Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Iron Guy Is A Cybil!

And just what is a Cybil, you may ask? Well, it doesn't mean that I'm an ancient Roman oracle (I'd hate to live in a cave) but it does mean that I've joined up with a lot of book bloggers all across the country, who call themselves The Cybils, to choose the best kid books of 2017. Pretty cool, huh? It's my first time to do this and I'm very honored.

I signed up for the team that judged nonfiction. Actually, I joined the second-round team, which meant another team read through a whole lot of nonfiction books and narrowed them down to fourteen finalists. That was great for me because I was too busy to be on the first round. Anyway, I got to read some great stuff and want to tell you about a few books that I think you'd like. (These are in alphabetical order and not in any order of ranking)

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton

Battleships are all just all painted dull gray, right? Wrong! During World War I, someone came up with the idea of painting ships bright colors with all sorts of swirly designs. Why? Well, you'll have to read this book to find out! Although I was a little disappointed with the ending, this was an interesting book. There's more interesting info at the back and an actual photo (in black and white) of one of the "dazzle ships."

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins

This is a good story of a teenager who was rounded up with his family
and sent to a Japanese interment camp in World War II but, unlike many others, he did not go quietly. In fact, he spoke out against his unfair treatment and even had a lawyer offer to take his case for free. What became of it? Once again, you'll have to read it to find out! It's a good book although I wish the publisher had put the book together in a different way. They included a whole lot of good photos, sidebars and other information but it all comes every two or three pages and interrupts the flow of the story. Nevertheless, it's still a good book and well worth reading and a good reminder to be glad of living in a country in which, when wrong things are done, people can speak up and redress those wrongs. (it's not like that everywhere!)

Hatching Chicks in Room Six by Caroline Arnold

Here's something good for our younger reader guys, like first, second or even third grade. It's the story of a kindergarten class that watches a bunch of chicks hatch from eggs and grow until old enough to go to the chicken coop. The language is simple, the photos are great and the book has lots of information. I liked it and even learned a few things!

Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls by Tanya Bolden

Did you ever hear of Richard Potter, an African-American magician and showman in colonial American days? Or Charlie Wiggins, the first African-American race driver? Or Eugene Bullard, a Black World War I combat pilot? NO? Don't worry--not many other people have heard of them, either! That is what makes this book so interesting--it's full of true stories of little-known people who deserve to have their stories told. There are 13 more such lives discussed in this book which means, unfortunately, that I didn't get to know as much about each person as I would have liked but that's OK. I really enjoyed this and learned quite a lot.

Red Cloud: A Lakota Story of War and Surrender by S. D. Nelson

Here's another good story about a great historical figure that I knew very little about. Red Cloud was a chief of the Lakota people, a Native American group who lived in what is now North and South Dakota. When the American westward expansion started and pushed many Native people off their lands, many tribes and their leaders fought back. Including Red Cloud. In fact, he fought so well that the American army had to come and negotiate with him. Of course, the outcome was inevitable...(let's have a TBH moment, guys--not all of our country's wrongs have been righted) Anyway, this was quite a story and the illustrations, based on Native American designs, were really good.

Two Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson

You can believe everything you see in books and on the internet, right? Oh, man, you are SO wrong and this book proves it! There are nine chapters and each is divided into three topics but---two of them are true and one is a big fat lie!! Are you savvy enough to figure out which topics are true and which are not? Don't be so sure--everything looks very convincing! I had a hard time figuring out the real from the false and didn't always get the correct answers. Not only is this book interesting, however, it's also a lot of  FUN!. Plus there's a Research Guide at the end that gives good tips on how to be sure that you know how to find actual factual information instead of the phony stuff.

Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman

I wanted to be clever and start this off by saying, "The zoo--who knew??" But who really knew that zoos do so much to protect endangered animals around the world? Or that zoo employees have lived such adventurous lives in such exotic locations? Well, that's what I learned about in this fascinating book. It tells about three zoo people who help preserve three different endangered animals--the orangutan, the black-footed ferret and the black rhinoceros--and the amazing lengths they went to help in preservation. A really interesting read with lots of good photos.

Today the Cybils announced the winners of all the different categories. The winners for nonfiction are:

Hatching Chicks in Room Six (for Elementary Nonfiction)

Two Truths and a Lie (Middle Grade Nonfiction)

Check all the winners of all the different types of books at the Cybils website. I bet you will find some books you will like.

