The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010


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Eldest (Inheritance Cycle #2) by Christopher Paolini: Book Cover


Author: Christopher Paolini


Page Length: 668  


Reading Level: 8


Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Eldest begins where the first book of the Inheritance trilogy, Eragon, ends. The land of Alagesia is threatened by Galbatorix and his Empire.  Eragon and his dragon Saphira, last of the Riders, are the only hope for survival of the inhabitants of the kingdom.

They travel to the elven city of Ellesmera, where both Eragon and Saphira are taught magic, fighting skills, and the ancient language. While Eragon and Saphira are undergoing training, Roran, Eragon’s cousin is the target of an attack by Ra’zac and it is his responsibility to lead the villagers out of danger.

Both Eragon and Roran engage in many obstacles while they unknowingly move in the same direction.  When their forces meet up, they must engage in a battle with the forces of Galbatorix.  Eragon learns a shocking secret about his parents, is put off by a romantic desire, and commits to saving his people.

REVIEW: This is the sequel to Eragon, the first of the trilogy, Inheritance.  Paolini was only 15 when he began his writings about Eragon, also a young teen. The adventure involves many characters with distinct gifts of magic, intellectual, and athletic abilities.  The setting covers a vast area of mountains, “The Swine”, oceans and rivers.  The battles are described in detail and emotions are drawn as the reader becomes involved.

I would recommend this book to higher level readers who enjoy extensive reading and vocabulary.  Those who enjoyed The Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy would especially like this book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Vocabulary, Character, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Setting, Theme, and Sequence of Events


RELATED BOOKS: Eragon and Brisingr


RELATED WEBSITES:…/Novel-Ideas-ChristopherPaolini-s-Eldest

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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

August 30, 2009

Eyes of the Emperor

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Eyes of the Emperor

Auhtor: Graham Salisbury

Page Length: 6

Reading Level: 229     

Genre: Realistic Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Pearl Harbor (2001)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


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Eclipse (Book 3 in the Twilight series)

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Page Length: 629

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: With Edward back in full force in Bella’s life, her desire to become a vampire after high school graduation strengthens. However, the vampire Victoria is back with an army of newborn vampires which wreak havoc on the nearby Seattle area. Victoria, who still harbors intense revenge against Bella, sets her site on the town of Forks! Victoria plans to set these newborn vampires onto Bella!

Meanwhile, Bella becomes engaged to Edward and spends some of her free-time with Jake. During this time, Jake’s feelings for Bella intensify. Later in the woods, Bella and Jake kiss, however Bella quickly explains to Jake that even though she loves him, her love for Edward is much greater. She also reiterates the fact that she still desires to be a vampire.

Both the vampires and the werewolves of Forks become aware of the approaching newborn vampires and form an alliance for the primary purpose of protecting Bella. Due to a set of circumstances, both Edward and Jake become part of the fight. The intensity at which they battle against the newborn vampires is symbolic of the intensity of love that both Edward and Jake share for Bella. Thankfully, Victoria and the newborn vampires are destroyed.

Eclipse ends with Jake receiving a wedding invitation to Bella and Edward’s nuptials.

REVIEW: I did not enjoy this book in the Twilight series as much as I did the previous two. I felt much of the beginning was very slow. However, I liked how the vampires and werewolves combined forces for the purpose of Bella’s protection.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, cause and effect, setting, comparison / contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Twilight, New Moon, Breaking Dawn

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Twilight” (2008), “New Moon” (2009)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

November 3, 2008


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Author: Patricia Murdoch

Page Length: 102

Reading Level: 2.8

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Julie, a little overweight, was an easy target for Dana, the most popular girl at school, to make fun of and ridicule.  Dana notices that it is not only her, but also anyone that Dana can make a negative remark to, she does.  Julie only wishes there is some way she might be able to give Dana a little dose of her own medicine.  One night as her brother, Zach, returns home from a party, Julie learns that Dana was at the party.  Not only was she at the party without her boyfriend, but also Zach has pictures of her drinking and inappropriately dressed.  Julie now has the ammunition she needs to destroy Dana’s reputation. 

REVIEW: This story addresses the subject of bullying that is prevalent in the school system from junior high through high school.  Students seem to constantly be putting others down in an effort to make themselves look better.  The author portrays the characters in such a manner that the reader can easily identify with a love/hate relationship for the accused and accuser.  After Julie gets her revenge on Dana, she realizes it doesn’t feel so good to hurt someone and acts on that by saving Dana’s life.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Underage alcohol and marijuana use.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Point of View, Character, and Foreshadowing

RELATED BOOKS: Story of a Girl

RELATED WEBSITES:,,,…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/ExposureTG.pdf  

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

October 30, 2008

Exit Point

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Exit Point

Author: Laura Langston

Page Length: 110

Reading Level:

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Logan has already died in a car crash when this book begins, but he doesn’t realize he is dead yet. As the book progresses we find out he died before he was supposed to, taking exit point 2 out of his life instead of waiting until 5, the last exit point for all people. He struggles to accept what has happened and then to protect his younger sister from a pedophile from where he is now.

