The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

What Athletes Are Made Of

What Athletes Are Made Of

Author and Illustrator: Hanoch Piven and Sarah Thompson

Page Length: 34

Reading Level: 5.1

Genre: Biography

Career Connection: Professional Athletes

SUMMARY & REVIEW: This book is for the sports lover written by a sports lover.

We learn that Muhammad Ali had a “big mouth”, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar coached high school on an Apache reservation, Babe Ruth had a huge appetite, Jesse Owens proved Hitler wrong, Tiger Woods considers himself a “Cablinasian”, David Beckham once wore pink nail polish to match his girlfriends, and Pele played with a soccer ball made of a sock stuffed with newspapers. These are just a few facts that packed into this creative book filled with 23 mini-biographies of athletes. Each biography is 5-10 sentences long.

The first page provides the reader an introduction to why athletes and sports games are enjoyable to watch and respected. The author begins each mini biography with the following line:

“Athletes are made of…”

At the end of each biography, the author provides the reader with a “Did You Know” fact relating to either the athlete or his/her sport.

At the end of the book, a “Post-Game Recap” with statistics and career highlights of all the athletes is featured.  

The following athletes are highlighted in this book: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, David Beckham, Joe DiMaggio, Jeff Gordon, Wayne Gretzky, Mia Hamm, Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Diego Maradona, Joe Namath, Martina Navratilova, Jesse Owens, Pele, Babe Ruth, Michael Schumacher, Annika Sorenstam, Jim Thorpe, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods.

The sports represented in this book include basketball, tennis, boxing, cycling, soccer, baseball, racing, track and field, football, golf, pentathlon, and decathlon.

This is a very creative book. It not only provides the reader a clear and concise biography of each athlete, each individual is illustrated using traditional drawings as well as objects. For example, Tiger Woods’ eye brows are illustrated using “nails”. Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s legs are illustrated using “rulers”. Lance Armstrong’s mouth is illustrated using a “rubber band”.

The only criticism I have with this book is that the majority of the athletes students may not recognize. This book may not be engaging for students if left to read on their own. However, providing insight into unfamiliar athletes provides the teacher and student an opportunity for new learning. The addition of mini-biographies will help students engage with the book as compared to other lengthier biographies. Students will most likely recognize Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods.

Students with a passion for art will enjoy this book. This would be a great book to share with art teachers.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: art, biography, compare/contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: none

RELATED BOOKS: What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven, Xtreme Sports Fast Track by Joe Layden, Amazing But True Sports Stories by Hollander

ART CONNECTIONS:

http://www.pivenworld.com (art work website of the author)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/2010/2/10.02.03.x.html

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7729/is_200703/ai_n32211245/

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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September 28, 2009

Haunted Schools

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Haunted Schools

Author: Allan Zullo

Page Length: 128  

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a collection of nine stories of ghosts and spirits who are haunting schools.  The first begins with two teen-age boys, Troy and Cody, coming in contact with a former teacher of a school.  Next, a new girl on the playground turns out to be a former classmate of the current teacher.  When a boy dies from a heart condition, his football team goes undefeated with a little help from the twelfth man. After two girls break a school rule by bringing an Ouigi board into their room, students start getting mysterious kisses.  An unknown drama student and graduate appear in two of the stories and in almost every story there is an eeriness that the reader cannot fully comprehend.

REVIEW: It is hard to believe that all of these stories are true. The plots of each of the stories would make a good horror movie, because the events are unbelievable. This book could be used as a unit study during October.  Then, on Halloween the students could dress as their favorite “ghost”. I thought the stories were entertaining and would appeal to the reluctant reader because they are short and easy to read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Character, Setting, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Haunted Kid Series: The Haunted Graveyard, The Haunted Shortstop, Haunted Kids, More Haunted Kids, Haunted Teachers, Haunted Animal, Haunted Campus, Totally Haunted Kids

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Haunted School (2007- Chinese)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3161

http://www.parlo.com/en/teachers/lessonplans/ghosteng_1.asp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 30, 2009

Juice

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Juice

Author: Eric Walters

Page Length: 101

Reading Level: 2.9

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Michael “The Moose” is a rising star on his football team. After winning the Division 2 championship game, Michael is ecstatic. However his joy is overshadowed by the fact that his coach, Coach Reeves, has decided to retire. Reeve’s replacement is a hot-shot, smooth-talker named Coach Barnes. Coach Barnes has new plans for his team and high aspirations at success at the Division 1 level.

