Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #1)

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #1)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765378941
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 02/16/2016
Series: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series , #1
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 82,308
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 13 Years

About the Author

BRANDON SANDERSON is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Rithmatist and Steelheart, both of which were selected for the American Library Association's Teens' Top Ten list. He's also written many popular and award-winning books for adults. His middle grade series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, is now available in deluxe editions.

Reading Group Guide

About this guide

The questions and activities that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels. The guide has been developed in alignment with the Common Core State Standards; however please feel free to adapt this content to suit the needs and interests of your students or reading group participants.

Brandon Sanderson is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Rithmatist and Steelheart, both of which were selected for the American Library Association’s Teens’ Top Ten list. He’s also written many popular and award-winning books for adults. His middle-grade series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, is now available in deluxe hardcover editions from Starscape.

Hayley Lazo grew up just outside Washington, D.C. Her art can be found at art-zealot.deviantart.com.

About this series

Brandon Sanderson turns readers’ understanding of literary genres upside-down and backward in this lively adventure series. In the world of thirteen-year-old Alcatraz Smedry, “Librarians,” with their compulsions to organize and control information, are a source of evil, and “Talents” can include breaking things, arriving late, and getting lost. Add an unlikely teenage knight named Bastille, flying glass dragons, wild battles, references to philosophers and authors from Heraclitus to Terry Pratchett, and plenty of hilarious wordplay, and you have a series to please book lovers of all ages—one that will have readers reflecting deeply about the nature of knowledge, truth, family, and trust, all while laughing out loud.

READING LITERATURE

Genre Study:FANTASY

In the introduction to the first book in the series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, the narrator, Alcatraz Smedry, claims that his story is true, even though it will be shelved as “fantasy” in the world known as “the Hushlands” to which his readers (you) belong.

Fantasy is a literary genre that often includes:

• Characters who are magical, inspired by mythology, or who have special powers

• Settings that include unexplored parts of the known world, or new and different worlds

• Plot elements (actions) that cannot be explained in terms of historical or scientific information from our known world

While reading the books in this series, note when the author uses some of these elements of fantasy to tell his story. Students can track their observations in reading journals if desired, noting which elements of the fantasy genre are most often used by the author.

Older readers (grades 6 and 7) may also consider the way the author incorporates elements of the following genre into his novels, as well as how this genre relates to the fantasy components of the series:

Science fiction, which deals with imaginative concepts such as futuristic settings and technologies, space and time travel, and parallel universes. Science fiction stories frequently explore the effects of specific scientific or technological discoveries on governments and societies.

After reading one or more of the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians books, invite students to reread the “Author’s Foreword” to Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians and discuss why they think the author chose to begin the series by explaining where the books will be shelved in a library.

Technical Study:STRUCTURE & LITERARY DEVICES

The Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series can be viewed as the author’s exploration of the idea, concept, and value of books themselves as both a way information is shared, and the way it is contained. One way Brandon Sanderson accomplishes this is to question the very structure of the novel. Invite students to look for the following elements in the stories and share their reactions to these literary devices and structures.

POINT OF VIEW

In this series, the point of view through which the reader sees the story is in the first-person voice of Alcatraz Smedry. He also claims that he is using the name Brandon Sanderson as a pseudonym, thus this is an autobiography or memoir. Is Alcatraz Smedry a reliable narrator, giving readers an unbiased report of the events of the story, or is Alcatraz an unreliable narrator, making false claims or telling the story in such a way as to leave doubts in the reader’s mind? In what ways is Alcatraz reliable and/or unreliable? How might the series be different if Bastille or another character were telling the story? (Hint: For further examples of unreliable narrators in children’s and teen fiction, read Jon Sciezska’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers, Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.)

ASIDES

At times, the narrator directly addresses the reader, suggesting how s/he should interpret a comment or how to best enjoy the novel (e.g. reading aloud or acting out scenes). Does this change the reader’s sense of his or her relationship with the book? If so, how does this relationship feel different?

CHAPTER BREAKS

Discuss the unusual ways the author begins, ends, numbers, and sequences chapters particularly in books four and five. Is this pleasant or unpleasant? Have readers come across any other works of fiction (or nonfiction) that explore chapters in this way?

WORDPLAY IN WORLD BUILDING

To explain Free Kingdoms ideas, technologies, and objects in terms of the Hushlander (readers’) world, the author uses similes, metaphors, and analogies. To reflect protagonist Alcatraz’s own confusion and frustration, Brandon Sanderson employs invented words, puns, and even text written backward or in other unusual ways. Find examples of these uses of wordplay in the text. How does the use of these literary devices enrich the text?

