Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees

Have you ever watched someone you love walk a dangerous path? A frustrated Frankie Torres Towers is watching his older brother, Steve, becoming more aggressive and irresponsible as he chooses to run with the cholos, a local group of thugs, putting his soccer scholarship at risk and causing tension at home between Frankie, Steve, and their parents. Briefly, Frankie benefits socially from his brother’s new affiliation as he pursues his childhood love interest, Rebecca Sanchez, and butts heads with romantic competitor and local bully, John Dalton. But the plot climaxes as Frankie is forced to choose between gaining the respect of Steve and the cholos and maintaining his own integrity and budding romance with Rebecca. Although the plot is heavily tied to the New Mexican setting, the novel’s themes of friendship, family, first love, violence, loyalty, brotherhood, and peer pressure are universal. This coming-of-age tale has also been selected by the American Library Association as a Great Stories Club book.

Voorhees, Coert. The Brothers Torres. New York: Hyperion Books, 2008.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Superman: the Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel by Scott Beatty

Many people love Superman, but I think most people, even big fans, will find a lot of new information in this oversized guide to one of the original superheroes. Its format is almost like a visual encyclopedia; each double-page spread is dedicated to one Superman theme, and there are captions and little informative blurbs scattered around vivid, full-color drawings against a full-color background. While these themes are not arranged alphabetically, there is a sense of order -- the book is grouped into five main areas of focus: Birth of Superman, City of Tomorrow, Secrets of the Man of Steel, Supervillainy, and Superman’s Career. The back of the book features a detailed timeline of Superman through the years, both his story and the commercial development of the product. There is also a table of contents and an index. This book is very popular with students and adults; everyone likes to point out their favorite characters and story lines.

Beatty, Scott. Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel. New York: DK Publishing, 2002.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advance Reading Copy: Kick by Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman

Late one night a witness sees a car careening about before it slams into a lightpole. The two young occupants of the car are no more than thirteen years old. The soccer-playing boy goes to juvie and the girl goes home. Will the girl’s father press charges? Set in suburban New Jersey and told in alternating chapters by the savvy Sergeant Brown and 14-year old Colombian-Irish-American Kevin, advance reading copies of this novel were snapped up by Passages’ students this week. Readers who appreciate the way Walter Dean Myers consistently and deftly weaves sports, a plot involving the threat of juvenile detention, young people coming of age, and themes of family, responsibility, and caring about others will find the satisfaction they’ve come to expect from this author and his co-author.

Two differences set this title apart from Myers’ multiple novels featuring 14-year-old male protagonists who wrestle with becoming adults while they play to win. The first difference is the sport; in Kick, soccer replaces Myers’ favorite athletic team endeavor, basketball. The second difference of note is fact that Mr. Myers co-wrote this book, unusually, with a teenage author, Ross Workman. Mr. Myers visited Passages Academy’s students here at Bridges this Wednesday, which provided a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate the appeal of a variety of his texts. Survey says: most of our students are interested in reading anything Walter Dean Myers has written.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jude by Kate Morgenroth

Life isn't always fair. In Jude's case, life has been extraordinarily unfair. When his physically abusive, drug-dealing father is murdered in front of him, Jude is caught in a web of lies after he tells the police that he didn’t see the killer -- but he is only lying to protect himself. Life takes another turn when he is reunited with his high-powered District Attorney mother, who he had previously believed abandoned him and his father. Turns out he's been lied to this whole time; his father kidnapped him as a baby and had been hiding out for 15 years. Jude isn't even the name his mama gave him. When he leaves the rough neighborhood he's called home all these years to live with his wealthy mother and attend a fancy private school, it seems as though things are finally looking up. But when Jude is sort-of involved in a classmate's drug overdose, he takes the fall because his mother’s boyfriend convinces him that it will help his mother get elected as mayor. Even though it sounds like a bad idea, Jude goes along with the plan in the hopes of making his mother proud of him, and truly believes all will be forgiven when she learns of his innocence. Readers will surely root for Jude as he suffers injustice after injustice, both in and out of prison in this gripping page-turner.

Morgenroth, Kate. Jude. New York: Simon & Schuster Pulse, 2006.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guest Blog Post: The Maze Runner by James Dasher

Thomas doesn’t know anything about himself except for his first name. He stands in a large, slow moving elevator trying to dig up something from his past but all he can see is blurry faces in no-name towns. The elevator comes to a sudden stop and the doors swing open. The light blinds him for a moment and then he sees dozens of teenage boys, just like him, waiting for his arrival.

