The Book Reviews – Website

August 30, 2009

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

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Destination Unexpected

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Destination Unexpected

Author: Donald R. Gallo

Page Length: 221

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Gallo compiled ten short stories by ten different authors to complete a book about young adults on journeys in their lives.  In each of the stories, the main characters learn a life’s lesson after a short journey. The journeys take the reader to various destinations such as Cape Cod, Europe, a local café, a racetrack, summer camp, and a bus ride.  The plots involve romance, sibling rivalry, a kiss from a prince, a rifle, a catastrophic death, and cultural differences. 

REVIEW: I enjoyed the variety of stories that were written.  The authors had their own writing styles and ideas of journeys where the young adults come out of the trips with a positive impact in their lives.  I would recommend the book to females.  I don’t think the stories have enough action to hold a boy’s interest.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Mild profanity (p. 105-130)

AREAS OF TEACHING: Setting, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast, Character, and Point of View

RELATED BOOKS: Who am I Without Him, Baseball in April, Visions, Brainstorm, My Land Sings

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Define Normal

Define “Normal”

Author: Julie Anne Peters

Page Length: 196

Reading Level: 5.3

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: When overachieving, conservative Antonia agrees to participate in peer counseling, she never dreams that Jasmine (Jazz) who is punk, has purple hair, wears black lipstick, and is a gang hanger will be her partner.  The first meeting between the two girls is spent telling each other about themselves.

Antonia is determined to help Jazz as she learns she hates her mom.  But Antonia or (Tone) as Jazz calls her, has problems of her own.  Her dad has left the family, her mom is in bed suffering from severe depression and she is in charge of caring for her younger brothers as well as taking care of the house.  As her time becomes limited, Tone falls behind in her math class and receives a “C” for the first time.

When Tone admits to Jazz she can’t swim, Jazz invites her over for a swim lesson in her Olympic size indoor pool.  Tone learns that Jazz’s family is very wealthy and that Jazz is an accomplished pianist.  She doesn’t understand why Jazz doesn’t like her parents who appear friendly and supportive.

As the story progresses, Tone’s mother is hospitalized and she and her brothers are placed in a foster home.  Tone feels that Jazz is her only link to survival and continues to have counseling sessions with Jazz trying to help her get along with her parents while expressing her problems to Jazz. 

The relationship between the girls grows into a trusting friendship.  Both girls find ways to build a bond with their mothers as one grows between them as well. 

REVIEW: The characters are developed realistically enough that the reader can believe Jazz or Tone may appear in their classroom in person.  Although unlikely, the friendship that develops between two girls who are exact opposites in interests, tastes, and values is believable.  The book could be used in a study of diversity, acceptance, and tolerance.  Also, it teaches that outside appearances often hide what is really going on within one’s self, and often times those who seem to be most “normal” have hidden secrets and issues that need attention.

There is a Reader’s Guide at the end of the novel to help with discussion. I would recommend this book for any female over the age of 12. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Mild profanity

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

RELATED BOOKS: Luna, Keeping You a Secret, Far from Xanadu

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Juno (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.bookrags.com/studyguide-definenormal

www.julieannepeters.com

www.tolerance.org/teach/mix_it_up/pq/shareResponse.jsp?p=0&ar=30

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Drive-By

Drive-By

Author: Lynne Ewing

Page Length: 85

Reading Level: 3.5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins as Jimmy is shot and killed in front of his brother Tito and little sister Mina by a possible gang member in a car. The police imply that Jimmy was in a gang and that two potential suspects Ice-Breaker and Lamar Calles want something Jimmy had that belonged to them. This makes no sense to Tito because Jimmy had always said there are two kinds of gang bangers: those who are dead and those who were going to die. He told Jimmy that joining a gang didn’t make any sense at all. Tito then tries to find out the truth about his brother – Was he really in a gang? If so, what did the gang members want from him? Tito then must become the man of the house by taking care of and protecting his little sister, Mina.

The mystery begins when Tito and his mother attempt to collect Jimmy’s last paycheck at the restaurant only to find out that he had never worked there. To add to the mystery, Gus who is Tito’s long-time friend intentionally gives an inaccurate description of the car used in the drive-by shooting. Gus tries to pressure Tito into carrying a gun and joining a gang for protection now that Jimmy is dead. On the other hand, Tito’s Jewish friend, Zev, tries to be a positive influence.

