Sword & Laser Kids Podcast ep. 7 – The False Prince

TheFalsePrinceIn this one you get to see my goofy mug, hear some crazy news and get a wrapup of this months pick and a brief preview of next month’s.

The not-that-big-news is that I’m handing over the day-to-day upkeep and monthly picking of books to members Cliff and Beth.  I just feel bad that it’s hard for me to always do this on a timely schedule with all the other things going on.  I’ll still be as involved as I can and will still be on the Goodreads site and will keep up this blog but what with the face-to-face book club I’ve been in for almost a decade and running my school’s 4th/5th grade Reader’s Rally team (another fifteen books to read) I just worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep to the schedule.  Plus it’s nice to have more than one person doing it.  It is a club after all and I’ve had less than great luck finding good co-anchors.

So anyway, here’s a talking head video of me for the last podcast (I can’t bring myself to say “vlog” for some reason).  I’m not saying I won’t do more, but just not regularly for the time being.  Enjoy!

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On A Beam of Light

lightThis is a beautiful book and I’m sure when I get a copy for my library it will go in the biography section.  But it’s not the kind of book you’d read for a report on Albert Einstein. It’s one of those new, what should I call them, inspirational biographies?  No, that’s not quite it. Maybe “Everybody biographies.”  Because the E section of elementary libraries is for picture books and these type of biographies aren’t for research, but for everybody to enjoy like a picture book.  I’ve noticed a few of these lately like Me…Jane, Before John was a Jazz Giant, and this author’s other book, Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau.

It’s a light, whimsical introduction to the life and major accomplishments of Albert Einstein for the K-3 set.  It tells of his selective muteness as a child, his difficulties with traditional school, his patent job which he got so he could also work on his physics papers, then his fame as someone who changed our way of thinking.  The major metaphor is his imagining himself if he could travel on a beam of light and what that would mean and be like.

But more that just a book about Albert Einstein, it’s about that sense of wonder and that drive to understand.  It could have been music, like John Coltrane, or art, like Frida Khalo or biology and the natural world like Jane Goodall and Jacques Cousteau but for young Albert it happened to be the areas of physics, going beyond Newton.

It begins when, to keep his sick child something to occupy him, Albert’s father gives the boy a compass.  It thrills him. “Suddenly he knew there were mysteries in the world–hidden and silent, unknown and unseen.”  And goes from there.

The art is perfect.  It’s loose lines, soothing colors, and has a wry, doodle-like quality that adds to the sense of someone alone thinking interesting thoughts.  You can speed through it or linger and ponder as the mood takes you.

So yes, I realize this is non-fiction, but it is definitely the kind of book that fits my mission of finding books to share that will help raise young geeklings.

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Goodreads Poll for next SF pick!

school-poll-resultsIt’s a crazy voting frenzy over there!  Among the Hidden and The Search for WondLa are neck and neck.  Which will win?  Or will a dark horse take the lead in the last few days of voting?  Who knows?

Head on over there and vote if you haven’t.  Or don’t.  Either way I will continue to blog about SF/Fantasy and other books for your geeklings here on the Sword & Laser Kids.  Not sure about the Goodreads thing.  Might let that fade away depending on the outcome of the voting and the amount of discussion on The False Prince which at the moment has…wait, let me tally up the numbers…one!  One member response.  Not that that’s a bad thing.  But one response does not a book club discussion make. One comment on a blog post is fine.  It happens.  So it’s cool.  But I don’t need to run a forum and a podcast and a blog for one or two interested parties.  Especially one or two interested parties that could do just as good or even better of a job of all that than I am.  I think the blog and it’s comment section will suffice nicely for our purposes.

If you are reading this and are interested in taking over a cool Goodreads group with a lot of potential, let me know in the comments.

Meanwhile, I have some blog posts to get ready for.  The False Prince, of course.  But also geek items at the Scholastic Book Fair, holiday gift ideas, how to get your geeks out of a reading rut, as well as book and author reviews and summaries.  If there’s anything you’re interested in, let me know and I’ll write about that as well!

Thanks, and keep on reading!

