The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

Just Another Hero

Just Another Hero by Sharon M. Draper: Book Cover

Just Another Hero


Author: Sharon M. Draper


Page Length: 280


Reading Level: 4.3


Genre: Fiction


Career Connection: Teacher, police officer, fast food/retail sales


PLOT SUMMARY: A senior year filled with drama is what the small group of friends of Douglass High encounter after they cope with Josh’s death from a hazing accident and the birth of his baby by November.


Arielle, who has struggled with peer relations, since the hazing event, finds a way to mend the fences with Kofi and the rest of the group, but she is living with her third stepfather who is extremely strict and controlling with she and her mother. She not only has lost her real dad but her sister has been placed in an institution. Her mother is bound within the wants and needs of her stepfather. No wonder she has a problem with day to day coping skills.


Kofi continues to feel pain from his broken arm that was injured in the hazing event and realizes he is addicted to pain killers. He qualifies for admission into Massachusetts Institute of Technology but sees his parents squandering away their money. What does he do to help his family and himself?


November has returned to school after the birth of her baby, but finds she has many responsibilities that make school issues take a backseat.


While each member of the group try to find coping skills for their various needs, someone is stealing money and personal property at school.


Meanwhile, Crazy Jack suffers a mental breakdown and brings an assault rifle to school. The discovery of the thief and Jack holding student’s hostage, takes a toll on the main characters as they try to determine what makes a real hero.


REVIEW: This is the final book of the trilogy of the student’s of Douglass High that Sharon Draper has developed. The book is written in third person narrative between Kofi and Arielle as the plot centers primarily on their life issues. Students who have read the previous books, The Battle of Jericho and November Blues will enjoy this final chapter of Arielle, Kofi, November, and Jericho as they answer the question, “What Makes a Real Hero?”


AREAS FOR TEACHING: Characters, Cause/Effect, Sequence of Events, Theme


TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None that is not age appropriate


RELATED BOOKS: The Battle of Jericho, November Blues




REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 30, 2009


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Author: Eric Walters

Page Length: 101

Reading Level: 2.9

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Michael “The Moose” is a rising star on his football team. After winning the Division 2 championship game, Michael is ecstatic. However his joy is overshadowed by the fact that his coach, Coach Reeves, has decided to retire. Reeve’s replacement is a hot-shot, smooth-talker named Coach Barnes. Coach Barnes has new plans for his team and high aspirations at success at the Division 1 level.

In a matter of months, the school’s football facilities are totally renovated and the boys are placed under personal fitness guidance from a trainer named Tony. However, Tony not only provides the boys suggestions on how to improve their workouts on the new equipment, he persuades many of them to begin taking steroids.

Michael eventually begins to notice the effects of his steroids use (ie. acne, mood-swings, violence at home). The steroid usage at the school comes to a peak when Coach Reeves suddenly appears to explain that Coach Barnes and Tony have been taken into custody for their role in steroid usage/sales. Coach Reeves re-assumes the role of head coach and begins to repair the physical and emotional damage of his football team. Michael regrets his involvement in the steroid usage, while Coach Reeves expresses his faith that Michael will get beyond this dark chapter in his life.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book. The comparisons between Coach Reeves and Coach Barnes are quite evident. The subject matter of steroids may be a little much for some, however there are several real world examples of sports players engaging in such illegal activity both at the professional level and amateur level. One such sport, Major League Baseball, has been in the news on countless occasions.  

I have found that many male students enjoy this book simply for the fact that it is about football. The addition of the steroids topic, brings the action and interest to another level. A discussion on the negative effects of steroids might prove beneficial. This book may even supplement a lesson in a health class.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, characterization, voice, dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The topic of steroid usage – especially in a high school setting may be inappropriate for some.

RELATED BOOKS: No Problem by Gaetz

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Any Given Sunday” (1999)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Journey to Jo’Burg A South African Story

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Journey to Jo’Burg: A South African Story

Author: Beverley Naidoo

Page Length: 80

Reading Level: 5.5

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Thirteen year old Naledi and her younger brother Tiro live in a village in South Africa. Times are hard in their village and their mother must live and work at home in order to provide for the family. When their baby sister takes ill with a terrible fever, they know that they must act fast. Too many young children have been dying in their village. Desperate to save their little sister, Naledi and Tiro set off on the journey to Johannesburg to find their mother and bring her home to care for their sister. Will they be able to make the journey in time?

