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August 24, 2008

Monster

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Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 277

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder.  He is 16 years old, scared, and alone in jail.  The prosecutor calls him a MONSTER.

The story is written in a movie format as Steve writes and directs it.  As the prosecutor brings witnesses to the stand, the reader experiences Steve’s thoughts and emotions.  He is excused because of the testimony of one of the men who committed the robbery.  Supposedly, Steve was an accomplice by going into the neighborhood store in Harlem, checking it out to see if it was safe, and giving the two robbers a “go ahead” sign to enter the store.  As the robbery takes place, the store owner pulls a gun, and in a struggle, the gun goes off, and the owner dies.

Steve’s lawyer never gives him much hope, but there is no “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Steve was actually involved.  As he takes the stand, he denies being in the store the day of the crime.  He does acknowledge knowing the accomplices. The jury is left to decide the outcome of his future. 

REVIEW:  I have read several of Walter Dean Myers young adult books and enjoyed this one the most.  As he writes the book in a play format, the reader becomes very attached to Steve Harmon’s feelings and fears.  Meyer’s lets the reader come to his own conclusion about Steve’s guilt or innocence.  I think the book would be a good class novel to read.

At the end of the book, there are a section of questions for discussion and questions for the author that would be good to use if read as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Setting, Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Conflict, and Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Violent content but written in an acceptable manner

RELATED BOOKS:  Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Bad Boy: A Memoir

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.northern.edu/hastingw/myers.html

www.northern.edu/hastingw/myers.html

www.kennedy-center.org/multimedia/storytimeonline/harlem.html

www.powells.com/biblio/0064407314

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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One True Friend

One True Friend

Author: Joyce Hansen

Page Length: 154

Reading Level: 6

Genre:  Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of a friendship between Amir and Doris who met while Amir was living in a foster home on 163rd street in the Bronx. Amir’s parents were killed in a car wreck and he was separated from his siblings who were put into foster care.  As the story evolves, Amir is living with his youngest brother, Ronald and his foster parent’s, Alvin and Grace Smith. Amir is on a mission to find his aunt, who he believes has his other sibling’s living with them.  He has a letter and picture he wants to send to all of the people who have the same last name as his aunt to try to find them.  However, Mr. Smith forbids Amir to send the letters and says that he will help find his aunt.

Amir feels alone and writes Doris about his life in Syracuse, the Smith’s, and Ronald.  Doris writes back about issues she is having with her schoolmates and family.  Both Amir and Doris, give each other advice and support through their mail. They both feel disconnected from the world they live in and hold on to the distant friendship to solve their problems.

REVIEW: This book starts off slow, but gets better as the relationship between Doris and Amir develops through the letters they write.  The issues that the two teens face are realistic as to what many teens fact today.  A meaningful relationship also develops between the Smith’s and Amir that makes Amir realize what blood family and chosen family can both be a part of one’s life.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Conflict, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast, Setting and Characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: References to marijuana use and AIDS, but nothing that is not age appropriate.

RELATED BOOKS: The Gift Giver, Yellow Bird and Me

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0395849837.asp

www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0395849837.asp

www.joycehansen.com

www.answers.com/topic/joyce-viola-hansen

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Keeper of the Night

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Keeper of the Night

Author: Kimberly Willis Holt

Page Length: 308

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Isabel Moreno lives on the island of Guam.  Her mother has just committed suicide and Isabel does not know why.  Isabel’s father is grieving so much that he doesn’t talk to the family and has built a shrine to her mother in his room.  He goes fishing daily, comes home to eat dinner, and then sleeps on the floor beside his dead wife’s bed.

Isabel takes care of her sister, Olivia, who has nightmares and wets the bed.  Frank, Isabel’s brother, has quit talking to anyone and Isabel discovers he is carving on his wall “I Hate You” over and over and over again.  However, she doesn’t know how to talk with him about this, so she just doesn’t say anything.

Her Auntie Bernadette provides food for the family, and tries to help Isabel go on with her life.  She wants her to be a candidate for the town’s fiesta queen, but Isabel cannot move on without answers to why her mother is dead and why her family cannot talk about their grieving.

As Isabel deals with her everyday life, friendships and responsibilities, she discovers she has a natural talent for diving.  She tries out for the diving team, in an effort to find some type of life for herself.  After a rather close call with her brother’s life, the family begins to come together and rebuild their life together.

