie Joe hate reading so much? Part of the answer involves a strange convergence involving his dad, Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, and Matt Christopher.


So far in his life, Charlie Joe has only read one book all the way through. He recommends all of us to read at least one book in case anyone ever asks us what our favorite book is. Charlie Joe’s one book is the Giving Tree, which is interesting because in this story the tree is doing all the giving and the boy is doing all the taking. Surprisingly, it’s the one book Charlie Joe hasn’t asked his friend Timmy to read for him. Timmy and Charlie Joe have what you might call “an arrangement.” Charlie Joe goes to the ala carte line and gives Timmy an ice cream sandwich. Timmy reads for Charlie the books he refuses to read.


Charlie Joe Jackson will stop at nothing to get out of reading, even if it means losing the love of his life, Hannah Spivero. So what if his most recent plan to not read involved arranging a date between Hannah and a friend of his named Jake Katz. So what if they started to like each other. How long could it last? What was the average life span of a middle school romance anyway? Nine days? Nothing to worry about. Right?

But, there will be plenty for Charlie Joe Jackson to worry about if his parents, the principal and his favorite teacher Ms. Fellman discover the latest plan he’s hatched to not read. It involves Hannah, Jake and the final school project.

If you liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid, if you liked Origami Yoda or Darth Paper Strikes Back, then you will want to take a look at Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading. Even high schoolers who don't like to read will read this book all the way through.

BC Booktalk on Prezi
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