The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

The Hoopster

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The Hoopster

 

Author: Alan Lawrence Sitomer

 

Page Length: 218

 

Reading Level: 6

 

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Andre seems to have everything – an uncanny ability to shoot baskets, a great job at a magazine, and an awesome girlfriend. Andre is assigned the job of writing an article on racism. He begins to notice it everywhere he goes, even in his cousin Cedric’s skits. One night, Andre’s article gets written and he becomes a local celebrity; but, fame comes with a price. Race tensions are high in Andre’s town and his article is getting as much hate mail as fan mail. Andre’s own life is threatened. Will he ever reach his dreams of becoming a famous writer in the midst of so much hatred? What will reaching for his dreams cost him in the end?

REVIEW: This book has a decent story line and was actually able to include basketball without being totally focused on just the sport. As the matter of fact, this athlete has dreams of being a writer. He dates a Hispanic girl, his best friend is white, and he learns that his own father once changed his fate because of racist hatred. Faced with this knowledge and facing his own hate crime, Andre must decide if he too will enter into the cycle of violence or if he can follow a different path. Andre suffers tremendously because his views are outside the norm. The actions of the supremacist group leaves Andre emotionally and physically battered; yet, through it all, Andre prevails and continues to believe in himself and believe that he can change the racist views of the world.

This book had a basic plot and an easy story line to follow. This book would work well as a classroom read for students with a lower reading level.

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

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: racist remarks, hate crime –  Andre is physically assaulted with the intent to permanently maim him, his father tells of a white man relieving himself on his boots and of being hit over the head with a bottle

RELATED BOOKS: Hip-Hop High School, Paulsen’s Nightjohn, Draper’s The Battle of Jericho, To Kill a Mockingbird, Richard Peck’s The River Between Us

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Dead Poets Society (1989), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.thebookjam.com/main/content/resources

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/contributor.jsp?id=3791

http://www.corndancer.com/tunes/tunes_main.html

http://www.thehoopsterbook.com/sections/aboutthebook.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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December 19, 2010

The First Woman Doctor

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First Woman Doctor by Baker: Book Cover

The First Woman Doctor

 

Author: Rachel Baker

 

Page Length: 210

 

Reading Level: 6

 

Genre: Biography

PLOT SUMMARY: It’s the early 1800s and Elizabeth Blackwell is a fortunate young woman. She’s been born to a progressive father who believes staunchly in equal rights. He believes in educating both his sons and his daughters broadly rather than confining the girls to studies of the home. He is the greatest champion for his daughters’ future success. Elizabeth will take the courage and determination she inherited and persevere despite hardships. She will often be told no – but she will not take no for an answer. Elizabeth wants to be a doctor, a surgeon, and even start her own medical school. Nothing can succeed in the face of such determination.

REVIEW: This is an excellent book. I love what it teaches everyone about courage and perseverance – where there’s a will there’s a way. Historically this book is also a great look at women’s rights, slavery, and even the treatment of the social classes. This book is an engaging and intriguing look into what early medicine was like (including the use of leeches).

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  sequence of events, cause and effect, character traits, making predictions, analogies, historical context, context clues

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: issues of prejudice

RELATED BOOKS: Mary on Horseback, After the Dancing Days, The Story of George Washington Carver

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Blackwell Story (1957)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/ushistory/elizabethblackwell.htm

http://www.findingdulcinea.com/features/profiles/b/elizabeth-blackwell.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/blackwell/

http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/calendar-activities/elizabeth-blackwell-became-first-20402.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=1068

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/odell.html

http://www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00001393.shtml

http://www.teachervision.fen.com/fiction/activity/5242.html

http://www.scottodell.com/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 30, 2009

Journey to Jo’Burg A South African Story

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Journey to Jo’Burg: A South African Story

Author: Beverley Naidoo

Page Length: 80

Reading Level: 5.5

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Thirteen year old Naledi and her younger brother Tiro live in a village in South Africa. Times are hard in their village and their mother must live and work at home in order to provide for the family. When their baby sister takes ill with a terrible fever, they know that they must act fast. Too many young children have been dying in their village. Desperate to save their little sister, Naledi and Tiro set off on the journey to Johannesburg to find their mother and bring her home to care for their sister. Will they be able to make the journey in time?

