Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Little Brother

Marcus, aka w1n5t0n, is your run of the mill techno head who is just trying to get around school security to go and meet his friends for a Harajuku Fun Madness when the world changes. He gets out of school with his buddy Daryl, fooling the school's gait recognition system, and goes to meet up with Van and Jolu. They are just in the area they need to be to find a clue, when the ground starts to move. It's California...they are used to earthquakes, but this seems a bit different. And then the clouds appear. And the sirens and announcements. Marcus and his friends head to the closest BART station with the rest of the pack. People are pushing and shoving and Marcus even steps on someone who he meant to help. The friends quickly realize that they need to get back above ground. Upon surfacing, they realize that Daryl is hurt. He is bleeding from his side like someone stabbed him!

Marcus does the only thing that he can think of. He jumps into traffic and tries to flag down a firetruck or cop to help his friend. He is not prepared for the vehicle that does stop. The unmarked armored truck that holds people in black with guns. Guns that are now pointed at Marcus. Before he knows it, there is a sack over his head, and his wrists are tied, and he is in that black truck. Next comes a bigger truck, and an interrogation.

Marcus knows his rights. He asks repeatedly for a lawyer and he balks at the idea of being suspected of terrorism. The woman asking the questions wants him to unlock his phone, and explain all of the techno-gadgets he has on his person. Marcus refuses. The sack goes back on his head, and he is traveling once more.

What happens when your own government takes you prisoner? When nobody knows where you are? How much does it take before you break from the humiliation?

Marcus does get back on the streets, with a warning that he will be watched. And when he does get home and realizes that his laptop is bugged, he believes it. But Marcus cannot give up the idea that the US is supposed to be a free country, and he cannot believe how much security takes over his city, his classroom, and his life in general. People are tracked wherever they go. Even worse, most folks think that the security is a good thing...that it's keeping them safe. Marcus vows revenge, and the only way he can get it, is by using technology in a way that the Department of Homeland Security can't track.

Wow. This is a thriller if I have ever read one! The action is non-stop, and even the explanations of technology were interesting enough to keep the pace. Cory Doctorow has developed Marcus into such a likable character that readers do not feel talked down to while the technological angles are explained. Marcus knows that most folks aren't ARG-ing and don't know how to disable caller-id, and could care less about sophisticated math. But somehow, while reading Little Brother, I cared.

Fast paced, fun and frightening, Little Brother is perfect for the reader who needs a strong start. Blurbed by Neil Gaiman, and Scott Westerfeld, and Brian K. Vaughan, Doctorow has some heavy hitting fans. Shopped out to readers, this title was loved equally by 17 and 37 year olds!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lady Liberty A Biography

So, I look at the Statue of Liberty quite a bit. Twice daily, in fact. But I don't really think about it often. Doreen Rappaport's Lady Liberty A Biography opened my eyes not only to the building of the Statue of Liberty itself, but also gave me insight into what New York City and the United States were like during this time period.

Told in verse, Rappaport chronicles the building of the Statue of Liberty from idea to completion from a number of points of view. From the salons of Glatigny France in 1865, to the workrooms in Paris in 1876, to the foundation pit of the statue in 1884. From the newsrooms of New York City in 1885, to Bedloe's Island and the big reveal in 1886, Rappaport brings readers in. Professors, sculptors, assistants, engineers, poets, construction workers, journalists, and children all played their part.

The illustrations by Matt Tavares are simply breathtaking and seem to hearken back to the time period in question. Rappaport makes her own connection by setting the first poem in New York City today from her point of view, and then goes on at the end to add quotes from people who saw the statue for the first time. Also provided are a list of Statue of Liberty dimensions, and a timeline of important events, as well as a list of selected sources for further reading.

This is another title that perfectly compliments our New York City curriculum as well as our immigration curriculum. It's also simply fascinating for a casual reader.