The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

Planet Janet

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Planet Janet by Dyan Sheldon: Book Cover

Planet Janet

Author: Dyan Sheldon

 

Page Length: 221

 

Reading Level: 6

 

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Janet’s lost in her own “me” world and she reveals all her thoughts, hopes, and dreams in her diary. Janet talks about the mad cow (MC), her mother, her best friend Disha who has joined her in the dark phase, her wacked out brother, and her psychotherapist father. Janet’s so lost in her own self-centered world that she fails to see the turmoil swirling around her. Events are in place that just may bring her crashing back to reality.

REVIEW: Reading Janet’s diary is interesting and revealing. She talks about everything from a crush on a guy and how she plants herself in his path to catch his attention to finding her bra in her brother’s room. The book is definitely only appropriate for older teens as she and her best friend smoke a joint and Sara Dancer talks about “doing it” and subsequently suffers a pregnancy scare. All along throughout the story, Janet’s busy being disgusted by her mother and never stops to see the pain her mother is going through. An affair is revealed at the end and both Janet and her mother discover their common strengths, and Janet discovers that she needs her mother more than she thought. I’d recommend this book to teen girls – especially the ones that tend to be more self-centered (as they might learn something about themselves along the way).

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  identifying plots, subplots, elements of plot, written response in the form of a diary, cause and effect, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: grandma’s disapproval of a homosexual relationship, presence of marijuana, Sara Dancer talking about doing it for the first time and what it was like

RELATED BOOKS: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, My Perfect Life, Planet Janet in Orbit, Confessions of a Hollywood Star

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.dyansheldon.co.uk/

http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php/Planet_Janet_by_Dyan_Sheldon

http://www.librarything.com/work/227229\

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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June 5, 2010

Peter and the Starcatchers

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Peter and the Starcatchers

Author: Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Page Length: 451

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Peter is a young boy in an orphanage who’s had the misfortune of being sent by ship to work for the evil King Zarboff – the third of Rundoon. The rumor is that the king often feeds his servants to his snake. Peter and other young boys from the orphanage are placed on an old ship. The ill fated journey begins with a rough and gnarly crew, a small room below deck to sleep in, and supper that has things crawling in it. Peter soon discovers that there’s secret cargo on the ship. Molly, the daughter of a famous man sailing on the accompanying ship, mysteriously appears when Peter tries to get a good look at the cargo. He’s seen men exposed to it act strangely and felt the magical presence for himself. Before long, Molly and Peter must forge an alliance to keep the cargo safe. Black Stache, the meanest pirate to ever roam the seas, and his crew are bearing down upon them. There’s little time to plot their escape and to save the cargo. Will Peter and Molly be able to get away in time? Will they keep the secrets cargo hidden? What hope do they have of getting off the ship and not becoming the next victim to walk the plank? And what happens to young Peter that will someday turn him into the infamous Peter Pan?

REVIEW: This story is fast paced and entertaining. If you’ve ever wondered why Peter never grew up and what made him such a great flyer, then you’ve found the right story. Readers become engrossed in the battle between good and evil. The ship’s on the way to King Zarboff but the magic cargo isn’t to be given to him. Then of course, there’s Black Stache, who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants – and he wants the magic cargo. Students will be entertained by the plot twists and turns. Students who enjoy fantasy books will like the idea of magic that falls to Earth and must be found and protected by Starcatchers to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Students would benefit from discussing what they know and have read about Peter Pan before reading the story to prepare them to learn the early years of his life. Overall, it is an enjoyable book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: making predictions, cause and effect, inferences, character analysis and motivations, connecting text to other text, sequence of events, author’s purpose, plot, elements of fantasy

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: pirates, sword fights, giant crocodiles, belittling of others

RELATED BOOKS: Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, Peter Pan

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Disney’s Peter Pan, Peter Pan (2003), Hook (1991)

There is a movie based on this book currently in production.

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.peterandthestarcatchers.com/

http://www.davebarry.com/books.html

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

http://www.lesn.appstate.edu/fryeem/RE4030/Pirates/Peter/peter_and_the_starcatchersoutline.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

November 15, 2009

Parvana’s Journey

Parvana’s Journey

Author: Deborah Ellis

Page Length: 199

Reading Level: 6.3

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sequel to The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey captures the reader’s attention from the very beginning. Parvana is alone in war-torn Afghanistan, her father dead, as she sets out disguised as a boy to cross the Afghanistan countryside in search of her mother and sisters. If the Taliban discovers her, thinking she is a boy, they would enlist Parvana into the army. If they find out she is a girl, they would punish her for being without a veil and without a male family member. She must then keep a low profile, not exposing herself to this danger. She sees death and destruction everywhere she walks.