OK, guys, the library has plenty of copies of the books I mentioned today, so check them out and enjoy! And let me say,"Thanks!" to my good friend Ms Yingling, who encouraged me to get involved with the Cybils.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Want to Hear the Best? Then Listen to "The Worst..."

Hey, there, guys, I'm going to do an unusual thing today and tell you about something that I haven't finished. In fact, I'm only one-quarter of the way through! But it is so much fun that I just can't wait and, besides, I KNOW it's going to turn out to be great!!

Perhaps the funniest thing I ever listened to was the audiobook version of Science Fair by Dave Barry. (the library has plenty of copies--hint, hint!) Anyway, Dave Barry could win the award for Funniest Man Ever to Write Books--or, if not, he could certainly win for Writing the Funniest Books Guys Would Like. Science Fair was a big hit with guys here (check out some reactions here and here) and I listened to the audiobook version and nearly laughed my MANLY head off! So I was checking in books the other day and saw the audiobook version of another Dave Barry title--The Worst Class Trip Ever--and said to myself, "Well, why not?" I've listened to almost all of Disc 1 and it's so funny that I just have to tell you guys about it!

Wyatt and his best friend Matt, two eighth-graders from Culver Middle School in Miami, are flying with their classmates on the way to the school's annual trip o Washington DC. with their classmates to the school's annual trip to Washington DC. Behind them are two-strange-looking guys, one with a very large bag that won't fit into the overhead compartment and another with a backpack that he absolutely won't let go of. All through the flight, the two guys keep looking obsessively at aerial photos of the White House. Are they terrorists? Are they hiding a missile and a control box in their bags?? Is Matt the only one who can save the White House??? I won't tell you the answers, but, oh, man, are you ever going to laugh as you listen to what happens! Besides, you'll get to hear about what happened when an alligator attacked Wyatt's dad in his boxer shorts, meet an 80-jillion-year-old flight attendant and find out why Wyatt may have to wait until he's seventy before he gets to go out with Suzana Delgado, his crush.

And all this is on Disc 1!

BTW, did I mention this audiobook is funny?

I'll give you a final verdict when I'm finished but I'm sure, based on what I've experienced from Dave Barry so far, I bet I won't be disappointed. And stay tuned to this blog. There will be more fun and interesting stuff here in the next few weeks. In the meantime, go check this out! The library has plenty of copies of this one too.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary--What a Terrifically Cool Book!

Hey, guys, did you see The Last Jedi? What a silly question--of course you've seen it! This is just about the perfect GUY movie!! Epic space battles! Super-speed vehicles! Outnumbered good guys taking on massive amounts of bad guys! And a handsome. cocky good guy insulting a powerful bad guys right to his face! (witness the early scene when Poe Dameron calls General Hux "General Hugs") Plus, to keep this from being just an empty action movie, there are characters who gain (and lose) wisdom through hard choices. So, yes, even if you're not a Star Wars fan, this movie is you, guys, and I'm sure you've already seen it. If you haven't, then don't read any further. Stop whatever you're doing and go.



OK, if you've got to do homework or celebrate your grandmother's birthday, then I'll make an exception. Otherwise---


The Last JediOK, while they're out watching the movie, let's talk about a terrific book based on that movie. It's The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary by Pablo HidlagoEvery time a new Star Wars movie comes out, DK Publishers puts out one of these Visual Dictionaries and every one of them is great. They have lots of cool photos of the people, spaceships, creatures, equipment, weapons, etc. from that movie along with captions that explain a lot about that person, spaceship, piece of equipment, etc. Plus this book has a section that fills in what has happened between the last movie and this one, a very cool map of the galaxy and the backstories of the characters. That means you get to learn a lot of great info like:

  • What did Luke Skywalker do between the fall of the Empire and his training of new Jedi?
  • What does General Hux literally have up his sleeve?
  • Why do those skimmers leave red trails on the surface of Crait?
  • Where did Captain Phasma get her armor?
  • How many layers of fur does a Wookie have?
  • And what exactly are those thingies in the breast pockets of First Order officers  that look like pens?

You'll find out this plus a whole lot more!! This is one terrific book and you'll have lots of fun with it. And the best part is that you DON'T have to start at the beginning and go straight through. You can jump around and look at whatever interests you and take as much time doing that as you like--though I bet you're going to want to read the entire book at some point. So run to your local library and get a copy--NOW!!

