Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Teen Read Week Short Story Contest

National Teen Read Week was October 7th – 13th. To celebrate, the Magee Library again asked for original short stories based on this year’s theme, It’s Written in the Stars. Students at Magee High School were encouraged to participate through their English class. Entries submitted were judged on originality and enjoyment. The winning entry was titled, The Galactic Runaway, by Preston Grim.
Preston is a tenth grader at Magee High School. The 15-year-old is new to the area as he and his family moved to Magee this past summer. Preston enjoys writing and got ideas for his story by talking with his friend. He entered the contest in his English class taught by Pam Rodgers.
The Magee Library would like to thank all the teens that submitted stories, the English teachers at Magee High School for their support, and the Magee Courier and MageeNews.com for publishing the winning story.

Written in the stars: The Galactic Runaway
It was an unusually starry night in Austin, Texas. 16 year old, Brett Ellis, is up late playing Fortnite with his friends. Breo glow under his bed. He puts his hand under the bed, and he starts to pull out a medium-sized metal orb. The orb is about the size and weight of a soccer ball. The orb starts to hiss again, and then "POP!" The orb opens. Once all the smoke clears from the orb, Brett passes-out, fore he had just seen an Alien.
tt's parents went out of town the other night, leaving him home alone with his dog, Chelsea. Brett finally decides to call it a night and heads upstairs to his room. When he steps in his room, he sees glass all over the floor. He instantly thinks there is another person in the house, and he isn't wrong, but it's not a person.
He starts to hear a "hiss," but it wasn't from an animal. It sounded more like it was from a machine. He looks and sees something starting tBrett woke up thinking he just had a weird dream. He stnads up and looks on his bed to see a small alien sleeping in his bed. He yells, and his dog, Chelsea, runs up and jumps on the Alien. The Alien wakes up, and screams with a loud pitch. Once the alien stops screaming, Brett pulls out a baseball bat and starts to swing at the alien.
"Wait, Wait, Wait," yells the Alien. "Let me explain myself."
Brett is amazed by the fact an Alien is speaking fluent English. He lowers the bat, but doesn't put it down.
"My name is Notserp, I am from the planet Ippississim. I'm just running away from home, because I am tired of my father's stupid rules. I encountered troubles with my ship while trying to make out of the universe and crashed into the Milky Way Galaxy, again. We have about 2 days before my father comes to bring me back home. I hope he doesn't do what he did last time. "
"What happened last time?" asked Brett.
"Well, last time I crashed into planet Earth, I crashed into Antarctica, and let's just say it wasn't always barren." explained Notserp.
Brett thought of all his friends and family and decided to help Notserp find his ship. He packed his stuff and brought food and water for himself and Chelsea. "So, where are we going first?" Brett asked.
"Well, according to my calculations, my ship landed at the coordinates 30.50904 0 N, 97.67722 0 E," said Notserp.
Brett pulls out his phone to type in the coordinates. Notserp climbed in Brett's backpack and caught a bus. The coordinates brought Brett to the city of Round Rock, Texas. Notserp had said the ship had auto-landed in the middle of Cedar Ridge High School's courtyard. When they arrived, the school was shut down by the U.S Government. Notserp and Brett thought of many different ways to get the ship back. By the time they were done strategizing, it was night time. Brett decided to call a friend he knew in the area, and they were able to spend the night at his friend's house.
When he arrived to his friend's house, he was kind of nervous about telling him why he was talking to his backpack. When he finally summonded the courage to do so, someone started banging on the door to the house.
"FBI OPEN UP," screamed the FBI officer just before he knocked down the door leading in a swarm of officers. Brett grabbed his bag and jumped out the back window. He starts running as fast as he could. He wasn't thinking of anything else; he just ran.
Meanwhile in Austin, Texas, Brett's parents arrived back home from their vacation. They call his name asking him to come downstairs. There is no reply. His parents go upstairs to see a broken window, and there son, gone.
Brett finally stops running after realizing Chelsea is hungry and tired. His phone starts buzzing; it's his parents calling. He answers the phone and tells his parents he spent the night at Brandon's house. When they asked about the broken window, he just told them some kids were throwing around a baseball. His parents believed his story. He hung up the phone and opened up the bag only to find homework. He had grabbed the wrong bag. He instantly thinks everything is over. He gives up, and waits for an alien invasion to happen.
The FBI had taken Notserp and started to analyze him. Notserp's father was only hours away.
Brett uses the rest of his money to buy a bus ticket back to Austin. His parents are glad to see him, but he tells them what's about to happen. They think he is just speaking nonsense. Then a few hours later the news came on...a massive UFO was entering Earth's orbit.
As Notserp's father's ship enters Earth's orbit, Notserp's father prepares the ice beam. As he prepares to destroy Texas, a loud "clunk" was heard outside the ship. The ship's screen says identified ship in loading dock. It was Notserp's ship.
A little while earlier in Round Rock, Texas, Notserp had escaped from the FBI, and had gone straight to the school. He assumed since so many FBI officers were at Brandon's House that only a few would be at the school guarding his ship. He was right. Stealing his ship back, he flew straight to his father's ship.
Notserp's father still mad was still bound and determined to fire the ice beam and make Texas a barren state of ice. Notserp tried to run over to his father before he could do it, but he was too late.
Brett and Chelsea are outside playing. He looks up into the sky and sees a white beam. Coming right towards Austin, Texas..
Brett gasps as he woke up, startled from the wildest dream ever. Chelsea jumps on his bed trying to get him to come outside. He goes to open the door, and when he opens it, he sees snow and ice everywhere. In the middle of summer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

