The Book Reviews – Website

June 5, 2010

Ray Charles

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Ray Charles

Author: Sharon Bell Mathis

Page Length: 40

Reading Level: 3.5

Genre: Biography

REVIEW: Ray Charles’ life is condensed in this easy-to-read biography that touches upon most of his positive years. Ray Charles was a man who rose above adversity and trial to become one of the most influential and talented musicians of the 20th century.

From his ability to race other sighted-boys in the school yard to his gift of “perfect pitch”, Ray Charles had many talents with which is used to his advantage. His beginnings were a struggle and as well as lonely, but Charles made the most of what life tossed his way.

Ray Charles was able to play numerous instruments, learned how to read using Braille, championed the cause of those with hearing loss and Sickle Cell Anemia, and braved the then world of racism and intolerance in America.

This book is a very simplified version of Ray Charles’ life, especially when compared to the recent movie version that came out in 2004 titled “Ray”. None-the-less, it is a quick read that highlights a man’s achievements despite his disability. Many lessons can be learned by the great things this Ray Charles has accomplished in the midst of his inability to see. The book is written in present tense and at times floats between the present time and Ray Charles’ past.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: biography, facts, sequence of events, present tense writing

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Ray” (2004), “The Blues Brothers” (1980)

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: “Georgia on My Mind” (1960), “Hit the Road Jack” (1961)

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

http://www.raycharles.com/the_music_discography.html

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.leeandlow.com/p/ray_tg.mhtml (Teacher’s Guide)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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Kissing the Rain

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Kissing the Rain

Author: Kevin Brooks

Page Length: 320

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Michael Rupert, known as “Moo”, is a loner. He is made fun of because of his obesity—he tops out on the scales at 240.  However, he finds most happiness when he escapes into his eating habits of huge meals prepared by his mom, candy bars, and fast food fests!

He finds his escape from “the Rain” (teasing, shoving, name-calling jeers) by going to a bridge and listening to the passing of the automobiles. However, one night, he witnesses a wreck between a racing BMW and a Range Rover.  After the collision, four people emerge from the BMW and one from the Rover.  A fight takes place, a victim goes down, and the police arrive. As Moo observes the action from atop the bridge, the police spot him.  The police question Moo and tell him they will come to his house the next day to get a statement.

The next afternoon, two detectives arrive and talk to him. They write down all the facts and statements they can get from Moo.  Moo realizes that one of the detectives is the father of one of the major boys at school who causes his “Rain”.  As the days go forward, the defense attorney for Vine, a known criminal who is the accused killer in the accident, also comes to talk with Moo.  Both the defense and prosecution want Moo’s support in the case.

Moo realizes that he has decisions to make when he must testify in court.  He knows no one in the case will truly win, and his decision will hurt someone in the end.

REVIEW: The book is written in a very realistic first person narrative form.  It is easy for the reader to understand Moo’s feelings and the conflicts he experiences as he must make decisions concerning not only the accident he witnessed, but decisions that will affect his family and friends.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Point of View, Character, Conflict, Symbols

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Mild profanity occasionally used

RELATED BOOKS: City of Bones, Frostbite, and The Awakening

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Keeper

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Keeper

Author: Mal Peet

Page Length: 225

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Paul Faustino begins his interview with the World Cup soccer goalkeeper, El Gato, hoping to learn the secrets of his techniques and skills he used in helping his team capture the championship. What he got, however, is the life story of El Gato that began in the rainforest where his father worked as a logger. 

As a child, El Gato was tall and clumsy and the other children made fun of him when he played soccer in the town square.  He sought refuge deep in the jungle, and came upon a cleared meadow with a soccer goal in it.  There, over the next two years, he visited the meadow regularly and took instruction from a ghostly creature he called “the keeper.” 

At the age of 15, El Gato had to quit school and join his father working in the logging camp.  At the close of the first week, he learned many of the men hung around for a “not so friendly” game of soccer.  When the goal for the Camp team was empty, El Gato took his place as the starting keeper. It was there that El Gato was discovered.  His skills and knowledge of goalkeeping were put to use, and he made a name for himself around the camp.

When a scout from a professional team came to watch, El Gato was offered a contract to play professionally.  So, at the age of 15 he left home and began training and playing soccer as a profession.  He played for several years, and missed winning the World Cup at the age of 26.  He came back four years later, and single handedly led his team to be the World Cup Champions.

Faustino questions El Gato’s sanity as he describes the mythical mentor who lives in the forest.  At the conclusion, Faustino is convinced that El Gato acquired his skills from the man described by the famous athlete whose spirit he reveres.

REVIEW: This book reminded me of the baseball story, Field of Dreams, in that ghostly players from the past speak to the main characters.  The story has a lot of descriptions of fast action soccer play as well as fantasy in the events that are in the forest.  Because the soccer play is such a major part of the book, I would suggest it for reading by those who know the game.

Both of my daughters played the position of goalkeeper when they played soccer, so I enjoyed reading the “Keeper’s” techniques of instruction, in addition to the play-by-play descriptions of the games.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Theme, Character, Sequence of Events, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Tangerine, Shots on Goal, Soccer Shots

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Field of Dreams (1989), Bend it Like Beckham (2002)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.lessonplanet.com/sear?keywords=Brazil&media=site

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Peter and the Starcatchers

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Peter and the Starcatchers

Author: Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Page Length: 451

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Peter is a young boy in an orphanage who’s had the misfortune of being sent by ship to work for the evil King Zarboff – the third of Rundoon. The rumor is that the king often feeds his servants to his snake. Peter and other young boys from the orphanage are placed on an old ship. The ill fated journey begins with a rough and gnarly crew, a small room below deck to sleep in, and supper that has things crawling in it. Peter soon discovers that there’s secret cargo on the ship. Molly, the daughter of a famous man sailing on the accompanying ship, mysteriously appears when Peter tries to get a good look at the cargo. He’s seen men exposed to it act strangely and felt the magical presence for himself. Before long, Molly and Peter must forge an alliance to keep the cargo safe. Black Stache, the meanest pirate to ever roam the seas, and his crew are bearing down upon them. There’s little time to plot their escape and to save the cargo. Will Peter and Molly be able to get away in time? Will they keep the secrets cargo hidden? What hope do they have of getting off the ship and not becoming the next victim to walk the plank? And what happens to young Peter that will someday turn him into the infamous Peter Pan?