REVIEW: The book was a little odd and took me a few pages to get into. It reminded me of an old story we used to tell when I was in high school about a teenager who was killed after driving drunk. Logan sees and feels his parent’s grief at his funeral. He realizes the sick plans an uncle has for his younger sister and he feel frustrated about trying to help when no one can hear or see him. The tension builds pretty well until Logan is able to help his sister and accept his death and move on, but I didn’t find this to be a particularly enjoyable book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Use of Characterization, characters change over time

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Many pages, page 110 – read carefully!!!


REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

September 30, 2008

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan

Page Length: 262

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: As the story begins, Esperanza is living with her parents on their large ranch in Mexico.  Esperanza is six years old and loves spending time with her father who teaches her how to “feel” the land.  The story quickly moves to six years later with Esperanza waiting for her father to return from the day’s work on the ranch.  Esperanza is anticipating his arrival because it is the end of harvest and the next day is her birthday.  There will be a grand party celebrating both.

However, her father does not return and Alfonso, the boss of the field workers, brings the news to Esperanza, her mother, and grandmother that her father has been ambushed and killed.  Many people come to mourn his death and give the family their sympathy.  Esperanza’s two uncles come every day to “sort” through her father’s paperwork.  They bring the news to Esperanza’s mother that the ranch belongs to them and that she can remain on the ranch only if she agrees to marry one of them.  Also, they plan to send Esperanza away to boarding school.

The only solution the mother and daughter have is to move to California with Alfonso, Hortensia, and Miguel to join others who have migrated to the United States to find work and a better life.  They plan to work in the fields helping with the various crops that are grown in California.  This offers a better life to Alfonso’s family, but not to Esperanza and her mother.  They are leaving a life of prominence, luxury and wealth to live with their former employees in dirt floor cabins.

Esperanza has a very hard time dealing with the loss of her father, separation from her grandmother and living in poverty.  All the people of the community know her story and she is ridiculed by some of the other girls.  After her mother becomes ill, Esperanza realizes it is her responsibility to work and make money for the family.  She becomes one of the better field workers and saves her money so that she will be able to bring her grandmother from Mexico to California to join the family.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book very much.  It is a story of “riches to rags” and how Esperanza overcomes the obstacles of living in a new country with a very different lifestyle.  The book is written in English, but several Spanish words are used, which would be good to use in vocabulary development. On pages 246-247, the writing is an excellent example of descriptive and summative writing.   I think this would be an excellent book to read as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Setting, Characters, Spanish/English Vocabulary, Sequence of Events, Historical Context

RELATED BOOKS: Becoming Naomi Leon, The House on Mango Street, A Year Down Yonder, A Long Way from Chicago, Hitch

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Of Mice and Men” & “The Grapes of Wrath”


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

September 21, 2008

Every Second Counts

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Every Second Counts

Author: Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins

Page Length: 246

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Autobiography

PLOT SUMMARY: In the second of two books written by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins, Lance tells of life after having cancer and becoming cancer free.  He shares the training routine he goes through to prepare for the Tour de France.  Then, he guides the reader through his second Tour de France race and the following victories. 

In addition to the training and competitive parts of his life, he tells how he had to come to terms with “life after cancer.”  He had to convince himself he was not going to die and start to live like he wasn’t going to die.  Lance faces issues with friends, competitors, his family and time with his children. He shares how with becoming a celebrity he had to learn how to find balance in his life. On page 57, he expresses how he believes suffering can be a good enhancer to life.

REVIEW: After reading two books by Lance Armstrong, I find that I view him as motivation and inspiration to those who have survived life-changing experiences.  He demonstrates how to fight back and overcome obstacles.  Although I found this book to be inspirational (p. 210-213) and challenging, it was somewhat offensive to me, in the harsh language he uses.

This is a good book to read for cancer victims or those affected by cancer.  Boys would enjoy this more than girls. 

 AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Cause and Effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Rough language quoted by the author

RELATED BOOKS: It’s Not About the Bike, Lance Armstrong: We’re One Man’s Battle Against Fate, Fame, Love, Death, Scandal and a Few Other Rivals on the Road, Lance Armstrong: The Race of His Life, On The Bike With Lance Armstrong, Lance Armstrong, Learning About Resilience from the Life of Lance Armstrong

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Breaking Away” (1979), “2 Seconds” (1998), “20 Shades of Pink” (1976)

RELATED WEBSITES:…/every_second_counts_by_lance_armstrong.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 23, 2008

Energy Transfers

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Energy Transfers

Author: Nigel Saunders and Steven Chapman         

Page Length:  48

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction           

PLOT SUMMARY: Energy Transfers begins with the definition of what energy transfers actually are and what happens in an energy transfer.  Then, the book describes the many different types of energy, including: chemical energy, nuclear energy, and sound energy.  It describes how energy is stored and lost.  Also, the book discussed electricity and the energy that it produces.

REVIEW: This is the second non-fiction book I have read by Nigel Saunders and Steven Chapman. Again, they use a format of writing the text in the center of the pages, then enhancing the information with “Fast Facts”, a “Word Store”, authentic pictures, graphs, and diagrams to support their information. 

This is an excellent book for teaching about energy transfers, but is also a good book for those who love science, facts, and non-fiction books.  It could easily be used as a source for the lower level reader to use for a science project.  It has a wealth of information about energy.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Informative Texts, Cause and Effect, Compare and Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Energy Files: Water, Solar, Wind, Science Topics: Energy, Energy Essentials: Fossil Fuels


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

April 30, 2008

Everything on a Waffle

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Everything on a Waffle

Author: Polly Horvath

Page Length: 150

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story of Primrose begins with a fierce storm at sea. Her mother leaves her in the care of Miss Perfidy and takes off on the boat to find her father. Her parents never return and are presumed dead by everyone except Primrose. Primrose insists and asks people aren’t there ever times when they know something isn’t true just because they know it. In the meantime, Uncle Jack takes Primrose in. Her guidance counselor, Miss Honeycut, creates problems; she pursues Uncle Jack and wants him without a niece. Primrose finds a friend in Miss Bowzer who teaches her to cook in her restaurant where everything comes on a waffle. Accidents happen and Primrose’s fortunes continue to fall. She is placed in a foster home, loses someone dear to her, and continues to wait along the shore for her parents. Despite everything, Primrose refuses to give up on what she knows in her heart has to be true.

REVIEW: Everything on a Waffle is a touching, humorous story. The adventures and misadventures of Primrose are entertaining and at times saddening. Readers experience Primrose’s belief in her parents return and begin to hope with her despite the mounting evidence to the contrary. This is a great story of the survival of spirit despite adversity. Primrose, her friends, and family never give up either.

Of particular interest to some students might also be the ending of each chapter with a recipe related to its contents.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: descriptive writing and similes: ‘the feeling of joy swept through my soul like fire up a vacuum,” use of dialogue in writing, elements of plot, symbolism

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: smoking by Primrose’s mother and Miss Perfidy, children bullying and belittling Primrose

RELATED BOOKS: The Trolls, No More Cornflakes, My One Hundred Adventures, The Pepins and their Problems


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 29, 2008

Empire State Building

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Empire State Building

Author: Elizabeth Mann

Illustrator: Alan Witschonke

Page Length: 47

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Non-fiction

REVIEW: I was amazed at how much interesting information this “picture book” about the Empire State Building contained. Picture books now-a-days are under-rated. Many are written at high reading levels and the wealth of information inside them is endless. This book is one such example.

The idea for the Empire State Building construction started with a partnership between two powerful men – one of whom was a former governor of New York. Due to advancements in industrialization, the discovery that taller buildings were more useful, and the need for men to show off their wealth, Alfred Smith and John Raskob envisioned a building that soared above every thing in the NYC skyline. Their vision came to light after 19 months, 1250 feet, 6 worker deaths, and numerous economic hardships during the Great Depression. 

Two little known facts that I read about in this book were that Native Americans in the area assisted in the construction of the sky scraper, and the building was built in such a way that every office had close access to a window-view.

Author Elizabeth Mann describes it eloquently when she states that, “the Empire State Building was a hopeful sight for New Yorkers who watched it climb like a rocket from a hole in the ground during the Great Depression.” Even over 70 years after it’s “ribbon cutting ceremony” the sky scraper remains an architectural gem.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: text features (captions, diagrams, facts, maps, glossary, time-lines), compare/contrast (before and after photos, Empire State Building vs. Chrysler Building)

RELATED BOOKS: Elizabeth Mann has written books over other U.S. landmarks such as The Brooklyn Bridge & Hoover Dam.