Character Study: FAMILIES AND FRIENDS

Having been raised in foster homes convinced that both of his parents were horrible people, Alcatraz Smedry is often uncertain as to what it means to like, love, and trust other people. Since he is the narrator of the series, Alcatraz’s uncertainty affects readers’ perceptions of the characters he describes. In a reading journal or in class discussion, have students analyze the physical traits, lineage (parents, relationships), motivations, and concerns of major characters in the novel. How is each character related to Alcatraz? What is especially important about the idea of family relationships in this series? Does Alcatraz’s view of certain characters change in the course of a single book? Do recurring characters develop or change over the course of more than one book in the series? If so, how and why do the characters evolve?

English Language Arts Common Core Reading Literature Standards

RL.3.3-6, 4.3-6, 5.3-6, 6.3-6, 7.3-6

Themes & Motifs:DISCUSSION TOPICS for the SERIES

Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels can be read on many levels, including as adventure stories, as musings on the nature of knowledge, and as fantasies incorporating elements of science fiction. Here are some themes you may want to watch for and explore with your classmates or students.

Talent

How does Sanderson use the word “talent” in traditional and nontraditional ways? Is talent important, valuable, even essential? What does Sanderson really mean by “talent”? How might students incorporate Sanderson’s unique interpretation of the word “talent” into their own sense of self?

Heroism

Throughout the novel, Alcatraz claims to be “bad,” “a liar,” “a coward,” and “not a hero.” What makes a “hero” in a novel, a movie, and in real life? Does it matter if a person acts heroically on purpose or by accident? What do you think is the most important reason Alcatraz denies his heroism?

Knowledge, Learning, Thinking

Find instances in the stories when Alcatraz admits to acting before thinking ahead to consider all possible outcomes of his plans. In these instances, is he simply being careless or does he lack some important information since he was raised in the Librarian controlled Hushlands? Compare and contrast the way people acquire knowledge in the Hushlands versus the Free Kingdoms.

Opposites

In The Shattered Lens, the narrator refers to the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, whose doctrines included (1) universal flux (the idea that things are constantly changing) and (2) unity of opposites (the idea that opposites [objects, ideas] are necessary and balance each other). The philosopher also believed that “Much learning does not teach understanding.” (The Art and Thought of Heraclitus, ed. Charles H. Kahn. Cambridge University Press, 1981). How might the series be read as an exploration of Heraclitus’ doctrines?

English Language Arts Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards

SL.3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1

SL.3.3, 4.3, 5.3, 6.3, 7.3

RESEARCH & WRITING PROJECTS

Keep a reading journal. Use the journal to record:

• Favorite quotations, funny lines, exciting scenes (note page numbers)

• Situations in which the main character is in crisis or danger, and notes on what advice readers might offer

• New vocabulary words and/or a list of invented words; deliberately misspelled words

• Sketches inspired by the novels

• Questions readers would like to ask the author or characters from the novels

Explore Glass

From Oculator’s Lenses to unbreakable glass buildings, glass is a core substance throughout the series. Go to the library or online to learn more about glass. Create a PowerPoint or other multi-media presentation discussing the physical properties, history, practical and creative uses of glass. Or create a presentation explaining how glass works in the Free Kingdoms. Include visual elements, such as photographs or drawings, in your presentation.

Silimatic Technology

This part scientific, part magical technology powers much of the Free Kingdoms. Using details from the novels, create an outline or short pamphlet explaining the rules and functions of silimatic technology as you understand it. If desired, dress as you imagine a Free Kingdoms scientist might choose to dress and present your findings to classmates.

Choose a Talent

Many of the characters in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series have talents that seem more like problems. Think of a personality quality you consider a fault in your own life, such as messy penmanship, poor spelling, or the inability to catch a baseball. Imagine how that talent might prove useful in the world of Alcatraz. Write a 3-5 page scene in which you encounter Alcatraz and help him using your “talent.”

English Language Arts Common Core Writing Standards

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3

W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

DISCUSSION STARTERS AND WRITING PROMPTS FOR INDIVIDUAL TITLES

ALCATRAZ vs. THE EVIL LIBRARIANS

Who is Alcatraz Smedry? Is his tendency to break things a curse…or a talent? Though his past has been marked by a series of disastrous foster home placements, his breaking ability is about to lead him to a future battling Evil Librarians and discovering the truth about his long-missing parents.

