Feature Book of the Week: Prisoner B- 3087 by Alan Gratz

Monday, September 28, 2015


Prisoner B-3087
Alan Gratz

Survive. At any cost.

10 concentration camps.

10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.

It's something no one could imagine surviving.

But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner -- his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.

He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.

Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will -- and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?

Based on an astonishing true story.

Author Post

Prisoner B-3087 was really tough book for me to write, because some of the things that happened to Jack were so horrible. At the same time, I think it's really important that we never forget those things happened, and so I was glad to be able to work with him to tell his story.

Jack and his wife Ruth took his story to Scholastic, and they immediately saw that it would make a great book. But neither Jack nor Ruth are writers, so Scholastic asked me to write the book. Once I heard Jack’s account of his time in the camps, I couldn't resist—it was such an incredible story! In particular, I liked that he survived. So many stories of the Holocaust of course did not end so well.

I worked on the book for a while before I ever met Jack in person, using what he and his wife had told Scholastic about his experiences in World War II and doing a lot of research on the concentration camps on my own. Then, about halfway through writing the first draft, I got to fly to New York and meet Jack. We spent the afternoon at the Holocaust Museum in Manhattan, where some artifacts of Ruth's time during the war are on display.

Jack's memory isn't what it once was, and he wasn't able to remember the answers to some of the questions I had for him. But then, when he read my first draft of the book, a lot of things came back to him! I think he needed the world of the book to help jog his memory. I'm pleased that I was able to write something that brought the past to life again for him, even if a great deal of that past was painful. Jack is one of the bravest people I've ever met.

Thanks so much for choosing Prisoner B-3087 for the Area-Wide Book Battle! I hope you enjoy it.

Alan Gratz

About the Author

Alan Gratz's first novel, Samurai Shortstop, was named one of the ALA's 2007 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults. His second novel,  Something Rotten, was a 2008 ALA Quick Pick for Young Adult Readers, and was followed by a sequel, Something Wicked, in October 2008. His first middle grade novel, The Brooklyn Nine,was one of the ALA's Top Ten Sports Books for Youth, and was followed in 2011 by Fantasy Baseball. His latest novels are Starfleet Academy: The Assassination Game and Prisoner B-3087His short fiction has appeared in Knoxville's Metropulse magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and in the anthologies Half-Minute Horrors and Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction, which benefits victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

As the first Artist in Residence at the American School in Japan in 2010, Alan spent six weeks teaching historical fiction-writing to middle school students in Tokyo, and he was the Thurber House Children's Writer in Residence in 2011, living and writing in James Thurber's attic for a month while working with young writers from all around the Columbus, Ohio area. 

In addition to writing plays, magazine articles, and a few episodes of A&E's City Confidential, Alan has taught catapult-building to middle-schoolers, written more than 6,000 radio commercials, sold other people's books, lectured at a Czech university, and traveled the galaxy as a space ranger. (One of these, it should be pointed out, is not true.)

Alan was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the 1982 World's Fair. After a carefree but humid childhood, Alan attended the University of Tennessee, where he earned a College Scholars degree with a specialization in creative writing, and, later, a Master's degree in English education. He now lives with his wife Wendi and his daughter Jo in the high country of Western North Carolina, where he enjoys reading, eating pizza, and, perhaps not too surprisingly, watching baseball. Learn more about Alan Gratz at his website.

Feature Book of the Week:Sidekicked by John David Anderson

Monday, September 21, 2015


John David Anderson

The Avengers meets Louis Sachar in this hilarious and action-packed tween novel by John David Anderson, which Publishers Weekly called a "superhero story that any comics fan will enjoy" in a starred review.
Andrew Bean might be a part of H.E.R.O., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn't mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds. First, there's Drew's power: Possessed of super senses—his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet—he's literally the most sensitive kid in school. Then there's his superhero mentor, a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than fighting crime. Add in trying to keep his sidekick life a secret from everyone, including his parents, and the truth is clear: Middle school is a drag even with superpowers.
But this is all before a supervillain long thought dead returns to the city of Justicia, superheroes begin disappearing at an alarming rate, and Drew's two identities threaten to crash head-on into each other. Drew has always found it pretty easy to separate right from wrong, good from evil. It's what a superhero does. But what happens when that line starts to disappear?

