The Book Reviews – Website

August 30, 2009



Author: Laurence Yep

Page Length: 317

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: In 1903, eight-year old Moon Shadow, came to America to join his father, Windrider.  Windrider had lived in American working with other Chinese immigrants in a laundry company for several years.  As Moon Shadow learns the lifestyle and responsibilities of the Chinese/Americans he develops a bond with his father. 

His father, has a fascination with flying, especially when he hears of the flight of the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk.  Moon Shadow sends a letter to the Wright brothers and tells them of his father’s interest.  The father and son endure the pain of separation from their family after one of their relatives steals from them to get opium.  After the earthquake of 1906, the boy and his father move to Oakland. They develop a friendship  with Mrs. Whitlaw and her daughter, Robin, while Windrider begins his quest to build his own flying machine.     

REVIEW: This is the fifth of a series of books written about the Young family from China.  The book is a narrative by Moon Shadow.  He  expresses the feelings he has towards his mother, he left in China, and  his father and uncles who he lives with for the seven years in which the book is written. The reader also gets an idea of how the Chinese immigrants were discriminated against and the feelings the Chinese had towards the “demons” (Americans).  Eventually, Moon Shadow, realizes some of the positive attributes of living in America and how the opportunites can out weigh the setbacks.

This is an excellent book to use in teaching of the arrival of the Chinese immigrants to the United States.  It also shows how the Chinese, like the Hispanic and African American cultures, have been discriminated against.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Opium use by one of the nephews throughout the book. It is referred to in a negative way so that the reader will realize the harm and damage of its use.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Theme, Point of View, and Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: The Serpent’s Children, Mountain Light, Dragon’s Gate, The Traitor, The Red Warrior, Child of the Owl, Sea Glass, Thief of Hearts and The Kite Runner

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Dragonwings/ The Play-performed at Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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:’burg&rating=3&search_type=related

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: (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

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: (covers TEKS such as character, point of view, foreshadowing, imagery, writing activities, projects, etc)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

February 2, 2008

New Kids in Town: Oral Histories of Immigrant Teens

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News Kids in Town: Oral Histories of Immigrant Teens

Author: Janet Bode

Reading Level: 4.5

Page Length: 126

Genre: Non-fiction, Autobiography


REVIEW: New Kids In Town is a compilation of oral histories of immigrant teens.  The author, Janet Bode, a resident of New York City, visited schools and noticed as she looked around that 1/3 of the student’s head of household’s  were from other countries than  the United States.  In the 1800’s nearly all immigrants were from northern and western Europe.  Now, only 5% come from that part of the world.


Bode conducted a study and found where the majority of immigrants come from today.  She then located students from each of these countries:  Afghanistan, El Salvador, India, Cuba, Philippines, Dominican Republic, China, Mexico, South Korea, Greece and Vietnam.  The words she wrote were originally spoken in the immigrant teen’s own voices.


In each chapter, Bord gives an introduction of each country’s origin.  Then, there is a story by each immigrant.  They each share a story about their life in their old country, then a review of their life in America.


Most of the teens’ families experienced fear in the countries they exported from and are victims of discrimination in the U. S.  However, all of the teens appear to feel they are better off in America.


I especially liked the last paragraph on page 84. It begins, “they came here to American and he didn’t know how to speak a word of English.  Now, six years later he is a pharmacist . . . he introduced me to his staff. . .they all understood his English”.  I said, “This is a miracle!”  He answered, “Sook, America is where miracles come true”.


The last chapter about Von, from Vietnam, was the most detailed and touching to me. I think that may be because of my age ( 18 ) during the Vietnam War.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book would be good to use in the study of the cycle of immigration over the past 30 years.  It is a good non-fiction read that will influence teens to appreciate the U. S. and its’ opportunities.




REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


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