QUOTES

Discuss your interpretation of the following quotations in terms their meaning within the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“Now, you Hushlanders may think that I took all of these strange experiences quite well…maybe if you’d grown up with the magical ability to break almost anything you touched, then you would have been just as quick to accept unusual circumstances.” (Chapter 3)

“Public libraries exist to entice. Librarians want everyone to read their books—whether those books are deep and poignant works about dead puppies or nonfiction books about made-up topics, like the Pilgrims, penicillin, and France. In fact the only book they don’t want you to read is the one you’re holding right now.” (Chapter 7)

“It has been my experience that most problems in life are caused by a lack of information. Many people just don’t know the things they need to know.

Some ignore the truth; others never understand it.” (Chapter 15)

WRITING PROMPTS

Reading Journal Entry: A BAG OF SAND

What would you make of the sort of birthday present Alcatraz received? Write a journal entry describing how you might have reacted and the emotions you felt (anger, curiosity, disappointment, confusion) upon receiving such a gift. Sketch your vision of this odd gift.

Reading Journal Entry: LYING

Throughout the novel, Alcatraz insists that he is a liar. Write an entry into your reading journal in which you explain what you think Alcatraz means by being a LIAR. Follow with your thoughts on one or more of the following questions: Have you ever acted or felt like a liar in ways similar to those of Alcatraz? Have you ever felt like people were not seeing you as your true self—or were making assumptions about you based on information from other people? How did you react? Did you try to make people see the truth or allow them to believe the falsehood? Is lying always bad? Is something that feels like a lie always a lie?

Explanatory Text: SANDS OF RASHID

Imagine you are Bastille, Sing, or Grandpa Smedry separated from Alcatraz but anxious for him to understand the truth about the Sands of Rashid. In the voice of one of these characters, write a letter of explanation to send to Alcatraz.

Literary Analysis: CLIFFHANGERS

“Hooks and cliffhangers belong only at the ends of chapters.”

Go to the library or online to find definitions of the novel-writing terms “hook” and “cliffhanger.” Find examples of these devices as Brandon Sanderson uses them in his novel. Then, write a one-page essay in which you agree or disagree with the above quotation from the book. Use examples from Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians and other novels to support your position.

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.13, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Lexile level: 730L, ATOS Book Level: 4.9, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 118054 EN

THE SCRIVENER’S BONES

Has Alcatraz’s estranged father gotten lost in the secret underground Library of Alexandria? And is he willing to pay the ultimate price for limitless knowledge…the sacrifice of his soul?

QUOTES

Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“The things I am telling you here are factual. In this case, I can only prove that I’m a liar by telling the truth, though I will also include some lies—which I will point out—to act as object lessons proving the truth that I’m a liar.” (Chapter 4)

“The quickest way I’ve found to feel bad about yourself is to read a self-help book, and the second quickest way is to read a depressing literary work intended to make you feel terrible about humanity in general.” (Chapter 9)

“Many people would rather give up what remains of their lives than live in ignorance…. This is only one of the many ways that we gain souls.” (Chapter 9)

“Writers—particularly storytellers like myself—write about people. That is ironic, since we actually know nothing about them.” (Chapter 16)

“Think about it. Why does someone become a writer? Is it because they like people? Of course not. Why else would we seek out a job where we get to spend all day, every day, cooped up in our basement with no company besides paper, a pencil, and our imaginary friends?” (Chapter 16)

WRITING EXERCISES

Reading Journal Entry: KNOWLEDGE

The Curators attempt to trick Alcatraz and his comrades into reading. In a short essay or reading journal entry, describe what type of knowledge is most tempting to you. What is the most important kind of knowledge? Do you think you would be able to avoid the Curators’ traps? Why or why not?

Explanatory Text: ANCIENT LIBRARIES

With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to learn more about the Ancient Library of Alexandria and other ancient libraries or archives. Create informative posters about these places, their locations, history, contents, and legacy, and assemble them into a classroom display.

Literary Analysis: NAMES

Many Free Kingdoms characters have names associated with prisons. Make an annotated list of characters with prison names accompanied by facts about their namesake prisons. What reason(s) are given for the prison names by various characters in the story? Can you think of other novels, book series, television shows, or movies in which characters’ names are related to such things as historical figures or geographical landmarks? What impact does Brandon Sanderson’s naming choice have on your reading of the story?

Literary Analysis: FORGOTTEN LANGUAGE

Write a short essay explaining how the idea of a “Forgotten Language” is introduced in the story and how it becomes an increasingly important concept throughout the course of the novel. Why might the idea of language be something Brandon Sanderson seeks to put at the core of this series?

