The Book Reviews – Website

January 18, 2009

The First Part Last

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The First Part Last

Author: Angela Johnson

Page Length: 132

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Bobby isn’t the average teenager. His girlfriend Nia is pregnant and their lives are about to change forever. Bobby’s mother isn’t the take over type. Bobby will be caring for the baby on his own. Bobby will have to balance late nights, diapers, doctor’s appointments, and babysitters among trying to go to school and hang out with his friends (is there even time for friends anymore?). Can Bobby keep it all together?

REVIEW: This book makes a great point about how difficult teen parenting really is. Bobby’s mother does not take care of the baby for him; he must juggle all the responsibilities. I like the way the book goes back and forth in time. It might be a great writing exercise to have students look at the causes and effects of an event and write a now and then series of journal entries. This story is poignant and very realistic. I even like the ending where Bobby notes how much his own dad’s love and attention matters to him. The book provides a great message and is a short and easy read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, theme, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: mild teen sex – “will it hurt the baby if we do it?” (p. 49)

RELATED BOOKS: Heaven, Bird, A Cool Moonlight, Looking for Red

TV CONNECTIONS: “The Baby Borrowers”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0689849222.asp

http://www.answers.com/topic/angela-johnson-1

http://www.parentingteens.com/

http://ezinearticles.com/?A-Look-at-Teen-Parenting-Statistics&id=605609

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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When Dad Killed Mom

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When Dad Killed Mom

Author: Julius Lester 

Page Length: 199

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jenna and Jeremy were living a typical day at school when they were called into the office. Seeing each other there together and sensing the tension of those around them they knew bad news was coming, but they had no idea it would be this devastating. Just this morning, as they sat innocently in class, their own father gunned down their mother. They have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Torn apart by this tragedy, Jenna and Jeremy grow distant from each other. Jenna has her own guilty conscience and terrible secret. Jeremy who was always by his mother’s side is lost without her. Why would dad do something like this? What will happen to Jenna and Jeremy?

REVIEW: As many of the reviews note, this story line could have been ripped from any headline. The subject matter of domestic violence will be relative to many students. I like how Lester differentiates the viewpoints and experiences between Jenna and Jeremy.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, theme, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: “I had drawn a vagina on the bathroom walls” (page 11), language (page 146), knowledge of affairs, father having suggestive contact with daughter

RELATED BOOKS: The Color Purple, Shining, Why Heaven is Far Away, Days of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://books.google.com/books?id=sOEA6RWBpzkC&dq=when+dad+killed+mom&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0

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

http://www.domesticviolence.org/

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Boy Meets Boy

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Boys Meets Boy

Author: David Levithan

Page Length: 185

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Paul is in his sophomore year of high school. He has an angry and bitter ex named Kyle. One of Paul’s friends is Infinite Darlene (formerly known as Daryl) who is both the homecoming queen and the star quarterback on the football team. Joni, his best friend, has always been there for him until recently. Tony, Paul’s other best friend, has super religious parents who won’t let Tony hang around him because he’s gay. Everything seems to be going terribly wrong until Paul meets Noah. As their relationship begins to develop, the world around Paul seems to unravel. It isn’t long before everything he holds dear is in jeopardy. Will Paul find what he’s looking for before it’s too late?

REVIEW: This book is like every other David Levithan book I have read – a little on the strange side (out there in an alternate reality perhaps). However, the book is an interesting read filled with the common teenage angst and the need everyone has to discover who they are and what they want from life. The story is interesting and dramatic enough to keep students turning the page to find out: if Joni will ever come to her senses, if Kyle will forgive Noah, and if Tony’s parents will ever understand and accept who he is.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  sequence of events, character traits, elements of plot, author’s purpose, use of dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: gay relationships – girls and boys

RELATED BOOKS: The Realm of Possibility, Are We There Yet?, Marly’s Ghost, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Wide Awake, Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.davidlevithan.com/bmb_landing.html

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0375832998.asp

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

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/davidlevithan/fromdl.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Son of the Mob

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Son of the Mob

Author: Gordon Korman

Page Length: 262

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Vince Luca appears to be a normal teenage guy. His best friend is always trying to outdo him, his brother drives him crazy, and his father wants him to choose a path. And then there’s the famous gandland assassination of Mario Calabrese the cops wanted to pin on his father. Vince’s dad just happens to be the head honcho of the mob. Life is strange in a house that’s bugged and always full of uncles. It doesn’t get any better when Vince falls for Kendra Bightly – whose father just happens to work for the FBI.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this book! The story line is interesting, humorous, and adds just the right touch of romance. Korman intersperses bits of good advice, the importance of family (no matter how crooked they are), and the idea that love prevails against the odds. Both boys and girls will enjoy this book.

