Monday, 30 April 2012

The Teenager's Survival Kit

Jay Writes -
I'm taking over the blog for a post about celebrating Luke's 13th birthday. He becomes a teenager, with all the baggage that involves. He's written what he knows about it on the previous blog post, but how he truly feels has been pretty negative.
Luke explained that he hated the perception of teenagers society has. He resented that people of his age are characterised as rude, thuggish, aggressive, untrustworthy and antisocial.  Between that, spots and exams he was struggling to find a positive way to view the years ahead.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I set out to find a positive approach to offer him.  I'm fortunate in having a fantastic cohort of friends in real life and online, so I appealed the them for help.  I asked everyone to text, email, tweet or comment on Facebook sharing something good about their own teen experience. Here are a selection of replies -

  • Being taken more seriously than before
  • dressing like Goth/punk/indie kid and heading to a club
  • Everyone else is finally growing up too, so the immature ones will catch up to Luke and friendships become easier
  • being able to travel on your own, on buses or trains mostly, but also self-propelling to friends' houses that are further afield
  • discovering a huge world of music
  • straddling childhood and adulthood - being more confident, responsible and individual but still being able to play and be ridiculous
  • making your own mind up on issues, being able to think critically
  • learning things your parents don't know
  • experimenting with different personas and styles while you find what suits you
  • getting first jobs like paper rounds and babysitting, and spending the money however you like
And from very nearly everyone - having more freedom without the responsibility adulthood brings

I decided to make Luke a Teenager's Survival Kit, with things to get him past the tricky things opportunities to sample new things and styles, and to meet some of his changing needs. He opened it this morning and was very pleased.

To sidestep the bad bits - 

 No need to be rude

No need to be smelly or spotty

To experiment with different styles - 









Also a black eyeliner for Goth but I forgot to photograph that

Freedom to go places and try new stuff

New music, new film downloads

trying a new genre of books

Bus pass

Celebrating his awesomeness

Baggy T ideal for our home educated dude

Still having fun being a kid

a case I sewed for his new Kindle

A lockable box for private stuff

A decent pen to express himself with

Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman
Always be Batman

So there we are  - a big box of presents to make being a teenager ace.  Which works out nicely, because Luke IS ace.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Becoming a teen

Becoming a teen is something that all people go through during their lives. It starts when a child is about 14-16 years old. Then a lot of hormones are released. This causes huge physical and mental changes in the teen.On the physical side of things the teen will experience huge growth spurts. His height will increase, his hair will become greasier because of the increased amount of sweating his armpit hair will grow as will his pubic hair. His penis will become bigger and his face may become covered in spots. These are just a few of the many physical changes that will happen to a teen when the hormones are released and start working.Then there is the mental side of things. While they don’t go insane teens will begin thinking about things like how a girl looks and would he want to have sex with her and lots of other things that. These can also appear in dreams causing what is known as a wet dream. As well as this, all experiences that teenagers have are enhanced. This part of being a teenager is a double bladed knife. So when a teen has something bad happen to him it feels awful and when something good happens it feels amazing. As well as this teenagers are known to try being different people. So one week Jimmy might be a Goth and the next week he might be a cheerful go-getter.
All in all I think that being a teenager is going to a very VERY bumpy ride. I’m not yet sure what sort of opinion I should have towards it so I think I will stay neutral on this particular debate. Being a teen is something that brings in a lot of freedom and responsibility.   

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Luke's Reads: Behind the Scenes

I have recently finished a challenge in which I read 50 books that Michael Grove;s comments prompted three authors and two reporters to choose. The article is here. This challenge has broadened my reading knowledge and nearly put me in an early grave. I found some new favourite books (The London Eye mystery!) and wanted to burn others (How to be topp!). 

The challenge was a very hard project and took a lot of time and hard work from me and my mum Jay who has supported me throughout the challenge and provided most of the books. She was actually the one who suggested that I did the challenge. One day while I was playing video games she got me pause (A feat in itself) and said “I bet you a tenner that you can’t read 50 books in one year!” 
I replied“No problem, prepare to lose your money, Mum” And so the challenge began.   I hope you are ready to experience Luke’s Reads (Behind the scenes).

