Thursday, July 30, 2015

Guys Read: True Stories

Guys Read: True Stories
Jon Scieszka (Editor)
3.5 / 5

Published 2014

First Sentence
"Have you ever imagined what it would be like to grow up in Vietnam during a war, to hunt for tarantulas in the Amazon, to learn how to play the guitar using a wire from an old broom, to almost die canoeing down a wild Alaskan river?"
Publisher's Description:
Jon Scieszka's Guys Read anthology series for tweens turns to nonfiction in its fifth volume, True Stories. The fifth installment in the Guys Read Library of Great Reading features ten stories that are 100% amazing, 100% adventurous, 100% unbelievable—and 100% true. A star-studded group of award-winning nonfiction authors and journalists provides something for every reader, all aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Compiled and edited by real-life literature legend Jon Scieszka, Guys Read: True Stories is a mind-blowing collection of essays, biographies, how-to guides, and more, all proving that the truth is most definitely out there.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

Dear Reader,

You'll have to take my rating of this book with a grain of salt: I am clearly NOT the intended audience for this book. But, since I had plans to pass it on to my sole nephew for when he grows a little older, I wanted to see what I was handing over! I figured it would be a quick read, and it was. I read the entire book except for the section on tarantulas, which I requested Troy read for me (he kindly did, and agreed it was a good idea for arachnophobic me to have avoided it at all costs).

Shelf Notes received copies of this book before last year's BEA, and unfortunately I did not have enough time to read it before our amazing interview with Jon. Our conversation with him quickly turned us into converts over an idea we had been somewhat uncertain about - we wondered why boys needed special books! But the website and book series' dynamic editor explained the founding principles so well that we were sold. (See the interview to understand his motivations!) However, I think it important to point out that I do hope the title also won't deter girls from reading what I think is a great collection of content.

The book itself was not something I would have probably gravitated towards when I was younger, "Guys" in the title or not. It took me years to even understand how non-fiction was not always as dry as our school textbooks, and while I usually love a documentary, it often takes a lot to get me to watch one over a fictional movie. So right away I was wary of whatever might be inside. But I really enjoyed the first chapter, which told the story of a shipwreck which left its men stranded in the Sahara - with so little water that they ended up having to drink their own urine to survive! Their daring in betting their lives on rescue was fascinating. (And I loved that there were ties to my home state, as well.) The second piece I read was a "graphic novel" take on the story of a man left for dead in the Wild West, which I also enjoyed (particularly the way it was framed, and the humorous quips throughout).  I was thrilled reading the life story of Muddy Waters and his influence on modern rock n' roll. And the story of Jumbo the elephant was great - having a sister who attended Tufts I knew of his final days, but I had no idea of his storied history before then!

The other stories won't stick with me as much: I found myself racing to get through the one about the men fishing and white-water canoeing, although I think it could really resonate with a young kid itching for adventure. Same with the piece on becoming a cartoonist, although I think it teaches a great lesson about how one can find a niche career in a field they love, even if it's not what they expected. I also enjoyed the story of the girl and her many brothers growing up in Vietnam, but I had forgotten it was included in the book until I re-read the table of contents. Same with the piece on the history of dental care, although I do think that would also really appeal to those who love gory medical procedures! The "uni-verses" piece just wasn't my jam, but it was a clever way to teach (and help a kid remember) certain physics concepts.

All in all, I think the book will have something to offer everyone - even if they don't take to the entire book - which is the entire point, I believe. The editor wanted a kid to pick up the book, find a piece that interested them, and perhaps look for a book where they could read more - or, if they liked the writing style, they could use the recommended reads section in the back of the book. All in all, I think this was a great project and an excellent collection - and I'd eagerly check out more books in this series!


Guys Read: True Stories

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