If students have never seen any movies or read anything at all about the mob, then they might not grasp the humor and situations presented in the novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  conflict, resolution, author’s purpose, cause and effect, character traits, problem resolution

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: threats of mob violence, talks of missing appendages

RELATED BOOKS: No More Dead Dogs, Swindle, The Search, Kidnapped, Rescue, One False Note, The Juvie Three

MOVIE & TV CONNECTIONS: The Untouchables, The Sopranos

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://gordonkorman.com/toposite.htm

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

http://people.howstuffworks.com/mafia.htm

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

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Margaux with an X

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Margaux with an X

Author: Ron Koertge

Page Length: 165

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: On the outside, Margaux’s life seems to resemble perfection. She’s gorgeous, every guy wants her, every girl wants to be within her circle of friends, and she’s smart. In reality, Margaux’s harboring a terrible secret. She’s tired of playing Sara’s popularity games with groping boys, seeing her mother engrossed in the shopping channel day after day, and hearing about her father’s latest gambling activities. Then she meets Danny who is a scrawny, anything but fashionable guy who dedicates his life to rescuing animals. Could it be love at first sight? Will Margaux reveal her terrible secret?

REVIEW: This book took an interesting look at a number of important topics. One issue addressed in the book is the price Margaux has paid for her father’s addiction to gambling. Also, Koertge teaches the reader that being beautiful isn’t as glamorous or as easy at it seems. Yet another topic presented in the book is that self-discovery can be painful but gratifying. Both Danny and Margaux have endured hardships and are discovering who they are and how their past has shaped them. Overall, the book is interesting, the plot is well developed, and the final parting message is good – the path of least resistance isn’t necessarily the best.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, sarcasm, vocabulary development

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Dad offering Margaux a joint (p.22), “he tries to feel my boobs… just a semi-slut instead of a full-on hoochie” (p.87), destroying a car out of anger (p.142), “you’d drive me over to Tony’s house and let him take pictures of me in my underpants” (p.150)

RELATED BOOKS: Where the Kissing Never Stops, Stoner & Spaz, The Brimstone Journals, Shakespeare Bats Clean Up, The Arizona Kid

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0763624012.asp

http://www.bookrags.com/biography/ron-koertge-aya/

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/gambling_addiction.htm

http://www.spca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Homepage_Template_2004

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Author: Mildred Taylor

Page Length: 276

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins with Cassie Logan and her brothers walking to school. Although they are young children, they are aware of the different ways whites and blacks are treated.  Being Negroes, they must walk to school, while the white children ride a bus. Their schoolbooks are worn, discarded rejects from the white children’s school. They even become the subjects of jokes when the bus driver deliberately splashes them with mud as he drives the white children to school.

As the events of the book unfold, repeated incidents of racism are witnessed at school and in the community.  The Logan family lives in fear of the Ku Klux Klan ,but with the influence of Big Ma, Mama, and Papa they cling together to protect the 400 acres they call “their land.”

REVIEW: Many of the events and themes of the story are adult in nature, but Cassie, a fourth grader, tells the book in narrative form. The children must witness their mother being fired as a teacher, grown men being tarred and feathered, and a rebellious friend, T. J., accused of murder.  They learn the viciousness that prejudicial feelings of racism bring. Through the violence, Cassie realizes the importance of family and why “the land” is an endearment they must protect.

This is an awesome book I would recommend it for reading as a class novel.  The character development and setting are excellently described, as well as the drama in the sequence of events.  It is a great book to read in conjunction with a Civil Rights Movement theme.

