The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

What Athletes Are Made Of

What Athletes Are Made Of

Author and Illustrator: Hanoch Piven and Sarah Thompson

Page Length: 34

Reading Level: 5.1

Genre: Biography

Career Connection: Professional Athletes

SUMMARY & REVIEW: This book is for the sports lover written by a sports lover.

We learn that Muhammad Ali had a “big mouth”, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar coached high school on an Apache reservation, Babe Ruth had a huge appetite, Jesse Owens proved Hitler wrong, Tiger Woods considers himself a “Cablinasian”, David Beckham once wore pink nail polish to match his girlfriends, and Pele played with a soccer ball made of a sock stuffed with newspapers. These are just a few facts that packed into this creative book filled with 23 mini-biographies of athletes. Each biography is 5-10 sentences long.

The first page provides the reader an introduction to why athletes and sports games are enjoyable to watch and respected. The author begins each mini biography with the following line:

“Athletes are made of…”

At the end of each biography, the author provides the reader with a “Did You Know” fact relating to either the athlete or his/her sport.

At the end of the book, a “Post-Game Recap” with statistics and career highlights of all the athletes is featured.  

The following athletes are highlighted in this book: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, David Beckham, Joe DiMaggio, Jeff Gordon, Wayne Gretzky, Mia Hamm, Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Diego Maradona, Joe Namath, Martina Navratilova, Jesse Owens, Pele, Babe Ruth, Michael Schumacher, Annika Sorenstam, Jim Thorpe, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods.

The sports represented in this book include basketball, tennis, boxing, cycling, soccer, baseball, racing, track and field, football, golf, pentathlon, and decathlon.

This is a very creative book. It not only provides the reader a clear and concise biography of each athlete, each individual is illustrated using traditional drawings as well as objects. For example, Tiger Woods’ eye brows are illustrated using “nails”. Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s legs are illustrated using “rulers”. Lance Armstrong’s mouth is illustrated using a “rubber band”.

The only criticism I have with this book is that the majority of the athletes students may not recognize. This book may not be engaging for students if left to read on their own. However, providing insight into unfamiliar athletes provides the teacher and student an opportunity for new learning. The addition of mini-biographies will help students engage with the book as compared to other lengthier biographies. Students will most likely recognize Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods.

Students with a passion for art will enjoy this book. This would be a great book to share with art teachers.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: art, biography, compare/contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: none

RELATED BOOKS: What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven, Xtreme Sports Fast Track by Joe Layden, Amazing But True Sports Stories by Hollander

ART CONNECTIONS:

http://www.pivenworld.com (art work website of the author)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/2010/2/10.02.03.x.html

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7729/is_200703/ai_n32211245/

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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November 26, 2010

Chasing Vermeer

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Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett: Book Cover

Chasing Vermeer

Author: Blue Balliett

Page Length: 254

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Calder and Petra have one thing in common. They have the greatest sixth grade teacher ever – Ms. Hussey. After Ms. Hussey gives her class the challenging assignment of proving that written letters are not dead by finding someone whose life has been altered by a letter, Calder and Petra decide to work together. What starts as a simple assignment soon morphs into something more. A great mystery is afoot. A painting has been stolen, and Calder and Petra are hot on the trail of a thief.

REVIEW: This was an interesting and mysterious story. The clues are revealed to the reader as the story evolves. Readers learn a great deal about the famous artist Jan Vermeer and the uses of pentominoes. Readers reflect about what makes great artwork, and they learn about actions taken toward a cause. The book provides great discussion material of the causes and effects of each character’s action or inaction. This is a story that is very interesting and engaging.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, character traits, cause and effect, context clues, foreshadowing, great book to pair with pentominoes from math class

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: none

RELATED BOOKS:  The Calder Game, The Wright 3

RELATED MOVIES: Chasing Vermeer (due out in 2011)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/blueballiett_bio.htm

http://www.usd376.com/hs/staff/brownleea/vermeer/index.htm

http://teacher.scholastic.com/authorsandbooks/events/balliett/teachers_guide.htm

http://www.mystudios.com/vermeer/index.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

September 28, 2009

Harley Like a Person

Harley Like a Person

Author: Cat Bauer

Page Length: 282  

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Harley believes that she is adopted.  All of her family has blue eyes, Harley’s are brown.  Her mom told her she lost her birth certificate after she was born.  She does not relate to her alcoholic father and her bitter mother.  It seems they are always nagging her to clean her room, dust, do the dishes, and never notice her good grades or the way she helps with her younger sister. While Harley stumbles through her ninth grade year in school, she continues to research clues in finding out who her true parents are.

