The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

Here Today

 

Here Today

Author: Ann M. Martin

Page Length: 308

Reading Level: 5

 

Genre: Fiction

 

Career Connections: Teacher, Model, Construction  

PLOT SUMMARY: Living on Witch Street in 1963 with a mother who dreams of being an actress is not the ideal life Ellie Dingman would ask for, but she appears to deal with her circumstances in a very mature manner for a sixth grader. While her mother Doris participates in community plays and takes dance lessons, Ellie makes sure her little brother and sister, Albert and Marie are fed and nurtured.  It is after the assassination of JFK, that Ellie sees her family unit beginning to dissolve.

The inhabitants of Witch Street are ridiculed by the home townspeople.  The children are of Jewish descent and are raised by an unwed mother. Ellie’s mother is an eccentric model/actress.  There are also two unrelated women who live together who are accused of being “lesbians”.  The children are hazed daily on their bus ride to school and frequent malicious incidents happen in the neighborhood.

Unaware of these events, Doris Day Dingman, searches for her identity while abandoning her husband and children.  Desperate to see her mother, Ellie uses her savings to travel to New York City to find out where her mother is living and working.  Ellie discovers that her mother has taken a job at a department store and lives in a small one room apartment.

Upon her return home, Ellie begins to stand up for not only herself but for her family and neighborhood.

REVIEW: Set in 1963, the book was interesting for me to read as I could relate to the exact time of JFK’s assassination and the feelings of the country that are reflected.  The story is tragic in that it characterizes a mother who seeks her own wants and needs rather than those of her family. Also, the ridicule and humiliation the children endure at school is cruel.  However, Ellie’s character rises above all the hurt to help her family and friends overcome obstacles.

There is an interesting Afterward in the back of the book.  I believe teen girls would enjoy this book, as well as, any women who remember the year of 1963.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Historical Context, Setting, Character, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast, and Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: So B. It, Becoming Naomi Leon, The Center of Everything

RELATED WEBSITES:

 www.pecentral.org/lessonideas/health/familysocialhealthunitplan_smiller.pdf

http://www.edu.warhol.org/pdf/ulp_hcc_hm_s2.pdf 

www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=36

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Soft Fruit (1999), This Boy’s Life (1993), JFK (1991)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 19, 2010

Hoops

Hoops by Walter Dean Myers: Book Cover

Hoops

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 183

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

Career Connections: Professional Basketball Player

PLOT SUMMARY: Lonnie is about to finish high school when he is approached to play on a neighborhood basketball team in a tournament that will have college scouts attending.  Lonnie joins the team with hopes that he may actually receive a scholarship.  However, when Cal, the neighborhood wine-o shows up and says that he is the team coach, Lonnie’s hopes fade.

Cal challenges Lonnie to a three basket one-on-one pick up game and Lonnie learns that Cal does “have a game”.  Cal manages to get the team uniforms and trains them to work together as a team.  He is continually on Lonnie to do better, but Lonnie begins to like Cal. The bond between the two builds as they practice and the team competes.  Lonnie begins to think of Lonnie as a friend and father figure. 

But Cal has a past that haunts him and occasionally does not show up for practice and games. When Lonnie finds him, Cal confesses to him about why he quit playing basketball professionally.  The two form a bond but Cal again disappoints Lonnie and the team.  It is through Cal’s discreet actions that Lonnie learns not only the game of basketball but the game of life.

REVIEW: Myers depicts his love for basketball in this book about basketball on the streets of Harlem.  Boys of the African American race will like this as it is written in slang which makes the story more believable.  There is a lot of basketball action but the story’s theme focuses on the true game of life.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None that are not content and age appropriate

AREAS OF TEACHING: Theme, Character, Setting, Generalizations. Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Night Hoops, Slam, Shooter

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3687

www.selfesteem2go.com/team-building-lesson-plans.html

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Hoop Dreams (1994), City Dump: The Story of the 1951 CCNY Basketball Scandal (1994), Game Day (1999), Streetballers (2009), More than a Game (2009)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Hannah’s Touch

Hannah's Touch by Laura Langston: Book Cover

Hannah’s Touch

 