REVIEW: This story is fast paced and entertaining. If you’ve ever wondered why Peter never grew up and what made him such a great flyer, then you’ve found the right story. Readers become engrossed in the battle between good and evil. The ship’s on the way to King Zarboff but the magic cargo isn’t to be given to him. Then of course, there’s Black Stache, who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants – and he wants the magic cargo. Students will be entertained by the plot twists and turns. Students who enjoy fantasy books will like the idea of magic that falls to Earth and must be found and protected by Starcatchers to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Students would benefit from discussing what they know and have read about Peter Pan before reading the story to prepare them to learn the early years of his life. Overall, it is an enjoyable book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: making predictions, cause and effect, inferences, character analysis and motivations, connecting text to other text, sequence of events, author’s purpose, plot, elements of fantasy

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: pirates, sword fights, giant crocodiles, belittling of others

RELATED BOOKS: Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, Peter Pan

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Disney’s Peter Pan, Peter Pan (2003), Hook (1991)

There is a movie based on this book currently in production.

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.peterandthestarcatchers.com/

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

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

http://www.lesn.appstate.edu/fryeem/RE4030/Pirates/Peter/peter_and_the_starcatchersoutline.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Lord of the Flies

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Lord of the Flies

Author: William Golding

Page Length: 248

Reading Level: 7-12

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Tragedy strikes and a group of school boys, a fortunate few, survive only to find themselves alone on an uninhabited island. There’s talk of rescue. How could it happen, when, surely the adults in their lives will come looking? Then there’s the chaos. There must be some sense of order so that the boys can find food, shelter, and a plan for their rescue. Who should be in charge – the smart one, the athletic one, the popular one? What will happen when they disagree, when they bully each other, when the little ones are scared? Can they remain civilized among the savagery of basic survival or will they be their own undoing?

REVIEW: I’ve read several reviews on the Internet from people who loved this book; but, personally I found reading it grueling. The characters were sometimes hard to follow, the details were incessantly boring, and I couldn’t wait for the story to end so that I didn’t have to read it anymore. On another note, it is always beneficial to contemplate the forces of society and the vile baseness to which we can all so easily return in rote survival mode. The book therefore leads to useful discussion about what the boys might have done differently, why the outcome was what it was, how the outcome is reflected in our own world, and how complex and multi-faceted the creation of civilized society and social norms really is.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, imagery, realism, allegory, metaphor

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: many — bullying, killing of an animal, intentional injury and killing of other boys

RELATED BOOKS: Dies the Fire by Stirling, 1632 by Flint, Islands In the Sea of Time by Stirling, War of the Worlds, Life of Pi, Hatchet by Paulsen, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Lord of the Flies (1990), Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964), War of the Worlds

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.sff.net/people/lucy-snyder/brain/2005/10/book-review-lord-of-flies.html

http://webenglishteacher.com/golding.html

http://school.discoveryeducation.com/lessonplans/programs/flies/

http://www.aresearchguide.com/lord.html#lesson

http://www.lessonplanet.com/search?keywords=lord+of+the+flies&rating=3

http://www.videodetective.com/default.aspx?PublishedID=3246

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Cuba 15

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Cuba 15

Author: Nancy Osa

Page Length: 277

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Violet Paz is turning 15. Her Cuban grandmother insists that she must have a quinceañera to celebrate her passage to womanhood. At first, Violet resists adhering to the old traditions, especially Cuban ones she can’t identify with at all. Through a project at school, Violet begins to learn more about Cuba and her roots. She begins to learn to love her heritage; and, when Violet finds a way to add her own flair and style to her quinceañera she begins to be excited about the prospect.

REVIEW: The book is a first person narrative from the viewpoint of a 15 year old. She has humorous insight into the antics of her friends and relatives. Violet and her father are even found reading Quinceañera for Dummies in preparation for the big event. When Violet discovers the theatrical aspects she can blend into her celebration everything seems to come together. The novel is insightful look into the blending of cultures and all the challenges of growing up.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical applications, author’s purpose, conflict, mood, tone, sequence of events

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: smoking

RELATED BOOKS:  Once Upon a Quinceañera, Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leon

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.nancyosa.com/

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0385730217.asp

http://www.quinceanera-boutique.com/quinceaneratradition.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Off the Map The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Off the Map The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Author: Peter and Connie Roop, editors

Page Length: 44

Reading Level: 5.9

Genre: Non-fiction, social studies trade book

REVIEW: Lewis and Clark’s adventurous expedition into the frontiers of the Louisiana Purchase are highlighted in this easy-to-read trade book. Off the Map is written in the format of daily journal entries by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The entries are short yet descriptive of the highs and lows of the men’s travels through the U.S.

Both explorers record their travels along the Missouri river by canoe noting their agreements and disagreements with various tribes of Native Americans. According to the journal accounts, Lewis and Clark’s diet consisted of fish, bear, deer, elk, buffalo, and even dog!  Both men were charged with the task of mapping the territory along the Missouri River and on towards the Pacific Ocean. President Jefferson was extremely interested in discovering a commerce/trade route along the interior of his country. Lewis and Clark were to record every important observation along their travels – everything from the people they met and the food they ate to the plants and soil they discovered and the animals they came in contact with.

A total of 31 men began the expedition on May 14, 1804 that lasted until their return to St. Louis, Missouri on September 23, 1806. Over the course of 2 years and 4 months, eight thousand miles were traveled. Only one member of their crew died. Much was learned about the new addition to the United States landscape. The travels of Lewis and Clark were extremely successful and valuable to the future of American society.