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Lexile level: 660L, ATOS Book Level: 4.7, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 126447 EN

THE KNIGHTS OF CRYSTALLIA

Can Alcatraz handle the realization that, in the Free Kingdom city of Crystallia, he is incredibly famous? How will that change his friendship with Bastille, who has been stripped of her knighthood for failing to protect the “great” Alcatraz? And can either of them save the historic city from the Evil Librarians?

QUOTES

Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“Summarizing is when you take a story that is complicated and interesting, then stick it in a microwave until it shrivels up into a tiny piece of black crunchy tarlike stuff. A wise man once said, ‘Any story, no matter how good, will sound really, really dumb when you shorten it to a few sentences.’” (Chapter 8)

“People tend to believe what other people tell them…. And if we didn’t know who was an expert, we wouldn’t know whose opinion was the most important to listen to.

Or, at least that’s what the experts want us to believe. Those who have listened to Socrates know that they’re supposed to ask questions. Questions like, ‘If all people are equal, then why is my opinion worth less than that of the expert?’ or ‘If I like reading this book, then why should I let someone else tell me that I shouldn’t like reading it?’” (Chapter 13)

“I mean, why is it that you readers always assume you’re never to blame for anything? You just sit there, comfortable on your couch while we suffer. You can enjoy our pain and misery because you’re safe.” (Chapter 19)

WRITING EXERCISES

Reading Journal Entry: FAME

Upon arriving in the Free Kingdom city of Crystallia, Alcatraz discovers that he is famous. In the character of Alcatraz, write a journal entry describing how you came to this discovery, your emotions, and any planned actions you might take since discovering this new fame and its power.

Explanatory Text: KNIGHTHOOD

Write a short essay explaining the roles, responsibilities, and sacrifices made by members of the Knights of Crystallia. Is Bastille an ordinary or unusual knight? Why or why not?

Explanatory Text: SOCRATES

With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to learn more about the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and the “Socratic method” of teaching and learning. Compile your information into a short report. Conclude with 1-3 paragraphs explaining why Brandon Sanderson references Socrates in the novel.

Literary Analysis: SPACE, TIME, KNOWLEDGE, AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD

Alcatraz is told that talents can have impact on space, time, knowledge, and the physical world, and that his talent (breaking things) is the one ability that can impact all four areas. Make a four-columned list to analyze these areas, noting the names and talents of various story characters whose abilities fall under each category, brainstorming other possible talents that could be included in each column and, finally, writing a short paragraph explaining the breaking talent and its breadth of impact.

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Lexile level: 670L, ATOS Book Level: 4.9, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 133649 EN

THE SHATTERED LENS

The island of Mokia is under siege by the Librarians, and its fate may tip the scales for the Librarians’ conquest of all the Free Kingdoms…unless Alcatraz can sort out family, enemies, friends, talents, and the power of exploding teddy bears.

QUOTES

Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“Most members of my family, it should be noted, are some kind of professor, teacher, or researcher. It may seem odd to you that a bunch of dedicated miscreants like us are also a bunch of scholars. If you think that it means you haven’t known enough professors in your time.” (Chapter 6)

“That’s how they win. By making us give up. I’ve lived in Librarian lands. They don’t win because they conquer, they win because they make people stop caring, stop wondering. They’ll tire you out, then feed you lies until you start repeating them, if only because it’s too hard to keep arguing.” (Chapter 070706)

“Something stirred inside of me, something that felt immense. Like an enormous serpent, shifting, moving, awakening.”

“‘I want everything to make sense again!’” (Chapter 8)

“The Librarians…they try to keep us from changing. They want everything to remain the same inside the Hushlands…

In this case, it’s not because they’re oppressive. It’s because they’re afraid. Change frightens them. It’s unknown, uncertain, like Smedrys and magic. They want everyone to assume that things can’t change.” (Author’s Afterword)

WRITING EXERCISES:

Reading Journal Entry: WHO IS RIGHT?

By the end of the fourth novel, Alcatraz believes that his mother, Shasta, is in the right while his father, Attica, is on a dangerous path. Write a journal entry describing how you think this new perspective will affect Alcatraz’s relationships with his parents. Have you ever felt caught between two parents or other adults in your life? How might you use this experience to offer advice to Alcatraz about handling his situation?

Reading Journal Entry: MOKIA

Imagine that you have arrived in Mokia along with Alcatraz. Write a journal entry describing the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions you experience those first moments on the island nation.

