The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

Mossflower

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 4:36 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 

Mossflower

Author: Brian Jacques

 

Page Length: 373

 

Reading Level: 6.9

 

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

 

Career Connections: None           

PLOT SUMMARY: Badgers, mice, weasels, squirrels, and a bird, take on human characteristics and battle the wildcat, Tsarmina to get possession of Mossflower.  Tsarmina becomes the Queen of a Thousand Eyes after poisoning her father and imprisoning her brother.  She forces the Woodlanders to work for her as slaves.

When Martin the Warrior meets Gonff (both mice) in the dungeon of Kotir, the two plan an escape.   With the help of other creatures of the forest, they go on a quest to locate Boar the Fighter.  As they cross the country, they develop friendships that support each other, despite their differences.  They exhibit respect for the older animals for their knowledge and cherish their history. 

Tsarmina’s soldiers and Martin and his Woodlanders eventually engage in a fierce battle while Gonff, the Mousethief, sings a song for every event. As the story concludes, good rules over evil.REVIEW: This is an animal fantasy that is full of action.  There are heroes, villains, adventure and romance with all of the characters, created quite descriptively with many human qualities.  The book is a prequel to Redwall, the first of the multiple book series.

The book would be an excellent class novel to read when studying cultural differences, as it shows how the animals, with varied differences, demonstrate the ability to get along in a diverse community.  Gonff’s poetry could be used to help students write short poems.  The food the animals eat sounds simply delicious and students could create recipes.

The writing is descriptive with lots of action and adventure.  I think boys would enjoy this book more than girls.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Simile/Metaphor, Characters, Setting, Descriptive Writing, Poetry, Cultural Diversity, and Personification

RELATED BOOKS: The Redwall Chronicles (20 books), Redwall Picture Books (2 books), and The Tribes of Redwall Series (3 books)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teachervision.fen.com/curriculum-planning/teaching-methods/3803.html  

www.redwall.org 

 

MOVIE & TV CONNECTIONS: Redwall: The Movie (TV-2000), Redwall: The Movie (to be released 2011)

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Advertisements

Monsoon Summer

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 1:46 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

 

Monsoon Summer

Author: Mitali Perkins

Page Length: 257

 

Reading Level: 5

 

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Jazz Gardner has to tell her business partner, Steve Morales, (best friend and secret love of her life) that she will be traveling to India with her family for the summer.  Her mother has received a grant for the orphanage in which she was adopted from several years earlier.  Having no choice, Jazz tells Steve good-bye, with sadness that he will find a girlfriend while she is gone. 

Upon arriving in India, Jazz decides to attend the local school rather than work at the orphanage.  However, her brother gets involved with the orphans by coaching them soccer, and her dad, a loner, becomes obsessed with teaching the nuns who run the orphanage computer skills.  Meanwhile, her mother is fulfilling her dream of making the orphanage a safe-haven for pregnant women of India to come and receive medical services.

Steve writes her letters, but Jazz cannot find the words to respond to him.  She pens many letters, but hides them away.  When Danita, one of the girls at the orphanage, starts to cook and clean for the Gardner’s, Jazz opens up to her and tells her how she feels about Steve. 

Jazz meets girls at the school who try to get her involved by attending dances after school.  Jazz has only danced once (with Steve at the eighth grade dance) and she was a complete klutz.  Jazz feels she is too large and clumsy to be attractive, not petite like her mom.  She eventually starts to take ceremonial dance from Danita for a performance they will give at the opening of the orphanage.

As Jazz observes her family at the orphanage, learns of Danita’s destiny of being an orphan, and raffles through her relationship with Steve, she realizes that there is a gift in giving and opens her heart to touch others. 

REVIEW: This is an excellent coming of age book for junior high and high school girls to read.  Jazz lacks confidence, specifically because her mother exemplifies a super-woman.  She is cautious in giving of herself after being taken advantage of by a druggie, earlier in the year. As Jazz observes the poverty in India, she realizes she has much to be grateful for and understands her mother’s mission to help the people of her home country. Through her relationships with Danita and her girlfriends she makes at the school, Jazz gains the confidence she needs to tell Steve her feelings and make good mature decisions about her life.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Setting, Characters, Compare/Contrast, and Point of View

RELATED BOOKS: The Kite Runner, Born Confused

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.mitaliperkins.com/monsoon_summer.html

www.emerson.k12.nj.us/staff/LTHOMAS/LNK0002320.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Millicent Min Girl Genius

Millicent Min Girl Genius

Author: Lisa Yee

Page Length: 248

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Millicent Min is eleven years old and is enrolling in her first college class.  She is a genius and has appeared on TV talk shows, made the Dean’s Honor Roll, and is about to begin her senior year in high school.  Millicent is very intelligent, but has no idea of how to make friends or even have a normal conversation.

