Thursday, June 5, 2014

BLUE GOLD



Blue Gold

Elizabeth Stewart

Published by Annick press

Copyright © 2014
Review by Anthony Kendrick

Rarely if ever do we think about where our cell phones come from. All we know is that they cost us hundreds of dollars and that we have to have a new one every year so that we can take amazing selfies, communicate on the newest social app, and text our friends 50 times a day rather than just talking to them like human beings. In "Blue Gold" Elizabeth Stewart tells a socially conscious story that will make you think just a little more the next time you pick up your cell phone.

“Blue Gold” is the story of three girls who live in three very different worlds. Each girl’s story is told concurrently, and what we find is that what connects them together is a simple mineral, commonly known as Blue Gold, that in one form or another causes more pain and suffering than it is truly worth.

Fiona lives in Vancouver, Canada. After a party where she has gotten a little inebriated, Fiona goes home and waits for her boyfriend to text her. When he does she takes a selfie that she quickly regrets, especially after she realizes that she has lost her cell phone.

Sylvie and her family live in a Tanzanian refugee camp after having fled from their home in the Congo where there is ongoing fighting over Columbite-Tantalite Ore. She longs to leave the camp which is almost as dangerous as her homeland, but a local warlord has a different idea for Sylvie’s future and if she doesn’t agree her family and many others may die.

Laiping moves from rural China to the city of Shenzhen in order to find work at the factories that produce cell phones and other high powered technologies. Her cousin, who already works in Shenzhen, made her lifestyle seem very youthful and glamorous, but Laiping finds out quickly that the life of a factory worker is lonely and difficult. The working conditions and treatment of employees are often unfair and she learns that she can’t trust anyone.

“Blue Gold” is a book that all teenagers should read. Because of technology we live in a very global world, however so many people still have a narrow world view, and an extreme lack of understanding, or interest, in what life is like in other countries. In addition many students are being given the reigns of a powerful technology, but not being given enough training on how to use it safely. “Blue Gold” is a work of fiction only in that the named characters don’t exist, however the situations presented are very real. I appreciate though, that the author wasn’t writing this as a statement against cell phone use and production. She recognizes that the problems that she presents in this book are much more complex than that. She has, however, effectively told a great story that should make the reader think. Among the things that teens might ask themselves is: How can I become a more responsible consumer? And How can I be a wiser user of technology? 

As for the writing itself, the three main characters were very captivating. Through the majority of the book I was wondering how or if these three stories would connect. Though I would have liked a little more in this vein, I was very happy that Stewart found a way to make personal connections, almost like playing six degrees of separation, with her three protagonists. While these three stories would have been profoundly good standing alone next to each other, those connections made this novel a bit more cohesive which made the reading all the more satisfying at the end. This is a great socially conscious book that I highly recommend for students in 8th grade and up.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

THE GIVER



The Giver
By Lois Lowry
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company
Copyright © 1993

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to finally read Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”. If you like dystopian future stories then you must read this book.

Jonas is frightened. No, wait, that isn’t quite the right word; he is “apprehensive”. But what could he possibly be apprehensive about? Jonas lives in a seemingly utopian community where there is no war, poverty, joblessness, divorce, or injustice. Lives are mapped out very carefully so that everyone is happy, comfortable, and useful to the community. Everyone is kind and thoughtful. No one is rude and no one is rebelling. But Jonas is worried because he is reaching his year 12 ceremony. This is the ceremony where all twelve year olds receive their future career assignments after which they begin their training. Does Jonas receive a good job? Oh yes, the most honored job in the community. But with this honor comes the deep dark truth.

Lois Lowry is a genius. This story really seems quite simple. It starts out as if it were a coming of age story set in a future utopian society, but slowly it becomes so much more than that. She begins to pose provocative questions like: What is more important to you peace, happiness, and simplicity or choice, love, and complexity? And then, and then, she bashes you over the head with a scene so disturbing that you finally know the answer, and so does the protagonist. I was pretty sure that I knew what being “Released” referred to in this novel, but when Lowry actually showed it… oh my God!

All I can say is, If you enjoy dystopian future novels like “The City of Ember”, “The Hunger Games”, and “Divergent” then you must read their predecessor “The Giver”. I will now be moving on to the sequel “Gathering Blue”.

Monday, May 5, 2014

SNO-ISLE LIBRARY MAY 2014



HERE ARE JUST A FEW ACTIVITIES COMING UP AT THE OAK HARBOR BRANCH OF SNO-ISLE:

Teen Time @ the Library - Felties!
Date: 5/7/2014
Start Time: 3:00 PM
End Time: 4:30 PM
Description:
Bring your friends and relax at the library. Play games, talk about your favorite books, or make the monthly DIY project. This month's project: Felties! Sew your own felt creatures. Explore library resources to boost your creativity. Supported by Friends of the Oak Harbor Library.


