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June 5, 2010

Kissing the Rain

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Kissing the Rain

Author: Kevin Brooks

Page Length: 320

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Michael Rupert, known as “Moo”, is a loner. He is made fun of because of his obesity—he tops out on the scales at 240.  However, he finds most happiness when he escapes into his eating habits of huge meals prepared by his mom, candy bars, and fast food fests!

He finds his escape from “the Rain” (teasing, shoving, name-calling jeers) by going to a bridge and listening to the passing of the automobiles. However, one night, he witnesses a wreck between a racing BMW and a Range Rover.  After the collision, four people emerge from the BMW and one from the Rover.  A fight takes place, a victim goes down, and the police arrive. As Moo observes the action from atop the bridge, the police spot him.  The police question Moo and tell him they will come to his house the next day to get a statement.

The next afternoon, two detectives arrive and talk to him. They write down all the facts and statements they can get from Moo.  Moo realizes that one of the detectives is the father of one of the major boys at school who causes his “Rain”.  As the days go forward, the defense attorney for Vine, a known criminal who is the accused killer in the accident, also comes to talk with Moo.  Both the defense and prosecution want Moo’s support in the case.

Moo realizes that he has decisions to make when he must testify in court.  He knows no one in the case will truly win, and his decision will hurt someone in the end.

REVIEW: The book is written in a very realistic first person narrative form.  It is easy for the reader to understand Moo’s feelings and the conflicts he experiences as he must make decisions concerning not only the accident he witnessed, but decisions that will affect his family and friends.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Point of View, Character, Conflict, Symbols

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Mild profanity occasionally used

RELATED BOOKS: City of Bones, Frostbite, and The Awakening

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

September 21, 2008

Bull Run

Bull Run

Author: Paul Fleischman

Page Length: 104

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Historical Fiction, Drama

REVIEW: The first battle of the Civil War was “Bull Run”. And the author, whose book bears the same name, takes a different spin on the event. Instead of a usual chapter by chapter account of fighting, Fleischman inserts 16 characters each with their own perspective on the war during the same time period. These 16 characters enter periodically throughout the book. The format makes for a great example of Reader’s Theater where each student in the class could take the part of one of the characters in the book.

The characters in Bull Run are varied. Half are individuals from the northern states and half are from the south. Some are white while others are African-American slaves. Males and females characters as well as young and old ones are included. The characters’ locations range from Minnesota and Arkansas to Massachusetts and Virginia. The characters’ occupations are that of ditch diggers, cooks, infantry fighters, photographers, musicians, etc. Page 104 provides a good outline as to where the characters’ parts are included in the book.

All the characters themselves are fictional, except for that of General Irwin McDowell. The events and details however are factual. 

I felt the purpose of the book was not to explain the details of the battle so much as to convey the emotions and “little things” that went on behind the scenes. For students with little interest in military and war books, Bull Run proves to be a great alternative. Many discussions can arise from reading this book such as the effect the battle had on families to the role slaves played in the war. The Civil War affected everyone, not just those that saw the blood and gore first-hand. However, there were many who did not hold a gun that saw the gruesome effects of bullets and fighting. I would highly recommend this book as it is a great way to approach the topic of conflict both from a literary standpoint as well as a historical one.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: reading map, compare/contrast, characterization, simile (pages 9, 35, & 45), Reader’s Theater – teacher can assign character parts to 16 different students and have the students read out-loud. Students could even go beyond the text with projects such as (writing a biography of the person, dressing up as the character, etc)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: There are no major areas of concern contained in this book, unless the subject of war, death, killing, and blood is too much for certain individuals.   

RELATED BOOKS: The Red Badge of Courage, Across Five Aprils, Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Glory” (1989), “Gettysburg” (1993), “Gone With the Wind” (1939), “North and South” (TV – 2004/1985), “The Red Badge of Courage” (1951)

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: “Dixie”, “Yankee Doodle”, “The Star Spangled Banner”, “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys”, “The Girl I Left Behind Me”


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 6, 2008

Girl Coming in for a Landing

Filed under: G — thebookreviews @ 3:42 pm
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Girl Coming in for a Landing

Author: April Halprin Wayland

Page Length: 129

Reading Level: 6.5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a book written entirely in poems. From the first day of school through the end of the year, the main character, a teenage girl, details her life at school and at home in poems. From the classroom to dating and parties she shares everything – her emotions, her thoughts, her hopes, and dreams. She offers authentic teenage emotions and insight – you will finish the book wishing for more.

REVIEW: This was an interesting book. It reads quickly because of the brief poems on each page (although many of the poems are worth more than one read). I think that this book would be a wonderful teaching tool for poetry. Students can see how poems can (and do) tell a story and the many forms they can take. Teachers could discussion the emotion and insight the author can convey with few but powerful words within a poem.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: poetic forms, voice

RELATED BOOKS: Braces, Bras, and Bellyrings, Lines in the Sand, The Night Horse


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

January 25, 2008


Filed under: Z — thebookreviews @ 9:40 pm
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Author: Paul Fleischman

Page Length: 83

Reading Level: 5.5


REVIEW: This is a play that has been actually performed by several high school drama departments. Paul Fleischman wrote it when he realized many high schools get stuck in a rut performing the same plays over and over again. He wanted something new that would work for a high school stage and the result is Zap.


How shall I begin to explain the premise? Zap is seven plays in one sharing the same stage; Shakespeare’s Richard III and 6 original plays based on well known genres set in different time periods. There is a British Murder Mystery ala Agatha Christie, a Russian play similar to the style of Chekhov, a southern Tennessee Williams type play, a Neil Simon inspired comedy, an avant-garde Samuel Beckett style play and a performance art monologue.


The play has a single set. The actors wear period costumes. When switching from one play to another, a loud zap is heard which is supposedly from a remote control. The stage blacks out and when the lights quickly come back on there is a new scene. As the play goes on there are intentional goofs where actors from different scenes end up on stage together as if by accident. The “improvisation” that happens in these scenes made me laugh. The chaos continues to the point that the characters in the plays drop their roles at times and address each other as their “real” selves. I should also mention that at the beginning of the story the audience is told that if they do not like the scene they are watching they should hit the remote printed on their program and that those signals will be gathered and tallied and when a certain number is reached the scene will change. This is part of the joke of audience control that is referred to in the play.


It sounds confusing, and I thought it would be a nightmare to keep all the storylines straight, but it was not difficult. Readers do need some schema about these different genres of plays though to appreciate all of the humor. Fleischman makes mention of this as well. That to me is the real challenge of this book. It is not a sit in your seats and take a part to read aloud type of play. The visual here is very important.  Zap is a quick, fun read that will need some advance preparation but should be well worth it.




REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

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