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By Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon’s novel has been compared to the likes of The Catcher in the Rye, and I can agree that it lives up to those standards.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time chronicles the story of Christopher Boone, a boy who can list for you every prime number up to 7,057 and every country’s capital.

The descriptions of Christopher make you think that he has autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, but Haddon never says those words in the book.

In Curious Incident, you look through the eyes of Christopher as he writes a book about solving the mystery of his neighbor’s dog getting killed. Along the way, he finds something his dad has kept a secret from him that changes his life forever.

It was actually quite fascinating to be able to look through Christopher’s eyes; though his disability has limited him socially, it has also given him an amazing ability to solve puzzles, problems and math equations.

I believe that Mark Haddon was trying to demonstrate to us with this novel that no matter whether you have a disability or not, that you can advocate for yourself and make things better. All it takes is problem solving. Christopher is a brilliant example of this, considering he had to overcome some of his greatest fears.

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This book will make you want to cry at some points, but I was cheering for Christopher the whole way through. He was a really inspiring protagonist to me considering that he had to go through all that he did, with a disability on top of that. Anybody will get drawn into this superb novel. (It’s a good rainy day book.)

My mom found this really interesting essay written by Mark Haddon after Curious Incident came out, and she thought this would be great to add:

This was what I was trying to do in Curious Incident. To take a life that seemed horribly constrained, to write about it in the kind of book that the hero would read – a murder mystery – and hopefully show that if you viewed this life with sufficient imagination it would seem infinite.

When I was writing for children, I was writing genre fiction. It was like making a good chair. However beautiful it looked, it needed four legs of the same length, it had to be the right height and it had to be comfortable.

With Curious Incident, I was trying to do something different. The first thing I was doing was writing to entertain myself rather than the person I remember being at six, or eight. Second, yes, the book has simple language, a carefully shaped plot and invites you to enter someone else’s life. And these, I think, are the aspects of the book that appeal most to younger readers.

But the book, I hope, does something more than that. The legs aren’t quite the same length. It isn’t entirely comfortable. It’s about how little separates us from those we turn away from in the street. It’s about how badly we communicate with one another. It’s about accepting that every life is narrow and that our only escape from this is not to run away (to another country, another relationship, a slimmer, more confident self) but to learn to love the people we are and the world in which we find ourselves.

As Christopher, my main character, says: ‘People go on holidays to see new things… but I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly.’

~  written by LitKid in 2014, with a little input from AKid@Heart

Postscript: Some of my friends got to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime on Broadway on a school trip this past spring, and they said it was really meaningful and had a unique set/design; you can read more about that in this New York Times article.

Also: Many U.S. readers are probably familiar with the distinctive red cover of the book, but if you go to  Mark Haddon’s website, you can click through many different editions of the book, all of which have eye-catching cover art.

The Book Thief

By Marcus Zusak

As soon as I picked up The Book Thief, I was immediately transported into a whole other world. A world where love and friendship were the hopes that everyone in Nazi Germany clung to in that time of fear.

At the beginning of the book you are introduced to the ever-faithful narrator, Death, who transports us through the lives and stories of those in Molching, Germany. Then you are introduced to a young girl, Liesel Meminger, who’s the main focus in this hypnotizing tale.

As you are introduced to her, she commits her first act of book thievery The Grave Digger’s Handbook. This will be a first in a long career. She has been sent to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann, for her father left her family and her mother can no longer afford to take care of her.

Hans & Liesl develop a connection when Hans begins to teach Liesel to read after she wakes up from her recurring nightmare. Then comes Rudy Steiner, the next piece of Liesel’s puzzle. They grow closer through many a Himmel Street soccer game and then attend school together in the fall.

And next year on Hitler’s birthday, Liesel commits her second act of book thievery at the Hitler Youth Celebration of the Fuhrer’s birthday. She steals a book entitled The Shoulder Shrug. There is someone watching her the night she steals the second book.

And then comes Max Vanderburg, a Jew who shows up at the Hubermanns (because Hans was a good friend of his older brother Erik who died in the War that he and Hans served together) looking for a place to sleep, or rather hide, from the vicious and cruel Anti-Semitism rules of Hitler. He and Liesel soon form a bond over their love of reading, writing, and drawing as well as the loss of the families they loved.

Everybody needs to read this book. As I read on the back of the cover, this is a life-changing book in so many ways, and is probably one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature to ever grace my eyes. I got in trouble for reading it at school, and finished it in the wee hours of the morning on my way to school. For anybody who has not read this book, I urge you to as soon as you can.

~LitKid

Postscript: My mom read The Book Thief before I did, and it is one of her very favorite books now; we watched the movie after we had both read the book, and we thought it was great.