In a matter of months, the school’s football facilities are totally renovated and the boys are placed under personal fitness guidance from a trainer named Tony. However, Tony not only provides the boys suggestions on how to improve their workouts on the new equipment, he persuades many of them to begin taking steroids.

Michael eventually begins to notice the effects of his steroids use (ie. acne, mood-swings, violence at home). The steroid usage at the school comes to a peak when Coach Reeves suddenly appears to explain that Coach Barnes and Tony have been taken into custody for their role in steroid usage/sales. Coach Reeves re-assumes the role of head coach and begins to repair the physical and emotional damage of his football team. Michael regrets his involvement in the steroid usage, while Coach Reeves expresses his faith that Michael will get beyond this dark chapter in his life.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book. The comparisons between Coach Reeves and Coach Barnes are quite evident. The subject matter of steroids may be a little much for some, however there are several real world examples of sports players engaging in such illegal activity both at the professional level and amateur level. One such sport, Major League Baseball, has been in the news on countless occasions.  

I have found that many male students enjoy this book simply for the fact that it is about football. The addition of the steroids topic, brings the action and interest to another level. A discussion on the negative effects of steroids might prove beneficial. This book may even supplement a lesson in a health class.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, characterization, voice, dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The topic of steroid usage – especially in a high school setting may be inappropriate for some.

RELATED BOOKS: No Problem by Gaetz

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Any Given Sunday” (1999)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/JuiceTG.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

Home of the Braves

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Home of the Braves

Author: David Klass

Page Length: 355

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Joe Brickman is a senior and the captain of the less than stellar Lawndale soccer team. But, he’s hoping for a transformation this year on the soccer field and in his friendship with Kristine. Suddenly, the school social structure is in an uproar. The new student, who looks like an ad for a modeling magazine, is a Brazilian soccer player who becomes known as the “phenom.” Soccer becomes the in sport at school and the football players have issues. Violence breaks out and the soccer stars are threatened by the football team. Ed McBean has been marked and he refuses to bow. When some members of the team take matters to far, Ed’s life is in danger. Ed is tired of being the victim; he becomes angry and withdraws. Joe’s afraid that all out war or a violent outbreak at school is brewing. Can he stand tall and stop it all before it gets out of hand, or is he stuck with the cycle of violence that existed when his own father was in high school?

REVIEW: This is another good book about the dangers of bullying. The fear of violence and the damage done to the people involved is well presented. Students will be able to identify with and analyze the actions of the characters. Joe is an excellent character to study – he doesn’t let his father define him, he overcomes the past cycle of violence, and he isn’t afraid to stand up for his friend. The book also presents interesting points for discussion about how the administration at Joe’s school handled the hazing and violent incidents – whether or not that was effective and what could be done differently or more effectively. 

Joe also develops from a character with substandard academic performance to one who finally does apply for college and who finds a program that builds on his strengths. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, sequence of events, question the test, compare and contrast text to self and world, character analysis, bubble map – descriptive adjectives

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: student is wrapped completely in athletic tape and stuff in a dark equipment closet (222-223), fighting, brawl at the community meeting, degrading and inciting remarks made by bullies

RELATED BOOKS: You Don’t Know Me, Dark Angel, You Don’t Know Me, Buddha Boy, Crash

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Mighty Ducks, Heathers, Chicken Little, Ice Princess, Sky High

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBX/is_6_36/ai_107202651

http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=17-9780374399634-1

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

January 17, 2009

Jake Reinvented

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Jake, Reinvented

Author: Gordon Korman

Page Length: 213

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jake Garrett is the new kid at F. Scott Fitzgerald High School. He’s dresses like a male model for a fashion magazine, and he is perhaps the best long snapper the football team has ever had. Jake throws fabulous parties every Friday night – who doesn’t love Jake?

Despite the admiration of every male and female in the high school, Jake only longs for one thing – Didi. Didi, the most beautiful girl around, happens to be dating Todd, the team quarterback. Jake is determined to do whatever it takes to win Didi. Will Jake really be willing to sacrifice everything just to have Didi? What will happen if Todd discovers Jake’s plan?