Author: Laura Langston

 

Page Length: 132

  

Reading Level: 3.1

 

Genre: Fiction

 

Career Connections: Pharmacist, Psychiatrist, Teacher, Minister   

PLOT SUMMARY: Hannah has not been able to let the death of her boyfriend, Logan, go.  She still wears his St. Christopher medallion and mourns him daily.  One day, she leaves her job at the pharmacy and goes to a field of flowers and thinks about Logan.  As she is leaving the meadow, she feels a sharp sting, and realizes she has been stung by a bee.  What she doesn’t realize is that she is having an allergic reaction as she stumbles back to the pharmacy parking lot.

While experiencing the reaction, Hannah has an out of body experience where she feels like she sees Logan.  Amazingly, she discovers that she now has a gift of healing – M. C.’s dog, Alan’s thumb, and Lexi’s nose, then Allen, whom she has blamed for Logan’s death.

As Hannah wrestles with her new found gift, anger towards Allen, and grieving for Logan, she comes to understand a message that was sent to her.

REVIEW: The question of supernatural healing is the theme of the book and would spark interest among teens.  The interest level would be appealing to girls who are reluctant readers.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: occasional mild profanity

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Point of View, Personification

RELATED BOOKS: The Changeover, The Haunting

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.orcabook.com

www.oberf.org

www.lauralangston.com

www.suite101.com/reference/fact_and_opinion

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: My Girl (1991), The Sixth Sense (1999)

BOOK REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Here Today

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Here Today by Martin: Book Cover

Here Today

Author: Ann Martin

Page Length: 308

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Eleanor, Albert, and Marie appear to be the lucky kids to outsiders. After all, their mother is the glamorous and beautiful Doris Day Dingman. Ellie, the oldest, bears most of the responsibility around her house. Her mother, who insists on being called “Doris”, is always worried about her next public appearance opportunity or her next big opportunity. When their mother runs off to New York but promises to send for them all as soon as she makes it big, the children realize what they’ve known all along – their mother cares more for herself than she does for them. The Dingman kids and their father must come to terms with Doris’ abandonment and their feelings of being the Witch Tree Lane outcasts. Yet through their trials and journey to find happiness again, they discover strengths they never knew they had and a love for each other that is stronger than any adversity.

REVIEW: This book makes for an interesting historical companion for studying the lifestyles and changing roles of women in the 1960s. The reader will admire Ellie’s determination and spunk while sharing in her disappointment in her mother. As the Witch Tree Lane events take place, the reader discovers that its inhabitants are wonderful people and not the “freaks” the socialites at school see. In this novel, a story of love, loss, disappointment, and courage unfolds beautifully. This book would generally appeal more to girls and would be a recommended read for any females struggling with social acceptance, mother abandonment issues, self esteem, and those generally searching to find their place in the world.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, making predictions, character analysis, author’s purpose, making historical connections, narrative style, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: none

RELATED BOOKS: A Dog’s Life, Belle Teal, On Christmas Eve, A Corner of the Universe, Main Street, The Babysitter’s Club

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0439579449.asp

http://www.allreaders.com/topics/Info_30093.asp

http://www.babyboomers.com/years/1963.htm

http://teacher.scholastic.com/authorsandbooks/events/martin/teachers_guide.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 5, 2010

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

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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

September 28, 2009

Haunted Schools

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Haunted Schools

Author: Allan Zullo

Page Length: 128  

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a collection of nine stories of ghosts and spirits who are haunting schools.  The first begins with two teen-age boys, Troy and Cody, coming in contact with a former teacher of a school.  Next, a new girl on the playground turns out to be a former classmate of the current teacher.  When a boy dies from a heart condition, his football team goes undefeated with a little help from the twelfth man. After two girls break a school rule by bringing an Ouigi board into their room, students start getting mysterious kisses.  An unknown drama student and graduate appear in two of the stories and in almost every story there is an eeriness that the reader cannot fully comprehend.