Tito is faced with many tough decisions: how to find out the truth about his brother, what the gang members want from him, whether or not to join a gang, or to perform honest work to provide for his family.   

REVIEW: Ewing’s novel is bleak, though ultimately hopeful, with a satisfying ending that makes its point without belaboring it. In the early pages, Tito’s older brother, Jimmy, is killed in a gang-related drive-by shooting. This is only the beginning of Tito’s family’s troubles for while they cope with their grief; the gang attacks their house repeatedly, forcing the family to move. Following revelations about Jimmy’s secret life, Tito’s innocence is gradually stripped away; he confronts hard truths about gang life and takes action to protect his family and do what is right. Written in stripped-down prose that mirrors Tito’s bleak world, the brief tale combines the plot twists of a mystery with a topical setting and theme that will appeal to reluctant readers.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Conflict, Point of View, Cause/Effect, Conclusions, Generalizations, Predictions, Tragedy Theme, Protagonist, Antagonist, Parallelism, peer pressure

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drive-by shooting, death of character

RELATED BOOKS:  The Outsiders, Scorpions, Monster, Books by the same author: The Final Eclipse, Moon Demon, The Talisman, Possession, Night Shade, The Sacrifice, The Haunting, The Secret Scroll, Divine One, Night Sun

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Westside Story (musical – 2003),  Once Upon a Time In the Hood (2004), The Outsiders (2008), Drive-by Shooting (documentary of gangs in Fort Worth, Texas – 1994), The Price of the American Dream (2004)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://digitalbooktalk.com/?p=30

http://teachers.askacop.org/gangsandschoolviolence.html

http://www.lessonplanspage.com/SSODoSomethingAboutSchoolViolenceUnitDay5Groupthink912.htm

http://www.cln.org/themes/youth_violence.html

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

Dragon Rider

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Dragon Rider

Author: Cornelia Funke

Page Length: 523

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: Boy and dragon meet on a quest to save the existence of the remaining dragons on Earth. Humans have decided to flood the dragon’s current homeland so the dragons must decide where to relocate if they are going to survive. Firedrake (the dragon) befriends Ben (the human runaway boy). Along with several others characters, the group travels across the world in search of the “Rim of Heaven” where the dragons may live out their lives in peace high above the clouds.

However, on their quest they are chased after by an evil-spirited dragon named Nettlebrand who is intent on destroying Firedrake. The story is jam-packed with a homunculus spy, elves, dwarves, a professor, a brownie, and others. Will Firedrake reach the “Rim of Heaven”? Does this place even exist? Will Nettlebrand get his revenge and destroy all the dragons in existence? What happens to the runaway boy?

REVIEW: Even though I am not a fan of fantasy books, I thought the characters developed in this story were great. There is continual action and the dialogue is rich. Fans of the Harry Potter series might enjoy this book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: voice, dialogue, good vs. evil, theme

RELATED BOOKS: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Thief Lord, Inkspell, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:

http://www.draconian.com/movie/movie.php (movies about dragons)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.funtrivia.com/trivia-quiz/Literature/Dragon-Rider-221505.html (quiz)

http://www.state.lib.la.us/empowerlibrary/DRAGON%20RIDER.pdf (lesson plans and website links)

http://www.jacksonmccormack.com/downloads/Dragon%20Rider%20Activities.pdf

http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-dragonrider.html (discussion questions)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Double Dutch

Double Dutch

Author: Sharon M. Draper

Page Length: 183

Reading Level: 5.5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY:  Delia and her teammates have a chance at winning the World Double Dutch Championships. Delia and her friends tremendously love double dutch. Delia would not know what to do if she could not jump. However, she has a secret that might keep her off the double dutch team next year. Delia’s friend, Randy, also shares a secret. Both Delia and Randy try to keep their secrets with great effort. Randy’s secret evokes a sense of loneliness and fear. At the same time, the Tolliver twins are planning a malicious event. Everyone in the school is trying to figure out what the Tolliver twins might do – causing rumors to spread. Also, the Tolliver twins may have a secret of their own. Unfortunately, on the day of the World Double Dutch Championship, Delia’s and Randy’s secrets collide threatening to destroy their friendship. On what should be the happiest day of Delia’s life, Randy and her friendship may be in jeopardy. She wonders why life can’t be as easy as double dutch is to her. What is Delia’s secret and how has she been able to keep it this long? What or who is threatening to expose the secret? If her secret is exposed, she fears that she may not be able to be on the double dutch team next year.  