Harley does not deal with the conflicts in a rational way.  She hides under her bed, locks herself in her room, and refuses to talk to her parents when they make her angry.  However, she does find comfort in writing poetry, painting, and playing her oboe.  Harley not only has difficulties at home, but begins to show anger and jealousy towards her best friend.  After being treated badly by one boy she finds herself in a relationship with a fast talking, drug dealer.  Her grades begin to fall, although she is ask to complete a special art project for the school play.  Harley finds herself experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and sex although she knows she is making bad decisions.

She continues her quest to find her true identity but hits many hurdles on the road before finding answers to the many family questions that plague her.

REVIEW:  Harley Like a Person is a fast read with lots of drama.  Harley encounters emotional issues that cause her to question her parent’s honesty and morals and make bad moral decisions for herself. 

This book would be enjoyed by girls who face the many conflicts and issues of teens growing up in today’s world.  Unlike many books, the main character makes bad choices then is forced to answer to her parents and teachers.  In the end, Harley’s questions are answered but not before she suffers some bad experiences with her family, boyfriend, and best friend.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Conflict, Theme, Character, Cause and Effect, Point of View

TOUCHY AREAS: marijuana use- (p.172-175, 212- 216), alcohol use (212-216), and sexual situations (p. 176, 217)

RELATED BOOKS: Harley’s Ninth

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teenreads.com/review/1890817481.asp

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 30, 2009

Leonardo da Vinci

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Leonardo da Vinci  

Author: Diane Stanley

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: From paintings of Jesus to sculptures of horses, Leonardo da Vinci was a master artist. In addition, he was a genius inventor. Da Vinci brainstormed numerous ideas for inventions such as a home cooling system, submarine, pliers, self-closing toilet lid, and contact lenses. Although many of his ideas were never perfected until later centuries, Leonardo da Vinci’s creative mind is evidenced by the numerous comments and drawings in his notebooks. Many of his notes were written in backwards format so as to keep them secret from prying eyes.

Leonardo da Vinci was an artistic man who kept to himself. He was married to his art and inventions. Born out of wedlock, da Vinci grew up in a non-traditional setting. Never-the-less, he managed to find his place in the world and live his life doing what he loved the most.

Diane Stanley’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci presents a brief glimpse of this genius’ complex world. At first, the book was hard to follow, but it became easier to comprehend as I read. Stanley pairs her text with colorful illustrations as well as examples of Leonardo da Vinci’s own drawings (ie. The Last Supper, flying machine, human anatomy). At the beginning of the book, there is a pronunciation guide and at the tail end of the biography is a list of recommended readings.   

AREAS FOR TEACHING: biography format and writing, history

RELATED BOOKS: Leonardo da Vinci by Norman Marshall, Leonardo da Vinci by Richard McLanathan, The Renaissance by Michel Pierre, A Weekend with Leonardo da Vinci by Rosabianca Skira-Venturi

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Da Vinci Code” (2006)

ART CONNECTIONS:

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/leon/hd_leon.htm

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.msichicago.org/scrapbook/scrapbook_exhibits/leonardo/index.html

http://school.discoveryeducation.com/lessonplans/programs/invention-leonardoslegacy/

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Buddha Boy

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Buddha Boy

Author: Kathe Koja

Page Length: 117

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Michael, also known as Jinsen, is the new kid in school. Only this new kid couldn’t stand out more in a rich school full of super jocks. Jinsen wears a big baggy peeling dragon shirt, shaves his head, and walks from table to table begging at lunch like a monk. Before long, he’s given the name Buddha Boy. He’s constantly picked on and ridiculed – hanging out with him is like committing social suicide. But Justin’s drawn to Jinsen’s outlook on life and his extreme talent an artist. The two become friends and Justin begins to discover Jinsen’s secret past. Bullies are constant looming, seeking to destroy Jinsen’s work and disrupt his indifference to their torture. Can Jinsen and Justin break the cycle of bullying before it is too late?

REVIEW: This is a wonderful book. The story relates some Buddhist principles about how everyone is like a God inside. Jinsen reveals his violent past and discusses why now he turns the other cheek – and how he too was once violent because he liked the way it made him feel.

