Archive for March, 2012

March 12, 2012

Music Monday: Skyscraper

Confession: one of the girls in my Girl Scout troop doesn’t know my name. She keeps calling me “Miss Lovato” and I just stopped correcting her, because I’m totally fine if she gets me confused with Demi Lovato. If any of you have been following the Team Selena/Team Demi nonsense, it’s hard not to think that Selena would be the pretty clear winner of that fight. She’s dating Justin Bieber and is on the cover of Cosmpolitan. And I make no secret of it: I love Selena Gomez and listen to her music all the time.

But let’s not forget Demi! She’s been very open and honest about her eating disorder and her anger management problems and her self-harm. Life as a teen idol can be tough, but I think it’s cool that she’s talking about it. Selena Gomez is, let’s face it, pretty much a perfect human being. Demi’s not, and, well, neither are most of us.

Her comeback song, “Skyscraper,” is not my personal favorite. But it seems to speak to a lot of teens, especially ones who have been/are being bullied. (The top comment on that video right now is: “I’ve been through a lot these past months. Demi helped me. She almost saved my life. She is the reason why I didn’t kill myself. She is the reason why I’m still breathing.Thank you Demi. Thank you for everything you did. You’re an angel.”) So good for you, Demi.

March 9, 2012

Review: Uglies and Extras

I read and loved Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy well before I started this blog, so I haven’t reviewed it here. And anyway, you’ve probably already read it. Briefly: compelling, great world building, insightful cultural commentary, A+. But I only recently read Extras, the fourth book of the former-trilogy. I was a little nervous about it–I felt like Specials had pretty well wrapped up the trilogy, and I wasn’t sure what new ground Extras would cover.

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Unfortunately, I don’t think Westerfeld was sure either. The book takes place a few years after Specials and reveals how one city has rebuilt itself after the “mindrain” that cured everyone from their “bubbleheaded” Pretty days. In this city, which seems to be somewhere in present-day Japan, everything is ruled by a Twitter/Klout-esque Reputation Economy, where the more famous you are, the more resources you get. It’s never clearly explained how this works, and I just didn’t find it to be as believable of a premise as I did the original Uglies world.

Anyway, in this book, we follow 15-year-old Asa Fuse, who is attempting to build up her “face rank” through citizen journalism. She stumbles into a clique called the Sly Girls and they end up discovering… something. Is it a weapon?

I won’t give away the ending, but I found it to be a bit hard to swallow. Perhaps if Westerfeld had dedicated an entire trilogy to this concept it would have been more believable, but as is, it feels like what it is–a tacked on fourth book because everyone loved the trilogy so much and wanted a fourth book. Sometimes, guys, you’re better off sticking with fanfiction.

Sharon Needles
I rate the original Uglies trilogy five plastic surgeons out of a possible five.

Extras is two plastic surgeons out of a possible five.

March 1, 2012

Review: The Kakapo

Last week for my children’s nonfiction class, we had to read two books about the kakapo, an endangered New Zealand parrot. Neither of the books, strictly speaking, were YA books, but they were both great and the kakapo is an amazing bird and I am going to blog about it. So there.

Hello there, kakapo!

Hello there, kakapo!

Kakapo! Here are some facts about them.

  • They are the only nocturnal, flightless parrots in the world.
  • They naturally smell like honey.
  • There are only 127 known kakapo left in the world.
Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

So, the first book we read is a children’s book, Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop. These two have written other books in the Scientists in the Field series, and they generally know what they are doing. Kakapo Rescue won the Sibert Medal (which is the ALA’s award for children’s nonficton.) There are great photos of the beautiful kakapo, and I love that these two got to spend 2 weeks on Codfish Island, the kakapo’s reserve. They documented their visit, including tagging along with the various scientists and volunteers who live on the island to monitor the kakapo. They also highlighted several of the kakapo, so you get to know a bit about the birds’ personalities. It also has sidebar information about the history of the kakapo’s brink with extinction. It’s a very well-done introduction to the kakapo itself and current conservation efforts, which are heartwarming–people giving up their jobs to volunteer as full-time kakapo minders. The volunteers and paid scientists alike are clearly extremely passionate about these birds, and it’s hard not to feel the same.

Rat Island by William Stolzenburg

Rat Island by William Stolzenburg

Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World’s Greatest Wildlife Rescue by William Stolzenburg is a very different book. It’s an adult popular science book, though a motivated high schooler could read it too. It’s not just about the kakapo–it’s more broadly about the way island ecosystems encourage the evolution of weird animals like the kakapo, who are pretty much helpless to foreign predators like rats and cats. He talks about how amazingly difficult it is to get rid of rats. Like, so hard, guys. So before Kakapo Rescue could even take place, SOMEBODY had to kill a billion rats to create a safe island for the kakapo. Rat Island also gives much more information about Richard Henry, the first conservationist to pay much attention to the kakapo. He tried to gather up a bunch on to what he thought was a safe island, but somehow a weasel got there and killed most of them. Then Richard Henry tried to kill himself, but failed. Twice. So he gave up on suicide. Poor guy.
Anyway, I thought Rat Island was completely fascinating, but fair warning: pretty much everyone else in my class hated it. (We all loved Kakapo Rescue.) Their complaints: no photos (I mean… it is a “grown up book”…), too much information, and jumps around a lot in time. This is all true, I guess, but it’s such a crazy story! Oh, and also, this guy Bill Wood trained Wishbone’s grandaughter, Freckles, to help him eradicate feral cats in the Baja islands. WHAT.

Finally, here is a BBC video of Stephen Fry making jokes while a kakapo tries to mate with Mark Carwardine’s head. SAVE THE KAKPO PLEASE.

For more kakapo information, check out the Kakapo Recovery Programme. Do it.

Overall, I rate the kakapo a million stars for being so cute and amazing. These two books about them are pretty good too.