The Book Reviews – Website

December 12, 2008

Out of the Dust

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Out of the Dust

Author: Karen Hesse

Page Length: 227

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction written in Verse

PLOT SUMMARY: 14-year-old Billie Jo Kelby is the main character who narrates the story written in verse.  Billie Jo lives with her parents on a wheat farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle.  It is 1934, The Great Depression, and they live in the heart of the dust bowl.  In each entry, Billie Jo reveals that dust is around her and everything she touches. 

While barely making ends meet, the family learns that the mother is pregnant.  However, a terrible accident with a bucket of kerosene left beside the kitchen stove, burns Billie Jo and her mother.  Her mother dies in childbirth as well as losing the baby.  Billie Jo’s hands are scarred, and she no longer attempts to play the piano, which was her one pleasure in life. Billie Jo and her father become distant after the accident, and Billie Jo eventually leaves to join others who have fled the dust, in search for a better life in California. She soon learns that “dust” is apart of her life and returns home to find what the future holds.

REVIEW: Written in free verse, the book is somewhat like a diary or journal written from 1934-1935.  The character of Billie Jo is developed demonstrating courage, strength, and great emotion.  This book would be a good book to use when teaching journal writing or free verse.  It could be used in addition to a social studies unit about the 1930’s depression.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Verse writing, Historical Context, Setting, Character, Cause and Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Grapes of Wrath

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl (PBS, 1999)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.carolhurst.com/titles/outofthedust.html

www.webenglishteacher.com/khesse.html

www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00000587.shtml

www.gccisd.net/et/7th New/du_st.htm

www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/dustbowl

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo

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Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo

Author: Greg Leitich Smith

Page Length: 188

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Elias, Shohei, and Honoria are best friends attending Peshtigo Middle School. Elias is from a family of very smart and successful parents and siblings.  Shohei is the adopted Japanese son of two Irish parents. Honoria is the girl caught in between the two.

It is time for the annual school Science Fair.  Elias decides to copy one of his older brother’s past experiments and Shohei decides to join him in working on the project. Honoria wants to teach piranhas to become vegetarians.

The plot thickens when Elias’ experiment does not match the findings of his brother; Shohei faces his parent’s daily issues to acquaint him with his Japanese culture; and, Elias has a crush on Honoria who confides in him that she has a crush on Shohei.   

REVIEW: This is an entertaining book in that the character’s each tell a portion of the story.  Each of their personalities is developed through their actions and thoughts.  The trio face conflict with their parents, teachers and each other. There is a Reading Group Guide at the end of the book which would assist if the book was used as a class novel. I think both boys and girls would enjoy the book for leisure reading.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Theme, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Holes, Tofu and T. Rex

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.gregleitichsmith.com

www.cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2005_04_01_archive.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Haunting at Home Plate

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Haunting at Home Plate

Author: David Patneaude

Page Length: 181

Reading Level: 4.5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Nelson lives for baseball. The team seems play-off bound when their coach is suspended and no one is available to coach the remaining players. Nelson convinces his cousin Mike to take on the team. As the team begins to come together, they realize strengths they never knew they had. The boys learn how to really hit and become contenders for the championship. Yet as they practice, strange things begin to happen. Messages are left in the home plate dirt with the initials A.K. Mike tells the team the stories of Andy Kirk –a kid who died when he fell from the tree behind home plate. Who is really leaving these mysterious messages? Is the ghost of Andy Kirk haunting the field?

REVIEW: Baseball fans will love this book. The pacing is excellent – the added “ghost” story angle is entertaining. History is intertwined with the entry from 1946 and the talk of boys having been off fighting in the war. The author addresses how much Nelson longs for his father’s interaction and attention; the author makes a point of dad getting a job at home so that he can be there for his family. This book would be good read for sons and fathers and even girls who have played or enjoy the game of baseball. There is another story within the book of Gannon and his verbally abusive (trying to live his dreams through his son) father. The reader feels Gannon’s humiliation and pain at his father’s public displays and his struggles to please someone who will never consider his efforts enough.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, foreshadowing, elements of plot, author’s purpose

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Gannon’s excessive verbally abusive, angry father

RELATED BOOKS: Thin Wood Walls, Colder Than Ice, Deadly Drive, Framed in Fire, The Last Man’s Reward, A Piece of the Sky

