The Book Reviews – Website

November 16, 2008

One Tree Hill The Beginning

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One Tree Hill The Beginning  

Author: Jenny Markas

Page Length: 206

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The town of Tree Hill is split in two. On one side are the rich citizens who live mostly on the hills in their mansions. On the other side are the poor folks who live below, known affectionately as the River Rats. Both sides collide at a high school that bears the same name as the town.

Tree Hill lives and breathes basketball. Whether it is in the gym at the local high school or on the run-down courts of a nearby park, everyone seems to play, cheer, announce, or talk about the sport. The story, which was a catalyst for the popular TV show on the CW Network, focuses primarily on 5 main teenagers: Lucas Scott, Nathan Scott, Haley, Peyton, and Brooke.

Lucas Scott and Haley (River Rats) are best friends. Nathan Scott, Peyton, and Brooke (the rich teens) form the other group. One Tree Hill is no simple good side vs. bad side story, because if you analyze Lucas and Nathan’s last names, you’ll see they are the same. Both Lucas and Nathan share the same father. Lucas doesn’t have contact with his father however since his father left his mom after impregnating her with Lucas. After his mother gave birth to him, the two were left to live their lives trying to make ends meet. While Nathan, however lives with his father in a comfortable mansion.

Both Lucas and Nathan play basketball, but for two very different reasons. Lucas plays with his friends outside just for fun. Nathan plays so he may advance his career in basketball later in life. The two try their best to avoid each other at school until one-day the basketball coach is in need of additional players and seeks out Lucas to join the team. Nathan does not favor this idea at all!!!

REVIEW: This story will appeal to many students as it is connected to a current popular TV show. The idea of two brothers from different mothers is not new. However, the author has updated the idea and placed it in a setting of an every-day town engulfed in the popular sport of basketball. Beyond this basic two-sided story, there lies sub-plots between girl friends and best friends that make for interesting twists. Nathan and Lucas couldn’t be more different, yet they will find it rather difficult to keep their differences and lives apart for too long. They have done a successful job of it for years, but the thing that they love the most, will certainly bring them together.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (page 201), comparison/contrast (two brothers – Lucas & Nathan) (poor vs. rich)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the book gives a real depiction of teenagers. There are references and visualizations to beer, kegs, bongs, sex, & parties. All references are minor and do not detract from the main story line. The use of the word “bastard” is present as it refers to Lucas, the son of Dan and Karen, who was born out of wed-lock.

RELATED BOOKS: A Heart So True by Anna Lotto, One Tree Hill by Monica Rizzo,

MUSIC & TV CONNECTIONS:

“One Tree Hill” – TV show (2003-2008)

Gavin DeGraw – “I Don’t Want to Be” – 2004 (theme song to One Tree Hill TV show)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.cwtv.com/shows/one-tree-hill (official website of the One Tree Hill TV show)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Tree_Hill_%28TV_series%29

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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Tiger Woods

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Tiger Woods

Author: Nicholas Edwards

Page Length: 165

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: Tiger Woods is described in this book as a “golf prodigy”. This biography details the life of Tiger from his early childhood until the year 2000. Tiger Woods: An American Master is the easy-to-read story of Tiger’s own life of practice, discipline, and success.

Tiger’s full name is Eldrick “Tiger” Woods. He received his name “Tiger” after his father’s friend from the Vietnam War. Tiger Woods has a varied ethnic background: 50% African-American, 25% Chinese, and additional Native-American and Caucasian influences. Tiger Woods once described himself as “Cablinasian”, referring to his multi-cultural make-up.

Before he was the age of 1, Tiger was intrigued by the game of golf. He studied with his father almost daily – learning the proper methods of strokes and focusing on proper concentration techniques. The game of golf is both a physical and a mental one.

Tiger Woods is influenced by his mother’s religious faith – Buddhism. He states that it is through the Buddhist teachings that he has gained much of his self-discipline. Tiger excels in almost all areas of golf. One of his trainers, however, notes that “Course Management” is one area in which Tiger needs continual guidance and practice. Course Management refers to choosing the right club and determining where to put the next shot.

Tiger excelled on the junior courses, the college-level courses, and the amateur courses. Once he was successful in all these arenas, Tiger knew moving onto the professional scene was next.

