Another Day

Another Day is a companion novel to Every Day by David Levithan. I strongly recommend you read Every Day first. Is it absolutely essential? Well, no…but it will help to alleviate a bit of confusion if you read A’s story first. (There will still be some confusion, but that’s to be expected with books like these. If you don’t already, you’ll soon realize what I mean.)

Two years ago, I read Every Day by the wonderful David Levithan. I admit that I wasn’t totally sold on the book at first. The more I thought about it, though, the more intrigued I became. So when I got the opportunity to read the long-awaited companion novel, Another Day, via NetGalley, I jumped on it. Well, as it so often does, life interfered with my reading plans, and I wasn’t able to finish Another Day as quickly as I would have liked. (I wanted to read it before its release on August 25th, but I didn’t quite make it.) Anyway, I finally finished the book last night, and I think I liked it even more than I did the first book. It may have had something to do with the protagonist being a little more relatable. I don’t know, but I’m hoping another book in this series will help me–and the characters–figure things out.

For Rhiannon, each day is basically just like every other. She deals with her parents (who seem to be totally checked out), she goes to school, and she tries to figure out what kind of mood her boyfriend Justin is in. Sometimes he notices and seems to appreciate her presence; at other times, he’s distant, moody, and even mean. She never really knows what she’s going to get with him, but it’s never what she wants.

One day, though, Rhiannon notices a change in Justin. He’s nice to her. He’s attentive. He wants to spend the day with her. Has he turned a corner and realized just what she means to him? It certainly seems so when he suggests they skip school and spend the entire day at the beach. They really talk to each other for the first time, and Rhiannon feels like she’s seeing a whole new Justin, a Justin who is the boyfriend she’s always hoped for. Unfortunately for Rhiannon, this perfect day cannot last…

When Rhiannon encounters Justin the next day, he’s distant once more and doesn’t remember much about their day at the beach. Rhiannon isn’t sure what’s going on, but she knows it’s something big. She just doesn’t realize how big or how this something is going to change her life, her relationships, and how she perceives the world as a whole.

On that one perfect day, Justin wasn’t really Justin. He was A, a boy (?) who inhabits a new body each day. Every day, A is someone different, and when Rhiannon is confronted with the reality of what’s happening, she’s confused, disbelieving…and enthralled with this being who goes to great lengths to be with her when her own boyfriend barely notices her.

As A and Rhiannon grow closer, Rhiannon is torn by the double life she’s leading. Part of her still loves Justin, but another part realizes that A is the one who truly loves and sees her. How can she reconcile these two existences? Should she stay with Justin because he’s always the same, or should she take a risk on a very uncertain future with A? Can she cope with the fact that she never knows what A will look like–or even what gender he will be–from day to day?

Very soon, both Rhiannon and A will have to make some difficult choices. Will they try to work things out despite the obstacles? Or will they go back to the lives they knew before? Is that even possible now?

Read Another Day to learn how a seemingly impossible situation opens one girl’s eyes to the truth about love, perception, and relationships worth keeping at all costs.

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Another Day takes a close look at a girl in a bad relationship. No, Justin never hit Rhiannon or anything like that, but he chipped at her self-esteem and made her feel like she had to walk on eggshells all the time. I imagine that quite a few teens (and adults) will relate to this experience. Maybe Rhiannon’s relationships with both Justin and A will help some people to realize that there’s more out there. They don’t have to stay with a person who treats them badly. “At least he doesn’t hit me” is no reason to keep someone around. Good guys (and girls) are out there…but even being alone is better than being with someone who’s bad for you. (I’m personally a big fan of being alone…but that’s just me.)

I don’t know what else I can say about this book. I enjoyed it. I think it was better than Every Day. (I do admit that it’s been two years since I read the first book. I might feel differently if I reread it.) The series as a whole is rather different from most other stuff out there, and I really hope that there’s another book coming out in the future. (I have reason to hope that there will be.)

If you’re intrigued by the premise of both Every Day and Another Day (and the prequel novella Six Earlier Days), you can learn more at author David Levithan’s website. Enjoy!