 

RELATED MOVIES: “Angels in the Outfield,” “The Sandlot,” “A League of Their Own”

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

http://www.patneaude.com/books-haunting.html

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/baseball/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Math Curse

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Math Curse

Author: Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

Page Length: 30

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: When Mrs. Fibonacci, the teacher, challenges her class by saying, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem,” the narrator finds she is consumed with math equations about everything she encounters in his everyday life.  Her thoughts are so full of math that she feels he has a “math curse”.   After a day of calculating her every thought and move with math equations, she even dreams about math.  However, the following morning, she quickly resolves the first math question of the day.  Relieved of the curse, she attends her science class, only to hear this statement come out of Mr. Newton’s mouth, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a science experiment . . .”

REVIEW: This is a colorful, well illustrated, book with dozens of math thought questions.  It could be used in a class presentation to challenge students to think of ways we use math in everyday life.  It is short and a lower reading level that would appeal to boys who want to avoid reading longer chapter books. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Cause/Effect, Logical Argument, Making Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Sir Cumference and the Dragon Pi, Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter, What’s Your Angle Pythagoras, Spaghetti and Meatballs for All: A Mathematical Story, Anno’s Magic Seeds

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Stand and Deliver (1988), October Sky (l999)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=1123

www.lessonplanet.com/directory/Math

www.theteacherscorner.net/lessonplans/math/storyproblems/mathcurse.htm

www.alex.state.al.us/lesson_view.php?id=1711

www.math.harvard.edu/~knill/mathmovies/index.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Nuclear

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Nuclear

Author: Nigel Saunders and Steven Chapman

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Nuclear is a book about nuclear energy and how it is used in all parts of our life and in the world and universe.  It begins with describing nuclear energy components and make-up, and the origination of the atom.  It then goes on to explain how radiation affects living things.  The book describes how nuclear power is used on earth, at sea, and in space. 

 REVIEW: This is a very informative book about nuclear energy and power.  The pictures are beautiful and quite vivid.  At the bottom of each page, is a “word store” which has definitions of some of the terms used in the book. Besides giving information, the additional window pictures and news briefs give examples of where actual relating events have occurred.

This would be a great book to use in the supplemental study of energy in a science class or for a science project.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details

RELATED BOOKS: Science Topics: Energy, Energy for Life: Nuclear Energy

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.nrc.com

www.greenpeace.org/nuclear/

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Overdrive

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Overdrive

Author: Eric Walters

Page Length: 102

Reading Level: 2.8

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: After receiving his license, Jake takes his brother’s car out for a spin with his friend Mickey. After cruising around town and stopping by the local hamburger joint, Jake and Mickey head for home. On his way there, Jake runs into a class-mate, Luke, from school. Luke verbally harasses Jake about having no friends and failing 9th grade. Upset, Jake street-races Luke for some distance. However, after decelerating from the race, Jake notices that Luke does not stop! Instead, Luke crashes into another vehicle that is carrying two passengers (one of which is pregnant). Jake and Mickey do not stop to help, yet head on straight for home.

Both Luke and the pregnant woman are transported to the local hospital. Even though both are expected to recover, Jake does not know this. Out of guilt, he visits Luke at the hospital only to find that Luke has no memory of the accident. Jake struggles within himself as to if he should tell the police that he was involved in the street-racing incident that led to the awful crash. Against the advice of his friend Mickey and with the help of his school guidance counselor, Jake decides to make the right decision and notify the authorities. 

REVIEW: This book did not start off well for me. Even though the main characters are male, the dialogue used appeared to be more appropriate for female characters. Beyond that, it just did not seem authentic for teenage boys.

I did, however, enjoy the ending where the story was not entirely resolved. We know what Jake has done (called the authorities) but the story leaves us hanging there with our imaginations left to create what might happen next.