In 1996, when he first decided to play professionally, Tiger Woods, signed deals with both “Nike” and “Titleist” even before he started to play. Many people assumed Tiger Woods would become a great professional star – and they were right.

During the course of the biography, we see Tiger garner one professional championship trophy after another. It is Tiger’s goal to win in all four major golf championships: The Master’s, US Open, PGA Championship, and the British Open. Doing so is called a “Grand Slam”.

Tiger is considered one of the top 5 golfers in the sport’s history and yet has so much room for improvement and added success.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, fact vs. opinion, Golf: A Brief History (pages 118-121), Golf Etiquette (pages 122-124), Golf: The Basics (pages 125-130), Tiger’s Career Highlights (pages 131-154), Glossary of Golf Terms (pages 157-165)

RELATED BOOKS: Tiger Woods by Jeremy Roberts, How I Play Golf by Tiger Woods,

RELATED GAMES: “Tiger Woods ‘09” (Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, & Playstation 3)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.tigerwoods.com/defaultflash.sps

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

http://www.pga.com/home/

http://www.masters.com/

http://www.usopen.com/

http://www.opengolf.com/ChampionshipGolf/TheOpenChampionship.aspx

http://www.nike.com/nikeos/p/nike/en_US/

http://www.kidsgolf.com/

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

November 15, 2008

Bull’s Eye

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Bull’s Eye

Author: Sarah N. Harvey

Page Length: 98

Reading Level: 3.5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: After the death of Emily’s estranged Aunt Donna, a box arrives at Emily’s house. It is at this point that Emily discovers that Donna was actually her mother! In an attempt to struggle with her new emotions, Emily shuns Sandra (the woman who has taken care of her all her life). Sandra never told Emily that she was not her mother.

Emily goes through an identity crisis and run-offs to Vancouver to search for her unknown father. During her journey, Emily discovers that her father, Michael Keene, was a drama teacher at her mother’s (Donna’s) school. Emily also discovers that, while married to another woman, her father impregnated her mother while she was still a high school student. The scandal resulted in the firing of Michael Keene from the school and the birth of Emily. Emily is not able to speak to her father on the trip to Vancouver because, according to his son, Michael Jr., he has passed away.

Upon returning to her home, Emily continues to avoid Sandra. Emily takes out her frustrations in the form of spray-painting her school. This act later gets her into trouble with the police. In order to avoid jail-time, Emily participates in a Diversion program. She must complete volunteer work, attend counseling, and apologize to the student body.

While completing her community service at a children’s after-school program, Emily notices that one of the children, April, has suspicious burns on her body. Emily later reports this observation. Then, after some time, April is allowed to live with Emily and her mom who agree to take the child into foster-care. April asks Emily one day if they are sisters. Emily responds that no matter what happens or where they are, they will always be sisters (104).

REVIEW: I thought the author did a nice job closing the story. The last statement in my plot summary, where April asks Emily if they are sisters (when they really aren’t) and Emily responds that they are indeed sisters, shows that despite the realizations in Emily’s life about her REAL mother – life moves on. The title of “mother” and “sister” and “daughter” are as real as the relationship between people. Biological connections are one thing, but emotional connections are even stronger and more meaningful. Emily realizes this towards the end. The main issue that Emily had with Sandra is the fact that the truth was not revealed to her in the beginning.

Some student may respond to this story as it may relate to their own lives. Families now-a-days are comprised of all sorts of connections. The typical 4-person biological family of the past is not as prevalent as it once was. This book offers a different view-point on traditional standards as well as a little suspense in Emily’s search for her real father.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (page 83), characterization, flashback, sequence of events

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_family (family structures, cool graph)

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/BullsEyeTG.pdf (teacher’s guide to the book)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

November 5, 2008

The Secret Soldier

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The Secret Soldier

Author:  Ann Mc Govern

Page Length: 64    

Reading Level:  3

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY:  Deborah Sampson was born in 1760 into a family of five children. Her father died in a shipwreck and her mother was poor and to sick to care for them. So at the young age of five, she was sent to live with her mother’s cousin.  She lived with Mrs. Fuller for three years, and then Mrs. Fuller passed away.  Homeless, again, she moved in with an 80 year old woman to care for her.  At age 8, this was too much work for her to do.

