Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beneath the Surface: UnderCover Week

Summer is in full swing here at the library:  we're seeing an influx of kids, teens and adults coming in for books, computers, and summer reading programs.

In the Teen Room, our summer reading theme is "Beneath the Surface."  We are using our weekly drop-in activities to explore this theme in a variety of ways.  Teens can join us Monday through Thursday afternoons from 1-4 for crafts, quizzes, and fun snacks. 

Our weekly theme for June 10-14 is "Go Beneath the Surface - UnderCover week."  Our activities include spy diguises, trivia quizzes, observation hunts, and survival crafts.

Along with completing our fun activities, why not pick up one of the following titles from our Young Adult fiction and nonfiction collection?  All of them feature undercover characters, thrilling action, and exciting gadgets.

Liar's Moon, Elizabeth Bunce:   In this mystery/fantasy hybrid, Bunce follows the story of Digger, a female pickpocket who finds herself in prison for the night. While there, she discovers that a good friend is imprisoned for the alleged murder of his wife, and is due to be executed. Digger knows that the man is innocent, so when she is released from her cell, she vows to use her skills as a spy - and a thief - to uncover the truth. What she finds is a complicated political plot and a mystery that even she cannot solve.  This book is a sequel to Bunce's Star-Crossed, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. Bunce is a gifted writer whose rich characters and complex plots completely absorb her readers.

Etiquette and Espionage, Gail Carriger:  Genre-blending is one of the hottest new trends of YA literature, and this tale is one example.  The main character, Sophronia, is what we would call a "tomboy." She would rather climb trees, take apart machinery, and make messes than sit for tea and crumpets, causing embarrassment to her family.  She is enrolled in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to learn how to behave like a lady. But she soon discovers that the school is really a floating airship charged with teaching the skills of espionage.  "Proper" ladies and gentlemen are combined with dirigibles, robots, werewolves, and vampires, making this story a steampunk mystery and adventure. A good prequel for next week's steampunk summer reading activities!

I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You, Ally Carter:  Set in a spy school for girls, this novel centers on 15-year-old Cammie, the headmistress's daughter, who must decide if she is cut out for a life of secrets. Cammie and her friends take classes in 14 different language, covert operations, and self-defense. But when Cammie, known as the Chameleon for her ability to disappear in public places, is spotted by a cute boy named Josh in the middle of the town fair, she begins a new mission: learning to be an ordinary girlfriend. Cammie soon leads a double life, and must decide which one is right for her.  This is the first in the Gallagher Girls series; the author has written five books in this series, as well as Heist Society, her second YA series.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:   No list of mystery and detective stories would be complete without a nod to this classic character.  Sherlock Holmes has been the character inspiration for many detectives of fiction and movies, and yet his cool intelligence in solving mysteries has never quite been duplicated. Doyle wrote the adventures as short stories, making this a good choice for a reader who does not want to commit to a longer novel. 

 Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz: Alex Rider's world is turned upside down when he discovers that his uncle and guardian has been murdered. The 14-year-old makes one discovery after another until he is sucked into his uncle's undercover world. The Special Operations Division of M16, his uncle's real employer, blackmails the teen into serving England. After two short weeks of training, Alex is equipped with several special toys like a Game Boy with unique cartridges that allow it to scan, fax, and emit smoke bombs. Alex's mission is to complete his uncle's last assignment, to discover the secret that Herod Sayle is hiding behind his generous donation of one of his supercomputers to every school in the country. This is the first title in Horowitz's perenially-popular series; eight other titles continue to follow Alex's adventures.

Evil Genius, Catherine Jinks:  Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot? This older YA novel is the first in a trilogy:  the other titles are Genius Squad and Genius Wars.

Death Cloud, Andrew Lane: Before he was the detective whose calm intelligence made him the curse of criminals, Sherlock Holmes was a teenager, brushing up on his powers of deduction and becoming the curse of one very nasty criminal indeed. This series introduces a 14-year-old Sherlock who's been left at his uncle's estate during the holidays. A new friend, a clever tutor, and the tutor's pretty daughter aren't enough to keep Sherlock out of trouble (well, actually, they're part of the trouble) when a mysterious cloud and several unfortunate deaths draw him into a malevolent plotter's web.  The first of a series, this is the only Sherlock Holmes spin-off to be officially endorsed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate.

Sovay, Celia Rees: Rees brings us another example of her excellent historical fiction, this time following the story of Sovay, a British socialite caught up in international intrigue. Raised in the English countryside during the French Revolution, 17-year-old Sovay embarks on a mission to find her missing father and brother, who've been condemned for supporting the Revolution. Her search takes her to dangerous corners of London and Paris, where she plays the roles of highway robber, spy and socialite to gather clues and outwit a treacherous villain who desires to overthrow Britain's throne.

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein: Another historical novel, Code Name Verity was named a Michael Printz honor book for excellence in YA fiction. Julia is an unnamed prisoner, formerly a wireless operator for the British, held captive in France by a seemingly sadistic Nazi interrogator. She has supposedly "sold her soul" in exchange for small bits of freedom, giving pieces of code in exchange for her life. Interspersed with the story of her fierce fight for survival is a different tale: that of how she came to be in France and of her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, a British civilian pilot.  As Julia tells their story, she also reveals small bits of her attempts at survival and escape. In the second half of the book, Maddie narrates, telling of her desperate attempts to rescue her friend and revealing both the truth of what happened to each of them, and the truth of Julia's bravery.

101 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius, by Brad Graham:  This nonfiction guide is packed with a wide variety of sleuthing contraptions you can build yourself, with some knowledge of electronics and access to electrical parts.  Find out how to disable several spy devices by hacking easily available appliances into cool tools of your own, and even turn the tables on the snoopers by using gadgetry to collect information on them. This is an excellent nonfiction title for readers who would rather make things than read stories; there is some expertise involved in creating the gadgets.

Stop by the library to pick up one of these titles, or ask us to help you find other choices.  Then go "Beneath the Surface" of a great book this summer!

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