REVIEW:  Double Dutch is a face-paced book and an easy read. The reader’s attention immediately is captured. The characters are well developed and teenagers can certainly identify with them. The author realistically portrays how teenagers think, act, behave, feel, and interact with one another. The book deals with truths that can be identified on a personal and public level. Delia has to keep a secret that, if known, may keep her off the double dutch team next year in which she finds solace.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  context clues, figurative language, connotation and denotation, main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, voice, mood, and tone

RELATED BOOKS:  The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake, Double Dutch by Veronica Chambers, Who am I Without Him? by Sharon Flake,  The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, Begging for Change by Sharon Flake, Money Hunger by Sharon Flake, Bang!  by Sharon Flake, Street Love  by Walter Dean Meyers, Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, Heaven by Angela Johnson,  Like Sisters on the Homefront by Rita Williams-Garcia. Books by the same author: Copper Sun, Forged by Fire, Tears of a Tiger, Battle of Jericho, Romiette and Julio, Darkness Before Dawn

MOVIES CONNECTIONS: Double Dutch Jump Roping (2002), Jump In! (2007)

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Rowdy Ropes: Jump Rope Activity Songs by Dinonastics, Jump Aerobics by Kimbo Educational, Jump In! (Soundtrack)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://sharondraper.com/lessonsdetail.asp?lesson=7

http://www.sandtpublications.com/f/Double_Dutch_Samples_for_Web_Site.pdf

http://www.simonandschuster.net/content/book.cfm?tab=22&pid=413195&agid=21

http://www.instructorweb.com/lesson/jumpropejam.asp

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

http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/learning_problem/dyslexia.html

http://www.usajumprope.org/    (scroll down on right to view all-star demo)

REVIEWED BY:  Tammy Leitzel

December 5, 2008

Dear Austin

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Dear Austin

Author: Elvira Woodruff

Page Length: 137

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Dear Austin is a story written in letters from one brother to another. 11 year old Levi is in Pennsylvania under the watchful eye of Miss Amelia until his healthy enough and old enough to travel. Levi’s adventures with his friends, taking those awful dance lessons, and witnessing the prejudice in his town are detailed. One day, Jupiter’s sister disappears. Everyone fears that she has been taken by slave traders. Jupiter and Levi embark upon a journey to save her before it’s too late. Undeterred by the dangers that lie ahead, they are determined to bring her back. Will they be able to find her or will they become victims themselves?

REVIEW: This book was an excellent look at what life might have been like for a young boy during the 1850’s. The language and habits of the townspeople are what one would expect from a rural setting. The author handles the topic of slavery well. The reader experiences first hand the prejudice and racist feelings of a lady in town; Woodruff also introduces the reader to what it would have been like standing on the auction block. The story is moving and the ending realistic. This book is a great tool for teaching about slavery and the Underground Railroad in general without examining the depth of the atrocities that took place.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, foreshadowing, elements of plot, author’s purpose, connecting text to historical text, context clues

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: slave auction, racist remarks and treatment

RELATED BOOKS: Dear Levi, The Orphan of Ellis Island, The Mummy Maker, Children of the Longhouse, Night John

RELATED MOVIES: “Night John,” “Spartacus,” “North and South: The Collection”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://litplans.com/titles/Dear_Austin_Letters_from_the_Underground_Railroad_Elvira_Woodruff.html

http://www.ewoodruff.com/Teachers/TipsAustin.html

http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1767/Woodruff-Elvira-1951.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

November 3, 2008

Dogsong

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Dogsong

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 177

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Russel Susskit lives in a dying village – dying because the modern world has changed it. Diesel oil and snow machines are disturbing to him. Russel yearns to learn of the old ways. Oogruk, a village shaman who owns a team of dogs, shares the songs and stories of the old ways with Russel. Russel sets out on his own voyage to find himself. Alone in the arctic wilderness with only a team of dogs, ancient weapons, and his desire to find his own song, Russel embarks upon a long journey of self discovery that reveals new challenges at every turn.

