It seems likes books and movies about alien invasions are kind of a trend this month.
First there is Doom Machine, a new book by Mark Teague about a boy who sees a flying saucer hovering over his small town of Vern Hollow. Of course, no one believes him, but things are about to get very strange in this small town! Take a peek at the first chapter and play the Alien Attack video game on the Doom Machine website.
And now for an alien invasion from a completely different perspective — in the new movie Planet 51 (rated PG), an Earthling is the alien! American astronaut Chuck Baker lands on a distant planet for a routine mission, but finds a whole civilization of creatures already living there! They think he has come to take over their planet, and they act the way anyone would act if they saw an alien — terrified!
This trailer for the movie had me cracking up.
Want more alien invasions? Here are some of my childhood favorites:
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (rated PG) THE classic alien movie about an adorable little space creature who gets separated from his ship and needs to get home or he will die. I cry every time I watch it. I don't know anyone who doesn't love this movie.
Can of Worms by Kathy Mackel
In this book, Mike feels like he doesn't fit in, and concludes he must be a higher life form from another planet. He sends out an S.O.S into the galaxy, but is not prepared when actual aliens show up at his door in response to his distress signal.
Fat Men from Space by Daniel Pinkwater
After a trip to the dentist, William discovers he can hear radio stations through his tooth. Not only that, he can hear intergalactic communications, and he discovers that aliens are on their way to earth to take over our supply of junk food. Can he stop them before it's too late?
Do you have a favorite alien invasion story — either true or in book/movie form? If you have actually seen a UFO, I definitely want to hear about it in the Comments!
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you've probably heard about the Twilight book (for ages 12 and up) and movie series (not that there's anything wrong with you rock-turnal dwellers!). But for those of you who are as caught up in the Twilight series as I am, you probably know that New Moon (PG-13), the second movie of the Twilight series is hitting theaters on November 20th.
Where to start?! If you haven't checked out the Twilight books or movies, I highly recommend it. The series follows Bella, a normal teenage girl living in the dreary Pacific Northwest town of Forks, and Edward a vampire who is trying his best to be normal by abstaining from drinking human blood. Throw in Jacob, Bella's friend who also happens to be a werewolf, and see what happens. In the second book and movie, we find Edward and the Cullens have left Forks for Bella's own good. But Bella is (understandably) heartbroken and falls into a pit of reckless despair. Enter Jacob. Her friend takes her under his wing, but she still can't get Edward out of her mind. She starts doing reckless things to hear Edward's voice in her head. But when an old vampire comes back to town to avenge a death, things take a turn for the worse.
Want to see what I mean?
Take a look at the official trailer:
This second movie and book feature a bigger role for werewolf character Jacob Black, played by Taylor Lautner. And . . . we just happened to score a HUGE interview with him exclusively for all you Ink Splotters! (It's a tradition to bring you exclusive Twilight interviews, you know, like the interview with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson before the first Twilight movie!)
Without further ado, check out Taylor's interview!
Q: I love the trailer clips that show you transforming. Tell us about that.
Taylor: Yeah, it was really cool to observe the process of that. Because one second I'm a human and the next I'm a complete CGI [computer generated imagery] wolf. So in that shot in the trailer what I'll do is I'll be harnessed up, I'll start running, I'll take a few steps and then I'll jump ten feet in the air and the wires will stop me mid-air, so I'll come to a jolting stop so then they can take my body and transform it into a wolf. It was really cool to observe that process.
[Ratha: You mean you're not a real werewolf?]
Q: Did you study Native American history to play Jacob?
Taylor: When I found out I was going to be playing Jacob Black who's Quileute Indian, I had the opportunity to meet with several Quileute Indians, and ask them questions and just learn about them so that I could portray Jacob Black correctly.
Q: What questions did you ask them?
Taylor: I wanted to know what the teenage boys like to do in their free time, to have fun. And I was thinking I was going to hear some answer that was really different, but I found a teenage boy who was very close to my age and I asked, “What do you like to do in your free time to relax and have fun?” And he was like, “Oh I like to play basketball, I like to go to the beach.” So what I actually learned the most was that the kids are just like me. So it was a surprise, but very interesting.
[Ratha: That's so cool! Hmm…I wonder if Robert Pattison (Edward) had to do some research by interviewing real vampires. . . ]
Q: Are you similar or different in any ways to Jacob?
Taylor: I hope if you were to ask my close friends, they would say that I am more similar to Jacob's pre-transformation side! But I would not hope to be similar to his werewolf side, because he all of a sudden becomes more angry and fierce.
[Ratha: That's true. I wouldn't want to meet Jacob in a dark alley, especially if he missed his last meal.]
Q: Did you do any research on werewolves?
Taylor: I would honestly say the best research was through the [Twilight] books. Because that's what Stephenie Meyer created, and what we're trying to bring alive. The books are so specific, and she's an amazing author. And it provides so much detail about each and every character. The way to go to study your role to the fullest is through the books.
My first official school dance was the 5th grade Square Dance. (Yes, you read that right. No, I'm not from a farming community.) For weeks in advance, we learned some two-steps during gym class and shyly practiced do-si-do-ing during recess. On the big night, clad in denim skirts, my friends and I French-braided our hair and reapplied our lip gloss in the girls’ bathroom before we braved the dance floor. Despite our nerves, the dance turned out to be pretty awesome. There were specific steps to follow and partners to choose, so everyone felt the same level of moderate humiliation and immense relief. We were in it together.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, school dances are part of life. And whether you’re Team Yay or Team Nay (or Team I’m-Way-Too-Busy-With-Homework-and-Sports-To-Care-About-School-Dances-Anyway), lots of books feature them, and it’s fun to compare the reality versus what authors dream up!