REVIEW: This book is small in size and rather plainly written – making it great for higher elementary and secondary classrooms. The book deals with the issues of slavery, discrimination, and starvation. The reader learns of the hardships the mother must endure as she works away from her own children and is “enslaved” to the white people she works for. They begin to see how much their own people need decent food and living conditions and how desperately in need of change their world is. I would definitely use this book in the classroom. The story moves quickly and the issues are very worthy of discussion and response from students.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, historical connections, connecting text to self

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the issue of servitude and substandard living conditions

RELATED BOOKS: The Other Side of Truth, No Turning Back, Out of Bounds

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: John Lennon – Imagine, Tracy Chapman – Across the Lines

RELATED WEBSITES:’burg&rating=3&search_type=related

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 17, 2009

Jake Reinvented

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Jake, Reinvented

Author: Gordon Korman

Page Length: 213

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jake Garrett is the new kid at F. Scott Fitzgerald High School. He’s dresses like a male model for a fashion magazine, and he is perhaps the best long snapper the football team has ever had. Jake throws fabulous parties every Friday night – who doesn’t love Jake?

Despite the admiration of every male and female in the high school, Jake only longs for one thing – Didi. Didi, the most beautiful girl around, happens to be dating Todd, the team quarterback. Jake is determined to do whatever it takes to win Didi. Will Jake really be willing to sacrifice everything just to have Didi? What will happen if Todd discovers Jake’s plan?

REVIEW: Korman delivers another entertaining read. The reader loves Jake as much as everyone else. Rick, who befriends Jake through good and bad, is an admirable character who teaches everyone what true friendship should be. The focus of much of the story is Jake’s willingness to do whatever it takes (without being psychotic) to get what he wants – Didi. The interesting depth of the story here is how hung up Didi is on position and appearances – and that no matter how hard Jake tries Didi doesn’t look at him as she does Todd. (This part of the book presents a great opportunity to talk about appearances and how often we all see what we want to see in someone.)

Korman makes an excellent point about trying to buy loyalty and popularity. Jake’s true self is revealed and the consequences aren’t pretty. Another character in the book, Dipsy, suffers the teasing of the football team. Teachers could examine his sacrifices of self and what it does or does not do for him. Dipsy is also known to throw out philosophical statements relating to animals. This is a great book for talking about appearances and what makes someone who they really are – always an interesting topic for teens struggling to discover their sense of self.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  cause and effect, sequence of events, character traits, elements of plot, theme, author’s purpose

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drinking, party going, flagrant disregard for someone else’s property

RELATED BOOKS: The Juvie Three, No More Dead Dogs, Swindle, The Search

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Mean Girls”, “Bratz”, “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club”


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

December 5, 2008

Jip His Story

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Jip His Story

Author: Katherine Paterson

Page Length: 181

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Did you know that during the mid to late 1800s people who had no income might have lived together on a poor farm? Jip, a young boy, is the backbone of the poor farm on which he lives. He milks the cows, cares for the all the animals, and does more than his fair share of chores. Everyone relies on Jip; one day, the town lunatic is brought to the farm to be housed in a cage. Jip befriends Put and helps him enjoy his life on the farm and never gives up on him no matter how deep his darkness runs. One day, Jip is approached by a stranger who claims that he knows a man who just might be Jip’s father. Jip senses danger and avoids the stranger – until the day that the stranger and the man come to town. Soon Jip is on the run for his life. Can he get away before it is too late? Why does this man seek him and what might his “father” want from him?

REVIEW: This is an excellent book. The reader is completely absorbed in Jip’s acceptance of his life on the poor farm and how responsibly he shoulders the burden for everyone. We feel Jip’s angst at the stranger’s continued appearances and fear for Jip’s life when he learns of his past and must run to keep from being captured and taken to a life of slavery. Connecting students to text and historical contexts would be easy with this text. Engaging and recommended! Jip teaches everyone compassion and hope.