REVIEW: Paulsen delivers yet another adventure survival story. Like many of his other books, this story focuses on a character who must endure harsh conditions and become completely self-sufficient in order to survive. The beauty of the story is in Paulsen’s attention to detail with the sensory appeal of the sights and sounds of times past. He is able to relate respect for one’s elders and how important it was for Russel to learn from the “old grandfather.” Paulsen also makes an excellent teaching point about how critical self-sufficiency is for survival and that the true journey to adulthood comes when one discovers who they truly are. The dreamlike sequences and songs may be difficult for the students to relate to and might best be introduced with a lesson about how dreams and songs told stories of past events or were interpreted to be warnings or foretelling of what might lie ahead.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, word choice in writing, mood, tone, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Violence – death of animals

RELATED BOOKS: Hatchet, The Winter Room, Dancing Carl, Trekker, Sentries

 

RELATED MOVIES: “The Alaskan Eskimo,” “Nanook of the North”

 

   

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.indiana.edu/~reading/ieo/bibs/paulsen.html

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

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

www.bookhooks.com

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

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Down

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Down

Author: Norah McClintock

Page Length: 103

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Remy has just been released from a nine month stay at a juvenile correction facility for assaulting a man who insulted his girlfriend.   While in jail, he did not return letters to his family or girlfriend.  Upon his release, he finds his mother and sister treating him like a criminal.  His girlfriend, Asia, has a new boyfriend, Marcus.   Marcus and his friends are in a rivalry with some of Remy’s friends from school.   Asia knows that Marcus has a knife and wants Remy to talk to him-to warn him what can happen in reality.  Remy is suffering from a lot of anger.  He has to learn to control it and to cope with the people in his surroundings.

REVIEW: Norah McClintock has written another suspenseful book for the reluctant reader.  I thought the book was good because it deals with prejudice, peer pressure, romantic and family issues, and violence.  All of these subjects are matters of pressure that high school students must face each day. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Marijuana use and some profanity but it is not inappropriate for the high school audience. 

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

RELATED BOOKS: Bang, Marked, Snitch, Tell

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Gridiron Gang (2006), Stomp the Yard (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teensreadtoo.com/Down.html

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/DownTG.pdf

www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=432

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 6, 2008

Double Helix

Double Helix

Author: Nancy Werlin

Page Length: 260

Reading Level: 7.3

Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Eli Samuels is just about to graduate from high school. Eli has his valedictorian speech planned, just got a job, and has a great girlfriend. He feels on top of the world – almost. His father isn’t thrilled with his new job offer and his mother is wasting away in a nursing home where she suffers from Huntington’s disease. Eli could be carrying the Huntington gene. His father won’t tell him why he despises Dr. Wyatt, his new employer. Eli has always known there was something different about himself. He meets Kayla, a gorgeous, perfect woman and his whole world turns upside down. Nothing is at it seems. He and his father argue constantly, and Eli feels angry with his girlfriend. A startling discovery in his mother’s belongings and a secret elevator shaft at the lab lead Eli on the path to discovering who he really is and just what Dr. Quincy Wyatt has been up to for the last twenty years.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this book! Werlin’s pacing, suspense, and characters were excellent. The book constantly has the reader thinking about what the secret could be (which is great for our students – wondering what will happen next). Great questions are raised about ethical concerns and just how far selection should go. The author makes an excellent point about the value of all human life, the need for family, and the limitations that should be considered and reconsidered before making some scientific decisions.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: author’s purpose, conflict, plot, generalizations, predictions, inference, characters, sequence of events

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: sexual references (no explicit details), brief violence

RELATED BOOKS: Black Mirror, Impossible, The Rules of Survival, Locked Inside, The Killer’s Cousin

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.nancywerlin.com/helix.htm

http://www.nancywerlin.com/helix_guide.htm

http://www.teachervision.fen.com/suspense-fiction/printable/55166.html

http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-doublehelix/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

May 1, 2008

Danger Zone

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Danger Zone

Author: David Klass

Page Length: 232

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jimmy Doyle is a small town all star basketball player in Minnesota. One night, scouts visit the game and invite Jimmy to play on the Teen Dream Team for the USA. He will spend the summer traveling in Europe and playing with the top teen athletes in the world. Jimmy is worried about his family but he reluctantly accepts.

When Jimmy arrives he is met with resistance. Not everyone thinks him worthy of being on the team. Jimmy must work hard to overcome his own fears and feelings of inadequacy. He was chosen for a reason; when he finds his zone, there is no stopping him.

The Dream Team encounters hatred and racism in a game against the Germans. Soon there are threats of violence and everyone is on alert for a terrorist act. Some of the team members return to the states. Will Jimmy stay and face his biggest fears yet? Can the Dream Team stay focused and unify to defeat the other teams and clinch the World Championship? Will they even make it back home alive?