The Fault in Our StarsScreen shot 2014-02-21 at 1.23.00 PM

By John Green

John Green’s New York Times-best-selling book tells about the entwined love story of Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters. Hazel has thyroid cancer, and Augustus is in remission from losing his leg to osteosarcoma, which puts a fascinating plot line in place.

Hazel and Augustus meet at a support group for kids with cancer, and Augustus accompanies his friend Isaac. Immediately afterwards, they go to watch a movie at Augustus’ house, and they click right then and there.

One of the main things they bond over is books. Hazel makes Augustus read An Imperial Affliction, and in turn Hazel reads the Price of Dawn, the novelization of Augustus’s favorite video game. After reading it, Augustus says, “Tell me my copy is missing the last twenty pages or something. Hazel Grace, tell me I have not reached the end of this book.” So Augustus uses the “Make-a-Wish” he saved to fly them to Amsterdam to meet the author, who, in an ironic twist of plot turns out to be a drunk.

I personally enjoyed the way this book was written, unique in its own special kind of way. The plot line was also perfectly planned out and could not have been more perfect for the book.  I could not stand to put it down for a second. Hazel & Augustus captured my heart from the moment I opened the book. The Fault in Our Stars  is a must-read for any teen reader or adult. You will want to read it all in one sitting.

~LitKid

postscript from AKid@Heart: As LitKid gets older, she’s tackling books about bigger issues. My policy all along has been do almost no editing of her reviews, unless something is truly hard to follow/understand.

When I got to this sentence of the “Fault in Our Stars” review: 

“So Augustus uses the “Make-a-Wish” he saved to fly them to Amsterdam to meet the author, who, in an ironic twist of plot turns out to be a drunk.”

… I was a little taken aback! But it occurred to me that “Lost in a Book” is entering a whole new era of book reviewing as she enters a new era of reading, and my policy will remain the same; I hope you enjoy seeing her perspective evolve as much as I will! 

(She read TFIOS as part of a middle school bookclub, and the bookclub leaders later said that they realized too late that it was probably better for older kids.) 

Screen shot 2014-01-27 at 12.32.21 AMWacko Academy: Book 1

by Faith Wilkins ~ Arundel Press 

We’re proud to be part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and I loved being picked to review this book!

Wacko Academy tells the first installment of the adventures of Lilly Mason and Dustin Wackerson.

Dustin mysteriously shows up at Lily’s middle school in the beginning of her 8th grade year, instantly becoming a girl magnet with his good looks and sense of humor. They become really close to each other and go to the school’s harvest dance, which quickly turns from dance to disaster. It turns out that Dustin really came to her school to recruit her to his dad’s extremely fancy, high-tech boarding school.

Once Lily gets settled in, it starts to seem better, she and Dustin repair their friendship and he becomes her personal trainer. She advances quickly and is sent of to the school’s on-campus boot camp, where she meets True & Cattie, the two friends she will make there.

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Afterwards they make the disturbing discovery. A mysterious tall building. Dustin says he has seen unconscious kids wheeled in there before, often never to return. If they do return, they usually have some sort of injury or just can’t remember what happened.

When they relay the story, everybody is purely horrified and definitely on board with their plan to get those kids out of harm’s way. To do this, they will need some fancy technology and a cover.

You will have to read the book to find out all of the juicy details!

I liked this book because of the adventure and excitement was always there at every turn of the page and never failed to leave me in suspense. The plot is beautifully put into place. The personality of each character brings wit and humor to the book.

The pump of adrenaline is apparent page by page, and the writing could not be more humorous, adventurous, and overall really good quality. I liked the conflict the best because it added the most suspense and excitement. If I ever wrote a book, I’d want it to have an air of suspense, excitement, and adventure like this book.

Faith Wilkins (who is only 16 years old!)

Faith Wilkins, who is only 16 years old!
(photo ~ Arundel Press)

People like Faith make a big impact by encouraging more kids to share their ideas with the world; Faith is a role model to other kids who think they shouldn’t share their ideas with the world. This wonderful piece of literature gives those people hope. You should always share what you believe in, like your manuscripts, or short stories, or poems. You can be like the wonderful Faith Wilkins and make your impact.

  ~LitKid (12-year-old co-blogger at Lost in a Book)

Read more about Faith.

Read more about Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

IvanThe One and Only Ivan

By Katherine Applegate

Newbery Award Winner

The One and Only Ivan tells us the story of a lonely gorilla living at the run-down  Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. His only companions are Julia, the janitor’s daughter and Stella, the elephant who has many cool stories about her past.

He spends his long days being admired and “oohed” and “aahed” over by humans. Their lives get more interesting when Ruby, a baby elephant joins them there. She’s witty and nervous, at first, but has spirit.