Author Post

Imaginations are heady things.

Sometimes, a lot of times, I use my imagination to get away. That’s the joy of being a writer (or one of the joys anyways, outside of all of the free chocolate you get when you go up to people and say, “Yo, I’m a writer, give me some chocolate.”)—this ability to transcend the mendacity of daily life to go open wardrobe doors and fight frosty queens alongside goat people or whatever. Or to blast off to outer space and pretend that Pluto is not only still a planet, but is, in fact, inhabited by a race of hyper-intelligent toddlers who have constructed a world completely out of Lincoln Logs. Imaginations are the ultimate escape routes. They are the travel agents of the mind. 

Sometimes, not too often, my imagination lets me get away with stuff. Like when I told my mother that I accidentally spilled fruit punch all down the front of my shirt because a bee landed on my thumb and scared the bee-jeezus out of me, causing my hand to jerk uncontrollably, when, in actuality, I had just poured it on my chest deliberately because I was pretending that an alien was bursting out of my chest and the fruit punch was the closest the thing we had to fake blood—the ketchup bottle being mostly empty and our jelly always being grape. On a related note, I probably watched too much cable television as a kid.

Sometimes, every once in a while, my imagination gets away from me. Those are the best times of all. Some people call them “moments of inspiration.” You can’t predict them. Sometimes they’re short little bursts, like brain sneezes. Like when you are thinking about something completely normal, like what to make for dinner, and all of the sudden an image of a chainsaw-wielding psycho zombie clown with one eyeball and a giant red bulbous clown nose like a ripe tomato pops into your head and asks you if you’d like some cotton candy, and you think to yourself—Man, where did that come from?

Or maybe that’s just me. Clowns freak me out a little.
Sometimes they are long reveries, those foggy, surreal daydreams, like you’re thinking in pastels or watercolors, everything swirling and chaotic and weird, but you catch hold of something, an inkling, a teaser trailer (complete with John Williams musical score) and your like, “Whoa. I gotta write this down,” but you don’t, because you are forgetful. And that darn clown is still chasing after you.
Still, it sits there, this fleeting inspiration, somewhere in that marvelous contraption we call a brain. And it germinates. And you work it lie a cow works cud, sometimes with that same doe-eyed expression that a cow gets, turning it over and over in your head, adding logic and form, pulling threads from the complex webs that populate the other places in your skull, and tying them all together, until you’ve taken that inspiration and turned into an idea. I’m told that’s called being creative.

Sidekicked started with one of those brain sneezes. An image of a boy dangling above a pool of acid waiting for someone to save him and knowing that no one’s gonna. And I pulled and tied and wove and trimmed and tucked and cursed until I had an idea, a question really, about who this kid was and why he wasn’t getting saved, and then those questions got answers and those answers became a novel. But it all started with that one image—and I have no idea where it came from or why, of the thousands of brain sneezes I get a day, that one stuck with me.    

People are always asking me where my ideas come from (after telling me that they don’t actually have any chocolate and I should really stop asking). I give all kinds of answers. Fairies. Muses. Other books. The world around me. Conversations with my kids. Things I overhear at the Great Clips. The truth is, I really don’t know.

We really don’t know. The imagination is still a mystery to us. A beautiful, wonderful, perplexing, frustrating, enchanting mystery. It may not exactly be the thing that makes us human, but it certainly makes being human more interesting. And I couldn’t imagine being without one.

Just don’t tell the clown.

About the Author

John David Anderson writes novels. Lots of novels. He just doesn't always get them published.  He is the author of SidekickedMinionStandard Hero Behavior, and the soon-to-be-released The Dungeoneers. He lives with his patient wife and brilliant twins in Indianapolis, Indiana, right next to a State park and a Walmart. He does not wear ties but will wear sandals in the snow. He enjoys hiking, reading, chocolate, spending time with his family, playing the piano, chocolate, making board games, chocolate, not putting away his laundry, watching movies, and chocolate. Those aren't his real teeth. Seriously. The middle four on top? Lost 'em in a car accident. It's all right, though, the plastic ones look nice and he can still eat corn on the cob. Learn more about John David Anderson on his website.