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

RELATED BOOKS: The Land, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, A Time to Kill, To Kill a Mockingbird

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1978), A Time to Kill (1996), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.aloha.net/~uncldon/rothmyc.htm

www.litsum.com/rollofthunderhearmy-cry

www.sparknotes.com/lit/rollofthunder

www.scholastic.com/kids/homework/pdfs/Roll_of_Thunder.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Belle Prater’s Boy

Belle Prater’s Boy

Author: Ruth White

Page Length: 196

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Belle Prater, Woodrow’s mother and Gypsy’s aunt, disappears one night without any explanation.  Woodrow, a rather backward boy, moves in with his grandparents who live next door to Gypsy’s more socially adapt family.  Gypsy is the town beauty but she feels invisible and hates her long beautiful hair. Although the townspeople try to find out what happened to Belle, Woodrow seems content and knows why his mother disappeared. He is a great storyteller and entertains his schoolmates and the family with his stories.  Gypsy and Woodrow become instant best friends. Gypsy wonders how Woodrow deals with the loss of his mother while she tries to come to grips with the death of her own father. 

REVIEW: This story is set in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky.  The author writes with local colloquial sayings that make the reader become familiar with the characters and their personalities.  It has mystery with touches of humor that also make it a very humanistic tale. The character development of Gypsy and Woodrow are excellent. The book is based on the friendship that develops between the two sixth graders and how the family deals with death and sorrow.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Gypsy’s father commits suicide and she discovers him as she looks through the living room window.  However, it is not too graphic for the junior high reader or the older reader to handle.

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

RELATED BOOKS: Journey, Comfort Creek, The Pinball’s, Holes

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Cold Mountain (2003)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.theliterarylink.com/belle_lessons.html

www.centerforlearning.org/ViewProductDetails-627-571-42.html

www.rif.org/educators/books/book.mspx?View=110

www.pages.drexel.edu/~eg72/EDUC525/site3/socialiss.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Amalee

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Amalee

Author: Dar Williams

Page Length: 180

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Amalee struggles with the evenings she must spend with her dad and his four best “over forty” friends.  She is also struggling with her relationships in school, both with teachers and peers.  She has the image of being a mean kid and feels that no one really likes her.

When Amalee’s father becomes seriously ill and is bedridden, his friends come to take care of him, but no one tells Amalee what is wrong.  They take her to school and cook with her but are not honest with her about what is going on with her dad.   Meanwhile at school, Ellen and Hally, who were her friends, begin to make fun of her.  When Amalee gets into a fight with Lenore, Phyllis (a neighbor and one of the “older” friends) comes to Amalee’s aid. 

REVIEW: In her first novel, Dar Williams creates a realistic plot of a young girl who has a single parent, her dad.  When he becomes ill, Amalee, does not want anyone to know.  Williams does an excellent job of describing the feelings and emotions Amalee experiences of not knowing or being in control of what is happening in her life.  Like many teens, she does not know how to deal with these emotions and chooses to hide rather than share them.  When Phyllis comes to her rescue and helps Amalee explain to Lenore and the principal what she is going through, Amalee finds some peace. However, it is not until she finally talks with her dad about his illness that Amalee finds contentment.

This is a good book to read for children who have parents with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses so that they know their feelings of denial and fear are normal.

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

RELATED BOOKS: Olive’s Ocean and Lights, Camera, and Amalee

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Stepmom (1998), CD’s by Dar Williams: The Green World, My Better Self, Out There, End of the Summer, Promised Land, The Beauty of the Rain

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Coming to America

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Coming to America

Author: Bernard Wolf

Page Length: 45    

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography   

PLOT SUMMARY: Hassan Mahmond comes to America and works for eight years before he is able to have his family join him from Egypt.  After they arrive, the children (Amr, Dina, and Rowan) begin attending American schools.  As they learn the new cultures of America, they continue to practice their Islamic customs and beliefs in their home.  They attend the mosque and eat the traditional foods of their homelands. However, the family adapts to America and its land of opportunities by working hard, learning the English language, and adapting to the traditional celebrations of graduation and birthdays.

