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June 25, 2008

The Beast

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The Beast

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 170

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Anthony “Spoon: Witherspoon is different than many of the kids in his Harlem neighborhood. He sees the chance for a brighter future. Spoon is offered a chance to attend an elite New England Prep School. Although he’s torn between leaving his home and exploring new possibilities, he know this is a once in a lifetime chance. After four months away, Anthony returns to find that home isn’t the same as it was when he left. His girlfriend, Gabi, has changed. Something dark and elusive haunts her. Spoon spots Gabi’s brother out on the streets. Illness plagues Anthony’s own family. Just when his world seems to be crumbling, Anthony has to find the strength to keep it all together. Can he keep his eyes on the future and still help the ones he loves? Or will Harlem life swallow them all and take their dreams away?

REVIEW: Myers writes a moving story about the struggles of a young man in Harlem. Anthony has gone away to an exclusive school and sees that there is a better life outside of Harlem. He’s still tied to his past and his love for Gabi. Gabi has turned to drugs because her dreams keep slipping farther away. Her mother is dying, her ailing grandfather is in her care, her little brother has turned to the streets and dealing, and her boyfriend is out of reach. Anthony slowly realizes Gabi’s addiction and works to help her. When she hasn’t returned for days, he visits the drug house and brings her home. Although this book dealt with the realities of drug use and the reasons why people turn to them, I do not feel that Myers adequately addresses the problem. Realistically, Anthony’s chances of bringing Gabi out of the drug house all on his own would be slim. I feel like the adults in the story should have been included in saving Gabi. At the same time, Anthony is fantasizing over his attraction to Chanelle.

The harsh realities of what drugs can do to a life are detailed well. On the other hand, the plot seems a little shallow. I would like to have seen more depth and intervention. Gabi’s love of poetry would lead to an interesting classroom discussion of poetry (its emotions and feelings). Overall, the book is appealing because of the love between the two characters and the hardships they endure. It is also valuable as a tool for teaching survival and overcoming harsh circumstances.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: context clues, figurative language, theme, setting, conclusions, predictions, climax, resolution, mood, tone

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drug use – pg. 161 “a needle still in his arm,” pg. 120 “skin surfacing, smoking…”

RELATED BOOKS: Slam!, Fallen Angels, Go Ask Alice, Beauty Queen, My Brother’s Keeper, Hero Ain’t Nothing but a Sandwich

RELATED MOVIES:  Little Fish, 28 Days, Permanent Midnight

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://shepherdingthought.com/2008/04/08/the-beast-by-walter-dean-myers/

http://www.drugfree.org/Parent/Resources/resources.aspx?ResourceType=Movies&page=2&Language=English

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/teendrug.html

http://www.scholastic.com/titles/features/fiction/thebeast_rrr.asp

http://litplans.com/authors/Walter_Dean_Myers.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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Slam

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Slam

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 266

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

PLOT SUMMARY: Greg Harris, aka Slam, is an outstanding basketball player. He has just recently transferred from his Harlem high school team to a magnet school. The pressure is on to perform in the classroom and on the courts where Slam has to learn to be a team player. All around him struggles are taking place. Life in Harlem is far from easy. Grandma is ill and in the hospital, Derek is following his lead. Ice may be dealing, and he can’t seem to get Mtisha off his mind. As the pressure mounts, Slam has to make some difficult decisions and dig deeper than he ever knew he could. Can he keep it all together and still prevail on the courts or will the pressure be too much?

