The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

Mossflower

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Mossflower

Author: Brian Jacques

 

Page Length: 373

 

Reading Level: 6.9

 

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

 

Career Connections: None           

PLOT SUMMARY: Badgers, mice, weasels, squirrels, and a bird, take on human characteristics and battle the wildcat, Tsarmina to get possession of Mossflower.  Tsarmina becomes the Queen of a Thousand Eyes after poisoning her father and imprisoning her brother.  She forces the Woodlanders to work for her as slaves.

When Martin the Warrior meets Gonff (both mice) in the dungeon of Kotir, the two plan an escape.   With the help of other creatures of the forest, they go on a quest to locate Boar the Fighter.  As they cross the country, they develop friendships that support each other, despite their differences.  They exhibit respect for the older animals for their knowledge and cherish their history. 

Tsarmina’s soldiers and Martin and his Woodlanders eventually engage in a fierce battle while Gonff, the Mousethief, sings a song for every event. As the story concludes, good rules over evil.REVIEW: This is an animal fantasy that is full of action.  There are heroes, villains, adventure and romance with all of the characters, created quite descriptively with many human qualities.  The book is a prequel to Redwall, the first of the multiple book series.

The book would be an excellent class novel to read when studying cultural differences, as it shows how the animals, with varied differences, demonstrate the ability to get along in a diverse community.  Gonff’s poetry could be used to help students write short poems.  The food the animals eat sounds simply delicious and students could create recipes.

The writing is descriptive with lots of action and adventure.  I think boys would enjoy this book more than girls.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Simile/Metaphor, Characters, Setting, Descriptive Writing, Poetry, Cultural Diversity, and Personification

RELATED BOOKS: The Redwall Chronicles (20 books), Redwall Picture Books (2 books), and The Tribes of Redwall Series (3 books)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teachervision.fen.com/curriculum-planning/teaching-methods/3803.html  

www.redwall.org 

 

MOVIE & TV CONNECTIONS: Redwall: The Movie (TV-2000), Redwall: The Movie (to be released 2011)

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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Maximum Ride The Angel Experiment

Maximum Ride The Angel Experiment

Author: James Patterson

Page Length: 440

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

PLOT SUMMARY: Maximum Ride got to name herself because she is a fourteen-year-old girl who is the result of genetic experimentation conducted in a lab.  She has wings as a result of avian genes injected into human embryos. She is 98% human and 2 % bird.

Maximum lives with five other kids who have her same genetic make-up.  They are called “bird children” and call themselves, “the flock”.  Fang is a boy, four months younger than Max.  The other members are: Iggy, another boy blinded by an experiment at the lab, Nudge, a girl who talks in excess, Gasman, an eight-year-old boy with stomach problems, and Angel, his six year old sister.

The group was raised at the lab in cages and subjected to many experiments.  Then, Jeb Batchelder, one of the lab scientists, took them to his home in the mountains and educated and nurtured them as a father would his own children.  When he suddenly disappeared, two years ago, Max, being the oldest, was put in charge of “the flock”. 

One day, Erasers (other experimental beings who can become wolf-like creatures) appear at the mountain home and kidnap Angel. Led by Max, “the flock” begins the journey to find Angel, discover their real parents’ identity, and get revenge on an unlikely traitor.

REVIEW: Full of adventure, mystery, and suspense this would be a good book to use as a class novel.  The characters, along with the action, provide good descriptive reading.  I believe young adults would identify with the loyalty the children exhibit for each other and enjoy the fantasy of what genetic experimentation may provide in the future.

This is an excellent book for boys, girls and adults to read.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Figurative Language, Simile and Metaphors, Compare/Contrast, Theme, Character, Sequence of Events, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Maximum Ride: School’s Out Forever, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.maximumride.com

www.jamespattterson.com

www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/NIE/cguides.html

http://readkiddoread.com/home#

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Maximum Ride (set to release in 2013)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 19, 2010

Eldest

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Eldest (Inheritance Cycle #2) by Christopher Paolini: Book Cover

Eldest

Author: Christopher Paolini

 

Page Length: 668  

 

Reading Level: 8

 

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Eldest begins where the first book of the Inheritance trilogy, Eragon, ends. The land of Alagesia is threatened by Galbatorix and his Empire.  Eragon and his dragon Saphira, last of the Riders, are the only hope for survival of the inhabitants of the kingdom.

