The Book Reviews – Website

August 30, 2009

Romiette and Julio

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Romiette and Julio 

Author: Sharon Draper

Page Length: 274

Reading Level: 5

Genre:  Romance fiction

PLOT SUMMARY:  The two main characters, Romiette and Julio are alike in spirit and feelings, but they are culturally different.   Romiette “Romi” Cappelle is sixteen years old, and is an African American teenager who lives in Cincinatti, Ohio.   As the book begins Romi has a nightmare of drowning which remains in her dreams throughout most of the book.   She searches for an understanding of her fear of water, but comes up with nothing.   Sixteen year old Julio Montague is a Mexican teenager who has just moved to Cincinnati.  He hates the cold weather in Ohio and wants to move back home to his grandfather’s ranch.  However, Julio knows it’s impossible since his parents moved from Texas, because of the heavy gang pressure in its schools. When Julio meets Romi online in a teen chat room and they discover that they attend the same high school, they make an instant connection.  Romi can’t believe that Julio is so good looking, charming and sensitive, and Julio has never known another girl like Romi, who is so beautiful, smart and caring. Although neither Romi nor Julio sees their different races as a problem, other people begin to object to their budding romance.   Julio’s father tells him straight out that he will never approve of his son dating a black girl. And then there are the “Devildogs”, an African American gang at school who wear all purple and make it glaringly obvious to Romi and Julio that they don’t like the races mixing.  When Romi and Julio stand up to the gang members and turn the tables on them, the gang members threaten to get even.  The danger escalates when the gang begins stalking the couple and making overt threats with guns.

Julio and Romi are terrified by the threats of violence. When Romi, Julio and their best friends Ben and Destiny forge a plan to break away from the gang’s grip, Romi and Julio find themselves caught up in a deadly situation.   The parents finally become close enough to mend their ill feelings of prejudice and work right along with the police to help their children.   Although the danger is pending throughout the plot’s climax the book’s resolution is breathtakingly awesome.  

REVIEW: It was a great book, and I would recommend it to anyone, young or old.

AREAS FOR TEACHING (TEKS):  

5.9 draw upon experience to for word meanings

5.10 know main idea and details

5.11 connect and compare the various ideas

5.12 analyze characters

RELATED BOOKS:  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.   Other books by Sharon Draper: Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire, Darkness before Dawn

MOVIE & MUSIC CONNECTIONS:  Romeo and Juliet vs. West Side Story

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.allreaders.com 

www.buildingrainbows.com 

www.goodreads.com 

www.teenreads.com

 REVIEWED BY: Linda Schwegler

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The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief

Author: Rick Riordan

Page Length: 375

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Greek Mythology

PLOT SUMMARY: Percy Jackson, a 12 year New Yorker, is labeled as a troubled kid and has been kicked out of 6 schools. He has ADHD and is dyslexic. His father left home before he was born and Percy is at odds with his disgusting step father. Nothing is going right for him at his new school – Yancy Academy. His mother finally sends him away to yet another school where he befriends a boy named Grover. He thinks that his pre-algebra teacher is a monster and tried to kill him so Percy accidentally vaporizes his teacher. Percy is constantly protecting Grover because the others are picking on him. One night Percy is having trouble focusing on studying for final exams and notices that Grover is missing. He begins to search for Grover. In the basement of the school, Percy overhears Grover speaking with one of their teachers. On his way home, Percy finds out that Grover is actually his “protector”. Percy’s mother finally realizes who Percy is and gets him to camp Half-Blood for safety, or so she thought. There he finds out that Grover is also a satyr when he comes to save Percy and his mother from an attack by a minotaur. Percy and Grover narrowly escape but Percy’s mother disappears in a gold shower. Percy, also known as Perseus, learns that camp Half-Blood is a secret camp and training ground for young demigods. Percy also learns that Poseidon is his real father. Poseidon has been accused by Zeus of stealing his lightning bolt. It has now become Percy’s duty to return the lightning bolt or humankind will be destroyed. Thus the adventure begins with Percy’s encounters with characters from Greek mythology. The danger, suspense, and thrills ensue. Does Percy return the lightning bolt? What happens to Poseidon and Percy’s mother? What happens to Grover? Is humankind saved from destruction?

REVIEW:  The Lightning Thief is a great book based upon allusions to characters of Greek Mythology. It is full of suspense, thrills, and dangers. The reader’s attention is captured and maintained throughout the entire book. One is constantly making predictions trying to figure out what is going to happen next. The several examples of foreshadowing elements present in The Lightning Thief add to the excitement of Percy’s adventures.   

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, voice, mood, tone,  5 steps of the writing process, foreshadowing.