REVIEW: The author wrote in short passages rather than chapters with Isabel being the narrative voice.  The writing, therefore, came off as Isabel’s direct thoughts of what was happening at the direct moment.  I liked this style because the book seemed to move quicker from one moment to the next without a lot of background.

The book covered both serious issues such as suicide and family relationships but also gave a vivid picture of life in Guam and several of the customs practiced there.

At the back of the book, there is a list of questions for discussion.  Also, included is an interview with the author.  I think the book was good and especially would appeal to females.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Cause/Effect, Conflict, Setting, Characters, and customs of the Chamorro of Guam

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The story revolves around the suicidal death of Isabel’s mother.  Her brother, Frank, is also self abusive and a cutter. 

RELATED BOOKS: The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, Lord of the Deep, Deep

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Island of the Blue Dolphins” (1964)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/Keeper-Night.html

www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553494419&view=rg

www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553494419&view=rg

www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?pid=9780553494419

www.amazon.com/Keeper-Readers-Circle-Kimberly-Willis/dp/0553494414

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws

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Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws

Author: Janette Rallison

Page Length: 185

Reading Level: not listed

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Josie and Cami are best friends in ninth grade and both are on the basketball team.  Josie is a natural athlete and basketball comes very easy for her.  Cami loves the sport, but must work hard for everything she accomplishes.  Josie has asked Cami to help her get Ethan’s attention.  Ethan, one of the cutest boys in ninth grade, has recently broken up with Ashley who is the captain of the basketball team.

The book is written in narrative form with Josie penning one chapter, then Cami the next.  The reader gets opinions, thoughts, feelings and ideas from both Cami and Josie.  As the book progresses, Cami realizes she also has a crush on Ethan.  Josie begins to enjoy the idea that she could actually be the MVP of the basketball team because she is always the highest point shooter.

The two girls discover that each of them has not been totally honest with the other and a fight develops.  This quarrel carries over to the basketball team and the other players, which causes the team to suffer several losses.  On a road trip to an important basketball game, Josie and Cami discover that friendship is more important than the issues they have put between themselves.

 REVIEW: This is definitely a “chick” book and I think girls of middle school and junior high would enjoy it more than older girls.  The characters and their behaviors are very stereotype of middle class Anglo-Saxon females.

The book was a fast read, but not one that I would highly recommend.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Characters, and Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School, It’s a Mall World After All, The Revenge of the Cheerleaders, Playing the Field

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Grease” (1978)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teensreadtoo.com/PursuitOfFreeThrows.html

www.walkeryoungreaders.com/books/catalog.php?key=461

www.janetterallison.com/questions_life_love.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Sweetblood

Sweetblood

Author: Pete Hautman

Page Length: 242

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Sweetblood is 16-year old Lucy Szabo’s “chat name” on the vampire related internet site she spends much of her free time using.  Lucy has always been an “A” student, but this year, has fallen behind in her grades and lacks the desire to “catch up.”  A victim of diabetes since the age of 6, Lucy classifies all people into two categories-Living and Undead.  Those who are “undead” have been saved by modern medicine. Lucy is “undead” because she has been able to stay among the living thanks to insulin, blood counts, and various other means that help diabetics survive.

Lucy loves the color black, and although she says she is not Goth, she is associated with the Goth crowd.  At school, Lucy eats alone, and her only friend is from early childhood, Mark.  However, a new student from her French class, Dylan, befriends her.  Dylan has beautiful blue eyes, but Lucy tries her hardest to not be attracted to him.

Lucy writes a disturbing essay on the theory that diabetics from previous years (who did not have treatment) were the original vampires. Then, her parents are called for a conference which results in Lucy losing her computer, phone privileges and earning a referral to a psychiatrist.

Even though she is grounded, Lucy sneaks out of the house one evening to meet Dylan.  They go to a party and Lucy discovers that the host of the party is not only an older man who reads Tarot Cards, but is Draco of her chat room.  Lucy learns that Draco used Dylan to set up the meeting between Lucy and him. 

As Lucy, struggles with school, her identity, and parents her diabetes gets out of control and she is almost lost from the “undead” to the dead.

REVIEW: Pete Hautman develops the characters of the book very well.  Lucy is an angry teen because of the illness she has to deal with in her everyday life.  Like most teens, she doesn’t try to deal with her anger through those who care for her the most, but seeks outside sources that don’t know her.  The supporting characters each have their own unique personalities and relationship with Lucy. 