For instance, my Square Dance simply cannot compare to the awesomely magical Yule Ball that Harry Potter and friends get to attend in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (Come to think of it, not even my fancy senior prom could compare to the show that Hogwarts puts on!) But there are less elaborate, though equally exciting, school dances found in other books, like the Halloween dance that the Baby-sitter’s Club members get to dress up for in Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, or the annual winter dance Addie and friends attend in Wish Upon a Star (How I Survived Middle School #11).
So what do you all think about school dances — love 'em or hate 'em? And have you ever read about a fictional school dance you wish you could attend?
Imagine living a life of poverty, having to hunt for food just to stay alive. And imagine that hunting, or even going to the woods for prey, is illegal and punishable by torture and even death. Would you do anything to live a life of luxury? Would you kill? What if you were forced to?
That is what happens to Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, a book for ages 12 and up. In Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins’ exciting sequel (also for ages 12 and up), Katniss faces even more danger as she deals with her horrific victory in the games.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a single government rules over the 12 large districts of Panem. In the past, the districts tried to rebel against the Capitol but failed. A 13th district was destroyed by a nuclear bomb as a lesson to the rest of the people.
The Hunger Games were then established as a more long-term reminder of the price of rebellion: peace through fear. The annual games require one boy and one girl from each of the 12 remaining districts to fight to the death in an arena rigged with horrific dangers. The last person alive wins.
Catching Fire picks up the story with Katniss back in her home district in a new, luxurious house with plenty of food for her mom and little sister. Fear and danger are still very much part of her life, however, as she struggles to keep her family and her partner in the Hunger Games, Peeta Mellark, safe. It seems her unconventional win at the Hunger Games is sparking thoughts of revolution in the districts.
Will Katniss be forced to marry Peeta just to keep her family safe? Does she really love Peeta? Can she survive another Hunger Games? Will she overcome her fear and reluctance to help in a new rebellion? Only some of your questions will be answered, as there is yet another book in this promised trilogy. (I, for one, can’t wait.)
The 400-page book is full of characters you can easily relate to and identify with. In terms of plot, the book progresses at a rapid pace, grabbing your attention and never letting go, even after the last page is turned.
I recommend this series to anyone looking for a captivating read you just can’t put down. Catching Fire is a roller coaster filled with excitement, suspense, and absolute wonder. It is perfect for both teens and adults.
It's as easy as it sounds. I describe 10 famous* characters from different books. You leave a comment saying who they are. Next week I post the answers and congratulate the winners. Ready, set, go . . .
1. He must not be named. 2. He speaks for the trees. 3. She's a stupid lamb. 4. He's a palindrome** with a no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. 5. She goes blind in book five. 6. He's late (for a very important date). 7. She on fire. (Literally) 8. She's a blondwad. 9. He's an unfortunate middle child. 10. She teaches on the 19th story.
—Carly H., STACKS Staffer
*Criteria for being famous: They're in a book I know and/or like.
**A palindrome means his name is spelled the same if you read it forwards or backwards.
What's Your Problem? And . . . Why Are You So Happy About It?
Let's face it. All toys, games and sporting goods can have problems. Isn't that great? In fact, nothing would ever be created if there weren't problems to solve! There are two ways problems can help you in inventing. First, problems can help you figure out what to create. And second, problems can help you figure out how to make your invention the best it can be.
PROBLEMS HELP YOU GET CREATIVE When you begin to think like an inventor, you will notice problems. As you play a game of checkers, you might think to yourself, “Wouldn't this be more fun if it were more challenging?” You've just found a problem an inventor like yourself can solve. How could you make checkers more challenging? What if it were a three-player board instead of a two-player board? What if you put magnets on the pieces and played checkers across a cube? When you are skateboarding, you notice that every time you hit a crack in the sidewalk, you end up on the ground picking dirt out of your teeth. Your inventor brain can kick in and find a new kind of springs for skateboard wheels or a cool mouth guard that repels dust. See how easy it is to think like an inventor?
So. . . what should you do about it while you're working on your new toy, game or sporting goods design? Take notes!! You'll hear us say it again and again — Take notes! Take notes! Take notes! Keep a notebook full of your ideas, problems and designs. These are what will turn into your next great invention.
PROBLEMS HELP YOU MAKE BETTER INVENTIONS There is another way problems help you as an inventor — that's when you have problems with your own creations. You may think you have finished creating the next great toy, but when you take it out for a test run, it is an epic fail. When we invented a new type of body board for riding in the ocean, we put on our swim suits, ran into the water with our invention. . . and sank. As an inventor, there will be times when you will have to simply try again. Don't get discouraged. Problems are actually one clue that you are on the right path to a great new toy. If your invention just doesn't work the way you want it to, don't lose hope. Just remember the four R's: Research it. Redesign it. Remodel it. Rework it. And, know that it's okay to ask for help once in a while. Don't be embarrassed to ask a teacher or an adult expert. There are people out there who will be glad to help you!
It may take you a while, but every problem does have a solution. The very best thing to do when you have a problem is simple — breathe. Don't freak out. Come on, it's like they say, “Rome wasn't built in a day.” If it doesn't work the first time, no getting discouraged, just try and try again! In the end, the effort you spend solving problems will be worth it. Your final invention will be much better than you originally imagined!
Alyssa Hansen and Kaycee Johnsen, both 16, began inventing when they were just 10 years old. They, along with their siblings and friends, have created Boogie2Boogie, a new kind of wave-riding toy and the Underwater X-treme, a challenging pool toy that solves the problem of everybody peeking when playing Marco Polo. Both inventions won the National TOYchallenge and are currently being marketed by By Kids For Kids. Alyssa and Kaycee have been writing a regular column for creative kids since 2006 and have co-written a book and activity kit that teaches kids how to invent.