The minister of the town saw that this was too hard on Deborah, so he eventually got her placed into Deacon Thomas’ home as a servant. There, she helped with all the chores and even taught the boys to read.  Deborah longed to attend school with the boys but in the 1700’s girls were not allowed to attend school.

At this time, the colonies were beginning to have conflict with England.  War seemed to be eminent.  Deborah turned 18 and was free to be on her own, but she really did not have a plan for her life.  Although Deborah never attended school, she became a teacher because all the men were fighting the “Redcoats”. This was not satisfying enough for her. She devised a plan—a plan to serve as a soldier in the army.   

REVIEW: The Secret Soldier is a short, easy to read book.  It would be a good book for the struggling reader who needs to fulfill a social studies requirement dealing with early American history.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: The Boston Tea Party, If You Lived in Colonial Times, If You Lived at the time of the American Revolution

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The American Revolution (History Channel, DVD)  Liberty! The American Revolution

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=3667&

http://sunniebunniezz.com/holiday/veterandaybooks.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Tough Trails

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Tough Trails

Author: Irene Morck

Page Length: 96    

Reading Level: 2.6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As a teen-ager, Ambrose Metford worked for his Uncle in the summer taking trail riders high up into Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.  As the story begins, Ambrose is sent to the horse auction to sell his horse Blackie.  Uncle Mac had given permission to Ambrose to buy a horse to replace Blackie. 

As the auction begins, Ambrose meets an older woman who seems to be as upset as he is to be selling her horse.  In fact, she convinces Ambrose to buy her horse, Society Girl who is 25 years old.  Ambrose didn’t make the best decision when buying his horse. He knows he will be scrutinized by Uncle Mac and his two aunts, Janice and Madge for buying the old mare.

Ambrose bonds quickly with Society Girl and has her practice packing the bags she will need to carry on their trail rides. A famous photographer and his son request Ambrose and his aunt to take them on the very steep, rocky trail to Wapta Lake.  The trail is tough, the boy is a brat, and a storm hits.  Ambrose questions if he can redeem himself from his bad decision of buying a horse because of a sympathetic heart.

REVIEW:  This is an easy to read, short book that would interest horse lovers. It has adventure and suspense, along with showing the vulnerability of a young man sent on his own to make a very big decision.

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

RELATED BOOKS: Firehorse, Paint the Wind, I am the Great Horse

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Horse Whisperer, Sea Biscuit, Dreamer

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol10/no1/toughtrails.html

 

nancykeane.com/booktalks/morck_tough.html

 

http://www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=358            

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 3, 2008

Dogsong

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Dogsong

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 177

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Russel Susskit lives in a dying village – dying because the modern world has changed it. Diesel oil and snow machines are disturbing to him. Russel yearns to learn of the old ways. Oogruk, a village shaman who owns a team of dogs, shares the songs and stories of the old ways with Russel. Russel sets out on his own voyage to find himself. Alone in the arctic wilderness with only a team of dogs, ancient weapons, and his desire to find his own song, Russel embarks upon a long journey of self discovery that reveals new challenges at every turn.

REVIEW: Paulsen delivers yet another adventure survival story. Like many of his other books, this story focuses on a character who must endure harsh conditions and become completely self-sufficient in order to survive. The beauty of the story is in Paulsen’s attention to detail with the sensory appeal of the sights and sounds of times past. He is able to relate respect for one’s elders and how important it was for Russel to learn from the “old grandfather.” Paulsen also makes an excellent teaching point about how critical self-sufficiency is for survival and that the true journey to adulthood comes when one discovers who they truly are. The dreamlike sequences and songs may be difficult for the students to relate to and might best be introduced with a lesson about how dreams and songs told stories of past events or were interpreted to be warnings or foretelling of what might lie ahead.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, word choice in writing, mood, tone, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Violence – death of animals

RELATED BOOKS: Hatchet, The Winter Room, Dancing Carl, Trekker, Sentries

 

RELATED MOVIES: “The Alaskan Eskimo,” “Nanook of the North”

 

   

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.indiana.edu/~reading/ieo/bibs/paulsen.html

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/paulsen.html

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

www.bookhooks.com

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

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

A Single Shard

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A Single Shard

Author: Linda Sue Park

Page Length: 155

Reading Level: 6.2

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Tree-ear is an orphan who lives under the bride with Crane-man surviving off of the scraps of rice and food found around the village. Tree-ear is fascinated by master Min’s pottery; he often hides among the shrubs to watch Min at work. One day, Tree-ear accidentally breaks one of Min’s pots; he then becomes indebted to repay him in service. Tree-ear learns much about pottery as he works with Min. One day, Tree-ear decides to take a long journey in hopes of reaching the King’s Court with his master’s pottery.Tree-ear’s journey is dangerous and fraught with many trials. Can he and the precious pottery survive the trip? After all, a royal commission would not only distinguish Min but provide a comfortable life for he and his wife. 