REVIEW: Myers writes a moving story about the struggles of a young man in Harlem. Slam has talent, but he has to learn how to balance the demands of life without giving up or giving in. Slam! is a compelling story and a must read for basketball fans. This book would be good in an audio version. In general, the book would appeal more to boys. High school students can relate to Slam’s relationship issues, worries about his best friend’s new choices, and the pressure of making the grades and finding a path for the future. This book contains strong characters and play by play descriptions at times of basketball games and moves (which could bore students who do not understand the game of basketball). Great book for an African-American male who loves basketball to read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, causes of Slam’s difficulties – effects of his choices, setting, theme, conflict, writer’s motive, context clues (about Ice)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: allusions to drugs

RELATED BOOKS: Basketball by Mike Kennedy, The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams, How to Be Like Mike: Life Lessons about Basketball’s Best, Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream, The Beast

RELATED MOVIES:  Hoosiers (1986), Hoop Dreams (1994), Above the Rim (1994), Finding Forrester, Coach Carter (2005), Glory Road (2006)

RELATED MUSIC: Shaquille O’Neal – Respect, Hit Em High – Space Jam Soundtrack, We Are the Champions – Queen

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://faculty.salisbury.edu/~elbond/slam.htm

http://litplans.com/authors/Walter_Dean_Myers.html

http://www.bookhooks.com/detailed.cfm?Report_number=4652

http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/

http://aalbc.com/authors/walter1.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 23, 2008

Black Diamond

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Black Diamond

Author: P. McKissack & F. McKissack

Page Length: 184

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-fiction

REVIEW: This is an interesting story about the origin of the Negro Baseball Leagues. There are few accurate historical records to give a clear picture of creation of this league. However the authors have attempted to assemble several sources together in order that the reader may have a glimpse of how the “American Sport” of baseball segregated it’s African American players from white players during the turbulent time of the Civil War and slavery.

Slave owners did not favor their slaves participating in baseball because it was not as profitable as other sports such as boxing and wrestling. However, as time went by, African-Americans who desired to play baseball found ways to participate as their own teams.

The white players in baseball were more concerned about “skin color” than the managers and owners of the teams. However, because the number of players exceeded that of management, segregation remained strong in the early days of the sport. There were some African-Americans who gained access to the “white” baseball teams by passing off as Cubans. Cubans were allowed to play with whites. Elements of segregation, discrimination, and contradictions flow throughout this book in an attempt to show the true environment in which African-Americans lived and played.

Ironically, once the Great Depression occurred and many white men left the country to fight in the World War, blacks were able to “slide in” and play vacated baseball positions in which they normally were banned.

In the Negro Base Leagues, the players participated in multiple positions on the field. Balls were caught bare-handed. They also did not have access to the resources and money that their “white teams” had. However, the Negro Leagues played not for fame or fortune, but for the love of the game. In their travels across the country, they were able to spread a sense of feeling that equality could be achieved through a common bond called sport.

In 1945, Jackie Robinson signed a contract to be the first African-American to play for a major league baseball team. He would later move on to become the first African-American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. What is ironic about Jackie Robinson is that he had been participating in sports alongside whites before he came to major league baseball because college sports and the Olympics were integrated before Major League Baseball.

This book includes great photographs, captions, player profiles, timelines, and a bibliography for further reference.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: compare/contrast (page 98), Logical Arguments (Chapter 11), Hero Theme (Chapter 11), vocabulary (pirating, RBI, barnstorm – pg 26)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: derogatory words (pages 18, 20, 139), elements of racial prejudice and beatings

RELATED BOOKS: When Willard Met Babe Ruth, Jackie’s Nine, Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950), “Negro Baseball Leagues” (1946)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.loc.gov/loc/kidslc/LGpdfs/baseball-guide.pdf (vocabulary & biographies)

http://www.coe.ksu.edu/nlbemuseum/resource/lpwomen.html (extension on book to include women)

http://www.teachwithmovies.com/CMP/guides/jackie-robinson-story.html (resource to use with the movie “The Jackie Robinson Story”)

http://www.maaa.org/exhi_usa/exhibitions/fully_booked/baseball/pg_baseball.pdf (activities, glossary, timelines)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Storm Warning Tornadoes

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Storm Warning Tornadoes

Author: Chris Oxlade

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This book is an awesome look at Twisters. Readers discover why scientists believe tornadoes happen and what conditions they usually form from. The science of tornadoes is detailed and incredible photographs are shown of everything from satellite shots of a warm and cold front meeting to an anvil cloud. Pictures of real tornadoes are included as well as pictures of the devastating aftermath they have left behind. Quotes from tornado witnesses and survivors and twister facts help the reader connect with the deadly reality of tornadoes.

