Category Archives: Cracking the Hub

Cracking The Hub Book 25 & aftermath​

White BicycleThe last book that I read for the Cracking the Hub Challenge was The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna which was a 2013 Printz Honor Book.
The White Bicycle is the story of Taylor who is in France for the summer as a personal care assistant to the son of her mother’s boyfriend. Taylor is concerned that her mother and her boyfriend might get married during the summer which would leave a gaping hole in her resume. She couldn’t after all put “personal care assistant” on her resume if she was taking care of a relative.
Taylor has a condition on the Autism Spectrum, and has had a difficult time going through school. Now she has friends and wants to become independent – the real reason the state of her resume is of such concern for her. In many ways the summer is a time where Taylor asserts her independence from her mother and starts to make decisions about her identity and what she wants to do with her life. This book is emotionally affecting and a wonderful read. The cover does connect to the storyline but seems rather dull and washed out, so look past the cover and enjoy the splendid writing and identify with your own search for independence from your parents.
After three and a half months of furiously reading and writing I am proud to say I cracked The Hub Challenge. I read outside of my usual interests and was able to find some unexpected favorites (Bernadette, One Shot at Forever, Dodger, The White Bicycle, Bomb, The Running Dream), a few books that I just didn’t really enjoy (Pure, Daredevil), and some books that although they weren’t comfortable reads, I doubt I’ll forget them (Girlchild, Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am, Stargazing Dog).
I was even able to write a reader’s response to one of the books (Dodger) and post it on The Hub blog.
When I took some of these books to Madison and Denny Middle Schools, the absolute teen favorite was Ultimate Comics Spiderman. I couldn’t even keep an eye on the book because a teen would snatch it up and read it immediately. In all, I’m happy that I took The Hub Challenge, and I’m really glad I was able to read 25 of the books before the challenge’s end.
What do you think – should I take this challenge again next year?
You can find the list of all 25 books I read for the challenge, on our catalog.

Cracking the Hub: Stargazing Dog, Bomb & Daredevil

I finished The Hub Challenge just before the deadline!
 The 22nd book I read was, Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami.
Stargazing Dog made it onto the Great Graphic Novels for Teens this year.  It is the story of a dog who is adopted by a young girl, and the changes he sees his family go through over the years.  His “daddy” – the one who takes him for walks and talks to him – goes through a crisis which leads to a long road trip to Northern Japan on dwindling resources.
Even weeks after finishing the book I’m still thinking over how the themes of friendship, death, poverty, homelessness, family, and loyalty were seamlessly woven into this short graphic novel: this thought-provoking story portrays a side of homelessness from the point of view of a loyal pet, and those who read it will likely find themselves more empathetic to the situations of all members of the community.  Also, if you’re following local events, it’s interesting to first read this story set in a different country and then read local news reports about homelessness in the Seattle Community. Continue reading

Cracking the Hub: Annie Sullivan, The Round House & Juvenile in Justice

I finished The Hub Challenge just before the deadline.  The nineteenth book I read for the Challenge was Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert.

No doubt we all have heard about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.  They made education history when Annie Sullivan was able to break through into Helen Keller’s world, introduce her to language, and help her communicate with others.  As one of the Great Graphic Novels of the year we see this transformation, in pictures with few words, from the perspective of Annie Sullivan.
It’s been awhile since I learned about Helen Keller and her teacher.  Most of what I have learned until this point was about Helen Keller herself.  This graphic novel puts more emphasis on who Annie Sullivan was, her challenges growing up, her forthright personality that made living in the South difficult, and her attachment to her student and companion Helen Keller.  This was a fascinating read and thoroughly explores what it must have felt like for them both along their journey. Continue reading

Cracking the Hub: Trinity, Prom & Prejudice, Spiderman

I finished The Hub Challenge  just before the deadline.  The sixteenth book I read for the Challenge was Trinity by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm.
Unsurprisingly, Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb is on the list of 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens. This is a history of the first atomic bomb in graphic novel format. The author does an amazing job of explaining some of the science behind the bomb. What I found most interesting though was how through the graphic novel you could see how the scientists just wanted to see if something COULD be done, but after the bomb was used, started to ponder whether it SHOULD have been done.
Verdict – the excellent graphics and writing explain in a simple way the science behind the atomic bomb.  This is one book that shouldn’t be missed. Continue reading

Cracking the Hub: Dodger, Struts & Frets and more

reading challenge logo - finisher

I finished The Hub Challenge  just before the deadline! 