REVIEW: While this book is a Newberry Medal Winner, it seemed to lack in engagement for me possibly because the details of the pottery and the process became tedious to me. However, the characters are authentic – the reader can feel what it was like for Tree-ear and Crane man. The reader also experience’s Min’s lingering pain over the loss of his son. Tree-ear’s hope to learn the trade of pottery and is never fail attitude is refreshing – and a great character trait to impart to students. Overall, the message is beautiful and the book is an excellent tool for understanding life in twelfth-century Korea.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, mood, tone, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect, external conflict, character traits, historical connections

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: thieves threatening Tree-ear, death of a friend

RELATED BOOKS: My Name was Keiko, Seesaw Girl, Keeping Score, Archer’s Quest, The Kite Fighters

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.lindasuepark.com/books.html

http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/lit_resources/authors/interviews/LindaSuePark.html

http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/park

http://www.metmuseum.org/explore/Korea/koreaonline/cMonoCelWares%20%20.htm

http://www.antiquealive.com/masters/m16/master16_view1.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Goodbye, Vietnam

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Goodbye, Vietnam

Author: Gloria Whelan

Page Length: 135

Reading Level: 4.7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Mai and her family live in Vietnam, where the government has been arresting people caught in illegal acts. Mai’s father was even taken away and detained for an entire year. The government is now threatening to take her father away again and her grandmother too. Mai’s family decides that they have no choice but to flee the only life they have ever known. With only a small pack of belongings each, they steal away under the cover of night. They must avoid being captured or detained. Their only hope is a small boat with a failing engine and their dreams of reaching the shores of Hong Kong. Can they make to the boat undetected? Will the boat be able to make the journey? Is there any hope left for Mai and her family?

REVIEW: This is a very powerful story about life as a refugee. I would recommend this one for use as a whole class instruction book. This story would compliment any discussions in history class of refugees, displacement, tyrannical rule, and even immigration in general. Whelan is masterful at keeping the read on the edge of their seat gripped by the emotion of Mai and her family. Their hope seems simple – freedom, but the reality of accomplishing those dreams is much more difficult than any of them have imagined. Great book!

Another interesting teaching point from this book centers on the role of women in the Vietnamese culture.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, mood, tone, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect, external conflict, character traits, historical connections

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Death, substandard conditions

RELATED BOOKS: Summer of the War, Listening for Lions, Friend on Freedom River, Chu Ju’s House, Once on this Island, Farewell to the Island

 

 

 

RELATED MOVIES: “Kim’s Story: The Road from Vietnam,” “Rising Above: Women of Vietnam”

 

   

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.cajon.k12.ca.us/schools/magnolia/GoodbyeVietnam.pdf

http://www.angelfire.com/journal2/englishresource/goodbyevietnam

http://litplans.com/titles/Goodbye_Vietnam_Gloria_Whelan.html

http://www.searac.org/vietref.html

http://www.catholic.org.tw/vntaiwan/asia/5hogkong.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

The Wedding Planner’s Daughter

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The Wedding Planner’s Daughter

Author: Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Page Length: 192

Reading Level:

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Willa Havisham has only one wish – she longs for a father. Willa’s mother is beautiful and educated, but there is a problem. Her heart seems closed forever to anything that has to do with love. Willa loves living in Bramble. She finally has a best friend, enjoys spending time with her Nana, and has a wonderful English teacher who would be perfect for her mother. Willa plans a picnic for her mother and Sam and all seems well, until everything goes wrong.  Willa’s secret thirteenth ingredient to each wedding just may be her undoing. Stella does what she always does when she feels in need of protection – she flees. Willa is forced to leave the only home she has every really known. Can she change her mother’s mind before it is too late? Will Willa ever have a father she can call her own?