RELATED BOOKS: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Fablehaven by Brandon Hull, The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer,  Books by the same author: The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian, The Sea of Monsters, The Demigod Files, The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1)

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Lightning Thief (scheduled for release 2010), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (2005), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), The Incredibles (2004), Spider-Man (2002)

ART CONNECTION:  http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/art/greekart/htm

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.rickriordan.com/

http://www.state.lib.la.us/empowerlibrary/LIGHTNING%20THIEF.pdf

http://www.edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=234

http://www.wingedsandals.com/

http://www.content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3395  (ADHD topic)

http://www.nancykeane.com/booktalks/riordan_lightning.htm   (book talk)

http://www.rickriordan.com/Teachers_Guide_Lightning_Thief.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

Hanging on to Max

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Hanging on to Max

Author: Margaret Bechard

Page Length: 204

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sam is a 17 year old senior in high school who lives with his widowed father and son, Max. When Max’s mother decided having a son as a teen ager was too much for her to handle, Sam, got custody of their infant son.  Sam is now attending an alternative school for teen parents.   Overwhelmed by homework, grocery shopping, playtime with an eleven month old, diapers, and doctor’s appointments, Sam sees a job in construction as his future.

Sam is gifted in math skills and his teacher encourages him to take the SAT just to see how he does.  Sam forms a study group with two of the other teen parents.  Claire, who he has had a crush on since junior high, is one of the members of his study group.  As their friendship grows they develop a romantic attraction. One day they attend a party of some of their old house school friends, taking both of their children.  While Sam is not neglectful, Max gets injured at the party and is rushed to the hospital. 

Sam has a love for Max, but finds the responsibilities of teen parenting more than he can handle.

REVIEW:  This is a realistic view of the life a teen parent must live.  The story is told from Sam’s point of view. His experiences both at school and home are not sugar coated, as far as the responsibilities he has.  The book would be excellent for any junior high or high school student to read, so that they may think twice before participating in unprotected premarital sex. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Cause/Effect, Sequence of Events, Character, Point of View, and Conflict

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The theme of the book is based on the birth of an illegitimate child.   

RELATED BOOKS: The First Part Last, The Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom, A Family Gathering, Girl Talk

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Juno (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teenreads.com/reviews/0689862687.asp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

God Went to Beauty School

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God Went to Beauty School

Author: Cynthia Rylant

Page Length: 56

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction/Poetry         

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a collection of 26 short poems in which God is the main character. God lives out day-to-day life encounters as a teen living on earth would experience.  The poems are written from the author’s perspective of how God would react to beauty school, a dog, cable T.V., relatives, girls, and even fudge.

REVIEW: This is a short book and it is easy to read.  It would be a good book for the lower level reluctant reader to begin independent reading.  The poems enlighten the reader with a more realistic view of God’s perceptions.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Writing poetry, Point of View, Symbols, Word Choice, Voice, Mood and Tone

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: God as a character in a fictional book

RELATED BOOKS: Every Living Thing, For the Graduate: God’s Guide for the Road Ahead

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Oh, God (1977), Bruce Almighty (2003)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.ferrum.edu/applit/bibs/chlitresources.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Girl 15 Charming but Insane

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Girl 15 Charming but Insane

Author: Sue Limb

Page Length: 214  

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jess Jordan is 15 years old, lacks in physical development of her upper body and thinks her lower portion is way too big!  Not only is she disappointed with her lack of beauty, but has to live with the knowledge that Flora, her best friend, is a goddess!

Jess lives with her mother and grandmother, and corresponds with her dad through e-mail.  Her dad sends her daily horoscopes that do not predict the future as anything but bad days!  Jess has a crush on Ben, who does not know that she is alive.  After Flora joins a band with Ben and his best friend, Jess does begin spending time with her secret love.  Ben is nice to her, but does not pursue a romantic relationship.

Jess moves through the spring by being humiliated at a party where she has used minestrone soup to enhance her breasts.  When she learns that she has been videoed in the restroom at the party, she panics that the entire school will witness her trauma with the soup enhancements.  She learns her secret is saved by Fred, her neighbor.  In a series of events and her own imagination, Jess jeopardizes her friendship with both Fred and Flora. 

REVIEW: This is a hilarious book that girls would enjoy.  Jess humorously describes the feelings a typical teen would experience in the early years of high school.  Her insecurities, as well as jealousy, are common feelings teens have today.  The relationships she has with her mother, grandmother, and estranged father are also realistic.  This is a good book for leisure reading.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Point of View, Characters, and Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Girl, Nearly 16: Absolute Torture, Girl, Going on 17: Pants on Fire

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Pretty in Pink (1986)

RELATEDWEBSITES: 

www.christiann.canalblog.com/archives/2007/10/23/6635113.html

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Rat

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Rat

Author: Jan Cheripko

Page Length: 205

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Rat loves everything about basketball –except for the fact that he is disabled and feels that he can’t play the sport on the same level as his peers. He’s still a part of the team as the manager, but one day all of that changes. Rat witnesses something he wishes he hadn’t (or maybe he is glad that he could help – he really can’t decide). Coach has his hands all over one of the cheerleaders. Rat’s the only witness and he becomes caught in the crossfire. Will he tell the truth? Will the team treat him any differently if he “rats” on the coach? How far is he willing to go for a friend?

