The Book Reviews – Website

November 29, 2010


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Eragon (Inheritance Cycle #1) by Christopher Paolini: Book Cover


Author: Christopher Paolini

Page Length: 497

Reading Level: 8

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: A battle between the forces of good and evil is being waged unbeknownst to most. Eragon is just a young man growing up in a rural area until the day he discovers a strange object in the field…a strange object that will lead his life in a direction he never thought possible. An ancient legend is awakened. Eragon discovers he’s been chosen as a dragon rider to lead the battle and wage war against the Urgals, Durza, and Galbatorix. Can he learn everything he needs to know before the enemy discovers his secret? Will he be able to gain the trust of those he desperately needs as allies in time to save the Empire?

REVIEW: This is a great fantasy story with dragons, elves, and plenty of evil creatures engaged in an epic battle. Eragon is an admirable young man who adheres to norms and seeks to do what is right and just by all the honorable creatures he meets; thus, he’s an excellent character for study with students. The story is entertaining and fast paced. This is a must read for fantasy lovers! Students of a lower reading level would benefit from having the novel read aloud or played from a CD recording.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, connecting text to historical time period, imagery, comparing and contrasting, plot, conflict, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: use of weapons, attempted murder, torture

RELATED BOOKS:  Eldest, Inheritance, Inkheart, Artemis Fowl series

RELATED MOVIES: Eragon (2006)


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

November 26, 2010

Chasing Vermeer

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Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett: Book Cover

Chasing Vermeer

Author: Blue Balliett

Page Length: 254

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Calder and Petra have one thing in common. They have the greatest sixth grade teacher ever – Ms. Hussey. After Ms. Hussey gives her class the challenging assignment of proving that written letters are not dead by finding someone whose life has been altered by a letter, Calder and Petra decide to work together. What starts as a simple assignment soon morphs into something more. A great mystery is afoot. A painting has been stolen, and Calder and Petra are hot on the trail of a thief.

REVIEW: This was an interesting and mysterious story. The clues are revealed to the reader as the story evolves. Readers learn a great deal about the famous artist Jan Vermeer and the uses of pentominoes. Readers reflect about what makes great artwork, and they learn about actions taken toward a cause. The book provides great discussion material of the causes and effects of each character’s action or inaction. This is a story that is very interesting and engaging.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, character traits, cause and effect, context clues, foreshadowing, great book to pair with pentominoes from math class


RELATED BOOKS:  The Calder Game, The Wright 3

RELATED MOVIES: Chasing Vermeer (due out in 2011)


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Between Earth and Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places

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Between Earth and Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places

Author: Joseph Bruchac and Thomas Locker

Page Length: 30 

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Poetry, Legends

PLOT SUMMARY: The legends of many Native American tribes tell of the sacred places they hold dear. Native Americans believed in seven directions: north, south, east, west, above, below, and the place within. These legends in this book focus on maintaining balance and respecting the earth.

REVIEW: For junior level English teachers who need Native American stories on a level that kids can understand, this book would be a good starting point. The illustrations are wonderful and could be used as descriptive writing prompts. Each brief poetic legend could also be an excellent journal starter. Discussing the meanings of the legends and finding proof of such in other modern day stories or events would also provide for excellent discussion material.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: legends, poetic form, synthesis and analysis, cause and effect


RELATED BOOKS: Roots of Survival, Skeleton Man, Seeing the Circle, Fox Song, Pushing Up the Sky: Seven Native American Plays for Children, Children of the Longhouse, Lasting Echoes, Sacajawea

RELATED MOVIES: Geronimo, Sitting Bull (1954) 


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

A River Ran Wild

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A River Ran Wild

Author: Lynne Cherry

Page Length: 26 

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The Nashua River was once a beautiful river. The water was clear, the fish and wildlife were plentiful, and the river provided a way of the life to the Native Americans who settled along its banks. With time many changes occurred to the river. The land was cleared and fenced off; and parts of the river were claimed. Industrialization brought pollutants to the water. Soon, the river was no longer clear and no longer a healthy environment for wildlife. Marion Stoddart and others changed the fate of the Nashua River and proved that together they could a difference. They show the reader that the beauty of nature can be restored.

REVIEW: This book is easy to follow and is a well told story. It would be a great accompaniment to a science lesson on pollution and its effects. The book contains good illustrations, great pacing, and a solid conclusion. The book could be a starting point for writing letters in support of a cause or for a journal response on other things that need to be changed in society.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, making predictions


RELATED BOOKS: The Sea, the Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle, Written in Water, How Do we Know What We Know about Our Changing Climate, A New Book about Climate Science and Solutions

RELATED MOVIES: Young Voices on Climate Change, Alec: Kids vs. Global Warming, Team Marine, Girl Scouts


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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