Of special interest in this story also is the role of the country school teacher. She teaches Jip to believe in himself and that he is not stupid as he has been led to believe by those who wish to keep him in a certain role. She champions Jip’s education and becomes an important part of his struggle for freedom.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical connections, cause and effect, sequence, author’s purpose, connecting text to self, point of view

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the issue of slavery, slave catching, treatment of the town lunatic (locked in a cage), alcoholism, social status issues

RELATED BOOKS: Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved, Nightjohn, Lyddie



REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

September 21, 2008

Jacob Have I Loved

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Jacob Have I Loved

Author: Katherine Patterson

Page Length: 244

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story opens in Chesapeake Bay in the 1940s. Sarah Louise and Caroline are twin sisters; yet, they couldn’t be more unlike each other. Sarah Louise is strong and independent while Caroline is small, frail, and beautiful. Caroline commands everyone’s attention and Louise has begun to feel anger at her fate. She longs for recognition and is tired of constantly sacrificing for Caroline. To make matters worse, her elderly grandmother lives with them. She knows how Louise feels and does nothing but taunts her with cruel and inappropriate remarks. Louise longs to break free from the hold Rass Island has on her; yet, it is Caroline who gets a scholarship to Juliard while Louise stays behind to run the family business. Will  Louise ever be able to find peace and her own happiness or will she be forever bound to the family she longs desperately to have freedom from?

REVIEW: The historical and rural aspects of the novel are well presented. The reader gets a feel for what it was like to grow up  with a “perfect” twin and bound by the societal norms of the 1940s. Readers can understand Louise’s need to break free and find her own way. This book is a Newberry Medal Winner and a good book for teaching perseverance, self-reliance, and for leading students to recognize their own strengths and gifts rather than lamenting that they do not have the talents of another. The book would likely appeal more to females – especially those who have a sister.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical context, narrative effect, predictions, inferences, compare and contrast, figurative language, author’s purpose

RELATED BOOKS: The King’s Equal, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Jip: His Story, Bridge to Terabithia


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Jackie’s Nine

Jackie’s Nine

Author: Sharon Robinson

Page Length: 181

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Non-Fiction           

PLOT SUMMARY: Sharon Robinson wrote the book Jackie’s Nine as a tribute to her dad, Jackie Robinson, the first African-American professional baseball player.  The book is written in nine chapters, each giving tribute to one of the values Jackie Robinson lived by.  Each chapter includes a story from Jackie’s life, and one from Sharon’s life to describe the particular principle. Sharon, also, includes at least one selection about one of her personal heroes who has touched her life in someway.

The values shared begin with courage and end with excellence.  Those values helping to reach that end objective of excellence are:  determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, and commitment.  Some of the celebrities who Sharon shares stories about are Christopher Reeve, Pee Wee Reese, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jordan,  Roberto Clemente, Muhammad Ali, and Oprah Winfrey.

REVIEW: Sharon Robinson has followed in the footsteps of her dad, mother and brother who have all been inspirations of life to the people of the United States.  Sharon experienced her own particular hardships before she reached the age of 23, losing her brother in a car wreck and her dad just a year later, to a massive heart attack.

She shares how she took control of her life getting her nursing degree, later retiring and joining the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball as Director of Education Programming.  She launched Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, an educational program using baseball-themed activities as teaching tools around the country.  Breaking Barriers is based on the nine values presented in this book. 

This is a very inspirational and motivational book for young teens to read. The selections are brief but informative.  Authentic pictures of Jackie, Sharon and the celebrities are featured which bring the stories more to life.  This book would serve as a good “teacher read aloud” or the selections could be read individually and used as writing prompts.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Writing prompts, Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, and Historical Context

RELATED BOOKS: Promises to Keep, Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS:The Jackie Robinson Story”, “Brain Pops: A Social Studies Movie about Jackie Robinson”, the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 23, 2008

Just Ella

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Just Ella

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix      

Page Length: 218

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Just Ella resembles the familiar fairy tale, Cinderella, in that, Ella’s mother died when she was born and her father raised her.  When she is 12, he remarries, and after he dies, Ella becomes the house servant for Lucille, her stepmother and her two step sisters.

The Charming’s, the royal family, decide to have a ball and invite all of the single women to attend.  Lucille orders Ella to scrub the basement floor and says she cannot attend the dance.  Ella, however, retrieves her mother’s wedding dance from the attic and alters it so that she will have a gown to wear.  She then talks the neighborhood glassmaker into making some glass slippers.  When she walks in the slippers without them breaking, the glassmaker wins several bets and Ella keeps the slippers for herself.

Ella does make it to the ball, and because she is the most beautiful, the prince chooses to dance every dance with her.  Like the original Cinderella, she must leave the ball at midnight so that she will get a ride home with a generous carriage driver.

The plot continues to parallel the fairytale, until after living in the castle for two weeks, Cinderella realizes she does not love the Prince and does not want to live a controlled life inside the palace walls.  When she tries to get out of the marriage, she is thrown into the dungeon.  Her young ally, Mary, helps her to survive and escape a life, which had been referred to as “happily ever after.”