They travel to the elven city of Ellesmera, where both Eragon and Saphira are taught magic, fighting skills, and the ancient language. While Eragon and Saphira are undergoing training, Roran, Eragon’s cousin is the target of an attack by Ra’zac and it is his responsibility to lead the villagers out of danger.

Both Eragon and Roran engage in many obstacles while they unknowingly move in the same direction.  When their forces meet up, they must engage in a battle with the forces of Galbatorix.  Eragon learns a shocking secret about his parents, is put off by a romantic desire, and commits to saving his people.

REVIEW: This is the sequel to Eragon, the first of the trilogy, Inheritance.  Paolini was only 15 when he began his writings about Eragon, also a young teen. The adventure involves many characters with distinct gifts of magic, intellectual, and athletic abilities.  The setting covers a vast area of mountains, “The Swine”, oceans and rivers.  The battles are described in detail and emotions are drawn as the reader becomes involved.

I would recommend this book to higher level readers who enjoy extensive reading and vocabulary.  Those who enjoyed The Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy would especially like this book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Vocabulary, Character, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Setting, Theme, and Sequence of Events

TOUCHY AREAS: None

RELATED BOOKS: Eragon and Brisingr

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Eragon (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.alagaesia.com/activities.htm

www.scribd.com/doc/…/Novel-Ideas-ChristopherPaolini-s-Eldest

 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 29, 2010

Eragon

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Eragon (Inheritance Cycle #1) by Christopher Paolini: Book Cover

Eragon

Author: Christopher Paolini

Page Length: 497

Reading Level: 8

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: A battle between the forces of good and evil is being waged unbeknownst to most. Eragon is just a young man growing up in a rural area until the day he discovers a strange object in the field…a strange object that will lead his life in a direction he never thought possible. An ancient legend is awakened. Eragon discovers he’s been chosen as a dragon rider to lead the battle and wage war against the Urgals, Durza, and Galbatorix. Can he learn everything he needs to know before the enemy discovers his secret? Will he be able to gain the trust of those he desperately needs as allies in time to save the Empire?

REVIEW: This is a great fantasy story with dragons, elves, and plenty of evil creatures engaged in an epic battle. Eragon is an admirable young man who adheres to norms and seeks to do what is right and just by all the honorable creatures he meets; thus, he’s an excellent character for study with students. The story is entertaining and fast paced. This is a must read for fantasy lovers! Students of a lower reading level would benefit from having the novel read aloud or played from a CD recording.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, connecting text to historical time period, imagery, comparing and contrasting, plot, conflict, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: use of weapons, attempted murder, torture

RELATED BOOKS:  Eldest, Inheritance, Inkheart, Artemis Fowl series

RELATED MOVIES: Eragon (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.bookbrowse.com/reading_guides/detail/index.cfm?book_number=1284

http://nene.k12.hi.us/winners/2006/eragon.html

http://www.alagaesia.com/

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3923903257/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 5, 2010

Peter and the Starcatchers

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Peter and the Starcatchers

Author: Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Page Length: 451

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Peter is a young boy in an orphanage who’s had the misfortune of being sent by ship to work for the evil King Zarboff – the third of Rundoon. The rumor is that the king often feeds his servants to his snake. Peter and other young boys from the orphanage are placed on an old ship. The ill fated journey begins with a rough and gnarly crew, a small room below deck to sleep in, and supper that has things crawling in it. Peter soon discovers that there’s secret cargo on the ship. Molly, the daughter of a famous man sailing on the accompanying ship, mysteriously appears when Peter tries to get a good look at the cargo. He’s seen men exposed to it act strangely and felt the magical presence for himself. Before long, Molly and Peter must forge an alliance to keep the cargo safe. Black Stache, the meanest pirate to ever roam the seas, and his crew are bearing down upon them. There’s little time to plot their escape and to save the cargo. Will Peter and Molly be able to get away in time? Will they keep the secrets cargo hidden? What hope do they have of getting off the ship and not becoming the next victim to walk the plank? And what happens to young Peter that will someday turn him into the infamous Peter Pan?