Her mother forces her to join a volleyball team and through her grandmother’s friend, she is forced to begin peer tutoring for Sanford Wong, the dumbest athlete in school.  Millicent is close to her grandmother, Maddie, who is about to leave on an extended trip to Europe. With a hatred for sports, ignorant boys, and the departure of her grandmother, Millicent is dreading the summer.  She only looks forward to the poetry class she has enrolled in at the local college.

Millicent actually has no friends, but at volleyball practice, a new girl, Emily befriends her.  Excited that Emily likes her, Millicent hides the fact that she is a genius from Emily.  She is afraid that Emily will not like her if she is aware of how smart she is and her placement in high school. As the story continues, Emily meets Stanford, the incorrigible jock that Millicent tutors.  When Stanford and Emily are attracted to each other, the plot thickens as Stanford tries to hide his lack of intelligence and Millicent becomes the “third party” in the triangular friendship.

REVIEW: The book is a narrative told from Millicent’s point of view.  The character development is excellent and the relationships between the families and friends are very realistic.  Lisa Yee includes humor and sarcasm, in how Millicent views the people who are apart of her life. I enjoyed this book immensely and would suggest it especially for junior high and high school girls to read.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Point of View, Compare/Contrast, Theme, and Characters

RELATED BOOKS: Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time, Totally Emily Ebers

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.webenglishteacher.com/childlit-y.html

www.scasl.net/bookawards/JBA_Activity_Guides_06_07.doc

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Maximum Ride The Angel Experiment

Maximum Ride The Angel Experiment

Author: James Patterson

Page Length: 440

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

PLOT SUMMARY: Maximum Ride got to name herself because she is a fourteen-year-old girl who is the result of genetic experimentation conducted in a lab.  She has wings as a result of avian genes injected into human embryos. She is 98% human and 2 % bird.

Maximum lives with five other kids who have her same genetic make-up.  They are called “bird children” and call themselves, “the flock”.  Fang is a boy, four months younger than Max.  The other members are: Iggy, another boy blinded by an experiment at the lab, Nudge, a girl who talks in excess, Gasman, an eight-year-old boy with stomach problems, and Angel, his six year old sister.

The group was raised at the lab in cages and subjected to many experiments.  Then, Jeb Batchelder, one of the lab scientists, took them to his home in the mountains and educated and nurtured them as a father would his own children.  When he suddenly disappeared, two years ago, Max, being the oldest, was put in charge of “the flock”. 

One day, Erasers (other experimental beings who can become wolf-like creatures) appear at the mountain home and kidnap Angel. Led by Max, “the flock” begins the journey to find Angel, discover their real parents’ identity, and get revenge on an unlikely traitor.

REVIEW: Full of adventure, mystery, and suspense this would be a good book to use as a class novel.  The characters, along with the action, provide good descriptive reading.  I believe young adults would identify with the loyalty the children exhibit for each other and enjoy the fantasy of what genetic experimentation may provide in the future.

This is an excellent book for boys, girls and adults to read.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Figurative Language, Simile and Metaphors, Compare/Contrast, Theme, Character, Sequence of Events, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Maximum Ride: School’s Out Forever, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.maximumride.com

www.jamespattterson.com

www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/NIE/cguides.html

http://readkiddoread.com/home#

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Maximum Ride (set to release in 2013)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 19, 2010

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork: Book Cover

Marcelo in the Real World

 

Author: Francisco Stork

 

Page Length: 312  

 

Reading Level: 5.3

 

Genre: Realistic Fiction

 

Career Connection:  Lawyer, Teacher, Occupational Therapist, Ministry

PLOT SUMMARY:  It isn’t often that a father forces his son to give up a job he has secured on his own, to take one in his own office.  However, that is what happens to Marcelo Sandoval, the summer before his senior year in high school.  Marcelo had planned to take care of the ponies at Paterson, his special school’s therapeutic-riding stables.  Marcelo exhibits qualities of Asperger’s Syndrome and is more comfortable at Paterson than he is in the real world.