The book was a bit predictable, but those who enjoy vampire folklore and Goth would enjoy this book. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Setting, Characters, and Sequence of Events

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Subject matter is of vampires, some teen alcohol and drug use, references to older male having relationships with teen girls but done of the questionable behavior is glamorized.

RELATED BOOKS: Twilight (Series 1-4), The Vampire Chronicles, and Interview with a Vampire, Dracula

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: T. V. – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Movies- The Lost Boys, Drawing Blood, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, Twilight

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.petehautman.com

www.epinions.com/Sweetblood_by_Pete_Hautman/display_~full_specs

www.petehautman.com/sblood.html

www.bookcrossing.com/journal/4076039

www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-106225092.html

www.niceperson.org/uw/courses/lis566_sweetblood.pdf

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 23, 2008

Becoming Naomi Leon

Becoming Namoi Leon

Author:  Pam Munoz Ryan

Page Length: 246

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Naomi and Owen live with their Gram in a trailer park in Southern California.  The two children have lived with Gram for the past seven years, after their mother abandon them and their father moved to Mexico.  Everything was fine, until Skyla, their mom turned up at the trailer one autumn day. 

Skyla, brought presents for Naomi and braided her hair in a French braid.  She had a new boyfriend, Clive, and shared that they planned to move to Las Vegas after he went through his “tattoo training school.” Their plan was to take Naomi and get custody of his daughter.

This plan was totally unacceptable to Gram, Owen, and Naomi because they new that Skyla had been in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and was drinking again.  They did not want their family of the past seven years to be separated.  When Skyla threatens to get custody through the court, Gram makes several calls and two weeks before Christmas break, the neighbors and Gram, Owen, and Naomi leave in the trailer and head for Mexico to find the children’s father.

REVIEW: This is an excellent well-written book for all ages. Females would probably enjoy it more, but I think it would be a great book for a class novel.  Ryan does an excellent job of developing each of the characters and the setting. She vividly creates life in the trailer park and also in Mexico during the Christmas season.

At the back of the book, there is a section about the author, a question and answer section with the author, a history of the radish carving festival and a section on collective nouns, which Ryan uses to name each of the chapters.

I would list this as one of my favorites of young adult novels.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Characters, Setting, Conflict. Conclusions, Generalizations and Predictions, Collective Nouns

RELATED BOOKS: Esperanza Rising

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.pammunozryan.com/naomi.html

www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0439269695.asp

www.school.discoveryeducation.com/quizzes35/awoolf/MTBecomingNaomi.html

www.quia.com/quiz/1103127.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Just Ella

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Just Ella

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix      

Page Length: 218

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Just Ella resembles the familiar fairy tale, Cinderella, in that, Ella’s mother died when she was born and her father raised her.  When she is 12, he remarries, and after he dies, Ella becomes the house servant for Lucille, her stepmother and her two step sisters.

The Charming’s, the royal family, decide to have a ball and invite all of the single women to attend.  Lucille orders Ella to scrub the basement floor and says she cannot attend the dance.  Ella, however, retrieves her mother’s wedding dance from the attic and alters it so that she will have a gown to wear.  She then talks the neighborhood glassmaker into making some glass slippers.  When she walks in the slippers without them breaking, the glassmaker wins several bets and Ella keeps the slippers for herself.

Ella does make it to the ball, and because she is the most beautiful, the prince chooses to dance every dance with her.  Like the original Cinderella, she must leave the ball at midnight so that she will get a ride home with a generous carriage driver.

The plot continues to parallel the fairytale, until after living in the castle for two weeks, Cinderella realizes she does not love the Prince and does not want to live a controlled life inside the palace walls.  When she tries to get out of the marriage, she is thrown into the dungeon.  Her young ally, Mary, helps her to survive and escape a life, which had been referred to as “happily ever after.”

REVIEW:  This was an entertaining and fun book to read.  I like the way Margaret Haddix used the fairytale to develop a drama in which a young girl realizes that beauty and money cannot provide total happiness.  She does a good job of developing the characters and their roles.  I would suggest this book for any girls to read from sixth grade or older.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Character, Compare/Contrast,

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Inferences to Rape- Chapter 22-24, 29, but nothing that would be offensive to the reader.