Astronomy for Everyone
Date: 5/19/2014
Start Time: 6:30 PM
End Time: 8:00 PM
Description:
Island County Astronomical Society of Washington is dedicated to general astronomy, education, and encouragement of public appreciation for the art and science of observing. Each meeting includes presentations of basic astronomy principles and other select topics. No experience necessary.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME



Tell the Wolves I’m Home
By Carol Rifka Brunt
Published by Dial Press
Copyright © 2012

In 1987 the world was a slightly smaller and more compartmentalized place. For someone to come out as being homosexual was still a big shock, and while they were on the cusp of a successful treatment, for someone to have AIDS was a death sentence and it often made them a pariah. For those of you who were alive then it is amazing how different the world is now. This book will bring that back to you.

June Elbus is 14. She is a nerdy, awkward, dreamer. While not ugly she is not especially attractive when compared to her older sister Greta. June and Greta used to be best friends, but somewhere along the way they grew apart and Greta became very mean. Recently their Uncle Finn, a famous New York City Artist, painted a portrait of them together as his last gift to them before he succumbed to AIDS. Finn was June’s best friend, godfather, and the only person she felt truly understood her. June believes that she knew her uncle better than anyone, but a stranger will help her get a whole new perspective. She will learn more than she ever thought she could about her uncle, her parents, her sister, and especially herself.

“Tell the Wolves I’m Home” is an absorbing family drama that is at once tragic and hopeful. It touches on themes of who we love and how, loss and grief, intense jealousy, and sibling relationships. I found little nuggets of truth that we often forget about like why we all do what we do, or why we love who we love.

Brunt has written compelling character’s that make you feel something and then later give you conflicted feelings. The story’s protagonist is very well written and complex; na├»ve and thoughtful all at once. The same of course can be said of all the characters in this book; few of them remain as simple as they seem at first.

Also well done is how the story doesn’t feel old or dated even though it was set in 1987, and yet it really can’t exist in this permutation without this time period. To make this a contemporary realistic novel would not work. There are certainly still hateful and ignorant people out in the world, but the majority today is more tolerant, if not accepting of homosexuality, and we have much greater insight about the transmission of HIV and AIDS. So the reaction June’s family has to the tragedy and its unfolding aftermath is wholly unique to this time period.

“Tell the Wolves I’m Home” is a 2013 Alex Award Winner, an annual award given to books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults. This book certainly discusses some mature topics in addition to AIDS and Homosexuality, but it does not descriptively go beyond what is appropriate for teens (12-18).


Thursday, April 17, 2014

THREATENED



Threatened
By Eliot Schrefer
Published by Scholastic Press
Copyright © 2014

With a title like “THREATENED” you would expect a book that is suspenseful, and then you see a cute little chimp hanging from a tree and your next thought is “awwww, poor chimp. This must be an ecological novel.” It is, in part, but it is also so much more than that. It is a novel about running from and confronting your fears, it is about making a family and a home, and it is about saving Chimpanzees.

Luc has always been afraid of the chimpanzees that lived in the jungle near his home. Their yells, shrieks, and cries would terrify him and he would huddle up with his mother who would warn him, “‘this is why you must always be home before dark, Luc. If you’re not, you’ll become one of the kivili-chimpenze.’ The Mock Men.” Though he still fears the chimpanzee, Luc has more pressing fears now, like finding enough to eat and avoiding Monsieur Tatagani’s beatings. Monsieur Tatagani is a money lender who takes advantage of indebted orphans. Soon Luc will have to deal with both fears, when a kindly “professor” trick’s Tatagani and takes Luc into the jungle with him to study the chimpanzees.

Our protagonist, Luc, is threatened with imminent harm from people and the jungle, the Chimpanzees are threatened with loss of home and extinction, and the professor is threatened by his past catching up to him. This novel lives up to its title, but underneath all the threats lies hope. How do you keep hope when you’ve lost everything, when you are beaten, and when you are afraid. By finding something new to care about, and Luc finds that in the Jungles of Gabon.

I really appreciated the realism with which the author portrays Chimps in this novel. While they are simpler than humans, they are still quite complex animals with varying personalities. Our experience with them in books, on television, and from a distance at zoos, along with that all too human face, make them seem docile and kind, but in truth Chimpanzees can be very aggressive and dangerous. That danger is in part because they are 4 times stronger than a comparable human. Knowing these things about the Chimpanzee makes this book even more suspenseful. While reading this I imagined myself sitting in a canvas tent in the middle of the jungle, hearing the chimpanzees in the treetops above, and wondering if one of these unpredictable creatures would tear through my flimsy shelter. There really are some terrifying moments in this book that are terrifying because they are based in reality.

But again this book goes beyond the fear factor and it shows you the human factor, which is really interesting in comparison to the Chimpanzees which it is set against. This is one of those books that make you consider man’s place in nature. It makes you consider man’s inability to be peaceful. But it also gives the reader hope because it reminds us that there are people out there who overcome adversity, and there are people who make a difference.

Threatened is one of those great stories that make you want to know what would have happened to the main character had the story continued. I think about it every time I share this book with someone. What if Luc had… I don’t want to give away the ending, but just know that this is a story that will stick with you.