There are several movies out that students may enjoy when it comes to street-racing. However, in general, this form of racing is illegal. The story is a good one in that it clearly shows the struggle that Jake is wrestling with when it comes to notifying the police. Life is about choices, and this story is a good example of such.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: voice, dialogue, choices, art of humor (see page 29), vocabulary – “Jaws of Life” (page 57), “gear heads” (page 31)

RELATED BOOKS: Fastback Beach by Shirlee Smith Matheson

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001), “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003), “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/jaws-life.htm

http://www.car-accidents.com/jaws-of-life.html

http://www.streetracersonline.com/

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

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Witness

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Witness

Author: Karen Hesse

Page Length: 161

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction written in Verse

PLOT SUMMARY: The setting of the story is in Vermont, in 1924.  Ten characters of the small community tell the story in verse.  It is the story of two young girls, Leanora, an African American whose mother has died, and Esther who is Jewish.  Neither is welcome in the community anymore because it has fallen under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan.  The other characters range in age from teen-ager to middle 60’s.  Some of the characters refuse to join the Klan and others become active.  With the Klan growing, violence increases.  However, the community eventually pulls together to find hope and redemption.

REVIEW: The setting of the story surprised me, in that, I was not aware the Ku Klux Klan was active in the North.  The story is told in verse, and could be read aloud as a play. The characters are vivid not only in their descriptions but also in their actions.  Each of them distinctly reflects a response that would be typical of real life when an influential association infiltrates a community.  Although set in the early 1900’s, this would be a good novel to study in conjunction with study of Hitler’s influence over the Nazi party and the Civil Rights Movement in America.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Some violence but it correlates with the theme of the book.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Verse writing, Theme, Conflict, Historical Context, Setting, and Character

RELATED BOOKS: To Kill a Mockingbird, A Time to Kill

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), A Time to Kill (1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teenreads.com/reviews/0439271991.asp

www.kidsreads.com/clubs/club-witness.asp

www.students.ed.uiuc.edu/bmweber/standard4.html

www.winooski.k12.vt.us/DHA_final_TeacherManual.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Heat Hazard Droughts

Heat Hazard Droughts 

Author: Claire Watts

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Non-Fiction

REVIEW: Heat Hazard Droughts is a fact-filled book about the weather phenomenon of the same name. It is a part of the “Turbulent Planet” series that highlights various occurrences in nature from an “engaging science text” format. From vivid pictures of starvation, drought, and relief efforts to historical accounts of the U.S. Dust Bowl and Great Fire of London, this book makes a great companion to any required science textbook. In addition to pictures and facts, the book contains defined vocabulary at the bottom of every page, predictive questions, tips on how to save water, and actual written accounts of human experiences during a drought.

This book really got me to think about how much water I waste as an individual. When you read about people forced to drink contaminated water to survive, it makes you stop and think. I learned that we as humans add to the increase in droughts because of the way we use the land (ie. farming too much in a single area for too long a period and stripping away too many trees). Also, I learned about the relief efforts of the Red Cross and UNICEF. The topics of climate change and global warming were also mentioned.

Many students may not be able to relate to the topic of drought. However, this book would be a good way for them to learn about a new topic. The book concludes with suggestions for further books to read on the topic as well as how to search for “drought” on the Internet. A glossary and index are also provided at the back.

I would definitely recommend this book to students, especially to those that struggle with an interest in science and nature.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: vocabulary, predictions, fact vs. opinion, text to self, text to world, historical context, reading a map, literature connections, Text to text with The Grapes of Wrath

RELATED BOOKS: Wild Weather: Drought by Catherine Chambers, Dust to Earth: Drought and Depression in the 1930s by Michael Cooper, Droughts of the Future by Paul Stein, and other books in the “Turbulent Planet” series

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940), “The 20th Century with Mike Wallace: El Nino” (1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.ema.gov.au/www/ema/schools.nsf/Page/TeachLesson_PlansDroughts

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/expeditions/lessons/03/g68/morelldrought.html

http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/0510/051017-amazon-e.html

http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/lrScience01.html

www.nws.noaa.gov

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

December 10, 2008

Blue Jasmine

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Blue Jasmine

Author: Kashmira Sheth

Page Length: 186

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: It is very hard for Seema to leave her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for America but the twelve-year-old girl moves with her family from India to Iowa City. Upon arriving in the United States, Seema learns that very little is the same in her new home and environment.  The streets, buildings and grocery stores are much larger but she finds fewer people with whom she can communicate.  As she enters school, she compares her life to “chutes and ladders”.  Some days everything goes great, others are pure disasters.  Seema does make friends and adjusts to her new home.  When her grandmother in India becomes ill, she returns to her old home and finds that things are not the same and she has trouble fitting in to both worlds.