I would highly recommend this book as a classroom read. It’s a wonderful opportunity to discuss bullying and the necessity for tolerating and understanding differences. It’s short – could be covered in a week or two in class – and carries an awesome message. The reader feels the pain and humiliation of Jinsen; we also share Justin’s rage and internal conflict at what he should do to aid his friend is also well expressed – the reader can feel the conflict within themselves and sense the gravity of the situation.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, author’s purpose, comparing and contrasting, character traits, conflict, and resolution

Full cast audio version is available

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: bullying and threat

RELATED BOOKS: Straydog, Exposure, Hit Squad, Crash, The Battle of Jericho

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS:

http://www.buddhanet.net/gallery.htm

Metropolitan Museum of Art

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBX/is_6_38/ai_n7179988

http://www.largeprintreviews.com/koja.html

http://www.nonamecallingweek.org/binary-data/NoNameCalling_ATTACHMENTS/file/17-1.pdf

http://www.drthrockmorton.com/respectandthefacts/documents/bullyingprevention.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

January 18, 2009

When Dad Killed Mom

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When Dad Killed Mom

Author: Julius Lester 

Page Length: 199

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jenna and Jeremy were living a typical day at school when they were called into the office. Seeing each other there together and sensing the tension of those around them they knew bad news was coming, but they had no idea it would be this devastating. Just this morning, as they sat innocently in class, their own father gunned down their mother. They have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Torn apart by this tragedy, Jenna and Jeremy grow distant from each other. Jenna has her own guilty conscience and terrible secret. Jeremy who was always by his mother’s side is lost without her. Why would dad do something like this? What will happen to Jenna and Jeremy?

REVIEW: As many of the reviews note, this story line could have been ripped from any headline. The subject matter of domestic violence will be relative to many students. I like how Lester differentiates the viewpoints and experiences between Jenna and Jeremy.

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

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: “I had drawn a vagina on the bathroom walls” (page 11), language (page 146), knowledge of affairs, father having suggestive contact with daughter

RELATED BOOKS: The Color Purple, Shining, Why Heaven is Far Away, Days of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://books.google.com/books?id=sOEA6RWBpzkC&dq=when+dad+killed+mom&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0

http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/lester_when.htm

http://www.domesticviolence.org/

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

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Are We There Yet

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Are We There Yet

Author: David Levithan

Page Length: 215

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Although they were once close, Elijah and Danny have drifted apart. Danny is grown and away in the “real world” wrapped up in carving out a corporate career. Elijah is finishing his last year of high school and hasn’t even bothered to apply to college yet. Suddenly, Elijah and Danny find themselves on a trip to Italy together. They are reluctant participants in a parental ploy to bring them back together again. Adventure, discovery and maybe love awaits. Will they leave Italy as distant as when they landed?

REVIEW: If you love art, museums, artifacts and Italy then you will love this story. If however you get bogged down by excessive descriptions of art works and buildings, then you may find the book tedious – especially in the first half. The book does pick up plot towards the end. The reader experiences the nostalgia of the boys’ childhood through their flashbacks. The very different personality styles of the characters give them a more universal appeal to readers.

The author does make 2 good points: about finding more things in common with people than we expect sometimes and about defining who we are. The references to common marijuana use bothered me (in terms of it being portrayed as acceptable). Also, I was hoping for more closure in the end.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, sequence of events, flashback technique, cause and effect, making predictions, compare and contrast character traits, connecting text to social studies and the arts

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: marijuana use

RELATED BOOKS: The Realm of Possibility, Boy Meets Boy, Marley’s Ghost, Wide Awake, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, Likely Story

ART CONNECTIONS: Italian Renaissance Artists and art styles, David, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Visite.html

http://www.davidlevithan.com/

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/davidlevithan/fromdl.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

September 21, 2008

Zee’s Way

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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:

http://www.trompe-l-oeil-art.com/fauxfinishes.html (trompe l’ oeil)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti (graffiti)

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

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/ZeesWayGuide.pdf

http://books.google.com/books?id=s9Sd6EqVFt8C&dq=zee’s+way&pg=PP1&ots=nNlWqli62R&sig=haJlDmdu3x6FyL0rvBm0RbEUOkw&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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

 

April 23, 2008

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

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From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Author: E.L. Konigsburg

