More Recent Reads

For this past month’s Guys Read book club meeting we were to have read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. I’d read it before so I went with the sequel Homeland. They are cool books but I’m glad they weren’t around when I was in high school/college or I’d be even more anti-authoritarian than I am now!

They both mostly take place in San Francisco.  In the first one some techie high school kids skipping school find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time when a bridge is blown up by terrorists. They get nabbed by DHS and are not treated well. The protagonist sets up an underground computer network exploiting a little-known connectivity feature on a game console. This allows these guys to communicate and work on bringing down The Man.

In the sequel he’s joined an independent candidate’s campaign but gets caught up helping to unleash a cache of secret documents exposing further abuses perpetrated by some of these shadowy organizations. It’s all very exciting and terrifying at the same time. Makes you definitely paranoid, that’s for sure. They can be didactic but will connect with this age group far more quickly than 1984 will (and the protagonist recommends 1984 as well anyway). So there’s hope for the future!

For the Reader’s Rally team I’ve finished May B. by Caroline Starr Rose, The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor and Mountain Dog by Magarita Engle.

Coincidentally, May B. and Mountain Dog are both written in a free verse style.  It seems to work better in Mountain Dog better for some reason, but I’m no expert.

May B. is a Little House on the Prairie survivor tale! A young girl (twelve, I believe) is  living in what is now Kansas with her family in a sod house. She is sent to help out a new married couple some miles away “until near Christmas” for which her parents are paid. The couple are a man around the same age as her father who is not as adept at frontier life (their “soddy” is still under construction and leaky) and a young wife not much older than May who is most unhappy in this new situation. She runs off and the husband goes after her. May B. ends up alone much longer than expected and as winter comes it is unclear how long she will make it. And are those wolves she hears outside at night?

Owen Jester is a fun tale of a boy and his friends who hear “something big” fall off a train one night and go to investigate.  It turns out to be a personal sized submarine meant for a water park show thing. They aren’t planning to steal it. They just want to figure a way to get it down to the lake to try it out without anyone noticing. But they make have to make an alliance with the horrible nosy Viola who lives nearby. Ugh.

Mountain Dog is the best of these three. It’s about a troubled boy from L.A. who has recently been taken from his mother who has just gone to prison for running a dogfighting ring.  He’s sent to live with a great uncle he didn’t know he had who lives up in the Sierra Nevadas training search and rescue dogs. His current dog, Gabe, bonds with and helps the boy, Tony, learn to heal and become excited about life again. Now his only fear is being sent away from this idyllic situation. The chapters alternate between the boy and the dog and the free verse lends itself not only to the dogs unusual animal point of view but to the boy’s jumbled emotions. I wondered about the title though. It’s really a story about the boy. To be called Mountain Dog and have only the dog on the cover seems a bit of a stretch. Gabe is important to the boy, but not the only central thing in the novel. But so far it’s probably the favorite of the Reader’s Rally team.

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