REVIEW: This book is small in size and rather plainly written – making it great for higher elementary and secondary classrooms. The book deals with the issues of slavery, discrimination, and starvation. The reader learns of the hardships the mother must endure as she works away from her own children and is “enslaved” to the white people she works for. They begin to see how much their own people need decent food and living conditions and how desperately in need of change their world is. I would definitely use this book in the classroom. The story moves quickly and the issues are very worthy of discussion and response from students.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, historical connections, connecting text to self

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the issue of servitude and substandard living conditions

RELATED BOOKS: The Other Side of Truth, No Turning Back, Out of Bounds

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: John Lennon – Imagine, Tracy Chapman – Across the Lines

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/JO/joburgtg.html

http://litplans.com/titles/Journey_to_Joburg_A_South_African_Story_Beverly_Naidoo.html

http://www.lessonplanet.com/search?keywords=journey+to+jo’burg&rating=3&search_type=related

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

http://www.theadvocates.org/freeman/8906vorh.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Brian’s Song

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Brian’s Song

Author: William Blinn

Page Length: 119

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Teleplay

PLOT SUMMARY: Brian Piccolo and Gayle Sayers were unlikely friends. After all, they came from very different backgrounds. For one of them being the best was easy; for the other, being second best was normal. One of them was outgoing while the other was reserved. One of them was black, and one of them was white. Despite their differences, they had one thing in common -they both wanted to be first string for the same position on the Chicago Bears pro football team. They challenged each other, they never gave up, and through it all – they never stopped giving life their best effort. 

REVIEW: I love this format. I used this before with my seventh grade classes, they really enjoyed reading it aloud. The movie caps the entire teleplay off beautifully (I think the newer version is better than the 1971 version). The story is moving in many ways and provides excellent discussion material about – courage, perseverance, strength, the true meaning of friendship, and how critical attitude is to success.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: connecting text to self, sequence of events, cause and effect, making predictions, elements of plot, varied writing formats (using the teleplay as a classroom writing activity)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: reality of battling racism and cancer

RELATED BOOKS: Gayle Sayer’s I Am Third, Brian Piccolo: A Short Season, Story Sense, The Screenwriter’s Bible  

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Brian’s Song, Remember the Titans

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.bearshistory.com/lore/brianpiccolo.aspx

http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Piccolo_Brian.html

http://www.christianitytoday.com/moi/2000/003/may/16.16.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

August 8, 2009

47

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47

Author: Walter Mosley

Page Length: 232

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: 47 is the slave number given to young boy on the Corinthian Plantation when he was determined to be off age. Branded with that number on his left shoulder, 47 must spend his days working the field picking cotton and his nights chained up in a group bunk house. The overseer is a constant threat who often tortures slaves, kills them, or even hangs them from the hanging tree. 47 has all but lost his way until Tall John arrives. Tall John inspires and is inspired by 47 – who one day he says is destined to lead the masses to break the chains of slavery and be free.

REVIEW: The story was riveting in terms of its depiction of plantation life in the south. The horrors and detrimental effects of slavery were well portrayed – for this reason alone the book is an excellent source for making connections with students and history. The idea that any one person could be the chosen one who has a destiny far greater than he or she can comprehend is a beautiful theme. This theme can reinforce for students their own potential and the need to question their “place” in society. The spiritual aspect of the book and the other worldly origins of Tall John were more difficult to grasp – as well as the idea that demon spirits were capable of taking over other people’s bodies. The truth about how dark skinned people were treated inhumanely is accurately portrayed in the book. Even if the whole class didn’t read the book certain excerpts would be excellent for classroom examination and discussion. Overall the book was interesting and unique.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, compare and contrast, character traits, timeline, cause and effect, historical connections

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: language – “niggahs” (page 155), “dragged to the wagon wheel and chained to it hand and foot” (page 154), and many more language issues

RELATED BOOKS: Devil in a Blue Dress, A Red Death, Black Betty, Little Scarlet, The Long Fall, Fortunate Son