REVIEW:  This was an entertaining and fun book to read.  I like the way Margaret Haddix used the fairytale to develop a drama in which a young girl realizes that beauty and money cannot provide total happiness.  She does a good job of developing the characters and their roles.  I would suggest this book for any girls to read from sixth grade or older.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Character, Compare/Contrast,

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Inferences to Rape- Chapter 22-24, 29, but nothing that would be offensive to the reader.

RELATED BOOKS: Ella Enchanted, Fairest, The Two Princesses of Bamarre

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Brothers Grimm: Cinderella, Walt Disney’s Cinderella, “The Duchess” (2008)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 7, 2008



Author: Patricia MacLachlan

Page Length: 83

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Journey and his sister Cat live with their grandparents because their father has left them and their mother has abandoned them. The siblings do hear from their mother periodically but only in the form of envelopes with money. Journey is eleven years old and begins to search for answers to his mother’s disappearance. His grandparents however are hesitant to provide any clues. In the meantime, Journey’s grandfather, a lover of photography, uses his camera as a means to showcase life and the hidden meanings behind it. He is a man of few words and lets his photographs do the talking.

One day, Journey discovers a box of old photographs of he and his mother that are torn up. Journey is told that his mother was the one who tore up the pictures. When his mother unexpectedly calls and is confronted by Journey on this discovery, she states that “they were only pictures”. Journey’s grandfather tries to tell his grandson that his mother never appreciated anything that showcased the past (photographs) and always felt compelled to move forward on new journeys – a woman always on the move.

Later in the story, Cat tells Journey that the reason why their grandfather takes so many photographs is that he wants to give back everything their mother took away from them or denied them – memories of family life.

Towards the end of the story, Journey realizes that after searching through so many pictures of his past, his grandfather was actually the one who took care of him when he was young. His grandparents are his family. They are his love. They are his answers.

REVIEW: This story starts off with a bang! It is fast-paced. However, I was disappointed in that I did not find out what happened to the mother. Perhaps that was intended – leaving the reader to answer the questions for themselves. I believe students who enjoy photography would be interested in this book on the surface level, however I feel the story is shrouded in too much mystery for most students.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: similes (pages 14 & 26), internal dialogue (page 31), symbolism (mama tearing up pictures)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: issue of parental abandonment

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: see first website below

RELATED WEBSITES: (website about parental abandonment in TV, movies, and other media) (discussion questions & simple activity) (questions & activities divided by chapter)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

April 25, 2008

James and the Giant Peach

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James and the Giant Peach

Author: Roald Dahl

Page Length: 126  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fairy Tale                

PLOT SUMMARY: James Henry Trotter is a young boy who loses his parents when they are eaten by a rhinoceros. He is doomed to live with his terrible aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.  The two aunts are mean and abusive to him. 

James’ luck changes, however, when he drops some magic crystals into the ground.  The result of the spillage of the crystals is that a giant peach grows as big as a house.  When the aunts try to make money from people coming to look at the peach, James discovers a hole in the peach and crawls into a tunnel.

It is then, that James’ fairy tale adventure begins.  Inside the peach, he discovers there are a giant ladybug, centipede, spider, earthworm, silkworm, and grasshopper.  They had contact with the crystals which enlarged them the way it did the peach. 

Inside the peach, the animals and James bond.  They have several adventures after the peach rolls down the hill and crushes Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.  The peach and party roll into the ocean and are attacked by sharks.  James has the idea for the spider and silkworm to make string so that he can lasso seagulls and they will rescue the sinking peach by lifting the peach into the air. The group eventually land in New York City where they all become very successful.

REVIEW: This book is fun and filled with magic.  It would be enjoyable for elementary students, but I think the content is immature for the high school student.  Within the book, Dahl incorporates poems which could be used in the teaching of poetry writing.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Poetry, Figurative Language, Characters, Voice, Mood and Tone

TOUCHY AREAS: The aunts are verbally and physically abusive in their treatment of James.

RELATED BOOKS: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Witches

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: James and the Giant Peach – movie


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

March 10, 2008

Joey Pigza Loses Control

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Joey Pigza Loses Control

Author: Jack Gantos

Page Length: 196

Reading Level: 6


PLOT SUMMARY: Joey Pigza is an eleven year old boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He reveals to the reader some of his exploits that occur whenever he has that crazy feeling inside. Joey currently lives with his mom and his Chihuahua, Pablo. Joey’s mother understands his problems and has taken Joey to the doctor; his medicine helps keep him in control and deters him for acting impulsively.