REVIEW: This is a short, easy to read book with lots of facts about a Muslim family and the challenges they face as they immigrate to America. The author gives a good background to the American reader about the culture and customs of the Islamic religion while describing the hardships the family must endure to live in a free America.  The photographs are colorful and capture the life of the Mahmond family.  Students who like to read non-fiction would enjoy this book.  It could be used as a supplement for a social studies lesson or learning about customs in different countries.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Increase Vocabulary Skills (baklava, halal, mosque, ka’bah, Qur’an), Compare/Contrast, Setting, Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: The Kite Runner, Escape from Saigon, I Learned Geography, The Wall, New Kids in Town, Goodbye, Vietnam, Refuge Cove

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Kite Runner (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.webenglishteacher.com/childlit-w.html

www.ailf.org/teach/resourceguide2005.pdf

www.childrenslit.com/childrenslit/th_middleeast.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts

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Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts

Author: Charlotte Wilcox

Page Length: 64

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The book begins with the ethics of studying the dead (chapter one).  Scientists have mixed feelings about uncovering the remains of a mummy belonging to the Pazyryk tribe.  The first chapter explains the process of preparing the body for burial.  Next, the definition of what makes a mummy is explained along with how human remains are studied. Throughout the book, examples of mummies from England to the Andes Mountains are cited.  The author shows respect towards the mummies who are being studied by reminding the reader that mummies were once people’s relatives or friends.

REVIEW: The book has exceptional facts about studying mummies and the various preparations for burial and preservation after death. There is a glossary, bibliography, suggested books and suggested websites to visit at the back of the book.  It is illustrated with authentic photographs of the mummies that have been discovered and are being studied.

This is a good book for those who enjoy reading non-fiction and science related subjects.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Historical Context, Vocabulary, and Supporting Details

RELATED BOOKS: Bodies from the Bog, How to Make a Mummy Talk, Frozen Girl, Mummies and their Mysteries

ART CONNECTIONS: Mummy Exhibits-1) The Catacomb Mummies of Palermo, Italy, 2) Otzi the Iceman, Bolanzo, Italy, 3) Lady Dai, Ch’angsha, China, 4) Mummies at St. Michan’s Church, Dublin, Ireland, 5) The Tollund Man, Silkeborg, Denmark, 6) Juanita the Ice Maiden, Peru, 7) The Lindow Man, London, England, 8) The Mummified Monk, Thailand, 9) Vladimir Lenin, Moscow, Russia

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.indiana.edu/~icp/dbase/S4-2wi.html

www.cryonics.org

www.archaelology.or/online/news/iceman

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Silent to the Bone

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Silent to the Bone

Author: E.L. Konigsburg

Page Length: 261

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Bramwell and Connor have been best friends for years. When something tragic happens, Bramwell can no longer speak. Bramwell is being held in a juvenile detention center. The cards seem to be stacking up against him. Connor knows that there is no way his friend could have committed the crime. Connor sets out to prove Bramwell’s innocence; he must find some way to get his friend to communicate with him before it’s too late.

REVIEW: Konigsburg wrote a wonderful story that realistically portrays the heart and soul of a young man. The readers experience Bramwell’s emotions, his betrayal, and even his sense of disappointment with his father. This book deals beautifully with puberty issues, birth of a new sibling issues, and step parents. Told through the perspective of his best friend, the book delves into the psychological trauma the event has caused Bramwell. The reader heals with Bramwell.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, sequence of events, flashback technique, cause and effect, making predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: injury to a child, mild sexual encounter between a teen boy and an adult woman

RELATED BOOKS: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, George, All Together, One at a Time, Throwing Shadows, Journey to an 800 Number

RELATED WEBSITES:

 http://eduplace.com/kids/hmr/mtai/konigsburg.html

http://www.alanbrown.com/JustForKids/Previews/Z_Preview204.html

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=2648

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

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

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Are We There Yet

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Are We There Yet

Author: David Levithan

Page Length: 215

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Although they were once close, Elijah and Danny have drifted apart. Danny is grown and away in the “real world” wrapped up in carving out a corporate career. Elijah is finishing his last year of high school and hasn’t even bothered to apply to college yet. Suddenly, Elijah and Danny find themselves on a trip to Italy together. They are reluctant participants in a parental ploy to bring them back together again. Adventure, discovery and maybe love awaits. Will they leave Italy as distant as when they landed?