REVIEW: This story is fast paced and entertaining. If you’ve ever wondered why Peter never grew up and what made him such a great flyer, then you’ve found the right story. Readers become engrossed in the battle between good and evil. The ship’s on the way to King Zarboff but the magic cargo isn’t to be given to him. Then of course, there’s Black Stache, who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants – and he wants the magic cargo. Students will be entertained by the plot twists and turns. Students who enjoy fantasy books will like the idea of magic that falls to Earth and must be found and protected by Starcatchers to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Students would benefit from discussing what they know and have read about Peter Pan before reading the story to prepare them to learn the early years of his life. Overall, it is an enjoyable book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: making predictions, cause and effect, inferences, character analysis and motivations, connecting text to other text, sequence of events, author’s purpose, plot, elements of fantasy

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: pirates, sword fights, giant crocodiles, belittling of others

RELATED BOOKS: Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, Peter Pan

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Disney’s Peter Pan, Peter Pan (2003), Hook (1991)

There is a movie based on this book currently in production.

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.peterandthestarcatchers.com/

http://www.davebarry.com/books.html

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

http://www.lesn.appstate.edu/fryeem/RE4030/Pirates/Peter/peter_and_the_starcatchersoutline.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 30, 2009

Dragon Rider

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Dragon Rider

Author: Cornelia Funke

Page Length: 523

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: Boy and dragon meet on a quest to save the existence of the remaining dragons on Earth. Humans have decided to flood the dragon’s current homeland so the dragons must decide where to relocate if they are going to survive. Firedrake (the dragon) befriends Ben (the human runaway boy). Along with several others characters, the group travels across the world in search of the “Rim of Heaven” where the dragons may live out their lives in peace high above the clouds.

However, on their quest they are chased after by an evil-spirited dragon named Nettlebrand who is intent on destroying Firedrake. The story is jam-packed with a homunculus spy, elves, dwarves, a professor, a brownie, and others. Will Firedrake reach the “Rim of Heaven”? Does this place even exist? Will Nettlebrand get his revenge and destroy all the dragons in existence? What happens to the runaway boy?

REVIEW: Even though I am not a fan of fantasy books, I thought the characters developed in this story were great. There is continual action and the dialogue is rich. Fans of the Harry Potter series might enjoy this book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: voice, dialogue, good vs. evil, theme

RELATED BOOKS: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Thief Lord, Inkspell, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:

http://www.draconian.com/movie/movie.php (movies about dragons)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.funtrivia.com/trivia-quiz/Literature/Dragon-Rider-221505.html (quiz)

http://www.state.lib.la.us/empowerlibrary/DRAGON%20RIDER.pdf (lesson plans and website links)

http://www.jacksonmccormack.com/downloads/Dragon%20Rider%20Activities.pdf

http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-dragonrider.html (discussion questions)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

January 17, 2009

Abel’s Island

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Abel’s Island

Author: William Steig

Page Length: 118

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction-Fantasy     

PLOT SUMMARY: Abelard Hassam di Chirico Flint is a wealthy mouse that is swept away in a storm while trying to retrieve his wife’s scarf.  He finds himself on an island that is across the river and down a waterfall from his home.  He immediately tries to build a raft, and then a boat, and lastly a ship, which will help him cross the river which is ravaged with high currents and waves.  None of these attempts are successful, so he is stranded on the island for a year.  He finds food, builds statues and avoids death by an owl, but Abel yearns for his loving wife and family.  After a cold winter, Gower, an old great-granddaddy frog, joins him on the island.  They become dear friends, but Gower soon feels the urge to travel home.  Abel pleads with him to send someone after him, but in Gower’s old age, he forgets about Abel. So, Abel must find new sources to aid him in his return home.