This book was easy to follow. I enjoyed the writing in journal-format. The illustrations were nice, however I wish the book included a map of the route that Lewis and Clark traveled. The end of the book provides the reader a glossary of terms as well as an appendix on the various Native American tribes that Lewis and Clark encountered.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: reading/writing journals, sequence of events

RELATED BOOKS: The Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Lewis and Clark by George Sullivan, Lewis and Clark Explorers of the American West by Steven Kroll, The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Christin Ditchfield, Lewis and Clark by John Burrows

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “National Geographic Lewis and Clark” (2002), “PBS Home Video Lewis and Clark” (1997, 2001), “Lewis and Clark Great Journey West” (2002)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://student.wartburg.edu/knudsen/Lesson%20plan.html

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lewisandclark/journals_maps_1.html

http://lewisandclarktrail.com/101.htm

http://www.eduref.org/Virtual/Lessons/crossroads/sec3/gr4/unit5/u5g4l1.htm

http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/lesson_plans/lewis_clark/resources.html

http://www.hawaii.edu/hga/Resources/LewisandClarklinks.html

http://merrybee.info/ba/off.html

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

I Have Lived a Thousand Years

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I Have Lived a Thousand Years

Author: Livia Bitton-Jackson

Page Length: 234  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As the story begins, Elli Friedmann and her family live in the country of Hungary.  Although, their general store has been taken over by the Nazi’s, they do not realize the imminent hardships they are about to endure.  When her brother, Bubi, returns home from school in Budapest, his parents do not believe that the capitol city has been overtaken.  Within days, Mr. Friedmann is arrested and taken from his family.  Then, the rest of the family is sent to a ghetto for Jews.  Next, they are taken to the first of several concentration camps where they are stripped of their clothing, their bodies are shaved and they are packed into living barracks with little to eat or drink. 

For over a year, Elli and her mother are victims of Hitler’s army.  They must learn to survive through injuries, starvation, and physical abuse.

Eventually, they find Bubi who has been separated from them.  But when they are finally freed by the American army, they learn that they are three of 32 who survived from their former community of 500 families.

REVIEW:  This is a true recollection written in the first person by Livia Bitton-Jackson.  She eloquently tells of her her experience of joys as a young child and, then the terror and desperation she endures in the camps.  The book includes a family chronology of events, significant dates and events relating to the Holocaust and a glossary. 

This is a good book to use when studying the Holocaust and World War ll. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Historical Context, Sequence of Events, Conflict, Setting, Point of View

TOUCHY AREAS: Harsh treatment in the concentration camps is described but relevant to the context of the book.

RELATED BOOKS: My Bridges of Hope, Hello, America, The Cage, Why Do They Hate Me, Parallel Journey, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Reader, Night

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Reader (2008), Schlinder’s List (1993), The Grey Zone (2001), The Pianist (2002), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Out of Ashes (2003, TV), Anne Frank (2001, TV)

RELATED WEBSITES:  

www.plymouthlibrary.org/yaholocaust.htmwww.rogertaylor.com/clientuploads/documents/curriculum/Handouts/10304AHA.pdf

www.lindaslinkstoliterature.com/lll/booktitles2.htm

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Hope Was Here

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Hope Was Here

Author: Joan Bauer

Page Length: 186

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Hope, formerly named Tulip, is moving from Brooklyn to Wisconsin with her aunt, Addie.  When Hope was just an infant her mother, a waitress, left her with her aunt, a cook. Hope is leaving her first job as a waitress and dreads moving to a new town with a new job and new school.

When Hope arrives with her aunt to their new diner, Welcome Stairways, she meets the owner, G. T. Scoops.  As Hope and Addie become acclimated to life in the small town, they meet Flo, Yuri, and Braverman, the other employees. 

As the story progresses, the town learns that G. T. has cancer and that is the reason he has asked Addie to come cook so that he can get some relief from his chemo treatments.  However, G. T. is not a quitter, and decides to run for mayor of the town to eliminate some of the corrupt business transactions that are currently being ignored.  Hope, Braverman, and a group of other teens back G. T. and help run his campaign.

As the book progresses, the campaign becomes more intense with unethical events happening to sabotage G. T.’s chances of winning.  Working together, both at the diner and for the campaign, Braverman and Hope develop a romantic relationship, as do Addie and G. T.

REVIEW: This is an excellent book that would be good to use as a class novel.  The basic theme is how Hope tries to spread hope through each person she touches in life.  However, there are several underlying themes, including:  the political campaign for mayor, dealing with the disease of cancer, parental abandonment, romance, and the developmental delays of a child.  The book is appealing to a wide range of age groups and both genders.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Characters, Setting, Theme, and Conclusions, Predictions, and Generalizations

RELATED BOOKS: Becoming Naomi Leon, The Center of Everything, My Time as Caz Hazard, Everything on a Waffle

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Hope Floats (1998), Frankie and Johnny (1991), About a Boy (2002), and Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.webenglishteacher.com/jbauer.html

www.teachervision.fen.com/novels/lesson-plan/31368.html

www.joanbauer.com/hope/guide

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Hiroshima

Filed under: H — thebookreviews @ 7:22 pm
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Hiroshima

Author: Laurence Yep

Page Length: 56

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: On August 6, 1945, twelve-year-old Sachi and her sister, Riko, are walking to school in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. A bomb alarm sounds and they put on their ill-equipped bomb masks.  Minutes later however, they realize it is a false alarm. 

However, a few hours later, as Riko is receiving radio transmissions and Sachi is helping to tear down houses, the bomb becomes a reality.  The skies have cleared and the United States, Enola Gay, drops a bomb that will eventually kill hundreds of thousands of people.  Sachi and her mother survive the bomb, but they lose her father and Riko as casualties.

Sachi has severe burns that scar her face and as a result she hides inside her home for the next three years. Sachi eventually gets help from a doctor who brings her to the United States for plastic surgery.

REVIEW: Sachi is a composite of many of the children who survived the bombing of Hiroshima.  The story is realistic in the loss of life and suffering the dropping of the atomic bomb caused.  The book could be used in the study of the Asian-American ethnic culture of the United States and also the study of the aftermath of World War II.  