REVIEW: This book is filled with great descriptions of India and its beautiful flowers and aromas of food flavors.  Sheth uses metaphors, similes, and idioms to write a great book for teaching examples of figurative language.  The characters are developed with vivid personalities and the setting of both India and Iowa City are well described. 

I think young girls would especially enjoy reading this book that not only describes two different cultures but also confronts the issues middle school girls must go through to “fit in”.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Figurative Language, Setting, Character, and Comparison/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: The Kite Runner, Born Confused, The Conch Bearer, New Kids in Town

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Kite Runner (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.webenglishteacher.com/childlit-s.html

www.ailf.org/teach/resourceguide2005.pdf

www.tracievaughnzimmer.com/blue jasmine.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Chestnut Hill The New Class

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Chestnut Hill: The New Class

Author: Lauren Brooke

Page Length: 212

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Dylan Walsh, a 7th grader, has finally convinced her parents to let her go to boarding school.  Upon her arrival at Chestnut Hill, she meets several new friends. One of the girls is Lynsey, a spoiled rotten brat.  Another is Malory, who appears to be too good for the rest of the group.  Dylan meets more girls, however, the best thing about Chestnut Hill is the horses.  Dylan has her heart set on making the horseback riding team.  Before that happens, she must experience several events, which can determine her future as a student at the school and her future of making good decisions.

REVIEW: This is the first in a series of eight novels about the girls at Chestnut Hill.  Girls who especially love horses would enjoy this series. I believe it would be best used as a book for leisure reading.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Supporting Details, Sequence of Events, Conflict, Cause and Effect, and Comparison and Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Making Strides, Heart of Gold, Playing for Keeps, The Scheme Team, All or Nothing

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Horse Whisperer (1998), Sea Biscuit (2003)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Brooke

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Shipwrecked

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Shipwrecked

Author: Rhoda Blumberg

Page Length: 80

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As a young boy, Manjiro became the head of his family after his father’s death at the age of 9.  Manjiro worked on a fishing boat to help support the family and the story begins as he ventures out to sea with four other crewmembers.  When bad weather attacked them for five days, they found themselves shipwrecked three hundred miles from their homeland of Japan. After months of being stranded on a deserted island, Manjior and his crew were rescued by an American whaling boat.  Because the laws of Japan forbid them to return, Manjiro decided to do what no other Japanese had ever done before.  He went to America.  He then receives an education, learns the western way of life, but never stops being home-sick for his family.

REVIEW: Based on the true life of Manjiro Nakahama, the book reads more like an adventure, than a true story.  There are excellent black and white pen photographs, created and described by Manjiro himself.  This would be an excellent book to read as a supplement to the history of Japanese and United States relations in the 19th century.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Setting, Historical Context

RELATED BOOKS: The Life and Times of John Manjiro, The Man Who Discovered America, Drifting to the Southeast, Americans from Japan, Island of the Blue Dolphins

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Shogun, The Last Sumaurai

RELATED WEBSITES: 

www.ultranet.com/-clongwor/

its.guilford.k12.nc.us/act/grade5/act5.asp?ID=1161,

www.pem.org/visit/asia-pdf/japan-lesson8.pdf,

unger.myplainview.com/reviews/Shipwrecked.htm,

www.embracingthechild.org/Bookshopmainshipwrecked.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

The Boys of San Joaquin

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The Boys of San Joaquin

Author: D. James Smith

Page Length: 231

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: The setting of the story is in l951, in Orange Grove City, California.  Paolo is the twelve-year-old brother to ten siblings, cousin of Billy, who is deaf, and owner of Rufus, the dog. The story begins with Rufus appearing with a torn twenty-dollar bill hanging from his mouth.  Paolo figures there is probably more money where that came from and employs Billy (the deaf cousin) and Georgie (his younger brother) to help him locate the rest of the treasure. Billy is eager to find the money because he needs the wheel on his bike repaired.  Georgie just enjoys being included with the other boys.  The search ends up in the priest’s garden behind the Cathedral of San Joaguin. However, the boy’s quest involves much more suspense and adventure before the mystery is solved.  