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

www.waltermosley.com

http://www.guyana.org/features/guyanastory/chapter26.html

http://cghs.dadeschools.net/slavery/antebellum_slavery/plantation_slave_life/health.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 17, 2009

The Sign of the Beaver

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The Sign of the Beaver

Author: Elizabeth George Speare

Page Length: 135

Reading Level: 6.5

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: Matt and his dad have built a cabin on their homestead land in Maine.  Matt is left alone while his dad returns to bring back his mother and sister.  After seven weeks, Matt has a visitor who steals his rifle.  Then, he runs into a beehive.  When Matt awakes, he finds that an older Indian and his son, Attean, are treating him.  Matt agrees to teach Attean to read in trade for his treatment back to good health. While teaching Attean to read, the pair bond and become good friends.  Matt also learns many survival skills from the Indians.  However, the Indians begin to fear the white people moving in and they decide to travel further north and west.  They invite Matt to move with them, but out of loyalty, he decides to wait for the return of his family.

REVIEW: This is an excellent easy to read book that focuses on a young boy becoming independent with his own survival skills in the wilderness.   The friendship that forms between Attean and Matt is genuine.  This would be a good class novel to read in conjunction with United States history in the early 1700’s. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Theme, Point of View, Setting, Sequence of Events, and Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Brian’s Winter, Island of the Blue Dolphins, I am Regina, Calico Captive

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Dances with Wolves (1990)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.litsum.com/signofthebeaver

www.randomhouse.com/teachers/catalog/display.pperl?&view=tg

www.literatureplace.com/bookfolios/bookfolio.asp?BookfolioID=133

www.indiana.edu/~reading/ieo/bibs/speare.html

www.teachervision.fen.com/fiction/lesson-plan/16556.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 5, 2008

Tough Trails

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Tough Trails

Author: Irene Morck

Page Length: 96    

Reading Level: 2.6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As a teen-ager, Ambrose Metford worked for his Uncle in the summer taking trail riders high up into Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.  As the story begins, Ambrose is sent to the horse auction to sell his horse Blackie.  Uncle Mac had given permission to Ambrose to buy a horse to replace Blackie. 

As the auction begins, Ambrose meets an older woman who seems to be as upset as he is to be selling her horse.  In fact, she convinces Ambrose to buy her horse, Society Girl who is 25 years old.  Ambrose didn’t make the best decision when buying his horse. He knows he will be scrutinized by Uncle Mac and his two aunts, Janice and Madge for buying the old mare.

Ambrose bonds quickly with Society Girl and has her practice packing the bags she will need to carry on their trail rides. A famous photographer and his son request Ambrose and his aunt to take them on the very steep, rocky trail to Wapta Lake.  The trail is tough, the boy is a brat, and a storm hits.  Ambrose questions if he can redeem himself from his bad decision of buying a horse because of a sympathetic heart.

REVIEW:  This is an easy to read, short book that would interest horse lovers. It has adventure and suspense, along with showing the vulnerability of a young man sent on his own to make a very big decision.

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

RELATED BOOKS: Firehorse, Paint the Wind, I am the Great Horse

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Horse Whisperer, Sea Biscuit, Dreamer

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol10/no1/toughtrails.html

 

nancykeane.com/booktalks/morck_tough.html

 

http://www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=358            

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

October 17, 2008

Bridge to Terabithia

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Bridge to Terabithia

Author: Katherine Paterson

Page Length: 163

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jess is a fifth grader. His greatest ambitions in life so far have been to be the fastest runner in 5th grade (something he practices by running around the pasture in the morning) and to figure how to please his father (something that seems impossible). It looks to be another typical year until a new neighbor moves in. Leslie Burke isn’t the typical neighbor. She’s a girl, and her parents have moved to a rural error to get away.

Jess and Leslie become great friends. They play together and Leslie’s vast imagination takes them into the world of Terabithia. In this world they are the king and queen and rule of spirits and other beings. Their imagination takes them away each day to a magical place. One day something tragic happens. Terabithia and Jess may never be the same again.