All the Rage

For the past week or so, I’ve been reading All the Rage by Courtney Summers, and I was finally able to finish it last night. (Thank you, NetGalley.) This book, which will be released on Tuesday, is not a light, easy read. It deals with some very serious, sensitive issues, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Sometimes, I simply had to put the book aside and read something a bit less intense and disturbing. And if this book–which addresses things like date rape, victim-blaming, bullying, etc.–doesn’t disturb you on some level, then you’re not paying attention.

Romy Grey is the town pariah–and it’s not just because she’s the daughter of the town drunk. She receives dirty looks from nearly everyone, people talk about her behind her back (and to her face), she’s bullied incessantly, and she can’t rely on anyone to truly have her back. Why? Well, not so long ago, Romy was raped…by the sheriff’s son, a golden boy who everyone believed could do no wrong.

After Romy came forward with what happened, it became crystal clear that no one would ever take her seriously. People blamed her for trying to ruin a “good kid’s” reputation and figured she was just a slut from the wrong side of town looking for some attention.

But Romy knows the truth. She still bears the scars of that horrible night. She fears nearly every guy who crosses her path, and she can’t trust that this won’t happen again. She’s dead inside, and she doesn’t think she has anyone to lean on. Romy certainly can’t depend on her former friends–friends who abandoned her when everything went pear-shaped. No, they’re too busy making her life miserable…and they’re not the only ones. Some of the adults she should be able to trust fail Romy at every turn.

Romy’s only respite is her job at a diner in a neighboring town. No one knows her or her story there. She can blend in and try to have something (or someone) good in her life. But all of that ends when Romy’s former best friend, Penny, comes in the diner one night and hints that the guy who violated Romy may have done the same to another girl.

Romy doesn’t want to hear what Penny has to say, but this news–and Penny’s appearance at the diner–sends Romy’s entire world into a tailspin. She seems to go looking for trouble…and she definitely finds it.

As Romy’s life spirals out of control, she realizes that she has once again been victimized by those around her. And that’s not all. Now, Penny is missing, and, for some reason, people are blaming Romy for Penny not being found. Why? Why are people so eager to point the finger at Romy? What connection does she have to Penny’s disappearance?

Facing the comments and looks at school make Romy feel dirty and sick, and that only gets worse when she comes to understand just what happened to her–and Penny–on the night that Penny went missing. Romy wonders if maybe she should be the one in Penny’s place. Everyone else seems to think so.

Romy is struggling with everything that is happening. She doesn’t feel like she can talk to anyone, and all of this pressure is going to make her self-destruct. And if Romy knows anything, it’s this–there’s more than one way to kill a girl.

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I don’t know how appropriate the title of this book is for the characters, but All the Rage definitely fits my feelings about the book. I raged at everyone who made Romy’s life miserable. I raged at a corrupt system that blamed the victim and made her feel totally worthless. I raged at those who bullied this girl so incessantly that she couldn’t feel safe anywhere. And, yes, I even raged at Romy for not speaking up, for seemingly trying to ruin the only good things in her life, and for taking what everyone else dished out. I wanted her to fight to be heard, and I wanted the people around her to stand by her, believe her, and fight for this tortured girl.

All the Rage is a gritty, realistic look at something that happens all too often. When young women are sexually assaulted, people wonder what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, or if they were “asking for it.” Why aren’t we putting the blame where it belongs? On the rapist. If someone–anyone–in power had believed Romy, the entire chain of events that followed could have been avoided…and two girls could have been spared horrible fates.

If I had to say one negative thing about this book as a whole, it would be that the timeline of events could be difficult to follow. I often found myself going back and rereading passages because it wasn’t entirely clear if something happened “now” or “then.” A little confusing there.

All the Rage is definitely a book for mature readers. (I would not put this book in the hands of a middle school student.) It’s raw, dark, and frank. It is not a book to pick up when you’re looking for something light and fluffy. This is a book that will make you think, make you reexamine your own attitudes about very important issues, and, most importantly, a book that will make you rage. Be prepared for that.