Explanatory Text: HUSHLANDS VERSUS FREE KINGDOMS

Imagine that you are a scholar from the Free Kingdoms assigned to instruct Alcatraz about the two worlds that coexist on Earth. Prepare a speech, including an introduction of yourself, your name, and your relationship to Alcatraz, then address the following questions: What are the key distinctions between these two worlds? How do characters move between the worlds? Can all characters do so? What do you think would happen to the Hushlands if they were made aware of the Free Kingdoms? Why are the Free Kingdoms so anxious to remain free from the Hushland society created by the Librarians?

Literary Analysis: CHARACTER COMPARISONS

Using information from the novel, create a chart comparing and contrasting the characters of Bastille and Draulin, Shasta and Attica Smedry, or another pair of characters of interest to you. Write a paragraph or essay describing the importance of including both of your chosen characters in the book. How does the contrast between the characters represent a larger conflict in the story.

Literary Analysis: AN ALCATRAZ HANDBOOK

From exploding teddy bears to myriad powerful lenses to terms like “stoopiderific,” the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels have a vocabulary of their own. Create an Excel spreadsheet, graphic index, or other type of chart or booklet in which you list and define the language of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians.

Genre Exploration: POEMS, SONG LYRICS, AND BEYOND

In the course of the series, Alcatraz’s talent is described as the most powerful, dangerous, and dark, yet he is a legend and a hero. With the complex descriptions in mind, write a poem, song lyrics, or a four-panel cartoon celebrating (or denouncing) Alcatraz Smedry.

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Lexile level: 680L, ATOS Book Level: 4.8, AR Points: 8.0, AR Quiz No. 140919 EN

THE DARK TALENT

To stop his father from carrying out a dastardly plan to unleash Talents across the Hushlands, Alcatraz must infiltrate his dad’s hiding place within the Evil Librarians’ great Highbrary—cunningly disguised as the Library of Congress. But can he trust his accomplices, including his terrifying mother Shasta and annoying cousin Dif? And, with his own Talent dangerously disabled, will he be able to find his father in time to save anyone—even himself?

QUOTES

Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“...the [tales] we tell ourselves these days always seem to need a happy ending…. Is it because the Librarians are protecting us from stories with sad endings? Or is it something about who we are, who we have become as a society, that makes us need to see the good guys win?” (Chapter Mary)

“Have you been with that fool of a grandfather of yours so long you’ve lost the ability to see the world as it has to be?” (Chapter 17)

Father said, “Son, you have to understand. Your mother is a Librarian. In her heart, she’s terrified of change—not to mention frightened of the idea of common people being outside her control.” (Chapter 18)

WRITING EXERCISES:

Reading Journal Entry: COWARDICE

Beginning with the “Foreword,” through chapters “Shu Wei” and 19, to the final pages of the “Afterword,” Alcatraz repeatedly calls himself a “coward.” Do you think Alcatraz is a coward in any or all of these instances? Write a journal entry explaining how you think Alcatraz would define the term coward, whether you use this term in the same way in your own life, and how you feel toward Alcatraz at moments in the story when he sees himself as a coward.

Reading Journal Entry: HAS ALCATRAZ FAILED?

Write a journal entry in which you agree or disagree with Alcatraz’s final page apologia. Has he failed and, if so, whom has he failed? Use quotes from the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series and/or from other novels or poems you have read, to support your position.

Explanatory Text: SMEDRYS

Throughout the novel, Alcatraz, Kaz, Dif, and other characters refer to certain actions or ideas as typical of a member of the Smedry line. In the character of Grandpa, Attica, Shasta, or Dif, write an essay explaining what it means to be a Smedry. Or, in the character of Alcatraz, write a letter to Bastille describing how you feel about belonging to the Smedry family.

Explanatory Text: AESOP’S FABLES

Brandon Sanderson makes several references to fables, particularly Aesop’s Fables, in The Dark Talent. With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to find a definition of “fable” and some facts about Aesop and his literary legacy. Read several of Aesop’s fables and select one that you feel could be applied to a scene in the novel. Write a short essay explaining why you believe Sanderson wanted to incorporate the idea of fables into this novel, and how and where you would reference your selected fable within the book.

Literary Analysis: AUTHORSHIP

The Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series is narrated by the character Alcatraz Smedry, who claims to be using the pseudonym of “Hushlands” author Brandon Sanderson. With friends or classmates, discuss how this double-layered claim of authorship affects the reading of the book and/or the reader’s relationship with the narrator. Then individually, write a short essay interpreting the following quote by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Junot Diaz in terms of the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels you have read:

“…we all dream that there’s an authoritative voice out there that will explain things, including ourselves. If it wasn’t for our longing for these things, I doubt the novel or the short story would exist in its current form.”