REVIEW: Paolo narrates the story and is quite descriptive of each of the characters and events.  He gives an excellent description of a dog (p.8) and of tools (p. 44) that could be used in teaching descriptive writing.  The story is full of adventure and family situations that arise in Paolo’s life.  Although the book’s setting is in 1951, it has the same type of humor, description, and adventure that I found in reading Mark Twain’s Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Descriptive Writing (p. 8 and 44), Characters, Setting, Theme, and Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: Probably the World’s Best Story about a Dog and the Girl Who Loved Me, Fast Company, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Outsiders

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.oemawlma2008.org/sessiondocuments/April_Henry_handouts.doc

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 8, 2008

The Wave of the Sea Wolf

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The Wave of the Sea Wolf

Author: David Wisniewski

Page Length: 28

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The Tlingit people were Native Americans who lived upon the land. The young Tlingit princess, Kchokeen, who was admired for her beauty and intelligence, went out seeking fresh berries. Her mother warned to stay away from the mouth of the bay where Gonakadet, the Sea-Wolf, has drowned many before. Kchokeen does not take the canoe to mouth of the bay, but she ends up there looking for berries. An unfortunate accident happens and Kchokeen meets the Sea-Wolf. Will he spare her life or will she be his next victim?

REVIEW: This book has wonderful illustrations and an excellent story line. It seems typical of the average Native American tale. It’s a short read and a good look at Native American beliefs – reliance upon the land – and understanding of the cycle when Kchokeen’s father says “I refused, for animals cannot be hunted without mercy and reverence.” The book also shows the conflicts between Native Americans and explorers/ traders. Good story – great ending – probably geared more towards an elementary audience, but a great short introduction to Native American literature.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, plot, author’s purpose, dialogue, origins of legends, connecting text to self, connecting text to text (history)

RELATED BOOKS: Golem, Rain Player, The Warrior and the Wise Man, The Secret Knowledge of Grown Ups, Tough Cookie, Sumo Mouse

RELATED MOVIES: “Pocahontas”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.childrenslit.com/childrenslit/mai_wisniewski_david.html

http://www.cbcbooks.org/cbcmagazine/meet/davidwisniewski.html

http://www.fcps.edu/FairfaxNetwork/mta/resource/activityguides/wisniewski.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Zach’s Lie

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Zach’s Lie

Author: Roland Smith

Page Length: 211

Reading Level:

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Jack has no idea why mask men break into his house, threaten his mom, sister and him and then totally ransack the place.  In just hours, he learns that his dad has been arrested for drug trafficking and the mask men were working for his dad’s drug czar boss.  The Witness Security Program force Jack, his sister, and mom to move to Nevada and assume new names and identities.  There, Jack, now Zach, meets the school custodian.  He gets in a fight the first day of school and meets a girl of interest, Catalin.  Zach is finally getting into his new life, but finds he has been discovered by the drug boss and not only his life, but all of those connected to him are in danger, again.

REVIEW: This book is action packed from the beginning.  The characters are well developed and the plot has several subplots that keep the reader’s interest.  This is a good suspense novel that boys would especially enjoy.  It would also be a good class novel to read. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Cause/Effect, Theme, Character, and Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: Jack’s Run, The Alex Rider Series: Scorpia, Eagle Strike, Point Blank, Skeleton Key, Stormbreaker

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.rolandsmith.com/index.php?page=curriculum

www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-zach.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

Author: Nigel Saunders and Steven Chapman

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 8.9

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Renewable Energy is a non-fiction book full of facts about the sources of renewable energy.  It begins with a two-page explanation of energy.  Then, the book proceeds to discuss the various types of renewable energy that include:  energy from the sun, biomass energy, wind energy, and energy from moving water.  In each discussion, the pros and cons of that type of renewable energy are listed.

REVIEW: The authors have done an excellent job of presenting scientific facts about renewable energy in a concise book that has colorful pictures, a glossary at the back of the book, and a “word store” at the bottom of each page with definitions of probable unknown words.  In addition, “fast facts” and inset notes and graphs are used. 

