Episode 77

It’s time for my favorite episode of the year – the Kids/YA gift Giving Guide! I invited a bunch of kids to tell me about their favorite books, and once again these kids are funny, thoughtful, wise, smart, and so interesting. If you have young people to buy for this holiday season, this episode will give you lots of great ideas. If you don’t have young people to buy for, you will still get some wonderful reading suggestions. I’m telling you – kid lit and YA lit is the most innovative writing out there.

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Host: Julie Strauss

Do you have a book you want to tell me about? Go HERE to apply to be a guest on the Best Book Ever Podcast.

Discussed in this episode:

Hope, Age 7
Christmas in Camelot by Mary Pope Osborne
Buffalo Before Breakfast by Mary Pope Osborne
These books are part of The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne

McKenzie, Age 7
Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne
Revolutionary War on Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborne
Vacation Under the Volcano by Mary Pope Osborne
Earthquake in the Early Morning by Mary Pope Osborne
Monday with a Mad Genius by Mary Pope Osborne

The Supernatural Bear, Age 9
(SNB is a regular guest on the Word to Your Mama Podcast, so if you enjoyed hearing me talk to him, definitely check him out over there!)
The Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer
Book 1: The Time Travelers
Book 2: The Time Thief
Book 3: The Time Quake

Rohan, Age 11
The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: Graphic Novels of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West by Steve Sheinkin
Rabbi Harvey Rides Again by Steve Sheinkin
Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid: A Graphic Novel of Dueling Jewish Folktales in the Wild West by Steve Sheinkin

Kate, Age 11
Alone by Megan E. Freeman

Jack, Age 13
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders Movie
The Sun Trail (Warrior Cats Book) by Erin Hunter
(Jack talked to me about the Warrior Cats books in last year’s Kids/YA Episode. If you are looking for an expansive book universe, you can’t beat this series.)

Joey, Age 14
The Generations Trilogy by Scott Sigler:
Book 1: Alive
Book 2: Alight
Book 3: Alone
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan
Game Changer by Neal Shusterman
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Erin, Age 18
Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos


(Note: Some of the above links are affiliate links, meaning I get a few bucks off your purchase at no extra expense to you. Anytime you shop for books, you can use my affiliate link on Bookshop, which also supports Indie Bookstores around the country. If you’re shopping for everything else – clothes, office supplies, gluten-free pasta, couches – you can use my affiliate link for Amazon. Thank you for helping to keep the Best Book Ever Podcast in business!)

Hello, Bookworms welcome to the Best Book Ever, the podcast where I get to know interesting people by asking them about their favorite books. I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and I am so excited to be here today with the Second Annual Lids and YA Gift Giving Guide. Once again, I invited a whole bunch of young people to tell me about their favorite books, and once again, these were my favorite conversations of the year. Kids literature is so diverse and so interesting. And the kids who love to read are my absolute favorite kids. If you are shopping for young people this holiday season, hopefully you’ll get some great ideas from the smart, funny readers who joined me today. Just like last year, these stories are in age order. So, in case you’re listening with your youngsters, remember: the subject matters do get more serious as we move along. I know you’re going to love hearing these young people tell me about what they think is the Best Book Ever.


Hope: My name is Hope, and I am 7 years old.


Julie: Hi, Hope. Will you tell me about your favorite book? 

Hope: My favorite book is actually a series called Magic Treehouse

Julie: Will you tell me what Magic Treehouse is all about? 

Hope: Magic Treehouse is all about Annie and Jack, who go on these adventures in the treehouse using their books. So, they point to the picture in the book and the treehouse to magically take them anywhere.

Julie: There are a whole bunch of magic treehouse books, right? 

Hope: Yeah. I picked Christmas in Camelot because I have it and also, it’s different than most of the books. They’re all written by Mary Pope Osborne, if I’m saying that correctly.

Julie: I think you are. How is Christmas in Camelot different than all the other ones?

Hope: Well, all the other ones are a real place on a real time. 

Julie: Like a history place or just another place in the world?

Hope: A history place. 

Julie: Okay. So, Christmas in Camelot is a pretend place. 

Hope: Yes, it’s a fantasy, but at the back it tells about how she got inspiration and made this story. It’s about some myths from a long time ago, I think. And about King Arthur and the free knights of the Round Table.

Julie: So what happens when these two kids get to Camelot? It sounds like if there are knights, it might be a little bit dangerous?

Hope: No, the Knights are on their side, because they are welcomed by King Arthur, and King Arthur controls the Knights!

Julie: Oh! So then what happens? 

Hope: Well, Camelot lost its happiness and magic because they’ve already been to Camelot once, but after they went to Camelot, King Arthur defeated its enemy, but not before it made all of his land – that’s Camelot – go gray and dreary and not fun at all.

Julie: Oh, that sounds awful. 

