Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd

Drawing from his nearly thirty years of experience in the graphic design field, Kidd presents an introductory guide to graphic design aimed at helping young adults develop their skills as designers. With humorous, easy to follow text and plenty of striking visual examples, Kidd’s guide takes readers through a limited history of the field, helps them learn to break down design examples in everyday life, and ends with projects for readers to try on their own. Kidd encourages participants to post their projects on the book’s website (gothebook.com), and regularly hosts contests inspired by his book. Readers of all skill levels can appreciate Kidd’s guide and the projects can easily be paired with any subject curriculum.

This is such a cool book! I am 100% not artistically inclined (even my stick figures look horrible), but I still enjoyed reading about graphic design. The author is funny, has a ton of incredible visual examples, and does a really great job of getting you to look at signs, ads, and objects in a new way. I definitely learned and noticed things I had never thought of before. The best part about this book is the projects at the end — and you don’t have to be great at graphic design to do them! Some projects are as simple as collecting examples of graphic design, or rearranging strips of paper to make them look cool. Others are more complicated such as creating a personal logo for yourself or redesigning a book cover. I hate a lot of the book covers I see, so I might be trying that one out! When you’re done with your project, you can post them on gothebook.com, or just scroll through the site to see what others have done.

Rating: 5/5

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

Phillip Hoose presents the story of B95 (Moonbird), the most successful survivor of the Red Knot shorebird species. Though the Red Knot faces extinction due to man’s interference along its migration route, B95 has managed to complete this journey (the distance of a hemisphere) for over twenty years. Through this bird’s remarkable existence, Hoose explains what the typical life of a Red Knot looks like, its migration route, its breeding patterns, and, above all, the importance of continued efforts to protect the species. Hoose uses a near-narrative style for this book, with call-out sections highlighting important facts and people in the Red Knot conservation group. His mix of facts and personal narrative make Moonbird accessible to readers of all levels.

I’m really not a fan of science non-fiction, so I’m surprised at how much I started to care about this bird and his species. I had no idea Red Knots fly so far just to breed, and the fact that B95 has flown the path for so long is just incredible! Hoose’s use of first person narrating also got me into the story, and there is a lot of suspense surround whether B95 will be spotted again. I also enjoyed how the author highlighted student groups advocating for the preservation of Red Knots. I definitely won’t be looking at shorebirds the same after this book, and I wish more was being done to help this species!

Rating: 3.5/5

*YALSA Award for Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist, 2013
For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

Before the massive Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, a group of fifty African-American Navy sailors took a stand against their white superiors to demand fair and safe working conditions. In 1944, an ammunition loading station in Port Chicago was destroyed by an explosion of the ammunition caused by unsafe working practices. All of the sailors assigned to load the ammunition were black, and no white sailor had ever been assigned to that duty. When a group of black sailors stood up for their right to a safe working environment and refused to load ammunition, they were branded as mutinous and were kept for months on a prison barge. Using his signature fast-paced storytelling and a mix of photographs and historical documents, Sheinkin tells the story of the fifty early Civil Rights Activists who helped changed military racial policy forever.

I was excited to read a Sheinkin book because of reputation he has for producing fast-paced, fictionesque nonfiction. This one did not disappoint! I was unfamiliar with the Port Chicago disaster, but I did not feel lost at all while reading and was totally sucked into the story. The treatment and trial of the fifty men who refused to work in unsafe conditions was ridiculous and definitely a topical subject in modern times. Sheinkin tells an amazing story, complete with historical pictures and documents. If you’re looking for some new nonfiction, give this one a shot!

*Rating: 4/5

*National Book Award Finalist
For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

March: Book One

In this graphic novel memoir, John Lewis recounts his humble beginnings as a sharecropper’s son, to his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Originally aspiring to be a preacher, Lewis found inspiration in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s nonviolent resistance movement, and soon turned his life’s mission from ministry to racial equality. Now a United States congressman continuing the battle for civil rights, Lewis’ story demonstrates that, with perseverance, anything is possible.

Though Lewis’ story takes place in the 1960’s, it is still highly relevant today. Civil rights have once again come to the forefront of our nation’s political climate, and many similarities can be made regarding the events Lewis describes to today. Written as a graphic novel, March does not read like a history lesson, and is a powerful read. Much discussion can be had regarding both the Civil Rights Movement and about the choices Lewis makes to become the leader he is today. If you are interested in this time period in U.S. history or enjoy graphic novels, give this one a read! My only negative comment is that the pace of the story seemed weird at times. If you’re not familiar with the Civil Rights Movement, you will want to do some background research to fill in some holes the story creates.

