The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

On My Honor

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On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer: Book Cover

On My Honor

Author: Marion Dane Bauer

Page Length: 90

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Joel and Tony are deciding how to spend their long summer day when Tony decides that climbing the starved rock bluffs would be fun. Joel’s terrified – people have died on those rocks. Joel would rather do something safe like swimming at the local pool, but Tony insists on an adventure. Joel decides that asking his dad will end the debate because he’s sure that his father will say no. But surprisingly Joel’s dad agrees as long as Joel promises “on his honor” to only go to the park and back. Both boys promise but as their journey gets under way, Tony stops under the bridge where there’s water. Both boys have been warned about the danger of the river. But Joel, too reluctant to stand up to Tony, and Tony, always too desperate to prove how tough he is, decide to plunge in. It’s a fateful decision that will change everything!

REVIEW: This book makes a huge impact in a very small amount of pages. There are numerous teaching moments for students to identify with. Both boys and girls would benefit from this story, but, it would especially appeal to boys who have dealt with peer pressure issues. Students will feel the devastation that occurs because of Joel’s inability to stand up for what is right – even when someone else doesn’t want to. Teachers can discuss what the actions should have been – before swimming and after. This book would lead to an excellent discussion on other mistakes such as potentially deadly peer pressure situations that can or have arisen. This is an excellent book for reaching students!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, making predictions, author’s purpose, character traits, connecting text to self


RELATED BOOKS: Blue Ghost, Killing Miss Kitty, Questions of Trust, Like Mother, Like Daughter, Red Ghost, Rain of Fire


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 5, 2010

Off the Map The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Off the Map The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Author: Peter and Connie Roop, editors

Page Length: 44

Reading Level: 5.9

Genre: Non-fiction, social studies trade book

REVIEW: Lewis and Clark’s adventurous expedition into the frontiers of the Louisiana Purchase are highlighted in this easy-to-read trade book. Off the Map is written in the format of daily journal entries by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The entries are short yet descriptive of the highs and lows of the men’s travels through the U.S.

Both explorers record their travels along the Missouri river by canoe noting their agreements and disagreements with various tribes of Native Americans. According to the journal accounts, Lewis and Clark’s diet consisted of fish, bear, deer, elk, buffalo, and even dog!  Both men were charged with the task of mapping the territory along the Missouri River and on towards the Pacific Ocean. President Jefferson was extremely interested in discovering a commerce/trade route along the interior of his country. Lewis and Clark were to record every important observation along their travels – everything from the people they met and the food they ate to the plants and soil they discovered and the animals they came in contact with.

A total of 31 men began the expedition on May 14, 1804 that lasted until their return to St. Louis, Missouri on September 23, 1806. Over the course of 2 years and 4 months, eight thousand miles were traveled. Only one member of their crew died. Much was learned about the new addition to the United States landscape. The travels of Lewis and Clark were extremely successful and valuable to the future of American society.

This book was easy to follow. I enjoyed the writing in journal-format. The illustrations were nice, however I wish the book included a map of the route that Lewis and Clark traveled. The end of the book provides the reader a glossary of terms as well as an appendix on the various Native American tribes that Lewis and Clark encountered.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: reading/writing journals, sequence of events

RELATED BOOKS: The Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Lewis and Clark by George Sullivan, Lewis and Clark Explorers of the American West by Steven Kroll, The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Christin Ditchfield, Lewis and Clark by John Burrows

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “National Geographic Lewis and Clark” (2002), “PBS Home Video Lewis and Clark” (1997, 2001), “Lewis and Clark Great Journey West” (2002)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 30, 2009

Once Upon a Marigold

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Once Upon a Marigold

Author: Jean Ferris            

Page Length: 275

Reading Level: 5

Genre: fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW:  This story is about a young boy, Christian, who is looking for adventure and runs away from home only to find a gentle old troll who decides to raise him.  It turns out that Christian is a very curious and inventive lad.   He grows up loving Ed, the troll, romping with his two dogs and reading books which are found in the forest.   All along he spies across the river at a beautiful palace where he watches four princesses play.   However, Christian is especially aware of the dark haired younger daughter and begins to write her using his foster father’s two pigeons to relay the messages.  The two form a close friendship, and as he gets older the boy finds it impossible to stay away from his heart’s yearning.   So with promises and good wishes from his foster father, Christian  goes across the river and attains a position at the castle, through the help of a friend.   The boy finds it difficult to win this girl princess because her mother, the Queen, has set up various suitors to propose and marry young Marigold.  