RELATED BOOKS: Ella Enchanted, Fairest, The Two Princesses of Bamarre

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Brothers Grimm: Cinderella, Walt Disney’s Cinderella, “The Duchess” (2008)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.rambles.net/haddix_justella01.html

www.bookcrossing.com/journal/4145193

www.greenmanreview.com/book/book_haddix_justella.html

www.jandysbooks.com/genfic/justella.html

www.mansfieldct.org/schools/mms/student/issue2/ella.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Harriet Tubman Conductor of the Underground Railroad

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Harriet Tubman Conductor of the Underground Railroad

Author:  Ann Petry

Page Length: 242

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography 

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of Harriet Tubman who was the daughter of Ben and “Old Rit” Ross, slaves in Maryland in the early 1800’s.  Harriet was hired out by her master at the young age of six to help with housework and care for a baby.  She was not good at this and eventually returned to her master.  As Harriet aged, she was a strong woman and worked well in the fields.  She enjoyed this work more than the domestic chores she had performed when she was younger.

Although her master was good to her parents and family, Harriet longed for freedom.  She married John Tubman, a free man, and wanted him to move North with her so that she could also be free.  John was happy in Maryland and did not want to move.  Harriet was befriended by a free woman who gave her information as how to travel North through the Underground Railroad.  By 1849, Harriet had made the trip North and was living in Pennsylvania. 

Harriet worked to save money so that she could return to Maryland and help other slaves move north.  She had to be very careful, because of the Fugitive Slave Laws and eventually had to move as far North as Canada.  Harriet dedicated her life to working as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.  She helped more than 300 slaves move northward and became a spokesman for the fight for freedom.  She was known by her people as “Moses” for leading so many out of the bondage of the South.

 REVIEW: This is the third book I have read about the life of Harriet Tubman.  I enjoyed this book the most as it gave a more personal view of the struggles that Harriet experienced in her fight for freedom.  Ann Petry created a realistic setting of the road traveled on the Underground Railroad.  This is a good book for studying pre-Civil War slavery.  The reader is given a realistic view of the life of a slave.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence, Setting and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Frederick Douglas, Passage to Freedom, Many Thousand Gone, Harriet and the Promised Land

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.eolit.hrw.com/hlla/novelguides/ms/Mini-Guide.Petry.pdf

www.browseinside.harpercollins.com/index.aspx?isbn13=9780064461818&

www.bookrags.com/studyguide-harriet-tubman

www.africawithin.com/bios/harriet_tubman.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Remember the Ladies 100 Great American Women

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Remember the Ladies 100 Great American Women

Author:  Cheryl Harness 

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Non-Fiction           

PLOT SUMMARY:  Cheryl Harness gives a one-paragraph summary of 100 great American Women.  She begins with naming women of the new world, the colonial world, women of the American Revolution, women who were leaders when the United States was a new nation, and as the nation grew.

She recognizes women from the Civil War era, the pioneers of the west, and those who fought for equality.  As the Roaring Twenties approached, she wrote of the women who brought changes to the role of women, and then, she wrote of the role of women in the Great Depression and World War ll. 

The women become more recognizable as she writes of the women of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’, 80’s and 90’s.  

REVIEW:  I enjoyed this quick history review written and illustrated quite well.  Many of the women, I knew about, but just as many were new to me.  Girls who enjoy non-fiction would enjoy this book.  It could be used as a source for a history project for the low-level reader. 

At the end of the book, there are two illustrations that give a quick look at history and the women who helped develop it.  The author also includes a list of each of the women with a one-word description to help recall the importance of each of them.

A detailed glossary and bibliography are included, as well as, some historical sites and women’s organizations.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Summarization, Compare/Contrast, and Informative Texts,

RELATED BOOKS: Rabble Rousers: Twenty American Women Who Made a Difference, Ghosts of the White House, Ghosts of the Civil War, Ghosts of the Twentieth Century

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Adams National Historic Site, Susan B. Anthony House, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Harriet Tubman House, Laurel Ingalls Wilder Museum, and Women’s Rights National Historic Park

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.cherylharness.com/remember_ladies1.htm

www.content.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Energy Transfers

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Energy Transfers

Author: Nigel Saunders and Steven Chapman         

Page Length:  48

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction           

PLOT SUMMARY: Energy Transfers begins with the definition of what energy transfers actually are and what happens in an energy transfer.  Then, the book describes the many different types of energy, including: chemical energy, nuclear energy, and sound energy.  It describes how energy is stored and lost.  Also, the book discussed electricity and the energy that it produces.

REVIEW: This is the second non-fiction book I have read by Nigel Saunders and Steven Chapman. Again, they use a format of writing the text in the center of the pages, then enhancing the information with “Fast Facts”, a “Word Store”, authentic pictures, graphs, and diagrams to support their information. 