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3;

W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

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Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 79 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alcatraz Smedry, a foster child who has aTalent for breaking things,receives a mysterious bag of sand from his parents on his thirteenth birthday.After it is stolen by a cult of evil Librarians who secretly rule the world,Alcatraz teams up with his grandfather who has a Talent for being late,his cousins Sing and Quentin,and a knight named Bastille to get it back.
queenoftheshelf on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Information is power, and in the world of Alcatraz Smedry evil Librarians control the flow of information. On his thirteenth birthday Alcatraz, a foster child with a penchent for breaking things, receives his inheritance from his parents, a bag of sand. Soon after, Alcatraz meets his Grandfather and departs on a quest to Central Libraria. Narrator Ramon de Ocampa's reading is vibrant and exciting, giving voice to Brandon Sandersons witty, sarcastic and wry protagonist. Interweaving lessons of personal growth, humor, and occasional discussions of proper writing style and why authors are inherently sadistic individuals, this story could be rather tedious, however the performance gives it new life. Kids in Grades 6-9 and fans of Lemony Snicket will enjoy this funny, touching, and action-packed fantasy.
mentormom on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Despite Sanderson's attempt at humor and literary allusions, I just don't think he quite pulled it off with this book. I realize that the off the wall, wacky, and even silly feel of this book is part of its appeal for kids. Unfortunately, Sanderson's literary creativity often came off as annoying instead of funny.Sanderson does have some good ideas for fantasy and my kids did somewhat enjoy listening to this book. But they did not like Alcatraz's negative tone at all. I see a lot of potential in Alcatraz, but I truly think it needs a very good editor. Maybe the next books in the series will be better.We listened to the book on CD. Charlie Wade, as the narrator, did a great job, except for the fact that his "Alcatraz" voice grated on my nerves and annoyed me.The best line of the whole book was "I, for instance, have not been able to transform myself into a popsicle despite years of effort." That honestly made us crack up!If you have time to kill, it's an okay read, but there are so many awesome books out there that I honestly must ask, "Why waste your time?"
kayceel on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Silly and fun - great for ages 9-early teens, even older, if they love sarcastic narrators...
YouthGPL on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Kearsten says: Alcatraz has no idea he's a heir to a mysterious and special...bag of sand. On his 13th birthday, everything he thought he knew has changed, and it's up to him to defeat the evil Librarians (who've been lying about the truth for many years) and save the world from evil Librarian-domination. Fun and a bit silly, this one's completely engaging! But don't tell anyone I said so - they might think I'm a double agent, spying on the evil Librarians from the *inside*...
Othemts on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Another audiobook I downloaded based on title alone from the public library and one that shows that Young Adult literature is far ahead of grown up fiction for imagination and creativity. Alcatraz Smedry is a teenage orphan with a talent for breaking things who learns that he is from a heroic lineage and must rescue his inheritance - a band of sand - from the hands of the evil librarians who secretly control the world. The deadpan delivery of Alcatraz's satirical narrative is greatly enhanced by reader Charlie McWade. I found it a hilarious send-up of fantasy/sci-fi conventions yet at the same time sneakily getting a few messages in as well. If you don't like at first, at least stick around for the dinosaurs.
kgriffith on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I liked the idea, the story was well told (when it was actually being told), and the characters were great fun.However.It may be simply because I read the Harry Potter books first, and I'm not going to check publication dates and blah blah blah, but first, the 'Alivened' thing seemed an obvious ripoff of horcruxes. At any rate, the premise was far better developed by JKR. Also, it seemed to me that the last page or two contained a (very) thinly veiled dig at the HP books which, sorry Sanderson, you haven't got the literary cohones to pull off. I felt like Sanderson's style was a bit too self-involved, and that the asides, references to the author/narrator connection, and other 'clever' bits were not only too frequent, but overblown. I feel like if I met this guy in a bar, I'd roll my eyes and walk away before he could complete his first 'See how witty I am' pickup line. On the other hand, the book wasn't badly written - I just don't care for his style. I'm glad I didn't get the next book in the series in hardcover, but I'll probably pick it up when it comes out in paperback.
ccahill on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A clever adventure story full of fun characters. Perfect for upper-elementary or lower-middle school students, especially boys.Only a couple things bugged me about this book:1. When the character narrates, he seems like an adult, but the dialogue sounds more like a teenager.2. It also got tiresome when the narrator would explain why he was telling the story as he was - I wanted him to get on with the story!