However, the main battle is for Christian to deal with.  He must not only win Marigold’s heart and save her from impending danger, but he must win the battle to be her suitor and husband.   Some very funny and inventive things take place leaving the climax of this story to a very good ending.  I thought it was a funny and good book.


5.9 draw upon experience for word meanings

5.10 know main idea and details supporting it

5.11 connect and compare ideas

5.12 analyze characters

RELATED BOOKS: by the same author – Of Sound Mind, Bad


REVIEWED BY:  Linda Schwegler

Of Sound Mind

Of Sound Mind

Author: Jean Ferris

Page Length: 215

Reading Level: 4

Genre: fiction

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW:  This book is about a young high school senior, Theo, who is bilingual – speaking English and using the American Sign Language symbols.  Both of his parents and younger brother are deaf, and he is the only one who is “hearing.”  When Ivy, a new girl at Theo’s high school, whose father is also deaf becomes Theo’s best friend things become quite interesting.  Not only does Ivy sign, but she has many common responsibilities.   A friendship is inevitable because of their similarities. Theo has been the hearing minority in a family where he has tremendous pressure.  He has school exams, studies math (which he loves), and has a new girl relationship that is quite comforting and quite a bit of fun for him.   However, at home he must not only interpret for his mother, who is an awesome artist, but he must be there for his father and brother.  Ivy also has responsibility but cooks and caters to make those she lives around happy.   

Even at the story’s beginning, Theo is tired of all the work and interpreting he must do.   However, it is not until his father gets really sick that Theo learns how to decide between college, his new friendship with Ivy, and what will happen with his family.   This is a great story and great fun to read!


4.9 draw on experience for word meanings

4.10 know main idea and details

4.12 analyze characters

4.11 connect and compare ideas

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: There are no touchy areas.  The book is a great tool to teach students how to distinguish between having great responsibility and coping with a disability.  

RELATED BOOKS:   Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Martin; books by the same author are Once upon a Marigold, Bad, The Granny Project, and Up on Cloud 9


REVIEWED BY:  Linda Schwegler

December 12, 2008

Out of the Dust

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Out of the Dust

Author: Karen Hesse

Page Length: 227

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction written in Verse

PLOT SUMMARY: 14-year-old Billie Jo Kelby is the main character who narrates the story written in verse.  Billie Jo lives with her parents on a wheat farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle.  It is 1934, The Great Depression, and they live in the heart of the dust bowl.  In each entry, Billie Jo reveals that dust is around her and everything she touches. 

While barely making ends meet, the family learns that the mother is pregnant.  However, a terrible accident with a bucket of kerosene left beside the kitchen stove, burns Billie Jo and her mother.  Her mother dies in childbirth as well as losing the baby.  Billie Jo’s hands are scarred, and she no longer attempts to play the piano, which was her one pleasure in life. Billie Jo and her father become distant after the accident, and Billie Jo eventually leaves to join others who have fled the dust, in search for a better life in California. She soon learns that “dust” is apart of her life and returns home to find what the future holds.

REVIEW: Written in free verse, the book is somewhat like a diary or journal written from 1934-1935.  The character of Billie Jo is developed demonstrating courage, strength, and great emotion.  This book would be a good book to use when teaching journal writing or free verse.  It could be used in addition to a social studies unit about the 1930’s depression.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Verse writing, Historical Context, Setting, Character, Cause and Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Grapes of Wrath

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl (PBS, 1999)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


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Author: Eric Walters

Page Length: 102

Reading Level: 2.8

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: After receiving his license, Jake takes his brother’s car out for a spin with his friend Mickey. After cruising around town and stopping by the local hamburger joint, Jake and Mickey head for home. On his way there, Jake runs into a class-mate, Luke, from school. Luke verbally harasses Jake about having no friends and failing 9th grade. Upset, Jake street-races Luke for some distance. However, after decelerating from the race, Jake notices that Luke does not stop! Instead, Luke crashes into another vehicle that is carrying two passengers (one of which is pregnant). Jake and Mickey do not stop to help, yet head on straight for home.