This is an excellent book for teaching about energy transfers, but is also a good book for those who love science, facts, and non-fiction books.  It could easily be used as a source for the lower level reader to use for a science project.  It has a wealth of information about energy.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Informative Texts, Cause and Effect, Compare and Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Energy Files: Water, Solar, Wind, Science Topics: Energy, Energy Essentials: Fossil Fuels

RELATED WEBSITES: 

www.energy.org.uk

www.ftexploring.com/

www.energyquest.ca.gov/

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Among the Betrayed

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Among the Betrayed

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix      

Page Length: 156

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Nina Idi wakes up in a jail cell and realizes she has been caught by the Population Police.  The “hating man” interrogates her as to her dealings, which may involve protecting other “third family children.”

Nina lives in a country where couples are allowed to have two children.  Nina, like many others, was the third of her family to be born.  She lived in hiding with her grandmother and aunties until she was sent to Harlow School for Girls.

At Harlow, she met Jason, who attended the neighboring boy’s school. She fell in love with Jason, and told him that she was a third child.  She doesn’t realize that Jason has also been arrested.  While in jail, Nina is placed in a cell with three younger children, also, third children.  The hating man tries to get Nina to betray the children and get information for him.  As the story evolves, Nina chooses not to betray the children, and they find a way to escape the jail. 

Nina and company make their way to the Boy’s school where she believes she can get help from Lee, one of the boy’s she knew through Jason.

REVIEW: This is the third book in Margaret Haddix’s Shadow Children sequence.  I have not read the previous two books, but was able to get interested in the story line immediately. 

The story is a captivating mystery that I didn’t solve until the very end of the book.  It is interesting in that the plot centers around a subject that in America we don’t consider an issue that could be a reality. 

Students who enjoy mystery would like this book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  Sequence, Characters, Compare/Contrast, Cause and Effect, Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Among the Hidden, Among the Imposters, Among the Barons

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Village” (2004)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.english.unitecnology.ac.nz/readhot/book_review.php?book_id=418

www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-87148594.html

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Peterson_Haddix

www.buildingrainbows.com/bookreview/reviewid/18515

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School

Filed under: A — thebookreviews @ 11:33 pm
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All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School

Author: Janette Rallison 

Page Length: 182

Reading Level: unknown

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Samantha Taylor is a junior and head cheerleader at her high school.  She works at the local bookstore with Logan, her junior high boyfriend, whom she pretends to loathe.  Samantha has just received her SAT scores and is sad to learn she made a disappointing 810.

With the low score, she fears she will not be able to gain entrance into a four-year university.  Although she has cheerleading to put on her applications as an extra curricular activity, she feels she needs some experience with leadership.  For this reason, she decides she will run for president of the student body in the upcoming student council election.

Samantha has a group of friends, better known as the cheerleading clique, and as she solicits votes, realizes that winning the election is going to be more difficult than she thought.  Besides the low test scores, Samantha has also been dumped by Brad, her date for the prom, after a bad date involving her pet cat. 

Throughout the book, Samantha faces conflict with her mom, Logan, her friends, and her “not so good” friends.  Although she believes “all’s fair in love, war, and high school” she realizes it is not a good slogan for winning friends and influencing people.

REVIEW:  Rallison does a good job of creating Samantha’s character as a stereotype cheerleader.  The book focuses on Samantha’s personality as one of being insulting and putting others down.  Although the book has a good ending, I found it a bit annoying to read. 

I think girls of middle school and junior high would like the book better than high school girls.

TEACHING AREAS: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Sequence of Events, Characters, Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws, Fame, Glory, and Other Things on my To-Do List, It’s a Mall World After All, The Revenge of the Cheerleaders, How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Grease” (1978), “High School Musical” (2006), “Legally Blonde” (2001)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.meridianmagazine.com/books/040121love.html

www.walkeryoungreaders.com/books/catalog.php?key=412

www.thecherrycreeknews.com/content/view/884/74

www.janetterallison.com/questions_alls_fair.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Crossing the Wire

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Crossing the Wire

Author: Will Hobbs           

Page Length: 216

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: Victor Flores is a 15-year-old boy trying to support his family by farming corn in Mexico.  The prices have fallen so much that Victor and his mom realize they will not be able to survive in their home much longer. 

Victor’s neighbor, Rico, has received money from his brother in the U. S. to pay “coyotes” (illegal transporters of Mexican immigrants) to get him across the border (wire).  Victor has no money, but decides with his mother, that he must, too, leave Mexico and “Cross the Wire” to find work to support the family.