Readers of this book become experts in the formation and types of tornadoes. Famous tornado outbreaks are detailed with picture, facts, and damage statistics. A map of tornado alley and a picture of giant (yes, giant!) hail stones (pg. 26) provide for a fascinating read. This book is a must read for anyone who lives in tornado alley, desires to be a storm chaser, or for anyone who is fascinated by the fury of nature.

REVIEW: These Turbulent Planet books are awesome non-fiction tools for getting kids excited about reading something. The graphics are compelling and the statistics and information presentations gripping. This book is high interest. Several lessons could be planned over the material it covers. Students can compare and contrast different types of tornadoes or even different tornado outbreaks that have occurred. Science vocabulary is defined on the bottom of each page. A huge analysis of the effects of the tornado could also be compiled. The graphics are excellent and should engage 99% of our students. These books are an excellent source!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, part to whole relationships, connecting text to self, concept definition, vocabulary development

RELATED BOOKS: Night of the Twister, Twisters: A Book about Tornadoes, Twister: The Science of Tornadoes and the Making of an Adventure Movie, Storm Warning: The Story of a Killer Tornado, any Turbulent Planet Book,

RELATED MOVIES:  Night of the Twister, Twister, Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister, Tornado Warning (2002)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.news9.com/Global/category.asp?C=118571

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/

http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/edu/safety/tornadoguide.html

http://www.fema.gov/kids/tornado.htm

http://www.chaseday.com/tornadoes.htm

http://www.weatherwizkids.com/tornado.htm

http://www.chrisoxlade.com/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Violent Skies Hurricanes

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Violent Skies Hurricanes

Author: Chris Oxlade

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The book opens with a vivid description of hurricane and a quote that states “the city looks like a giant garbage dump.” Brilliant photos show a hurricane from a satellite view and one in progress. The reader learns about ocean storms and currents, when hurricane season is, how hurricanes are named, and even reads first-hand about the devastation of Hurricane Andrew. Cyclones and the science of hurricanes are detailed. Readers learn how hurricanes are measured and even predicted. Oxlade educates the reader on how to prepare for a hurricane. More hurricane facts and fascinating photos conclude the book.

REVIEW: These Turbulent Planet books are awesome non-fiction tools for getting kids excited about reading something. The graphics are compelling and the statistics and information presentations gripping. This book is high interest. Several lessons could be planned over the material it covers. Students can map the sequence of events in which a hurricane occurs. They can complete concept definition maps on different vocabulary terms within the book; science vocabulary is defined on the bottom of each page. The graphics are excellent and should engage 99% of our students. These books are an excellent source!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, part to whole relationships, connecting text to self, concept definition, vocabulary development, sequence

RELATED BOOKS: Hurricanes, Isaac’s Storm, Extreme Weather, The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane

RELATED MOVIES:  National Geographic: Inside Hurricane Katrina, Nova: Storm that Drowned a City, Nova Field Trips: Weather Gone Wild Hurricanes

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.nhc.noaa.gov/

http://www.fema.gov/kids/hurr.htm

http://www.weatherwizkids.com/hurricane1.htm

http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/wwatch/hurricanes/

http://www.chrisoxlade.com/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 2, 2008

Yellow Line

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The Yellow Line

Author: Sylvia Olsen

Page Length: 107

Reading Level: 2.4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Vince lives in a small town divided by a yellow line. Indians stay one side of the town (and the street) and whites stay on another. Despite the fact these students ride the bus and are schooled together, racial tensions prevail everywhere. Vince becomes involved when his cousin Sherry begins dating one of the “other kind.” Vince’s parents are enraged and want Vince to tell Sherry’s parents what he’s seen. Vince himself is finding that he’s changing. That cute girl on the bus with those mesmerizing eyes won’t leave his mind, hanging with his friends isn’t that fun it used to be, and dealing with the taunting and threats of the Indian crowd is getting him down.