Hope: Yeah. So Jack and Annie go on a quest from the Christmas Knight to restore peace to Camelot and also the Christmas Knight made Morgan LeFay, the owner of Magic Treehouse and the librarian from Camelot, frozen. So they go on a hunt for the golden chalice, because that is what they have to do. They have to get the golden chalice and drink from it to restore happiness to Camelot. And then king Arthur already sent some knights to go get it and they didn’t return because there’s this magical dancing fairy gate that you can get trapped in because you want to dance forever and ever and ever. And once you start dancing, you can’t stop dancing unless someone else stop you. And they had no one else to stop you, but Jack did it, and Annie stopped him. And so, they made it out of there and then they made it to the golden cup and they had to defeat some monsters and dragons. So they drank from the golden chalice to imagine how they would get out of that sticky situation, because it was very stuck in that situation. They imagined their way out and Annie imagined almost all of how they got out, and Jack just imagined them crawling back into their cave. 

Julie: Did it work?

Hope: Yes!

Julie: Just by crawling?

Hope: No. Annie imagined how they would defeat it. So we took these wooden things or like stuff they had, like candles, and then the dragon were breathing fire, as they do…

Julie: As they do.

Hope: And then they got the fire and then like they used it as their own weapon. 

Julie: Oh, my gosh, that is so smart! 

Hope: And then the dragons came back into their cave. They found the knights and stopped them from their dance, and they rode from that horseback very carefully because they don’t want to spill the water they have so hard to get. And so they walked along back to Camelot and then they dropped one drop of water on Morgan LeFay.

Julie: My question is this: have you read all of the books of the Magic Treehouse? 

Hope: No. 

Julie: How many do you think you’ve read? 

Hope: Like four I think? 

Julie: Do you like the things like when they go back in real places, like history ones, or do you only like the special ones that have magical things like dragons?

Hope: I liked both of them and I also liked them a lot because they teach me in a very fun way about our history and our culture. Because I read another one called Buffalo Before Breakfast, and it actually taught me about American tribes culture, which ate buffalo and killed buffalo for stuff like tools, food, tents. Everything they needed to survive.

Julie: Who picks out books for you? Cause I know your mommy’s an English teacher, right? 

Hope: I do!

Julie: You pick out all your own? Does she tell you, like, I want you to read this one because it’s very important for school or does she say you can read it whatever you want? 

Hope: She would probably say we would have to read something appropriate and that’s in our reading level. But I even read most of the dictionary!

Julie: You do what?

Hope: Some of it. I can get a little distracted. I started to like it after I actually found it in my house. 

Julie: Do you know what I always used to do when I was your age? Actually, all throughout school, every single time I had to look up a word to find out what it meant, I would put a check mark next to it. Cause I always like to go back and look and see all the words that I had looked up over at school. Neat, huh? I still do that. 

Hope: Wow. 

Julie: Yeah.




Mackenzie: I’m Mackenzie, and I am 7 years old.

Julie: Mackenzie, tell me about your favorite book.

Mackenzie: My favorite book is Haunted Castle on Hallow’s eve by Mary Pope Osborne.

Julie: Is it about Halloween?

Mackenzie: kinda, yeah.

Julie: Is this also a Magic Treehouse book?

Mackenzie: Yes.

Julie: So what happens in Haunted castle? Tell me about this book.

Mackenzie: Jack and Annie go into the tree and they find the heart of the tree and it’s like a giant library. So they kind of get sent to this town. Annie kind of helps a bird. It’s a crow. And they go into the castle and then they discover all these weird noises. They go into the bedroom first. There’s no one there, but they hear snoring. So the people are invisible, that’s why. So, the hound was actually a dog, that’s what we discover. Next thing, Annie discovers that they’re alive, so she yells “If you can hear me, write something or give me a sign.” And she wrote on the mirror, cause it was dusty.

Julie: Oh, that’s clever. 

Mackenzie: Yeah. So she wrote on the mirror. And then Annie discovers read about the Raven King.

Julie: And what happened?

Mackenzie: He told him about how that he found it while they were playing hide and seek and put it there to get a better look at it. She left it alone, and then the raven swooped down and got it. So that’s when they all turned invisible. I saw this picture of it. It was this giant crow, like a body, but a crow head. And he was in a suit with two crows next to him and Jack and Annie on the balcony. We got it back and they turned back to normal. 

Julie: Mackenzie, I have to ask you a question, cause that sounds a little bit spooky. Is it spooky? A crow with a person body?

Mackenzie: It’s a little weird.

Julie: Are you normally pretty brave about spooky things? 

Mackenzie: Meh.

Julie: Okay. So you’re not worried about crows with human bodies. 

Mackenzie: If I see one, I might actually smack it. I’d smack it right on the tail, and leave.

Julie: Maybe right on the beak. 

Mackenzie: Yeah. 

Julie: Your sister told me that most of the Magic Treehouse books are in real places. 

Mackenzie: True, that is true.

Julie: But this one is a pretend place?

Mackenzie: Yes. Half is pretend, and the rest – because Revolutionary War on Wednesday, Vacation Under a Volcano, and that’s about Ancient Rome, when Mount Vesuvius erupted. And we also have Monday With a Mad Genius, which I’m reading right now. 

Julie: Who’s that about? Who’s the mad genius?

Mackenzie: Leonardo DaVinci. 