The story is of the long and grueling journey, which Victor endures to get north of the border.  He meets with others moving northward and they help Victor with food and travel.  He learns a lot from Miguel who has been to the U. S.  many times, but they eventually get separated.  When Victor gets caught and is sent back to Nogales, he runs into Rico.  Together the two of them do “cross the wire”.

REVIEW: This book is a relevant realistic fiction book that I believe would be of interest to the large Hispanic population in Texas schools today.  It tells of the hardships of living in Mexico, that make its residents long to move to the United States to have the chance to make a life on their own.

It also addresses how hard it is to immigrate into the U. S. since the 9/11 attack.  Hobbs uses many similes in his writing, which could be used as examples for teaching in writing.  He did an extensive background study of the area and the people before writing the book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Compare/Contrast, Character, Setting, Cause/Effect, Historical Context, and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: The Crossing by Gary Paulsen, Coyotes, The Devil’s Highway, Tunnel Kids

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.willhobbsauthor.com/bookspages/crossingthewirepage.html

www.harperchildrens.com/webcontent/teachers_guides/pdf/0060741392.pdf

www.ssymborski.edublogs.org/2008/05/15/crossingthewirebywillhobbs

www.secondaryenglish.com/crossing the wire.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep

Author: Sharon Robinson          

Page Length: 64

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography 

PLOT SUMMARY:  Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, writes a narrative biography of her father’s life.  She begins with a brief history of the beginning of America and how it was a black and white world. 

She goes on to tell of how the view of the people of the United States changed over the next 200 years towards African Americans.  She includes in the text, the changes her dad experienced during his life as the first African American to play major league baseball. She tells of the struggles he went through to break the “ Jim Crow Barrier”. Also, she includes descriptions of her parent’s relationship, their family life, and life after Jackie’s career as a baseball player.

She tells of the fight for equal rights that her father was very active in during the l960’s and how he promised to help change life for the African American people of the United States.

REVIEW: This is the third and best biography I have read about Jackie Robinson.  I enjoyed the narrative form of writing that Sharon Robinson used.  Also, included, were excellent photographs, which chronicled Jackie’s life and events that have occurred after his death which celebrate the great man he was.

I think this is an excellent book for boys and girls who like baseball to read.  Also, it is a good book for those who are interested in the Civil Rights movement to read because Jackie Robinson was an advocate for Civil Rights in his years after baseball.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Character, Compare/Contrast, and Cause and Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Jackie’s Nine

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Jackie Robinson Story, Brain Pops: A Social Studies Movie about Jackie Robinson, Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3999

www.amazon.com/Promises-Keep-Robinson-Changed-America/dp/0439425921

www.ilfonline.org/AIME/YHBA/newstuff/PromisesToKeep.pdf

www.jackierobinson.org

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 12, 2008

Susanna of the Alamo

Susanna of the Alamo

Author: John Jakes

Illustrator: Paul Bacon     

Page Length: 36

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Non-Fiction           

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of the battle of the Alamo fought in San Antonio, Texas. The Texas army, made up of famous volunteers such as Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, fought the huge Mexican army led by Santa Anna for 13 days.  But on the 13th day, Santa Anna gave the order to fight and leave no one alive.   Susanna Dickinson and her infant daughter were the only Anglo survivors.  They were released and traveled to warn General Sam Houston of the Mexican invasion.

REVIEW: This is a true an accurate account of the thirteen day battle of the Alamo.  Susanna Dickinson traveled courageously through Texas to share the story of the many who fought for Texas’ freedom.  It is believed that had she not survived, that the true story of the Alamo may never have been shared or the cry of “Remember the Alamo” familiar to Texans of all ages.

This book is an easy to read book which will help the lower level reader be able to competently comprehend the historical events.

This book could be used in an elementary study of Texas history or for the older student to read and write a report.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Texas History

RELATED BOOKS: Voices of the Alamo

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Alamo” (2004)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/j/john-jakes/susanna-of-alamo.htm

www.harcourtbooks.com/bookcatalogs/bookpages/9780152005955.asp

www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/…/trc/2002/manual/elementary/waybackwhen.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Night of the Twisters

Night of the Twisters

Author: Ivy Ruckman       

Page Length: 151

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: Night of the Twisters is a narrative told by Dan Hatch, the oldest of two children, and resident of Grand Island, Nebraska.  It is based on the actual tornadoes that struck Grand Island and the surrounding areas on June 4, 1980.