REVIEW: Korman delivers another entertaining read. The reader loves Jake as much as everyone else. Rick, who befriends Jake through good and bad, is an admirable character who teaches everyone what true friendship should be. The focus of much of the story is Jake’s willingness to do whatever it takes (without being psychotic) to get what he wants – Didi. The interesting depth of the story here is how hung up Didi is on position and appearances – and that no matter how hard Jake tries Didi doesn’t look at him as she does Todd. (This part of the book presents a great opportunity to talk about appearances and how often we all see what we want to see in someone.)

Korman makes an excellent point about trying to buy loyalty and popularity. Jake’s true self is revealed and the consequences aren’t pretty. Another character in the book, Dipsy, suffers the teasing of the football team. Teachers could examine his sacrifices of self and what it does or does not do for him. Dipsy is also known to throw out philosophical statements relating to animals. This is a great book for talking about appearances and what makes someone who they really are – always an interesting topic for teens struggling to discover their sense of self.

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

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drinking, party going, flagrant disregard for someone else’s property

RELATED BOOKS: The Juvie Three, No More Dead Dogs, Swindle, The Search

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Mean Girls”, “Bratz”, “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://gordonkorman.com/toposite.htm

http://www.scholastic.com/titles/island/

http://midwestteacher.blogspot.com/2007/07/thinking-it-overbooks.html

http://midwestteacher.blogspot.com/2007/07/thinking-it-overbooks.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Crash

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Crash

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Page Length: 162

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Seventh grader, John Coogan, known, as “Crash” is a great athlete, gifted with all the name-brand clothes, videos, and sports paraphernalia that a middle-age boy could want.  He has a very high self-image, but hates the fact that his parents always seem too tired from their work to give him the attention he desires. 

Crash has an annoying neighbor, Penn, who is a Quaker and an extreme dork. Most of the kids at school treat Penn like a dork, and he has multiple pranks pulled on him all the time. Crash is a part of this bullying until he notices that the most gorgeous girl in school is a friend to Penn.  Also, after Crash’s grandfather, Scooter, has a major stroke, Crash begins to see that life is more than being a stud and bullying the underdog.

REVIEW: Crash is an entertaining book that indirectly teaches several morals for young teens to learn.  Crash is a very materialistic, egotistical young man who bullies not only the underdogs, but must always win over his closest peers.  However, he evolves into a young man who grows to appreciate his parents, his grandfather, his sister, and the “dork” down the street.  The book would be enjoyable to all young teens.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Conflict, Comparison/ Contrast, Conclusions, Generalizations and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Tangerine, Freak the Mighty, Max the Mighty, Maniac McGee

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) and Simon Birch (1998)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.jerryspinelli.com/newbery_001.htm

www.webenglishteacher.com/spinelli.html

www.litplans.com/authors/Jerry_Spinelli.html

www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00001252.shtml

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 7, 2008

Amazing But True Sports Stories

Amazing But True Sports Stories

Author: Phyllis and Zander Hollander

Page Length: 140

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Nonfiction

REVIEW: 87 true stories about the accomplishments and lives of athletes are contained in this book. Some of the stories are unbelievable, yet very real. The majority of the stories are about baseball players and managers (about 20%), however sports such as football, basketball, and hockey are also highlighted. Each story is a ½ page to 2 pages in length that makes this book enticing to those with a short attention span. Black and white photographs accompany some of the stories. Some of the passages cover teams that have played in Texas.

Here are some highlights: the longest baseball game in history lasted 33 innings over the course of 8 ½ hours (pages 14-16). A baseball game was once called off due to grasshoppers (page 28). The highest scoring baseball game racked up 45 runs (page 45). Tom Dempsey was a successful NFL player given that he only has half of a right foot and a stub for his right hand (page 57). An inspirational football coach in Kansas coached from the confines of his wheelchair (page 65). Wilt Chamberlain, famous basketball player, once scored 100 points in a single game (page 91). 

Other stories in the book include a batboy that was ejected from a game, a baseball player with only one arm, a referee with only one eye, and a golfer who made 3 holes in one in less than 30 minutes!

Many of the stories are about one-time accomplishments or “miracles”, while other stories describe extraordinary individuals who overcome diverse odds. I would recommend this book to any sport lover.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: adjective usage, technical vocabulary (related to sports)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: mention of an “adult magazine” (page 124)

RELATED BOOKS: And Nobody Got Hurt 2!, Baseball in April and Other Stories, National Football League: Behind the Scenes

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:Miracle on Ice” (1981), “The Stratton Story” (1949), “Hoosiers” (1986)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.sptimes.com/sports100/index.shtml

http://www.miracleonice.us/

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

May 16, 2008

Tangerine

Tangerine

Author: Edward Bloor     

Page Length: 312

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Paul Fisher and his family have just moved from Houston to Florida where his dad will work for the city and work intently on helping Eric obtain a football scholarship at one of Florida’s Division 1 universities. Eric is Paul’s older brother, a place kicker and  bully to Paul and his friends. Paul’s mother is a concerned parent who shuttles Paul to his activities.