REVIEW: This is a delightful book in which the narrator creates vivid illustrations of the world in which Abel is stranded.  It is an easy read and a good book to use for descriptive writing or a comparison/contrast assignment between humans and animals.  The movie, Cast Away, could be viewed to show the comparison of how a human and a mouse adapt to being stranded on an island and what they must do to survive.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Abel gets drunk on wine (p. 85) but for the junior high or high school student, I don’t think this element in the book would be offensive.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Descriptive writing, Symbols, Setting, Theme, Character, and Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Cast Away (2000), Charlotte’s Web (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.sfsite.com/08b/abe15.htm

www.literatureplace.com/bookfolios/bookfolio.asp?BookfolioID=73

www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3200?email

www.scetv.org/education/ntti/lessons/2005_lessons/storymap.cfm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 8, 2008

Bone The Dragonslayer #4

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Bone The Dragonslayer #4

Author: Jeff Smith

Page Length: 168

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Graphic Novel        

PLOT SUMMARY: In book 4 of the Bone saga, Fone Bone runs into several dangerous situations.  With Gran’ma Ben and Thorn, he has a scary encounter with Kingdok, the ruler of the rat creatures.  Kingdok is trying to get his army into a full-scale attack on the village.  Thorn is having frightening dreams and then Gran’ma disappears.  While Fone is dealing with these crises in the forest, Phoney Bone has convinced the townspeople that he is a dragonslayer.  The people do not know that the dragon is actually their friend and it is the rat creatures they should fear.

REVIEW: This is the fourth of the Bone series and it takes a turn towards violence rather than the humor and adventure of the first two novels.  Readers will definitely be hooked into reading the saga, which is colorful and well illustrated.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Character, and Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: Bone-Out From Boneville, The Great Cow Race, Eye of the Storm, Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Shore, Old Man’s Cave, Ghost Circles, Treasure Hunters, and Crown of Thorns

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Harry Potter (movie series), The Lord of the Rings (movie series)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-smithjeff.asp

www2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1399

www.graphicclassroom.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html

www.teachwrite.wordpress.com

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 7, 2008

Bone the Great Cow Race #2

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Bone The Great Cow Race #2

Author: Jeff Smith

Page Length: 132

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Graphic Novel      

PLOT SUMMARY: The three cousins find each other and visit with Thorn and Gran’ma Ben in the village of Barrelhaven. They plan to leave the village and return to Boneville, but when Phoney learns of the Great Cow Race that is about to be held, he conjures up a scheme to “get rich quick”.  He convinces Smiley to compete as the “mystery cow” in the race.  He convinces many of the townspeople to bet on the mystery cow and against Gran’ma Ben, who usually wins the race.  Fone is rather romantically taken with Thorn, but she does not appear to have the same feelings for him.  The rat creatures are lurking in the background and the reader can tell that more than just a cow race is around the corner.

REVIEW: This is the second of the Bone series.  Jeff Smith continues to develop the characters and include adventure, intrigue and mystery.  I feel this graphic novel series resembles the The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books.  If you enjoyed reading those books, you would enjoy the Bone saga.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Character

RELATED BOOKS: Bone-Out From Boneville, Eye of the Storm, The Dragon Slayer, Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Shore, Old Man’s Cave, Ghost Circles, Treasure Hunters, and Crown of Thorns

MOVIE & TV CONNECTIONS: The Simpson’s (TV series), Harry Potter (movie series), The Lord of the Rings (movie series)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1399

www.graphicclassroom.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 5, 2008

Bone Out from Boneville #1

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Bone Out from Boneville #1

Author: Jeff Smith

Page Length: 138

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction-Graphic Novel      

PLOT SUMMARY: Fone Bone, Phoney, Bone and Smiley Bone have been run out of Boneville and are lost in the desert.  They find a mysterious map but are then attacked by a swarm of locusts.  In the attack, Fone Bone falls off a cliff and is separated from Phoney and Smiley.  He follows a trail of Smiley’s cigars but runs into two rat creatures that try to eat him.  He is rescued by a dragon and then meets, Ted, a wise bug.  Ted advises him to find Thorn, a beautiful princess and seek her advice.  Since winter has set in, he decides to stay with Thorn and her grandmother until he can continue his search for his cousins in the spring.