(image via butnowwhat.com)

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September and October 2014

For September we are reading The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen.  I tweeted about this and she (@nielsenwriter) tweeeted back and shared the info with her followers!  I’m also reading this book this month with some of my 5th graders and will incorporate their comments on the Goodreads forum and in the podcast.

I just started a poll for next month’s read!  If you go to the Goodreads Group home page and scroll down to the bottom I added a handful of SF titles to pick from.  Vote!  Tell your friends!  I set the cutoff for Sept. 19 to give me time to mention the winner on the podcast and to give you all time to acquire the winner in your favorite format for October.

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Sword & Laser Kids episode 6: The Invasion

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Amulet: Escape From Lucian

How jealous are you?  We pre-ordered Amulet 6: Escape from Lucian way back when and, as promised it showed up yesterday along with Reina Telgemeier’s Sisters.  Two awesome graphic novels my daughter and I have been waiting for forever at the same time!?  Wow.

Anyway, I’ll just cover the Amulet book since it’s the fantasy of the pair.  But let me just say that everything Reina Telgemeier does is amazing.

So I don’t know that we’ll do any of the Amulet books as part of the book club but man oh man are they good.  Kibuishi claims to have been influenced by Star Wars and the films of Miyazaki.  There’s a definite Castle in the Sky influence here, that’s for sure.

They are nearly perfect graphic novels for the elementary to middle school set.  Mysterious, enchanting art, thrilling adventure, with plenty of action as well as characterization.  They don’t talk down to kids nor are they above their heads.  

It’s hard to summarize just one.  They’re all linked together.  The last couple don’t really even have endings so much as places where it fades off like the chapter of a novel which you’ll just have to wait a year or two to get to the next chapter. The Wikipedia page for the series doesn’t so much as summarize as lift the back matter off the books, but it’ll get you up to speed and let you know right away if you’d be interested in them,  Then there are links to the individual titles, but like all Wikipedia pages they are spoilery so those are best avoided until you’ve read them.

Let’s just say that there are magic amulets, an alternate fantasy world through a portal, kick butt kids, giant flying machines and robots, and elf army and some gorgeous art you’ll want to go back and linger over after flying through the book for the plot.

And yes, Kazu Kibiushi is the same artist who has been doing the new covers for all the Harry Potter books.


Here’s him at work in his studio: 


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Spirit Animals


So we’re reading the first of the Animorph’s series and it’s got me thinking about series books in general for kids.  Everyone acts like they’re new things but I grew up reading Danny Dunn, Encyclopedia Brown and maybe some Hardy Boys.  My dad said there were plenty of series books when he was a kid as well.  But the Animorph and especially Goosebumps really took them up a notch in terms of numbers and publisher interest.

Usually you have a series written by one person like Dav Pilkey or Mary Pope Osborne or Barbara Park.  Or you have series written by one “author” like the Hardy Boys by “Franklin Dixon.”

But now we have these publishing juggernauts that multiple authors work on and the publishing houses put them out as books but there are trading cards, web sites, merchandise, etc. all coming out at once.  The 39 Clues series was the first one I noticed like this.  Then the Infinity Ring series.

Now there’s Scholastic’s Spirit Animals series.   They just started coming out last year but there’s already five of them and counting so they’ve clearly been in the works.  I bring up this series because of the authors associated with it.  If you have a geekling interested in adventure fantasy, then these are going to be right up their alley and since they have quality authors with reputations of their own, finding other books to read when they tap out on this one will be pleasantly easy.

The first one is by Brandon Mull of the Fablehaven and Beyonders.  Then there’s Maggie Stiefvater, Garth Nix, and Shannon Hale.  I’m sure there will be plenty more.  Some of these writers also write for the 9-12 crowd, but a few of them write more YA level on their own.

I don’t know how good the series is, but they’re circulating well in my library so far and I look forward to sending these readers on to the author’s other works.

Oh, and one thing I’ve started doing, to help with the confusion of multiple authors is to start shelving them by title instead.  So 39 Clues are before the A’s in fiction under “39.”  The Infinity Ring Books are under “FIC INF” and these are all together in “FIC SPI” just to make life a little easier.



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