Archive for August 26, 2016

Still a Work in Progress

Written by Jo Knowles

Eighth graders Noah, Sam, and Ryan are just beginning to figure out the intricacies of the world – intricacies involving girls, their own talents, how to act like a decent human being, and what makes each of us unique. Their school has a suggestion box, otherwise known as the Complaint Box, which produces such useful suggestions as “Don’t stand on the toilet seats.” The boys spend a lot of time trying to figure out which girls they like and which girls like them. Meanwhile, Noah’s sister, Emma, still remembers all the things that happened to her when she was a student at Noah’s school, including how everyone reacted when it was discovered she made a list of which students would follow the Beast a la Lord of the Flies. The school also has a resident cat ironically named Curly. Many at the school love Curly, but hate her role as killer of the mice. Sam and Ryan begin bickering when Sam gets a girlfriend. When Emma’s eating disorder relapses, Noah has a tough time accepting the actions of anyone around him. He does find some solace in realizing his talents in art, particularly sculpture.

This heartwarming peek at adolescence and how complicated it can get is highly recommended for all. The author weaves in many parallels: between the Lord of the Flies and the Beast in all of us, between A Separate Peace and Noah’s tough times with his friends, and so on. She stays true to the adolescent theme by not knowing too much. The boys have some confusion over second base regarding dating. She never names the eating disorder, just the results of it. And the boys often recognize a bad situation without knowing what to do about it.

Buy on Amazon

  • Still a Work in ProgressTitle: Still a Work in Progress
  • Illustrator: Amy June Bates
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
  • Grade Level: 5 to 9
  • Genre: Friendship, eating disorders, coming of age
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7217-1



The Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard

Written by Tracy Barrett

Aside from the fact that so much Western thought originated in and around Greece, making it important to explore as many Greek stories as possible, it’s just plain fun to tell stories that may have been forgotten. Then there’s the popularity of Percy Jackson, 300, and other related stories. Those who enjoy these ancient tales inevitably want more, and here they are.

Barrett cleverly approaches the multitude of myths by introducing a narrator who must tell a number of previously unheard tales to be reunited with his love after 3,000 years. The narrator, Orpheus, was turned into a rock and thus separated from Eurydice.

He begins with his own background, then quickly moves on to sixteen other stories about a variety of subjects. First is the Greek version of the big bang. How does Zeus reward two brothers for being amusing? Gods granting wishes, but in unexpected ways. Statues without feet. The life of the first bee-keeper, cheese maker, and olive oil maker. Gods tricking people out of love. People casting spells for love. Fixed chariot races. And so on.

Well-researched and well-organized, this is a great supplement for social studies or literature.

Buy on Amazon

  • Song of OrpheusTitle: The Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard
  • Author: Tracy Barrett
  • Published: Tracy Barrett, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: eBook, 140 pages
  • Grade Level: 5 to 7
  • Genre: Folk tales, Culture
  • ISBN: 978-1535144506
  • Extras: A Note About Spelling, A Note About Pronunciation, Extensive glossary of Greek terms: Immortals, Other Mythological Creatures, and Places