Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lego Club 7/13/11

This week our theme was boats.  Check out the boats that Ishaan, Kaden, Alex, and Medha made.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I am off to Mongolia until August 1st, so expect very few updates.  I will attempt to review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in an airport, and my stand-in will load pictures from our July LEGO clubs.  Other than that, this blog will be largely inactive.

See you in a month!

Bitten By a Rattlesnake by Sue Hamilton

1.  The book was about people bitten by rattlesnakes and facts about rattlesnakes.
2.  This book was good.
3.  I learned that rattlesnakes can bite you even if they are dead.

Recommend to:  People who have the book.

Luke Liu (3rd grade)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fruits Basket Vol. 23 by Natsuki Takaya

Book Jacket

THE FINAL VOLUME!  Curses have been broken and the eternal banquet has finally come to a close.  But there are still some loose ends to be wrapped up before the last page of Fruits Basket arrives!  How will the members of the Zodiac deal with their newfound freedom?  Can forgiveness come in the wake of Akito's past actions, and a new surprising revelation?


And it's done!  This was a nice feel-good end to a fantastic story.  While I still don't fully understand how the curses were broken (did they just have to....want it?), it was really gratifying to see everyone free.  Not completely happy, because some people (Rin and poor baby Momiji) had less to gain from being free.  But like I said in the last review, such is life, and I'm glad there's some realism to this story about people changing into animals.

Having a flashback to Kyoko's death was kind of horrible, but I loved seeing her reconnect with her husband in some sort of beachy afterlife.

Shigure and Akito?  I dunno.  I don't fully forgive Akito for all his/her horribleness, and I think his/her transformation happened a little too fast.  But if anyone can handle him/her, it's Shigure.  I wish them well.

I'm not ususally a fan of flashforward epilogues, but I thought this one was excellent!  It was vague enough to let the reader's imagination supply most of the details, but it was heart-warming to know Tohru and Kyo lasted, had a family, and continued to hold hands.  Hahaha.  Epic love FTW.

Not everything was perfect, but I really adored this series, so of course I have to give it

Five out of five happy endings.

Release Date:  July 2009
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not yet a part of Dunlap's collection.

Fruits Basket Vol. 22 by Natsuki Takaya

Book Jacket

Kyo finally makes the decision to stop running from his fears and confront his birth father.  But how will he react to his father's pressure to accept an unwanted truth?  Meanwhile, the curse continues to loosen its hold  on the members of the Zodiac, but as Akito's control over the Sohma family slips away, will the last vestiges of her sanity and reason slip away, too?  With Kureno injured and Tohru in peril, Akito has come to a crossroads...


The penultimate volume!  Kyo's dad is a jerk, but it's all for the best, because Kyo comes to term with his past.  I really like that Takaya lets her characters find catharsis, but not necessarily happiness.  That's life.

And I kind of love how Uo and Hana-jima put Kyo through such a hard time.  The last few volumes have been heavy on the drama, so it was nice to have a little interlude of hilarity, and a return to manga drawing comedy when Tohru runs away screaming.  Funny how what used to annoy me is now making chuckle.  I like to think I'm developing a Japanese sense of humor.

You know it's the end when we get the story of the Zodiac's genesis.  I liked that it wasn't quite the same--the Cat is ostracized not for missing the banquet, but for saying the pain of mortality is better than immortality.  As a new fan of Doctor Who, those sorts of philosophical questions are fascinating to me. 

Five out of five curses broken.

Release Date:  March 2009
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not yet a part of Dunlap's collection.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

Book Jacket

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing.  Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names.  Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on.  Sixth-year students learn to Apparate--and lose a few eyebrows in the process.  The Weasley twins expand their business.  Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love.  Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter.  Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort--and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.


Thus continues my epic reread of the Harry Potter series before the final movie comes out on July 15! (What will we do when there is no longer a new Harry Potter creation to look forward to?)

If you haven't read the Harry Potter series yet, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? Go out and read them immediately. Thank you. For the rest of us, spoilers are ahead, because I will talk about each book with the revelations of the whole series in mind.

If I had to sum up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in two words, it would be this:  love and enemies.  And while I appreciate that Rowling includes romance in her novels, I was never very invested in it.  Ron/Hermione were obviously end-game by this point, so the Lavender and McLaggen relationships were mostly uninteresting, though often funny.  I don't particularly like Ginny, mostly because of the awkwardness of their burgeoning relationship, so that didn't hold my attention.  Tonks and Lupin?  Incredibly unromantic, especially from Lupin's side.