REVIEW: I saw the movie before I read this book (and I found the movie disappointing because it was all supposed to be imagined and it did not seem well connected). Reading the book is of course better than watching the movie. The book is entertaining – especially for readers who enjoy fantasy.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, word choice in writing, use of a thesaurus, plot development, author’s purpose

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: accident resulting in the death of child

RELATED BOOKS: Jacob Have I Loved, Jip: His Story, The King’s Equal, The Great Gilly Hopkins

 

RELATED MOVIES: “Bridge to Terabithia”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.terabithia.com/

http://www.apple.com/trailers/disney/bridgetoterabithia/

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/paterson.html

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/60951/bridge_to_terabithia_sequenced_lesson.html?cat=4

http://www.nt.net/~torino/bridge.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Nightjohn

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Nightjohn

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 98

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Nightjohn tells the story of slavery in the deep south. Sarny is a young girl being raised by old Delie who raises all the young slaves. Sarny’s birth mother was sold off as a breeder when she was young. Sarny knows of all sorts of human atrocities. She has seen and knows of people being whipped, beaten, hung, and even raped. Delie keeps sticks to tell how she old is (about 12) and worries about the trouble coming to her. One day, a new slave named Nightjohn arrives. Sarny can tell that he is different than all the rest. She soon learns out why. Nightjohn can read (something slaves are forbidden to do). Nightjohn begins to teach Sarny and the troubles begin. Sarny loves making letters and is caught drawing them in the dirt. What lengths will Waller go to in order to keep what he considers his slaves from learning to read? Will they be willing to pay the price for knowledge anyway?

REVIEW: What a great lesson this book is about the value of education. Students can begin to explore why the slave owners wanted their slaves to be illiterate. This story is graphic but historically sound. The characters and the events in the story are well developed and moving.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical context, creating a timeline, predictions, causes and effects, summarization, question the text, comprehending impact on point of view, sequence of events, setting

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: pg. 44 “every time there was somebody to be on the wall … and be whipped or other punishments we all had to watch”

Graphic descriptions of whippings and salt being put in wounds while the wounded was left tied up for the flies to infect the wounds

Graphic descriptions of a beating and toes being chopped off

Language “god damn you — don’t you lie to me” pg. 63

RELATED BOOKS: The Crossing, Brian’s Winter, Hatchet, Good-bye and Keep Cold, Fallen Angels, The Island, The Foxman, Tracker, Dogsong, The Foxman, The River Between Us

RELATED MOVIES: “Nightjohn” produced by The Disney Channel

RELATED ART: http://www.superstock.com/stock-photography/Slavery/art

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.bookrags.com/shortguide-nightjohn/

http://faculty.salisbury.edu/~elbond/night2.htm

http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schooladventures/slavery/

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/26/books/26paul.html?pagewanted=2

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

July 7, 2008

Number the Stars

Number the Stars

Author: Lois Lowry

Page Length: 137

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Annemarie Johansen is a young Danish girl who, along with her Jewish friend Ellen Rosen, attempts to live a normal life in the midst of Nazi occupation. In their town of Copenhagen, both girls participate in rationing. They live with little – unable to even spread butter on their bread! What is plentiful is the love of family and friends. That is what keeps these citizens together. When the Nazi’s begin to “relocate” the Jews (to ultimate death), Denmark’s sense of security and freedom diminishes.

In response to the Jewish discrimination, “The Resistance” (a group of individuals with a mission to fight the occupation of the Nazis) begins to smuggle the Jews out of Denmark and over to Sweden.  Some of Annemarie’s family and friends take part in this mission in order that Ellen Rosen and her family may escape the Nazis. Annemarie is sad to see her friend leave, but she understands that it is necessary in order for the Rosen’s to have a chance at survival.

Annemarie displays great courage and strength when she aids the Rosen family in their escape. She doesn’t plan her courageous acts, rather she takes it upon herself to assist when her mother injures herself.

The story ends with the Rosen family escaping, the war ending, and Annemarie hopeful that she will see her friend again.

The author provides a nice “Afterword” at the end of the book which explains which portions of the story were fictional and which were based on fact.