Mom takes Joey to visit with his father for the summer. Dad has supposedly cleaned up his act and is looking forward to making up for lost time. Joey arrives to dad and grandma. Grandma smokes like crazy in between being hooked up to her oxygen tank and being seized by coughing fits. Dad is well intended but often off track. Joey tells dad that he never gets a chance to talk too. As the story progresses, we see that dad is likely ADHD just like Joey. He self-medicates with cigarettes and alcohol (all things he is not supposed to be doing anymore). Joey and his father bond when Joey becomes the pitcher on his dad’s baseball team. They enjoy each other’s company, but there are many hurdles to overcome in their relationship.


One night dad drinks too heavily and determines that neither he nor Joey need their patches anymore. He crumples Joey’s patches and disposes of them. Joey begins to feel himself slipping out of control again; despite the fact that he really would like to be a normal kid, Joey can’t control his responses. Things heat up when Joey tries to protect dad and lies to mom about what’s going on at dad’s house. Joey’s guilt begins to consume him. Dad begins to pressure Joey to stay with him permanently. As everything around him begins to spiral out of control, Joey heads to his safe haven. Who will save Joey? Will dad ever realize that he needs help? Will Joey be forced to choose sides?


REVIEW: What was fascinating about this book was that you almost have to be ADHD to appreciate it. On the other hand, it was a fascinating look at what it might really be like to be ADHD. Gantos’s descriptions of the uncontrollable chaos in Joey’s mind and his outrageous actions really create sensitivity within the reader to the fact that Joey can’t help. The reader empathizes with Joey’s desire to be normal, but the same time, the reader realizes that just can’t happen without his medication.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book would definitely appeal more to boys. The episode Joey experiences on pages 140-142 might be a great read aloud and discussion of what it would be like to have ADHD and how it would affect your social and academic life (a great written response activity). Analyzing Joey at the beginning, middle, and end of the story would be a great activity (a bubble flow map). Overall, this book was an easy read. I’d even recommend it for teachers who work with ADHD students. 




REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


Just Ask Iris

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Just Ask Iris

Author: Lucy Frank


Page Length: 214


Reading Level: 5


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: This story is about twelve year old Iris Pinkowitz. Iris, her brother, and her mother live in an apartment building with colorful neighbors and many of the afflictions of struggling inner-city Americans. Iris’s mother works longs hours and has strict rules for Iris. She is not to leave the apartment; her summer is to be spent perfecting her typing skills because she is going to computer school in the fall. Iris grows lonely and bored with her 1950’s typing book. She befriends a cat who appears on the fire escape outside her window one day. Iris sets out on a quest to find the cat. Her quest takes her up the fire escape past the man with tattoos and his ferocious dog. Past the apartment of a wheelchair bound young man named Will, who lives with his angry and withdraw father.


Iris ends up doing odd jobs for all of her neighbors. Her boring summer turns adventurous as she befriends her neighbors and becomes engrossed in their lives. Iris continues to slip out after her mother leaves for work and return before she arrives back home. She earns money which she is anxious to spend to buy a bra. Her concern over her development leads her to safety pin one of her mother’s bras on each morning; although, her mother refuses to acknowledge her plea for a bra, Iris realizes (with the help of a female neighbor) how desperately she needs one. Iris’s struggle with the boys beginning to pay attention to that feature of her body is also discusses in the book. Iris gains self confidence and becomes the hero of her building when she faces off against the landlord’s people. The cat woman is in danger of being evicted, the building elevator isn’t operational, and all everyone needed was a reason to join together. Iris strengthens her community, herself, her relationship with her family, and the determination of almost everyone she meets.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: I would recommend this book for girls really. Although, boys might be interested in the development aspects, it’s really more of a growing strong girls story. This would be a great discussion piece for looking at the importance of self-confidence, perseverance, and the power of taking action for change.



 (great article about what living in a building like Iris’s is like)


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


February 27, 2008

Johnny Tremain

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Johnny Tremain

Author: Esther Forbes

Page Length: 322

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Forbes tells the story of Johnny Tremain, a young apprentice, growing up in Boston in the late 1700’s. Johnny is apprenticed to an elderly silversmith who takes him in after his mother dies. Johnny is fortunate and is quite gifted in his trade. One day, Johnny’s determination to be the best without heeding rules and limitations leads to a terrible accident. Johnny discovers how quickly one can more from being the most admired for his utility and skill to being the least useful. The reader explores with Johnny how his disability limits him; however, we also watch Johnny overcome his loss and persevere.