Julie: No kidding. 

Mackenzie: Earthquake in the Early Morning. I think that is in San Francisco. It can go is on August 24th when an earthquake showed up. So they help them by giving the man boots, because their feet were cut and they forgot their shoes. Cause most things were burning. 

Julie: Do you read anything besides Magic Treehouse Books?

Mackenzie: Once I read the first book, Christmas in Camelot, which Hope told you about, I started to get the full series.




SNB: Hello, I am the Supernatural Bear and I am 9 years old. 

Julie: It’s really nice to meet you, Supernatural Bear. Can I just call you Mr. Bear? Or do you want me to call you Supernatural? How should we talk to each other? 

SNB: I have a nickname: SNB. 

Julie: All right. Nice to meet you, SNB. Tell me about your favorite book. 

SNB: Well, I have a lot of favorite books, but the one we’re here to talk about today is The Gideon Trilogy. My mom and I are still emotionally scarred from that to this day. 

Julie: I’ve never heard of the Gideon trilogy. Tell me about it. 

SNB: So, the Gideon trilogy is about these two kids. Their names are Peter and Kate, basically without spoiling anything, given a quick, very quick summary: Peter’s dad. He, well, he doesn’t have time to work with him. Instead, Peter’s dad’s takes him to a farm and that’s where he meets Kate’s dad. Dr. Dyer has been working on a special machine that unintentionally can perform time travel. They get sent back to 1792. Oh, sorry, 1763. And they meet some new friends, make some new enemies and they get home. Then they have to go back again. Then they get home, then they have to go back again. And then, the story ends.

Julie: How many books are in the series? 

SNB: Only three. 

Julie: And so in each book they go back to the same time? Or do they go back to all different times? 

SNB: They go back to similar times. So: mad spoilers for the book. If you haven’t read it, and you want to read it, stop this podcast right now. Go read it, cry in your bed because the ending is super sad and then come back. Anyway. So. Now that you are back: in the first book, they go back in time unintentionally, due to the anti-gravity machines effects, which were experimental. And Peter gets stuck in 1763. Kate makes it home, though. And in the second book, they try and go back to 1763, but they ended up going to 1792, instead. And they meet Peter, he disguises himself as Joshua Seymour, the younger brother of someone who I haven’t mentioned yet, Gideon Seymour, who everyone recognizes by now. We call it the Gideon trilogy. So basically, when Peter sees Kate and Peter’s dad, he disguises himself as Joshua. So that way they would go back to get the 1763 Peter, therefore, meaning that he will not exist. And that’s exactly what happen. Now you think that would be the end of the story because they have a small victory party. Until the Tar Man, the main villain of this, he gets actually transported with them. So, long story short, he comes, crushes the party, takes Peter and Kate because he thinks they’re the only ones who know the code. And then, you know, they get transported. And for some reason, Kate, she starts fading between 1763 and the present time, which we don’t know. She is pretty weak, because she has also been having these fast-forwards, which are when she goes so fast that she’s the only one moving. No one else can see her. No one else can feel her except the Tar Man. And once she touches Peter, she comes back to normal, but she is very weak and then they’re able to get back home. But unfortunately, the story’s other main villain, Lord Luxon makes it back with them. And the Tar Man, and Lord Luxon is slowly fading too, from the time travel, since she is a conductor of dark matter, which is what activated time-travel stuff. And, well, unfortunately, Kate finally fades. And, she doesn’t fade back to 1763, but her and Lord Luxon go so fast that they go out of existence. 

Julie: What? Is that the end of the series? 

SNB: Oh, no! It gets even worse from here. So, after all of that, all of the villans are defeated. All the villains are defeated. The Tar Man is on the good guys’ side. Yay. He changed. He changes his ways. And also note: Gideon’s here too. So I don’t talk about him much, but anyway. They go back in time. But when Peter and Kate are going to the laboratory where the anti-gravity machines stuff had happened, Peter is still very sad that his childhood friend, Kate, is now nothing. There’s a time quake happening, which is like alternate parallel dimensions are made. If nothing’s done, although all the dimensions go out of existence. So, Peter makes the ultimate sacrifice. He throws a rock at his past self, therefore making him get out of the vehicle. It altered the timeline and the Tar Man and Gideon say goodbye to Peter. Then they look away to throw some more rocks at the other Peter. And when they look back, Peter is nothing. Peter is dead. Well, at least present Peter’s dead. I guess the future present Peter is dead after that. Automatically since none of it happened. And since they were in another time when this happened, the Tar Man and Gideon were automatically transported back to their hometown back in 1763. And they will stay there for the rest of their lives. Peter goes out of existence because time stuff, Kate goes out of existence because time stuff, Lord Luxon goes out of existence because time stuff. The story is changed. Everyone is crying. The Kate and Peter, that everyone knew and loved that went through all of these adventures are now out of existence.

Julie: So they don’t get to remember all of these adventures they went on and all that stuff?

SNB: Because for them, it never happened. 

Julie: Yes. I understand. 

SNB: Yeah, my mom, she’s still going crazy about that. She’s still mad sad. She’s been thinking about it since for over two months. We finished the book two months ago and she’s still sad about the ending.