First, she finds a baby boy lying near his dead mother and rescues him, feeding him the best she can with water and rice. When she tries to take shelter in a cave, she comes upon a boy about 9 years old, who has lost a leg to land mines. Asif is rude and angry, but he is good with baby Hassan, cleaning the clothes that serve as diapers and helping to keep him clean and fed. These three set out on the road until they come upon a minefield and a strange little girl who is taking care of her aged grandmother. The children rest here for a while until a bomb destroys their shelter and kills the old woman-then they take to the road again. Just as they are near death from starvation, they stumble on a refugee camp run by international agencies and are taken in, given minimal food and shelter. Their problems are not resolved, however, and more disasters await them.

REVIEW:  This book certainly displays the resilience of children who endure extraordinary circumstances. Ellis has been in Afghanistan collecting oral histories from women in refugee camps and this has been the basis of Parvana’s story. In one sense, it is a straightforwardly realistic narrative, but the circumstances the children face are almost unimaginable, certainly to children in the West. Strengthening the sense of reality is Ellis’s ability to capture the tension between the children–their bickering as their fears and suffering overwhelm them, their fantasies of safety and shelter, and their loneliness and desperate need for adults on which to depend. This is an excellent way for young Americans to understand the plight of the Afghani people.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: theme, setting, point of view, main idea and supporting details, characters, conflict,  plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, audience and purpose, voice, mood, tone, narrative, writer’s motive, World Literature, drama, tragedy, and epic.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Sensitivity of children surviving alone crossing areas with mine fields and starving most of the time.

RELATED BOOKS: Habibi by Naomi Shihah Nye, A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird, Shabanu: Daughters of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples, Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Books by the same author: Breadwinner, Mud City, and Off to War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees.

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Kite Runner (2007), Massoud, l’Afghan (1998 documentary), Passing the Rainbow (2008 documentary), Massoud, l’Afghan (1998 documentary).

ART CONNECTIONS:

http://www.culturekiosque.com/art/interview/Afghanistan_museum_treasures_2.html

http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3705/context/cover/

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/02/19/oldest-oil-painting.html (scroll down there is a short video displaying various pieces of artwork)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://learningtogive.org/lessons/unit189/lesson4.html

http://www.eslprintables.com/buscador/buscar.asp?nivel=intermediate&age=0&tipo=any&contents=parvana%27s+journey

http://www.public.asu.edu/~apnilsen/afghanistan4kids/index.html

http://www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00001973.shtml

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/asia/afghanistan/timeline/index.html

http://www.uwm.edu/Library/digilib/afghan/index.htm

REVIEWED BY:  Tammy Leitzel

November 14, 2009

Pain and Wastings

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Pain and Wastings

Author: Carrie Mac

Page Length: 122

Reading Level: 3.6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Ethan grew up on the bad side of town near Main and Hastings known to others as Pain and Wastings. Ethan’s mother was involved in prostitution and drugs – a life that eventually led to her murder. Ethan has been forced to grow up in foster homes. His anger and indifference to the world has landed him in legal trouble for which he is assigned to spend time with an emergency response crew. The events that happen on the nights out working the neighborhood remind Ethan of the pain he’s tried to avoid but just can’t escape anymore.

REVIEW: For an Orca book, this one was pretty good. I really liked the pacing and the way the author slowly reveals the tragedy that Ethan has so carefully disguised and tried to ignore responding to all these years. This book does deal with sex in the form of prostitution by both his mother and Kelly. In the story, drug use issues are prevalent and murder takes place. This is an intense read that the kids would probably stay hooked on—beware of all the “inappropriate” content.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits, dialogue, cause and effect, point of view, flashback technique

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: p. 104 “the man had finished, zipped up his pants…” and “her head bloody,” p. 96 “long enough to squeeze me through my jeans and give me a French kiss”

RELATED BOOKS: The Beckoners, Crush, Charmed, Retribution, Storm

RELATED MOVIES: “Forrest Gump”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.orcabook.com/contributorinfo.cfm?ContribID=148

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/360816.Carrie_Mac

http://www.teendrugabuse.us/teendrugstatistics.html

http://www.teen-drug-abuse.org/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 30, 2009

