Saturday, March 17, 2018

Harry Potter Update # 2--Plus Three Other Cool Items

OK, guys, I must admit that I have been more than a little surprised at how much I'm enjoying Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. There is a lot going on--Hagrid's disappearance and return, the Sytherin and Gryffindor  Quidditch match, attack by a giant snake, Dolores Umbridge snooping into everything--that makes this book a lot more exciting than the first four. And there's a sense of danger lurking throughout the book that keeps me on the edge of my seat and wondering what will happen next. Plus there a lot of questions like, "What's up with Harry's scar?" and "Why is Dumbledore being so silent to Harry?" and "What is You-Know-Who looking for?" that keeps me reading to find answers. Yep, this book has been so good that I've been ripping through the pages. Last week I had gotten to page 227 and today I'm at p. 547, which means I've read 320 pages since last week! I would normally say that you may all gasp in amazement now at my MANLY feat of determination and persistence but reading this book has been so much fun that it hasn't been a chore. Besides, I still have 233 pages left to go. Maybe i could finish by next weekend!

But you don't want to hear only about me and that one book. I've got three other things I meant to tell you about before I got caught up in Hogwart's world. The first is Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw by Todd Calgi Gallicano. It's a fantasy set in modern day California that ends up going all over the known world and into the mythical world--which, apparently, is next to us all the time but we don't see it! Young Sam London is your typical kid. He goes to school every day, lives at home with his mom and doesn't think there's anything special about him. But he has an extensive collection of books about mythical animals, which will soon serve him well because he's about to encounter that world. He keeps having dreams about a powerful gryphon and, through a plan involving a tour group of seniors and their bus, gets to meet the gryphon. Something big and dangerous is happening in the mythical world but neither one knows what it is. When Sam goes back to the bus and it explodes, his adventures begin! Along the way you'll meet a troll who likes breakfast at IHOP, the US Dept. of Mythical Wildlife and the remarkable Guardians. This is a good solid fantasy adventure and if you like fantasy (or even if you don't) this would be a good choice. It won't make you forget Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Lord of the Rings but it is a good story with humor, action and (what is really great) mythical beasts from mythologies all over the world. Plus, the author lives just north of Charlotte!

The second book is The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry. I first heard about this book about 10 years ago from a fellow blogger, Betsy Bird, who said Percy Jackson fans should know about it. That's a good idea in some ways because this book gives a good glimpse into that ancient world and into the Daedalus story. It turns out that Daedalus had a daughter named Inas and she likes to do adventurous things like diving for sponges or practicing the dangerous sport of bull leaping. She also likes to try out her father's latest inventions, pair of wings that could make people soar like birds. She has to do it in secret, however, because the superstitious people of her island of Crete would not understand and create trouble for her and Daedalus. She will need all her adventurous skills and her wings for a daring rescue at the end of the book! I really enjoyed this book. Historical fiction, like fantasy, is a great way to walk around in another world for a while. There's good adventure here but the book's pace is slower than  Percy Jackson. If you're expecting slam-bang, thrill-a-minute action like you'd get from the PJ books, you'd be disappointed but if you like a good solid story with a thrilling ending and a fascinating chance to see the ancient world through the eyes of someone who lived in it, this is for you!

I saved the best for last. Do you remember when I started listening to The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry? Well, I finished it yesterday and, man, was it ever FUN!!! I don't know how Dave Barry does it but he manages to make you both grip your seat in suspense and laugh out loud--often at the same time!
There is danger and suspense aplenty but there is also loads of the goofball humor that guys love so much and Dave Barry understands so well. I won't try to summarize the story here (too many turns in the plot) but let me tell you it involves potential terrorists, kidnappings and frozen pizza, missiles flying from the White House lawn, box lunches, Homer Simpson burps, purple Crocs---and the President of the United States! Oh, wow, guys---I could talk about this audiobook all day but, to keep from writing 20 more pages, let just tell you that you need to listen to this! Actor Todd Haberkorn does a perfect job getting all the voices right and wringing the maximum suspense and fall-on-the-floor humor out of every situation. Are you going on spring break soon, guys? Take this with you! Or are you staying home? Listen to it in the car as you're driven around. Even if you listen to it going back and forth to school, I can guarantee that you (and the adults driving you) will have the best car trip ever!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Happy Potter Update # 1 (or--Just How Big and Heavy Is That Book?)

All right, guys, it's been a full week since I took up the challenge of facing the one major fear of my life---reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--and I'm making some progress on it. In fact, I've been really surprised to find that I'm enjoying this book a lot. I mean, a whole lot!! Much more that the other four books. The story had a slam bang beginning (Harry and Dursley getting attacked by Dementors) and the pace and excitement haven't let up since then. Now don't get me wrong; I don't mind a book that takes its time to get started but the first four books took forever to get going. Anyway, I'm enjoying this one so much that I look forward impatiently to free moments when I'm not working so that I can read a few more pages. That hasn't happened since the days when I was reading the first Percy Jackson books or the Copernicus Legacy books!