Page Length: 182

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Realistic Fiction / Mystery

PLOT SUMMARY: Claudia, a sixth grader and the oldest and only female child in her house, decides that in order to be appreciated, she must run away. Claudia is a careful planner and realizes that she isn’t just going to run away randomly to run to somewhere specific instead. She plans her escape to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Convincing her younger, spend thrift brother Jaime to accompany her, they fail to get off the bus to school and the adventure begins. The book details the exploits of the children as they hide inside the museum; the reader learns how they outwit the guards, where they stay the night, and even how they eat and clean their clothes. While in the museum, the children become engrossed in solving the mystery of the angel statue. Their search for clues involves library research, newspaper articles, and even a secret letter written to the director of the museum. Finally, the children decide to visit the former owner of the statue, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Mrs. Frankweiler a meticulous historian has records on just about everything. As she befriends the children and the mystery begins to unravel, the children don’t realize how close to the truth and home they really are.

REVIEW: I enjoyed reading this book. I loved that the children ran away simply to be appreciated and that Claudia wanted to be running to something. Konigsburg does an excellent job of making the mystery educational and thought provoking. This book makes the reader want to visit the Met just to examine how Claudia and Jaime survived – and to ask themselves could it be done today? Having an understanding and a love for art and art museums also helps one appreciate the story line and the quest to discover the truth. The book will probably appeal more to 3rd through 6th graders.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of events, conclusions, generalizations, and predictions, and reading varied sources, Compare and contrast (Claudia and Jaime)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The subject of running away and the fact that the children do not ever think about how their parents and siblings might be feeling without them.

RELATED BOOKS: The Phantom Tollbooth, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, The View from Saturday, Michelangelo by Mike Venezia

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: 1995 Movie – of the same name- starring Lauren Bacall

http://www.metmuseum.org/

Works of Michelangelo

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/fris/fristg.htm

http://www.michelangelo.com/buonarroti.html

http://webschool.wash.k12.ut.us/reading/books/mixedupfiles.html

http://www.k111.k12.il.us/king/mixed_up.htm

http://www.nancypolette.com/LitGuidesText/fromthemixedupfiles.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

March 1, 2008

Dead-End Job

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Dead-End Job

Author: Vicki Grant

Page Length: 104

Reading Level: 3.6

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Mystery

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Frances works at a local convenience store. When the traffic becomes slow, she turns to a sheet of paper and draws. She loves the art of drawing. One day, a stranger, named Devin, walks into the store and notices Frances drawing. He uses this to his advantage. After taking a look at Frances’ drawing, Devin makes up a long drawn out story that he is related to Tom Orser, a rich artist in the town. Devin goes on to say that he has made a lot of money by recently signing a recording contract and wants to impress his father. Frances has a hard time believing that Tom Orser is Devin’s father at first. However Frances finds the new boy charming. Even though Frances has a boy-friend, Devin appears to be a “breath of fresh air” to her. They begin to talk at times in the store, the library, and other places that Devin happens to show up. 

 

Now there are moments that make Frances think twice about this boy, especially when he calls her by her first name, when Frances never told him who she was initially. Frances finds this strange, yet shakes it off. Later on Devin begins to shower Frances with gifts, including a pastel set. Frances hides many of the events that happen between herself and Devin from her boyfriend Leo. They are harmless acts but Frances knows that Leo is quite a jealous person. Later on, Frances comes up with a plan to set her best friend up with Devin in part to steer Devin’s interest away from her. Frances thinks it will work out great until she realizes that Devin does not want to date Frances’ best-friend or any other friend – Devin wants to date Frances!

 

On page 45, Frances begins to realize that Devin is stalking her. In an argument between the two of them, Devin mentions the name of a movie Leo and Frances rented together recently and talks about how he is so different than Leo. Furthermore, a picture of Frances from Devin on her locker with “XOXO Devin” furthers Frances’ suspicions that Devin is infatuated with her.

 

While Frances is working, Tom Orser walks in. As he comes up to pay, Frances questions him about Devin. Tom Orser says he does not know anything about a boy named Devin. Tom Orser does not have a son. This sends up a major red flag to Frances that Devin is up to something. Questions race through Frances’ mind: how does Devin know my street address, how does he know my e-mail address, how does he get pictures taken of me at all these different places?