Private Peaceful

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Private Peaceful

Author: Michael Morpurgo

Page Length: 202

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Charlie and Thomas Peaceful are brothers growing up in a rural setting living in the house the Colonel so graciously provided for the family in exchange for their father’s work. A tragic accident occurs for which Charlie feels responsible and the circumstances of the family change. Yet, Charlie and Thomas still enjoy an adventurous childhood. War has begun and Thomas is made to enlist. Charlie won’t be left behind and the two brothers embark upon the horrific and devastating journey across the seas as they serve their country in World War I. Can they make it back home alive? Will they ever see their brother, mother, or their precious Molly again?

REVIEW: Morpurgo delivers another excellent war story with such depth of characters, motives, and emotions that teachers have a wide range of discussion points and readers have many opportunities for connecting to the text. This book would make a great classroom novel. The novel isn’t just about the war. It details the childhood of the two young brothers including their protection of their mentally challenged brother, their love of the same girl, and their escapades to keep the family fed and survive their “loveless” grandmother. It’s a beautifully told story of sacrifice and tragedy.  

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

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: young woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock, thieving to feed the family, war deaths

RELATED BOOKS: Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea, Dolphin Boy, Why the Whales Came, Kensuke’s Kingdom, My Friend Walter

ART CONNECTIONS:

Private Peaceful – theater production

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.michaelmorpurgo.org/

http://www.war-letters.com/

http://www.culturewars.org.uk/2004-01/morpurgo.htm

http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/ferdinand.htm

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Postcards from No Man’s Land

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Postcards from No Man’s Land

Author: Aidean Chambers

Page Length: 312

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jacob’s grandmother is ill, and Jacob must take a trip to Amsterdam in her place. The purpose of Jacob’s journey to Amsterdam is to see his grandfather’s (a World War II veteran) burial site. Jacob meets the elderly ailing woman who nursed his grandfather during the war and learns much more than he was expecting about his family’s past. Along the journey, Jacob discovers new friends and new feelings he never knew he had. Geertrui shares with Jacob the secrets of his grandfather’s past as she weaves the tales of their adventures during World War II. 

REVIEW: Chambers wrote a masterful story that was outside the realm of the “normal” historical fiction novel. The author does a wonderful job of blending past and present events as the chapters shift from Geertrui in the past to Jacob in the present. In the end, it is revealed that Geertrui has recorded the story for Jacob in her journal – her last act before her assisted suicide is scheduled to take place. Be warned that the book addresses Jacob’s developing awareness of his sexuality and his attraction to both men and women. Bisexuality becomes a topic among more than one of the characters. The story of the war and Geertrui’s love for Jacob’s grandfather is wonderfully told. The reader gets a realistic sense of the urgency and danger present during the war.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, historical connections, character traits, methods of writing, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: topic of bisexuality, pages 199-200 sex between Geertrui and a married soldier

RELATED BOOKS: Breaktime, Dance on My Grave, Now I Know, The Tollbridge, The Diary of Anne Frank, Four Perfect Pebbles

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Diary of Anne Frank

ART CONNECTIONS: Amsterdam – Dutch Resistance Museum online

http://goamsterdam.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=goamsterdam&cdn=travel&tm=12&gps=117_2_1419_706&f=00&su=p531.50.336.ip_&tt=3&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//

www.dutchresistancemuseum.nl/museum/en/museum

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Hit Songs from World War 2

http://nfo.net/usa/ww2.html

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.worldwar-2.net/

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

http://www.annefrank.org/content.asp?pid=1&lid=2

http://www.aidanchambers.co.uk/

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

September 21, 2008

Project Mulberry

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Project Mulberry

Author: Linda Sue Park

Page Length: 217

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Julia and her best friend Patrick are in The Wiggle Club after school. The Wiggle Club teaches them about farming and animal care. Since, Patrick and Julia are hoping to win first prize at the state fair, they have to come up with a great project idea. The two decide to raise silkworms even though they both have secret reasons for not wanting to – neither one tells the other. They discover that raising silkworms is more challenging than it seemed. Through the adventure, they make new friends, overcome prejudices, and learn more about themselves and each other along the way. Can they pull the project together in time to win at the fair?