REVIEW: If you love art, museums, artifacts and Italy then you will love this story. If however you get bogged down by excessive descriptions of art works and buildings, then you may find the book tedious – especially in the first half. The book does pick up plot towards the end. The reader experiences the nostalgia of the boys’ childhood through their flashbacks. The very different personality styles of the characters give them a more universal appeal to readers.

The author does make 2 good points: about finding more things in common with people than we expect sometimes and about defining who we are. The references to common marijuana use bothered me (in terms of it being portrayed as acceptable). Also, I was hoping for more closure in the end.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, sequence of events, flashback technique, cause and effect, making predictions, compare and contrast character traits, connecting text to social studies and the arts

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: marijuana use

RELATED BOOKS: The Realm of Possibility, Boy Meets Boy, Marley’s Ghost, Wide Awake, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, Likely Story

ART CONNECTIONS: Italian Renaissance Artists and art styles, David, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Visite.html

http://www.davidlevithan.com/

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/davidlevithan/fromdl.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

The Land

The Land

Author: Mildred D. Taylor

Page Length: 375

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: The time is the 1870’s, the setting is the Southern United States and the main character is Paul-Edward Logan.  Paul was the child of a white man and a woman of Indian and Black mix.  Paul looked white but was referred to as a “white nigger”.  Paul has three half-brothers who share his dad as their father.  Paul’s older sister, Cassie, had the same father and mother. 

As the story begins, Paul is often beat up by Mitchell, an African American boy whose dad works for Paul’s dad.  Paul’s older brothers will not defend Paul against Mitchell, so Paul eventually makes a deal with Mitchell to teach him to “read, write, and figure” if Mitchell will teach him how to fight. The boys stick to this arrangement and become best friends.

Paul’s dad, unlike many white men, acknowledges Paul and Cassie as his children, but when Paul and his half-brother, Robert, have a conflict in front of a white family, it is Paul who is whipped and punished.  Paul realizes that things will never be the same, so he and Mitchell decide to run away.  This begins the adventure they have together trying to make a life for them.  

REVIEW: The Land is the prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  Mildred Taylor writes the book that is based on stories she was told by her parents and grandparents.  The book is historical in that it accurately describes the racial prejudices that resulted in the abolishment of slavery.  The attitudes of the white people towards African Americans are well depicted. 

The characters and their relationships are well-developed, the setting of the south is well described, and the adventures of Mitchell and Paul keep the plot moving at a fast pace.  This is an excellent book for African-American students to read to learn of the hardships their ancestors had to endure before the Civil Rights Movement.

At the back of the book, there is an author’s note, Saga of the Logan Family, and a section with discussion questions that could be used in a book study or when used as a supplement to a class novel.

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

RELATED BOOKS: Song of the Trees, The Well, Mississippi Bridge, The Friendship, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, The Road to Memphis, Logan, The Gold Cadillac

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1978), Sounder (1972)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.webenglishteacher.com/mtaylor.html

www.litplans.com/authors/Mildred_D_Taylor.html

www.davis.k12.ut.us/curric/languagearts/grade8.html

www.theteacherscorner.net/seasonal/black-history-month

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Sleepover

Filed under: S — thebookreviews @ 7:26 pm
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Sleepover

Author: Suzanne Weyn

Page Length: 95

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: It is the last day of eighth grade and Julie is having a slumber party.  Farrah, Hannah, and Yancy come over with a rather uneventful evening planned.  But when Staci, the most popular girl in school, calls to make a challenge for the best cafeteria spot at the high school next year, action begins.  The girls prepare for a Polaroid scavenger hunt in which they must get a picture made with a stranger in a bar, steal Steve’s (Julie’s secret crush) boxer shorts, and obtain a logo off of a security car.  They use Ren, Julie’s brother from college, as their decoy and sneak out of the house for a night of wild adventure.