Vince faces difficult decisions. Will he rat Sherry out to her parents? Should he tell someone what he knows about the assault? How can he ease the tensions all around him?

REVIEW: This book is written on a low reading level and is a quick read. However, its briefness does not allow full development of the story line and often issues are introduced and dismissed more quickly than they should be. Sometimes it seems as if the Orca books try to address too many issues at once. For struggling readers, the story line is engaging and the length of the book motivating. This book examines racial tensions and just how difficult but rewarding overcoming them can be. The character also faces difficult decisions and learns that taking a stand for what is right is often difficult but always essential.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence, cause and effect, writer’s motive, audience, purpose, tone, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: an assault takes place – but the details provided are sketchy

RELATED BOOKS: Death Wind, One More Step, Grind, Tears of a Tiger, The World According to Dog, Maniac Magee

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:  Crash, Freedomland

MUSIC-SONG CONNECTIONS: Black or White by Michael Jackson, Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney, Drowning by Hootie and the Blowfish, Free Your Mind by En Vogue

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/arts/race_songs.html

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/yellowlineTG.pdf

http://www.sd79.bc.ca/programs/abed/FN_resource_Yellow_Line.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

A Family Apart

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A Family Apart

Author: Joan Lowry Nixon

Page Length: 162

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: It is the 1850’s and Frances Mary Kelly and her five brothers and sisters live in New York. Her father died in the past year and her mother is struggling to survive and support her six children. All of the children do their part around the house. Mike and Danny go downtown to shine shoes, and Mary Frances goes to work with her mother. The family struggles to survive; Mary Frances travels the streets without even a pair of shoes. Mike, the oldest brother, is caught stealing and a difficult decision is made. Mother sacrifices everything to save Mike and to provide for the rest of her children. She puts them on the Orphan Train to Missouri.

The children are devastated; they miss their home and their mother. As the train chugs closer to Missouri they each fear for their safety and what fate awaits them. Will they find a home? How will their new “parents” treat them? Will they be able to stay together? What will life in pro-slavery Missouri be like?

REVIEW: Nixon does an excellent job of bringing historical fiction to life. The reader can feel the struggles of the family and their love. Nixon portrays the anger and shock the children feel at their mother’s actions vividly. Historically, the mannerisms of the people, the tensions of slavery in the states, and the roles of women at the time are accurate. Hardships appear but the Kelly children persevere and May Frances begins to understand how much her mother truly loved them to have made the greatest sacrifice of all.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: summarization, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, sequence, cause and effect (mother’s actions), author’s purpose

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: issue of being put up for adoption

RELATED BOOKS: Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, Pollyanna, The Thief Lord, Oliver Twist

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS:  Bruce Springsteen – Songs to the Orphan, Annie, Heidi, Anne of Green Gables (movie and mini-series)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780440226765&view=tg

http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/nixon.htm

http://www.orphantraindepot.com/FamilyApartLessonPlan.html

http://www.daily-tangents.com/BOB/games/quotes/L10_FAq.shtml

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Fallen Angels

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Fallen Angels

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 309  

Reading Level: 5   

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins with Richard Perry, 17, a resident of Harlem, on his way to Vietnam.  On his flight, he meets a nurse, Judy, also going to serve in the Army.  Upon arrival, Perry joins his unit made up of Lobel, Johnson, Brunner and Pewee.  Although strangers in a strange land, the men quickly bond as they begin their service time in Vietnam. 

The soldiers first must get used to the harsh living conditions of the hot, humid, conditions of the country. Then, they learned to deal with the unknowing agenda that awaited them each day.  Many days, they didn’t do anything but sit around the camp playing games.  Other days, they were sent into villages to meet the women, children and older citizens of Vietnam.  At other times, they were sent to battle to protect or defend other units. 

