My Favorite YA Book of 2011 Hands Down!

Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a masterpiece both in the storytelling and the lovely writing. Karou, which means hope, was raised by monsters called the chimaera. They are mythical animal/human creatures made up of different parts. Karou doesn’t know where she came from, only that all her memories involve her growing up in Brimstone’s shop where he deals in wishes and teeth. Karou lives in Prague where she is an art student. She wished her hair bright blue and it grows out of her head that way. She no longer lives in the shop, but Brimstone calls for her often, sending her on errands all over the world to retrieve teeth. She travels through portals linked to Brimstone’s shop. Brimstone is a harsh character that does love Karou and raised her with care along with three other chimaera. Issa appears to be her favorite. The half woman, half snake controls the portal doors. One day burned handprints appear on the doors and an angel starts stalking her. She and the angel share a history that will keep the reader wondering until the very end. Characters in this book are not always what they seem. One of the most interesting side plots of the story is the struggle between the different types of chimaera. The ones with a more human appearance are often envied by the more animalistic of the creatures. This envy takes the story on a dramatic twist. The worlds Taylor builds are lush and descriptive. I found myself looking up pictures of Prague and the Jewish Cemetery while reading this book. Here is a link to the cemetary.  She describes the cemetery as crooked teeth.  I wish Poison Kitchen was a real restaurant.  I would love to visit it.  The ending is very satisfying as well as sets up for her next book, which I am dying to read.   The book trailer is also amazing.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Chimaeras from folklore. Bring pictures.

Would they rather be seraphim or chimaeras?

If they could build a chimaeras what would it look like?

Talk about how there is a divide between chimaeras who look human and those who look like animals.

Talk about how Madrigal and Karou are different from each other.

How did your perception of Brimstone change throughout the book?

Talk about wishes. What kind of wishes would you make with scuppies? What kinds of wishes would be innocent and what kinds would be dangerous. What is something they would wish for that would be worth the risk?

Talk about Poison Kitchen.  Do they have a hang out that is that cool?

What does it mean to be resurrected?

Discuss this quote from Brimstone, “Hope is the real magic.”

Does this book remind you of Romeo and Juliet?

What do you think will happen next?

Creepy Inventive Tale That You Will Think About Long After The Book Is Done

Ever since he was a small child, Jacob’s grandfather told him strange stories about being raised on an island in a home for children. Their caregiver was an old bird named Miss Peregrine. Now Jacob is a teen and realizes the stories are crazy and the pictures that go with them must be some kind of trick. Right before his grandfather dies, he gives Jacob a cryptic message. Jacob is the one to find his grandfather killed and is the only one to witness the frightening monster who murdered him. His therapist convinces his parents to allow him to go to this island to fulfill his grandfather’s wish. Searching for the home where his grandfather grew up may give him some closure. Jacob and his father go to the island. The father is busy watching birds and leaves Jacob to do his own investigating. Jacob finally finds someone who will show him the way, he discovers the old house. A bomb hit it during World War II, which raises plenty of questions. Why would Miss Peregrine write to Jacob’s grandfather and ask him to return to a bombed out house? Jacob is drawn to the house, knowing there is more to all of this. When one of the children, who has never aged, finds him in the creepy basement, his adventure with time begins. Ransom Riggs created a fascinating story based on some very peculiar and often creepy old pictures. The pictures add a dimension of intensity and helps make the story come to life. I was reading this book late at night in bed and came upon the part where Jacob’s grandfather is killed by the monster. I then turned the page to find a terrifying sketch of the monster. I didn’t expect that and it made me shriek. I stopped reading it late at night after that. This book pulled me in right away and there was plenty of suspense to keep me interested. Readers who love a light scare will really enjoy this book.

It has the best book trailer I have ever seen!
Book Trailer

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss the pictures. If you have time, find old photographs and ask teens to make up stories using them.

What does the monster with the mouth tenticles represent? What would the monster of your nightmares look like?

Talk about similarities between the island and the escape of the Kindertransport during WWII.

Should Jacob stay to protect the children? What would you do?

What peculiar ability would you want to have?

Talk about the time the children live in. Would you want to be immortal, trapped in time?