REVIEW: This book really packs in quite a few moral lessons and dilemmas. Rat is turned against by the basketball team because he tells the truth. No one will talk to him, he’s bullied and threatened, and he can’t even get his dad to see him for who he is. The new coach changes how Rat feels about himself and his relationships. We’re introduced to not only bullying, the cold hard truth about how doing what is right is not always popular, and two characters suffer with the loss of their loved ones to cancer. The new coach of the team not only teaches the boys great plays but also teaches them the elements of successful character traits (a lesson in and of themselves). Altogether it is a nicely crafted story that should appeal to both male and female students. There are great lessons in this book and wonderful vivid discussion points about decisions, actions, and repercussions – and about believing in yourself and standing up for what you believe in. Cheripko also teaches students that everyone has heart and everyone makes mistakes – great classroom read!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: huge potential – connecting text to self, sensory images, elements of plot, cause and effect, sequence of events

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: death from cancer, bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment

RELATED BOOKS: Imitate the Tiger, Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove, Voices of the River

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Cheripko__Jan.html

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/contributor.jsp?id=172619

http://www.boydsmillspress.com/contributors/contributors/cheripko_jan.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Rachel Carson

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Rachel Carson

Author: Kathleen Kudlinski

Page Length: 56

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY: Rachel Carson was a woman who didn’t take no for an answer. Although most women during her time became nurses or teachers, Rachel refused to follow the norms – instead she followed her dreams. She brought her love of science and exploration together with her love for writing; she shared her passion for science and her knowledge of how our actions affect the world around us. Rachel became known as the “pioneer of ecology.”

REVIEW: This book is written in an easy to read format. These small biographies would align well with the historical periods during which they are written (a great reinforcement of what they students are learning in American history). Due to its simplicity, the book does provide a general view of her life and jump around a bit in sequence. It’s a good light read – with many areas for connections and reflections about Ms. Carson’s life.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical connections, connecting text to self, connecting text to text, applying scientific concepts

RELATED BOOKS: Silent Spring, The Edge of the Sea, The Sea Around Us

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS:

Native Huts, The Farm, Place Vintimille, The Lackawanna Valley

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1993)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.rachelcarson.org/

http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/cars-rac.htm

http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/

http://www.ecology.com/index.php

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Lion Boy

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Lion Boy

Author: Zizou Corder

Page Length: 275

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Charlie, son to parents of scientists, has a unique skill. He is able to communicate with cats! Due to a mixing of blood between himself and a young cub when Charlie was an infant, Charlie gained the ability to communicate with feline animals. This ability is kept secret from almost everyone.

One day, Charlie discovers that his parents have disappeared. Subsequently, a boy named Rafi forces Charlie to remain with him. Eventually, Charlie escapes from Rafi’s watch and sets out to find his lost parents. With the help of several cats, Charlie is able to gather updates about his parent’s situation. The helpful cats are even able to run notes back and forth between Charlie and his mother & father. On his trip to search for his parents, Charlie joins the circus on a boat bound for Paris. At the circus, Charlie encounters several lions in which he promises to set free and help them return to Africa. The lions, in return, assist Charlie in continuing his search for his family.

Their escape from the circus and subsequent arrival on the Orient Express is a success despite Rafi’s attempts to capture Charlie. While on the Orient Express, Charlie meets the king of Bulgaria who allows Charlie and his lions to remain with him in his lavish train car. As the train speeds towards Venice, the king of Bulgaria agrees to assist Charlie in his quest. The king’s assistant, Edward, reveals to Charlie that his parents have been captured by a drug company because of their knowledge about an asthma cure. Charlie can’t imagine why anyone would want to capture someone who is trying to help humanity. However, his thoughts quickly shift to his main mission – finding his parents and bringing them safely home.

REVIEW: The story ends without a resolution because Lion Boy is a trilogy. The story started out a little slow for me, but about a quarter of the way into the reading, the action began to pick up. Even though the book is fiction, I did find it a little unbelievable that so many cats could communicate effectively enough to allow many of the actions to occur “without a hitch”. There did not seem to be enough road blocks in this story to make it believable. However, I am interested in what the second and third book will reveal. The end of this book reveals the real world element to the story – a possible cure for asthma and the drug company’s attempts to take control of it to prevent it from being distributed.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: creative writing, motivation, cause and effect

RELATED BOOKS: Whittington by Alan Armstrong, Lion Boy: The Chase, Lion Boy: The Truth