His dad, Arturo, is a prominent lawyer.  He has always felt that Marcelo could overcome any obstacles he has, and wants to prove it to Marcelo by having him work in the mail room at his law firm.  He also wants Marcelo to attend the local regular high school, Oak Ridge High, rather than Paterson in the fall. Marcelo agrees to work for his father, if at the end of the summer he can make the choice of the school he will attend in the fall. 

Marcelo finds that working with Jasmine in the mailroom is not as bad as he thought it would be.  Jasmine is patient with him and he becomes comfortable in the working routine they have.  It is when Wendell, one of the partner’s sons, also working at the firm, confronts Marcelo and makes inappropriate remarks about Jasmine that Marcelo becomes upset.  Marcelo does not know how to react to Wendell, his feelings towards Jasmine, or a picture he finds when he is doing some work for Wendell.  The information he gains about the picture will affect a high profile case and the future of the firm. 

Will Marcelo tell what he knows about “the real world” or stay hidden in his Asperger-like comfort zone of Paterson?

REVIEW:  The book is narrarated by Marcelo who frequently talks of himself in third person.  He relates some of his peculiarities (e.g., he has obsessions with God and religion, hears internal music (IM), and sleeps in a tree house). He shares the difficulty he faces as he must learn menial tasks of the mailroom and deal with office politics.  He retains his innocence while considering the possibility of love, ethical dilemmas and other conflicts. 

Teen boys and girls, as well as adults, would enjoy this book that deals with the conflicts exposed for not only a boy with Asperger’s, but professional and social issues they may encounter themselves in the “real world”.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Characters, Point of View, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

TOUCHY AREAS: Occasional harsh profanity and sexual inferences

RELATED BOOKS: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, Rules, Anything But Typical

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Mozart and the Whale (2005), Adam (2009), Rain Man (1988)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.blogs.scholastic.com/kid…/scholastic-ala-2010-award-winners.html

www.kidshealth.org/parents/medical

www.aspeneducation.com/article-equine-aspergers-autism.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Maps – Getting from Here to There

Maps by Harvey Weiss: Book Cover

Maps – Getting from Here to There

 

Author: Harvey Weiss

 

Page Length: 64    

 

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The book begins with the narrator describing his desk in his room. He then draws a map to inform the reader how to find him.  He expands the maps to finding his room if you began by looking at the globe.

He then defines a compass and explains how to make one.  Further explanation is given about scale maps, topographical maps, definitions of latitude and longitude, and using all of the terms when looking at a globe.

In addition, he explains marine charts and symbols, as well as, special purpose maps for subways, aircrafts, environment and roads.

REVIEW:  This is an excellent informational book with interesting explanations and good illustrations that should capture the interest of a reluctant reader. I would suggest it to be used at the beginning of any geography course either in middle, junior high or high school grades.  I believe boys would especially enjoy it.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Geographical vocabulary

TOUCHY AREAS: None

RELATED BOOKS: The Map Catalog: Every Kind of Map and Chart on Earth and Even Some Above It

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Planet Earth (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.canlearn.com/ReadingR/5-5007SG.pdf

 

www.teacherlink.ed.usu.edu/tlresources/units/byrnesF2000/fraful/fullmer.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Mosquito Bite

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 3:47 am
Tags: , , , ,

Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy: Book Cover

Mosquito Bite

Author: Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel

Page Length: 30

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Did you know that a female mosquito (Culex) pushes her mouth containing a “bundle of long tubes and cutters” inside the skin of the person she is feasting on? This book tells the story of how a mosquito lives, grows, and even reproduces. Pictures taken by a SEM (scanning electron microscope) detail each phase of growth, Culex body parts, and human skin magnified to examine tiny details. Read to find out how for long a mosquito lives, which ones need blood to survive, and how they go about finding it.

REVIEW: This book seamlessly blends scientific fact with a story. The SEM magnified photos are fantastic and should capture the interest of readers. This non-fiction look at mosquitoes, how they grow, what they’re made of, and even how they locate food is fascinating. This book would make for great supplemental reading to a science lesson on mosquitoes.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Stages of growth (Thinking Map – Flow Map), illustrated scientific concepts, examining part to whole relationships (Thinking Map – Brace map), cause and effect, making predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: none

RELATED BOOKS: Blood Suckers!: Deadly Mosquito Bites, Tell Me Why Mosquitoes Bite, Sneeze, Footprints on the Moon

RELATED MOVIES: Documentary – “The Mosquito Problem”, “Malaria: Fever Road”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.alexanrdasiy.com

http://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/mosquito.htm

http://www.mosquitohelp.net/

http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/mosquito-bites/DS01075.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 5, 2010

Monster

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 7:11 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers                      

Page Length:  281

Reading Level:  5

Genre:  Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW:  This story was about a young boy, Steve Harmon, who is arrested and put into jail for allegedly murdering a drug shop owner on Christmas of the previous year.  Steve makes the episode like a play or movie and is working on it for a class project.  Therefore, the novel takes on two different forms.   Some of the sections open with a narrative from Steve, like notes written in his notebook.   The other sections are in a screenplay format where the characters’ names are presented in capital letters and camera directions accompany the play dialogue. 