REVIEW: This is the first in a series of Bone graphic novels.  The characters are well developed and the story entices the reader to read the following books.  It is a story of make-believe and fantasy with adventure and conflict.  This is a good book for introducing reluctant readers into independent silent reading.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Point of View, Sequence of Events, Character

RELATED BOOKS: Bone The Great Cow Race, Bone The Dragon Slayer

TV CONNECTIONS: The Simpson’s (TV series)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.2scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1399

www.bgfl.org/index.cfm?s=1&m=166&p=1941,index

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 1, 2008

Matilda

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Matilda

Author: Roald Dahl

Page Length: 240

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Matilda is only 4 years old but teaches herself to read and reading she does!  She spends her afternoons at the library reading novels by noted authors while her mother plays “Bingo” and her dad makes crooked deals at his used car lot.  She tires of their verbal abuse and put downs, and begins to invent practical jokes to get back at them.

When Matilda enters school, Miss Honey (her teacher) discovers she can multiply any two numbers and find the answer and reads like an adult. When she rushes to tell her parents, she realizes that Matilda’s parents put little value on education and could care less that Matilda is a genius.

At school, the entire faculty and student population must fight the principal and her physical abusive ways of tormenting others.  Matilda bonds with Ms. Honey and learns that she was abused as a child.  She makes a plan to use her newly found powers to help Ms. Honey; and, get rid of the dreaded school principal.

REVIEW: Elementary and junior high children would enjoy this book. The verbal and physical abuse towards Matilda and the other students made me grimace as I read, but in the end, the parents and principal (the bad guys) lose and Matilda and Ms. Honey have a happy ending. Dahl writes with great description and creates his characters quite visually.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Conflict, Character, and Making Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Witches, James and the Giant Peach

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Matilda” (1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.roalddahl.com

www.vtaide.com/png/matilda.htm

www.webenglishteacher.com/dahl.html

www.roalddahlfans.com/teachers.php

www.scoilnet.ie/article.aspx?id=RoaldDahl_Themepage

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 3, 2008

REM World

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REM World

Author: Rodman Philbrick

Page Length: 190

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Science Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of an overweight 11 year-old boy, Arthur Woodbury, who is teased by his classmates and called Biscuit Butt.  Arthur loves to eat but wants to lose weight.  He decides to take advantage of an REM Sleep Device that is advertised on the back of one of his comic books. The device promises you can lose weight while you sleep. It is Arthur’s birthday and he celebrates by eating the whole cake himself.  Then, he grabs some Oreo cookies and heads to his room to try out the new device. He places the helmet device on his head and believes he will go to sleep fat and wake up thin.  When he wakes up still fat, Arthur is angry and throws the helmet, but realizing he is still in the REM World, he must use the device or the world will be lost to an evil darkness.

REVIEW: This is a great adventure book based on a problem many children deal with, obesity.  Arthur overeats because he feels a loss for his father.  Through all of his adventures and challenges he doesn’t realize he is losing weight because he is eating less and moving more.  After his journey into REM World, Arthur is remembered for his courage rather than for being fat.

This would be a good book for students with low self-esteem to realize that each of us has worthy attributes if we just look for them.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Descriptive writing (p. 55, 57), Vocabulary, Setting, Sequence of Events, Character

RELATED BOOKS: The Last Book in the Universe, Freak the Mighty, Max the Mighty

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.rodmanphilbrick.com/teaching.html