REVIEW: This is a great book. Students who love action and sports will enjoy reading this book. As a teaching tool, it also addresses stereotypes, racism, cultural diversity, perseverance, and strength of character. This book would be good for a classroom novel read aloud with discussion.

Klass’s main character, Jimmy, is a strong role model. He remains dedicated to his sport. He places the interest of his family over those of himself. Despite his fame, he remains true to his girlfriend and his own belief system. His courage and desire to overcome prejudice make him a notable character and a great example.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: summarization, compare and contrast, cause and effect, sequence of events, predictions, inferences

TOUCHY AREAS: terroristic threats, ethnic and racial tension

RELATED BOOKS: Wrestling with Honor, California Blue, Home of the Braves, You Don’t Know Me

RELATED MOVIES: Mighty Ducks, Remember the Titans, Hoosiers

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://content.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=828_type=Book_typeId=2712

http://litplans.com/titles/Danger_Zone_David_Klass.html

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

http://www.bookrags.com/biography/david-klass-aya/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 2, 2008

Darkness Before Dawn

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Darkness Before Dawn

Author: Sharon Draper

Page Length: 272

Reading Level: 5

REVIEW: Darkness Before Dawn details the life of Keisha who is the senior class president of Hazelwood High School. The front cover announces this book as “the dramatic conclusion to the powerful Hazelwood High School trilogy.” However, not having read the others in the trilogy, this story stands alone and gives enough hints about past events to entice the reader to want to read the prior books in the series. Keisha is in her senior year and is currently recovering from the suicide of her former boyfriend, Andy. She harbors some guilt about not being there for him and like others in her high school class; she grieves because her friend since kindergarten is gone.

Most of the story focuses on Keisha’s struggles to prepare for college and overcome her grief. The new year begins with a handsome, new face on campus – Jonathon Hathaway, the 23 year old son of the principal. Jonathon is mature, good looking, and it seems so much more of a man than the boys still in high school. He turns his attention to Keisha. Pursuing her gently at first, his attentions become more concentrated. Keisha parents don’t want her seeing an older boy. Keisha doesn’t tell her friends about meeting him or talking with him on the phone late at night. Jonathon’s experience and smoothness are overwhelming Keisha’s defenses. She begins to sneak around and lie to her parents to see him. One night, Keisha discovers that she’s in way over her head? Why does everything have to be so secretive and what are Jonathon’s intentions? Graduation looms near, and Keisha’s difficult times are far from over. “Keisha is once again plunged into the darkness she’s fought so hard to escape. Will Keisha ever be able to find her way back into the light?” (Draper) 

I enjoyed reading the story although at times I had to concentrate to stay engaged. The book teaches a strong lesson about date rape and recognizing that clandestine meetings under the hood of secrecy are lacking in some authenticity. I would recommend this book to young women who all too often fall prey to the older, smoother, more experienced guy. The lessons Keisha learns are valuable ones and girls often fail to understand why mom and dad forbid them dating older guys. The story also shows perseverance and strength and holds true to the lesson many people need to learn – we have to believe in ourselves and let our spirit shine despite the slings and arrows it endures from others. The language is overall appropriate – plenty of high school slang authentic to the characters.  

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://sharondraper.com/lessonsdetail.asp?lesson=3

http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2004/9/26/133153/860 

http://parisbookclub.zbookclub.com/book_finders/0689851340-darkness-before-dawn-sharon-m-draper

http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/relationships/date_rape.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08uLS5SlfZg  (date rape Public Service Announcement with statistics)

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

March 1, 2008

Dead-End Job

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Dead-End Job

Author: Vicki Grant

Page Length: 104

Reading Level: 3.6

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Mystery

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Frances works at a local convenience store. When the traffic becomes slow, she turns to a sheet of paper and draws. She loves the art of drawing. One day, a stranger, named Devin, walks into the store and notices Frances drawing. He uses this to his advantage. After taking a look at Frances’ drawing, Devin makes up a long drawn out story that he is related to Tom Orser, a rich artist in the town. Devin goes on to say that he has made a lot of money by recently signing a recording contract and wants to impress his father. Frances has a hard time believing that Tom Orser is Devin’s father at first. However Frances finds the new boy charming. Even though Frances has a boy-friend, Devin appears to be a “breath of fresh air” to her. They begin to talk at times in the store, the library, and other places that Devin happens to show up. 