readermom on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I love this book, my children love this book, I bet my parents would love this book. Its a great book. If snarky comments and silly situations make you laugh, you will love this book.
mtwaldman on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book was a very fun, silly read. This book does not take itself very seriously it is similar in genre to Harry Potter, but not as complex and has more humor. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Riordan's or Rowlings books. It is a very enjoyable book .
SunnySD on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Foster kid Alcatraz Smedry has penchant for breaking things, which has caused him to be removed from not one, not two, but a very great many foster homes in the course of his thirteen years in the system. Now, on his thirteenth birthday, he's received a package from his real parents. After thirteen years, a package from one's parents, arriving out of the blue - and just as he's burned down the kitchen - Alcatraz is reluctant to expect much. But sand...? So begins a pretentious, but still entertaining series that might captivate readers too young for Jasper Fforde's adventures of Thursday Next. There's a bit too much narration, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the movie rights optioned by Disney or Nickelodeon, but overall I'd read the sequel.
bluesalamanders on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I tried. I really, really wanted to like this book. I think the characters and the story and the humor have a lot of potential, and I generally think Sanderson is a great writer, but something about this book just rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it was the way that Alcatraz kept talking to the reader, which I tend to find uncomfortable. I think I would have liked it a lot better if it had just been a straight fantasy book rather than one of those books that insists that it's not actually a fantasy book, it's really actually true!
MrsLee on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This was not my favorite Sanderson book, but I think that is because I was not the intended audience. It simply annoys me when an author breaks up the story and speaks to the reader. It always sounds condescending, and especially so in this book. That being said, the story itself was great fun, I knew it was the truth all along.
xicanti on LibraryThing 8 months ago
When Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand for this thirteenth birthday, he finds himself thrust into a word of evil Librarians and noble Oculators.This was a lot of fun. The story moves quickly, dragging the reader along as Alcatraz meets his grandfather, learns what his bag of sand is good for, and launches an epic rescue mission straight into the heart of the Librarian stronghold. The whole thing is bizarre enough to keep any young reader entertained/confused/exasperated/wanting more. It's certainly not a nice book, (as Alcatraz frequently reminds us), but it should appeal to fans of Lemony Snicket, Jonathan Stroud and others who've crafted entertaining stories about horrible occurrences and less than admirable characters.There's a fair amount of postmodernism here, too. Alcatraz frequently comments on storytelling as he relates his own strange tale. As a result, I think this would be most suitable for young readers who've already got a fairly good grasp of how books work and are familiar with some literary conventions. Newer readers probably wouldn't get as much out of this simply because they won't know what it's parodying. They may, however, find the humour enough to carry them through.Definitely recommended. And read some of Brandon's adult stuff while you're at it!
lilibrarian on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Alcatraz breaks things without trying, and is moved from one foster home to another. On his 13th birthday, he receives a box of sand as a gift. It is stolen. The next day a man claiming to be his grandfather shows up at the door and they set off on a quest to recover the sands and save the free world from the librarians who hoard all knowledge.
norbertandfang5325 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Alcatraz is not a nice kid. Would a nice kid burn down his foster family's kichen? No, Alcatraz is not a nice kid. It may be because he never had a real family. Well he does but they must have a twisted sense of humer to name him Alcatraz and for his birthday give him a bag of sand. Or it could be because he was just being clumsy, everything he touches brakes. Or he could just not be nice. Alcatraz's life was normal until his seemingly twisted parents sent him sand for his birthday. After that he almost gets shot, finds out brecking things is a telent and that all librarians are evil. What happens atfer that? Well I'm not going to tell you. Maybe I'm not nice like Alcatraz or maybe I just want you to read the book
Maaike15274 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Fun, fast written story. Don't like the way Alcatraz is talking to the reader though. Little bit smug and too happy with himself. Very original world.
ABookVacation on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really had a hard time reading this book. It's for elementary kids, I believe, but my students said it was good and wanted me to check it out to see if it could go on the outside reading list. Yea... no. not high school level, and I really wanted to scratch my eyes out while reading it. It's probably great for little kids though.
revslick on LibraryThing 8 months ago
At first glance I thought this was a mash up cheesy version of Harry Potter meets Percy Jackson. It does have some similar elements, but the pacing is quicker and sharper than either of the two plus the gimmick of a snarky narrator is brilliant. Alcatraz takes liberty constantly durring the story to make snarky feedback some of which is downright Fun EEEE! I think my favorite line was when he remarked about the chaos in the library and some children mistakenly had the good fortune to check out books on family dysfunction. Quick, fun read.