REVIEW: This story was entertaining and informative about agricultural pursuits and appreciation for the struggles of the American farmer. In addition, the story is eye-opening about prejudice everywhere – the elderly African-American gentlemen assumes the girl is white and then we he meets her, mistakes Korean for Chinese. The mother is portrayed as being prejudiced against black people. The kids overcome all of the barriers and simply see people for who they are.

The story might be more interesting to junior high and 6th grade students as it lacks typical teen appeal.

An interesting aspect of this book is that in between the chapters the author dialogues with the main character. These chats teach the reader about the writing process and how Park developed her characters and allowed the story to evolve along the way.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea, author’s purpose, making predictions, cause and effect, chronological ordering, theme, plot, setting, characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: racial tensions and prejudice

RELATED BOOKS: A Single Shard, The Archer’s Quest, Keeping Score, The Kite Fighters, Click, Seesaw Girl

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.lspark.com/books.html

http://www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0618477861.asp

http://suzyred.com/2006projectmulberry.html

http://www.familyreads.com/2008/02/project-mulberr.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 23, 2008

Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep

Author: Sharon Robinson          

Page Length: 64

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography 

PLOT SUMMARY:  Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, writes a narrative biography of her father’s life.  She begins with a brief history of the beginning of America and how it was a black and white world. 

She goes on to tell of how the view of the people of the United States changed over the next 200 years towards African Americans.  She includes in the text, the changes her dad experienced during his life as the first African American to play major league baseball. She tells of the struggles he went through to break the “ Jim Crow Barrier”. Also, she includes descriptions of her parent’s relationship, their family life, and life after Jackie’s career as a baseball player.

She tells of the fight for equal rights that her father was very active in during the l960’s and how he promised to help change life for the African American people of the United States.

REVIEW: This is the third and best biography I have read about Jackie Robinson.  I enjoyed the narrative form of writing that Sharon Robinson used.  Also, included, were excellent photographs, which chronicled Jackie’s life and events that have occurred after his death which celebrate the great man he was.

I think this is an excellent book for boys and girls who like baseball to read.  Also, it is a good book for those who are interested in the Civil Rights movement to read because Jackie Robinson was an advocate for Civil Rights in his years after baseball.

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

RELATED BOOKS: Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Jackie’s Nine

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

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3999

www.amazon.com/Promises-Keep-Robinson-Changed-America/dp/0439425921

www.ilfonline.org/AIME/YHBA/newstuff/PromisesToKeep.pdf

www.jackierobinson.org

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 29, 2008

Probably Still Nick Swansen

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Probably Still Nick Swansen

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff

Page Length: 152

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Nick is sixteen and in high school. The problem is that he is in Room 19 (a special education class), doesn’t get to drive a car yet, and can’t decide whether or not he should ask Shana to the prom. Shana was in room 19, but she had her going up celebration and went to regular ed. Nick can remember things in science others can’t even say right, but all the other facts in life seem to get jumbled up in his head. He misses Dianne terribly and keeps flashbacking to memories of their childhood. He knows that if Dianne were still there she would know just what to tell him to do. A series of unfortunate events, push Nick too far and he sinks into a deep depression. One day, Nick decides to run around the track after school. He finds Shana there and he discovers that everything isn’t always as it seems.  

REVIEW: I really didn’t enjoy reading this book because of the jumbled together nature of Nick’s thoughts. However, since the book is depicting a student with presumably a learning disability, the constant changing thought process seems in line with what one would expect with a learning disability. In that regard, it sheds a whole new light on thinking about students with learning disabilities as sometimes needing a way to organize and help maintain consistency with information (maybe a the need for an even bigger tie to prior learning). Of course this is a fictional story, examining Nick’s struggles and learning that things aren’t always as they might seem is a valuable lesson for any teenager.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: theme, characters, cause and effect, purpose, word choice, sequence of events

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drowning described

RELATED BOOKS: True Believer, The Mozart Season, Make Lemonade

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-probably.html

http://content.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=317_type=Contributor_typeId=1943

http://www.childrensliteraturenetwork.org/birthbios/brthpage/08aug/8-25wolff.html

http://content.scholastic.com/browse/contributor.jsp?id=1943

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

May 21, 2008

Pictures of Hollis Woods

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Pictures of Hollis Woods

Author: Patricia Reilly Giff

Page Length: 166

Reading Level: 4th

Genre: Fiction

 

PLOT SUMMARY: Twelve year old Hollis Woods has spent her life flitting from one foster home to the next.  Her one ambition is to find “the perfect family”: people who will love her for who she is and never let her go.                         