Both Luke and the pregnant woman are transported to the local hospital. Even though both are expected to recover, Jake does not know this. Out of guilt, he visits Luke at the hospital only to find that Luke has no memory of the accident. Jake struggles within himself as to if he should tell the police that he was involved in the street-racing incident that led to the awful crash. Against the advice of his friend Mickey and with the help of his school guidance counselor, Jake decides to make the right decision and notify the authorities. 

REVIEW: This book did not start off well for me. Even though the main characters are male, the dialogue used appeared to be more appropriate for female characters. Beyond that, it just did not seem authentic for teenage boys.

I did, however, enjoy the ending where the story was not entirely resolved. We know what Jake has done (called the authorities) but the story leaves us hanging there with our imaginations left to create what might happen next.

There are several movies out that students may enjoy when it comes to street-racing. However, in general, this form of racing is illegal. The story is a good one in that it clearly shows the struggle that Jake is wrestling with when it comes to notifying the police. Life is about choices, and this story is a good example of such.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: voice, dialogue, choices, art of humor (see page 29), vocabulary – “Jaws of Life” (page 57), “gear heads” (page 31)

RELATED BOOKS: Fastback Beach by Shirlee Smith Matheson

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001), “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003), “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

December 1, 2008

Olive’s Ocean

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Olive’s Ocean

Author: Kevin Henkes

Page Length: 217

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Martha is a twelve-year-old girl packing for her annual summer trip with her family to go her grandmother’s house.  When Olive’s mother delivers a page from Olive’s journal, to Martha, her life changes.  Olive was in Martha’s class, but she didn’t know her.  Earlier in the school year, Olive was killed when she was hit by a car while riding her bike.  In the journal, Olive expressed that she wanted to be a writer, see the ocean, and be Martha’s friend.

When the family arrives at the home of Godbee, near Cape Cod, Martha is enveloped in her thoughts of the words Olive wrote.  She begins to write a story that chronicles some of the experiences she is having at the ocean.  Martha is very close to her grandmother, Godbee, and each day they share something with each other that no one else knows.

REVIEW: This story was compassionate and touching as Martha narrates her thoughts of her family, grandmother, feelings towards boys, and how Olive has affected her life.  It is a book that will cause girls to think about events in their life and how they can handle them.  Although it is written at a fifth grade level about a junior high age girl, I believe any female would enjoy this book and the story of Martha and Olive’s ocean.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Compare and Contrast, Cause and Effect, Theme, Making Generalizations, Predictions, and Summaries

RELATED BOOKS: The Zebra Wall, Two Under Par, The Birthday Room


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 16, 2008

One Tree Hill The Beginning

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One Tree Hill The Beginning  

Author: Jenny Markas

Page Length: 206

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The town of Tree Hill is split in two. On one side are the rich citizens who live mostly on the hills in their mansions. On the other side are the poor folks who live below, known affectionately as the River Rats. Both sides collide at a high school that bears the same name as the town.

Tree Hill lives and breathes basketball. Whether it is in the gym at the local high school or on the run-down courts of a nearby park, everyone seems to play, cheer, announce, or talk about the sport. The story, which was a catalyst for the popular TV show on the CW Network, focuses primarily on 5 main teenagers: Lucas Scott, Nathan Scott, Haley, Peyton, and Brooke.

Lucas Scott and Haley (River Rats) are best friends. Nathan Scott, Peyton, and Brooke (the rich teens) form the other group. One Tree Hill is no simple good side vs. bad side story, because if you analyze Lucas and Nathan’s last names, you’ll see they are the same. Both Lucas and Nathan share the same father. Lucas doesn’t have contact with his father however since his father left his mom after impregnating her with Lucas. After his mother gave birth to him, the two were left to live their lives trying to make ends meet. While Nathan, however lives with his father in a comfortable mansion.

Both Lucas and Nathan play basketball, but for two very different reasons. Lucas plays with his friends outside just for fun. Nathan plays so he may advance his career in basketball later in life. The two try their best to avoid each other at school until one-day the basketball coach is in need of additional players and seeks out Lucas to join the team. Nathan does not favor this idea at all!!!