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The theme of book is the United States bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Historical Context, Theme, Sequence of Events, and Point of View

RELATED BOOKS: Hiroshima Maidens, Children of Hiroshima, At Work in the Fields of the Bomb, and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Pearl Harbor (2002)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.worldaffairs.org/globalclassroom/schools/priceoffreedom/hiroshima.htm

www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=7826&

www.english.unitecnology.ac.nz/resources/links/english_resources.html?

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Bud, Not Buddy

Bud, Not Buddy

Author: Christopher Paul Curtis

Page Length: 243

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Ever since Bud (not Buddy) lost his mother four years ago, life has been anything but easy. Bud’s been placed in homes only to be mistreated and returned again to the orphanage known as the Home. Despite his hardships, Bud hasn’t given up on himself or on finding his father. His mother left behind flyers of a famous man, Herman E. Callaway, and Bud’s come to realize they were clues – clues he believes that will lead him closer to his father. Despite setbacks and the need to adhere to Bud’s rules of life (lessons he’s learned the hard way), Bud presses on alone, never giving up. Set amidst the Great Depression this book tells a story of courage, love, and perseverance like no other.

REVIEW: Loved it! This is a fantastic story! The characters are well developed and entertaining. The story blends humor, tragedy and triumph beautifully. This book would be a great way of making curriculum connections due to its in-depth look at the Great Depression. The reader senses the hardships of the people living in the Flint shanties as well as the racial equality struggles of the time. Bud never gives up or turns to hatred despite the hardships he’s endured. The lessons the author gives about one door closing and another opening are wonderful – and could be applicable to all of life and opportunity. Truly the best book, I’ve read in awhile and very deserving of the Newberry.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, imagery, inferences, predictions, character analysis, historical connections

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: mild racism references, death of a parent

RELATED BOOKS: Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, Bucking the Sarge, Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Seabiscuit (2003), Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991), Annie (1999), The Cinderella Man (2005)

MUSIC CONNECTION: Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/depression/depression.htm

http://www.nps.gov/archive/elro/glossary/great-depression.htm

http://history1900s.about.com/od/photographs/tp/greatdepressionpictures.htm

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/christopherpaulcurtis/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Bucking the Sarge

Filed under: B — thebookreviews @ 7:18 pm
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Bucking the Sarge

Author: Christopher Paul Curtis

Page Length: 259

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Luther T. Farrell has something most boys don’t – a mother who’s a calculating businesswoman adept at amassing riches. Unlike other boys, Luther spends countless hours each day running his mother’s business. He’s responsible for caring completely for the residents of the adult home she runs. Luther’s life is anything but fun and games and his least favorite activity is getting called to clean up a rental after his mother and Darnell, the enforcer, have kicked somebody out. Luther’s days at school are his only duty free times. There he’s consumed with winning the Science Fair for a third year in a row.  Luther’s seems lost until Mr. X reveals to him what he’s always known is true – he deserves a better life than growing up heartless like his mother, the Sarge. With his mother’s schemes exposed, Luther’s finding out how to stand strong and be his own man. His future waits. Will he find the courage he needs to make it a good one?

REVIEW: Christopher Paul Curtis is a fabulous writer. Every book he’s written that I’ve read has been wonderful. His characters are masterful, and his message is unforgettable. Hope prevails despite circumstance. Doing what is right, despite how easy it might be not to, is a powerful message that most kids need to hear. The issues of disabilities and human nature are also addressed. Great story teller!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence, compare and contrast, voice, narrative, author’s purpose, point of view

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: slums, poverty, condoms, heartless mother, violence (beating people)

RELATED BOOKS:  Bud Not Buddy, The Watson’s Go to Birmingham 1963, Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/christopherpaulcurtis/buckingthesarge.htm

http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-bucking.html

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

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Arthur Trilogy The Seeing Stone

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Arthur Trilogy The Seeing Stone

Author: Kevin Crossley-Holland

Page Length: 338

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Young Arthur de Caldicot is growing up on the England and Wales border in 1199. As the second son, Arthur has a myriad of duties in his father’s manor. Merlin, his father’s advisor, guides Arthur’s own development. Arthur seems destined to a mediocre fate until the day that Merlin gives him the seeing stone. A great world of danger, adventure, and excitement begins to unfold before him.

REVIEW: Kevin Crossley-Holland takes the reader back to the early years in the life of King Arthur. The reader gains an understanding of what life in the year 1199 might have been like. Arthur’s good qualities are evident from an early age as the reader identifies with his respect for everyone despite their place in the manor. Arthur looks forward to growing up and becoming a knight one day. Merlin guides Arthur under the guise of guiding his father. For anyone who loves Arthurian legends, the book is a must read. For struggling readers, the length of the book as well as the vernacular of the time period would make engagement more difficult. I found the book tiresome and lacking in engagement; the last half of the book seemed much better than the first.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character analysis, plot development, foreshadowing, effective use of dialogue, motivation, author’s purpose

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: fighting, infidelity

RELATED BOOKS: The Norse Myths, Crossing to Paradise, Storm, Waterslain Angels, Beowulf

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Camelot (1967), Excalibur (1981), The Sword in the Stone (1963)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.kevincrossley-holland.com/

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=4135&

http://www.kingarthursknights.com/

http://www.battle1066.com/arthur.shtml

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Monster

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Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers                      

Page Length:  281

Reading Level:  5

Genre:  Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW:  This story was about a young boy, Steve Harmon, who is arrested and put into jail for allegedly murdering a drug shop owner on Christmas of the previous year.  Steve makes the episode like a play or movie and is working on it for a class project.  Therefore, the novel takes on two different forms.   Some of the sections open with a narrative from Steve, like notes written in his notebook.   The other sections are in a screenplay format where the characters’ names are presented in capital letters and camera directions accompany the play dialogue. 

The overall plot is quite simple.   The reader hears from Steve Harmon in a narrative as he describes his feelings about how it’s like to be in jail and on trial for murder.   The story then used flashback devices with home scenes to picture Steve being arrested. The flashback devices also showed how the trial events affected Steve’s family.   Another plot theme emerges which is more of a psychological one.   Steve’s emotions are thrown around as he doubts his own innocence.  He describes himself as a monster, and has very little faith in the justice system.  He has fear and doubt. The jailhouse environment scares him to death.  Unfortunately, Steve believes that his attorney thinks he is guilty of the crime which doesn’t help his morale.  His mom still loves him and is convinced that her son is being set up.  His father, on the other hand, separates himself some from his son, and acts as though he doesn’t know him. 