Julie: Do you guys always read books together? 

SNB: Usually I really like stuff like Lego encyclopedias, Transformers encyclopedias. You know that like Transformers. 

Julie: It’s your thing. 

SNB: Yeah, it’s really my thing. Besides Gideon trilogy, Marvel, Star Wars, stuff like that. 

Julie: It’d be neat if there was a Gideon trilogy movie.

SNB: There actually is one in production.

Julie: Wouldn’t that be neat to see going between the time periods? 

SNB: Yeah, it would also make it even more sad. 

Julie: Yeah. I understand. Sometimes you need to recover from tragic books. 

SNB: Yes. Tragic movies, tragic books, tragic experiences. 

Julie: I agree.



Rohan: My name is Rohan and I am 11 years old. 

Julie: Rohan, tell me about your favorite book. 

Rohan: Yes. Well, technically it’s a series of books. It’s Rabbi Harvey. There are three books in the series so far. It’s a very interesting idea. It takes Jewish stories and like they use a rabbi character who is also a Wild West sheriff, and they use a lot of philosophy and stuff with many, many stories inspired by Jewish tales. It’s very interesting, really. 

Julie: Tell me, first of all, how did you find this in the first place?

Rohan: It’s been a while. So I remember, I think it was PJ library. They sometimes do this thing, like once a month or something, where they take this will give you a choice of three books that are free or something, and then we can choose one. And I guess it’s a way to get people to buy more books. And I saw Rabbi Harvey and I wanted that. So we got it. And I thought it was very interesting. It’s a graphic novel, so like comic book stuff, which also made it interesting. I’m very into that kind of book. And when I read it, I thought that the stories were very interesting. So eventually I got the whole series. I got Rabbi Harvey Rides Again, which is the sequel, and I also have another one, Rabbi Harvey Versus the Wisdom Kid, a Graphic Novel of Dueling Jewish Folktales in the Wild West. 

Julie: If there are duels, does that mean people get hurt? Or are they funny books or what are these about?

Rohan: No one really gets hurt. I think that in the Wikipedia page, it assures the meter that instead of using a gun, Rabbi Harvey tries to tries to solve it with words and stuff. 

Julie: Oh, I like that. 

Rohan: It’s a more philosophical view on things. 

Julie: Can you give me an example of one of the adventures that Rabbi Harvey gets into?

Rohan: Well, one day I remember he goes to do this contest where all the rabbis all around the country, they are asked to like do this contest. They have to bring the most valuable item, and whoever brings the most valuable item wins. So Rabbi Harvey, he can’t find anything. So he gets desperate and he goes to ask his neighbor for help. And the neighbor says, okay, I’ll give you this family heirloom. It’s a silver candle, but don’t lose it. And then Rabbi Harvey was like, all right. So he runs right back to the building that’s holding the contest, right? When he’s about to arrive a thief, a bandit comes up and pulls a gun up at him and says, give me all your valuable items. So Rabbi Harvey decides to play a few tricks on the bandit, and he’s like, oh, I have this a silver candle, but I’m not going to give it to you. And he’s like, you know, I have the gun, maybe you should, have thought that of that. And Rabbi Harvey’s like, okay, shoot me. So he shoots him twice, but like it goes right through the shirt. And, so then he hears like the backstory of the bandit, how, like he got desperate. He had this job as a potato salesman and he wasn’t making a lot of money. So he committed theft at me, and he sold something and sold it. One step led to another and he became a bandit who just stole valuable items for a living. So then he starts crying, saying that he knew that he swears that he’ll never be a bandit again, and that he’ll lead a peaceful life from now on. And then when the, when the bandit starts crying, Rabbi Harvey took an empty wine bottle, put it on under the bandit’s face, and a tear fell into the bottle. And he brought that to the contest and he won first prize. 

Julie: What did he say it was? The tears of a bandit?

Rohan: The tears of a little bend it. Yeah. 

Julie: Wow. Okay. One thing I don’t understand, is the rabbi magic or something? How come the bullets didn’t hurt him?

Rohan: Well, because they went through his clothes. 

Julie: Oh, they never actually touched him? He’s not magic. He’s a regular human.

Rohan: He just a regular guy. There is another chapter. Every book has it, called Stump the Rabbi where all these people go up to the a rabbi and they pay 5 cents to get him to not be able to answer something, like a very wise question or something. If you can’t answer the person that asks gets a free pie. Well, I guess technically it costs 5 cents. But then anyways, it’s very funny, it’s obviously the mainly directed towards younger children. That really just have some time on their hands and you could read a good Rabbi Harvey book.

Julie: I don’t know too much about Jewish folklore tales. Do you? 

Rohan: I can definitely say, before I read this book specifically, I remember I knew some, but I definitely learned more with Rabbi. Really, most of those stories are just old Jewish stories, but with a Wild West twist. 

Julie: Rohan, do you always read graphic novels, or do you ever read chapter books?

Rohan: Well, mainly I read graphic novels, but they feel more like a short TV show, while a chapter book would be a whole movie. 