REVIEW: The book is written in chapters narrated by each of the characters. Middle school and junior high girls would enjoy the sequence of events the girls have during the evening that include adventure, competition and a little romance. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Point of View

RELATED BOOKS: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School, and Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Sleepover (2004)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

High Noon

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High Noon

Author: Scott Sundby

Page Length: 32

Genre: Fiction-Math           

PLOT SUMMARY: Cowlick is a small town set in the old west.  Louie is the town barber. Buzzsaw is also a barber and comes to Cowlick to challenge Louie in his barbering skills. Both men enjoy practicing artistic freedom in their work.  Louie sketched his cuts on paper from bigger to smaller.  Buzzsaw, however, sketched his cuts from small to large.  In the end, both barbers found they respected each other’s style and work and decided to open a shop together. 

REVIEW: This is a well-written short story that gives good math examples of how to “draw to scale”.  It has excellent illustrations by Wayne Geehan.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Math-drawing to Scale and Comparison and Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Math Curse, What’s Your Angle Pythagoras, Sir Cumference and the Dragon, Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter, Spaghetti and Meatballs for All

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.mathact.blogspot.com

www.boiseartmuseum.org/education/sizescaleshapepretour.php

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 17, 2009

Call Waiting

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Call Waiting

Author: R. L. Stine

Page Length: 167

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Horror         

PLOT SUMMARY: As the book begins, Karen is stalking her boyfriend, Ethan, because he broke a date with her and told her he had to work.  Karen is suspicious that Ethan is hanging out with Wendy, another girl in their class.   Throughout the book, Karen is obsessed with Wendy’s relationship with Ethan.  When Wendy has an accident and falls down a flight of stairs, some of Karen’s classmates blame her.  Karen even begins to question herself.

Ethan, however, gives Karen his attention after Micah, Karen’s best friend, calls her mother and says Karen may need some psychological help.  Karen questions her actions, too, when her older brother plays practical jokes on her and when she begins getting mysterious phone calls.  In a strange turn of events, Karen learns that friends are not always what they seem to be.

REVIEW: R. L. Stine has written a fast reading mystery, filled with enough suspicious actions to keep the reader enthralled.  I read the book in one tense sitting.  For students who like romance, mystery, and suspense this is a good book to read.  Because of the drama between the characters, I believe this book would be enjoyed more by girls than boys.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Character, Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: The Boyfriend, The Beach House, Hit and Run

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: I Saw What You Did (1965)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.buildingrainbows.com/bookreview/reviewid/30134

www.content.scholastic.com/browse/search?query=stine

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Beach House

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Beach House

Author: R. L. Stine

Page Length: 210

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Horror         

PLOT SUMMARY: Maria, Stuart, Amy, Ronnie, and Buddy are all at the beach in the summer of 1956.  When Stuart and Ronnie de-pant Buddy and leave him nude in the ocean, the girls get a good laugh at Buddy with the boys.  However, the four-some do not realize that Buddy was embarrassed by the incident.  He is so embarrassed that he wants revenge.

In Part 2 of the book, the setting is on the same beach with another group of teens, but the time is 50 years later.  Ross, Ashley, Kip and Lucy are spending time together at the ocean when they meet Brad, a very wealthy, good-looking but serious guy. One night, Kip and Lucy fail to return home.  Their disappearance is a mystery. Ashley becomes interested in Brad, and decides to break-up with Ross when his jealousy causes a scene at Brad’s mansion on Ocean Drive.  Lucky for Ashley, Ross follows her after the break-up to watch her activities.

In both parts of the book, there is a mysterious “Beach House” that no one has ever lived in.  The house contains a secret that is not revealed until late in the story.

REVIEW: The book is written in six parts with flashbacks from the 1950’s to the present.  It is suspenseful with serial killers in each era. For those who like suspense and mystery, and do not scare easily, this is a great book to read. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The book’s theme is of several violent murders. However, if the reader starts the book, knowing that its genre is “Horror”, I feel the book is age appropriate for the high school reader.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Setting, Theme, Conflict, Character

RELATED BOOKS: The Boyfriend, The Girlfriend, Call Waiting, and Hit and Run

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Scream (1996), and Prom Night (1980)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.smartgirl.org/reviews/books/7278256.html

www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=407

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Baseball in April and Other Stories

        

Baseball in April and Other Stories

Author: Gary Soto

Page Length: 111

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Gary Soto wrote a collection of eleven short stories told by young teen-age Latino kids living in California.  The stories reflect everyday happenings of young people and their feelings about friendship, love, success and failure.