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.zizoucorder.co.uk/

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

http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-corder-zizou.asp

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

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Once Upon a Marigold

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Once Upon a Marigold

Author: Jean Ferris            

Page Length: 275

Reading Level: 5

Genre: fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW:  This story is about a young boy, Christian, who is looking for adventure and runs away from home only to find a gentle old troll who decides to raise him.  It turns out that Christian is a very curious and inventive lad.   He grows up loving Ed, the troll, romping with his two dogs and reading books which are found in the forest.   All along he spies across the river at a beautiful palace where he watches four princesses play.   However, Christian is especially aware of the dark haired younger daughter and begins to write her using his foster father’s two pigeons to relay the messages.  The two form a close friendship, and as he gets older the boy finds it impossible to stay away from his heart’s yearning.   So with promises and good wishes from his foster father, Christian  goes across the river and attains a position at the castle, through the help of a friend.   The boy finds it difficult to win this girl princess because her mother, the Queen, has set up various suitors to propose and marry young Marigold.  

However, the main battle is for Christian to deal with.  He must not only win Marigold’s heart and save her from impending danger, but he must win the battle to be her suitor and husband.   Some very funny and inventive things take place leaving the climax of this story to a very good ending.  I thought it was a funny and good book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING (TEKS):  

5.9 draw upon experience for word meanings

5.10 know main idea and details supporting it

5.11 connect and compare ideas

5.12 analyze characters

RELATED BOOKS: by the same author – Of Sound Mind, Bad

RELATED WEBSITES: 

www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_mOPBX/is_6_36/ai_107202643/

www.commonsensemedia.org/book-review/Once_Upon_Marigold.html     

www.buildingrainbows.com/bookreview/reviewid/3139 

www.webenglishteacher.com/ya-f.htm

REVIEWED BY:  Linda Schwegler

Lord of the Flies

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Lord of the Flies

Author: William Golding

Page Length: 202

Reading Level: 9

Genre: Allegorical Novel, Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: In Lord of the Flies, British school boys are stranded on a deserted island during a nuclear war because their plane crashes. Ralph meets Piggy, a fat-glasses wearing boy, and together they find a conch shell which they use as a trumpet. They use this conch shell to make a loud noise hoping that it will help locate other survivors of the plane crash. In response to the sound, other boys appear. The very small boys are called “lilluns”. The older boys are called “biguns”. Also a group of choir boys led by Jack Merridew arrive. All the boys soon realize that there are no adults present so they try to organize a society with rules based upon the rules from civilization as they know it. In an attempt to organize a society, the boys elect Ralph as the chief. Ralph’s competitor, Jack, is assigned control of the choir (the hunters who locate the food). As in most societies, duties to be performed are delegated to each of the boys by Ralph.  Since Jack and his choir are the “hunters”, Ralph, Piggy, and the twins who are called “Samneric” will carry water and build huts. Ralph and Piggy decide to build a fire using Piggy’s glasses. The boys hope the fire is seen by planes or ships that could rescue them. The hunters are also responsible for keeping this fire burning. One day, the hunters neglect the fire and it goes out. Conflict arises when Ralph and Piggy criticize Jack. In response, Jack breaks Piggy’s glasses and brags about the pig his hunters have killed for food. Soon the boys begin to think that a “beast” is on the island and everyone eventually becomes afraid. This fear causes even more power struggles between Ralph and Jack. With fear, conflict, and chaos, the boys turn to “savages”.  What or who is the “beast”? As the beast becomes a reality, what happens to Ralph and Piggy? Why does the group of “hunters”, led by Ralph, begin to “hunt” him?  Does the group of boys get rescued or are they forced to survive alone on the island forever?  

REVIEW:  Lord of the Flies is an excellent book to teach the reader the need for rules, laws, and order to maintain a civilized society. One learns that without these ideals, we as a society will become “savages”. William Golding presents the need for laws and order to prevent chaos in an adventure story. As simply an adventure story of the experiences of boys stranded on a deserted island to the multi-layered themes and depths of plot, Lord of the Flies can be enjoyed by young adult readers to older adults.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, voice, mood, tone, 5 steps of the writing process, symbolism, irony.

RELATED BOOKS: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein, MacBeth by William Shakespeare, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, The Crucible by Shirley Jackson, Animal Farm by George Orwell. Books by the same author: The Inheritors, Pinch Martin, The Brass Butterfly: A Play in Three Acts, Free Fall, The Spire, The Pyramid, The Scorpion God: Three Short Novels, Darkness Visible, The Paper Men, An Egyptian Journal, Close Quarters, Fire Down Below, Close Quarters, Rites of Passage

MOVIE & TV CONNECTIONS: Lord of the Flies (movie – 1963), Lord of the Flies (movie – 1990), Lost (TV series)

MUSIC CONNECTION: Iron Maiden – “Lord of the Flies”, U2 – “Shadows and Tall Tress

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.bookwolf.com/Free_Booknotes/Lord_of_the_Flies/lord_of_the_flies.html

http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/barrons/lordfly02.asp

http://www.novelguide.com/lordoftheflies/novelsummary.html

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/flies/

http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/id-64.html

http://nobelprize.org/educational_games/literature/golding/index.html

http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides2/Golding.html#Lord

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

Flags of Our Fathers

Flags of Our Fathers

Author: James Bradley

Page Length: 211  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: James Bradley is the son of John Bradley, one of the six soldiers photographed raising the American flag on Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima during World War ll.  As the story begins, James and his family are placing a memorial plaque atop the mountain in 1998, in memory of their father and husband.