You can buy All the Rage on April 14th. If you want to learn more about the book in the meantime, check out the author’s website. You can also connect with the author via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Gracefully Grayson

Last night, I finished reading Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read an advance copy of this book (which is due for a November 4th release). I like the book, and I think it addresses a subject that I’ve never seen represented in a middle grade book–gender identity. That subject matter, however, is likely to result in challenges in many libraries in America.

I hate to even acknowledge the possibility of a book being challenged or banned, but I know that many people, particularly conservative parents, are uncomfortable with their children reading/learning about transgender people or those with non-traditional sexual identity. That’s a shame.

In my humble opinion, Gracefully Grayson meets a need in middle grade and young adult literature. Many young people struggle with their gender identity, and books like this one let them know that they’re not alone. This book provides a measure of hope and gives transgender readers someone to relate to. That’s not a small thing when one feels totally alone in the world. Additionally, many readers may read a book like this one and feel just a bit more empathy for those struggling with gender identity. Maybe, just maybe, it could make young people–and older people–examine their own behavior and realize just how difficult these situations can be.

Twelve-year-old Grayson Sender has a big secret. A secret so big that, if it were revealed, could mean facing hatred, bullies, and discrimination. Grayson was born a boy, but “he” was meant to be a girl.

Grayson wants to dress in pretty clothes, curl her hair, and live as a girl. Grayson longs to be her true self, but she knows that not everyone would accept her. Even her own family may not understand and would expect her to continue living a lie. What is Grayson supposed to do?

With the help of a brave, caring teacher and understanding new friends, Grayson may have found a way to be herself. When Grayson auditions for–and gets–the female lead in the school play, she finally steps out of the shadows and into the light. This is her chance to be who she is, but not everyone is accepting of what seems like a sudden transformation.

Grayson’s teacher is threatened because of his decision to cast Grayson in a girl’s role. Her aunt and cousin seem to view Grayson as some sort of freak. Grayson is subjected to ridicule and even injury from bullies. Grayson doesn’t know what to do, but she knows she can’t go back to hiding. She’s finally starting to be herself, and that freedom is worth any price…isn’t it?

Read Gracefully Grayson for an inspiring story of a young person determined to be herself and what it means to finally be accepted.

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If you know of any young person struggling with gender identity, I urge you to recommend this book. Grayson’s story, while fictional, is all too real for many transgender young people today. How great would it be to finally see that someone understands?!

As I mentioned before, my fellow librarians could face challenges to Gracefully Grayson, especially if it’s added to school library collections. My position is…add it anyway. I feel it’s more important that kids–all kids, regardless of gender identity–find relatable books than it is for parents to be comfortable. This book addresses a real issue, something everyone will likely encounter in some way, and it does so in a thoughtful, sensitive fashion. It has the potential to open minds and change lives, and that makes it worth any potential challenges that may arise.

If you’d like to learn more about Gracefully Grayson and connect with author Ami Polonsky, check out her websiteTwitter, and Facebook.

Keeper of the Lost Cities

I’ve finally done it. I have finished reading all twenty of this year’s South Carolina Book Award nominees. It took me a little longer than normal this year because, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the list of nominees. It’s going to be a struggle to sell some of these books to my students…but that is not the case with my final nominee.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, definitely the longest and most intimidating of the SCCBA nominees, is probably my favorite book on the list. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter, so my enjoyment of the book is really no surprise. This book features beings with special abilities, a fantastical world hidden from human eyes, and an orphan who’s more powerful than she realizes. Sound familiar? Those similarities to Harry Potter will make Keeper of the Lost Cities, the first book in an exciting new series, an easy sell to many of my students. Hopefully, they’ll stick around to find out how the two series are different.

Sophie Foster has always been a bit different. She’s never had many friends, she doesn’t fit with her family, and she’s always been smarter than everyone around her. When she was five, she discovered that she could hear the thoughts of others. She never told anyone about her telepathic ability, but it seems someone out there knows just how special Sophie really is.

When Sophie meets Fitz, her entire world changes. Fitz is the only other Telepath she’s ever encountered, and he reveals that Sophie isn’t exactly human. She’s an Elf, and she definitely does not belong in the human world.