REVIEW: It is hard to believe that all of these stories are true. The plots of each of the stories would make a good horror movie, because the events are unbelievable. This book could be used as a unit study during October.  Then, on Halloween the students could dress as their favorite “ghost”. I thought the stories were entertaining and would appeal to the reluctant reader because they are short and easy to read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Character, Setting, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Haunted Kid Series: The Haunted Graveyard, The Haunted Shortstop, Haunted Kids, More Haunted Kids, Haunted Teachers, Haunted Animal, Haunted Campus, Totally Haunted Kids

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Haunted School (2007- Chinese)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3161

http://www.parlo.com/en/teachers/lessonplans/ghosteng_1.asp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Harley Like a Person

Harley Like a Person

Author: Cat Bauer

Page Length: 282  

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Harley believes that she is adopted.  All of her family has blue eyes, Harley’s are brown.  Her mom told her she lost her birth certificate after she was born.  She does not relate to her alcoholic father and her bitter mother.  It seems they are always nagging her to clean her room, dust, do the dishes, and never notice her good grades or the way she helps with her younger sister. While Harley stumbles through her ninth grade year in school, she continues to research clues in finding out who her true parents are.

Harley does not deal with the conflicts in a rational way.  She hides under her bed, locks herself in her room, and refuses to talk to her parents when they make her angry.  However, she does find comfort in writing poetry, painting, and playing her oboe.  Harley not only has difficulties at home, but begins to show anger and jealousy towards her best friend.  After being treated badly by one boy she finds herself in a relationship with a fast talking, drug dealer.  Her grades begin to fall, although she is ask to complete a special art project for the school play.  Harley finds herself experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and sex although she knows she is making bad decisions.

She continues her quest to find her true identity but hits many hurdles on the road before finding answers to the many family questions that plague her.

REVIEW:  Harley Like a Person is a fast read with lots of drama.  Harley encounters emotional issues that cause her to question her parent’s honesty and morals and make bad moral decisions for herself. 

This book would be enjoyed by girls who face the many conflicts and issues of teens growing up in today’s world.  Unlike many books, the main character makes bad choices then is forced to answer to her parents and teachers.  In the end, Harley’s questions are answered but not before she suffers some bad experiences with her family, boyfriend, and best friend.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Conflict, Theme, Character, Cause and Effect, Point of View

TOUCHY AREAS: marijuana use- (p.172-175, 212- 216), alcohol use (212-216), and sexual situations (p. 176, 217)

RELATED BOOKS: Harley’s Ninth

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teenreads.com/review/1890817481.asp

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

How I Live Now

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How I Live Now

Author: Meg Rosoff

Page Length: 194

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Daisy leaves behind her father and his new wife in New York in search of a sense of family. Daisy’s English cousins take her in with open arms and so a life of love, family, and adventure begins. Her Aunt leaves on a trip leaving the children all alone, and then their lives are irrevocably changed. War has erupted. There are no communications and that’s just the beginning. The children must survive occupation, no food, no medical help, and even separation. The world as Daisy knew it no longer exists. Can she persevere despite the hardships? Is there life after war?

REVIEW: The ideas presented in this book were fascinating. The reader catches a glimpse of the harsh realities of war and the backward trend society is forced to take because of it. With no electricity, supplies, or communication, and not enough weapons, the children must become resourceful and inventive. The characters are realistic and the story line is believable. Who ever stops to consider what we’d do if all our modern conveniences were suddenly non-existent? How would surviving anything so horrific alter the course of your life – if you survived at all? Rosoff tells a beautiful story etched with pain and suffering but enveloped in love and courage. This is a great thinking story and therefore a wonderful discussion piece.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, imagery, realism, first person narration

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: violence – p. 108 enemy attack, p. 105 “brains splattered everywhere,” p. 141 “birds were pecking at the dead face in front of me”

RELATED BOOKS: Dies the Fire by Sterling, 1632 by Flint, Islands In the Sea of Time by Sterling, War of the Worlds, Life of Pi, Hatchet by Paulsen

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

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://howilivenow.wetpaint.com/page/Themes+to+Ponder

http://www.galleysmith.com/2009/08/09/meg-rosoff-how-i-live-now/

http://pamelaheim.googlepages.com/novelunit

http://www.megrosoff.co.uk/

http://teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?video_id=21286&title=How_I_Live_Now_Movie_Trailer