The story goes back and forth from jail to courtroom and then back again. His father no longer knows who his son is.  Even Steve is not sure himself.  He questions whether he is a good person or a monster.  The reader hears the plot through glimpses of Steve’s neighborhood of Harlem and the other defendants in the case.  As the reader hears the story of the murder of the drug store owner he or she begins to draw a conclusion about the other people in the story, and who might be the guilty suspects.   Of course the drama builds as the story draws to a close.  Steve’s attorney, Kathy O”Brien, tells Steve that his chances are slim unless he is able to be shown as distant from Mr. King.   The two sided affect of the situation becomes a clear threat to Steve’s life as he may face 20 years to life in prison.  Fortunately, Kathy O’Brien finally decides that Steve must take the stand to show off his best side.   The ending is quite a climax as the reader really doesn’t know what to expect.

AREAS FOR TEACHING (TEKS):  

4.9 draw upon experience for word meanings

4.10 know main idea and details supporting it

4.11 connect and compare ideas

4.12 analyze characters

REVIEWED BY:  Linda Schwegler

The Lightning Thief

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The Lightning Thief

Author:  Rick Riordan

Page Length:  375

Reading Level: 5

Genre:   Mythology

PLOT SUMMARY:  This book was about a twelve year old boy, named Percy Jackson, who gets in all kinds of trouble in school because he is ADHD and has dyslexia.   He also has been expelled from various schools and the last expulsion came from vaporizing his pre-algebra teacher.   When Summer begins he takes a vacation with his mother to Montauk .  Grover has followed Percy and soon finds him when the vacation begins.  However, the trio (Percy, his mom, and Grover) are attacked immediately by a monster.  Percy soon discovers that his best friend, Grover, is a satyr.  His mother had been told by his birth father that Percy must go to a special summer camp which would be great for him. 

Unfortunately, when a monster attacked, his mom was turned into a golden light.   So Percy is left without a mother.  Luckily, Percy and Grover escape after killing the monster, and the two end up at Camp Half Blood which is a place for children associated with the Olympian Gods. 

Percy and Grover are sent right into training, because that is what the camp is for.  Grover has observations by his superiors so he will be right alongside Percy.  Also, the fact that Percy has ADHD characteristics is a good thing.  It turns out that ADHD is also a battle reflex.  Luckily, his shortcoming of dyslexia allows him to read Greek.  Therefore, Percy is aided immensely in his activity games.  Percy is put into the cabin of Hermes and under the care of Luke, the Cabin Head.  Percy’s new camp family participates in a flag game and they win the flag.  Even though Percy is a winner, he is also attacked by the children of Ares and is wounded.   After Percy steps into some water to cool off he is magically healed, and that is when his father, Poseidon, is revealed.   After that, Percy is given a quest to find Zeus’s master bolt which is believed to be stolen by one of the three main gods, Poseidon.   Unfortunately, this quest is given to Percy, because of an earlier broken oath from Percy’s father that he remain childless after World War II.

So, Percy along with Grover, and Annabeth (another good friend of Percy) take upon the quest to find the thunder bolt and set off with only 10 days to find it before the Summer Solstice.  They have determined the real thief must be Hades, God of the Underworld, because Percy knows that his father Poseidon could not possibly be the thief.   The trio must travel across America to Los Angeles which is the new home of the entrance to the Underworld.  Fortunately, Percy is given magic shoes by Luke that he in turn gives to Grover.   They encounter various Greek monsters and the God of War, Ares, who tells Percy that his mother is still alive. As they approach the pit of Tartartus, Luke’s shoes try to pull Grover into it, but Grover is finally able to slip his hooves free. Percy confronts Hades, who also believes Percy stole the Master Bolt as well as his darkness helm.  It is then that Percy discovers the master bolt has been in his backpack the whole time, and he assumes that Ares had tricked him.

Percy and his friends get out of the Underworld, but Percy is forced to leave his mother. On the shore, he battles against Ares and wins by injuring the god’s heel.  He is also cursed by Ares who determines that Percy’s sword would fail him in battle when he needs it the most.  Percy also finds the Helm of Darkness which in turn is given back to Hades.  Next, Percy takes a flight to get to New York City to give the Thunder bolt back to Zeus.    Both of these tasks allow Percy to be the victor of the impossible quest.  However, when Percy returns to the camp he discovers that the real thief was Luke who calls upon a poisonous scorpion to kill Percy.  Luckily, Percy is healed of the poisonous bite by Chiron, and at the end of summer, Percy decides to attend another school found by his mother.

REVIEW:   My opinion is that the book is excellent.  It was a great book because of all the excitement.   It is a bit lengthy, but most readers will love it.

AREAS FOR TEACHING (TEKS): 

5.9 draw on experience for word meanings

5.10 learn the main ideas and details supporting it

5.11 connect compare the various ideas

5.12 analyze the characters

RELATED BOOKS:   books also by Rick Riordan – The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s CurseThe Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Omypian

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.rickriordan.com 

REVIEWED BY: Linda Schwegler

Twilight

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Twilight

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Page Length: 498

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Romantic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Bella is a 17 year old girl from Arizona who must now go live with her father, Charlie, in the small town of Forks, Washington. She hates Forks. It is always rainy and cold. Charlie is known as Police Chief Swan to the people of Forks. He is happy that Bella is there and has a room prepared for her so she does not allow her unhappiness of being there known to Charlie. When Bella attends school, to her surprise several boys are interested in her and compete for her attention. In one of her classes she is seated next to Edward Cullen. He doesn’t speak to her or help with the assigned project. He even seems “repulsed” by her. After their initial meeting, he is absent for several days but when he returns he is nicer to her. Their relationship begins when he saves her with his bare hands from being hit by a van in the school parking lot. She was astonished at his speed from getting from one place to another. When she tries to confront him about it, Edward dismisses her saying that she is mistaken about his distance to her. This is the first time Bella notices that something is quite different about Edward. In the school cafeteria, she inquires about Edward. Bella becomes determined to find out how Edward saved her by incessantly asking him questions. She tricks a family friend, Jacob Black, into telling her about local Indian tribe legends of a group of vampires who drink animal blood instead of human blood. Eventually Edward admits to Bella that he is a vampire and that the reason he missed days of school was that the scent of her blood is extremely desirable to him. Over time, Bella and Edward fall in love spending all waking and sleeping time together. Since vampires never sleep, Edward sneaks into Bella’s room to watch her sleep every night.