When Stella dies, and leaves Ivan with a promise to take care of Stella, he’s determined to get both of them to the zoo.

This story was really inspiring to me because it was based on a true story, and it shows you should never underestimate the power of determination. Especially when it comes in a four-legged package. Katherine Applegate does a splendid job of depicting a fictional version of Ivan.

It was really cool because I had the opportunity to do an interview with Ms. Applegate over Skype last spring, and I hope I will get to meet her in person at the National Book Festival in Washington this weekend!

~LitKid

The Girl From Felony Bayfelonybay

By J.E. Thompson

Walden Pond Press

This story tells of a piece of land entitled “Felony Bay,” supposedly home to a long-lost pirate’s treasure.

Those rumors aren’t true, and Abbey Forde knows it. But when she finds out her uncle bought the Bay illegally and is in over his head, she is determined to stop him. Along the way, she meets Bee Force, a shy girl who finds her bravery in Abbey.

They must take every risk under the sun, and encounter alligators, poisonous snakes, and the criminals themselves.

This book is wonderful for people who love suspense and mystery at every turn of the page. In his debut middle grade novel, J.E. Thompson does a wonderful job of capturing South Carolina at its greatest.

I felt my anger loosen and drift away on the wind. “Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Bee.”

I waited for her to say her last name and when she didn’t, I asked, “Bee who?”

“Bee Force.”

~ LitKid

Want to read more about The Girl from Felony Bay? Check out this interview with J.E. Thompson.

serving up a few of LitKid's favorites

serving up a few of LitKid’s favorites

The old tradition reigns on. Here are some of my favorite picks from 2012:
 
  • Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  • Middle School:The Worst Years of My Life, James Patterson
  • Wonder, R.J. Palacio
  • Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Wendy Mass
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L.Koningsburg
  • The Wednesday Wars, Gary D. Schmidt
  • Airborn, Kenneth Oppel
  • The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate
  • Jaguar Stones Book 3: The River of No Return, Jon and Pamela Voelkel
  • The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, Tom Angleberger
  • The Dork Diaries Books, Rachel Renee Russell

What did you read that you loved last year? Comment below and let us know.

Airborn

By Kenneth Oppel

Matt Cruse is living his dream, working on the airship Aurora.  One day, they run into a dying air balloonist who utters last words of beautiful creatures.

Then, 2 years later, the answer to all of Matt’s questions boards the ship. Kate de Vries is the granddaughter of Benjamin Molloy, the air balloonist. On their journey to Australia, pirates rob them, and a storm sets them off course. Then they are forced to land on a mysterious island, which is where all the fun and adventure begins.

I like this book because it’s very adventurous and romantic at the same time. It made me want to curl up under a blanket and drink hot cocoa.

~LitKid

A 2005 Michael L Printz Honor Book (ALA) 

Winner of the 2005 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award

Winner of the 2004 Red Maple Award (OLA)

Check out the Airborn website: There are a lot of cool things there.

Dead End in Norvelt

By Jack Gantos

Newbery Medal Winner, 2012

When I glanced at my Middle School Battle of the Books list and saw Dead End in Norvelt, I nearly jumped for joy.

In the beginning of the book, you don’t really expect for a young boy to fire off a WWII Japanese rifle, and cause the town’s obituary writer to drop her hearing aid down the toilet.

Now that the damage has been done, Jack is “grounded for life” and has to help waxy-handed Ms. Volker write the town’s obituaries — and there are a lot of them to write as the original bunch of Norvelt are dieing off. Another thing to add to the sandwich is that Jack always has a nosebleed when he is scared or nervous, but Ms. Volker, who has to heat up her hands on a stove, fixes that.

I like this book because it’s really funny even though it talks about death.  It made me want to write obituaries for Ms. Volker, but I wouldn’t want to be operated on by her.

~LitKid

You can read more about the book at the author’s website or the publisher’s website (which has videos, too!).

Be sure to check out Jack Gantos’ bio.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

By Wendy Mass

Twelve-year-old Jeremy Fink’s life changes in an instant when he gets a mysterious package addressed to him–from his dead dad. After opening the package, Jeremy and Lizzy Muldoun, his buddy (also 12) discover that the package is a box that supposedly has the meaning of life inside.

Only catch? The box has FOUR keyholes, and only one set of keys. On their hunt to find the keys, they meet new people, win 2nd place in a talent show, take part in reunions (in a way), and meet some milestones along the way.

Okay, one last thing: Homework = go get a copy of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.  Don’t care if you buy it or check it out, JUST READ IT!!!!!!!!

OK, I’m done.

 ~LitKid

Read more about the author, Wendy Mass.

Read more about the book.

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