Feature Book of the Week: The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

Monday, September 14, 2015

Featured Book of the Week
The Neptune Project 
Polly Holyoke

Nere feels more at home swimming with the dolphins her mother studies than she does hanging out with her classmates. Nere has never understood why she feels so much more comfortable and confident in water than on land, but everything falls into place when Nere learns that she is one of a group of kids who-unbeknownst to them-have been genetically altered to survive in the ocean. These products of "The Neptune Project" will be able to build a better future under the sea, safe from the barren country's famine, wars, and harsh laws.

But there are some very big problems: no one asked Nere if she wanted to be a science experiment, the other Neptune kids aren't exactly the friendliest bunch, and in order to reach the safe haven of the Neptune colony, Nere and her fellow mutates must swim through hundreds of miles of dangerous waters, relying only on their wits, dolphins, and each other to evade terrifying undersea creatures and a government that will stop at nothing to capture the Neptune kids...dead or alive.

Fierce battles and daring escapes abound as Nere and her friends race to safety in this action-packed aquatic adventure.

Author Post 

I was excited to learn that The Neptune Project was going to a part of the Pattonville Area-wide Book Battle. I’m thrilled that students in Missouri will be trying to remember the details in my story because I spent months doing research to get those details right.
I have always been fascinated by the sea. Growing up in Denver, Colorado, I loved the rare family vacations where I actually had a chance to see the ocean and the beach. I’d gaze at the waves and wonder what it was really like beneath them. When I got home again, I’d talk my friends into playing dolphin and mermaids with me by the hour. In my twenties, my husband and I took up scuba diving, and it was so cool! I finally had a chance to see for myself the amazing world under the waves.

When I first dreamed up the premise of my Neptune books, that a group of genetically altered kids would have to go live in the sea, I faced two challenges. I didn’t know any oceanography and I really didn’t know genetics. But I grew up in a family where if I didn’t know something, my parents encouraged me to look it up. When I was little, that meant digging into the Encyclopedia Britannica. We were the proud owners of both a kid set and a grown up set.  I remember gazing at fascinating pictures and reading articles about everything from dinosaurs to dolphins. Later, when I went on to college, I went to a small school that encouraged its students to do detailed research using all sorts of original sources and documents.

That’s why I was confident I could do the research for a book set almost entirely in the sea, and I was right. I dove right in, so to speak, and had a blast learning all about the rich marine life of the Channel Islands and the Northwest. I found out that dolphins sleep with one half of their brains awake, and that orcas live in family groups their entire lives. Sea wasps, or box jellyfish, actually kill more people every year than sharks do. Every day I learn more fascinating facts about the sea.

           Orcas swimming in the Gulf of Alaska


I recently heard a local library director just assumed I was a marine biologist. I also had a young fan tell me, “I had no idea all those cool animals were down there.” Those are some of the nicest compliments my research and my books have ever received!


I grew up in Colorado and love hiking, camping and skiing in the mountains. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude from Middlebury College in Vermont and earned my teaching certificate from the University of Colorado. I taught middle school social studies for almost a decade before leaving teaching to concentrate on my writing career. I've always LOVED reading and wrote my first book, RUSTLERS OF THE HIGH COUNTRY, with my best friend when I was in fifth grade. This remarkable tale about two little girls outwitting horse thieves never was published, but it did get me hooked on writing stories.

My husband introduced me to scuba diving, and I've been fortunate enough to dive all over the world. Like my heroine, Nere, I am claustrophobic, though, so I don't dive in wrecks or lava tubes anymore.

I live with three sweet dogs, two lazy cats and a very nice husband who puts up with piles of books all over our house. I love going to work in my pajamas and getting paid for daydreaming.  

If you would like to know more about this author or her books check out her website.
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