The overall plot is quite simple.   The reader hears from Steve Harmon in a narrative as he describes his feelings about how it’s like to be in jail and on trial for murder.   The story then used flashback devices with home scenes to picture Steve being arrested. The flashback devices also showed how the trial events affected Steve’s family.   Another plot theme emerges which is more of a psychological one.   Steve’s emotions are thrown around as he doubts his own innocence.  He describes himself as a monster, and has very little faith in the justice system.  He has fear and doubt. The jailhouse environment scares him to death.  Unfortunately, Steve believes that his attorney thinks he is guilty of the crime which doesn’t help his morale.  His mom still loves him and is convinced that her son is being set up.  His father, on the other hand, separates himself some from his son, and acts as though he doesn’t know him. 

The story goes back and forth from jail to courtroom and then back again. His father no longer knows who his son is.  Even Steve is not sure himself.  He questions whether he is a good person or a monster.  The reader hears the plot through glimpses of Steve’s neighborhood of Harlem and the other defendants in the case.  As the reader hears the story of the murder of the drug store owner he or she begins to draw a conclusion about the other people in the story, and who might be the guilty suspects.   Of course the drama builds as the story draws to a close.  Steve’s attorney, Kathy O”Brien, tells Steve that his chances are slim unless he is able to be shown as distant from Mr. King.   The two sided affect of the situation becomes a clear threat to Steve’s life as he may face 20 years to life in prison.  Fortunately, Kathy O’Brien finally decides that Steve must take the stand to show off his best side.   The ending is quite a climax as the reader really doesn’t know what to expect.

AREAS FOR TEACHING (TEKS):  

4.9 draw upon experience for word meanings

4.10 know main idea and details supporting it

4.11 connect and compare ideas

4.12 analyze characters

REVIEWED BY:  Linda Schwegler

Monster

Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Drama, Fiction-Crime

PLOT SUMMARY: Is he really a Monster? Did he really have anything to do with the murder of the drugstore owner? These are the questions that young 16 year old Steve Harmon is asking himself. All he knew was that he was to enter a drugstore, see how many people were inside, and see if there were any police. Then he was to exit the drugstore. Actually, did Steve even agree to be a “lookout”? It was planned to be a robbery or so that is what Bobo Evans and James King told him. After Steve leaves the drugstore, the robbery went terribly awry. The drugstore owner, Mr. Nesbitt is murdered. Steve is arrested and put on trial for murder. If convicted he faces 25 years to life in prison or the death penalty. While in the detention center, Steve maintains his sanity by writing in a journal that he will use for a “film” after this nightmare is over. Steve was not even present when the murder occurred, so does this make him a monster? How could a jury convict him? How could people think he was a monster, as the prosecutor described him at the beginning of the trial? His own lawyer doesn’t even believe him. His parents do not even look at him the same way. When Steve views the “film” of himself, who or what does he now see?

REVIEW:  Walter Dean Myers does an excellent job at immediately getting the reader’s attention with his first sentence in Monster: “The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is beaten up and screaming for help”. The story is written in the format of journal entries by Steven Harmon as well as dramatic script writing by the same character. The book is written in a young African American teenager’s point of view. The book’s voice is in modern language/slang that young reader’s can understand. However, some of the scenes and events described in the detention center range from cries of despair and beatings to rape. This subject matter is extremely difficult to read but does portray the realities of jail. One gains insights into Steve’s emotions, fears, and self concept from his journal entries. After reading the book, one can not help but re-examine one’s own beliefs and self concept. After reading Monster, hopefully young readers will realize that choices they make now can affect their lives forever as Steve does in the gray writing on pages 220-221 – “What was I thinking?”       

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, voice, mood, tone, 5 steps of the writing process, dialogue, dialect, journals, diaries, antagonist, peer pressure.