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 30, 2009

Hanging on to Max

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Hanging on to Max

Author: Margaret Bechard

Page Length: 204

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Juno (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teenreads.com/reviews/0689862687.asp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Home of the Braves

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Home of the Braves

Author: David Klass

Page Length: 355

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Joe Brickman is a senior and the captain of the less than stellar Lawndale soccer team. But, he’s hoping for a transformation this year on the soccer field and in his friendship with Kristine. Suddenly, the school social structure is in an uproar. The new student, who looks like an ad for a modeling magazine, is a Brazilian soccer player who becomes known as the “phenom.” Soccer becomes the in sport at school and the football players have issues. Violence breaks out and the soccer stars are threatened by the football team. Ed McBean has been marked and he refuses to bow. When some members of the team take matters to far, Ed’s life is in danger. Ed is tired of being the victim; he becomes angry and withdraws. Joe’s afraid that all out war or a violent outbreak at school is brewing. Can he stand tall and stop it all before it gets out of hand, or is he stuck with the cycle of violence that existed when his own father was in high school?

REVIEW: This is another good book about the dangers of bullying. The fear of violence and the damage done to the people involved is well presented. Students will be able to identify with and analyze the actions of the characters. Joe is an excellent character to study – he doesn’t let his father define him, he overcomes the past cycle of violence, and he isn’t afraid to stand up for his friend. The book also presents interesting points for discussion about how the administration at Joe’s school handled the hazing and violent incidents – whether or not that was effective and what could be done differently or more effectively. 

Joe also develops from a character with substandard academic performance to one who finally does apply for college and who finds a program that builds on his strengths. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, sequence of events, question the test, compare and contrast text to self and world, character analysis, bubble map – descriptive adjectives

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: student is wrapped completely in athletic tape and stuff in a dark equipment closet (222-223), fighting, brawl at the community meeting, degrading and inciting remarks made by bullies

RELATED BOOKS: You Don’t Know Me, Dark Angel, You Don’t Know Me, Buddha Boy, Crash

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Mighty Ducks, Heathers, Chicken Little, Ice Princess, Sky High

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBX/is_6_36/ai_107202651

http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=17-9780374399634-1

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Heavy Metal and You

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Heavy Metal and You

Author: Christopher Krovatin

Page Length: 186

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sam loves two things – heavy metal and Melissa. He only feels complete when he’s got his music and the one girl in the world who makes him feel like he’s never felt before.

There’s only one problem, Melissa doesn’t really fit into his heavy metal world. She hates his friends and isn’t in love with his music. Sam can’t stand her friends either. Is there love strong enough to overcome the obstacles in their way? Can you truly love someone without loving their friends and their interests?

REVIEW: Unless you are a heavy metal fan – as in know the lyrics, music style, and band names of many of the top heavy metal bands –then you may find this book boring. I really couldn’t relate – but I think that a true metal head would love this story. I did not enjoy reading it because the main character’s obsession with heavy metal, what songs he liked, how he likes his music, etc. dominated the book. Once you get past the heavy metal excess, the drugs, the alcohol, and the overuse of the F word, there is a slight bit of substance to the book.

The author tackles the age old issue of love and friendship and what happens when the two clash. There are some interesting issues to ponder about relationships, acceptance, and what love (versus attraction) really means. Heavy metal lovers read on – everyone else… maybe when you’re really really bored.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: lessons about true to yourself, cause and effect, author’s purpose, dialogue, elements of plot

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: many of them — f- – k must appear over 50 times, use of marijuana, use of alcohol (and the message that it’s ok), smoking, pg. 125 “her shirt went over her head,” pg. 95 “cocaine addicts dream”

RELATED BOOKS: Candy, Kissing the Rain, I Will Survive, Cut, Talking in the Dark

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: any appropriate heavy metal music

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.thisispush.com/voices/krovatin.htm

http://www.newscientist.com/blog/shortsharpscience/2008/03/how-havy-metal-prepares-you-for-heavy.html

http://www.madisonpubliclibrary.org/youth/teentopix/index.php/2007/01/29/heavy-metal-and-you/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

