The Book Reviews – Website

March 11, 2008



Author: Caroline B. Cooney

Page Length: 198

Reading Level: 5th

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Mystery 


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Fatality starts off with a bang! (great for a lesson on leads) Chapter 1 takes us from curiosity to action as Rose Lymond steals a police car in an attempt to take back her diary in which the police have confiscated while the reader is left unaware of the journal’s contents. Does the diary contain details of a brutal murder or a hit-and-run? Is there a list of love interests written down? Are there personal family secrets described in the journal? These are questions that the reader will ask oneself as they continue to read this action-packed book. In spite of these questions, what the reader does know in the beginning is that the police have re-opened a murder investigation, and Roses diary may provide some clues into this case. Could Roses diary provide information for this investigation or does her diary contain something entirely un-related?


Roses character is not the type to commit a crime such as stealing a police car unless there is a good reason. However, no one understands her thinking at this point in the story. Rose refuses to explain her actions, her diary, or her current state of mind. Her parents, the police, and some of her friends become worried and upset. Rose is concealing something very important! The police are certain that Rose is hiding vital information in regards to the brutal murder of Frannie Bailey that may have been committed by Milton Lofft, the father of Angelica, a school friend of Roses.


What the police don’t know is that there is no vital information in Roses journal about the murder of Frannie Bailey. However, her journal does contain information relating to a time when Mr. Lofft ran over an object in the road while Rose and Angelica were in the car. Rose cannot be sure that it was a person that Mr. Lofft ran over, yet she can’t rule it out. Newspapers did report a hit-and-run at about the time of Roses diary entry, yet even this incident is not what is tugging at Roses emotions. What could this event be? It is something even more personal and emotional to Rose than a brutal murder or a hit-and-run.


The emotional climax of the story happens around page 170 when the reader realizes what Rose has been hiding from us all. Her mother cheated on her father while he was away on business, and the result was the birth of Rose. Rose’s father is actually her step-father! When Rose found out about this incident, four years ago, she vowed to keep it hidden from everyone, especially her father.


The story does not end there. Verne, a former family friend of Roses, assumes that Rose has written about him in her diary – written about the time when he killed Frannie Bailey! This assumption causes Verne to attempt to kill Rose on the road in his SUV early on in the story, and it now drives him to kidnap her and possibly end her life! Verne however is caught by a police road block. It is at this time that Rose confesses everything to her supporters, especially her father. Roses father tells her that he already knew about the marital affair, yet still accepts Rose as his own daughter and always will.


This book may prove confusing for some students because it is layered with several plot twists and characters. It is a standard mystery that starts out well and wraps up nicely.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book provides good examples of flashback as well as conflict.




REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton



February 20, 2008

Bull Rider

Bull Rider

Author: Marilyn Halvorson

Page Length: 92

Reading Level: 3rd

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Suspense


REVIEW, PLOT SUMMARY & AREAS FOR TEACHING: When you tell people you live in Fort Worth, they immediately think of cowboys, cattle, and horses. And the beginning of each year brings us the main event of this city’s tradition: The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. As I have never been to a rodeo and my closest encounter with cattle has been the local 4-H fair, I began this book with little background information.   


Bull Rider is an entertaining story about a 17 year old boy named Layne who has been without a father for six years. His father was killed by a bull at a championship rodeo – “trampled so bad he never woke up”. One of the main reasons for the accidental death, was that Layne’s father used a “suicide wrap” to hold onto his bull. Despite this tragic event, Layne has a passion for riding bulls and would like to enter a rodeo himself. Layne wants to show that even though his father was unable to win a championship, he son can. However, Layne’s mother refuses to allow her son to enter the competition.


With the help of his friend Jana Kelvin, Layne is able to practice bull-riding on her land. Out of several animals on Jana’s land, Layne quickly recognizes the one with the greatest challenge: a full grown Brahma named Rhino. On Layne’s first ride with Rhino, he was thrown off and near death until his sister rescued him by waving her jacket in front of the bull.


Watching the near-death event was Chase Kincaid, Jana’s grandfather. Chase befriends Layne and allows him to practice bull-riding with him without the knowledge of Layne’s mother. On page 49, we can infer that Chase says the only thing that’s worse than being so old nobody thinks you can do anything, is being so young that no one thinks you can do anything. This is a strong internal motivator for Chase in helping Layne with his dreams.


Layne tries to use a “suicide wrap” for his rides with Chase, but Chase reminds him that even though this type of hold may give a rider extra grip, it is dangerous. July 3rd is the big day for Layne’s bull-riding competition. It is also the same day that his mother will be out of town. This allows Layne easy access to attend the competition without her permission.


Page 87 gives us a hint of a flashback to how Layne’s father died. We find a bull-rider at the July 3rd competition using the same “suicide wrap” and unable to let go as the bull goes wild. This event startles Layne and it almost looks as if he is not going to be able to ride. Layne does manage to enter the arena with Rhino, however during his ride, Layne’s mother shows up and looks worried. This causes Layne to lose concentration and grip. He falls off, but is safe. The book wraps up quickly with all parties smiling, hugging, and celebrating on a safe competition ride. Layne’s mother realizes that bull-riding is her son’s passion despite the dangers that come with it


This book would be great to use in introducing terms associated with a sport many kids may be unfamiliar with. Just as there are many cultures of ethnicity, there are many cultures when it comes to various sports that are out there.


RELATED WEBSITES: (Fort Worth Stock Show/Rodeo Site)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton


Create a free website or blog at