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REM_World

scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1169_type=Book_typeId=4139

www.ga.k12.pa.us/academics/ls/superreader/title/R/remworld.htm

engagedpatrons.org/Blogs.cfm?SiteID=4725&BlogID=61&BlogPostID=631

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

The Golden Compass

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The Golden Compass

Author: Philip Pullman

Page Length: 351

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy     

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins when Lyra Belacquat, a 12 –year-old girl, living at Jordan College, in Oxford secretly enters and hides in the “Retiring Room” and discovers the master is trying to poison Lord Asriel.  Lyra, and all the residents of Oxford, each have their own daemon, an animal-formed, manifestation of their soul.  Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon, advised her not to enter the room. Lyra warns Lord Asriel about the attempted poisoning and Lord Asriel leaves and travels to the North Arctic. As children begin disappearing from the town, Lyra vows to find out where they are being taken.  When the master learns of this, he gives Lyra a sacred object, an alethiometer.  He also agrees for Mrs. Coulter, head of the General Oblation Board, to take Lyra to live with her.  Lyra learns that Mrs. Coulter and the GOB are the ones responsible for the kidnapping of the children. Lyra runs away from Mrs. Coulter and joins a group of nomads. They  help her engage an armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison, who aids her in  the  search for the children and to eventually find Lord Asriel in the North.

 REVIEW: This book of Lyra’s journey to discover why the “grown-ups” in the story are kidnapping children is an adventure filled with fantasy and imagination.  The armoured bear, Iorek Byrnison, has a well-developed character, as does, Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon.  Those who enjoyed the Hobbit trilogy and the Harry Potter series would also like The Golden Compass, the first in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.  The movie website is interesting. You can take a test and have your own daemon assigned to you.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Vocabulary- daemon, naphtha (p. 39), malodorous (p. 39), brantwign (p. 42), basilisk (p. 43), zeppelin, alethiometer (p.65), macaw (p.78), lorgnette, Theme, Character

RELATED BOOKS: The Subtle Knife, Book ll, The Amber Spyglass, Book III

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Golden Compass (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.goldencompassmovie.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Lights_(novel)

www.epiphyte.net/SF/goldencompass.html

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

July 29, 2008

The Grand Tour

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The Grand Tour

Author: Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Page Length: 469

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: Cecelia and Kate are back in the sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot. Cecelia has just married James. Kate has just married the Duke of Schofield, Thomas. Both Thomas and James were already partners and friends. Together they plan a grand tour of Europe for their honeymoon. The party of five includes, Thomas’s mother, Lady Schofield. As they arrive in Paris a mysterious item is delivered to Lady Schofield. Suddenly, they are thrust into a new mystery. It seems that again black magic forces are at work. Someone may be trying to restore Napolean to power. Magic rituals have been held at many of the historical sites on Kate’s list. A robbery has taken place and the group is hot on the trail of thieves. Their grand honeymoon has instead turned into a grand mystery. They must unravel the clues and discover who is behind the disappearance of the artifacts and the gathering of magic before it is too late.

REVIEW: This book was interesting to read. The first novel in this series was written as Cecy and Kate exchanged letters. This time they are traveling together and instead recording their individual accounts of what has happened in their journals. This book continues to provide an excellent look at the language and customs of the early 1800’s. Historical sites and facts are detailed as well as travel throughout Europe. I would not recommend this book to a struggling reader, because of the language, the length of pages, and the amount of focus required to keep up as the characters entries alternate. However, for anyone interested in English literature set in the early 1800’s woven together with magic and romance, these books are an interesting read. This book also provides the teacher with an excellent example of how journal writing can be used to develop a character or even create an entire story.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, setting, conflict, idea of writing through journal entries, connecting to history

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the idea of sorcery (black magic)

RELATED BOOKS: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (prequel), The Mislaid Magician, Jane Austen books

RELATED MOVIES: Practical Magic, Snow White

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.sfsite.com/03a/gt195.htm

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBX/is_4_40/ai_n16547507

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=1154795

http://thecelebritycafe.com/books/full_review/900.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Sorcery and Cecelia

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Sorcery and Cecelia

Author: Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Page Length: 469

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: Cecelia and Kate are young women coming of age in England during the early 1800’s. Their story begins as Kate travels to London to experience a season there (attend balls and be presented to society as a young woman). Cecelia and Kate exchange letters back and forth about their experiences. They both meet interesting young men and become caught up in a mystery of magical proportions. The chocolate pot is missing. The Duke of Schofield is acting strangely, and black magic forces are at work. Can Cecelia and Kate find the culprits and identify the villain before it is too late?   