Pros of the challenge
 I discovered many new books to my liking: things like Ender’s game, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and the London Eye mystery. Because of the challenge I was pushed into new unfamiliar territory and didn’t know what to expect while I was there. It was an interesting experience full of books that it turns out are really good. The most surprising reaction was when I read Swallows and Amazons and found it not that bad. Read the review 

Cons of the challenge
While I did discover some new favourite books the challenge was full of books that I wanted to burn like How to be Topp, the Old Man and the Sea and After the First Death. I HATED these books. The other thing that I hated was when I did not reach my intended target by Christmas. I was incredibly angry and upset when this happened and I felt that getting an extension was like cheating. But in the end I swallowed my pride and took the extension.

My list of 20 books for 11-12 year olds
  • Silver Tounge by Charlie Fletcher
  • Artemis Fowl  by Eoin Colfer
  • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
  • Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
  • The River of Adventure by Enid Blyton
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • How to be a Pirate by Cressida Cowell
  • Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
  • The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
  • Time Riders: Day of the Predator  by Alex Scarrow
  • H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden
  • C.H.E.R.U.B. :The Recruit by Robert Muchamore
  • Heroes of Olympus: the Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
  • Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brien
  • The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett
  • Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett
  • Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett
  • The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
  • Enders Game by Orson Scott Card.
  • The Magic Scales by Sam Wilding

In Conclusion…
While the challenge was full of obstacles and required lots of time, work and attention it was also educational, interesting and really helped my reading ability. I feel very privileged to be able to do this challenge in the year. I would like to thank my mum Jay and:
Mark Tranter for The Owl Service and A Christmas Carol.
Sarah who sent us When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Immi Howson  for Mistress Mashem's Repose and People Might Hear You.
I am very grateful to all of these people that helped me and I hope that they say you’re welcome. So to finish off I hope to make those who read my blog laugh by saying I give this challenge 1000/100.   

Jay Writes - 
Thanks also to our friends and well-wishers who left comments on Luke's blog over the year. They have really encouraged him. I think Luke's done a super job with this challenge and I'm proud of him for persevering. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading most of the books along with him (although I was less keen on having to nag him to write the reviews!)

Friday, 23 March 2012

Wild Card 3

The Knife Of Never Letting Go

Now a lot of people have said this book is amazing; that it is the book of the century and everyone should love it unless the book comes to life and ruins everything you love. If that happens then you have a reasonable excuse to dislike it. But apart from that then you must love it, love it, love it. Everyone I know has said this, including my parents. But to be perfectly honest I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Now don’t get me wrong OK, I liked the book. But it just isn’t as amazing as everyone was saying it was. It had some good positives and some annoying negatives (I will go over these in a minute). So while the book didn’t live up to what it was built up to, it did have its moments.
Let’s start with the positives: First I want to say that the idea that the story had was simply fantastic. Coming to a new world to find that it has a chemical that broadcasts your thoughts to everyone? Genius! And the characters in it are so well written I was jealous that I would have to wait 10 years to get close to that sort of writing.

However. The book did do a few things that I hated. The first is how stupid the people were when it came to plans. I mean the settler plan. Come on. 20 odd villages and not one mechanic that can fix a spaceship. Not ONE?! No way of contacting them when the purpose of these people was to check it out and then CONTACT THEM! That was a bit of a design flaw don’t you think?

Also the book did what How To Be Topp did: deliberately misspell words. I HATE that.  SHAME ON YOU STORY! But apart from those rather large cons the book does alright on my scale. I will give the book 71/100 for excellent story writing and good execution of an idea.
This is the last challenge review I am doing so when I next post something I hope to be £10 richer.

Jay Writes
Look guys - it's the last review of the 50! 
It came as no surprise to us that Luke used his final Wild Card to avoid reading Little Women. That's the one I'd pegged from the start as the least likely to appeal to him. Instead, we chose the start of an award-winning trilogy of modern YA fiction. 
I hope Luke is immensely proud of himself for finishing this challenge. We're all chuffed to bits!