January 18, 2009

High Noon

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High Noon

Author: Scott Sundby

Page Length: 32

Genre: Fiction-Math           

PLOT SUMMARY: Cowlick is a small town set in the old west.  Louie is the town barber. Buzzsaw is also a barber and comes to Cowlick to challenge Louie in his barbering skills. Both men enjoy practicing artistic freedom in their work.  Louie sketched his cuts on paper from bigger to smaller.  Buzzsaw, however, sketched his cuts from small to large.  In the end, both barbers found they respected each other’s style and work and decided to open a shop together. 

REVIEW: This is a well-written short story that gives good math examples of how to “draw to scale”.  It has excellent illustrations by Wayne Geehan.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Math-drawing to Scale and Comparison and Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Math Curse, What’s Your Angle Pythagoras, Sir Cumference and the Dragon, Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter, Spaghetti and Meatballs for All

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.mathact.blogspot.com

www.boiseartmuseum.org/education/sizescaleshapepretour.php

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 17, 2009

Hit and Run

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Hit and Run

Author: R. L. Stine

Page Length: 164

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Horror         

PLOT SUMMARY: Cassie was best friends with three high school boys:  Scott, Eddie, and Winks.  The four are all very close to getting their driver’s license. One night they decide to go for a practice drive.  When it is Eddie’s turn to drive, Winks yells loudly, causing Eddie to swerve the car.  This embarrasses Eddie, but just a few nights later, he volunteers to take Cassie, Scott and Winks for a drive in his parent’s car. The driving goes pretty well, and Cassie was surprised that Eddie wasn’t still mad at Winks for his practical joke.  However, on the return home, they accidentally hit and kill a man who was crossing the road.  They agree to keep it a secret but before long weird things related to the accident begin to occur.  The corpse of the man killed is missing from the funeral home, and then the teens start getting strange phone calls. Is the victim really dead?  Has his ghost come back to haunt them? Cassie has trouble determining what is real and what she is dreaming.  

REVIEW: This is a suspenseful book that has unanswered questions at the end of each chapter.  Stine does a great job of keeping the reader engaged as to what is going to happen next.  Students who enjoy suspense and mystery would like this fast paced, easy to read, novel.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Human eyeball (p. 5), corpse (p. 150) – neither reference is too offensive if the reader is aware of the subject matter of the story.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Supporting Details, Plot, Conflict, and Characters

RELATED BOOKS: Call Waiting, Beach House, and The Boyfriend

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.motivationalpro.org/lessonplans/2007-2008/BehindTheFaces.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 12, 2008

Haunting at Home Plate

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Haunting at Home Plate

Author: David Patneaude

Page Length: 181

Reading Level: 4.5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Nelson lives for baseball. The team seems play-off bound when their coach is suspended and no one is available to coach the remaining players. Nelson convinces his cousin Mike to take on the team. As the team begins to come together, they realize strengths they never knew they had. The boys learn how to really hit and become contenders for the championship. Yet as they practice, strange things begin to happen. Messages are left in the home plate dirt with the initials A.K. Mike tells the team the stories of Andy Kirk –a kid who died when he fell from the tree behind home plate. Who is really leaving these mysterious messages? Is the ghost of Andy Kirk haunting the field?

REVIEW: Baseball fans will love this book. The pacing is excellent – the added “ghost” story angle is entertaining. History is intertwined with the entry from 1946 and the talk of boys having been off fighting in the war. The author addresses how much Nelson longs for his father’s interaction and attention; the author makes a point of dad getting a job at home so that he can be there for his family. This book would be good read for sons and fathers and even girls who have played or enjoy the game of baseball. There is another story within the book of Gannon and his verbally abusive (trying to live his dreams through his son) father. The reader feels Gannon’s humiliation and pain at his father’s public displays and his struggles to please someone who will never consider his efforts enough.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, foreshadowing, elements of plot, author’s purpose

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Gannon’s excessive verbally abusive, angry father