REVIEW: This book was interesting to read. I loved the idea of a writing a book as an exchange of letters between two people who together adopt a character each and develop the plot from each other’s ideas. The book provided an excellent look at the language and customs of the early 1800’s. I would not recommend this book to a struggling reader, because of the language, the length of pages, and the amount of focus required to keep up as the characters viewpoints alternate.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, setting, conflict, idea of writing through letters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the idea of sorcery (black magic)

RELATED BOOKS: The Grand Tour (sequel), The Mislaid Magician, Jane Austen books

RELATED MOVIES: Practical Magic, Snow White

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4662966

http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/2007/11/16/sorcery-and-cecilia-thoughts/

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~d-lena/SorcCeci.html

http://www.sonderbooks.com/YAFiction/sorceryandcecilia.html

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~d-lena/Stevermer%20page.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 25, 2008

James and the Giant Peach

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James and the Giant Peach

Author: Roald Dahl

Page Length: 126  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fairy Tale                

PLOT SUMMARY: James Henry Trotter is a young boy who loses his parents when they are eaten by a rhinoceros. He is doomed to live with his terrible aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.  The two aunts are mean and abusive to him. 

James’ luck changes, however, when he drops some magic crystals into the ground.  The result of the spillage of the crystals is that a giant peach grows as big as a house.  When the aunts try to make money from people coming to look at the peach, James discovers a hole in the peach and crawls into a tunnel.

It is then, that James’ fairy tale adventure begins.  Inside the peach, he discovers there are a giant ladybug, centipede, spider, earthworm, silkworm, and grasshopper.  They had contact with the crystals which enlarged them the way it did the peach. 

Inside the peach, the animals and James bond.  They have several adventures after the peach rolls down the hill and crushes Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.  The peach and party roll into the ocean and are attacked by sharks.  James has the idea for the spider and silkworm to make string so that he can lasso seagulls and they will rescue the sinking peach by lifting the peach into the air. The group eventually land in New York City where they all become very successful.

REVIEW: This book is fun and filled with magic.  It would be enjoyable for elementary students, but I think the content is immature for the high school student.  Within the book, Dahl incorporates poems which could be used in the teaching of poetry writing.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Poetry, Figurative Language, Characters, Voice, Mood and Tone

TOUCHY AREAS: The aunts are verbally and physically abusive in their treatment of James.

RELATED BOOKS: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Witches

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: James and the Giant Peach – movie

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116683/

http://www.easyfunschool.com/article1687.html

http://www.roalddahlfans.com/books/jame.php

http://www.roalddahlfans.com/teachers.php

http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/dahl.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

April 15, 2008

The Conch Bearer

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The Conch Bearer

Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Page Length: 265  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: As the story begins, Anand, lives with his mother and sister, Meera in India.  His father has gone away and they have become so poor, he cannot attend school.  One day when getting water for his mom, he is approached by an old man. 

It turns out that the old man, Abhaydatta, is a member of a secret brotherhood, and is a master healer. He wants Anand to travel with him and be the guardian of the “magic conch”.  He uses his healing powers to heal Meera who had not been able to talk for years to convince Anand’s mother that he is sincere in his quest.   Anand decides to go on the journey with Abhaydatta; and, Nisha, a homeless girl, travels with them. The threesome is in route to the Silver Valley, but must defend themselves from the evil, Surabhanu, who is trying to steal the conch. 

They travel many miles together, embarking on dangerous adventures.   Abhaydatta, instructs the children to call him Dadaji, the Indian word for grandfather. The three actually bond like a family.  They are loyal and compassionate with each other.  He instructs them to memorize a map to the valley, in case something happens to him. Many things “happen” on their journey but they eventually reach the Silver Valley. Anand has to be accepted by the Brotherhood before they can enter the valley. After they enter the valley, they still have obstacles to overcome before they are completely safe.