TOUCHY PAGES: 36, 37, 57, 73, 109, 139-140, 143-144

RELATED BOOKS:  Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Chocolate War (Readers Circle) by Robert Cormier, The Contender by Robert Lipstyte. Books by the same author: Slam!, Hoops, Scorpions, Glory Field, Fallen Angels, Game, Bad Boy: A Memoir, Somewhere in the Darkness, Motown and Didi , Harlem

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Outsiders(1983),  Westside Story (2003),  Once Upon a Time In the Hood (2004), The Price of the American Dream (2004).

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

http://www.mcte.org/bpw/ricker.pdf

http://thebestnotes.com/booknotes/Monster_Myers/Monster_Study_Guide_Summary01.html

http://digitalbooktalk.com/?p=17

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/myers.html#monster

http://special.lib.umn.edu/clrc/kerlan/wdm/monster/index.php

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

November 15, 2009

Monster

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 9:34 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Drama

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: 16 year old Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder. He is accused of taking part in a convenience store robbery where the shop owner is shot and killed. Steve Harmon is accused of being the “look out” during the robbery. James King, the accused shooter during the robbery, is also on trial. Both boys are represented by separate lawyers.

Steve decides to write a movie script about his time in jail and his time during the trial. He writes his thoughts and reflections on notebook paper in journal format and records the actual events of the trial in movie scene format. Steve’s love for movie scripts has been nurtured through his high school education so it is only natural for this teenager to express his emotions in such as format. Monster shifts back and forth between Steve’s loneliness in jail and the tension in the courtroom. In jail, Steve is left with his own thoughts about himself. He is left to reflect on how others view him. The prosecutor has labeled him a monster, his father looks at him in a different light, and Steve questions if his lawyer views him as guilty or not.

Many of the witnesses that testify against Steve are jail inmates themselves that have motives for their testimonies. This plays in favor for Steve. Steve’s lawyer tries her best to distance Steve from the other accused (James King, the shooter). Steve’s lawyer feels that if the jury can see a difference between Steve and James, then possibly the jury will see Steve as the good one of the two.

In the end, the jury finds James King guilty and Steve Harmon not guilty. When Steve turns to hug his lawyer in appreciation, his lawyer stiffens and turns away.

Monster is a creative example of the inner-workings of the mind of an accused teenager. Is Steve Harmon truly a monster or a victim of circumstance?

I would recommend that this book be read and studied as a group. The organization (movie script format) may be confusing for some. It is a good story that can generate discussion on a number of current topics.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: imagery, vocabulary (ex. dispensary), reading in different formats: diary, movie script

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: language on pages 80 and 81, imagery of jail-death row, vague descriptions of sexual acts in jail

RELATED BOOKS: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

MEDIA CONNECTIONS: Law and Order – TV series

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.harperchildrens.com/schoolhouse/TeachersGuides/myers.htm#monster

http://litplans.com/authors/Walter_Dean_Myers.html (scroll down to the middle for 9 links)

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/myers.html (scroll down to the middle for 6 links)

http://books.google.com/books?id=dX5YBgIkFJ0C&dq=walter+dean+myers+monster&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=y84hStHkCI_MM8TmpcEJ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#PPP1,M1  (copy of the book on-line through google)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 30, 2009

My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 9:26 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie

Author: Susan Heyboer O’Keefe

Page Length: 255

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Alexandra, with her mother, has just returned to her mother’s home town, Nickel Park. Alexandra has had trouble in every school she’s been to lately, she and her mother are always on the move, and she already hates life in this little town trailer park. The only pastime Allie enjoys is attending funerals – even of complete strangers. This time Allie makes a new friend, find a teacher who believes in her, and uncovers a mystery – it appears that Jimmy was murdered and Allie intends to find out who did it.

REVIEW: This book was an “ok” read. It deals with some of the typical issues of teenage rebellion and general discontent. The one notable subject matter was that Allie constantly blames her mother for the disappearance of her father – and in her mind she romanticizes the reasons why she hasn’t heard from him – only to later come to terms with the crushing reality that he’s started a new life and doesn’t want her included in it. There are many likable characters for readers to relate to. However, the plot isn’t as well developed as it could be, and Allie’s counter bullying of Dennis and the consequences isn’t adequately addressed.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: comparing text to self, compare and contrast, sequence of events, setting, conflict, resolution

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: bullying issues, funeral descriptions, suicide due to parent acceptance issues

RELATED BOOKS: Death by Eggplant, Christmas Gifts

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.meghan-mccarthy.com/authorstalk_susanokeefe.html

http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/childrens_writing/117238

http://www.girlposse.com/reviews/books/my_life_and_death.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Monster

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 9:24 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction / Screenplay

PLOT SUMMARY: Steve is only sixteen years old and he’s on trial for murder. Steve isn’t enjoying his time in the slammer – the only thing he can say for it so far is that he’s become a writer. Steve’s life hangs in the balance – jurors will determine his fate – and all Steve can do is write it out one scene at a time.