Wild Card 2

Ender's Game

This book has recently become one of my all-time favourite sci-fi books. A really positive review. 
For a big book (and it is big) it doesn’t over explain things or leave loads of plot holes for me to fill in and gets the story across to the reader at a good steady rate. The gist of the book is that in the far future the race of humans are preparing to go to war with the insect race of the buggers (clever). For the best results they get people to help them genetically engineer amazing super generals to lead their armies to victory. 
Ender Wiggin is one of these kids and after he is pulled away from his home and placed in battle school only then does he unlock his true power as a leader of the human space fleet. TO WAR. At least that is what everyone tells him. But he doesn’t want that to be true. He just wants to go home. 
A fantastic book for all people with two digits in their age. I hope the public enjoys it as much as I do. For the amazing piece of art that is this book 99/100.   

Jay Writes - Luke cashed in his second Wild Card to replace Mistress Masham's Repose.  Our lovely friend Immi loaned it to us and he just didn't fancy it. (I enjoyed it!) We chose Ender's Game as a classic science fiction story that had an awful lot to say. I'm so glad he embraced it with such enthusiasm

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Animal Farm

I have to start this review by saying “I want a book not a history lesson!”

I admit that this was a good story that got the emotion that the animals had across as well as telling an excellent story. But I thought that this was going to be little story about the animals standing up for themselves and proving that the humans ought to pay more attention to them. I mean come on listen to the name “Animal Farm” if that doesn’t sound like the name of a book for five year olds then I am a bottlenose dolphin (which I’m not of course) 

It was so confusing with all the stuff happening at the same time and how somehow the animals can talk to humans and stand on two feet and build windmills and have whips and believe in candy land and well you get the Idea. But to its credit it explains the Russian revolution a lot better than I could plus at SOME times in the book you feel like you really know these animals and you want to help them out of their terrible predicament. 

But the fact remains that is a lesson. A very good lesson with a fantastic way of teaching in fact the only history lesson that was better than this one was when my mum made the Tudor family tree out of ginger bread men and woman. That was awesome. But still a lesson. Kids don’t want history lessons they want fictional stories.
You see?

But the book still had a good setup, well designed characters and was well written. For all those positives 61/100.  

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Greek Myths

Well this review is gonna take me a while because I have to write 300 words before my mum and dad can finish their work so here we go:
The Ancient Greeks is my favourite point in history after the Egyptians. Their mythology is fascinating. It is filled with everything from arrogant kings who challenge the gods to noble heroes who simply ask for the gods blessing on their quest to save the damsel in distress. And there are plenty of damsels who are in distress. Many of these situations are caused by Hera queen of the gods. She deals with most problems by turning into an old woman and planting seeds of doubt in people’s minds.
My favourite story is the story of Melampus, the man who could understand animals big and small. One day he was walking along the road when he found a dead mother snake. Instead of just kicking it of the road like most people would he gave the snake a proper funeral and took care of the babies. When the snakes grew older they licked his ears so clean that he could understand what all creatures were saying. He used this ability to learn the secrets of nature and to help people with their problems. Like when he put out a large hunk of meat and two vultures came down and discussed how to heal a very sick prince who was watching.
 The Greek myths have lots of stories like this except in the others the blessed man usually gets cocky and angers the gods who make him spend the rest of his life as some kind of wild animal. As well as having many good stories the Greek myths also make good reading material for all ages. Little ones will marvel at the great tasks of Hercules while older readers can enjoy the tale of Oedipus.
Great stories for the whole family 89/100        

Jay Writes
Luke reviewed D'Aulaire's Book Of Greek Myths.  It's the book I grew up with too. I highly recommend it for readers age 7 and up. Its family trees and memorable illustrations are a great introduction to the myths. As Luke says, these stories are great for everyone.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Secret Garden

I have mixed feelings about this book. I like the story but dislike many of the characters. I like the book’s means of getting the story across to the reader but I dislike the Yorkshire accents everyone speaks in. 
This book just didn’t really fit in with me I am sure though that in a few years’ times this book will appeal to me. In fact the only thing that will not appeal is that whiney Colin. Oh my god please shut him up. But apart from that this book did OK. I can’t give it a good review for year seven though so I’m afraid all it can have is 63/100.        