Johnny becomes wrapped up in the printing press business. He becomes a valuable resource for the secret meetings between prominent figures in society including: Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and John Hancock. The reader becomes engaged in Johnny’s adventures as he roams about the countryside on a wild horse delivering papers, secreting messages, and participating in the Boston Tea Party. Johnny relays the realities of living in a town heavily occupied by the British soldiers as he befriends some of them and discovers, as the time for action grows near, how quickly one can change from friend to foe.


Forbes makes the history of the time exciting and eventful. The readers truly becomes engaged in what it must have been like to grow up in the 1770’s, come of age, court a young lady, discover a prominent family connection, and be willing to sacrifice anything for the rights of men everywhere to be free. 


AREAS FOR TEACHING: I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was easy to become engrossed in the Johnny’s life and to forget that I was learning history at the same time. This point alone makes it a great novel to use in class (because students are learning without realizing it). The book is somewhat lengthy and involved in the politics of the time. I would recommend pairing it with a unit on the Revolutionary War so that students would have a frame of reference for the story and truly gain insight from reading it. 


RELATED WEBSITES:   (webquest) (Revolutionary War history) 


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

January 5, 2008

Julie of the Wolves

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Julie of the Wolves

Author:  Jean Craighead George

Page Length: 170

Reading Level: 6th


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: The book Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George, is the story of a thirteen year-old girl’s journey to preserve the traditions and culture of her Eskimo people.  The story begins with Miyax, or Julie, as she is called by the “white people”, lost on the Alaskan tundra.  She is running out of food and, in her desperation, turns to a pack of wolves for help.  After some time, the wolves begin to see her as one of their own.  Through their assistance she is able to survive for several months before finding her way to the village Kangik.


The second part of the book focuses on Miyax’s childhood.  Her mother died when she was young which caused her father, Kapugen, to lose his mind.  In his grief, her father leaves their village behind, and he and Miyax move to a seal camp.  It is during these five years that Miyax learns the ways of her Eskimo people and embraces her heritage.  But this way of life comes to an end when her Aunt Martha shows up, and insists that Miyax return to the village and receive a proper education.   Kapugen relents, but tells Miyax there is a way to escape her aunt’s wishes: when she is thirteen, Miyax may choose to marry an Eskimo boy named Daniel, for his family follows the old traditions.  Soon after leaving with her aunt, Miyax is told that her father never returned from a hunt, and he is assumed dead.


During the years that Miyax lives with her Aunt Martha, she corresponds with a pen pal named Amy who lives in San Francisco.  Through Amy’s letters she learns about movies, sports cars, carpet, and blue jeans. She begins to flirt with the idea of a non-Eskimo life, yet decides at thirteen that the old ways are best: she will marry Daniel.


Miyax travels far to her new home, but is surprised to discover that Daniel is severely mentally challenged.  She lacks the experience and confidence to escape the marriage, and so she accepts her fate.  Things seem tolerable at first.  Her new mother teaches her how to sew, and Daniel’s father seems fun loving.  Daniel keeps to himself, and they live like brother and sister.  Yet it isn’t long before Miyax learns that Daniel’s father is an abusive alcoholic.  And, after being made fun of, Daniel decides to truly “make Miyax his wife”.  She escapes him and runs away with a few essential supplies, but gets lost on the tundra.


The last part of the book is about Miyax surviving the Alaskan winter as a true Eskimo.  She successfully feeds and clothes herself with the skins of animals, and she enjoys the company of her wolf pack, and pet bird.  She even builds her own cozy igloo.  When Eskimo hunters discover her hideout, she learns that her father, Kapugen, is alive and well in a nearby village. 


On her journey to find Kapugen, she experiences the destructive nature of progress first hand.  Miyax encounters excessive pollution, and watches her beloved “wolf father” killed for sport by American hunters. 


In the end Miyax finds her father.  He had not died in a hunting accident.  It turns out that years before he chose to start a new life for himself, and had recently journeyed to her aunt’s village to find Miyax.  At first she is thrilled.  She envisions their new life together as one lived in the old traditions.  Yet her dreams are stopped short when she meets her new step-mother, a woman who is not Eskimo, and sees that her father has embraced aspects of the “white man’s world”.  He has a TV, electric stove, radio, etc.  Initially, Miyax plans to run away to her igloo and live an Eskimo life in isolation. Yet she comes to the realization that the time of the Eskimos has ended.  With her new understanding, that change is inevitable, she heads back to her father’s village.




REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

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