Julie: I love that. That is the perfect way to describe it. Now that you say that,that’s exactly right.




Kate: My name is Kate and I’m 11 years old. My favorite book is called Alone. It’s by Megan Freeman. 

Julie: I have never heard of this book. Tell me what it’s about. 

Kate: it’s about this girl and she lives in two different houses and she has a ton of brothers and she gets sick of them and she wishes that she could just be alone. And she tells her mom that she’ll be at her dad’s house and her dad that she’ll be at her mom’s house. And she goes and she has a secret sleepover, but neither of her friends can make it. So she’s just alone. And then when she wakes up, her phone is going, like, all these alerts that they have to evacuate the state and stuff. But her phone was dead, so she didn’t get them. And then she’s all alone in her state. 

Julie: Why did they have to evacuate? 

Kate: It doesn’t really say why. It just says there’s just like a threat, but she never runs into that threat in the book. 

Julie: Okay. So there’s something like a fire or a flood or something going on outside of the house where she is?

Kate: Yeah. My mom said it was probably like about like, politics or something like that in the book. 

Julie: Okay. So what happens? Is it a survival tale? 

Kate: Yeah, she’s left all alone. And she has to get things from grocery stores and stuff. Rob them and stuff. But nobody’s there, so it’s not really robbing. And she has her neighbor’s dog, too. She saves her neighbor’s dog. 

Julie: Does she have survival skills? Like, does she know how to be alone?

Kate: Well, she learns more and more. I think she’s alone for like three or four years. 

Julie: WHAT?

Kate: I know, I know. I was surprised how her parents couldn’t get to her.

Julie: What happens to her? Tell me about some of the adventures that happen, or the scary things or cool things that happened to her while she’s alone. 

Kate: Well, one of my favorite parts is she’s going to a different town because her town ran out of canned things and stuff that she needs that won’t go rotten. And all the stray dogs are running around and stuff. And she gets into a grocery store to get all this stuff and the dogs corner her and they probably want to eat her. And it’s kind of scary. I know. It doesn’t seem, like, super interesting, that part, but how the author writes it, like, she really gets you like your heart beating.

Julie: I think that actually sounds terrifying. 

Kate: It was terrifying.

Julie: But then she has one dog that she has kept. 

Kate: Yeah, but she keeps that dog at home. Cause I think his paw is hurt or something, and it’s really far away.

Julie: Is the overall book scary? Or inspiring? Or sad?

Kate: Well, it’s kind of all of them, cause she runs into so many different things. Like there’s scary parts and there’s sad parts. And then there’s parts that are like, oh my gosh. Wow. 

Julie: Why did you like it so much? 

Kate: I liked her dog. I thought her dog was really cute on the cover and I really liked how she was. There was this one part at the beginning of the book where she was doing a book report with her brother and her little brother was asking, do you think it would be the hardest to not have food and have to survive, or to be alone? She was like, well, you can survive if you’re alone but you can’t survive without food or anything. And then she actually finds that under the fridge while she’s been alone for a few years. That part’s really cool. 

Julie: We’re going to have to bleep this out of the podcast, but what happens at the end?

Kate: At the end, [CENSOR BEEP]

Julie: Oh, my God, I have to read this. So, is part of the reason that it appealed to you so much because you have two brothers and you’re such a bookworm?

Kate: I don’t know, I’m my mom picked up a ton of books for me at the library, and I just read the back and see what looks most interesting to me. And that one looked really cool to me, to see all the different things that she has to survive.

Julie: So you’re one year younger. Did you say the girl is 10? 

Kate: I think when it starts out, she’s like 10 or 11 and then when it ends, she’s like 13 or 14. 

Julie: So you’re the same age. 

Kate: Yeah. 

Julie: Do you think you could survive?

Kate: I have no idea. I think I would be like really like scared and sad, but I think I might be able to. But it was really smart of her to think of canned stuff. I think I would just like eat the rotten stuff and not think about it. 

Julie: Did she have electricity? 

Kate: No, she didn’t. She had electricity for a few days. And then the power just completely went out and she had to drive her mom’s car different places. And I was like, oh my gosh. 

Julie: Well maybe that wouldn’t be so scary, I guess, if there weren’t any other cars on the road? 

Kate: Yeah. But also, whenever I’m in the car, I’m watching my mom steer, it looks like so scary. There’s also another scary part in the book where these invaders that came and they were just robbing all the stores and everything. And it was like really scary. Cause one of them, like they found a little kitten and then like the leader kills him.

Julie: Oh, no, that’s terrible. This is not what I expected to hear from you. I think last year you chose a sweet book about dogs!

Kate. Yeah. Pretty sure I did.



Jack: My name is Jack and I am 13.

Julie: Hi, Jack. Tell me about your favorite book. 