Paul is 13, legally blind, and wears bottle-thick glasses to enable him to see. His family told him his eyes were injured because he stared at the solar eclipse for an hour and a half the summer he turned 5.  Paul does not remember this event, but knows by looking at family pictures, that he did not wear glasses prior to that summer.

Paul played soccer at his old school and looks forward to trying out for the team at his new school.  However, on page 27, the school asks for an IEP because of his visual impairment.  After practicing with the team, Paul is sure that he will make starting goalkeeper, but when his coach learns that he has an IEP, he informs Paul that he cannot play on the team, because of school insurance issues.  Although this is quite upsetting and unfair, after talking with the coach, Paul’s dad accepts the fact that Paul can only be the team manager.

Through a series of events, Paul transfers to the nearby school in Tangerine, where he is allowed to play soccer because his mother did not report to the school that he had an IEP.  Paul makes friends quickly with the Latino, lower socio-economic soccer players.  The team is co-ed and although Paul isn’t a starter, he gets to play in most games.  On page 170, Paul describes how wonderful the feeling is to be a member of the team.

While Paul’s life at Tangerine is going good, life in Lake Windsor (the community Paul lives in) is not so good.  The school has fallen into a sinkhole, termites are invading houses, a boy is struck by lightening, and homes are being robbed.  The football team is winning, but Eric is not getting all the recognition he wants.

REVIEW: The plot is clearly about Paul and his family but Bloor does a great job of including several subplots that keep the reader intrigued.  The book covers not only family and peer relationships but community and civic affairs also. 

Throughout the book, Paul has reminders of events that may have been related to his visual loss.  Through his accomplishments at his new school, Paul gains confidence and courage to make his family face up to the secrets they have kept from him.

I think all students would enjoy this book because of the various subplots and characters in the book.  The book shows how a student with disabilities can excel and overcome obstacles.

I would consider using this as a class novel.  It is well written and very enjoyable. There is a reader chat section at the end of the book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Summarization, Theme, Characters, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast, Conclusions, Generalizations, Predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The book contains violence, crime, and death but it is presented in good context.

RELATED BOOKS: Letters from the Inside, Blue Willow, The Moves Make the Man

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.edwardbloor.net

www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/Tangerine.html

www.amazon.com/Tangerine-Edward-Bloor/dp/0152057803

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

May 1, 2008

No More Dead Dogs

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No More Dead Dogs

Author: Gordon Korman

Page Length: 180

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY #1: Wallace is a popular eighth grader with only one fault: he only tells the truth. Unfortunately, some people just aren’t ready to hear the truth. Wallace’s bad luck begins when he writes a review of his English teacher’s favorite book. Wallace hates the book and Mr. Fogelman hates his review. He sentences Wallace to detention until he turns in an acceptable review. Detention is held in the auditorium where drama practice is taking place. The drama club happens to be performing the play of the book (Old Shep, My Pal) Wallace had to review. Wallace begins to make suggestions for the performance and before long everyone is listening to him instead of Mr. Fogelman.

Strange things have begun to happen during rehearsals It seems as if someone is trying to sabotage the play. All eyes are on Wallace, but Wallace suspects his football teammates who are anxiously awaiting his glorious return to practice. After all, Wallace is the hero of the football team whose brilliant play clinched a title game (what everyone forgets is that Wallace sits the bench 80% of the time – he knows he is no football great, but no one else seems to realize it).

Rumors circulate because Parker Schmidt only ever gets part of the facts before he embellishes the story he prints in the paper. The play begins to develop and Wallace finds that he is in no hurry to return to football practice. Trudi, an actress in the play, falls for Wallace and can’t wait to be his girlfriend. Her best friend, Rachel, can’t wait for Wallace’s sabotage of the play to be discovered. He disgusts her and she can’t wait to see him go. The big night is drawing near; the show is sold out, and the play and its cast may be in danger. Can Wallace discover the truth and save the show? Will everyone else learn to see Wallace for who he really is?