REVIEW: Although the stories are about everyday happenings, they remind the reader to reflect on his own dreams and desires of both the past and the future.  The book was similar to the style written in The House on Mango Street but the stories were more appealing to both genders and more current to the lives of teens today.  The book would be excellent to use as a source for teaching writing.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Compare/Contrast, Theme, and Setting

RELATED BOOKS: The House on Mango Street

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Crazy/Beautiful (2001) and Save the Last Dance (2001)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/soto/sototg.html

www.falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/soto.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Abel’s Island

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Abel’s Island

Author: William Steig

Page Length: 118

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction-Fantasy     

PLOT SUMMARY: Abelard Hassam di Chirico Flint is a wealthy mouse that is swept away in a storm while trying to retrieve his wife’s scarf.  He finds himself on an island that is across the river and down a waterfall from his home.  He immediately tries to build a raft, and then a boat, and lastly a ship, which will help him cross the river which is ravaged with high currents and waves.  None of these attempts are successful, so he is stranded on the island for a year.  He finds food, builds statues and avoids death by an owl, but Abel yearns for his loving wife and family.  After a cold winter, Gower, an old great-granddaddy frog, joins him on the island.  They become dear friends, but Gower soon feels the urge to travel home.  Abel pleads with him to send someone after him, but in Gower’s old age, he forgets about Abel. So, Abel must find new sources to aid him in his return home.

REVIEW: This is a delightful book in which the narrator creates vivid illustrations of the world in which Abel is stranded.  It is an easy read and a good book to use for descriptive writing or a comparison/contrast assignment between humans and animals.  The movie, Cast Away, could be viewed to show the comparison of how a human and a mouse adapt to being stranded on an island and what they must do to survive.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Abel gets drunk on wine (p. 85) but for the junior high or high school student, I don’t think this element in the book would be offensive.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Descriptive writing, Symbols, Setting, Theme, Character, and Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Cast Away (2000), Charlotte’s Web (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.sfsite.com/08b/abe15.htm

www.literatureplace.com/bookfolios/bookfolio.asp?BookfolioID=73

www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3200?email

www.scetv.org/education/ntti/lessons/2005_lessons/storymap.cfm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Leon’s Story

Leon’s Story

Author: Leon Tillage

Page Length: 107

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Autobiography       

PLOT SUMMARY: This is Leon Tillage’s story of his life, as he remembers it from 1936 in North Carolina.  Leon’s family lived on a farm where his dad was a sharecropper.  This was a time when African American children began school at the age of six, but the school was not integrated and the supplies and facilities were not near as nice as what was provided for the white children of the community. 

This lifestyle of being discriminated against is the life that Leon remembers.  His parent’s didn’t question the way they were treated.  Jim Crow laws were in effect and if the black family did not abide by them the KKK would visit them.

After some drunken teenagers killed Leon’s dad and Martin Luther King Jr. visited Leon’s school, Leon became a part of the Civil Rights Movement against his mother’s wishes.  Leon could no longer accept the treatment and injustices that were being dealt to the members of the black community in the southern United States.  

REVIEW: This was a touching book as it was written in the dialogue in which Leon Tillage told it.  Leon is a custodian in an elementary school today.  This autobiography was written because of the story Leon shared with some third grade elementary students of that school.  The book exposes the cruelty of racism after the Civil War and prior to the Civil Rights Movement.  It shows the strength and courage that African Americans of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s endured to survive.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Setting, Character, Point of View, Compare/Contrast, and Historical Context

RELATED BOOKS: Roll of Thunder; Hear My Cry, Rosa Parks, Mississippi Morning

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.edhelper.com/books/Leons_Story.htm

www.pages.drexel.edu/~eg72/EDUC525/site3/socialiss.htm

www.saclibrary.org/MyOneBook/images/obhistory4_6.pdf

www.aft.org/teachers/brown-history.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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