REVIEW: I absolutely loved this book! I highly recommend it!! Some might consider it a definite magnet for girls. On the other hand, fathers would benefit from the insight into the heart of a young girl that this book offers. The characters are wonderfully crafted. The reader can feel the pain of Willa’s mother and yearn with Willa for her happy ending. Willa’s insight is beautiful – “I can take the look on the father’s face when the music starts and he smiles and whispers ‘Are you ready?’ and his daughter looks up at him and nods like she’s trying not to cry.” The book offers a beautiful lesson about love and trust and how important is in life to never let fear win out.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, mood, tone, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits

RELATED BOOKS:  The Cupid Chronicles, Willa by Heart, Forget Me Not

RELATED MOVIES: “The Wedding Planner,” “The Parent Trap”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.coleenparatore.com/

http://www.debbimichikoflorence.com/author_interviews/2005/ParatoreUpdate05.html

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBX/is_1_39/ai_n8698433

http://careerplanning.about.com/od/occupations/a/wedding_planner.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

The Time Hackers

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The Time Hackers

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 96

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Dorso and Frank are ordinary high school guys in the future. Ordinary if you consider the techno world they live in. Smells and sights from the past can he viewed as holograms. One day a dead body shows up in Dorso’s locker. The next thing Dorso knows, he’s looking eye to with Custer and Beethoven. Frank thinks Dorso’s losing it, until they both encounter an animal from the past. Soon Frank and Dorso are cast into the past — sometimes with no warning at all. Will they be able to solve the mystery of their sudden time travel? Can they survive amidst the battles they are being sent into? Who is responsible and why have they picked Dorso and Frank?

REVIEW: Although very un-Paulsen like (because it’s not about wilderness survival and animals), the book is entertaining.            The plot twists and turns will keep readers entertained. The book provides great opportunities for history connections as the boys travel to different time periods. The scientific concept of hologram technologies and time travel into virtual worlds is also interesting (a good hook for sci-fi and fantasy fans). 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits, dialogue, cause and effect, point of view, author’s purpose, historical connections

Writing activity: Have students write a time travel journal, or have students pick an era of time addressed in the story and write as if they were living in that time period

RELATED BOOKS: Amos’s Killer Concept Caper, Danger on Midnight River, The Green Recruit, Hatchet, Brian’s Winter

RELATED MOVIES: “The Minutemen,” “Terminator,” “Back to the Future,” “Star Trek,” “Kate and Leopold”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/about.html

http://unjobs.org/authors/gary-paulsen

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

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/time/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

REM World

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REM World

Author: Rodman Philbrick

Page Length: 190

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Science Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of an overweight 11 year-old boy, Arthur Woodbury, who is teased by his classmates and called Biscuit Butt.  Arthur loves to eat but wants to lose weight.  He decides to take advantage of an REM Sleep Device that is advertised on the back of one of his comic books. The device promises you can lose weight while you sleep. It is Arthur’s birthday and he celebrates by eating the whole cake himself.  Then, he grabs some Oreo cookies and heads to his room to try out the new device. He places the helmet device on his head and believes he will go to sleep fat and wake up thin.  When he wakes up still fat, Arthur is angry and throws the helmet, but realizing he is still in the REM World, he must use the device or the world will be lost to an evil darkness.

REVIEW: This is a great adventure book based on a problem many children deal with, obesity.  Arthur overeats because he feels a loss for his father.  Through all of his adventures and challenges he doesn’t realize he is losing weight because he is eating less and moving more.  After his journey into REM World, Arthur is remembered for his courage rather than for being fat.

This would be a good book for students with low self-esteem to realize that each of us has worthy attributes if we just look for them.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Descriptive writing (p. 55, 57), Vocabulary, Setting, Sequence of Events, Character

RELATED BOOKS: The Last Book in the Universe, Freak the Mighty, Max the Mighty

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.rodmanphilbrick.com/teaching.html

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REM_World

scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1169_type=Book_typeId=4139

www.ga.k12.pa.us/academics/ls/superreader/title/R/remworld.htm

engagedpatrons.org/Blogs.cfm?SiteID=4725&BlogID=61&BlogPostID=631

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Battle of the Bands

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Battle of the Bands

Author: K. L. Denman

Page Length: 97

Reading Level: 2.9

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Jay, Kelvin, and Cia make up a garage band, The Lunar Ticks.  Although they have won several competitions, they have never one the Battle of the Bands, where the first prize is a day in a recording studio.  Jay is the songwriter, but he is struggling to come up with new lyrics for a song.  The three leave school during lunch to go hear their biggest competition, Indigo Daze, play at their home school.  Jay finds himself falling for Rowan, the lead singer of Indigo daze.  However, right before the competition begins at the Battle of the Bands, Rowan’s guitar is destroyed.  Jay is the prime suspect.