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

After the First Death

This is the second time I’ve written a review for this book because my mum thought I didn’t understand the book. So now that it has been explained to me the parts that did not make sense to me before now adds to the general awfulness of the book. We have three main storytellers or four. It’s kinda hard to explain. 

Anyway the story focuses on three points of view during a terrorist hostage situation. The first is Miro the terrorist. I am supposed to feel pity towards him but after a while all I am thinking is
“Dude, get sniped”
He is just so sick in the head and his decisions and logic make me want to throw the book in the fire.

Then there was Kate, the bus driver. This girl is the only reason I did not throw this book into the fire. She acts like someone would in her situation and her logic is sound and most importantly she is actually well written. I can picture her very well in my mind. She is the only pro of this book.

And then we have Ben. The most pointless, useless annoying character, who is not supposed to be all of these things, I have ever read. He spends half the time he is given moaning about how he is afraid of his dad and the other half moaning about how this one random girl didn’t like him. He deserves that torture he had to endure. Then there was the sniper thing. The whole time I was thinking
“Please snipers just shoot the bad guys and end this book. It says that they go out in the open a lot. Just kill them. Please.”

There was also Ben’s dad who I give the same description as Ben. Just replace the word pointless with moronic.
4/100 for plot holes and Ben.                

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Hobbit

The Hobbit
This was one of the books in this challenge that was much more to my liking. Unfortunately my brand new game Skyrim (EPIC!) had arrived and a lot of my spare time was going into that. But I finished the book all the same and managed to enjoy it as normal. I really enjoy the sci fi and fantasy genre and this book was not a let down to its relations.
The story focuses on a group of fourteen, thirteen dwarves and a hobbit. The hobbit Bilbo Baggins is the hero of the story and discovers many things about himself and Middle Earth on his journey to the lonely mountain to claim the treasure of Smaug the last of the great dragons.
My favourite character in this story is Gollum. When he talks to himself and how he says it, he creeps you out to no end. He and Bilbo have a competition where they take turns to tell riddles and whoever cannot answer the others riddle first, loses.
All the characters in this book are brilliant the story is fantastic and the ending is well written. I hope everyone who reads the book enjoys it as much as I did 99.9/100             

Friday, 3 February 2012

Wild Card 1

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

This was a very hard book to read because everything was described at a very different pace to what I am used to. For example in many action scenes the author is describing the scene as if it is a poem. Another thing that made it hard to understand were the way the characters talked and expressed themselves, I had to reread many pages to even comprehend what was going on.

While I know that this book inspired many other stories such as the Hulk, the fact is, is that I couldn’t find that story in the jumble of words. But in the end I got the story out and thought it was really good. I am going to give it 59/100.        

Jay Writes - 
Luke chose to cash in the first of his wild cards rather than read I Capture The Castle.  I think this was a good choice - I love Dodie Smith's book but I am not an adventure-loving 12 year old boy.
We chose Jekyll and Hyde as a replacement because, as Luke observed above, this is one of the most influential horror stories we know.  From episodes of Scooby Doo to The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and beyond, Luke's seen cartoons and films inspired by Jekyll and Hyde.  Reading the source material is a cool thing to have done.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Revisiting The Challenge