Give the Seal of Approval as One Terrific Book, the Iron Guy Does

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It's a New Year--Believe It or Not!

Happy New Year, everybody! 2018 is here and there are a lot of exciting things that will happen in this blog over the next few months. There are a lot of books I want to tell you about, I'm going to help some other bloggers choose the best nonfiction of 2017 and the Iron Guy, in truly MANLY fashion, will confront one of his worst fears.  Yes, it's going to be a lot of fun here--but let me get into that another time. I've got a couple of cool books to talk about.

The first is Ripley's Believe or Not! Out of This World Edition 2018
Ripley's Believe It Or Not!Guys really enjoy these types of books--you know the Guinness Book of World Records or the Weird But True Facts, which are full of fun, strange, goofball or unbelievable bits of fascinating information. Well, this one can stand there with all the others. There are some pretty weird facts here, like:
  • Dinosaurs actually swallowed rocks. Why? Look at page 56 to find out!
  • Who Mario in Mario Cart was named after. (p.24)
  • The cockroach artist (p. 68) and what's unusual about penguin mouths (p.72)
  • The man who does yoga on a BMX bicycle--on a cliff 300 feet above the ground! (p.80)
It's a lot of fun to go through this book and see all the unusual things in here but the great thing about Ripley's Believe It or Not is that you're not required to believe everything you read. Of course, the editors really want you to believe what you see in this book and everything looks like it could be real. That's why they call it Believe It or Not! But sometimes you just gotta wonder. For example, on page 47, there's a picture of a pink grasshopper. Could it be real? I'm sure it could but---what if it's just a photographic trick? Should you believe it? Or not? That's the great thing about this book--you gotta take a look and decide!

Well, reading this book just led me naturally to this next one, Who Was Robert Ripley? by Kirsten Anderson. We all know how great these Who Was...? and What Was...? books are and I've talked about several of them before. (see the Who Was... label under this post to find past reviews) This was a terriific book , taken from a terrific true-life story.
Young Roy Ripley had everything going against him. Born in 1890, he developed big front teeth that stuck out, making it hard for him to talk, and was funny-looking with big ears. You can imagine how the other kids treated him. Yet he had three great passions--sports, particularly baseball, a talent for drawing and a collection of weird facts. Against the odds, he took his talent to big cities to work for newspapers and to pitch baseball--but during his first pro game, his arm broke! So he turned to his drwaing and during a slow season for sports, pulled out his collection of weird facts--like the man who swam the English Channel on a mattress! He published his first collection of cartoons and strange facts in 1918 and they became a hit! Eventually, his "Believe It or Not" feature became not only a nation-wide hit but part of American life. But this is more than a typical inspirational story--this book is really interesting, showing not only his life story but lots of cool stuff about his times. And lots of weird facts, like the woman who rode skates on her hands! Was everything he said true? Well...often it was but it often depended on how he worded things. Check out his statement that "Lindbergh was the 67th person to cross the Atlantic" and you'll see what I meant. Was it true? Yes...but...
Guys, you gotta read this! Like all the Who Was.. books, they are good, full of fascinating information, have good timelines in the back and can be read quickly.
(PS--I remember reading these features as a boy and they are still publishing Believe It or Not features today! And there are Believe It or Not Odditoriums across the world. Check their website at

All right. This looks like it will be a good year for reading, so the Iron Guy wishes you Happy Reading in 2018---

---and a MANLY New Year!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Holiday Blasts from the Past (Plus Two New Ones)

Greetings, holiday-loving and book-reading guys! Every now and then, when the Iron Guy gets too busy to read, he goes back into the vaults and brings out some books that I've recommended before. I call these Blasts from the Past and today I'm going to tell you about a few holiday books. All of them are picture books but don't let that scare you off. They are not just cutesy little stories for three-year-olds; they are really good for guys of any age. Even grownups!

First there's Hanukkah. It's over now but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read these truly terrific books. They are wonderful and inspirational in the best sense of the word. with guys overcoming difficulties in really bad circumstances. And they're based on real stories! See the original reviews here.

Then, of course, there's Christmas.  The first book is How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow. (what an appropriate name!) Come on, boys, haven't you always wondered how he gets all that stuff into one sleigh, even if it is magical? Or how does that big, fat guy get down those narrow chimneys? You'd be surprised! (I sure was!)