REVIEW: This book is a decent read with some excellent points for classroom discussion and student engagement. One great point for students is that it’s written as a screenplay and they might all enjoy taking on parts as different characters in the play. I like how the author connects the reader to Steve’s life and lets the reader ponder (on their own) his guilt or innocence – in essence the reader becomes the juror as page after page more details are divulged.      

The book is great for teaching the judicial process and gaining an understanding of how evidence is used and how trials are conducted.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character traits, elements of plot, comparing and contrasting the characters, comparing text to self, point of view, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: robbery, shooting, prison life

RELATED BOOKS: Dopesick, Sunrise Over Fallujah, Crystal, Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Shooter, Somewhere in the Darkness

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/             

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

http://lib.store.yahoo.net/lib/monkeynote/pmMonsterSample.pdf

http://quizlet.com/920587/monster-legal-terms-flash-cards/

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

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 18, 2009

Margaux with an X

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 7:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Margaux with an X

Author: Ron Koertge

Page Length: 165

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: On the outside, Margaux’s life seems to resemble perfection. She’s gorgeous, every guy wants her, every girl wants to be within her circle of friends, and she’s smart. In reality, Margaux’s harboring a terrible secret. She’s tired of playing Sara’s popularity games with groping boys, seeing her mother engrossed in the shopping channel day after day, and hearing about her father’s latest gambling activities. Then she meets Danny who is a scrawny, anything but fashionable guy who dedicates his life to rescuing animals. Could it be love at first sight? Will Margaux reveal her terrible secret?

REVIEW: This book took an interesting look at a number of important topics. One issue addressed in the book is the price Margaux has paid for her father’s addiction to gambling. Also, Koertge teaches the reader that being beautiful isn’t as glamorous or as easy at it seems. Yet another topic presented in the book is that self-discovery can be painful but gratifying. Both Danny and Margaux have endured hardships and are discovering who they are and how their past has shaped them. Overall, the book is interesting, the plot is well developed, and the final parting message is good – the path of least resistance isn’t necessarily the best.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, sarcasm, vocabulary development

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Dad offering Margaux a joint (p.22), “he tries to feel my boobs… just a semi-slut instead of a full-on hoochie” (p.87), destroying a car out of anger (p.142), “you’d drive me over to Tony’s house and let him take pictures of me in my underpants” (p.150)

RELATED BOOKS: Where the Kissing Never Stops, Stoner & Spaz, The Brimstone Journals, Shakespeare Bats Clean Up, The Arizona Kid

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0763624012.asp

http://www.bookrags.com/biography/ron-koertge-aya/

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/gambling_addiction.htm

http://www.spca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Homepage_Template_2004

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 7:33 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts

Author: Charlotte Wilcox

Page Length: 64

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The book begins with the ethics of studying the dead (chapter one).  Scientists have mixed feelings about uncovering the remains of a mummy belonging to the Pazyryk tribe.  The first chapter explains the process of preparing the body for burial.  Next, the definition of what makes a mummy is explained along with how human remains are studied. Throughout the book, examples of mummies from England to the Andes Mountains are cited.  The author shows respect towards the mummies who are being studied by reminding the reader that mummies were once people’s relatives or friends.

REVIEW: The book has exceptional facts about studying mummies and the various preparations for burial and preservation after death. There is a glossary, bibliography, suggested books and suggested websites to visit at the back of the book.  It is illustrated with authentic photographs of the mummies that have been discovered and are being studied.

This is a good book for those who enjoy reading non-fiction and science related subjects.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Historical Context, Vocabulary, and Supporting Details

RELATED BOOKS: Bodies from the Bog, How to Make a Mummy Talk, Frozen Girl, Mummies and their Mysteries

ART CONNECTIONS: Mummy Exhibits-1) The Catacomb Mummies of Palermo, Italy, 2) Otzi the Iceman, Bolanzo, Italy, 3) Lady Dai, Ch’angsha, China, 4) Mummies at St. Michan’s Church, Dublin, Ireland, 5) The Tollund Man, Silkeborg, Denmark, 6) Juanita the Ice Maiden, Peru, 7) The Lindow Man, London, England, 8) The Mummified Monk, Thailand, 9) Vladimir Lenin, Moscow, Russia

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.indiana.edu/~icp/dbase/S4-2wi.html

www.cryonics.org

www.archaelology.or/online/news/iceman

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 17, 2009

Maniac Magee

Filed under: *AWESOME BOOKS!!!,M — thebookreviews @ 9:32 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Maniac Magee

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Page Length: 184

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Maniac Magee was not born with the name Maniac.  He earned it due to his many athletic antics that he performed in his neighborhood.  He was born Jeffrey Lionel Magee.  He was orphaned at a young age and moved in with his very mean aunt and uncle. After eight miserable years with his aunt and uncle, Maniac ran away.  He literally started running and didn’t stop for a very long time.