REVIEW: This book was an easy read and kept my attention. The scenes that included the Nazi guards were very suspenseful. This book would be a great supplement to a unit on the Holocaust both in English class as well as World History.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: mood, tone, simile (page 5), symbolism (page 25, 87, & 94), historical context, vocabulary (swastika & kroner), reading varied sources – letters (page 137)

RELATED BOOKS: Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl (Jewish hiding, female perspective), Stepping on the Cracks (two girls’ relationship during war time), The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark, Night, The Book Thief

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Anne Frank Remembered” (1995), “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.cdli.ca/CITE/number_the_stars.htm (covers TEKS such as character, point of view, foreshadowing, imagery, writing activities, projects, etc)

http://www.mce.k12tn.net/reading23/number_the_stars.htm

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

April 30, 2008

Everything on a Waffle

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Everything on a Waffle

Author: Polly Horvath

Page Length: 150

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story of Primrose begins with a fierce storm at sea. Her mother leaves her in the care of Miss Perfidy and takes off on the boat to find her father. Her parents never return and are presumed dead by everyone except Primrose. Primrose insists and asks people aren’t there ever times when they know something isn’t true just because they know it. In the meantime, Uncle Jack takes Primrose in. Her guidance counselor, Miss Honeycut, creates problems; she pursues Uncle Jack and wants him without a niece. Primrose finds a friend in Miss Bowzer who teaches her to cook in her restaurant where everything comes on a waffle. Accidents happen and Primrose’s fortunes continue to fall. She is placed in a foster home, loses someone dear to her, and continues to wait along the shore for her parents. Despite everything, Primrose refuses to give up on what she knows in her heart has to be true.

REVIEW: Everything on a Waffle is a touching, humorous story. The adventures and misadventures of Primrose are entertaining and at times saddening. Readers experience Primrose’s belief in her parents return and begin to hope with her despite the mounting evidence to the contrary. This is a great story of the survival of spirit despite adversity. Primrose, her friends, and family never give up either.

Of particular interest to some students might also be the ending of each chapter with a recipe related to its contents.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: descriptive writing and similes: ‘the feeling of joy swept through my soul like fire up a vacuum,” use of dialogue in writing, elements of plot, symbolism

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: smoking by Primrose’s mother and Miss Perfidy, children bullying and belittling Primrose

RELATED BOOKS: The Trolls, No More Cornflakes, My One Hundred Adventures, The Pepins and their Problems

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.discoveryjourney.com/ContentSummary.asp?ContentID=20&List=1

http://www.nytimes.com/books/01/06/17/reviews/010617.rv135343.html

http://www.cherylsigmon.com/pdf/Everything-on-a-Waffle-Books-with-Class.pdf

http://www.holtzbrinckpublishers.com/images/Books/TeachersGuides/0374422087TG.pdf

http://www.pollyhorvath.com/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 15, 2008

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. 

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.mce.k12tn.net/dogs/yeller/old_yeller.htm

 

http://www.sabine.k12.la.us/intech/lessonplans/Middle/Old%20Yeller,%20Reading%20Response%20Lesson%20Plan.dot

 

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/gipson.html

 

http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/rabies.htm

 

http://pbskids.org/stantonanthony/frontier_girl.html

 

REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

April 2, 2008

Flight #116 Is Down

Flight #116 is Down

Author: Caroline B. Cooney

Page Length: 201

Reading Level: 5th

Genre: Realistic Fiction

REVIEW: This story is one of those that you should not read while on a plane or prior to boarding one. It is, however, a book I would recommend you pick up! In Flight #116 is Down, a tragic airplane crash (of which we never find out the cause) brings a small town together for the rescue.  

PLOT SUMMARY: This book is also about the lives of many of the passengers who board this doomed aircraft. Some die and some live. However, this is not where the interest lies. It is the background of these people and their loved ones that the heart of this story is revealed. There is major action (especially when the crash occurs on page 44), yet there are human elements of courage, selfishness, anger, sadness, and fear. Each character has a story to tell. Daniel and Tucker are dealing with their father’s impending marriage to a new wife. Teddie is a small child on her way home to mom and dad. Carly is a twin who is traveling to re-unite with her family after falling into a life of drugs and parties. Darienne is self-centered and refuses to help out the survivors of the crash. She is my favorite character for her colorful personality. Her sarcasm is a horrible character trait, but she is an interesting individual. Darienne is more worried about her looks, getting a connecting flight, and suing the airline than the safety and welfare of those dying around her. Pages 19-22 and page 87 provide some great insight and examples of Darienne’s character.  