REVIEW: This story will appeal to many students as it is connected to a current popular TV show. The idea of two brothers from different mothers is not new. However, the author has updated the idea and placed it in a setting of an every-day town engulfed in the popular sport of basketball. Beyond this basic two-sided story, there lies sub-plots between girl friends and best friends that make for interesting twists. Nathan and Lucas couldn’t be more different, yet they will find it rather difficult to keep their differences and lives apart for too long. They have done a successful job of it for years, but the thing that they love the most, will certainly bring them together.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (page 201), comparison/contrast (two brothers – Lucas & Nathan) (poor vs. rich)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the book gives a real depiction of teenagers. There are references and visualizations to beer, kegs, bongs, sex, & parties. All references are minor and do not detract from the main story line. The use of the word “bastard” is present as it refers to Lucas, the son of Dan and Karen, who was born out of wed-lock.

RELATED BOOKS: A Heart So True by Anna Lotto, One Tree Hill by Monica Rizzo,


“One Tree Hill” – TV show (2003-2008)

Gavin DeGraw – “I Don’t Want to Be” – 2004 (theme song to One Tree Hill TV show)

RELATED WEBSITES: (official website of the One Tree Hill TV show)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

September 21, 2008

One More Step

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One More Step

Author: Sheree Fitch

Page Length: 85

Reading Level: 2.5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: 14 year old Julian lives with his older brother Chris and his divorced mother. Julian’s father separated from his mother when he was only 1 year old. As a result, Julian’s relationship with his father is not a close one. Their contact is limited to weekend and holiday visits. On a recent Christmas visit to their father’s home, Julian and Chris spend time with their father’s new wife, children, and their grandfather – Poppie. When Chris and father are sent outside to fix some broken Christmas lights, Chris’ leg is broken breaking the fall of his father. Julian becomes upset at the scene and decides to leave his father and join his mother and her new boyfriend, Jean-Paul, for a visit to Quebec. Jean-Paul intends for Julian’s mother to meet his huge family!

On this trip, Julian discovers that this “new man” in her mother’s life is a supportive and loving one. Jean-Paul and Julian bond and move several steps towards becoming a “family”. The past 14 years of Julian’s life have resulted in his mother dating 3 men – all with their flaws. His mother’s new French boyfriend, Jean-Paul, proves to be promising, despite Julian’s constant cocky and sarcastic attitude.

Towards the end of the Quebec trip, Julian’s mother gets a call that her father, Poppie, has passed away. This is a blow to Julian, who was very close to his grandfather. The story comes to a close with Julian’s mother marrying Jean-Paul, Chris going off to school, and Julian realizing that Jean-Paul is not going to be his replacement father but rather a supportive male presence.   

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book. I thought the internal and external dialogue of Julian was awesome. It kept me engaged. For a book written at a 2nd to 3rd grade level, I was entertained. The topic of divorce, separation, and new family figures is a touchy one, and I felt the author did an excellent job portraying the emotions, change, and acceptance that comes with this frequent situation in society. The book overall had a positive tone yet the youthful sarcastic elements remained. This certified it as authentic. Even though there were numerous curse words, this gave the dialogue true and real meaning.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: voice, internal & external dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: curse words (pages 47 & 54), references to underage drinking (page 65 & 79-82), references to items such as condoms and hickeys

RELATED BOOKS: Dear Mr. Henshaw, It’s Not the End of the World

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), “Boys N the Hood” (1991)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 24, 2008

One True Friend

One True Friend

Author: Joyce Hansen

Page Length: 154

Reading Level: 6

Genre:  Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of a friendship between Amir and Doris who met while Amir was living in a foster home on 163rd street in the Bronx. Amir’s parents were killed in a car wreck and he was separated from his siblings who were put into foster care.  As the story evolves, Amir is living with his youngest brother, Ronald and his foster parent’s, Alvin and Grace Smith. Amir is on a mission to find his aunt, who he believes has his other sibling’s living with them.  He has a letter and picture he wants to send to all of the people who have the same last name as his aunt to try to find them.  However, Mr. Smith forbids Amir to send the letters and says that he will help find his aunt.

Amir feels alone and writes Doris about his life in Syracuse, the Smith’s, and Ronald.  Doris writes back about issues she is having with her schoolmates and family.  Both Amir and Doris, give each other advice and support through their mail. They both feel disconnected from the world they live in and hold on to the distant friendship to solve their problems.