Thomas is now part of the Glade, a society of boys without their memory who have built their own society under the control of the Creators. The only way out is through a Maze outside of the Glade’s walls that is constantly changing and filled with danger. The day after Thomas arrives; the Glade gets its newest member and its first girl. She’s lying in the elevator when the doors open, close to death and there is a note in her hand that says “everything changes.”

Even though he doesn’t remember her, Thomas feels a strong connection with the new girl and believes that with her help, he can find a way out of the Glade. All he needs is the support of his fellow Gladers which is easier said than done.

The Maze Runner is action packed and moves very quickly. There is a lot of heartbreak and suspense in the book and you’ll finish it waiting for more. Luckily there is sequel coming out soon! --Lindsy Serrano

Click here for the eerie book trailer.

Lindsy Serrano is a librarian at the New York Public Library and has visited Passages’ students to discuss books, reading, and libraries since 2006. She blogs regularly at and on NYPL blog channel Stuff for the Teen Age.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Zine Review: Magical Guide to Rainbows by Kacper

Most folks are surprised to hear the word "zine" and "school library" in the same sentence, PA participants from the Zine PD at Boys Town way back in '07 and Mr. B notwithstanding. While yes, it is true that this collection is not readily available inside any of our libraries while I type this, that is a matter soon to be remedied, and all the more reason to tell you about some of the gems in our collection. I'll kick the reviews off with one of my favorites: Kacper's Magical Guide to Rainbows. What's magical about this 8 .5 x 11 stapled zine is Kacper's imaginative cataloging of rainbow types. Of course they don't exist in visible reality, but this zine's rough aesthetics (check out the aforementioned staples and the white-out style font on the photocopied cover) and straightforward listing get the zine format's accessibility across better than any paragraph I could construct. It’s an "If Kacper can do it, you can too." And if Kacper wants to be known at Kacper, the Ambassador of Candyland, well, then we can start a brainstorm session on pseudonyms. After we review mnemonic devices for remembering how to spell "pseudonym."

Until it's moved to a permanent site, email me if you'd like to check out Magical Guide to Rainbows or one of the other dozens of zines in our library collection. If you want to purchase a copy for your own collection, here's the link to Candyland.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guest Blog Post: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

This is the true story of the life of a boy who suffered the unimaginable and inconceivable horrors of war as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. The story of Ishmael Beah’s transformation from a 12 year old boy who loves to dance to American music with his friends into a thoughtless killer is penetrating and real. Every page is powerful because the terrors of war were forced upon the innocence of children and their families. Ishmael’s ability to succeed is not based on heroic or honorable deeds but rather his sheer determination to simply adapt and survive. This book forces the reader to confront his or her own thoughts and feelings of how he or she would have responded. What if it were you who was there? What would you have done…really? Ishmael has more than the war to battle as the loss of family, friends and his emotional control sends him on a path of drug abuse, killing, revenge, rehabilitation, reconnection, and finally safety within the United States. Ishmael’s story offers the reader hope in the power of rehabilitation and the power of opportunity on our behaviors. Ishmael has incredible talents and gifts that were almost stripped away from him because of his circumstances. This book is guaranteed to capture the reader’s attention and hope as he or she joins Ishmael on his quest for survival and safety. Ishmael’s story helps to make the seemingly impossible possible. -- Stephen Wilder

--Stephen Wilder is the principal of Passages Academy and a literacy leader.

Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sports Illustrated: The Football Book

Football season brings many things: incredible plays by the fastest quarterbacks, rough and tumble tackles by the biggest and baddest defensive players, and of course, devoted fans. This book examines the sport from many angles with color and black and white photographs galore and articles compiled from Sports Illustrated magazine. Some standouts are the pictures of old equipment and uniforms, championship rings, ticket stubs and other ephemera from the early days of football. It also touches on the role of famous athletes in advertising, and highlights some of the most memorable ad campaigns. Missing, unfortunately, are any pictures of the cheerleaders who work so hard from the sidelines. This large format book is a perfect fit for football fans, but it is also an appealing resource for those who have a more general interest in sports or for those who enjoy looking at pictures from earlier times. With all of the information included on the history of the game, it will also appeal to fans of pop culture. This book has been especially popular at Summit lately, where students are participating in a football team program through the Division for Youth and Family Justice.

The Football Book. New York: Sports Illustrated Books, 2005.