-Eva- on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A clever little story mainly for young adults, but with some giggles for adults too. I had hoped that the evil librarians (the reason for my reading the book) would be more "librariany," but they were still a decent nemesis. It was a quick, entertaining read, but since the narrator¿s voice is a little too intrusive and gets a tad too smart-alecky for my taste, I'll probably skip the rest of the series.
phoenixcomet on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Alcatraz Smedry just turned 13 and on his birthday received a package of sands from his parents whom he's never known. Turns out that he's ALCATRAZ SMEDRY of the Oculators of the Free Lands. His bag of sands were stolen and had fallen into the hands of the evil librarians of the Hushlands. The evil Librarians don't want the world to know about the Free Lands or about anything in fact except what they order and organize. Had a great time with this story!
nymith on LibraryThing 8 months ago
When foster-kid Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand (supposedly his inheritance) in the mail for his thirteenth birthday he gets started on a crazy, madcap adventure involving an attempt to infiltrate the downtown library.That doesn't tell you much, but for me a lot of the joy in this book lay in discovering the plot details myself. Suffice to say, this was one of the most ludicrously funny stories I've read in a long while. The humor ranged back and forth from all-out absurdities to witty observations made by Alcatraz himself. I tore through the book, always certain of a few good laughs in every chapter.It wasn't just comedy though. Sometimes, especially as the situation got worse toward the climax, it verged on drama. Quite effectively. And character development was astonishingly good for a madcap, off-the-wall comedy adventure. The system of magic made sense and was very unique (though I can't say quite the same for the world-building) and the plot was rip-roaring and built up to a frantic pace.For all that, there were some complaints. One: that none of the characters were likable from the get-go. It took most of the book for me to warm up to Alcatraz and Bastille especially. Two: the whole book comes across as a writing excercise, so it's not the smoothest read. It feels like it was written on the whim of the author, which is fine and true. But it does mean I found a few flaws, mostly early on, that could have been ironed out with some long-term consideration.But those are minor complaints. My biggest compliment for the book is the narration by Alcatraz. It's one of the finest examples of an unreliable narrator I've ever seen. Alcatraz makes snarky asides, talks directly to you, rants at length about unimportant, unrelated topics, goes out of his way to torment and mislead you and sometimes flat-out lies. You've got to take everything he says with a grain of salt, and that for me, is the long term appeal of the book. I loved trying to sort out the opinionated narrative and find the facts, lies, foreshadowing and hinted-at future events in the muddle of Alcatraz's voice.I'm very eager to get my hands on the sequel, as this was a fun and easy read, and by the end I was endeared enough to the characters to want to find out what happens next. And I love the writing style. It wasn't perfect but not every book has to be. I'd recommend it to anyone who seeks a light diversion. I'd certainly give it four and a half if I could.
MerryMary on LibraryThing 8 months ago
What a hoot! Brandon gives us a roller-coaster ride into an alternate reality where "talents" are deceptively inconvenient, where Ocularians and Warriors use sight and Lenses to discover the truth about their surroundings, and where evil librarians control the known universe. Oh, wait. That last might not be alternate.In the best fantasy tradition, klutzy perennial foster-kid Alcatraz finds out on his 13th birthday that he is Something Special. He is thrown pell-mell into a totally confusing world where nothing he knew before seems to hold true. The world is his to save, without a clue what he's doing, or how he's doing it. Brandon's writing is sarcastic, heart-felt, self-deprecating, and hilarious. He breaks "the rules of writing" with abandon, and with complete awareness. I laughed out loud, and can't wait for the next installment.
westkids on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Who would have thought that all the librarians of the world actually control the information to which the rest of us have access? On his thirteenth birthday, Alcatraz Smedry discovers that everything he thought he knew was bogus. With the help of a newly discovered grandfather from a parallel reality, Smedry breaks into the central library to recover the truth. Lots of funny action follows with miniature talking dinosaurs and other unexpected discoveries. Recommended by Helen.
TheMightyQuinn on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Alcatraz is speeding through foster homes, thanks to his unusual talent for breaking things, but on his thirteenth birthday he receives a mysterious bag of sand from his long lost parents and a strange man claiming to be his grandfather shows up on his doorstep, launching Alcatraz into an unexpected adventure. Characters are comic book like and the bridge between worlds is as confusing to the reader as it is to Alcatraz. The plot hook that Alcatraz is not a good person seems unsubstantiated and contrived to appeal to the 'bad' side of readers. The overlying ideas are intriguing. Recommend for 4th-8th, more for boys then girls.