The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

The Moves Make the Man

The Moves Make the Man


Author: Bruce Brooks


Page Length: 252  


Reading Level: 8


Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jerome Foxworthy, an intelligent African American, spots Bix Rivers playing baseball one year prior to the composing of the story of Bix.  Bix catches his attention because Jerome has never seen anyone who has mastered the skill and art of baseball like Bix.

Jerome is the only black student attending the junior high school in his neighborhood.  Jerome’s first love is basketball and he goes to try-outs for the school team, but is not allowed to play because of his color. After Jerome’s mother is in an accident, Jerome decides to enroll in a home economics class so that he can cook for his brothers while his mother heals.  He discovers he is not the only male member of the class, Bix Rivers; the talented baseball player also belongs to the class.  The boys immediately bond and Jerome teaches Bix to play basketball in the evenings. 

As the boy’s relationship grows, Jerome learns that Bix cannot tolerate any form of lying, or “his definition” for lying. This intolerance for non-truths has caused significant repercussions in Bix’s life which Jerome tries to understand.

REVIEW: This is a well-written book that has great character development and descriptive writing.  The description of the game of basketball (p. 59), the reference of “white man’s disease” (p. 95), and Bix’s view of friendship (p.159) are examples of Brook’s excellent writing skills.  The bond of friendship between Bix and Jerome is one that young men can relate to, in that; males accept each other just as they are.  The boy’s both have family issues that are also common to the young teen-age male.  In addition, racial issues are a sub-plot that Jerome must deal with throughout the story. 

I think both boys and girls would enjoy this book because of the drama and conflict the characters encounter as they move through their first year of junior high   

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

RELATED BOOKS: Slam, Learning the Game, The Boy Who Saved Baseball, Hardball


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


December 19, 2010


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Back by Norah McClintock: Book Cover



Author: Norah McClintock


Page Length: 93


Reading Level: 3


Genre: Fiction


Career Connections: Policemen, Doctor

PLOT SUMMARY: How would you feel if a neighbor who had been jailed for beating your brother so badly that he was in a coma was released from prison and back living with his mother?  This is the situation Ardell Withrow is facing as Jojo Benn returns to the neighborhood. 

The story is told by a young boy who has a broken ankle and is doomed to wear a cast for the summer.  So, he has a good view from his front porch of the neighborhood activities. 

He first explains why Jojo was in jail.  It began when his girlfriend, Shana, became pregnant with his child.  Jojo had an attitude with people and when Shana wanted more attention than Jojo was willing to give, he got an “attitude” with her.  Eden, Ardell’s brother, witnessed this and came to her rescue.  This infuriated Jojo so much that he got a crowbar and beat Eden so badly that he went into a coma.  He has been in a hospital since the horrifying event.

When Jojo is released, the people of the neighborhood are leery of what his behavior will be.  The neighborhood stores refuse to sell him groceries.  He stays at home most of the time, except on the days when he and his mother leave in a taxi.  Shana comes to visit him and shows him their baby.  All of this is observed by the people in the neighborhood, including Ardell and his family.

Ardell and his mother go to visit Eden, but Ardell’s father refuses to visit him. One day his dad comes to the house and tells Ardell’s mother that the hospital has determined that Eden is brain-dead.  Eden is taken off of life support and dies. 

Many of the neighbors attend the funeral, but Shana doesn’t.  The tension increases with each of Shana’s visits to Jojo’s home.  Ardell confronts her and asks how she can forgive Jojo when it is his fault that Eden is dead. When Shana tells him that she didn’t ask for Eden’s help, this is more than Ardell can take.

REVIEW: This is a high interest level book written for the reluctant teen reader.  The story is told from an observer’s point of view, I think a student who has few friends or shy may be able to relate to the narrator. I would suggest the book to boys who are just beginning to do independent reading.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Drawing Conclusions, Making Predictions, Character, Conflict, Cause/Effect, and Compare/Contrast


RELATED BOOKS: Snitch, Tell, Bang, Down, Marked, and Watch Me


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 14, 2009

Island of the Blue Dolphins

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Island of the Blue Dolphins

Author: Scott O’Dell

Page Length: 184

Reading Level: 5.5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The only life Karana has ever known is as a young Indian woman on her tribe’s island. Their peaceful world is disturbed when hunters arrive one day to rob the land of its treasures and start a great battle. Out of sadness and despair, Karana’s people decide to leave their village life behind. But as the boat sets sail, Karana realizes that her little brother has been left behind. Will she save him? If she gives up her chance for rescue, will there be another or is Karana prepared to survive on the island alone?

REVIEW: Karana’s story is heart wrenching and interesting; however, I think that struggling readers will become lost in many of the details and descriptions of the hunt and island life. Yet, O’Dell uses vivid imagery; students could respond by recreating scenes from the story. Helping students to visualize the island and the conditions (possibly through pictures and drawings) would help improve comprehension and engagement in the last half of the story. I’ve seen this book used as a sixth grade classroom read and most of the students were not engaged in the story. However, the novel brings to light some interesting discussion points about sacrifice and survival. It definitely provides a springboard for discussing bravery and courage. As a book, with a character who endures many hardships and prevails, it is a worthwhile read. It was a winner of the Newberry Medal.

The story is based on the true accounts of the Lost Woman of San Nicolas.

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

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: fighting among the natives and the Aleuts (p. 22-24)

RELATED BOOKS: Gary Paulsen’s Dogsong, Hatchet, S. M. Sterling’s Dies the Fire, Lord of the Flies, Robinson Crusoe, Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964)


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

January 18, 2009


Filed under: A — thebookreviews @ 7:37 pm
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Author: Dar Williams

Page Length: 180

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Amalee struggles with the evenings she must spend with her dad and his four best “over forty” friends.  She is also struggling with her relationships in school, both with teachers and peers.  She has the image of being a mean kid and feels that no one really likes her.

When Amalee’s father becomes seriously ill and is bedridden, his friends come to take care of him, but no one tells Amalee what is wrong.  They take her to school and cook with her but are not honest with her about what is going on with her dad.   Meanwhile at school, Ellen and Hally, who were her friends, begin to make fun of her.  When Amalee gets into a fight with Lenore, Phyllis (a neighbor and one of the “older” friends) comes to Amalee’s aid. 

REVIEW: In her first novel, Dar Williams creates a realistic plot of a young girl who has a single parent, her dad.  When he becomes ill, Amalee, does not want anyone to know.  Williams does an excellent job of describing the feelings and emotions Amalee experiences of not knowing or being in control of what is happening in her life.  Like many teens, she does not know how to deal with these emotions and chooses to hide rather than share them.  When Phyllis comes to her rescue and helps Amalee explain to Lenore and the principal what she is going through, Amalee finds some peace. However, it is not until she finally talks with her dad about his illness that Amalee finds contentment.

This is a good book to read for children who have parents with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses so that they know their feelings of denial and fear are normal.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Theme, Characters, Point of View, and Cause/Effect,

RELATED BOOKS: Olive’s Ocean and Lights, Camera, and Amalee

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Stepmom (1998), CD’s by Dar Williams: The Green World, My Better Self, Out There, End of the Summer, Promised Land, The Beauty of the Rain

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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