REVIEW: This book starts off slow, but gets better as the relationship between Doris and Amir develops through the letters they write.  The issues that the two teens face are realistic as to what many teens fact today.  A meaningful relationship also develops between the Smith’s and Amir that makes Amir realize what blood family and chosen family can both be a part of one’s life.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Conflict, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast, Setting and Characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: References to marijuana use and AIDS, but nothing that is not age appropriate.

RELATED BOOKS: The Gift Giver, Yellow Bird and Me


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 29, 2008

Orphea Proud

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Orphea Proud

Author: Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Page Length: 190

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story of Orphea begins in a club where Orphea shares her material with the crowd. Orphea begins to tell us her story. She begins with a flashback to when her mother, Nadine, was a beautiful singer, wed to a controlling preacher. Orphea tells us how they met and what unfolded in her childhood. Orphea and her best friend fall in love with one another. Orphea’s brother doesn’t approve; he creates a tumultuous home life for Orphea. After being sent to live with her aunts, Orphea befriends Ray, and through their friendship Orphea’s broken heart begins to heal. She begins to write again and finds her way back to living again.

REVIEW: This is not your average book. In fact, Orphea falls in love with her best friend, Lissa (they are both females). The book deals with the romance and rather briefly addresses the physical nature of their relationship. Prejudice is revealed through the brother who reacts toward the relationship with violence. The book does create an understanding for Orphea as a person and would be useful in teaching students to understand instead of judging others. However, I would not want to have to defend this book to a parent. I would avoid this book on the classroom level all together.

On the other hand, times are changing and some students may need the support this novel could offer about sexuality and same-sex relationships. Read it your self before your students do and you’ll be prepared instead of surprised.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: conflict, cause and effect, countering prejudice,

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: lesbian relationship (detailed on pages 22-23), physical abuse (pgs. 23-24)


Female same-sex relationship books: The Rules for Hearts, Good Girls Don’t, I’ve Known Since I was Eight, Keeping You a Secret

Wyeth books: A Piece of Heaven, Something Beautiful, Corey’s Underground Railroad Diary


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 15, 2008

Our Only May Amelia

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Our Only May Amelia

Author: Jennifer L. Holm

Page Length: 251

Reading Level: 6.5

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: May Amelia Jackson is a twelve year old girl growing up in Washington in 1899. Life as a pioneer in a homestead near the river is both adventurous and dangerous. May Amelia isn’t a typical young woman for her time; she is a free spirit who is anxious to explore and experience life as her seven brothers do. May Amelia constantly tests the boundaries and perceptions of a “proper young lady.” May’s mother is pregnant; May hopes desperately for a baby sister. May’s mother falls ill, and May must care for the baby. One brother disappears and is feared to have been shanghaied, another brother takes ill with scarlett fever, and a murderer is on the loose. May takes action, and were May goes mishap and adventure are sure to follow.

REVIEW: The book is fast paced and enjoyable. May’s adventures are sure to entertain both male and female students alike (as May is often more like one of the boys). Holm brilliantly weaves realistic elements of pioneer life into the story; the reader witnesses ethnic clashes, daily life during the time, the limits of medicine, gender roles, and even the realities of life at sea.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Connecting text to self, Making historical connections (US History and pioneer life), Sequencing (events of the story, events of May’s childhood), Cause and effect (short life span during the time, May’s unladylike behavior)


– Produce summaries of texts by identifying main ideas and their supporting

details. 10.7.F

– Analyze relevance of setting and time frame to text’s meaning; 10.11.B

– Describe and analyze the development of plot and identify conflicts and how

they are addressed and resolved 10.11.C


Pages 174-181 deal with the death of a baby and the subsequent depression that follows

Pages 100-105 Grandmother Patience (a mean and cruel woman) belittles May Amelia


Growing Up in Pioneer America by Judith Josephson

If You Were A Pioneer on the Prairie by Anna Kamma

Pioneer Sisters by Laura Ingalls Wilder

MTH: Twister on Tuesday (set in Pioneer Kansas) by Mary Pope Osbourne


Oklahoma, Old Yeller, Little House on the Prairie (Kennedy Center Unit)


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Old Yeller

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Old Yeller

Author: Fred Gipson

Page Length: 117

Reading Level: 6th

Genre: Fiction


PLOT SUMMARY: When Papa leaves his Texas homestead to provide for his family, 14 year-old Travis becomes the man of the house.  He must help with the crops, hunt for food, tag the wild hogs, and try to keep his younger brother, Arliss, out of trouble. 


