Monday, February 21, 2011

Ship Breaker

By Paolo Bacigalupi. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010.

Picture a world in the future that is post global warming. Oil and gas supplies are gone. The waters of the Gulf Coast have risen, and cities like New Orleans are now underwater. It's a fight for survival, and the people who live on Bright Sands Beach do whatever it takes to eek out a pitiful living. For the main character, Nailer, this involves "ship breaking." Rusty hulks of diesel ships are his life, and his main job is stripping them of valuable metal, such as copper. Because of his small size, he is able to squeeze through very small ducts, and this job is highly desirable to his bosses and fellow crew workers. The more scrap metal he collects, the better for him. Making a living to earn him a meager amount of food and avoiding his drug-addicted, abusive father are his main daily challenges. That all changes when he discovers a clipper ship that crashed on shore after a major hurricane. Inside the ship, Nailer and his good friend Pima, discover enough jewelry and valuable items to make them very rich and comfortable for the rest of their lives. But, they also discover a half-dead girl, who they decide to rescue. They name her "Lucky Girl," and embark on a journey to New Orleans to return her to her prominent family in the hopes that Nailer will discover a better life than the one he has on the island.

Wow, wow, wow! This book is the 2011 Printz Winner for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, and I can see why. First of all, I was immediately attracted to the cover. Usually, that doesn't make any difference to me, but this book cover perfectly represents the world you discover inside. Second, I loved the characters. They made me want to continue to read, because I had to know what would happen to them, especially Nailer. Third, the plot hooked me from page one. I don't read alot of dystopian fiction, but I was drawn into this futuristic world, which hit a bit close to home. You can easily imagine this world to be our future, especially with the global warming issues we are dealing with today. Finally, the action in the story will draw in reluctant readers, especially those who enjoy adventure stories. I don't want to give too much away, but the ending with the ships chasing each other will keep you turning pages at a rapid pace. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fast, thrilling read!

Friday, February 18, 2011


By Raina Telgemeier. New York: Graphix, 2010.

Oh, the joys of middle school. If you're an adult, you've been there, and I'm sure you remember how it felt to be an awkward pre-teen, trying to fit in. If you're younger, you are experiencing this now. Don't worry, it gets better! I promise. If you don't believe me, read this book.

Raina is a sixth grader. One night, after Girl Scouts, she trips and falls, and knocks out her two front teeth. It's a bad accident, and it begins a rather long journey for her through the world of dentistry and braces. She has to have a root canal, braces, really embarrassing headgear and a retainer. It's alot to deal with, especially when you are navigating your way through middle school, and trying to fit in. Raina's ordeal with braces takes us with her into tenth grade, when she finally gets them removed. She learns about friendship, who she really is, and in the end, is finally able to really smile because she is happy in her own skin. As she describes it, "I realized that I had been letting the way I looked on the outside affect how I felt on the inside. But the more I focused on my interests, the more it brought out things I liked about myself. And that affected the way other people saw me!"

This book has such a positive message, but it doesn't knock you over the head with it. Raina's story is universal, and fun to read. I recalled my own experiences during middle school and high school, and let's just say, I wouldn't want to live through that again. But, it shaped me into the person I am today. Kids will really enjoy this story - the graphics are very colorful, and the facial expressions are spot-on. If you're looking for a graphic novel with a good message, try this one. It will make you smile!