As the story begins, Dan has just won a bike after entering the Dairy Queen Bike Race because his best friend, Arthur, dared him to race.

Dan and Arthur spend most of their free time together.  Dan prefers being at Arthur’s house, to get to eye Stacey, Arthur’s 14-year-old sister.  Arthur likes to be at Dan’s house, so that he can escape his six sisters.  They both appease the wishes of Dan’s, Aunt Goldie, by participating in her craft projects and self-improvement classes. Dan is a bit jealous of his baby brother, Ryan, who requires most of his mother’s time and attention.

The book is written in chapters from hour to hour on the afternoon of June 3rd.  At 5:00, Arthur and Dan are leaving the beach as clouds begin to build.  At 6:00, Arthur has dinner with Dan and his family and then, Dan’s dad leaves to go to his grandpa’s house that lives in the country. After doing the dishes and folding some diapers, about 7:00, the boys went for a bike ride.  They visited Mrs. Smiley and went by Arthur’s house to see if he could spend the night at Dan’s.  Everything and everybody were very calm-before the storm hit.

By 8:00, warnings are being given on the radio that tornadoes have been cited.  Dan’s mother gets worried, that Mrs. Smiley, who lives down the street, may not know to take cover.  She decides to drive down the street to help Mrs. Smiley get into her basement.  However, before her return, the sirens sound.  Dan and Arthur hurry to get Ryan, Dan’s baby brothers, Minerva, the cat and themselves down into the basement.  They make it to the basement as they heard the roaring of a freight train.

The boys survive the storm, but do not realize what comes after a severe tornado demolishes a town. They must make adult decisions about how to survive and help others survive.

REVIEW:  Ivy Ruckman does a great job of getting the reader involved with the characters at the beginning of the book.  The way in which he writes the events, hour by hour, create suspense as to what will happen next.  He develops the character of Dan, and shows how he changes and matures in just a twelve hour period. 

I think this book would be a good read aloud for a class.  It has good character development, description, and an order of events that the class could discuss and develop as writing projects.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Cause and Effect, Characters, Setting, and Conclusions, Predictions, and Generalizations

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Twister” (1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.gitwisters.com/tenyears/kidsrelate.php

www.stemnet.nf.ca/CITE/night_of_the_twisters.htm

www.mrsdell.org/twisters

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Rebel

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Rebel

Author: Willo Davis Roberts       

Page Length: 153

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Amanda Jane Keeling has the nickname Rebel because at an early age she was defiant in all that her parent’s tried to teach her.  Rebel is the only girl in her family and she has three musically talented brothers. As her family prepares for a trip to Europe where the boys will participate in music competition, Rebel’s Gram, decides to buy a boarding house in the University area.  She asked if any of the children would be able to help with house renovations.  Rebel thinks this would be a good opportunity to miss another competition, and plans to stay with Gram and help for two weeks, then join her family for the road trip through Europe.

Gram is going into her housing venture with another older woman, Old Vi, as referred to by her grandson, Moses.  Both ladies have pet dogs. Gram’s is Pookie and Old Vi’s is Tiger.

Upon meeting Moses, Rebel is pleasantly surprised.  At the age of 14 she is 5’ 10” and towers above all the boys she has ever known.  Moses is 15 and is 6’ 6’’.  While Rebel has overcome some of her rebellious ways, she identifies with Moses on some family issues and expectations.  Moses’ dad is a lawyer and wants his son to follow in his footsteps.  Moses would rather die than be a lawyer.  His interest lies in making movies and he constantly carries a video, capturing all of his surroundings on film.  Rebel’s family expected her to play the piano and follow her brothers in the music field but she expresses that she is “tone deaf.”

The two teens have every intention to help with the painting of the three-story Victorian home, but several events get them distracted.  They witness a thief steal a candy bar from the neighborhood deli and a mystery and adventure begin.

REVIEW:  This is an easy book to read.  The author captures the reader’s attention quickly and it is hard to put the book down, as the characters are developed with unique personalities that are easy to like.  Moses and Rebel establish a bond, and the reader senses there is somewhat of an attraction as they work on the house, hang out, and solve a mystery together.  Gram and Old Vi are feisty old ladies with dogs that add depth to the plot.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Plot, Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Characters, Conflict, Cause and Effect, and Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: The Kidnappers: A Mystery, Twisted Summer, The One Left Behind

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.answers.com/topic/willo-davis-roberts-2

www.bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=1185705

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Fossil Fuel

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Fossil Fuel

Author: Nigel Saunders and Steven Chapman         

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction           

PLOT SUMMARY: Fossil Fuel begins with a description of fuels and the three different types: coal, oil, and natural gas.  It describes how each of the fuels originate, how they are extracted from the earth, and their multiple uses.  Next, the problems of fossil fuels are discussed and then the alternatives that are available for energy usage.