Later in the book, Bella meets the Cullen family who are all vampires and Edward takes her to the family baseball game. There danger ensues. A coven of rogue vampires threaten to attack Bella. The Cullens in an attempt to save Bella, split up Bella and Edward. Bella is sent hide in a hotel in Phoenix. However, the coven has plans of their own. James, one of the coven members, tricks Bella into thinking that he has captured her mother. Bella surrenders herself to James and he tries to kill her, but she is rescued by Edward and the other Cullens. It is discovered that James has bitten Bella so Edward sucks the venom from her hand so that she will not turn into a vampire. She is then taken to a hospital to recover. Once they return to Forks, Edward and Bella attend the school prom. Bella expresses her desire for Edward to turn her into a vampire so that they can be together for eternity. Edward refuses.      

REVIEW:  This is such a great book! Stephenie Myers weaves teenage romance with mystery and suspense cloaked with the allure of vampires. The romance is innocent showing the strong bond and love that two teenagers can have for one another. However, their love is forbidden since he is a vampire and she is a human. One may interpret the theme to be one of good versus evil but reading a book for enjoyment and suspense is also thrilling. The reader’s attention is captured immediately and Twilight is a definite page-turner. Indian tribal legends are interspersed throughout the book to give the impression that vampires could be “real”.  

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.

RELATED BOOKS: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Marked: House of Night by P.C. Cast, Vampire Academy by Richelle Meade, Frostbite by Richelle Meade, Shadow Kiss by Richelle Meade, Evermore (The Immortals) by Alyson Noel. Books by the same author: New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Twilight (2008), The Kiss (2008), Dracula (1992), Dracula (1931), Nosferatu (1922)

MUSIC CONNECTION: Twilight (soundtrack)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.stepheniemeyer.com

http://www.dumbspot.com/twilight-test?gatherer_id=100332&gclid=CJLt-5SukJsCFQWfnAodHzN3pQ

http://novelnovicetwilight.freeforums.org/

http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=1148

http://freecoloringpages4u.blogspot.com/2009/05/free-printable-twilight-coloring.html

http://www.enotes.com/twilight

http://www.enotes.com/documents/twilight-exam-1189

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

The Last Book in the Universe

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The Last Book In The Universe

Author: Rodman Philbrick

Page Length: 223

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Science Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY:  A young boy, Spaz, finds himself fending for himself in the Urb, where all the normals live, after being kicked out of his foster home for having epilepsy. Charley, his foster dad, feels that Spaz’ illness will cause harm to his foster sister, Bean. Spaz steals from Billy Bizmo, the latch boss, to get food and protection. Everyone in the Urb mindprobes but Spaz can’t because he has epilepsy and can’t put a needle into his brain. Little did Spaz know that when sent to steal from Ryter, a gummy (or old person) per orders of Billy, Spaz’ life would change forever. On the way to steal from Ryter, Spaz meets a very young boy named Little Face who leads him to Ryter’s stack. Ryter is waiting for Spaz providing all his valuables except a book that he has been writing. Spaz does not understand the importance of the book and passing down stories from the Big Shake but he lets Ryter keep it. Little Face guides Spaz through the stacks on the promise of a choxbar since Spaz has been ordered to steal more items. Spaz befriends Ryter during these robberies. Then a runner comes with bad news of his sister Bean. Spaz must get to Bean as quickly as possible. But this isn’t as easy as it may seem. Spaz must sneak out of the latch, cross two others, and reach his sister hoping to save her. Ryter helps Spaz develop a plan to travel through The Pipes to get through the latches. On their journey, Spaz meets a Proov, a genetically altered person, who is giving away edibles, Ryter saves her life at the end of one of the latches that is on fire. Lanaya, the Proov, decides to help Spaz reach his sister. So Spaz, Ryter, Little Face, and Lanaya set out in search of Bean. Once they locate her they find that she is very ill. Ryter and/or Spaz (depending upon who you ask) decide that the only way to save Bean is to take her to Eden, where the Proovs live. The only problem is that normals aren’t accepted in Eden so Lanaya has to sneak them into Eden passing through The Forbidden Zone which is full of mines. Do they make it? Do they save Bean? If so, how do they save her? What happens to Little Face? Do the Proovs accept the normals? What happens to Spaz and Ryter? What happens to the last book in the universe?  What happens to the writer?   

REVIEW:  From the very first sentences in The Last Book In The Universe “If you’re reading this, it must be a thousand years from now. Because nobody around here reads anymore. Why bother, when you can just probe it?”, the reader’s attention is grabbed immediately. This science fiction book is excellent. Rodman Philbrick creates an alternate futuristic world with invented vocabulary to describe this new world, the people, and the items used in it. From the Urb, to the Proovs, to the Takvees, to the latches, this new world comes alive. The reader finds oneself transformed into this new world. One part of the new world is the burned- out Urb and the other part is the perfection of Eden. Both the strengths and weaknesses of both worlds are noticed. The themes of addiction, abandonment, poverty, environmental concerns, and violence of the 21st century are still prevalent in The Last Book In The Universe’s new world of the future. However, Spaz, Little Face, Ryter and Bean capture the reader’s heart evoking a sense of empathy and possibly sympathy for one if not all of these characters. One realizes that we all have a story to tell. Those stories need to be protected and passed along to future generations so that they may learn from our mistakes.  At the end of the book is a list of “New Words for a New World”.  

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.