In order to keep her human family safe, Sophie must leave everything behind and move to Lumenaria, a land where she’ll learn what it means to be an Elf and how to harness her special abilities. At her new school, Foxfire, Sophie struggles, but she’s slowly figuring out this strange new world, and she’s finally making a few friends.

Some Elves, however, are less than happy with Sophie’s entrance into the Elf-world. Some have doubts about her place here, there is concern about her history in the human-world, and no one seems to know how to handle just how powerful Sophie appears to be. Her mind is impenetrable for even the most skilled Telepaths, and, while most Elves display just one special ability, Sophie has several. Why is she so different? What is so special about Sophie Foster?

As Sophie tries to piece together the puzzle that is her life, she discovers that her history, abilities, and place in this new world are more uncertain than she realized. Someone in the shadows is manipulating her, leading her on a chase to uncover the truth, but what is the end game? And can she figure out what’s going on before Sophie–and her new friends–are placed in mortal danger?

Read Keeper of the Lost Cities and join Sophie as she navigates this unfamiliar, strange world and attempts to find her place in it.

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I haven’t even come close to capturing everything that transpired in Keeper of the Lost Cities (which is nearly 500 pages long). There are twists and turns galore, and I think this book will keep readers riveted the whole way through. Readers will wonder about Sophie’s past, and they’ll get a few answers, but dozens more will pop up.

This first book has a bit of resolution, but that won’t stop readers from clamoring to read the second installment. (By the way, book two, Exile, is already out. Book three, Everblaze, will be released on November 4th. There’s also a fourth book in the works, and it should come out in November of 2015.) I predict that the entire Keeper of the Lost Cities series will be a hit with many upper elementary and middle grade readers who have a fondness for fantasy.

For more information about Keeper of the Lost Cities and author Shannon Messenger, visit her blog. You can also connect with her via Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Now, I must do my best to create a book trailer that will get my students super-excited to read this book!

In the Shadows

After wrapping up my previous post on MILA 2.0, I decided to dive into yet another book-in-progress. I honestly didn’t expect to get so involved in the story that I would finish it in a matter of hours. That book is In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo.

Now, I’ve read other works by Kiersten White before (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally, Endlessly, Mind Games, and Perfect Lies), but this one is a little different. In the Shadows is told in both text and art. White wrote the text story, and the amazingly talented Jim Di Bartolo presented another story through his illustrations. I knew the art and text stories were connected, but it didn’t become clear until the very end just how they fit together.

Cora and Minnie live in a quaint town in Maine where their mother runs the local boarding house. One day, a mysterious young man, Arthur, comes to stay with them, and life as they know it is never the same.

Arthur is a rather taciturn boy, but he looks after Cora and Minnie and vows to protect them from the past he fears may have followed him. And he’s not the only one. Two new young men have arrived at the boarding house, and they have more in common with Arthur than any of them know.

Charles and Thomas, sent away by their wealthy father, are in Maine for a while. Charles is slowly dying, and Thomas is determined to make his brother’s days as happy as possible. Part of that happiness comes in the form of Minnie, one of the girls living at the boarding house. Charles is enamored of Minnie, and, while she enjoys his company, her attention never really leaves Arthur, the brooding young man who lurks in the shadows. Thomas, on the other hand, quickly turns his attentions to Cora, and she seems to have feelings for him as well. But is love in the cards for any of these young people, or is an unknown threat just waiting to tear them apart?

It seems that Arthur, Charles, and Thomas–or their families–are somehow connected to an ages-old society, a society that will do anything to protect its secrets. These young people are in very real danger, and they will have to use their wits and every ounce of strength they have to get out of this mess alive.

Arthur knows more about this looming threat than he’s telling, but he doesn’t want to go down the road that drove his parents mad. He may not have a choice, though. When evil threatens his friends, Arthur must make a difficult choice that could impact his life and the lives of those who care about him. What could this choice mean for Arthur and his future? Only time will tell…

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If you enjoy books like Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck or others that combine text and art to create unique and memorable stories, I think you’ll be very happy with In the Shadows. Both the art and text in this book presented interesting–and often terrifying–tales, and the closer I got to the end, the clearer the connections between the two became.

