Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dead City, by James Ponti

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Dead City by James Ponti is about Molly Bigelow, geek, fencing student, and zombie killer. Yes, you read that correctly, she kills zombies. She lives in Manhattan, and is a middle-schooler at MIST (Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology, an academy for gifted students), and likes to hang out at the morgue. Her mom worked there, so Molly likes it there. Molly's mom is dead by the way. (Does she stay that way, though?)

Molly joins a group of high-schoolers who called themselves the Omegas. Their job? To "police and protect the undead." It's a secret organization; the only way a person is even allowed to know it exists is if that person is invited to join. Molly doesn't join until...

Molly has been hanging out at the morgue with her best friend Natalie, who's in high school. One day, Molly is waiting at the subway station for the train. She sees this strange guy in the station and he smiles at her. His teeth are orange and yellow, which is seriously weird. Then this guy with the Crayola teeth attacks her. He slams Molly against the wall, yanks off a necklace that Molly is wearing that belonged to her mom - the necklace has a charm hanging from it, an omega charm, it turns out - but then they both hear a voice: "Dude, you'll want to give that back. It's a family heirloom." It is Natalie.

The zombie (really, what did you think he was?) seems to "recognize her and start[s] sizing her up." What follows is a fistfight that ends in Molly getting back her necklace, and Yellow-Teeth losing half his ear.

Natalie starts to tell Molly about the Omegas. It turns out that Natalie and some of her friends had been wondering for a year whether or not to recruit Molly for their team; Molly's mom had been an Omega, and had been well-known to the other Omegas before her death. Molly immediately agrees to join (well, almost immediately... she throws up on the train tracks first), and suddenly finds herself in a fight to save Manhattan as she knows it. And why does Molly join? Because:
 "After all, when your mom was a famous zombie hunter and has secretly trained you to be one too, you kind of have to follow in her footsteps."
If you ever read books with aliens or zombies, then this book is right for you. It has a sci-fi feel (there is some medical and scientific content, and it does take place at an institute of "science and technology"), and, who knows, there could be zombies in the future. And don't worry, there is nothing scary in this book! It's not a horror book. It's not meant to give you nightmares; it actually has some funny parts. It's kind of weird. And the cover is awesome.


Daddy's Afterthoughts:

Don't have much to say about this one. Didn't read it myself, yet, I confess. I would love to say that this book would be great to influence girls to get into STEM careers, but I'm not sure if Zombie Hunter is going to be a growth industry. I will say that the protagonist, Molly, is a seventh-grader, and so for the recommended reading range of this book (grades 5-8, according to Booklist), tweens can find a Just Right book featuring a character who is more or less like them. Except for all the zombies. My guess is it's not long before this gets made into a movie. Note: This is NOT associated with the 2007 British horror film of the same name.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Three Little Words, by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

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Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter is a memoir (an autobiographical, true, story) of her nine years in foster care, starting from the day the police arrested her mother and placed her and her baby brother, Luke, in the foster care system, and ending a few years after Ashley was finally adopted at the age of 12. In those nine years she lived in fourteen different foster homes. As for the foster parents:   
 "Some were kind, a few were quirky, and one, Marjorie Moss, was as wicked as a fairy-tale witch."
At the Moss foster home, Marjorie Moss abuses the children in her care and then lies about it to the authorities to save her skin. She beats the children, locks them outside, threatens them with a gun, and pours hot sauce down their throats. Some of the kids try to tell what is going on, but nobody believes them. Mrs. Moss is a "model" foster parent, and even teaches classes for other foster parents(!). 

When Ashley grew older, she tried to sue Mrs. Moss and her husband, but once again, they lied so they would be safe. 

To this day, some foster parents still treat foster children like animals or objects, rather than human beings. This book is a first-person account of what happens in some foster homes. Ashley wrote a very detailed description of each foster home she lived in, how the foster parents treated her, and what she kept inside. All Ashley wants is to live with her mother again, but as time progresses, she wonders if her wish to be with her mother will ever come true.

This book is not to be read by children younger than 11 because parts of the book talk about things like molestation, sexual battery, and abuse. Ashley wants the world to know the hardships some foster children must endure, and has succeeded. Today Ashley is a foster mother herself and has cared for more than twenty kids. She gives speeches about the foster-care system and how to protect our nation's children. 

Find out more about Ashley at Look out for the sequel, Three More Words.


Daddy's afterthoughts: This book was one of the recommended titles for Julia's "summer reading" between 6th and 7th grade. This is some pretty heavy stuff for that age bracket. I remember when I was her age the controversy swirling around Judy Blume's books (especially Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret and Deenie), and whether or not they we appropriate for 10-12 year-olds. Those books seem innocent and sweet compared to some of what Ashley is exposed to in some of these homes. For mature tween readers, then, or for tween readers whose parents are ready to have some very grown-up conversations. But for what it's worth, Julia reports that she "loved" this book, and read it through 2 or 3 times before sitting down to write her post. And for what it's worth, this memoir is nowhere near as dark as the pseudo-memoir Go Ask Alice, and has a positive ending and strong message.


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