So I'm making good progress. I'm on page 227 now. That means I have only---

Oh, man!

I've still got 643 pages left to go!!

Well, time to redouble my MANLY efforts if I'm going to finish this thing before the end of March. If I could read 30 pages a day, then it would be possible. Fortunately, this will be easy because I'm enjoying it so much!

The only problem is, however, this book is so BIG and HEAVY that I'm getting worn down to the ground by carrying it around. In fact, I tried to hire a personal assistant to help me. I called Chuck Norris but, when he heard what book it was, he yelped in fear and slammed down the phone. Same thing when I called the Hulk. Yep, it's that big and heavy.

Don't believe me? Well, let me tell you--this book is so BIG and HEAVY that:

Strong enough for one but not the other!
I stood it upright and National Geographic called and asked where the new mountain came from.

I stood it upright again and the Charlotte city government called and asked if I had  a permit for the new skyscraper.

What the difference between Thor's hammer and this book? Thor is strong enough to lift his hammer!

I told you. Of course, you see I'm joking. But why should I have all the fun? If you boys know of any jokes (or could make up any) about how BIG and HEAVY this book is, send them along in the Comments section under this post. (gotta keep them clean, of course) I'll post them on my next Update and be sure you get one of the cool new bookmarks.

OK, I can't wait to hear from you! I've got to go now and move that book to a different location. If I let it sit in the same place too long, the building starts to tip over to that side.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In Which the Iron Guy Confronts One of His Worst Fears

Greetings, guys. Because we're all friends here, I need to let you in on a secret. I had a resolution for 2018. Yes, I know you're supposed to make resolutions at the beginning of January but I've been putting this off for a long time. A looonnnggg time. Why? Well, even the MANLIEST of us has something he's afraid of. Something big. Something HUGE and TERRIFYING. Something so big and scary that we don't even want to look at it. In this case, it's---



Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Yeesh!! Hide me from it!!

Iron Guy starts to run.



  "You're not allowed to run from your fears, Iron Guy!"

But--but, it's so big and scary...

"Never mind! Go back and read it like a MANLY MAN!"


Well, I'll put the goofiness aside and talk for real about this book. First, I should let you know that I've never been a big Harry Potter fan. Now, don't get me wrong--I'm not a Harry hater. Those books are OK. I read the first four and liked them well enough but I've never gone Hogwarts wild over them. (yes, I intended that pun!) I know a lot of you guys are total Harry Potter fans. Kids (and grownups) have been telling for years how much they not only like but LOVE these books. I remember that some libraries held parties when new HP books came out. I remember when bookstores opened at midnight so that kids could get the latest titles. I've heard for years about how terrific Harry Potter is but, for some reason, I just never fell under the Harry Potter spell. (I intended that pun too!) So I've just never been in a big hurry to finish the series. And part of it is a kind of fear. Not a "blind, unreasoning panic" (as FDR once said) but a sort of intimidation of the huge size of that book. It's 870 pages long!! I'd need a forklift to carry that thing around!Or at least a pickup truck. Seriously, though, how could anyone, even J. K. Rowling, write something that long and keep it interesting?? So, yeah, I've been a little afraid to plunge into it.

The Iron Guy using all his MANLY strength to lift this thing
Nope. Too blamed big

But, in all seriousness, if so many people like it so much, there must be a good reason. And my good friend Ms. Yingling, whose judgement I trust, said this was her favorite in the series. So, OK, I will take the Potter plunge and get started on it. But I will need your support! No mater how tough a guy may be, whenever he undertakes something this big and scary, he needs the support of his brothers-in-arms. Are you with me, men?? If so, then send a comment in the Comments section below. Let me know that you have my back and will support me as I undertake this monumental task. Or if you just want to say I'm a crybaby and should get on with it, that's OK too.

For I intend to finish this book by the end of March. Think I can do it? Or am I biting off more than even this MANLY guy could chew? Let me know in the Comments section!

And any boy who sends in a comment will get one of these new bookmarks I've created:

Yeah, they look like they may be more appropriate for a Percy Jackson book but that's what I've got so far. Maybe I'll change the pictures later on. (and, yes, I know there are girls who read this blog, so I'll create some for you too) If you live outside of the Charlotte, NC area and you'd like one of these bookmarks, please let me know in your comment how to reach you (I won't publish that info!) and I'll send them along. 
I'll keep you posted on my progress throughout this month. So watch this space and send in comments on further posts because I'll need your support this whole month. (and you could get more bookmarks too!) 

OK--here I go!

Wish me luck, men! (btw, the Genie granted me a wish and gave me the super strength to hold this book up)

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!