This is an excellent book to use as a supplement for an energy study. I would recommend it for boys who don’t think they like to read. The pictures and short entries make it a fast and interesting read. With all the discussion of our world becoming “more green” it is an informative book for teens to read to become more knowledgeable about the choices of the future for accessing energy.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Supporting Details, Making Predictions, Cause/Effect, and Comparison and Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Fossil Fuel, Nuclear, Science Topics: Energy, Energy Files: Water, Solar, Wind, Energy Essentials, Energy for Life, Energy Alternatives

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Renewable Energy (History Channel, 2008), Never Blend In (2004), An Inconvenient Truth (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.energy.org.uk

www.eere.energy.gov/kids

www.greenhouse.gov.au/renewable

www.kyrene.k12.az.us/…/4th/4_Renewable and Nonrenewable_unit_revised.doc

www.stewardship.nacdnet.org/downloads/EducatorsGuideSSW07.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Bone The Dragonslayer #4

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Bone The Dragonslayer #4

Author: Jeff Smith

Page Length: 168

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Graphic Novel        

PLOT SUMMARY: In book 4 of the Bone saga, Fone Bone runs into several dangerous situations.  With Gran’ma Ben and Thorn, he has a scary encounter with Kingdok, the ruler of the rat creatures.  Kingdok is trying to get his army into a full-scale attack on the village.  Thorn is having frightening dreams and then Gran’ma disappears.  While Fone is dealing with these crises in the forest, Phoney Bone has convinced the townspeople that he is a dragonslayer.  The people do not know that the dragon is actually their friend and it is the rat creatures they should fear.

REVIEW: This is the fourth of the Bone series and it takes a turn towards violence rather than the humor and adventure of the first two novels.  Readers will definitely be hooked into reading the saga, which is colorful and well illustrated.

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

RELATED BOOKS: Bone-Out From Boneville, The Great Cow Race, Eye of the Storm, Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Shore, Old Man’s Cave, Ghost Circles, Treasure Hunters, and Crown of Thorns

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Harry Potter (movie series), The Lord of the Rings (movie series)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-smithjeff.asp

www2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1399

www.graphicclassroom.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html

www.teachwrite.wordpress.com

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 7, 2008

Bone the Great Cow Race #2

Filed under: B — thebookreviews @ 11:16 pm
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Bone The Great Cow Race #2

Author: Jeff Smith

Page Length: 132

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Graphic Novel      

PLOT SUMMARY: The three cousins find each other and visit with Thorn and Gran’ma Ben in the village of Barrelhaven. They plan to leave the village and return to Boneville, but when Phoney learns of the Great Cow Race that is about to be held, he conjures up a scheme to “get rich quick”.  He convinces Smiley to compete as the “mystery cow” in the race.  He convinces many of the townspeople to bet on the mystery cow and against Gran’ma Ben, who usually wins the race.  Fone is rather romantically taken with Thorn, but she does not appear to have the same feelings for him.  The rat creatures are lurking in the background and the reader can tell that more than just a cow race is around the corner.

REVIEW: This is the second of the Bone series.  Jeff Smith continues to develop the characters and include adventure, intrigue and mystery.  I feel this graphic novel series resembles the The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books.  If you enjoyed reading those books, you would enjoy the Bone saga.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Character

RELATED BOOKS: Bone-Out From Boneville, Eye of the Storm, The Dragon Slayer, Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Shore, Old Man’s Cave, Ghost Circles, Treasure Hunters, and Crown of Thorns

MOVIE & TV CONNECTIONS: The Simpson’s (TV series), Harry Potter (movie series), The Lord of the Rings (movie series)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1399

www.graphicclassroom.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Wrestling Sturbridge

Filed under: W — thebookreviews @ 11:14 pm
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Wrestling Sturbridge

Author: Rich Wallace

Page Length: 133

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Have you ever wanted something so bad you can almost taste it? Victory seems so close but it’s just out of reach? Benny is a member of the championship Sturbridge wrestling team. He wants to so badly to win state. The problem is that his friend Al is number one and no matter how hard he tries he just can’t seem to beat him. But Benny never gives up. Every challenge match he has, he tries to outdo Al. He can feel the drive and he’s determined to win. Can he out match Al? Will the coach even see his true talent before it’s too late?