Jay Writes -
The more eagle-eyed among you (or anyone who's looked at the masthead lately) will spot that Luke's 50 book challenge was to read and review them by Christmas, and it's now the end of January. So what's the story, morning glory?
Luke was really upset not to have finished the list in time. He's tried so hard and persevered with some books he'd hated - as well as those he loved - instead of reading his normal style of books. It was so dispiriting to have read 41 (and reviewed 39 of them) but not achieve his goal.
I told him not to worry: do what students and professionals have been doing for centuries when faced with a deadline ... request an extension.
Before we started this project, there were loads of books we were unfamiliar with on the list and we weren't entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into.  Now we've had a look at what Luke's achieved (which I hope you'll agree is LOADS) and what is feasible for him to achieve in the coming months and we've made some changes.
1. Timescale - Michael Gove's comment, which sparked this whole thing, was to read them over a year. So, the challenge will run until the end of March, a year from starting it.
2. Substitutions - There are some books on the list that Luke has really hated.  In general, they've been an unhappy combination of a literary style that doesn't suit him and a subject matter he doesn't care about.  To give him 3 wild cards seemed fair.  He could chose 3 books from the list that he really couldn't face and swap them with books his dad and I agreed would be suitable alternatives
3. Tolkien  - The original list featured The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy as one choice.  Luke ploughed through over half of The Fellowship Of The Rings with little enjoyment. We agreed, in the face of more elvish poetry than one could shake a stick at, to go with just reading The Hobbit. That's still 400 pages and a rollicking good read to boot.  We'll leave LOTR til he's a little older.

Luke's made a good start. He's reviewed the 2 books he'd read before Christmas and he's tackled one of the book he was most dreading. He's also a fair way through The Hobbit. He's got 8 books to do in 8 weeks, which will be hard, but I've got faith in him.
And anyway, he played a Wild Card to ditch Little Women, so I know he can do this!

Swallows and Amazons

I cannot say with all honesty that I was looking forward to reading this book. It was big, it was in that time where everyone is perfectly delightful and worst of all it had that thing where instead of writing tomorrow like a normal person they write to-morrow with doesn't make any SENSE! But as it turns out it wasn’t that bad. 
How were the characters? OK. How was the storyline? OK. How was the ending? OK. 
If someone asked me “Hey Luke can you sum up the quality of swallows and amazons in one word?” I would reply “Eh” The book overflows with mediocrity. Nothing is noticeably horrible yet nothing makes me fill with happiness or burst out laughing. 
This is the kind of book that you read when you just got nothing better to do. I hope that in future this book will mean more to me but for now it will just sit on my shelf until I lie on the floor groaning with boredom. 50/100.             

Friday, 20 January 2012

Carry On Jeeves

The Jeeves and Wooster series is a fantastic set of small stories written by PG Wodehouse about a rich man named Bertie Wooster and his new butler Jeeves and their experiences in New York and London. 
These stories are very entertaining and interesting. The character design is excellent, the story lines are great and the made up words that the author uses are really weird and yet very good. But while the made up words are funny they really have to said out loud in order to understand them. 
As well as that there is also the continuing joke that Jeeves always throws away one of the items of clothing that Bertie has. At first it was pretty funny but after that it got a little repetitive. 
Over all it is agood book with funny jokes and strange words but to really get the feel of the book you have to read it aloud. 79/100           

Thursday, 19 January 2012

how to be topp

I found how to be topp:
stupid, insane, badly spelt, really not funny, boring, ridiculous, brainless, deficient, dense, dim, doltish, dopey, dull, dumb, foolish, half-baked, half-witted, idiotic, ill-advised, imbecilic, inane, indiscreet, insensate, irrelevant, laughable, ludicrous, meaningless, mindless, moronic, nonsensical, obtuse, pointless, puerile, rash, senseless, simpleminded, slow, sluggish, stolid, stupefied, thick, thick-headed, trivial, unintelligent, unthinking and moronic. 
I must thank for the majority of these words.
 Ok, taking deep breaths. Listen people: this book is terrible! It tries to be funny but it isn’t. Curse It! The little rich brat telling the story cannot spell. The bad spelling is supposed to be a joke but when he does it I just think “?” All Molesworth does is say weird stuff about his posh school for boys and pretends he is a spaceman/cowboy/hero. What kind of a storyline is that? In order to even understand this book I would have to be in the upper class 5 generations ago.  Makes stupid jokes and has a horrible story line. For pure stupidity and suckiness this book is cursed with