RELATED BOOKS: The Giver by Lois Lowry, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Books by the same author: Freak the Mighty, Max the Mighty, The Young Man and the Sea

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Mighty (1998), Back to the Future (1995), The Incredibles (2004), War of the Worlds (1960)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.holycrosstigers.com/4/The_Last_Book_in_the_Universe_Study_Guide.pdf

http://www.rodmanphilbrick.com/teaching.html

http://albion.jordan.k12.ut.us/TeacherWebFolders/Simons/8thg.html#Last_Book

http://www.stenhouse.com/assets/pdfs/Allen0399%20pp119-122.pdf

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

http://www.educationworld.com/a_books/books170.shtml/

http://www.dodea.edu/instruction/curriculum/lars/ela_lab/LessonPlans/Last_Book/Yokota/GettingintoWRITING.pdf

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=992

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Page Length: 550

Reading Level: 9

Genre: Historical Fiction (Holocaust)

PLOT SUMMARY: The Book Thief begins in Nazi Germany in 1939 where Leisel Meminger’s mother is sent to the concentration camp “Dachau” for being a communist. Leisel loses her brother to the winter elements – her first experience with Death. Leisel’s second experience with Death is the demise of her mother. Death narrates this story. Devastation is prevalent throughout Germany. Upon burial of her brother, Leisel steals a book, The Grave Digger’s Manual, despite the fact that she could not read. Leisel is sent to live with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann on Himmel Street in Molching. Rosa is known for her constant cursing and aloof behavior. Hans is known for his caring, mild mannered attitude, and accordion playing. Leisel takes immediate liking to Hans when he plays the accordion. While fraught with nightmares over the death of Leisel’s mother, Hans sits by Leisel’s side throughout the night. Eventually Hans teaches her to read. This is Leisel’s first realization of the power of words used as a distraction and as a comfort.

Over time, Leisel makes several friends. Rudy is a young man who is around her age and is constantly asking her for a kiss to which she refuses. Max is a Jewish man who is hidden from the Nazis in the Hubermann’s basement. Max writes books for Leisel using the painted-over pages of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. When Max becomes deathly ill, Leisel reads to him – another example of the power of words used to distract or comfort. A third friend is the mayor’s wife who allows Leisel to use her library to read books. Leisel sneaks into the mayor’s wife’s house to steal one book at a time. The war is getting closer and closer to Himmel street, so the Germans are looking for basements with adequate size to use as bomb shelters. Fortunately, the Hubermann’s basement was too small so Max could continue to hide in their basement. Leisel would visit Max everyday in the basement reading to him and describing the weather and daily events to him. Death is everywhere and it makes comments upon all the souls “he” has to carry. During one of the air-raids in which citizens of Himmel Street had to go to the bomb shelter, a neighbor’s basement, Leisel begins to read from her book to calm herself. She finds that by reading aloud, the others are also comforted and distracted from their fears. One day, Hans Hubermann whom Leisel has come to deeply love tries to give a Jewish person a piece of bread during the Nazi’s parade of Jews. Hans is badly beaten and then fears that he will be sent to a concentration camp and that their house will be searched. Max, the Jewish person hiding in their basement, has to leave the home on Himmel Street for fear of capture and punishment of the Hubermanns for helping a Jewish person. Hans was not captured but was forced to join the Nazi military. Leisel’s friend and Rudy’s father, Alex Steiner, was also forced to join the military because he would not allow one of his sons to join the military. Leisel, who is distraught by the absence of her father, loss of her brother, loss of Rudy, and loss of Max, begins to write her life’s story in her basement. Does Leisel survive? Do Max, Hans, Alex Steiner, Rudy and Rosa survive? Does Rudy ever get his kiss? Why were the stolen books so important to the book thief after all? Why is Death afraid of humans?         

REVIEW: The Book Thief is an excellent story which is told from the perspective of Death, the narrator, in war-torn Germany. Markus Zusak transports the reader back to this era with well developed characters and settings in which one can almost empathize with the fears and devastation of the times. Zusak’s writing is so vivid that one can almost feel Leisel’s emotions for the loss of her mother and brother, feel Leisel’s love for Hans, feel what life is like in the basement for Max, feel the suspense when the book thief steals a book, feel the daily experiences on Himmel Street, and feel the fear of the Nazis. This book is definitely a page turner. One realizes that words have the power to uplift, to comfort, to manipulate, and to destroy humankind.  After reading The Book Thief, one can not help but examine one’s own values. What would one do if one was a non- Jewish person in Germany during “Hitler’s Germany”? Would one deny joining the Nazi Party knowing that one would not get work to provide for one’s family? Most importantly, would one hide a Jewish person or Jewish family risking one’s own family’s life? These are powerful questions evoked by reading The Book Thief.

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, narration, irony

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Holocaust and Death. One must consider the sensitivity of the student who is reading the book due to the subject matter.

RELATED BOOKS:  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Schindler’s List by Thomas Kineally, Anne Frank: A Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, Those Who Save Us by Jeanna Blum, Night by Elie Wiesel, Number the Stars Lois Lowry, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi, The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. Books by the same author: I Am the Messenger, Getting the Girl, Fighting Ruben Wolfe.

MOVIE & MEDIA CONNECTIONS: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2009), Valkyrie (2008), Schindler’s List (2004), The Book Thief (expected release 2010), The Book Thief (book video by Jon Haller 2006), Elie Wiesel Goes Home (1985), Anne Frank- The Whole Story (2001), Holocaust (1978), The Devil’s Arithmetic (1999)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/markuszusak/books.html

http://www.nlc.state.ne.us/libdev/OBOK/2008/discussionquestionsBookThief.pdf

http://www.litlovers.com/guide_bookthief.html

http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/catalog/display.pperl?