After their first experience with combat, Perry realizes he doesn’t know a prayer to recite.  As a group, they learn to pray together.  They welcome the priest and chaplain’s visits.  Throughout the book, rumors are constant that the peace talks are making progress and the war will end soon.  However, the days go into weeks, the weeks into months and the battles continue. 

Perry writes to his family, but doesn’t tell them what the war is really like.  The war becomes more real as soldiers get wounded and die.  By the middle of the book, the small unit is in the middle of the war.  They believe in defending their country, but they question how it is being done.  They see each other get wounded both physically and emotionally and they share a dream—to get home alive.

REVIEW: This book was very descriptive and realistic in its presentation of action in the Vietnam War.  It is a narrative told from the point of view of a 17 year old African American from Harlem and his experience in the war.  Myers vividly describes the difficulty in getting a good night’s rest on page 61. A simile on page 63 is a good example of Myers excellent writing ability.  The descriptions of battle made me feel as if I were a part of the unit as they fought to return home.

I enjoyed the book, especially because I have a high interest in this war, as it occurred when I was in high school.  Boys would especially like this book, but I think girls could easily read it with great interest.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Supporting details, Setting, Characters, Compare/Contrast, Sequence of Events, Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

TOUCHY AREAS: Strong language

RELATED BOOKS: Vietnam Nurse, In Country

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Platoon, Green Berets, Dear America: Letters from Vietnam

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.bookrags.com/studyguide-fallenangels/

 www.webenglishteacher.com/myers.html

 http://u.berkeley.edu/ousd/angels

 www.antistudy.com/free_book_notes/Fallen_Angels.php

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

The Trap

Filed under: T — thebookreviews @ 8:34 pm
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The Trap

Author: Joan Lowry Nixon

Page Length: 165

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Mystery

PLOT SUMMARY: Julie’s summer is off to a bad start. She wants desperately to spend her summer with her best friend and competing on the swim team. The family has elected Julie to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle on a ranch in Texas. Julie isn’t given a choice and prepares herself for a summer of misery; however, Julie soon discovers that she has landed into the middle of a mystery.

Uncle Gabe and Aunt Glenda have their retirement home on a large ranch where several other investment retirement homes are located. Items have been disappearing for people’s home, and Uncle Gabe is in the hospital with a broken leg. Men are suddenly dying while their wives are away from the house; Uncle Gabe is sure that someone caused his accident. As Julie begins her own investigation, she comes dangerously close to the truth. Can she solve the crime before anyone else mysteriously dies or will the killer get the best of them all?

REVIEW: This book had a well developed plot line and good pacing throughout. The reader’s mind is constantly considering the possibilities of who committed the crimes and what their motivation might be. The book addresses issues of familial relationships and even introduces characters who struggle with their own acceptance and self-esteem issues stemming from family and socio-economic circumstances. Julie is a strong character who perseveres and won’t be frightened away by threats. This story has a modern appeal and is easily related to teenage motivations and emotions.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character motivation, plot, sequencing, cause and effect, making predictions, setting, theme

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: dealing with murder (presented mildly)

RELATED BOOKS: A Deadly Game of Magic, Search for the Shadowman, Secret Silent Screams, Alex Rider books

RELATED MOVIES:  Nancy Drew, Alex Rider

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.teenreads.com/authors/au-nixon-joan-lowery.asp

www.webenglishteacher.com/nixon.html

http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mystery/bio.htm

http://www.bookpage.com/9704bp/childrens/joanlowerynixon.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Sarah Bishop

Filed under: S — thebookreviews @ 8:24 pm
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Sarah Bishop

Author: Scott O’Dell

Page Length: 230

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sarah is a 15 year old young woman growing up during the Revolutionary War. She has only her brother and father for company. Her father, a Tory, is quite outspoken in a divided town – Tory supporters and Rebels. Word has gotten out the Sarah’s father still displays the flag of King George and trouble is brewing. Chad, her brother, leaves to go and fight in the war. Late one night, Sarah and her father suffer an attack. Their lives are forever altered. Sarah leaves her home and must make a new life for herself on the frontier. With little money and no relatives, Sarah will have to rely on her instincts for survival. Can she make it on her own or will the dreadful war take everything that she holds dear?