REVIEW: For wrestling fans, this book is a must. For the rest of us, it’s still an interesting read because there is more depth to the story than just a wrestling match. Victory in wrestling symbolizes Benny’s victories over his life and insecurities. The book also details a mild romance between Kim and Benny and deals lightly with the fact that they are from two different races. I was a little confused by the dad’s habit of stealing things — it’s just almost seemed out of place and totally unnecessary for the book. Overall, the book is compact and the action of preparing for the next big match keeps the reader turning the page. The short descriptive facts between chapters also help the reader get to know Benny better (it develops a kinship with the reader almost as if he is revealing secrets about himself that no one else knows).

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence, author’s purpose, character motivations, point of view (Grandma about Kim), cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: some mild race issues, under-age drinking, mild sexual references

RELATED BOOKS: Playing Without the Ball, The Roar of the Crowd, Losing Is Not an Option, Perpetual Check, One Good Punch, Emergency Quarterback 

   

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1488/Wallace-Rich-1957.html

http://www.bookrags.com/biography/rich-wallace-aya/

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780679885559

http://www.highschoolwrestling.info/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Cousins

Filed under: C — thebookreviews @ 11:12 pm
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Cousins

Author: Virginia Hamilton

Page Length: 193

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic FIction

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: Cammy is jealous of her cousin Patty Ann who always appears perfect. However, Cammy knows the truth behind Patty Ann’s proper exterior – Patty Ann is bulimic.

Cammy loves her mother and brother. She is especially fond of her grandmother, Gram Tut. However, Cammy can’t seem to grow close to two of her family members: Patty Ann and her mother, Cammy’ aunt. One day on a wilderness outing, one of Cammy’s friends falls in the water. Patty Ann rescues the girl, however drowns herself while doing so. Cammy witnesses this act and subsequently feels guilt over Patty Ann’s “death”. It is through the strength of Cammy’s grandmother, that Cammy resolves her tormented feelings and is able to let Patty Ann and herself rest at peace.

Cousins is a tale of family and the secrets and “false fronts” they display. It is also one of tragedy and how family support can bridge the gap between happiness and sorrow. I thought this story was rather simplistic. I am not a huge fan of the author, and I did not find this story effective or enjoyable. However, for those struggling with the issue of family and death, it may prove an worthwhile read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: hidden details, symbolism, issue of guilt, death, and family

RELATED BOOKS & BOOK WEBSITES: Second Cousins by Virginia Hamilton

http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/visit/stay/books/death-grief.htm

http://www.grpl.org/wiki/index.php/Books_about_Death_and_Dying_for_Teens

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Stand by Me” (1986), “My Girl” (1991)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://tech.psdr3.org/projects/HERO/html/Moore/html/lesson_plan_0.html

http://www.virginiahamilton.com/pages/cousins.htm

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=823_type=Book_typeId=2701

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Truth

Filed under: T — thebookreviews @ 11:09 pm
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Truth 

Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Page Length: 108

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: After a house party turns into a scene of a brutal murder, the teenagers who attended are questioned. In this small town of 5,000, these teens do all they can to either cover-up what happened or invent vivid fantasies of what occurred. The main character, Jen, is a local reporter for the schools TV news program. Ironically, she was also one of the teens who was at the party. Though she didn’t see the actual murder occur, Jen does hold many facts as to what happened which she keeps from the police and her father.

Ultimately three suspects are focused on. 1 – Ross has been in trouble before, has a temper problem, and is addicted to steroids. 2 – Nate is Ross’ friend and was at the party along with Ross. 3 – Jerome is the boyfriend of Jen, the main character, and was also at the party.

Jen begins to go crazy as she contemplates that her boyfriend may actually be a murderer. All three male suspects have recently been evasive to their friends at school, prompting major suspicion. Later on, it is witnessed that Ross and Nate have threatened to silence the teen who lived at the house of the party. After secret statements are gathered, a boot is found, and odd behavioral observations are made known, the truth finally comes out. It is with Jen’s reporting skills and the help of her camera man, that the story unfolds.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book very much. It was a quick read, yet kept my attention throughout. The dialogue was fresh and seemed appropriate for a character in her teens.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: genre of mystery, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: references to bars, steroids, and pills – steroids affecting one of the main characters behavior

RELATED BOOK & MOVIE: Macbeth by William Shakespeare, “Macbeth” (several movie versions available)

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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