Jack: My favorite book is The Outsiders, about a boy named Ponyboy, and he has two brothers, Sodapop and Darry. and he lives with a gang named the Greasers. Greasers wear black leather vests with a white shirt underneath and usually jeans as well. And they’re called Greasers because they put a bunch of hair grease in it or to make it look greasy. And the beginning of the book just has him introducing all of the members and how they all have lived for the last, I would say, 14 years. And he now depends on the gang because he lost his mom and dad a car accident. And then we learn more about a Sodapop, his brother. He’s really kind and sweet and sympathetic. Darry isn’t as sympathetic because he works two jobs. And it doesn’t really have any time to spend with anyone. He’s more tough than them, and doesn’t really have as much emotion as them. And then we learn about the other gang that there is. The Socs, AKA the Socials. And they are the rich kids, and they drive sports cars. They don’t really have feelings. In fact, in the book, I believe it was Cherry Valance that said, when you have everything, it feels like you have nothing. So then they just do stuff to the poor kids because they don’t have anything else to do. I guess they just don’t feel like they fit in with the rest. It is sad because as we go further into the book at, at around chapter three, Ponyboy and Johnny are jumped by the Socs, like five Socs, and Ponyboy was then attacked by them and they tried to drown him in the fountain. But Johnny comes up behind the ringleader and stabbed him with the pocket knife that he has, and that kills him. And then the other ones flee. And they have to go to Dally. Dally doesn’t really have any emotions either. He’s just tough and brutal, and doesn’t have a family that cares for him. He’s lost everybody else that was special to him. And now all he has that he really does care about is Johnny, because Johnny gets what he’s going through, because his family is the same. He doesn’t really have anybody special except for the gang. And then they have to get a gun from him and some money, so they can go up and live in the hills until Johnny is safe to come back down since he’s going to be wanted for the murder. And then they go up there for around a week and then they have a rumble between the Greasers and the Socs. The Greasers win. Ponyboy is assigned at school, since he’s been getting really bad grades ever since the trial, against him, Ponyboy at school is just too caught off guard and just thinking about his own life instead of getting good grades or anything. And then he just falls behind in all of his classes. And then he’s assigned just for him a project where he has to write about something like the story of your life. And then he starts off that essay with the first few words that are in the beginning of the book.

Julie: I love this book so much. I cannot believe this is your favorite. So what, tell me what you like about it? 

Jack: I like this just the subject of there being two different rival gangs. One is rich kids. One is poor kids. And also, the movie got me even more into it, because it has a lot of stars in it. And a lot of people that I already loved, like Ralph Macchio, Tom – what was it? Tom Cruise? Was Tom Cruise in it? Yeah. Tom Cruise. Dally, no, Darry and Dally were both, other people that were really famous as well. 

Julie: This book was so popular when I was young and it’s so funny, I just re-read it last year, and I was so happy that it is still, even at my age, it is so good. 

Jack: I think it’s really made for all ages. Not all ages, but teenagers and above.

Julie: Yeah. And did you think it felt really old fashioned? 

Jack: Yeah, it was either the sixties or the fifties. However, even though it was placed back then, it’s still is relatable to teenagers and adults today. A lot of teenagers think that their moms and dads have no idea what they’re going through. And it shows them that their parents really do know what they’re going through. 

Julie: So what else have you read this year? Anything else interesting. 

Jack: I have read The Sun Trail

Julie: What’s that? 

Jack: Another Warrior Cats book. 

Julie: Oh, you’re still into Warrior Cats. 

Jack: I’m pretty sure I’m always going to be into it.

Julie: How many books are in that series now? I mean, it’s something like 5 million, right?

Jack: Close to it. Let’s see. There are seven different series right now. And there are six books in each series. So that is a total of 42 books. However, there’s also novellas, super editions, ultimate additions, mangas, some other ones. And for all of those, 12 of each. So that’s around 102 books.

Julie: And you’ve read them all?

Jack: I have read almost all of the series and then I don’t know how many more series they’re going to do. I hope they just keep on going forever.




Joey: Hi, my name is Joey, and I am 14 years old, and my favorite book is the Generations Trilogy by Scott Sigler. 

Julie: Joey, tell me about the Generations Trilogy. 

Joey: So it starts with the group of, I believe, six kids waking up in just a room. They’ll wake up in coffins, which is fun. And, yeah, so they wake up in this room with 12 coffins, but only six of them wake up because the other coffins are filled with dead people. None of the people that wake up remember anything, not even their own names. So, basically, the first book is sort of like a mystery because they’re in this, like they’re in this maze. And they’re not sure if they’re in a building or underground because they have no memory. And pretty much the plot of the first one is they’re just trying to find their way out. And the plot definitely evolves throughout the trilogy to a lot more than trying to make it out of the maze. But there’s a very small amount of things I can say about the second and third book without, you know, giving away major spoilers.

Julie: Tell me the names of the three books. 

Joey: So it starts with Alive. And then the second one is Alight, which is my personal favorite. And then the third one is Alone

Julie: This sounds very dark and mature. 

Joey: Yeah. So before I say this next part, I would like to clarify that I was not scarred and I was okay. But like, I first read it when I was 12. And I think if you had really known what happens in that book, you wouldn’t have let me read it. 

Julie: Oh, god.