The book proceeds with a description of each of the “boys” who joined the armed services in the early 1940’s to serve their country, not knowing that a photograph would be taken which would made them national heroes. Details of their family backgrounds, training, and personalities before they are a part of a major military convergence on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima are written. The violent battle which lasted for over a month and had over 27,000 combined casualties is then described in detail.

The history of the famous photograph, the building of its monument, and the celebrity lives that followed the surviving soldiers and families of those who died is chronicled.   

REVIEW: John Bradley did not share the experience of his military career with his family, although they knew he was one of the six soldiers pictured in the infamous picture of the soldiers raising the flag atop Mt. Suribachi. It was after his death, that his son, James, began research on each of the other soldiers and the part they each played in the month long battle between the United States and Japan at Iwo Jima. 

Most Americans are familiar with the picture and monument, but are probably not aware of the enormous amount of lives lost in just one month’s time.  Bradley writes the book in various time spans, including points of view from the soldiers, their families and their peers. 

I found the book to be quite interesting and informative.  It could be used in both Social Studies and English classes.  At the beginning of the book, there is a disclaimer that it is fiction.  However, I believe it is as close of an actual account of these six American heroes that we will have.

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

RELATED BOOKS: Storm Landings: Epic Amphibious Battles in the Central Pacific, Iwo Jima: Amphibious Epic, a Marine Corps Monograph

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006, Japanese)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.randomhouse.com/highschool/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553589344&view=tg 

www.theteachersguide.com/bookactivities.html 

www.jodavidsmeyer.com/combat/bookstore/youngreaders.html   

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Finding Fish

Finding Fish

Author: Antwone Quentin Fisher

Page Length: 340

Reading Level: 10

Genre: Autobiography       

PLOT SUMMARY: Antwone Fisher was born in a prison and immediately placed in foster care where he was constantly verbally abused, often physically abused, and on occasion, sexually abused.  He lived in the home of the Pickett’s with his two foster siblings for 13 years.  During that time, he expressed himself through artwork, but mostly led a rather silent life, feeling unworthy.  On page 72, Fisher writes how his dreams were abandoned and he lived only to survive the day-to-day routine of school and verbal abuse at home.

When Antwone entered a new school in fourth grade, he met an angel, his teacher, Miss Profitt.  She was fair and treated him as if he were special. Although the Child Protective Services monitored Antwone’s foster parents and they suspected the Pickett’s were not providing the appropriate domestic environment, there never seemed to be a better placement for Antwone. 

At the age of 16, Antwone was placed in a reform school, where he felt more comfortable and safe than in his foster home. Antwone knew he had nowhere else to go.  After a time at the reform school, Antwone left and found himself homeless.  He eventually joined the Navy and it was there that he found confidence in himself and learned that he was worthy of a good life.  He began to write poetry and demonstrated excellent written and oral command with leadership qualities (p. 291). Through his experience in the Navy, Antwone found family, friendship, belonging, education, and purpose.

He eventually reconnected with his foster siblings, his biological mother, and then, married and had a daughter, Indigo. 

REVIEW: Because of the tragic experiences Antwone Fisher experienced in his childhood, this book reads more like fiction than reality.  The harsh treatment he received by his foster parents is difficult to read.  However, the story gives hope to those who do experience abuse, poverty, and loneliness as Antwone tells how through a few positive contacts in his life he did strive to be the best he could be. 

Although the writing is very descriptive, the teacher should be aware that it is quite graphic.  I would suggest the book for mature students.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: descriptive murder (p. 21), sexual abuse (p. 43-44, 241, and 245), harsh language and profanity (p. 138, 155, 195, 199-200, 231, 246, 274, 281)

AREAS OF TEACHING: Setting, Character, Sequence of Events, Cause/Effect, Point of View

RELATED BOOKS: The Antwone Fisher Story (screenplay), Who Will Cry for the Little Boy? (Poems), A Child Called It

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Antwone Fisher (2002)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.antwonefisher.net/index.html

www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061127410/Finding_Fish/index.aspx

www.mercury.educ.ketn.edu/database/eureka/

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Private Peaceful

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Private Peaceful

Author: Michael Morpurgo

Page Length: 202

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Charlie and Thomas Peaceful are brothers growing up in a rural setting living in the house the Colonel so graciously provided for the family in exchange for their father’s work. A tragic accident occurs for which Charlie feels responsible and the circumstances of the family change. Yet, Charlie and Thomas still enjoy an adventurous childhood. War has begun and Thomas is made to enlist. Charlie won’t be left behind and the two brothers embark upon the horrific and devastating journey across the seas as they serve their country in World War I. Can they make it back home alive? Will they ever see their brother, mother, or their precious Molly again?