I read a digital copy of this book via NetGalley, but I think this is definitely one case when a print copy would have been preferable. At the book’s conclusion, when the connections between the two stories were revealed, I would have liked to flip through the book’s artwork to see what I may have missed. That’s not so easy to do with an ebook (especially one read with Adobe Digital Editions, a less than desirable ereading option). So, take this advice: READ A PRINT COPY OF THIS BOOK! (Sorry for screaming at you, but I had to get my point across!)

I’m still debating on whether or not to purchase this book for my elementary school library. I think a lot of my students will enjoy it, but the illustrations do contain some scary imagery that elementary students may not be able to handle or even understand. I do think In the Shadows would be a very welcome addition to middle, high school, and public libraries. It’s a quick, easy read that packs a punch.

If you’re still not convinced to read In the Shadows, take a look at the eerie trailer below. It effectively captures the mood of the artwork present in this book and makes me want to read the book all over again!

MILA 2.0

If you enjoy books like I Am Number Four, Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox, or even Cinder by Marissa Meyer, MILA 2.0 might be the book for you.

This first book in Debra Driza’s thrilling series introduces readers to Mila, a sixteen-year-old girl who has just moved with her mother to Clearwater, Minnesota. A short while ago, Mila’s father was killed, but Mila has only a few, fuzzy memories of the life she once had. Despite this, Mila is trying to make a life for herself in this small town. She’s trying to make friends and fit in, especially with popular girl Kaylee, and she’s even getting to know the new guy at school, Hunter. Everything changes, though, when her friend gets reckless on the road one day, and Mila is sent flying…

The accident should have ended Mila’s life or, at the very least, caused her serious bodily harm. Instead, she barely has a scratch…except for a little problem with her arm. When Mila, Kaylee, and Hunter examine what they expect to be a horrendous wound, however, they see something that none of them expected. Wires, tubes, and a weird, milky fluid are present where there should be muscle, bone, and blood. What is going on, and what could it mean for Mila?

Mila soon discovers a horrifying truth about herself (and the reason why her “memories” are so fuzzy). Her “mom” reveals that Mila isn’t exactly human. She’s an android, created in a lab to be used for military defense. When Mila’s mom, or co-creator, realized just how human Mila was becoming, she stole Mila, a billion dollor government investment, and went on the run. She wiped Mila’s memories of her time in a military compound and implanted new memories of a life growing up as a normal girl. If that’s the truth, though, why is Mila having disturbing flashbacks of white walls, experiments, and torture? Just what was done to her before the grand escape, and what will the powers that created her do to get her back?

Mila and her mom soon figure out that someone is after them, and they’ll do anything to capture Mila, so they go on the run once again. But what will happen when their latest escape plan leads them right back into the vile clutches of those who sought them in the first place? What will become of them? Will Mila accept her android nature and turn away from everything that made her human? Will she have a choice?

When Mila comes face-to-face with her creators and their continued work, she’ll have to rely on both her machine capabilities and human emotions (which some perceive as liabilities) to avoid her termination and her mom’s elimination. Can she pass the horrific tests set before her, or is it already too late? Is anyone willing to help her, or does everyone see her as nothing more than a disposable machine, incapable of real feeling or emotion?

Well, Mila is about to show everyone just what they’ve created, and one thing is certain. Nothing will ever be the same.

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Just like The Adoration of Jenna Fox, I think MILA 2.0 could generate some interesting discussions of bioethics, technology, and how far science should go. I’m a bit of a conspiracy nut, so it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if some government–and I’m not saying which one–was experimenting a bit with android technology or other forms of artificial intelligence. Are these things being used for defense? I don’t know (and a big part of me doesn’t want to), but I’m sure it’s being considered. What implications could this have? Just how “human” would these machines be, and what could that mean for their effectiveness? What should be considered when terminating one of these projects? It’s difficult to wrap my mind around all of it, and books like MILA 2.0 often raise questions that even I had not thought of. I’m hoping others will feel the same.

Deep, ethical questions aside, I think MILA 2.0 is a great example of science fiction for the young adult crowd. Mila is a strong character, coming to terms with her abilities and what she is. She doesn’t, however, let these new, unexpected truths define her. Sure, she’s an android, but her “humanness” is what really makes her special. She uses what others perceive as deficiencies to her advantage, and that often gives her the edge she needs. All readers can learn something from that.