REVIEW:  This book is full of adventure from the beginning.  I especially enjoyed reading the descriptions of India’s landscapes, foods, and culture created so vividly by Divakaruni. I think this would be a good class novel to read for ninth graders.  Although it is fantasy, the reader can relate to the characters in the emotional and physical choices they must make.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Metaphors/Similes (p. 58), Compare and Contrast (good and evil), Cause and Effect, Conflict, Character

TOUCHY AREAS: None

RELATED BOOKS: The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming (2nd part).  If the reader enjoyed this book they may want to read:  The Iron Ring, Rowan of Rin, The Hobbit, The Vine of Desire, Queen of Dreams, The Mistress of Species

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.doublecluck.com/bookdetails.php?bid=42

www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-conch.html

http://suzyred.com/2005conchbearer.html

www.chitradivakaruni.com/books/the_conch_bearer

www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?sid=183&pid=504679&agid=10

www.bellaonline.com/articles/art13744.asp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

March 12, 2008

The Witches

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The Witches

Author: Ronald Dahl

Illustrator: Quentin Blake

Page Length: 208

Reading Level: 5

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Ronald Dahl writes an exciting story about witches, a grandmamma, and her orphaned grandson that kept me enthralled as he did in my previous reading of his book, The Giraffe, and the Pelly and Me.  Once again, by looking and reading the cover, I thought this book would be a bit juvenile for the high school student.  However, barely into the first chapter, my attention was captured by the imaginative descriptions Dahl uses in writing a story about witches.

 

The setting of the story is in Europe, in the countries of Norway and England.  The narrator, a 7-year old boy from England, goes to live with his grandmother who lives in Norway after his parents are killed in a car accident.  Dahl avoids the entire issue of the parent’s dying and quickly establishes the bond that develops between the boy and his story-telling, cigar smoking grandmamma.

 

Grandmamma loves to tell stories, especially about witches.

 

Unlike the stereotype image of a witch in black who flies on a broom, across the shadow of a full moon, grandmamma tells her grandson the characteristics he should know about the witches of Norway. First of all, they have no toes, just square feet. They always wear wigs and gloves because they are bald and have no fingernails.  Grandmamma warned him the nasty women had large nose-holes with amazing smelling powers, especially for clean children.  The pupils of their eyes are not black but change colors from fire to ice.  The final characteristic was that their spit is blue. 

 

The boy had a hard time believing these facts about witches, but he was convinced they had to be true, as his grandmother was the “nicest” person he knew and attended church every Sunday.

 

The old woman and boy move to England to fulfill the wishes of his parent’s will.  However, grandmamma suffers a case of pneumonia which becomes very serious.  She does recover and at the end of the school term, the odd twosome goes on vacation to Hotel Magnificent in Bournemouth.

 

This is where the adventure begins.  Whiled training his two pet mice, the boy accidentally gets caught in a meeting room of lovely women called “The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.”    He became intrigued watching them as they all began scratching their heads as if they had nits.  Then, one lady actually scratched so hard her head of hair moved.  A wig!  It only took him a few minutes of observation to realize they actually weren’t lovely women. When the revelation hit him that he was in a room full of witches, he fainted!

 

As the boy continues to spy on the witches’ meeting, he learns of their plans to destroy all the children of England.  As the meeting comes to a close, one of the sharp-nosed witches smells him.  He is trapped and along with Bruno, another boy staying at the hotel falls prey to the group.

 

The boys are not killed but their identity changes.  They are able to escape the horrific women and make it back to Grandmamma’s room.  Here, the boy and grandmamma devise a plan to sabotage and destroy the witches.  Grandmamma is quite clever and mischievous for an 82 year old woman.  It is her goal to destroy the evil women of England then, all witches of the world.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book is fun and entertaining.  It could easily be made into a movie.  An idea for teaching sequencing would be for students to illustrate the gory events. I also think it would be a good read aloud book or to be read as a class.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.funtrivia.com/playquiz/quiz407574ad5e0.html

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Witches_(book)

 

http://www.roalddahlfans.com/teachers/classstudy.php

 

http://www.newi.ac.uk/englishresources/workunits/ks3/reading/yr7/cdwitches.html

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

 

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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