REVIEW: Morpurgo delivers another excellent war story with such depth of characters, motives, and emotions that teachers have a wide range of discussion points and readers have many opportunities for connecting to the text. This book would make a great classroom novel. The novel isn’t just about the war. It details the childhood of the two young brothers including their protection of their mentally challenged brother, their love of the same girl, and their escapades to keep the family fed and survive their “loveless” grandmother. It’s a beautifully told story of sacrifice and tragedy.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: comparing text to self, compare and contrast, sequence of events, setting, conflict, resolution, historical connections, theme

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: young woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock, thieving to feed the family, war deaths

RELATED BOOKS: Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea, Dolphin Boy, Why the Whales Came, Kensuke’s Kingdom, My Friend Walter

ART CONNECTIONS:

Private Peaceful – theater production

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.michaelmorpurgo.org/

http://www.war-letters.com/

http://www.culturewars.org.uk/2004-01/morpurgo.htm

http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/ferdinand.htm

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Postcards from No Man’s Land

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Postcards from No Man’s Land

Author: Aidean Chambers

Page Length: 312

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jacob’s grandmother is ill, and Jacob must take a trip to Amsterdam in her place. The purpose of Jacob’s journey to Amsterdam is to see his grandfather’s (a World War II veteran) burial site. Jacob meets the elderly ailing woman who nursed his grandfather during the war and learns much more than he was expecting about his family’s past. Along the journey, Jacob discovers new friends and new feelings he never knew he had. Geertrui shares with Jacob the secrets of his grandfather’s past as she weaves the tales of their adventures during World War II. 

REVIEW: Chambers wrote a masterful story that was outside the realm of the “normal” historical fiction novel. The author does a wonderful job of blending past and present events as the chapters shift from Geertrui in the past to Jacob in the present. In the end, it is revealed that Geertrui has recorded the story for Jacob in her journal – her last act before her assisted suicide is scheduled to take place. Be warned that the book addresses Jacob’s developing awareness of his sexuality and his attraction to both men and women. Bisexuality becomes a topic among more than one of the characters. The story of the war and Geertrui’s love for Jacob’s grandfather is wonderfully told. The reader gets a realistic sense of the urgency and danger present during the war.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, historical connections, character traits, methods of writing, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: topic of bisexuality, pages 199-200 sex between Geertrui and a married soldier

RELATED BOOKS: Breaktime, Dance on My Grave, Now I Know, The Tollbridge, The Diary of Anne Frank, Four Perfect Pebbles

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Diary of Anne Frank

ART CONNECTIONS: Amsterdam – Dutch Resistance Museum online

http://goamsterdam.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=goamsterdam&cdn=travel&tm=12&gps=117_2_1419_706&f=00&su=p531.50.336.ip_&tt=3&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//

www.dutchresistancemuseum.nl/museum/en/museum

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Hit Songs from World War 2

http://nfo.net/usa/ww2.html

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.worldwar-2.net/

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

http://www.annefrank.org/content.asp?pid=1&lid=2

http://www.aidanchambers.co.uk/

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Leonardo da Vinci

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Leonardo da Vinci  

Author: Diane Stanley

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: From paintings of Jesus to sculptures of horses, Leonardo da Vinci was a master artist. In addition, he was a genius inventor. Da Vinci brainstormed numerous ideas for inventions such as a home cooling system, submarine, pliers, self-closing toilet lid, and contact lenses. Although many of his ideas were never perfected until later centuries, Leonardo da Vinci’s creative mind is evidenced by the numerous comments and drawings in his notebooks. Many of his notes were written in backwards format so as to keep them secret from prying eyes.

Leonardo da Vinci was an artistic man who kept to himself. He was married to his art and inventions. Born out of wedlock, da Vinci grew up in a non-traditional setting. Never-the-less, he managed to find his place in the world and live his life doing what he loved the most.

Diane Stanley’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci presents a brief glimpse of this genius’ complex world. At first, the book was hard to follow, but it became easier to comprehend as I read. Stanley pairs her text with colorful illustrations as well as examples of Leonardo da Vinci’s own drawings (ie. The Last Supper, flying machine, human anatomy). At the beginning of the book, there is a pronunciation guide and at the tail end of the biography is a list of recommended readings.   

