Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science (my 50th post!)

Case Closed? by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Michael Wandelmair (2010, Kids Can Press) is a very excellent piece of non-fiction, probably one of the best books I've ever read. Inside it, it offers answers (as far as is possible) to nine most intriguing and puzzling mysteries ever. They include the stories of the INS Dakar, the Anasazi, and what befell Hapshepsut. So you can see, the book is global in scope.

They used lots of different approaches in solving the mysteries. The scientists involved used computer simulations, archaeology, genetics, forensics, historical evidence, and, in at least one case, the search for the legendary city of Ubar, satellite imagery. It was fascinating!

The most intriguing thing is, is that some of the mysteries here aren't fully understood--for example, what happened to Hapshsut's father, King Thutmose I. But in some cases, you actually get the answer--Anastasia, the lost princess of Russia, was never really lost, and neither was her brother--they were just buried separately!

I'd like to see a sequel, because I know some mysteries they've missed--things like Shangri La, and King Arthur, Flight 19 in the Bermuda Triangle....

I'd recommend this to kids above the age of eight, because some of the pictures are a little disturbing (dead people) as are some of the stories (like the burial and exhumation of the Romanovs).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Whipping Boy

The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman, is a brilliant work of literature. A whipping boy is a boy plucked off the streets, and when the prince does something naughty or bad, like tying all the lords and dukes powder wigs to the chairs, the whipping boy is called in to take the prince's punishment.

The setting is long ago-there are horse drawn carriages, and powdered wigs, so it seems Georgian. Also there a boiled potatoes--so it has to be after the European discovery of America. The main events take place in a castle, a forest, a town, and a fair.

There are two main characters. First is a spoiled and obnoxious prince, known as Prince Brat. His silliest maneuver--while fleeing the castle (more about this later), he takes his crown with, probably to make villains kneel before him, says the narrator. The second is Jemmy, a boy from the streets, is the whipping boy of the title. Cool fact--Jemmy started out as a rat catcher, but as a whipping boy, he learned to read and write.

In this book, Prince Brat, who is probably one of the most naughty boys in the land, decides to get out of the castle because it is so boring. He has done every single prank he can imagine, and none of them are to his liking. So he decides to run away with his whipping boy...who by the end of the book is his best friend...Jemmy of the streets. In their journey they meet two of the most dreadful villains ever, Hold Your Nose Billy, and Cutwater. They take all the food the boys have, which was mostly packed by Prince Brat, and worse, they ask them to write a letter to the king saying that if he ever wants to see his son again, he will have to bring them a wagon load full of gold. A wagon load. How much is a wagon load? Probably if you got a wagon load full of American dollars you'd be a millionaire.

After easily running away from the baddies, the boys run into a girl with a dancing bear, who scares off the villains who are still on their tail. Then boys, girl, and bear hitch a lift with the hot-potato man who is going to the fair. There they run into Cutwater and Hold Your Nose Billy once again. They flee through sewers...will they be eaten by rats, or will they find some way to escape?

This is probably one of my favorite books. I first heard of it when it was used as a piece of literature we had to correct in my classroom, and my teacher suggested reading it. I looked in her library, but it wasn't there; happily, I found it in the public library. I liked it because the characters were very interesting, and the plot was great!

One especially interesting thing, I think, is that the chapter titles (things like "In which we observe a hair-raising even") treat you not as a reader, but as a character. My mom says this is just an old fashioned style of chapter titling, but I liked it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A very funny YouTube clip for Lord of the Rings Fans!

Check out what my dad found on YouTube:

Isn't that hilarical!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Prometheus Project--Trapped

The Prometheus Project is a very good work of science fiction for middle grade kids. To date, there are two books in the series--Trapped (2006) and Captured (2007). My mother first got these to review on her own blog last year, and now finally I have read them.

In Trapped, two very ordinary kids, Ryan and Regan Resnick, move to a very boring town called Brewster, PA--"more like snooze-ter," they think. When they overhear a discussion between their parents about secret codes at the mysterious Protract Company that their parents work for, their curiosity is overwhelming and they decide to go explore the Protract Company for themselves.

What they find is something that is completely out of this world. Really.

The Protrac Company has been been working on something called the Prometheus Project. A bit of history--Prometheus was one of the Titans, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. Fire, if used correctly, is very useful. But it can also be very dangerous. The same is true for the secret of the Prometheus Project. Beneath a cloud of trees, in a building whose signs warn of lethal amounts of radioactivity, lies an alien city.

And Ryan and Regan made it through all the security elements (including guards) and gotten into the city, where an accident with a generator kills their mother, and they go back in time. Will they be able to go back and save their mother, or will they be trapped in a paradox forever?

As you can see, because there is a sequel, the answer to this question is obvious...and I'm glad, because I found these books so interesting! The descriptions of the technology, and the technology itself, is fabulous, and the characters are brilliant. Overall, the book is great. I would recommend this to kids who love science fiction, time travel, and things that involve technology, and even people who like non-fiction!