REVIEW: This is an easy to read book  that younger teens would enjoy. There is romance, competition, and suspense to keep the reader’s attention.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Imagery, Conflict, and Theme

RELATED BOOKS: Flying Low, Rain Dogs, Papercut

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-158210925.html?refid=ssp_mags_808,

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/BattleTG.pdf,

www.thefreelibrary.com/Denman,+K.L.+Battle+of+the+bands-a0158210925,

www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=248

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Crush

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Crush

Author: Carrie Mac

Page Length: 106

Reading Level: 3.4

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Hope is disappointed when she learns her parents are going to Thailand to build a school and she is being sent to New York to stay a month with her sister, Joy and her loser boyfriend, Bruce.  While there, Hope incurs a huge veterinarian bill and must find a job.  She becomes a nanny for Maira, who introduces her to Larissa, her gay partner. Although Hope has lived in a commune with her hippie parents her entire life, this is her first introduction to “gay living”.  Hope meets Nat, who runs a bike shop, and is attracted to her.  The only problem is that Nat is a girl, too.  Now, she finds herself apart of the gay community as she strives to determine what her sexuality preference really is. 

REVIEW: This book was well written as it deals with a teen girl’s struggle to identify her sexual preference.  The writing is so descriptive that the reader can feel the emotions Hope deals with as she tries to decide what is real and what is imagined.  Although the parents are presented very liberal, I thought their immediate acceptance to Hope and Nat’s relationship, was unrealistic.  Although gay relationship is evidenced openly in our society today, I would question having this book on the shelves in my schoolroom.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The entire book is about a gay relationship as well as drug use and premarital sex.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Compare and Contrast, Imagery (p. 7, 13, 26, 68, 75), Irony, and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Born Confused, Orphea Proud

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.tower.com/crushcarriemac-hardcover/wapi/100068174

www.carriemac.com/crush.html

www.readerviewskids.com/ReviewMacCrush.html

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/CrushTG.pdf,

www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol12/no21/crush.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Exposure

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Exposure

Author: Patricia Murdoch

Page Length: 102

Reading Level: 2.8

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Julie, a little overweight, was an easy target for Dana, the most popular girl at school, to make fun of and ridicule.  Dana notices that it is not only her, but also anyone that Dana can make a negative remark to, she does.  Julie only wishes there is some way she might be able to give Dana a little dose of her own medicine.  One night as her brother, Zach, returns home from a party, Julie learns that Dana was at the party.  Not only was she at the party without her boyfriend, but also Zach has pictures of her drinking and inappropriately dressed.  Julie now has the ammunition she needs to destroy Dana’s reputation. 

REVIEW: This story addresses the subject of bullying that is prevalent in the school system from junior high through high school.  Students seem to constantly be putting others down in an effort to make themselves look better.  The author portrays the characters in such a manner that the reader can easily identify with a love/hate relationship for the accused and accuser.  After Julie gets her revenge on Dana, she realizes it doesn’t feel so good to hurt someone and acts on that by saving Dana’s life.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Underage alcohol and marijuana use.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Point of View, Character, and Foreshadowing

RELATED BOOKS: Story of a Girl

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.readerviewskids.com/ReviewMurdochExposure.html,

www.readerviewskids.com/ReviewMurdochExposure.html,

findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4063/is_/ai_n17195256,

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/ExposureTG.pdf  

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

The Golden Compass

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The Golden Compass

Author: Philip Pullman

Page Length: 351

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy     

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins when Lyra Belacquat, a 12 –year-old girl, living at Jordan College, in Oxford secretly enters and hides in the “Retiring Room” and discovers the master is trying to poison Lord Asriel.  Lyra, and all the residents of Oxford, each have their own daemon, an animal-formed, manifestation of their soul.  Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon, advised her not to enter the room. Lyra warns Lord Asriel about the attempted poisoning and Lord Asriel leaves and travels to the North Arctic. As children begin disappearing from the town, Lyra vows to find out where they are being taken.  When the master learns of this, he gives Lyra a sacred object, an alethiometer.  He also agrees for Mrs. Coulter, head of the General Oblation Board, to take Lyra to live with her.  Lyra learns that Mrs. Coulter and the GOB are the ones responsible for the kidnapping of the children. Lyra runs away from Mrs. Coulter and joins a group of nomads. They  help her engage an armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison, who aids her in  the  search for the children and to eventually find Lord Asriel in the North.