 

One night while Frances is working, Devin manages to sneak in the back of the store and set up a dinner scene with a candle, chicken, a carving knife, and wine. Frances asks that he leave. A violent altercation occurs and the climax of the story occurs on page 96 with Devin about to kill Frances for her lack of commitment to him. When Devin says to Frances, that “I need to have you”, this illustrates the pinnacle of Devin’s obsession with Frances. As Frances is about to be murdered, she comes up with an idea that she could draw a portrait of Devin for the police to see as a remembrance so this would not just be another murder. Devin agrees to this. And as he is sitting still as she draws, Frances takes the pencil and rams it up his right nostril. As Frances runs away, Leo is seen pulling up to the convenience store. The Epilogue notes that Devin was indeed lying about many of the things he claimed to be true. He goes to court for stalking, kidnapping, and attempted murder with the idea that he and Frances will be together again soon.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: I thought that the ending was very eerie, yet satisfying. The story had great internal and external dialogue. Teachers could have a discussion on why authors choose certain titles for books Also, teachers could use this book to address the skill of voice, making predictions, and use of narration. I highly recommend this book!

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/DeadendJobTG.pdf

 

http://www.safehorizon.org/page.php?page=whatdoifstalked

 

http://www.crisiscounseling.com/Articles/Stalking.htm

 

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

 

January 23, 2008

Heartbeat

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Heartbeat

Author: Sharon Creech

Page Length: 180

Reading Level: 5th

Genre: Poetry

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: The cover of this book is very appealing. A clean white background with a shiny yellow/orange apple attracts the attention of the writer. However the title, Heartbeat, does not exactly fit with the front illustration. One would think this book might be about nutrition, health, or dieting. However, that is not the case at all.

 

The story is written in the format of poetry. It is easy to follow. The main character is Annie. Her greatest joy is running, and she runs everywhere! Annie also loves to draw.

 

However, Annie has fears too. She has stated ones such as war, being left alone, and dying. She also has unstated fears such as change and growing up. Many things in her life are occurring all at once. Her mother is pregnant, her grandfather who lives with her is forgetting many things, and her best-friend Max has good days and bad ones. In this story, Annie is trying to make sense of it all.

 

Starting on page 51, the author begins to use the tool of footnotes, for humor and effect. Annie has learned about footnotes in Mr. Welling’s class. On page 59, we are introduced to the apple assignment in Annie’s art class. The students each have a real apple from which to draw. They are to draw one picture of an apple a day for 100 days. The teacher feels that through this assignment, the students will discover the “un-ordinary-ness” of an apple. As weeks progress, Annie’s apple changes in appearance. The apple is a metaphor for change in Annie’s life.

 

The apple ultimately gets bitten into by Annie’s grandpa. At first, Annie is sad. But then she realizes that she can alter her project by drawing the apple with the bite in it. Each picture from then on would have less and less of the apple exterior drawn. In the end, what will remain will be the tiny seed. The seed is a metaphor for new beginnings, life, and creation.

 

The author enjoys the use of repetition. For example, “flip, flip, flip” give us a sense that we can see pages turning in Grandpa’s photo album as he attempts to remember his past. Annie is experiencing the pain and confusion her grandfather is going through. It appears that he has a condition similar to Alzheimer’s. Also, “thump-thump, thump-thump”, makes us feel as if we can hear a baby’s heartbeat in the womb of Annie’s mother. Annie is mesmerized by the fact that an “alien baby”, as she calls it, is growing inside her mother.

 

The quietist moment in the book is when Annie’s new brother, Joey, is born. Here he is lying on a blue sheet in the birthing center and not moving. I was shocked and did not know what would happen next. Fortunately, with a few puffs of oxygen, the baby begins to breathe normal.

 

In terms of more change, Max (Annie’s running partner) joins a school team. Also, girls begin to feel attracted toward him. Annie is not fazed by this and desires Max to be her running partner for a little while longer. She wants to hold on to her present friendship with him, still knowing that change is inevitable.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: This story is a simple one about adolescent change. I would use this book to talk about theme and poetic devices. On page 106, I was amused by the section titled, “Forbidden Words”. Mr. Welling, posted a list of words on the board that students are not to use: very, like, ya know?, uh, well, stuff, and yeah. I found this funny because I had come up with a similar list myself in my classroom. I believe I would add the words “stuff” and “cuz” to the list. On page 120, a “Treasure of Words” list is shown. Mr. Welling lists words such as thrilling, sensational, and exhilarating. These are to replace the forbidden words in class.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.sharoncreech.com/novels/heartbeat_guide.pdf

 

http://www.teacher.scholastic.com/clubs/pdfs/heartbeat_t.pdf

 

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

 

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