So if the "love" part of Half-Blood Prince didn't wow me, why do I love it so much?  Because of the "enemy" part!  This is the first book that really centers on our villains, whether that means delving into Voldemort's past, waffling on Snape's loyalties, or watching Draco's descent into evil.  The best stories have villains that are complex and understandable (even if you don't like them).

Voldemort's past.  Rowling continues to straddle a really interesting balance between nature vs. nurture (previously as free will vs. destiny with the prophecy).  Voldemort undoubtedly came from a long line of messed up and selfish people.  But he also chose to use his magic to hurt others.  He chose to deny his Muggle father and fully embrace the supremacy of his Wizard mother. 

And horcruxes!  This is maybe the most brilliant thing in any book ever.  I adore the idea that killing someone tears your soul apart.  And of course someone who would willfully split their soul into seven pieces in order to achieve immortality would end up a creepy snake of a man.  This is what separates Voldemort from Harry (along with that love thing)...Harry won't kill.  He is all about that Expelliarmus spell.  And the awesome thing?  He wins with it!  But I'm getting a book ahead of myself...

Snape's loyalties.  I remember the good old days of internet Potter obsession and speculation.  After the 6th book came out, there were scads of websites and essays devoted to this:  Is Snape good or evil?  Of course, we later find out he was on Dumbledore's side all along, but my word.  Rowling is a genius for so carefully portraying him in such a light that people could so adamantly defend both sides of the argument.

Draco's descent.  Oh, Draco!  I love the little selfish kid so much!  He is the reason why I love the 6th absolutely captures how far in over his head he is.  Throughout his childhood, he has idolized his dad.  He believed his dad was always right, and he followed in his footsteps.  But at the end of Order of the Phoenix, Lucius is shipped off to Azkaban and Draco becomes a Death Eater.  He thinks he wants that, because it means stepping into his father's position.

But then he finds out what it really means to be Voldemort's follower.  There's constant fear, both for himself and his family.  There's the killing.  And he can't do it!  The scene between Draco and Dumbledore is absolutely heart-breaking.  He is such a scared little boy, and if the other Death Eaters hadn't burst in, you know he would have accepted Dumbledore's offer of forgiveness.  Alas!

And of course, Dumbledore.  He is one of my favorite characters.  He is wise, powerful, and pleasantly hilarious.  Even when he's staring death in the face.  And my word!  This book is a gut punch.  The pages when Harry force-feeds him the potion in the cave make me bawl.  AAGGH I just can't.  And his death--so sudden, so quiet, so awful.  I felt like Harry, disbelieving and numb.  But of course, our hero has to lose his mentor so that he can fully become the Chosen One.

Five out of five Vanishing Cabinets.

Release Date:  July 2005
Reading Level: Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL ROW

Fruits Basket Vol. 21 by Natsuki Takaya

Book Jacket

Kyo finishes telling Tohru about his role in her mother's death and how the reason he disappeared for so long was beause he felt so guilty about it.  He explains that he overcame his guilt by blaming everything on Yuki, but he now realizes that he was only running away from his own feelings.  But how will he react when Tohru tells him how she really feels about him?!


Poor baby Kyo.  He's so messed up, but seriously?  He pours out his heart to Tohru (finally!), but when she refuses to hate him, he just...runs away?  NO.  Bad kitty!  That seemed a bit like a regression in character development, but I guess Takaya has to keep the story interesting.

And as if that weren't bad enough for rejected Tohru, Akito shows up!  With a knife!  And then there's a....landslide?  Whatever, it makes with the dramatic!  Even though it seemed a little odd that Akito would feel so badly about hurting Tohru, I really really enjoyed his/her emotional breakdown.  This bond thing is all kinds of weird and sad and touching.  I can completely understand the fear that Akito has, relinquishing control of relationships and letting people CHOOSE whether or not to love him/her.

I also really like Yuki's newfound assertiveness.  He isn't afraid to put Kyo in his place (this time because he wants the best for Kyo, not because he hates him), and he is putting the moves on Machi.  Good for him.

Four out of five Mogeto plushies.

Release Date:  November 2008
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  GRAPHIC TAK