REVIEW: This is a typical O’Dell survival novel where the character must endure seemingly endless hardships. Yet, Sarah only grows stronger. Her will to survive despite bitter circumstances and personal loss is admirable. She is a character from which we can all learn.

The story is nicely written and portrays well what it might have felt like to be trapped between those who honored King George and those who were adamant about securing immediate freedom. The hardship and cruelty of war and the savagery of the human heart is portrayed well in this novel. Yet, O’Dell also brings to light hope and compassion. This book is an excellent tool for helping students to visualize and identify with historic events. In addition, empathizing with Sarah’s pain and learning that we all have our hardships to overcome is a valuable life lesson.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: theme, setting, cause and effect, irony, resolution, conflict, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: very mildly presented attempt at rape, witch-craft

RELATED BOOKS: Island of the Blue Dolphins, “The Crucible”

RELATED MOVIES:  The Crossing, The Patriot, The Crucible

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://greensleeves.typepad.com/berkshires/2006/10/the_lonesome_de.html

http://www.kyrene.org/schools/brisas/sunda/lit_units/sarah.htm

http://www.scottodell.com/books/sarahbishop.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolutionary_War

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

Filed under: H — thebookreviews @ 8:20 pm
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How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

Author: Sara Nickerson

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Margaret and Sophie are being raised by a single mother who hasn’t been the same since their father died. One day, Margaret’s mother breaks from the ordinary trip to the Laundromat and takes them across the river o the ferry. They arrive at a strange two story house where Margaret’s mother hammers a for sale sign into the ground. Margaret becomes intrigued by the mysterious appearance of the property seemingly in her mother’s possession and the figure she thinks she saw from an upstairs window.

When Margaret finds a sealed package on the property that her mother had returned to sender she sneaks it home. Her discovery inside the package leads Margaret to her destiny (at least according to her new best friend at school). Margaret and Sophie conspire to keep their mother from finding out – that Margaret is going back to the house alone. Margaret’s adventures unfold and so does an unusual and interesting story. Margaret discovers family she nothing about and a shocking secret – her father died by drowning but was a championship swimmer. Mr. Librarian and Boyd (a boy who lives next door to the big house and avidly reads mysterious comic books about the house and the Ratt man who lives there) join in the excitement and Margaret comes face to face with the mystery of the Drowning Ghost and the Rat Man. The Ratt man is closing in… Will she be able to save Sophie in time and solve the mystery of her father’s death?

REVIEW: This story was entertaining in a strange way. The plot has a wonderful element of mystery; yet, the fantasy angle of a man turning into rat seems a little farfetched. Nickerson creates the ideal librarian in the quirky Mr. Librarian who places nothing in the library but the unpublished manuscripts brought to him. The withdrawal of the mother after losing a spouse and becoming a single parent is also handled well. The reader can feel for the children and what they are missing. A great teaching point here is the impact of one life on others. Sibling relationships are explored as Sophie and Margaret both aggravate and ultimately love and support each other.

Students who like reading comic books and graphic novels will enjoy the short comic book type scenes and the relationship of the comic book to the events taking place in the story. In one scene, Boyd and Margaret are chased through the forest by something; after narrowly escaping, a new issue of the comic book turns up on the front porch at Boyd’s house. Margaret and Boyd have become characters in the story. The story is suspenseful and quirky with a good ending a great message.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: theme, setting, cause and effect, sequence, bias, inferences, internal conflict, character motivation, irony

RELATED BOOKS: Harry Potter, The Wind in the Willows

RELATED MOVIES: Television series – The Ghost Whisperer

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0060297719.asp

http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/nickerson_how.htm

http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=387957

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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