 

Now there are moments that make Frances think twice about this boy, especially when he calls her by her first name, when Frances never told him who she was initially. Frances finds this strange, yet shakes it off. Later on Devin begins to shower Frances with gifts, including a pastel set. Frances hides many of the events that happen between herself and Devin from her boyfriend Leo. They are harmless acts but Frances knows that Leo is quite a jealous person. Later on, Frances comes up with a plan to set her best friend up with Devin in part to steer Devin’s interest away from her. Frances thinks it will work out great until she realizes that Devin does not want to date Frances’ best-friend or any other friend – Devin wants to date Frances!

 

On page 45, Frances begins to realize that Devin is stalking her. In an argument between the two of them, Devin mentions the name of a movie Leo and Frances rented together recently and talks about how he is so different than Leo. Furthermore, a picture of Frances from Devin on her locker with “XOXO Devin” furthers Frances’ suspicions that Devin is infatuated with her.

 

While Frances is working, Tom Orser walks in. As he comes up to pay, Frances questions him about Devin. Tom Orser says he does not know anything about a boy named Devin. Tom Orser does not have a son. This sends up a major red flag to Frances that Devin is up to something. Questions race through Frances’ mind: how does Devin know my street address, how does he know my e-mail address, how does he get pictures taken of me at all these different places?

 

One night while Frances is working, Devin manages to sneak in the back of the store and set up a dinner scene with a candle, chicken, a carving knife, and wine. Frances asks that he leave. A violent altercation occurs and the climax of the story occurs on page 96 with Devin about to kill Frances for her lack of commitment to him. When Devin says to Frances, that “I need to have you”, this illustrates the pinnacle of Devin’s obsession with Frances. As Frances is about to be murdered, she comes up with an idea that she could draw a portrait of Devin for the police to see as a remembrance so this would not just be another murder. Devin agrees to this. And as he is sitting still as she draws, Frances takes the pencil and rams it up his right nostril. As Frances runs away, Leo is seen pulling up to the convenience store. The Epilogue notes that Devin was indeed lying about many of the things he claimed to be true. He goes to court for stalking, kidnapping, and attempted murder with the idea that he and Frances will be together again soon.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: I thought that the ending was very eerie, yet satisfying. The story had great internal and external dialogue. Teachers could have a discussion on why authors choose certain titles for books Also, teachers could use this book to address the skill of voice, making predictions, and use of narration. I highly recommend this book!

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

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

 

http://www.safehorizon.org/page.php?page=whatdoifstalked

 

http://www.crisiscounseling.com/Articles/Stalking.htm

 

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

 

February 10, 2008

Death Wind

Filed under: D — thebookreviews @ 10:51 pm
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Death Wind

Author: William Bell

Reading Level: 3.2

Page Length: 83

Genre: Realistic Fiction

 

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: Allie, a teenage girl finds herself at a turning point in her life.  She can’t stand the daily fights her parents have, which are usually about her.  She is failing three classes, her boyfriend dumped her two weeks ago, and she has missed her period.  Decisions she makes at this point, could affect her life forever.  She feels her problems are too difficult to deal with at home, so she decides to run away with her 17 year old friend who is a professional skateboarder.  They too have obstacles to over come, but nothing prepared them for the storm that was about to hit.

 

This book deals with struggles that many teens face, parents, school, and dealing with decisions made, and those that need to be made.  Fate and Mother Nature pulls Allie back to her home town where she has to grow up quickly.   Will she do the right thing?

 

Death Wind is somewhat outdated and comes unraveled a bit too quickly through a series of climaxes that may leave the reader disappointed.  The dialogue is written by an adult trying to sound like a teenager and fails miserably.  The characters are stereotypical to the point they are nearly unbelievable, however, there is a message that can’t be ignored.  There are a few plot twists, that although they don’t stay tight, they do allow the reader to be engaged.  I found myself wanting to know if her parents are alive, and if they are, will they forgive her for her actions.  There are simple and complicated life lessons woven through out Death Wind, but are not treated in an adult nature and that could be a turn off to teens.  At the same time, it is a book to help uncover problems teens may have, but deal with it in a G rated manner. 

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: This is a good book for a classroom discussion because it is a short read and opens up sensitive (and typical) issues that teens may face.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.tornadoproject.com/misc/poetry.htm

www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/earth/Atmosphere/tornado/formation.html

 

www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/15/g35/tornadosafety.html

 

http://ibrary.thinkquest.org

 

www.coolnurse.com/pregnancy.htm

 

www.1800runaway.org

 

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides.pdf

 

REVIEWED BY: Stacy Campbell

 

 

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