 

Hollis seems to find just that, in the Regans.  The father, whom she calls Old Man, has a soft spot for Hollis, the mother is nurturing and kind, and Steven is both a brother and best friend.  Yet all of Hollis’s dreams are shattered when Steven is injured in a car accident, an accident in which Hollis shoulders the blame.  In her desperation, Hollis runs away from the Regans and moves in with a new foster mother.                                                                                                       

 

Beatrice is an elderly artist who is starting to show signs of dementia.  She provides Hollis with the emotional safe haven she needs.  Beatrice is patient, nonjudgmental, and fun-loving despite her age, yet it soon becomes obvious to Hollis that she must assume the role of care giver.  Beatrice forgets things easily and can hardly take care of herself.                                                                                           

 

Hollis realizes it is only a matter of time until the social worker removes her from Beatrice’s home, so she hatches a plan to run away with Beatrice and live out the winter in the Regan’s summer cabin.  After several days, Hollis realizes how ill-equipped she is to take care of Beatrice and eventually takes her back home.                                                                                                                                                

 

With this step toward maturity, Hollis finally stops running.  She realizes that she must face her problems in order to grow, that it is the only way she will ever obtain the family she so desires.                                                                                          

In the end, Hollis is welcomed back into the Regan’s arms.  Throughout the novel she has collected memories, like snapshots in her mind, of her worst and greatest moments.  Hollis ends the book with a final picture, one in which she is finally part of an authentic family.                                         

 

REVIEW: I love this book!  The characters are rich, and the story is beautifully woven.  I think the integration of Hollis’s “photographs” is creative.  It provides a strong visual connection to each stage of her life.  I also enjoy the way the story dances between the past and the present. This allows the reader to slowly discover and compare who Hollis was with who she has become.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: imagery, metaphors, & similes.  Also, suspense drives this story, which makes it a good book to use when teaching predictions.

 

RELATED BOOKS: This reminded me of the book White Oleander, by Janet Fitch

 

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: White Oleander

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://teacher.scholastic.com/lessonrepro/results/view.asp?SubjectID=1&SubheadID=3&TopicID=57&GradeID=&PageURL=%2Flessonplans%2Fbookfairs%2Fcurrconnection%2Fhollis_woods.htm

 

http://www.crayola.com/educators/media/D-M_HollisWoods.pdf

 

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=3323&

 

http://www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00002277.shtml

 

REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

 

May 16, 2008

Passage to Freedom The Sugihara Story

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Passage to Freedom The Sugihara Story

Author: Ken Mochizuki

Page Length: 30

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Narrative Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Passage to Freedom is an intriguing story about a Japanese diplomat and his family living in Lithuania in 1940.   World War ll has just begun and refugees are trying to persuade Mr. Sugihara, the diplomat, to help them get Visas to escape the Nazi’s.

Mr. Sugihara lives with his wife, sons and their aunt.  The entire family agrees that it is their duty to help as many of the refugees as they can to get out of Europe, even if it endangers their lives.  The Sugihara’s continue to help the refugees even after the Japanese government has ordered him to stop.

REVIEW:  Although this is a short book, it reveals a story of truth that is not known widely in the United States.  It is a narrative told by Hiroki Sugihara, the son of the diplomat.  I enjoyed it, because I was not aware of the works of this family who came to the aid of over 300 refugees. 

This would be a good book to read for the low level reader if they needed to do a report related to World War ll or the Holocaust.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: The Snow Treasure, Diary of Anne Frank, Hanged At Auschwitz: An Extraordinary Memoire of Survival by Sim Kessel, Stephan’s Journey – A Sojourn into Freedom by Lillian Belinfante Herzberg, Kindness of Strangers by Lillian Belinfante Herzberg

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Schindler’s List, Diary of Anne Frank

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.allreaders.com/topics/info_22244.asp

http://library.springville.org:8000/kcweb/kcContent?isbn=1880000490&type=review&controlnumber=+++0000264

http://teacher.scholastic.com/ACTIVITIES/wwii/bboard_bio.asp

www.mandelproject.us/Person.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

April 2, 2008

Prom

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Prom

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Pages: 215

Reading Level: 6

 

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: Ashley Hannigan isn’t the typical high school senior. She’s got a deadbeat boyfriend (TJ) who dropped out of high school, never seems to have money, and is making plans for Ashley to move in with him after graduation. Ashley is from a family of four with one on the way; money is tight and her college plans almost non-existent. After serving detentions and rapidly finishing homework assignments she forgot from the night before, Ashley spends her time in a rat costume serving pizza and entertaining at the EZ-CHEEZ-E to earn money. While her best friend, Natalia (Nat) and the rest of the senior class seems obsessed with the Prom, Ashley could care less about some stupid “dance.”