If you are a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse books, you will not want to miss this collection of short stories set in Grisha. Bardugo relates that these folk tales and fairy tales are of the sort the characters in her Grishaverse novels might have heard when they were growing up. No worries if you haven’t read the Grishaverse novels, but this book might lead you to them.

Six tales, each magical and mysterious in its own way, await you. The Witch of Duva is a tale reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel but much edgier. In The Too-Clever Fox, a hunter is traveling throughout the countryside eradicating the animals in the forest. Koja, a clever fox thinks to outsmart the hunter. Can the less-than-perfect second daughter of a poor family save the village from the ravenous monster, who is a second son of the king? Read  Ayama and the Thorn Wood to find the answer. If you are into mermaids, When Water Sang Fire will be one not to miss. 

All six of these tales capture the imagination. Some will teach a valuable lesson. As you turn the pages, do not miss the ever-changing illustrations in each story. They are almost as interesting as the stories.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book Review: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds


Award winner.
Coretta Scott King Honor
Newbery Honor
Printz Honor
Walter Dean Myer Award

Written in free verse
(which is not my thing),
I sat down one morning
to try and force my way through.
But before I knew it
I couldn’t turn the pages
fast enough to
keep the story going.           

Brother Shawn murdered and
Will knows the neighborhood rules:

    1.   Crying. Don’t.
No matter what.
    2.   Snitching. Don’t.
No Matter what.
    3.   Revenge. Do.
    No matter what.

So he finds his brother’s gun
and he’s on his way
to right a wrong
when the elevator
sets him on an otherworldly trip.

From the 8th floor to
the ground floor, the deceased
will step on with a little word
or two for Will.

Don’t want to give
too much away.
You need to experience
this book for yourself.
See the cycle
of violence some live
each day.

What does Will do?
Follow the
neighborhood rules
or break the cycle?
No regrets 
will you experience
from having read
this novel.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A novel ripped from the headlines but in this case, we are given unlimited access to the thoughts and feelings of the central character. What an eye-opener that is for the reader! You may have heard of this book even if you haven’t read it yet.  A debut novel, it quickly because a New York Times best seller for this Mississippi author.

Starr Carter lives in a poor, black neighborhood and attends school at a posh suburban prep school. It’s like she’s trying to balance two separate lives. After attending a party in the neighborhood that breaks up due to a fight and gunshots, Starr is in the car with her childhood friend, Khalil, when they are pulled over by police. In front of her eyes, the unarmed Khalil is shot and killed by police. Starr is thrust into the aftermath – social unrest, police investigation, grand jury testimony, media coverage – all while trying to deal with her grief and anger.

This is a well-told story. There are too many components to mention them all. Starr’s father wants to stay in the neighborhood; Starr’s mother wants to move to the suburbs. Starr’s boyfriend is white, and her father doesn’t know about him. One of Starr’s best friends at school is a racist that doesn’t even realize she is one (and it takes Starr a while to figure that out). Khalil might have been a drug dealer but if he is, will you be sympathetic when you hear why? Starr wants to do the right thing but she is scared and what she says or does not say may destroy her community and endanger her life and the life of her family.

I agree with a review I read that this is a book that should be read by everyone, not just teens. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Do you think about what someone might be doing when you send them a text?  Do you ever send a text when you think/know they might be driving?  In Goodbye Days, Carver Briggs is waiting on his three best friends (Mars, Eli, and Blake) to pick him up from work, and he sends them a simple text:

 Where are you guys? Text me back.

Their vehicle rear-ends a semi-truck and all three teenagers are killed.  When the driver’s phone is recovered, it contains a partial response to Carver’s text. This book covers the ensuing days with flashbacks thrown in.  Carver deals with guilt, grief, and the possibility of criminal charges for negligent manslaughter.  He starts a friendship with the girlfriend of one of his friends and she is an ally at school where no one knows how to treat him anymore.  Blake’s grandmother wants Carver to spend a goodbye day with her to share memories and say goodbye to Blake.  Eventually, Carver will spend a goodbye day with Eli’s and Mars’ family as well. 

I picked this book to read because I had previously read The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, and it was a truly good read.  This book did not disappoint.  It was thought-provoking.  I also learned a few new words like pareidolia, synesthesia, and oeuvre.  In his previous novel (and this one as well), I feel connected to the characters.   Both novels also touch on teens questioning the religion of their parents.  This is a natural question during the teenage years:  Do I share my parents’ beliefs?  Zentner speaks to this issue without belittling or negating anyone’s belief system. 

One of the lines I liked:  “For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house.  Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”