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

http://www.menomonielibrary.org/TheBookThiefdiscussionquestions.htm

http://bookchatcentral.yuku.com/topic/1158/t/The-Book-Thief-discussion-on-the-BBC.html

http://english.byu.edu/Novelinks/Novel%20Pages/The%20Book%20Thief.htm

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

Romiette and Julio

Romiette and Julio

Author: Sharon M. Draper

Page Length: 320

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Romantic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Romiette and Julio begins with a strange recurring dream about drowning and a male voice that Romiette Cappelle is having. She is terrified of water and cannot swim.  Julio Montague, 17 years old, is forced to move from Corpus Christi, Texas to Cincinnati, Ohio. He hates Ohio. Everything is gray and there is no where to swim. Julio is an excellent swimmer and loves to swim. The only companionship he has is with a girl he has met in the chat room. Come to find out this girl, Romiette, whom he shares a great deal in common, goes to the same Ohio school. On the first day of school Julio meets Ben during a fight. Ben is a quirky, lighthearted character who changes his hair color everyday. Romiette’s best friend is Destiny who is also quirky and thinks she is psychic. As Romi and Julio’s online friendship develops, they decide to meet in person. Julio and Romi immediately feel a strong attraction to one another. Julio brings with him a bottle of hot sauce and a rose to their first meeting. As they start hanging out together more often, the school gang, the Devildogs or “The Family” begin to threaten Romi and Julio just because Romi is African American and Julio is Hispanic. Also, Romi’s parents do not approve of Julio because he is Hispanic and Julio’s parents do not approve of Romi because she is African American. The gang intensifies their threats which force Romi, Julio, Destiny, and Ben to devise a plan to obtain proof that the gang exists and is threatening them. However, the plan goes horribly wrong. The gang has a plan of their own. They capture Romi and Julio leaving them helpless, tied up, and unconscious in a boat floating in London Woods Lake during a severe thunderstorm. What happens to Romi and Julio? Whose voice was in the dream? What happens to Destiny and Ben? Does the police and search party rescue them in time or is their fate sealed as in Romeo and Juliet?        

REVIEW:  Romiette and Julio is a present day Romeo and Juliet without the tragic ending. Reader’s still experience the themes of friendship, romance, suspense, love, prejudice, racism, and familial pressures exemplified within Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. However, in Romiette and Julio, Sharon Draper allows the reader to identify with the themes in a modern day setting even allowing Romiette and Julio to meet in a chat room. A strong affection develops which leads to gang threats due only to the fact that Romiette is African American and Julio is Hispanic; thus, suspense ensues. Romiette and Julio is a definite supplement for the classic, Romeo and Juliet.  Readers can identify with many themes throughout the book whether it is racism, peer pressure, romance, or soul mates.   

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, allusion, protagonist, antagonist, comic relief

RELATED BOOKS:  Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet in Beverly Hills (Readers Theater), The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The First Part Last by Angela Johnson,  Who Am I Without Him? By Sharon Flake, Books by same author: Tears of a Tiger, Forged be Fire, The Battle of Jericho, Copper Sun, November Blues, Darkness Before Dawn, Double Dutch, Fire by the Rock

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:  Westside Story (1950), Romeo and Juliet (1996), Romeo and Juliet (1968), Gone With the Wind (1939), The Notebook (2004), The Outsiders (1983)

MUSIC CONNECTION: Love Story by Taylor Swift

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

http://www.schoolbookcenter.com/html/romiette_and_julio.html

http://www.allreaders.com/Topics/info_35032.asp

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0689842090.asp

http://sharondraper.com/lessonsdetail.asp?lesson=5

http://sharondraper.com/

www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=857

http://www.etherpad.net  (secure chat room suggested by the technology department)

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

Monster

Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Drama, Fiction-Crime

PLOT SUMMARY: Is he really a Monster? Did he really have anything to do with the murder of the drugstore owner? These are the questions that young 16 year old Steve Harmon is asking himself. All he knew was that he was to enter a drugstore, see how many people were inside, and see if there were any police. Then he was to exit the drugstore. Actually, did Steve even agree to be a “lookout”? It was planned to be a robbery or so that is what Bobo Evans and James King told him. After Steve leaves the drugstore, the robbery went terribly awry. The drugstore owner, Mr. Nesbitt is murdered. Steve is arrested and put on trial for murder. If convicted he faces 25 years to life in prison or the death penalty. While in the detention center, Steve maintains his sanity by writing in a journal that he will use for a “film” after this nightmare is over. Steve was not even present when the murder occurred, so does this make him a monster? How could a jury convict him? How could people think he was a monster, as the prosecutor described him at the beginning of the trial? His own lawyer doesn’t even believe him. His parents do not even look at him the same way. When Steve views the “film” of himself, who or what does he now see?

REVIEW:  Walter Dean Myers does an excellent job at immediately getting the reader’s attention with his first sentence in Monster: “The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is beaten up and screaming for help”. The story is written in the format of journal entries by Steven Harmon as well as dramatic script writing by the same character. The book is written in a young African American teenager’s point of view. The book’s voice is in modern language/slang that young reader’s can understand. However, some of the scenes and events described in the detention center range from cries of despair and beatings to rape. This subject matter is extremely difficult to read but does portray the realities of jail. One gains insights into Steve’s emotions, fears, and self concept from his journal entries. After reading the book, one can not help but re-examine one’s own beliefs and self concept. After reading Monster, hopefully young readers will realize that choices they make now can affect their lives forever as Steve does in the gray writing on pages 220-221 – “What was I thinking?”       

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, dialogue, dialect, journals, diaries, antagonist, peer pressure.

TOUCHY PAGES: 36, 37, 57, 73, 109, 139-140, 143-144

RELATED BOOKS:  Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Chocolate War (Readers Circle) by Robert Cormier, The Contender by Robert Lipstyte. Books by the same author: Slam!, Hoops, Scorpions, Glory Field, Fallen Angels, Game, Bad Boy: A Memoir, Somewhere in the Darkness, Motown and Didi , Harlem

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Outsiders(1983),  Westside Story (2003),  Once Upon a Time In the Hood (2004), The Price of the American Dream (2004).

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

http://www.mcte.org/bpw/ricker.pdf

http://thebestnotes.com/booknotes/Monster_Myers/Monster_Study_Guide_Summary01.html

http://digitalbooktalk.com/?p=17

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/myers.html#monster

http://special.lib.umn.edu/clrc/kerlan/wdm/monster/index.php

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

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