In my opinion, MILA 2.0 is a great addition to middle grade and young adult collections. It’s an electrifying read that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. It’s also, like I mentioned, the first book in a series. The second book, MILA 2.0: Renegade, is now out, and there’s also a prequel novella, The Fire, available as a free ebook download. I’ll get to these as soon as I finish up a few other obligations.

If your interest has been piqued at all, I urge you to give MILA 2.0 a try. For more information, check out the author’s webpage, Twitter, or Facebook. You may also like the trailer below from HarperTeen. (It doesn’t give much away, but it’s worth a look!) Happy reading!

A Hero for WondLa

Warning:  Read The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi before reading this post.  That is all.

I read the first book in Tony DiTerlizzi’s WondLa series a little over a year ago.  The second book, A Hero for WondLa, was released in May, and one of my summer reading goals was to finish this book so that I could share it with my students when we return to school in the fall…which is NEXT WEEK!  (Cue the back-to-school nightmares and anxiety attacks.)  Anyway, I finished the book early this afternoon, and, like The Search for WondLa, this second book is a fantastic journey that will appeal to readers from age 9 to 90. 

A Hero for WondLa has elements of fairy tales, science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian fiction.  This book in particular seems to be a brilliant hybrid of Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, The Hunger Games, Alice in Wonderland, and Avatar.  The main character is a strong female who rises above her circumstances and uses her wits and, more importantly, her compassion to save herself and those she cares about.  But will it be enough to save an entire planet?  Let’s find out…

Eva Nine, having traversed the treacherous wilderness of Orbona and experienced the loss of her dear Muthr, is on the verge of yet another adventure. She’s being taken to New Attica, a human city, where Eva is sure she’ll find the sense of home that she’s always longed for.  Her trusted alien companion, Rovender Kitt, accompanies her, and he immediately senses that something about this journey is a little “off.”  But Eva is too excited about meeting other humans, so she ignores his warnings and heads to New Attica to become part of this seemingly utopian society.  But all is not as it seems in New Attica.  Eva feels no sense of belonging in this strange city (which is a lot like the Capitol in The Hunger Games), and she soon learns that the city’s leader, Cadmus Pryde, has iron control of the city and all of its citizens…and he wants to control Eva as well.

With the help of some old and new friends–and one relative she never knew existed–Eva Nine escapes this city and its mysterious leader.  While she’s leaving New Attica, though, Eva learns of a plot to take over the whole of Orbona (the planet we know as Earth).  Cadmus Pryde wants to expand his rule and destroy all traces of alien life on the planet.  Eva can’t let that happen.  But what can one thirteen-year-old girl possibly do to prevent war?

As it turns out, quite a bit.  Eva’s ability to commune with the creatures around her–and her tendency to see the best in everyone–might just be what the world needs to combat the terror that is coming.  For she has something that her enemies do not.  Eva Nine is pure of heart, and that may be the best “weapon” she can use to save the wild, beautiful planet she loves from certain destruction.  Will it be easy?  No.  Will lives be lost or forever changed?  Absolutely.  Will it be worth all of the sacrifices in the end?  We’ll just have to wait and see…

I’ll admit that, like The Search for WondLa, it took me a little while to get into this book.  (It probably would have helped if I’d read them back-to-back instead of over a year apart.)  Once I did, though, I found A Hero for WondLa to be a delightful book, and I’m hoping I can use it to get more of my female students interested in science fiction.  The main character is awesome, and I truly enjoyed seeing how she grew and matured as the story progressed.  I know she’ll be even stronger in the third book. 

I’m not sure when the third book in this trilogy will be released…or even what the title will be.  But I am sure that Eva Nine and Tony DiTerlizzi will be taking readers on yet another fantastic adventure!

If you’d like to learn more about this wonderful series, I strongly urge you to visit http://wondla.com/home/.  This is a phenomenal website and even includes an interactive component (WondLa-vision).  You can also follow author Tony DiTerlizzi on Twitter @TonyDiTerlizzi.