RELATED BOOKS: Thin Wood Walls, Colder Than Ice, Deadly Drive, Framed in Fire, The Last Man’s Reward, A Piece of the Sky

 

RELATED MOVIES: “Angels in the Outfield,” “The Sandlot,” “A League of Their Own”

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

http://www.patneaude.com/books-haunting.html

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/baseball/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Heat Hazard Droughts

Heat Hazard Droughts 

Author: Claire Watts

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Non-Fiction

REVIEW: Heat Hazard Droughts is a fact-filled book about the weather phenomenon of the same name. It is a part of the “Turbulent Planet” series that highlights various occurrences in nature from an “engaging science text” format. From vivid pictures of starvation, drought, and relief efforts to historical accounts of the U.S. Dust Bowl and Great Fire of London, this book makes a great companion to any required science textbook. In addition to pictures and facts, the book contains defined vocabulary at the bottom of every page, predictive questions, tips on how to save water, and actual written accounts of human experiences during a drought.

This book really got me to think about how much water I waste as an individual. When you read about people forced to drink contaminated water to survive, it makes you stop and think. I learned that we as humans add to the increase in droughts because of the way we use the land (ie. farming too much in a single area for too long a period and stripping away too many trees). Also, I learned about the relief efforts of the Red Cross and UNICEF. The topics of climate change and global warming were also mentioned.

Many students may not be able to relate to the topic of drought. However, this book would be a good way for them to learn about a new topic. The book concludes with suggestions for further books to read on the topic as well as how to search for “drought” on the Internet. A glossary and index are also provided at the back.

I would definitely recommend this book to students, especially to those that struggle with an interest in science and nature.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: vocabulary, predictions, fact vs. opinion, text to self, text to world, historical context, reading a map, literature connections, Text to text with The Grapes of Wrath

RELATED BOOKS: Wild Weather: Drought by Catherine Chambers, Dust to Earth: Drought and Depression in the 1930s by Michael Cooper, Droughts of the Future by Paul Stein, and other books in the “Turbulent Planet” series

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940), “The 20th Century with Mike Wallace: El Nino” (1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.ema.gov.au/www/ema/schools.nsf/Page/TeachLesson_PlansDroughts

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/expeditions/lessons/03/g68/morelldrought.html

http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/0510/051017-amazon-e.html

http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/lrScience01.html

www.nws.noaa.gov

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

December 1, 2008

Hit Squad

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Hit Squad

Author: James Heneghan

Page Length: 106  

Reading Level: 3.8

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Grandview High School has been known in the past as an upscale high school with few gangs or inner high school rivalry.  When students get a choice to transfer across previous school boundaries, some bullying and hazing begin to occur.  Birgit is trapped in a closet with three strange girls spitting chocolate on her, Mickey’s lunch is stolen and Joey is beaten up so badly he is admitted into the local hospital.  Birgit feels that the principal and teachers cannot control the violence, so she forms a “Hit Squad” made up of Mickey, two other football players and herself to teach the bullies a lesson.

REVIEW:  This was a captivating book because of the violent action occurring on a high school campus. To me, it was almost too violent in the retaliation steps that the “Hit Squad” takes to teach the bullies a lesson.  When Candy, Mickey’s foster sister questions him about the ‘squads’ methods and motives, Mickey appears to hear what she is saying, but because of his infatuation with Birgit, he makes choices that become fatal.

I think both boys and girls would both enjoy this book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Conflict, and Setting

TOUCHY AREAS: Alcohol and marijuana use on page 56.

RELATED BOOKS: Exposure

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Rats and Bullies (2004), Mean Creek (2004), Bully (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://mysite.verizon.net/revhank/jamesheneghan/hitsquad.htm,

http://sandeelee.blogs.com/bullying/2005/02/rats_and_bullie.html,

http://plethoria9.blogspot.com/2006/07/mean-creekimportant-teen-flicks.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

 

 

October 30, 2008

House Party

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House Party

Author: Eric Walters

Page Length: 102

Reading Level:

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: When Casey’s parents go out of town they think she is staying at Jen’s house overnight, but Jen has other ideas. She talks Casey into having just a ‘small get-together’ with a ‘few friends.’ The party gets wildly out of control ending with property damage, police and ambulances.