AREAS FOR TEACHING: biography format and writing, history

RELATED BOOKS: Leonardo da Vinci by Norman Marshall, Leonardo da Vinci by Richard McLanathan, The Renaissance by Michel Pierre, A Weekend with Leonardo da Vinci by Rosabianca Skira-Venturi

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Da Vinci Code” (2006)

ART CONNECTIONS:

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/leon/hd_leon.htm

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.msichicago.org/scrapbook/scrapbook_exhibits/leonardo/index.html

http://school.discoveryeducation.com/lessonplans/programs/invention-leonardoslegacy/

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Of Sound Mind

Of Sound Mind

Author: Jean Ferris

Page Length: 215

Reading Level: 4

Genre: fiction

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW:  This book is about a young high school senior, Theo, who is bilingual – speaking English and using the American Sign Language symbols.  Both of his parents and younger brother are deaf, and he is the only one who is “hearing.”  When Ivy, a new girl at Theo’s high school, whose father is also deaf becomes Theo’s best friend things become quite interesting.  Not only does Ivy sign, but she has many common responsibilities.   A friendship is inevitable because of their similarities. Theo has been the hearing minority in a family where he has tremendous pressure.  He has school exams, studies math (which he loves), and has a new girl relationship that is quite comforting and quite a bit of fun for him.   However, at home he must not only interpret for his mother, who is an awesome artist, but he must be there for his father and brother.  Ivy also has responsibility but cooks and caters to make those she lives around happy.   

Even at the story’s beginning, Theo is tired of all the work and interpreting he must do.   However, it is not until his father gets really sick that Theo learns how to decide between college, his new friendship with Ivy, and what will happen with his family.   This is a great story and great fun to read!

AREAS FOR TEACHING (TEKS):  

4.9 draw on experience for word meanings

4.10 know main idea and details

4.12 analyze characters

4.11 connect and compare ideas

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: There are no touchy areas.  The book is a great tool to teach students how to distinguish between having great responsibility and coping with a disability.  

RELATED BOOKS:   Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Martin; books by the same author are Once upon a Marigold, Bad, The Granny Project, and Up on Cloud 9

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.myshelf.com/teen/fiction/04/ofsoundmind.htm

www.pajka.blogspot.com/2007/06/interview-with-jean-ferris-author-of-of.html

www.teenreads.com/reviews/0374355800.asp

www.amazon.com/Sound-Mind-Jean-Ferris/dp/0374355800

REVIEWED BY:  Linda Schwegler

Last Shot

Last Shot

Author: John Feinstein

Page Length: 251

Reading Level: 5.2

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Drama

PLOT SUMMARY: In the Last Shot by John Feinstein, 8th graders Steven Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson win the USBWA writing contest. The reward is attending the Final Four College Basketball Championship as reporters with full press passes and press access. Their assignment is to write a story a day covering the events surrounding the championship games. Little did they know they would accidentally over hear a coach blackmailing one of the star MSU players, Chip Graber. Thus the mystery arises. Who is the coach and why is he demanding Chip to intentionally lose the championship game? What does the coach have over Chip to make Chip consider losing the game? These questions spark Stevie and Susan’s interest and they begin their quest as amateur sleuths.  No one will answer their questions or take them seriously since they are just “kids”. So they undertake solving the mystery on their own only to find that the blackmail involves very powerful people.   

REVIEW: Any basketball enthusiast will love this book feeling as though you have a courtside seat at the championships. Even those of us who aren’t interested in basketball will enjoy Last Shot. The main character, 8th grader-Steven Thomas, is immediately likeable. Winning the USBWA , a writing contest, is a dream come true for Stevie where he will attend the Final Four basketball championship as a reporter with full press passes and press access. The reader’s attention is immediately captured as Stevie and his co-winner, Susan Carol Anderson embark on solving a mystery of a life-time involving the basketball star, Chip Graber. John Feinstein, a sports reporter himself, impresses upon the importance of the media in solving mysteries with his book Last Shot. The book is fast-paced and keeps the reader wondering what is going to happen next.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, voice, mood, tone,  5 steps of the writing process, media.

RELATED BOOKS: Summer Ball by Mike Lupica,  Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica, Heat by Mike Lupica, The Big Field by Mike Lupica, Football Genius by Mike Green,  Books by the same author: Are You Kidding Me?: The Story of Rocco Mediate’s Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open, Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl, Season on the Brink, Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today’s NFL, Running Mates

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Above the Rim (2004), Glory Road (2006), The Basketball Fix (1951), Harvard Man (2001)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.usbwa.com

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375831683

http://www.readwritethink.org/lesson_images/lesson997/booklist.pdf

http://www.readwritethink.org/calendar/calendar_day_printer.asp?id=432

http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=865

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

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

Eyes of the Emperor

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Eyes of the Emperor

Auhtor: Graham Salisbury

Page Length: 6

Reading Level: 229     

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in 1941.  Eddy is a Japanese/American boy who lives in Honolulu.  Against his father’s wishes, Eddy lies about his age and joins the U. S. Army with some of his friends.  After the bombing on December 7, Eddy and his Japanese/American friends fall under the army’s discretion and are given menial jobs such as digging trenches, rather than undergoing regular army training.

