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December 8, 2008

Zach’s Lie

Filed under: Z — thebookreviews @ 10:47 pm
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Zach’s Lie

Author: Roland Smith

Page Length: 211

Reading Level:

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Jack has no idea why mask men break into his house, threaten his mom, sister and him and then totally ransack the place.  In just hours, he learns that his dad has been arrested for drug trafficking and the mask men were working for his dad’s drug czar boss.  The Witness Security Program force Jack, his sister, and mom to move to Nevada and assume new names and identities.  There, Jack, now Zach, meets the school custodian.  He gets in a fight the first day of school and meets a girl of interest, Catalin.  Zach is finally getting into his new life, but finds he has been discovered by the drug boss and not only his life, but all of those connected to him are in danger, again.

REVIEW: This book is action packed from the beginning.  The characters are well developed and the plot has several subplots that keep the reader’s interest.  This is a good suspense novel that boys would especially enjoy.  It would also be a good class novel to read. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Cause/Effect, Theme, Character, and Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: Jack’s Run, The Alex Rider Series: Scorpia, Eagle Strike, Point Blank, Skeleton Key, Stormbreaker


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

September 21, 2008

Zee’s Way

Filed under: Z — thebookreviews @ 5:38 pm
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Zee’s Way

Author: Kristin Butcher

Page Length: 104

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: John Zeelander, “Zee”, is a teenager looking for something fun to do. In a city where there are few opportunities for social entertainment and community involvement, Zee turns to his friends and abandoned shopping centers for “fun”. Fun for this group of teenagers refers to playing soccer and just “hanging around”. However, “hanging around” is seen by adults in this town as mischief and questionable activity. When Zee and his friends begin hanging around a newly opened shopping center, they are quickly branded as outsiders and refused entrance into some of the shops.

One of the reasons Zee and his friends are discriminated upon is because they look different – they have shaved heads, colored hair, tattoos, piercings, and leather. The adults who own the stores and those that shop at them unfairly discriminate based on age and appearance. Zee’s friends are not into drugs or major crimes. If they are to be charged with a crime it is boredom. Boredom leads Zee, a talented artist, to spray paint graffiti on the side of the local hardware store. He also spray paints this store wall out of frustration for his friends’ and his discrimination.

When Zee is caught spray-painting by the owner of the hard ware store, the owner expects Zee to pay him back for his vandalism by painting an appropriate mural on the side of his building. Zee reluctantly agrees despite the heckling from his peers. While painting the mural, the older patrons of the shopping center begin to change their mind-set about Zee and youth in general. Zee now becomes the central force in bridging the gap between the youth of his neighborhood and the older citizens. This change and unification is reflected in Zee’s finished mural (page 102).

In the end, a compromise is reached, and Zee and his friends are allowed to hang out in a little space (vacated by a previous owner) attached to the shopping center. 

REVIEW: This book was an easy read, however I felt the ending was not explained in detail. The compromise was ok, however it does not truly address the problem of a lack of socialization and community involvement for youth. Giving these young boys a small building to “hang out” just does not seem adequate.

I did like how graffiti and other forms of art were woven throughout the story, however the main issues of community resources just did not seem to be appropriately addressed.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: compare/contrast, characterization, discussion on ageism and discrimination based on appearance

RELATED BOOKS: Journey (mother who leaves the family), Message in a Bottle (loss of wife and art)

ART CONNECTIONS: (trompe l’ oeil) (graffiti)

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Sister Act” (1992) – graffiti scenes

RELATED WEBSITES:’s+way&pg=PP1&ots=nNlWqli62R&sig=haJlDmdu3x6FyL0rvBm0RbEUOkw&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

January 25, 2008


Filed under: Z — thebookreviews @ 9:40 pm
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Author: Paul Fleischman

Page Length: 83

Reading Level: 5.5


REVIEW: This is a play that has been actually performed by several high school drama departments. Paul Fleischman wrote it when he realized many high schools get stuck in a rut performing the same plays over and over again. He wanted something new that would work for a high school stage and the result is Zap.


How shall I begin to explain the premise? Zap is seven plays in one sharing the same stage; Shakespeare’s Richard III and 6 original plays based on well known genres set in different time periods. There is a British Murder Mystery ala Agatha Christie, a Russian play similar to the style of Chekhov, a southern Tennessee Williams type play, a Neil Simon inspired comedy, an avant-garde Samuel Beckett style play and a performance art monologue.


The play has a single set. The actors wear period costumes. When switching from one play to another, a loud zap is heard which is supposedly from a remote control. The stage blacks out and when the lights quickly come back on there is a new scene. As the play goes on there are intentional goofs where actors from different scenes end up on stage together as if by accident. The “improvisation” that happens in these scenes made me laugh. The chaos continues to the point that the characters in the plays drop their roles at times and address each other as their “real” selves. I should also mention that at the beginning of the story the audience is told that if they do not like the scene they are watching they should hit the remote printed on their program and that those signals will be gathered and tallied and when a certain number is reached the scene will change. This is part of the joke of audience control that is referred to in the play.


It sounds confusing, and I thought it would be a nightmare to keep all the storylines straight, but it was not difficult. Readers do need some schema about these different genres of plays though to appreciate all of the humor. Fleischman makes mention of this as well. That to me is the real challenge of this book. It is not a sit in your seats and take a part to read aloud type of play. The visual here is very important.  Zap is a quick, fun read that will need some advance preparation but should be well worth it.




REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

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