Rating: 4/5

*YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2014

*Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Honor, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Bored of his mediocre life in Florida, Miles (Pudge) moves to a college prep boarding school in search of what he calls “The Great Perhaps”. At school, Pudge befriends his charismatic roommate, “The Colonel”, and the elusive, enigmatic Alaska. Instantly love-struck for Alaska, Pudge spends the year participating in a series of elaborate pranks, secretly hoping to win Alaska’s heart. But when tragedy strikes the school, Pudge and his friends must attempt to make sense of their shattered world, examining the exposed reality of their lives versus what they’d imagined them to be.

Does the plot summary for this book look familiar? It should. Though it’s the first in the lineup, Looking for Alaska is pretty much the same as every other Green book. It’s especially similar to Paper Towns (though Paper Towns was much funnier). Though there are distinct differences in plot among his books, all of Green’s characters seem to be recycled from one title to the next. They are all ultimately recycled from this book, of course, because it’s the first — but still. If I hadn’t read other Green books, I might have been impressed with Looking for Alaska. But, I have, and so I felt like I was rereading one of his other books. The characters are entertaining as always, but I’d like to see something new from him. It won a ton of awards, so some people thought it was special. I, unfortunately, did not.

Rating: 3/5

*School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, 2005

*Booklist Editors’ Choice, 2005

*An ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2006

*Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Fiction, 2005

*Printz Award, 2006

*YALSA Teens’ Top Ten, 2005

*The Inky Awards for Silver Inky, 2007

*Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee, 2009

*YALSA Best Books for Young Adults (Top Ten), 2006

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

In the second installment of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, Karou finds herself following in Brimstone’s footsteps. The new resurrectionist for the chimera rebellion, Karou spends her days crafting monstrous bodies for her chimera warriors – bodies meant to rip apart the seraphim and avenge her fallen people. Robbed of Karou’s love and trust, Akiva continues to attempt to hide from his “war hero” reputation. Faced with orders to find and annihilate the remaining chimera, Akiva must find a way to thwart his own kind in a desperate attempt to undo his past crimes. Though they seem worlds apart, Karou and Akiva find themselves constantly crossing paths. But can their love withstand the hatred fueling the war?

After the first book in this series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, left me hanging, I had to read this one. It’s amazing. Even better than the first! So much action, so much drama, so much awesome. I think what made me like it so much is the fact that it’s not as heavy on the Akiva/Karou relationship as I thought it would be. Most of the story revolves around the intrigue happening on either side of the war. I loved getting to see what was happening on the chimera side and then switching to the seraphim. The plot twists were a little predictable, but still highly entertaining. If you were a fan of Daughter of Smoke and Bone at all or if you just love fantasy, give this one a read. I loved it! If you love it too, read the final book, Dreams of Gods and Monsters.

Rating: 5/5

Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin has spent his high school years equally in love with and in awe of the elusive, rebellious girl-next-door Margo Roth Speigleman. Though they were once childhood friends, Margo hardly speaks to Q since her ascension into high school royalty. But one night, Margo shows up at Q’s window and takes him on series of elaborate revenge pranks — then disappears the next day. The night, and Margo’s disappearance, changes Q’s world forever. People (popular people) actually start talking to him in school, he’s invited to parties — but his new social status can’t replace the void Margo left. Q and his friends set out on a mission to follow an enigmatic set of clues Margo left behind and find her before the worst can happen.

Meh, good not great. I’m of the opinion now that if you’ve read one John Green book, you’ve read them all. However, as predictable as the plot is, the formula Green has crafted certainly works for him. It’s a largely entertaining read, made so by the hilarious side-kick characters and epic “quest”. Margo herself (and Q, really) are extremely dislikable characters, so it was unfortunate that I was stuck with them in the spotlight the whole time. I did appreciate, though, the messages Green attempts to send with the book. Q learns you have to accept people as they are, regardless of your idea of what they “should” be. Additionally, you see something in this book that’s not in many YA novels: two characters recognizing their differences and not attempting to change themselves to make it work between them. Very adult, Green, and nicely done.

If you’re a John Green fan, this one might be your new favorite. But I don’t think it’s as good as Fault in Our Stars. Give it a shot and see what you think! Oh, and this will be a movie very soon. Here’s the link to the IMBD page.

Rating: 3/5

*Anthony Award Nominee for Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel, 2009
*School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, 2008
*Edgar Award for Best Young Adult, 2009
*YALSA Teens’ Top Ten, 2009

*Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee, 2011
There WAS a full analysis of this, but it was wrecked by my computer.