In search for a home with a real address, Maniac took up residence at the zoo, until he moved in with the Beale’s, an African American family on the east side of town.  This didn’t workout after awhile, so Maniac left the Beale’s and met Grayson.  Grayson was a former minor league baseball player; and, he and Maniac made a home together.  However, it didn’t last forever.

REVIEW: This is a great book to read as a class novel.  It has excellent character development and teaches about prejudice, love, and family. It is highlighted with tales of the all-American sport of baseball.  As Maniac Magee becomes a legend, he draws a racially prejudice town together, and he helps them learn to accept each other. Maniac makes me think of Mark Twain’s, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Setting, Sequence of Events, Point of View, and Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Crash, Max the Mighty

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Pay It Forward (2000)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.webenglishteacher.com/spinelli.html

www.jerryspinelli.com/newbery_001.htm

www.strangenewworlds.com//maniac-magee-study-guides-lessonplans.html

www.mce.k12tn.net/reading47/maniac_magee.htm

www.carolhurst.com/titles/maniacmagee.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 12, 2008

Math Curse

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 9:18 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Math Curse

Author: Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

Page Length: 30

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: When Mrs. Fibonacci, the teacher, challenges her class by saying, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem,” the narrator finds she is consumed with math equations about everything she encounters in his everyday life.  Her thoughts are so full of math that she feels he has a “math curse”.   After a day of calculating her every thought and move with math equations, she even dreams about math.  However, the following morning, she quickly resolves the first math question of the day.  Relieved of the curse, she attends her science class, only to hear this statement come out of Mr. Newton’s mouth, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a science experiment . . .”

REVIEW: This is a colorful, well illustrated, book with dozens of math thought questions.  It could be used in a class presentation to challenge students to think of ways we use math in everyday life.  It is short and a lower reading level that would appeal to boys who want to avoid reading longer chapter books. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Cause/Effect, Logical Argument, Making Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Sir Cumference and the Dragon Pi, Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter, What’s Your Angle Pythagoras, Spaghetti and Meatballs for All: A Mathematical Story, Anno’s Magic Seeds

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Stand and Deliver (1988), October Sky (l999)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=1123

www.lessonplanet.com/directory/Math

www.theteacherscorner.net/lessonplans/math/storyproblems/mathcurse.htm

www.alex.state.al.us/lesson_view.php?id=1711

www.math.harvard.edu/~knill/mathmovies/index.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 1, 2008

Matilda

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 1:44 am
Tags: , , , ,

Matilda

Author: Roald Dahl

Page Length: 240

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Matilda is only 4 years old but teaches herself to read and reading she does!  She spends her afternoons at the library reading novels by noted authors while her mother plays “Bingo” and her dad makes crooked deals at his used car lot.  She tires of their verbal abuse and put downs, and begins to invent practical jokes to get back at them.

When Matilda enters school, Miss Honey (her teacher) discovers she can multiply any two numbers and find the answer and reads like an adult. When she rushes to tell her parents, she realizes that Matilda’s parents put little value on education and could care less that Matilda is a genius.

At school, the entire faculty and student population must fight the principal and her physical abusive ways of tormenting others.  Matilda bonds with Ms. Honey and learns that she was abused as a child.  She makes a plan to use her newly found powers to help Ms. Honey; and, get rid of the dreaded school principal.

REVIEW: Elementary and junior high children would enjoy this book. The verbal and physical abuse towards Matilda and the other students made me grimace as I read, but in the end, the parents and principal (the bad guys) lose and Matilda and Ms. Honey have a happy ending. Dahl writes with great description and creates his characters quite visually.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Conflict, Character, and Making Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Witches, James and the Giant Peach

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Matilda” (1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.roalddahl.com

www.vtaide.com/png/matilda.htm

www.webenglishteacher.com/dahl.html

www.roalddahlfans.com/teachers.php

www.scoilnet.ie/article.aspx?id=RoaldDahl_Themepage

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 2, 2008

Middle Row

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 8:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Middle Row

Author: Sylvia Olsen

Page Length: 100

Reading Level: 2.4

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Raedawn (a Native American) and Vince (a white American) are dating in a town where racial tensions run high. Neither family totally embraces the couple’s bond.