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: (King Kong & The Howdy Doody Show, pages 44-45)

RELATED WEBSITES: (Link to a listing of movies in which the Empire State Building has appeared) (official site of the Empire State Building),,2184617,00.html (Interactive Slideshow and Video)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

April 23, 2008

Emergency Room

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Emergency Room

Author: Caroline B. Cooney

Page Length: 213

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story takes place on an ordinary day during the hours of 6:00pm and 9:00pm. The setting shifts between a city college campus, a major highway, a city street, and a city hospital. The settings themselves are generic however the characters and what happens to them are not. The story flows in a time sequence with shifts from one setting and character’s issue to the next.

Jersey is a college student who, on her way to buy some shoes, is caught in the middle of a gun fight between local gang members. She is rushed to the emergency room. She eventually makes it, and at the end of the story, is resting in the ICU.

Anna Maria is a young girl who is in charge of taking care of her two siblings (Yasmin and Jose). She finds herself without electricity and TV in her apartment. Anna Maria ventures out to the emergency room for the comfort of those things in which she does not have. However, she does not expect to be caught in the middle of gang activity in the E.R. while enjoying the nice air-conditioning!

Alec is a young man who borrows his friend’s motorcycle for a brief trip, yet drives a little too far off course. He subsequently crashes head-on into the pavement and later dies in the hospital.

Roo is a young single mother of twins (Cal & Val). She is without much support from her family as she has decided to live in the city away from mom and dad. Roo decides to take a trip to the E.R. (faking a fever with one of her children) in order to gain some relief from them. During her stay in the E.R., one of Roo’s babies is kidnapped by a gang member (Dunk) in an attempt to confront another rival gang member behind the nurse’s desk. Dunk is unsuccessful in his venture, eventually tossing Roo’s baby off to a volunteer worker, Seth.

Seth is one of the main characters in the book, along with Diana. Both are volunteer workers at the hospital, hoping to gain real-life experience for their futures. As the story progresses, their mild flirting increases while Seth and Diana realize that in the midst of chaos and stressful situations, companionship is important.      

REVIEW: I really enjoy the author’s writing style, as it is easy to comprehend and follow. The use of many characters and settings makes for a varied story-line. Not only was this book filled with action, it also provided some great descriptions of a hospital. There were many aspects of a hospital environment that I was unfamiliar with, and I felt that after reading this story, I am much more knowledgeable of the E.R. A good book for me is one in which the action is fast-paced, yet new knowledge is acquired. This story would fall into such a category. The reader must read pages 28-33 which paint a vivid description of Anna Maria’s environment. Each chapter ending of this book left me wanting to immediately read the next chapter. A must read for kids and adults!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Point-of-View (shift from chapter to chapter), setting/descriptions (page 76 & 145), similes (pages 40, 65, 81, 91, & 149), abbreviations (ex. GSW, SOB), and how to write a good ending to a chapter

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the descriptions of the wounded are not too dramatic as to offend the average reader

RELATED BOOKS: Flight #116 is Down (author’s writing style of tragic events)

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: TV Shows: E.R., Grey’s Anatomy, Chicago Hope

RELATED WEBSITES: (how an emergency room works) (report on emergency rooms) (Emergency Room Nurse blog)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

January 3, 2008

Earth Erupts: Volcanoes

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Earth Erupts: Volcanoes

Author: Mary Colson

Page Length: 48 (including glossary and index)

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Non-fiction


REVIEW & AREAS FOR TEACHING: These books are excellent teaching tools no matter what grade level they are being utilized with. Non-fiction sources don’t get much better than this. The graphics are superb, the interesting facts fascinating, and the breakdown of the material is wonderful (it’s a shame science textbooks aren’t written in this format).


The book is divided into 8 chapters. Each chapter contains photos with captions, quotes from spectators or scientists who have witnessed a volcanic event, hot words and hot facts about the topic. Thinking Maps would be excellent tools for breaking down and analyzing the information provided in the Colson texts. Page 8 even begins with a flow map of how a volcano erupts. Each set of pages contains so much information that several readings may be required. These books would also be excellent tools for group work and addressing individual skills.


Colson begins by explaining the beauty and danger of a volcano. She delves into the earth to reveal where volcanoes come from and why they explode. The reader learns about ancient history and how the Romans and even the Hawaiians have believed that volcanoes stemmed from their gods and goddesses.  Next, Colson details the science of volcanoes by examining the composition of the earth and plate tectonics. She details the three types of volcanoes (an excellent tree map) and the VEI, Volcanic Explosivity Index. She goes on to examine famous volcanoes both past and present and to pose the question: when and where will the next big eruption be and what will be the devastating effects? Eruption styles are detailed (another great tree map). Life after an eruption is examined; and, as in every Colson books, safety tips are detailed. The book concludes with for organizations and search tips for finding out more. The last two pages contain a glossary and an index.




REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


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