REVIEW: This book was ok and I think fairly realistic. As a high school student who did have a house party while my parents were out of town (yes I got caught) I could relate to many aspects of what happened in the book, although thankfully not to such a large degree. A lot of the unknown, uninvited kids who show up at this party read about it on somebody’s webpage. That is a scary thought considering just how out of control things can get without everyone on the World Wide Web being invited. Before the party Casey is worried someone might spill something on the carpet or throw up. Those worries come to pass, but they are only the beginning. Lamps and windows are broken, the crowd grows to over 200 people and fights break out. The book ends with Casey getting ready to face her parents and take responsibility for her actions.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Cause and effect, prediction

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Lots of underage drinking on the party pages and a couple is interrupted in the parent’s bedroom during the party.

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.ericwalters.net

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

 

September 21, 2008

Hoot

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Hoot

Author: Carl Hiaasen

Page Length: 292

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Roy Eberhardt is a middle-school student who has just moved from Montana to Florida.  He rides the bus to school each day, and sits alone.  He is the latest victim of the school bully, Dana Matherson.  One day, when Dana is in the middle of attacking Roy, Roy spies a boy running very fast with no backpack or shoes.  This intrigues Roy, because he knows the boy is not headed for school.  Roy discovers that the running boy is Mullet Fingers and has a sister, Beatrice. Mullet is on a mission and Roy gets involved with some of his antics.

Meanwhile, there have been several incidents of petty crime occurring on the lot of the site for the new “Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House.”  As an officer and security guard try to protect the lot, Roy and Mullet find a way to get revenge on Dana while also protecting the environment.

REVIEW: This is a story of mystery and adventure involving some rather weird characters. Those who enjoyed Holes would like this book. It has a good message concerning the endangerment of burrowing owls. Boys would probably like the book more than girls.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Conflict (Environmental vs. Business Development)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Mild violence, some cursing

RELATED BOOKS: Flush, Naomi’s Geese, California Blue, The Fledglings, The Silent Spillbills, The Maze

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Hoot” (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teenreads.com/reviews/0375821813.asp

www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/Hoot.html

www.randomhouse.com/teachers/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=0375821813&view=tg

www.scholastic.com/hoot/index.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Hitch

Hitch

Author: Jeanette Ingold 

Page Length: 267

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: The setting originates in Texas where Moss is a mechanic trying to save money to attend a technical school.  However, after being fired, Moss leaves town to locate his father without saying any goodbyes, particularly to his girlfriend, Beatty. Moss finds his father, a drunk, and decides to join the Civilian Conservation Corps as a way to support his family.  His assignment is in Montana where the remainder of the story takes place.

Although the CCC is not a military branch of the government, it is run like one.  Moss discovers he has a talent for reading blueprints and is soon assigned the title of “junior leader.”  First, the men must build the camp.  They work well together under the direction of Major Garrett.  However, when Major Garrett is reassigned, Moss and his buddies, Nate, Sam, Apple, and Romeo learn that the new Major is out to make himself look good.  In addition, the other junior leader, Compton, is out to make Moss look bad.

The men take on the challenge of helping the farmers save their crops, but the weather, egotistical men, and faulty supplies hinder their progress.

REVIEW: This book was educational to me, as I had never heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was started by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression.  The book is informative of what the CCC actually did, and has a great story line developing the characters and conflicts that occur between them.  I think boys would enjoy this book more than girls, but there is a little bit of romance which would appeal to the female gender also.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Historical Context, Conflict, Character and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Tree Army: A Pictorial History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Forgotten Men: The Civilian Conservation Corps, Youth in the CCC, The Soil Soldiers: The Civilian Conservation Corps in the Great Depression, Airfield

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Ludington Beach House, Ludington State Park, Temperance River State Park, CCC Shelter, Pokagon State Park, Michigan, CCC Museum-Michigan

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.cccalumni.org

www.jeanetteingold.com

www.nassaulibrary.org/YABookLog/2007/10/hitch_by_jeanet.html

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_Conservation_Corps

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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