 REVIEW: This book of Lyra’s journey to discover why the “grown-ups” in the story are kidnapping children is an adventure filled with fantasy and imagination.  The armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison, has a well-developed character, as does, Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon.  Those who enjoyed the Hobbit trilogy and the Harry Potter series would also like The Golden Compass, the first in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.  The movie website is interesting. You can take a test and have your own daemon assigned to you.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Vocabulary- daemon, naphtha (p. 39), malodorous (p. 39), brantwign (p. 42), basilisk (p. 43), zeppelin, alethiometer (p.65), macaw (p.78), lorgnette, Theme, Character

RELATED BOOKS: The Subtle Knife, Book ll, The Amber Spyglass, Book III

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Golden Compass (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.goldencompassmovie.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Lights_(novel)

www.epiphyte.net/SF/goldencompass.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

It’s Not About a Bike

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It’s Not About the Bike

Author: Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins   

Page Length: 288

Reading Level: 8

Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography        

PLOT SUMMARY: Lance Armstrong tells of his life from childhood to winning his first and second Tour de France titles. Lance grew up in Plano, Texas, with his mother.  He writes of how he became a competitor in triathlons, which eventually drew him into cycling as a sport. On the brink of his career, he is diagnosed with testicular cancer.  He describes the fears of facing cancer and the treatments that follow.  After he is cancer free, he faces the decision whether to go back to the world of cycling competition or to hang out with his friends playing golf, eating Mexican food, and drinking beer and let his wife support him.

REVIEW: It’s Not About the Bike is a well-written book which unlike most autobiographies offers excellent descriptions of the landscape of France, the agony of cancer, the joy of love and parenthood.  Lance Armstrong vividly chronicles the challenges he faced living with a single-parent in prominent Plano, Texas.  He admits he was an angry young man and describes how surviving cancer helped him become more disciplined and appreciative of life.  He shares the joys of falling in love, the reality of being sterile, and the panic of seeing his wife suffering through childbirth.  Lance Armstrong does an excellent job of sharing his life as a world champion cyclist, a son, a husband, a father, a cancer survivor and a human being.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Some profanity

AREAS OF TEACHING: Descriptive writing, Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: Brian’s Song, Every Second Counts, by Lance Armstrong

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Breaking Away (1979), 2 Seconds (1998), 20 Shades of Pink (1976), Brian’s Song

RELATED WEBSITES:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It’s_Not_About_the_Bike:_My_Journey_Back_to_Life,  

www.br.cc.va.us/book/armstrong.html,

themonitor.com/…/armstrong_13766___article.html/cancer_lance.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Tell

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Tell

Author: Norah McClintock

Page Length: 100

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction, Mystery     

PLOT SUMMARY: David and his mother are awakened in the night by Detective Antonelli to learn that Phil, David’s stepfather has been killed.  David becomes a prime suspect with a weak alibi.  Cameras videoed him within a block of the scene of the accident minutes before the murder took place.  His mother finds his dead brother’s picture that Phil always carried in David’s jean pocket.  Even she begins to suspect David of the killing.  David faces the choice of telling the truth or lying to protect his mom’s feelings.

REVIEW: This is a fast, easy to read mystery that kept my attention throughout the book.  The reluctant reader would get a great introduction to mystery and suspense novels by reading this book.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Sequence of Events, Foreshadowing, and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Bang, Over the Edge, Snitch

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.goodreads.com/author/show/498979.Norah_McClintock

 www.teensreadtoo.com/Tell.html

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/TellTG.pdf

 www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-155401634.html?refid=ssp_mags_808

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

The Last Book in the Universe

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The Last Book in the Universe

Author: Rodman Philbrick

Page Length: 221

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Science Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: The story is set in the future in a world that has been hit by a severe earthquake known as “The Big Shake”.  As the story begins, Spaz, an epileptic 14 year-old boy is talking to Ryter, an old man, who constantly refers to books, something Spaz knows nothing about. Spaz tells Ryter that he has been kicked out of his home and forbidden to see his sister, Bean.  However, he has received a message from Bean that she is sick.  Together, Spaz and Ryter, along with Little Face (a young boy who likes Spaz because he gives him chocolate), set out to find Bean. They travel through the “Urbs”, using a futuristic dialect in a post-modern world.