When a fellow classmate, Dune, turns up missing from school, not many people are motivated to find out the truth about this boy’s disappearance. As Vince, Raedawn, and her Uncle Dave dig deeper into the disappearance of Dune, they stumble across a marijuana operation in the backwoods country. Upon their discovery, all three are chased out of the woods by gun shots and dogs. The “detectives” turn to the police to report what they have seen. As a result, Dune and his mother Ocean are forced from their hiding place in the woods to a farmhouse basement.

When Uncle Dave, who used to date Ocean, comes face to face with Ocean and Dune, it hits him that Dune is his son. Uncle Dave and Ocean make amends for their past actions, and the story closes with Uncle Dave accepting Dune into his “family”. A celebration of Dune commences at the Reservation.

REVIEW: This book was a simple story about how in the midst of racial tensions, family can transcend hatred and bigotry. The character of Dune is an outcast of mixed race, yet finally discovers his true family in his long-lost father. I enjoyed this book, however I wished that the character of Dune had some more dialogue. The lack of dialogue used by the author for Dune was probably for effect, but it would have been nice to know a little bit more about this character. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (page 41), characterization of Raedawn (page 71)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: “beach bastards” (page 20), weed operation (page 55), marijuana mentioned (page 56), “damn racist” (page 79), racial tension throughout the book

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.orcabook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/MiddleRowTG.pdf

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

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

October 17, 2008

Mary on Horseback

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 8:17 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Mary on Horseback

Author: Rosemary Wells

Page Length: 53

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY: The year is 1923. People in the hills of Kentucky are dying from lack of medical care. Mary Breckinridge is a nurse destined to change the lives of the people she cares for. John’s pa is a logger who has been injured by a giant log falling on his leg. A child is ill with diphtheria. Twins are born and the mother is failing. What would the people do without Mary? Can she save them all? When will medical supplies and help arrive?

REVIEW: This story is a true account of the help that Mary Breckinridge brought to the people of Kentucky. She worked tirelessly with limited supplies to bring relief and hope. Mary creates her on frontier nursing service. This story is good for examining the life of someone who refused to give up when times were tough. Students will learn from her “will do whatever it takes to get it done attitude.” Three brief stories make this book ideal for classroom use. Students can stay engaged and entertained.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical context, character traits, visualizing, understanding author’s purpose, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: dealing with death

RELATED BOOKS: The Fog Comes on Little Pig Feet, Leave Well Enough Alone, When No One Was Looking, Through the Hidden Door, Wide Neighborhoods: A Story of the Frontier Nursing Service (written by Mary Breckinridge)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1112/Wells-Rosemary-1943.html

http://www.nursingadvocacy.org/press/pioneers/breckinridge.html

http://www.frontiernursing.org/History/MaryBreckinridge.shtm

http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=27

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Mr. Blue Jeans A Story About Levi Strauss

Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 8:12 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Mr. Blue Jeans: A Story About Levi Strauss

Author: Maryann N. Weidt

Page Length: 61

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY: Lob Strauss is a teenage boy strolling the streets of his small Bavarian village peddling his wares. His father died two years ago and he and his brothers must do all that they can to care for their mother and his sisters. His step brothers have gone to America and write home of gold and good fortune. Desperate for a better life, his mother, his sisters, and he decide to go to America. Lob arrives in America and finds his name changed to Levi. His adventures and struggles begin. Levi travels the countryside with this peddler’s sack. Eventually, he ends up joining his brothers in California and designing the ever famous Levi blue jeans.

REVIEW: This book read as well as most biographies (which to me is a little dry and boring). However, it was informative and historically entertaining. It was very interesting to read of Levi’s passage to America and his adventures as he sought his own fame and fortune. This book would be a good companion to the immigration unit in social studies.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical context, character traits, visualizing, understanding author’s purpose, cause and effect, sequence of events, connecting text to self

RELATED BOOKS: Levi Strauss: The Man Behind the Blue Jeans, Rosa Parks, Oh the Places He Went, Daddy Played Music for the Cows

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.maryannweidt.com/

www.levistrauss.com

www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/s_z/strauss.htm

http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/strauss.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.