As a boy who has already lost a beloved pet, Travis is first resistant to the yellow dog that shows up on their land.  But when Arliss bonds with the mongrel and names him Old Yeller, Travis is forced to put up with the creature.  At first Old Yeller seems useless; they even suspect him of stealing some of their meat.  But he soon earns his keep, and eventually Travis’s love, as he protects the family from the dangers of frontier life, such as bears, bulls, Hydrophobia (Rabies), and hogs.


One day, while Travis is marking the wild hogs, he is attacked.  His leg becomes badly hurt, yet his wounds are nothing compared to those Old Yeller suffers while defending Travis.  Travis, Arliss, and Mama trek across their land to bring Old Yeller back, unsure of what they’ll find.  Fortunately, he survives his injuries.


Yet, it is to no avail.  Soon after, Old Yeller is infected with Hydrophobia while saving Mama’s life from a sick bull.  And Travis is forced to shoot his beloved dog when old Yeller begins showing signs of the illness.


The book’s ending is bittersweet.  Though Travis is certain that no one can replace his dog, he is given one of Old Yeller’s offspring.  Finally, Papa returns to find that his oldest boy has truly become a man.


REVIEW: I was really impressed with this read.  Since it was written over fifty years ago and the setting was the 1860’s, I thought I would have a hard time connecting with the book.  Instead, the story really came to life for me.  The characters were authentic, the language that the author used was natural, and the story’s action created suspense and intrigue.  As is usually the case, the book was even better than the movie.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: Predictions, Inference, and Characterization, since most students have probably seen the movie. You could have students compare/contrast Travis’s characteristics at the beginning of the book with those he has acquired by the end.  We definitely see a transformation in Travis throughout Old Yeller.  You could also have students write about a coming-of-age experience in their own lives, or a time when they had to take charge of a situation which was frightening.


TOUCHY AREAS: The only touchy area in this book was the death of Old Yeller. 




REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

March 10, 2008

One-Eyed Cat

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One-Eyed Cat

Author: Paula Fox

Page Length: 216

Reading Level: 6


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Eleven year old Ned Wallis lives in a rural area in 1935. His father is a preacher of the nearby small community church; his mother suffers from crippling arthritis and is bed ridden or wheelchair bound throughout much of the story. Ned is a generally agreeable young man who does as he’s told and is respectful of those around him. His rich uncle visits one day and gives him an unexpected gift – an air rifle. Ned’s father is outraged claiming Ned to young. He takes the gun away and places it in the attic. Ned can’t resist the temptation; after everyone is in bed, Ned takes the air rifle from the attic and sneaks outside. Something moves in the night and Ned takes aim and fires. Feeling guilty for having shot something and for disobeying his parents, Ned returns the gun to the. His actions are never discovered; yet, the rest of the book is focused on his guilt.


Ned visits elderly Mr. Scully daily to help him with chores and to be with him. One day, a one-eyed cat shows up. Mr. Scully notes that something has recently damaged the cat’s eye; Ned is sure it was him. He becomes caught up in the cat’s survival. He and Mr. Scully become engrossed with the daily activities of the cat. Mr. Scully finds that the cat assuages his loneliness; Ned finds that the cat’s survival assuages his guilt.


Mr. Scully is growing weaker and winter is setting in. Will Mr. Scully and the cat be able to survive the harsh conditions? Will Ned’s mother’s condition improve? Will Ned everyone divulge his horrible secret to anyone?  Will the guilt and the lies consume his life?


AREAS FOR TEACHING: The way Paula Fox presents the issues of the elderly in this book is moving. I think understanding the loneliness and the inability to do for one’s self anymore would be a great lesson for all students. We really must impress upon our students how their grandparents and others around them are the same as they always were (in thoughts and feelings); however, they are limited by their present ability levels. This book is also a fabulous tool for gaining an understanding of the treacherous web telling just one lie or committing one dishonest act leads to. Overall, I think that this book would appeal more to the boys. I found it slow at times and difficult to stay engaged in. Yet, if the reader hangs on until the end, the book is a moving story with an excellent message.




REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


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