REVIEW: For those who are fans of Rodman Phibrick and science fiction, you will enjoy the world of the future that Spaz, Ryter, and Bean adventure through.  I especially enjoyed the language of the future world that is used, much of it associated with the current language of today.  Also, the importance of books that Ryter emphasizes to Spaz is used throughout the book.  I especially like Ryter’s quote, “The only real treasure is in your head. They are memories and no one can steal them from you.”  These words and Spaz’s memories inspired him to write, The Last Book in the Universe.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Sequence of Events, Setting, and Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Freak the Mighty, Max the Mighty, REM World

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.scholastic.com/titles/features/fantasy/lastbook_rrr.asp

win.org/library/…/yas/book reviews/last book in the universe.htm

win.org/library/…/yas/book reviews/last book in the universe.htm

www.education-world.com/a_books/books170.shtml

www.avondale.k12.mi.us/meadows/yoda/forms/LastBookUniverse.html

www.answers.com/topic/w-rodmanphilbrick

www.rodmanphilbrick.com

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Down

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Down

Author: Norah McClintock

Page Length: 103

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Remy has just been released from a nine month stay at a juvenile correction facility for assaulting a man who insulted his girlfriend.   While in jail, he did not return letters to his family or girlfriend.  Upon his release, he finds his mother and sister treating him like a criminal.  His girlfriend, Asia, has a new boyfriend, Marcus.   Marcus and his friends are in a rivalry with some of Remy’s friends from school.   Asia knows that Marcus has a knife and wants Remy to talk to him-to warn him what can happen in reality.  Remy is suffering from a lot of anger.  He has to learn to control it and to cope with the people in his surroundings.

REVIEW: Norah McClintock has written another suspenseful book for the reluctant reader.  I thought the book was good because it deals with prejudice, peer pressure, romantic and family issues, and violence.  All of these subjects are matters of pressure that high school students must face each day. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Marijuana use and some profanity but it is not inappropriate for the high school audience. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Point of View, Conflict, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Bang, Marked, Snitch, Tell

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Gridiron Gang (2006), Stomp the Yard (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teensreadtoo.com/Down.html

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/DownTG.pdf

www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=432

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Stuffed

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Stuffed

Author: Eric Walters

Page Length: 108

Reading Level: 2.9

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: As Ian ponders what to do for his computer class project; he thinks about the documentary he saw at school that day. The documentary was about “Frankie’s”, the nation-wide fast food chain that served delicious bacon cheeseburgers with super-sized fries. It addressed the huge amounts of cholesterol and fat content people were consuming.  Ian decides to use the Internet to send an e-mail to ask people to boycott Frankie’s for one day to send a message to the restaurant to offer more healthy choices.  The e-mail was a huge success, as the people Ian sent it to, forwarded it, and like a domino effect the word about the boycott spread rapidly across the state, nation, and even into Europe.  Not all was good, though, because the head of Frankie’s also heard about the boycott, and contacted Ian to retract the boycott or he would be sued.  Lucky for Ian, his parents are both lawyers.  An ensuing battle follows in which Ian has to make a moral decision about continuing the boycott. 

REVIEW: This was a great book because it dealt with a concerning issue of the world that Ian and his friends decided to act on to complete a school project.  It shows the power of Internet communication, and that one should be careful about the messages they send.  The book deals with morals and honesty as well as demonstrates the strength of the laws governed by the constitution.

I think this would be a good book to use as a class novel for low-functioning readers.  Several additional class projects could be developed.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Cause/Effect, Theme, Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: The MacDonaldization of Society, Children, Schools and Fast Food

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART COLLECTIONS: Super Size Me (2004)

RELATED WEBSITES:

findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4063/is_/ai_n17195242

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/StuffedTG.

www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol13/no5/stuffed.html   

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Size_Me                                                                   

www.fastfoodbook.com

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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