And have you wondered what Santa does or where he goes those other eleven months of the year? Then you should read Where Does Joe Go? by Tracey Campbell Pearson and find out. This book is a lot of fun for younger and older reader guys (and grownups!) and you will get a smile out of it.

And we have Kwanzaa as well. The best Kwanzaa book I've ever read is Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Meadearis. It's a great story--seven brothers, who argue all the time, find out that their father's will says that they have to spin seven spools of thread into gold by nightfall or they will all be turned out of their house as beggars. How can they accomplish such an impossible task? In an unexpected way that uses the seven principles of this marvelous holiday. It's a book you'll remember for a long time. (see the original review here)

Have a happy holiday season and don't forget that you can still rescue a book from The Island of Semi-Neglected Books.

And to get you rocking for the holidays, here's a video I posted way back in 2008. Watch it and enjoy.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Island of Semi-Neglected Books

Hey, guys, the Iron Guy is back! I'm sorry I haven't posted anything for a while but we've been as busy as Santa's elves on December 23. That means I haven't had time to read very much, so I don't have anything new to share with you. But I thought I'd do something to promote a bunch of books that don't get the attention they deserve.

Do you remember The Island of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special?
(btw, do you ever watch it on broadcast TV or do you watch it other ways?) There's this island where toys that no one wants. like the ostrich-riding cowboy, live and get forgotten each year. (It's a sad scene that could make even a MANLY MAN like the Iron Guy sniffle) It all turns out OK; Rudolph gets Santa to pick them up and deliver them on Christmas Eve. So that got me thinking about some books that are really terrific but don't get checked out as much as they should. These live on The Island of Semi-Neglected Books. They deserve to be checked out by boys who would really, really enjoy them but, for whatever reason, they don't get much notice and stay on our shelves. Well, the Iron Guy is here, like Rudolph, to make sure that they aren't forgotten this holiday season. And what are these books? I'm very glad you asked.

The Copernicus Legacy books by Tony Abbott

I'm always surprised that these books don't get checked out more often. They are T-E-R-R-I-F-I-C! Action, suspense, a world-wide conspiracy, 500-year-old secrets, time travel, puzzling clues and one of the most memorable villains you'll ever meet.

The Alvin Ho books by Loren Long

You want to read something REALLY funny? Go check out any of these books about second-grader Alvin Ho and his PDK. You'll laugh out loud. You will!

The Akimbo books by Alexander McCall Smith

These books are short and could be read quickly and, believe me, once you start one of these stories about Akimbo, who lives on a nature preserve in Kenya, you won't stop. (there's a scene in Akimbo and the Snakes in which he is trapped in a truck with a deadly black mambo snake--one of the scariest things I've ever read!)

The Legends books by Howard Bryant

Man, oh, man I could spend all day talking about these terrific books. There are three of them and each one is about a different sport. (football, basketball and baseball) They have incredible stories of teams, individuals, stamina, determination, athletes who changed the game, athletes who changed our country, last-minute wins, comebacks against all odds and--well, there's a whole lot more.

OK, guys, now that you've seen them, here's your chance. Don't let these books just sit on the shelves over the holidays! Come check them out and let them go to a good home. (at least for three weeks!)

All kidding aside, you will really enjoy these and that's why I'm enthusiastic about seeing these get checked out. And if you need some more incentive, any boy who sends in a review (or more than one) of any of these books gets to pick a prize (or prizes) out of our ultra-cool prize box. The more reviews you send, the more prizes you get. But the reviews have about books in these series. Got that? I'll keep this offer going until Wednesday, January 3, 2018. Plenty of time to read and review, especially with the holiday break.

All right, then! Head on down to your local library and let's rescue some of them from The Island of Semi-Neglected Books!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Beastly Beaman Claims His Prizes!

Greetings, all you reader guys! The third contestant in the World Series of Reading Contest came by last night to claim his well-deserved prizes. This mighty contestant is none other than Beastly Beaman, who sent us two reviews that covered seven books. He claimed two items out of the ultra-cool prize box, which were the books Questors by Joan Lennon and The Roar by Emma Clayton. (this book got the most comments I've ever had about a book)

Well done, BB! Please keep sending more of those great reviews. As I've said before, all reader guys are always on the lookout for new reads and who would be better to tell us about them than another boy? So keep them coming, BB!