Joey: Like once again, I was fine. It was okay for me. I just don’t think you would have been okay with it. Well, I mean, like, yeah, it is a dark trilogy. There’s a lot of dark themes and vaguely graphic violence.

Julie: What is vaguely graphic violence? 

Joey: I mean, like, it doesn’t go into detail about like blood splatters or stuff like that, but there is a lot of fighting and a lot of deaths and injury and stuff like that. It’s definitely a, don’t-get-too-attached type of series. But I’ve always noticed that the deaths aren’t really used as a gimmick. Whenever a character dies, it really packs a punch and is just so incredibly written because it really makes you feel the stakes of the story. And there’s a lot of really important characters dying, but also on several occasions, the author will just introduce the character and just kill them in the next chapter. But what’s so well-written about when he does that, is he makes you care about the characters so quickly that even though you just met them, it’s still so devastating that they died. It’s incredible, honestly. 

Julie: Is there anything that is not bleak in this book?

Joey: Not a lot. It’s a very bleak trilogy. 

Julie: So how, what makes you like a bleak trilogy? 

Joey: I don’t know, honestly. I mean, I like this trilogy just cause it’s so well-written, I couldn’t really describe why I like bleak stories. 

Julie: Does it lead to, as with Hunger Games, you know, there’s a new beginning at the end of the third one. And we are led to believe that the world is a better place, even though they had to go through so much trauma to get there. Is that what this does? 

Joey: The trilogy definitely ends with like a lot of new things to the story. I can’t really reveal a lot, but I actually don’t like the ending. I wasn’t a huge fan of the third book and the ending kind of disappointed me, which was unfortunate.

Julie: You can’t tell us why. 

Joey: There’s really not a lot I can say about the second or third book. 

Julie: Okay, so you said the second book is your favorite in the trilogy. Can someone just pick up the second one and still understand what’s going on? 

Joey: No, definitely not. You really do have to start with the first. 

Julie: So who is this book for? Like, if, say, for example, if you like this movie, you would like this book, or if you have preferred this series in the past, you would like this series? 

Joey: I’d say people that like dystopian future, preteen or teen, young adult books would like this. Like people that like Hunger Games would probably like this. I mean, I compared it to the Maze Runner earlier, and I’d say that Maze Runner and this have kind of the same target demographic. 

Julie: Have you read the Hunger Games? 

Joey: Yeah. You know that.

Julie: But my listeners don’t. So let’s try that again. 

Joey: Okay, fair enough.

Julie: Have you read the Hunger Games? 

Joey: Yes, I have. 

Julie: And you think this is better than the Hunger Games?

Joey: Yes.

Julie: Would it make a good movie? 

Joey: Oh my God, yeah. But the thing is, I think it would make an incredible movie, but I don’t know if I could see it because they would be very scary put to screen.

Julie: Do you think it’s scarier than the Hunger Games? Because that’s a pretty scary concept. Teenagers murdering each other.

Joey: There’s a lot of teenagers murdering each other in this trilogy.

Julie: What is it with your generation always murdering each other in books?

Joey: That’s a fair question.

Julie: Yeah. What’s the answer?

Joey: I wish I could tell you. 

Julie: Yeah, I’m sorry we screwed up the environment for you. And now you guys keep killing each other in all your books. 

Joey: Wow. 

Julie: This got dark. That escalated.

Joey: That escalated very quickly. 

Julie: Okay. Did you read any cheerful books this year?

Joey: I mean, I read the final book of Trials of Apollo series, which was good. Other than that, not a ton of cheerful books. 

Julie: That’s the Percy Jackson series?

Joey: Well, it’s not the Percy Jackson series, but it’s in the universe. 

Julie Oh, okay. Is that series over with now? 

Joey: Yes. The final book came out like September of last year, I think, and I read it early this year. 

Julie: What are you looking forward to next? 

Joey: I don’t know. Well, remember when we did that Secret Santa, Ella got me that Neal Schusterman book that was a signed first edition? I’m planning on reading that at some point. That’s called Game Changer by Neil Shusterman.

Julie: You’re a big fan of his. What’s your favorite Neil Shusterman book?

Joey: I think you know it’s Scythe.

Julie: Which you talked about on this show last year, correct? You do love a dark book. 

Joey: I do.




Erin: Hi, my name is Erin and I’m 18 years old. 

Julie: Hi, Erin. Welcome to the Best Book Ever podcast. 

Erin: Thank you for having me. This is such an honor. I’m your biggest fan.

Julie: Erin, tell me about your favorite book. 

Erin: Okay, well my favorite book is Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos. And I apologize for butchering that name because I don’t think I pronounced it correctly. 

Julie: Tell me what Life in a Fishbowl is about. 