Apart from the passengers on the plane, the two main characters are Heidi Landseth and Patrick Farquhar. These two teenagers live in the small community of Nearing River where all emergencies are handled by volunteers. It is in this town, in the backyard of Heidi’s estate, in which the crash occurs. Patrick naturally rises to the occasion, as an EMT, helping out the victims of the crash. Heidi on the other hand, grows from a girl who does not stand out in a crowd, to one that takes some great initiative. She surprises herself by orchestrating many of the rescue maneuvers.  

Besides the revelation that many of the passengers on the plane die, this book ends with Patrick and Heidi growing close (in the heat of emergency) and Tucker reconciling his ill feelings toward his father’s impending marriage.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book would be a great tool to expose students to the skills of characterization, internal dialogue, setting, and visualization. Some pages you should check out are 98-99, 147, and 166-167.  

MOVIE/RELATED BOOK CONNECTION: Students may make real-life connections to this book with the events of 9-11 in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. and the movies the various movies that followed. Another movie/book connection would be Lord of the Flies  

RELATED WEBSITES: 

http://www.funtrivia.com/trivia-quiz/Literature/Flight-116-Is-Down-200653.html (short quiz) 

http://www.ncsu.edu/midlink/bkfair/dms/dms.bks/FL116/FL116.PPT (awesome powerpoint) 

http://www.planecrashinfo.com/ 

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

January 20, 2008

Artemis Fowl

Filed under: *AWESOME BOOKS!!!,A — thebookreviews @ 2:58 am
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Artemis Fowl

Author: Eoin Colfer

Page Length: 279

Reading Level: 6th

Genre: Fantasy

 

REVIEW: The New York Post review of Artemis Fowl raves, “A new thriller fairy tale that will grab your interest, no matter what your age.” For fans of the fantasy genre and Harry Potter like enthusiasts, this book would be a must read. Artemis Fowl is a twelve year old genius from a long line of criminal masterminds who plots to exploit the underground race of creatures including fairies, centaurs, elves, dwarves, and more. The plot twists and turns like a crime novel as Artemis plots to kidnap Captain Holly Short and to amass his riches. Of course, rescue must be attempted to save Captain Short and keep the world down under from being exposed to the barbaric human race who would only exploit and ruin the underground world as they have done to the world above. The race is on as the sun rise is nearing and the “riveting, magical adventure” is drawing to a close.

 

I found the book and it’s characters entertaining. Character types are everywhere from the weak minded pretty girl to the muscle man who keeps order by force. Captain Short is a strong woman determined to prove herself as the first woman on the LEP unit squad. The brilliant scientist and the old fashioned Captain types also emerge. Artemis even battles with his role as the son of a woman who is losing her hold on reality. This book would provide an excellent tool for in depth character analysis.

 

TOUCHY AREAS: Overall I enjoyed reading the book. Some of the descriptions of creature habits weren’t particularly interesting, but might appeal more to boys in general. However, I would exercise caution and provide this book to students on advanced reading levels, as the vocabulary and speech patterns effectively reflect what you would expect a twelve year old genius to sound like.

 

BOOK CONNECTIONS: Colfer has continued the series by recently publishing his seventh novel in the Artemis Fowl line.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.artemisfowl.com

 

http://www.puffin.co.uk/static/cs/uk/15/minisites/artemisfowl/home.html

 

http://www.artemisfowlfun.com/

 

http://www.umiacs.umd.edu/~jimmylin/LBSC690-Final-Project-Gallery/200509-booktalks/booktalks.html# (this site contains a book-talk slideshow)

 

www.kidsreads.com/funstuff/trivia/artemis_fowl-triv.asp

 

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

 

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