 

The math teacher is arrested for stealing the prom funds. The school is up in arms. Will the prom be cancelled? Nat heads the prom committee and begs Ashley to help; before long, Ashley becomes caught up in the prom madness too. Nat breaks her leg and Ashley is left to keep plans moving for the prom. In between helping Nat, balancing family life, work, TJ, detention, school work, and Nat’s crazy grandma, Ashley finds a way to handle it all. Will she be able to salvage her high school prom? Will her feelings about prom change? Is life with TJ after high school enough for Ashley?  What will Ashley learn about herself in the process and how will it change her?

 

From a teaching perspective this book’s great points are that Ashley learns to want more from life than just the boyfriend and no education. She develops dreams and self confidence when she learns that she is more capable than she ever thought. She also learns to expect more for herself and from herself (evident when she gets rid of the less than desirable boyfriend and her friends applaud her finally realizing it). It’s also written on the high interest topic of Prom which usually appeals too much of the high school teenage girl population.

 

TOUCHY AREAS: A caution for the book is that drug use is mentioned (the boyfriend asks her to go with him and get high). Sex is mentioned in the book related to prom night activities and to Ashley and her boyfriend. Condoms are distributed at the prom. Ashley gets arrested for defying the vice principal and sneaking into the prom. There are plenty of issues here; yet, the overall message is a good one – especially for building strong women and for teaching girls to look outside the norm and believe in themselves.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.writerlady.com/

 

http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2005/01/prom-by-laurie-halse-anderson.html

 

http://promdress.net/

 

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

 

January 14, 2008

Probably Still Nick Swansen

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Probably Still Nick Swansen

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff

Page Length: 151

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

 

REVIEW: Nick spends his school days in Room 19 with the rest of the special ed. kids, except for his good friend Shana who just had her “going up” party for graduating to regular classes.

 

Nick is a character I fell in love with right from the beginning. He knows some things that being in special ed. means. He knows he can’t drive even though he is sixteen and he knows some kids won’t talk to you much even if you do know everything about amphibians. What Nick isn’t sure about is if he should go to the prom but he asks Shana and she says yes.

 

When Shana doesn’t show though you get a glimpse at how complicated Nick is. His sister’s death several years earlier and an accident that hurts his dog along with the disappointment about the prom lead to some difficult times for Nick. He wants to hide from the world, but realizes he has to face all of these issues in order to find peace. Nick gains a sense of self-awareness and we are left with a happy ending.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.griefworks.com/SiblingDeath.ask

 

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians.html

 

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

 

January 8, 2008

Pocahontas and the Strangers

Filed under: P — thebookreviews @ 2:16 am
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Pocahontas and the Strangers

Author: Clyde Robert Bulla

Illustrator: Peter Burchard

Page Length: 176

Reading Level: 4th

Genre: Non-fiction / Biography

 

SUMMARY: In this biography, by Clyde Robert Bulla, Pocahontas is a very young girl, quite curious about the white men coming to her land.  She is eager to meet them, although most of her tribe is hesitant to make friends.

 

She eventually meets Captain John Smith who becomes her friend. Through different events, her dad, the chief of her tribe tries to put Smith to death.  But Pocahontas asks for John Smith to be her man.  As a tradition, if a man I ask for, he is given to that woman.

 

Pocahontas was not old enough to marry but continued to visit John Smith.  He promised to take her to England someday.  However, a string of events happened and Pocahontas heard that Captain John Smith had died and was being returned to England on a ship.

 

Pocahontas continues to be involved with the new people who have come to America, not always by choice.  She eventually marries, has a baby and travels to England.  Although her life offers her many opportunities with the English, in the end, she longs to be in her homeland. 

 

REVIEW: This book gave me a different perspective of the relationship of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith.  I learned more about the last part of her life than I formerly knew. 

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book would be a good book to read when studying the settling of early United States.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://content.scholastic.com/browse/book.jsp?id=412

 

http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1996/3/96.03.06.x.html

 

http://www.apva.org/history/pocahont.html

 

http://pocahontas.morenus.org/

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

 

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