Erin: Okay. So. It is a very interesting novel and it is genuinely nothing like I’ve ever read in my life. I would try and compare it to something, but I literally can’t. It’s so different than really anything I’ve ever read. Basically it centers around a young teenager named Jackie, and she just lives in a very normal, everyday family. But then her father gets diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, I guess, or terminal cancer, whatever you would call it. And then in order to make money for his family, you know, he knows he’s gonna die. And so, in order to make money for his family before he dies, he decides to auction off his life. Well, auction off what’s left of his life. On eBay. And then he decides to auction himself off and whoever bids the highest can basically do whatever they want with him. So then a TV program kind of catches the eye of the sale on eBay and decides to kind of begin filming a reality TV show about the family’s life and their journey through his illness. But then very quickly the family starts to realize that the manager of the TV show and the company as a whole are just very invasive and they kind of slowly start to take over their house and their life and their finances and all of that. But the most interesting part of the book is that it switches off perspectives between all of the characters. So the daughter, the father, the manager of the TV show, the mother, and then also all of the original bidders who, saw his ad, saw his listing on eBay, and tried to bid for him. So it’s kind of going back and forth between all these characters and their experience with this situation. 

Julie: What kind of people would try to bid on another man’s life? 

Erin” Good question. So, one of the people who tries to bid on him is a nun, for example, and she is bidding on him in order to save his life, or what she thinks would be saving his life. Because she basically wants to save him from being purchased by someone with bad intentions. One person with bad intentions who’s bidding on him, his plan is to murder him after he buys him, basically. So there’s just all these different characters with all these different intentions, who bid on him at first, but ultimately the TV show company gets him. But still throughout the book, all these bidders are still involved with him. So, the chapters are still from their perspectives. It is very sad because, you know, the family kind of starts to realize that this TV show is kind of controlling their entire lives and pretty much ruining their lives. But, they know they kind of have no way out cause they signed contracts. And also they need the money because the dad was their main source of income. And everyone knows that he’s very shortly going to die. So they kind of have no way out, because they need the money. 

Julie: So now this is a book that, the second you finished it, you handed it to me because you are my YA Book Whisperer. 

Erin: Yes. 

Julie: I think you’ve left out a really crucial POV. One of the points of view is what?

Erin: Well, yeah, so, I couldn’t decide if I was going to talk about this. 

Julie: Do you think we should? because I think we should, or no?

Erin: Yeah, we can. So yeah. Another point of view another, another, I guess you would call it a character, who gets their own chapters from their own perspective, is the brain tumor itself. And that sounds super crazy and it is, but basically, it’s a way to kind of get more of an insight into the family’s life. Because when the chapters are from the brain tumor’s perspective, the brain tumor’s kind of eating away at all of these memories and all of these feelings from the dad’s brain. So you kind of get an insight to like memories of his children’s upbringing and his upbringing and his feelings that he doesn’t say out loud. And in the end when the brain tumor kind of, makes him unable to function anymore, it’s like, that is him. You know what I mean? So it’s like he, as a character, and in the book, is not able to communicate with his family or anything else, but you’re still getting insight to what he’s thinking and feeling, because there are chapters from the brain tumor’s perspective. So it’s like, it’s him in a way, but it’s also the thing that’s killing him. And it’s, it’s so crazy. It’s just, it’s just unlike anything. 

Julie: It’s a really deep book for very young people. Don’t you think? 

Erin: Yes. It’s. I mean, it’s definitely YA fiction. And it’s not scary. I wouldn’t say, I mean there, it’s definitely drama and there are some, I would even say near the end, thriller, I guess, aspects to it. But it’s not scary. It’s definitely a heavy topic. I think it’s written in a way that’s like, obviously, I don’t know anyone who’s had a brain tumor. I’ve never had a brain tumor, but I could read it in a way where I could really sympathize with this family. 

Julie: It really gets into, sort of, the meaning of life. Right? Like what does it mean to be human? 

Erin: Yes, for sure. And it really gets into another aspect, which you’re kind of not expecting, but it really gets into social media and the entertainment industry and how fake it is. Because it’s very clear that the TV show is kind of manipulating their lives to look over dramatized. And editing it in a way that everything is more sad and more dramatic and everyone’s angrier and all this stuff. So, it also explores that aspect, which is not really expected, but really good addition. 

Julie: So everyone is kind of feeding off this family, not just the brain tumor. Is that the thing?

Erin: Yes.

Julie: Did you learn something from this book? 

Erin: I didn’t necessarily learn a huge life lesson or something, but this book was one of the first books that really showed me how versatile writing could be. Just because, like I keep saying, genuinely, I have never read anything like it. I read it and I was just kind of blown away by the writing. 



Bookworms I do almost all of my recordings via Zoom, and most of us are so sick of Zoom interactions, we could scream. that goes double for the school-aged kids in our lives. So before I sign off today, I’d like to say a special thank you to the parents who helped wrangle these kids to do a podcast interview. I am so grateful to them for giving up their precious family time to talk to me. And I’m so grateful that they’re raising readers. Your kids are so smart, so funny, and so dang interesting. I am absolutely in awe of all of you. Thank you. 

Thanks for listening, Bookworms! You can follow the podcast on Instagram. I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and you can find me on Instagram. Remember, whenever you are book shopping, help support indie bookstores and this podcast by using my affiliate link at Bookshop. Bookshop supports independent bookstores, and if you shop using my link, I will also get a small percentage of your purchase at no extra expense to you. Thanks for joining me today. And I will see you at the library.

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