REVIEW: This is an educational and informative book that is written and presented in a format that is eye-catching and interesting.  The text is written on the center portion of the pages, but on the borders there are many supportive facts and illustrations that give additional information.  The pictures are colorful and authentic. In addition, there is a “Word Store” with definitions at the bottom of each page.  At the end of the book, the authors included sources to find more information about fossil fuels and a complete glossary.

This is a great book for boys who prefer non-fiction to fiction. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Informative Texts

RELATED BOOKS: Science Topics: Energy, Energy Files: Water, Solar, Wind, Energy for Life: Fossil Fuels, Energy Essentials: Renewable Energy

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.energy.org.uk

www.fe.doe.gov/education/

www.doc.mmu.ac.uk/aric/eae/

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Hank Aaron Brave in Every Way

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Hank Aaron Brave in Every Way

Author: Peter Golenbock

Illustrator:  Paul Lee         

Page Length: 32

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Biography 

PLOT SUMMARY:  Hank Aaron was born on February 5, 1934 to two loving parents.  His father had visions for him to play baseball, his mother wanted him to make a difference in the world.  The story is about Hank’s childhood, is beginning in league baseball, and his professional career.

REVIEW:  This is a short, easy to read, nicely illustrated book of Hank Aaron’s life.  I enjoyed it because it presented a different side of an African American family in the early 1900’s.  Although poor, Hank was able to get an education, have hope and pursue dreams.  He did experience some racial ridicule as broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, but his praise and support from the rest of the world completely outweighed the bad.

This is a good book for the reluctant reader who enjoys sports because it is short.  However, there is enough information where a concise report could be written about Hank Aaron’s life.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details

RELATED BOOKS: Jackie’s Nine, Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy, Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson, When Willard Met Babe Ruth

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.bookideas.com/reviews/index.cfm?fuseaction=displayReview&id=546

www.cushcity.com/books/0152020934.htm

www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-77749055.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

The Iceberg Hermit

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The Iceberg Hermit

Author: Arthur Roth          

Page Length: 220

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: Allan Gordon is making his first voyage on a whaling ship expedition in the middle 1700’s when the boat hits an iceberg and he is thrown from his lookout point onto the iceberg.  He is knocked unconscious and when he regains consciousness he realizes he is the lone survivor of the “Anne Forbes”.

Allan spent the first night with little sleep.  The next morning, the fog had lifted and Allan discovered the remains of the shipwrecked boat, upside down frozen in the ice.  He was able to make his way to the ship and get into the captain’s quarters where he found clothing, blankets, tools, and other survival supplies. He thought he might have enough to survive for two weeks. 

With each passing day, Allan realizes there is little hope for survival, but he has a deep desire to live.  He longs to return home to his mother, sisters, and girlfriend, Nancy.  Each day he remembers that he promised his mother he would read his Bible and pray, and he does just that.

The days turn into weeks and Allan finds ways to survive.  He retrieves whale blubber and dried meats from the ship, along with biscuits.  He has a fight with a polar bear, but he is the survivor.  However, the bear had a cub, and Allan soon adopts the baby bear and calls her, Nancy.

Allan survives two winters before coming in contact with some Eskimo hunters.  He convinces them he will not harm them and that Nancy is safe. Allan makes a life for several years with the Eskimos before he finally finds a way back to his home in Aberdeen, Scotland.

REVIEW:  This is an interesting tale that is based on a true story.  There are so many extraordinary events that happen which Allan survives, that many people did not believe his story upon his return.  True or not, the book is full of adventure and excitement.  It has good information about life in the Arctic and is well written.

I think boys are girls would enjoy this book.  It is a good book to read for fun and to gain knowledge of life in the Arctic 300 years ago.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Conclusions, Generalizations, Predictions, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Setting

RELATED BOOKS: Far North

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Into the Wild” (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.abasiccurriculum.com/reviews/iceberg.html

www.tms.riverview.wednet.edu/staff/oshea/Iceberg Hermit.htm

www.content.scholastic.com/browse/book.jsp?id=829

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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