Eddy and his friends are then moved to Cat Island, Mississippi, to participate in a secret mission approved by President Roosevelt.  The mission entails training for dogs to learn to identify the smell of Japanese people.  This task is completely demoralizing to Eddy and his comrades but they continue to follow orders because they took an oath to protect the citizens of the United States.  Eddy is nearly killed once, when his dog’s trainer fails to call his dog to stop an attack. 

Finally, the government comes in to observe how the program is progressing.  When the dogs fail to be able to distinguish between the Japanese and the Anglo Americans the mission is abandoned and Eddy and company are sent to Europe to fight with the U. S. troops.

REVIEW: Although fiction, this book was based on realistic events and gives examples of how the Japanese Americans were discriminated against during World War ll.  This book could be used to compare how people from Islamic nations were treated after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The characters in this book were well developed and the author used similes and metaphors throughout. Parts of the book were a little slow because the action was a bit repetitive, however, I think it would be a good book for junior high and high school boys to read.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Historical Context, Metaphors and Similes, Character, Setting, Point of View, Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: A Boy at War, Under the Blood-Red Sun, House of the Red Fish

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Pearl Harbor (2001)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.historycooperative.org/journals/ht/37.2/miksch.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Dragonwings

Dragonwings

Author: Laurence Yep

Page Length: 317

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: In 1903, eight-year old Moon Shadow, came to America to join his father, Windrider.  Windrider had lived in American working with other Chinese immigrants in a laundry company for several years.  As Moon Shadow learns the lifestyle and responsibilities of the Chinese/Americans he develops a bond with his father. 

His father, has a fascination with flying, especially when he hears of the flight of the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk.  Moon Shadow sends a letter to the Wright brothers and tells them of his father’s interest.  The father and son endure the pain of separation from their family after one of their relatives steals from them to get opium.  After the earthquake of 1906, the boy and his father move to Oakland. They develop a friendship  with Mrs. Whitlaw and her daughter, Robin, while Windrider begins his quest to build his own flying machine.     

REVIEW: This is the fifth of a series of books written about the Young family from China.  The book is a narrative by Moon Shadow.  He  expresses the feelings he has towards his mother, he left in China, and  his father and uncles who he lives with for the seven years in which the book is written. The reader also gets an idea of how the Chinese immigrants were discriminated against and the feelings the Chinese had towards the “demons” (Americans).  Eventually, Moon Shadow, realizes some of the positive attributes of living in America and how the opportunites can out weigh the setbacks.

This is an excellent book to use in teaching of the arrival of the Chinese immigrants to the United States.  It also shows how the Chinese, like the Hispanic and African American cultures, have been discriminated against.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Opium use by one of the nephews throughout the book. It is referred to in a negative way so that the reader will realize the harm and damage of its use.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Theme, Point of View, and Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: The Serpent’s Children, Mountain Light, Dragon’s Gate, The Traitor, The Red Warrior, Child of the Owl, Sea Glass, Thief of Hearts and The Kite Runner

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Dragonwings/ The Play-performed at Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/2003/4/03.04.02.x.html

www.hti.math.uh.edu/curriculum/units/2001/03/01.03.04.php

www.literatureplace.com/bookfolios/bookfolio_title.asp

www.harperchildrens.com/hch/parents/teachingguides/LaurenceYep.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 9:26 pm
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My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie

Author: Susan Heyboer O’Keefe

Page Length: 255

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Alexandra, with her mother, has just returned to her mother’s home town, Nickel Park. Alexandra has had trouble in every school she’s been to lately, she and her mother are always on the move, and she already hates life in this little town trailer park. The only pastime Allie enjoys is attending funerals – even of complete strangers. This time Allie makes a new friend, find a teacher who believes in her, and uncovers a mystery – it appears that Jimmy was murdered and Allie intends to find out who did it.

REVIEW: This book was an “ok” read. It deals with some of the typical issues of teenage rebellion and general discontent. The one notable subject matter was that Allie constantly blames her mother for the disappearance of her father – and in her mind she romanticizes the reasons why she hasn’t heard from him – only to later come to terms with the crushing reality that he’s started a new life and doesn’t want her included in it. There are many likable characters for readers to relate to. However, the plot isn’t as well developed as it could be, and Allie’s counter bullying of Dennis and the consequences isn’t adequately addressed.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: comparing text to self, compare and contrast, sequence of events, setting, conflict, resolution

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: bullying issues, funeral descriptions, suicide due to parent acceptance issues

RELATED BOOKS: Death by Eggplant, Christmas Gifts

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.meghan-mccarthy.com/authorstalk_susanokeefe.html

http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/childrens_writing/117238

http://www.girlposse.com/reviews/books/my_life_and_death.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

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