The next three titles I read to finish the challenge are: Dodger, Struts and Frets, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett was a 2013 Printz Honor Book about a guttersnipe living in Victorian-Era London.  He makes a living my being a “tosher”Dodger – someone who walks through the sewers of London picking up anything of value that has washed down the drains.  One night he emerges from the sewer to see a young girl trying to escape from two thugs, and he rescues her.  Now Dodger is on a mission.  He is going to make sure she’s safe from whoever is after her.  That determination brings him into contact with “peelers” (police), journalists (most notably Charles Dickens who I liked much more in this book than by anything I’ve ever read BY him), Sweeney Todd (the murderous barber), and Queen Victoria.

This is one of my favorite books of this challenge.  Once I put it down I wished I could immediately pick up another adventure with good old Dodger at the helm.  He’s charismatic, honorable (despite his best intentions), people smart, and full of adventure.  I had seen this book mentioned by librarians all over the country as a favorite.  I just hadn’t been motivated to pick it up to read for myself until this challenge.  I waited too long.  This is one exceptional read. 
What do you think – if the underbelly of London society had a yearbook, what would they write about good ole Dodger?

Cracking the Hub: My Friend Dahmer

reading challenge logo - finisher

Last week I finished The Hub Challenge just before the deadline elapsed.  Stay tuned to see if I win any prizes. 

Back to the books.  The twelfth book I finished for this challenge was My Friend Dahmer by Derf (Backderf).

My Friend Dahmer was honored by the Great Graphic Novels, Alex Awards, and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. It is a graphic novel about the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and the author who was Dahmer’s friend during high school.
The artwork is notable.  It imparts meaning, despair, suspense, and an overwhelming creepiness.  We know what Dahmer ended up doing, but in those carefree days of high school Backderf and his friends had no clue of what their “mascot” Dahmer would do as an adult.  The reader sees a young man isolated from society and enduring a difficult family situation while trying to restrain and dampen the disturbing urges emerging from the recesses of his mind.  His friends saw an increasingly strange and self-medicating Dahmer withdrawing from high school life.
This was a quick read.  It was a fascinating read, and ultimately it will be an unforgettable read.  For those of our readers who are on the queasy side of things – don’t worry, most of the disturbing events happen off the page and are merely alluded to in drawings and text.  When you read this graphic novel – don’t skip the Sources section where you learn more about how the author researched the book as well as more details of Backderf and Dahmer’s adolescence and adulthood.
What do you think – should the author have included more detail about Dahmer’s crimes in this graphic novel?

Cracking the Hub: Love and Other Perishable Items

Hub Reading ChallengeI’ve been reading steadily through The Hub Challenge.  I just finished my eleventh book, Love and Other Perishable Items, by Laura Buzo.

Love and Other Perishable Items was nominated for the Morris Award – which honors a book written for young adults by a previously unpublished author.  Readers are introduced to fifteen-year-old Amelia as she 1) starts her first job and 2) starts crushing on her unattainable university-aged coworker, Chris.  Amelia and Chris are both searching for meaning in their lives.  Amelia is infatuated with Chris and doesn’t stop thinking about him, but there is much about Chris that she doesn’t know.  In Chris’s diary entries we learn more about him: his crushing depression, despondency, self-medication with drugs and alcohol, and Amelia is barely mentioned.
I liked how the author switched perspectives and writing styles in this novel.  After all, don’t most people want to know what’s really going on in the minds of the person they’re crushing on?  There are a lot of adult situations regarding drugs, alcohol, and sexual situations in this book – I’m not sure if this is because of cultural differences between the U.S. and Australia, or just the world the author wished to create for the story.  It also bothered me that the Amelia’s parents are pretty much absent from her life.  This becomes a fairly important plot point in the novel.
What do you think – where are all the parents in YA lit, and does this story read like something that should be published for adults or teens?