REVIEW #1: This book was cute and entertaining. I enjoyed how the chapters switched view points between the characters. Rachel’s letters to Julia Roberts were also a great technique for introducing her feelings about Wallace (the reader figures how she feels before she does). The fact that Wallace Wallace can not tell a lie leads the reader to question truths and lies – what they mean and where the line is drawn. Friendships are restored and Wallace perseveres through being abandoned by his teammates and being a suspect among the drama club. The ending is good and Wallace is an admirable character.

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY #2: Wallace Wallace (last name same as the first), hero of his school football team, is a chronic truth teller. He is unable to tell a lie which sometimes makes life a little uncomfortable. When his eighth-grade English teacher assigns a book review on Old Shep, My Pal, Wallace follows the assignment to the letter giving his absolute honest opinion; he hated it. Unfortunately for Wallace, Old Shep, My Pal is his teacher’s all time favorite book and Mr. Fogelman can’t understand how anyone could dislike such a classic. Wallace however is sick and tired of reading books where the dog dies in the end and he refuses to change his report to the point of earning detention, which also gets him suspended from the football team.

 

The book makes the point that sometimes there is a valid reason to rebel. Wallace stands behind his conviction and makes a reasonable argument to his teacher saying he knew the dog was going to die before he even read the book because, “…the dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down.” He then lists several examples as his classmates begin to chime in, much to the teacher’s distress.

 

Wallace’s teacher is also directing the school play which is, no surprise, Old Shep, My Pal, and Wallace has to serve his detention by sitting in on play rehearsals.  Wallace never changes his mind as Mr. Fogelman hopes, but he does get involved with the play and ends up making changes to it that include rollerblades, a moped and a rock-and-roll band called The Dead Mangoes. 

 

What appealed to me about this book, aside from the humor, is that Wallace is never mean or disrespectful. He doesn’t try to change the play out of spite. Rather, he honestly thinks it could be better and the cast members agree with him. He even finally wins over Mr. Fogelman while staying true to himself. He is willing to accept whatever consequence he receives because he believes in himself. I think kids will get the point as well as enjoying the story.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, organization of text, voice, mood, character traits, plot

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: mild language – Wallace Wallace is referred to as “dumbass, dumbass”

RELATED BOOKS: Swindle, Schooled, Kidnapped, The Climb

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://sitemaker.umich.edu/megan.esseltine/unit_plan_-_no_more_dead_dogs

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

 

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

http://gordonkorman.com/toposite.htm

http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/korman_no.htm

http://teenspace.cincinnatilibrary.org/books/reviews.asp?book=46

http://web.syr.edu/~kmmcelra/No%20More%20Dead%20Dogs%20plan.doc

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor & Sherry Hall

April 26, 2008

NFL Behind the Scenes

NFL Behind the Scenes

Author: Joe Layden

Page Length: 32

Reading Level: unknown

Genre: Non-fiction

REVIEW: This 32 page book about football is more like a magazine. From the colorful photographs to the informative captions, this piece of reading will grab the attention of most athletic students – especially boys. Also, it is short enough to entice even the most reluctant reader. NFL Behind the Scenes covers almost every aspect of the game – from the very first football game played in 1869 (without helmets) to the 2003 Super Bowl game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. 

There are even several black and white photographs from the early years of football in America. Page 28 shows a picture of a team of guys warming themselves from the cold on the field with straw. Now the author does an excellent job of covering topics such as training camp, the trainers, media staff, crazy fans, equipment, and coaches. Some of the photographs provided have numbers on them to direct the reader to the appropriate captions. This is helpful.

After reading this text, I learned that Walter Camp is one of the main individuals responsible for bringing football to the forefront of American life. Also, early football players actually played a game that was a combination of football, rugby, and soccer. Some team members during that time even sewed their own uniforms! The author stresses that football is not only a game, but a business. In addition, passion is a key to playing the game well.

I would like to have seen larger captions. Also, the concern with allowing students to read this style of book, is that they might focus only on the photographs and not read any of the words on the page.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: text features, sequence of events (pages 4-9)

RELATED BOOKS: Joe Layden has written many other books just like NFL Behind the Scenes, Amazing But True Sports Stories by Hollander

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://stadium.dallascowboys.com/ (virtual tour – new Dallas Cowboys stadium)

http://www.nfl.com/ (National Football League official website)

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/index

http://www.funbrain.com/football/ (football game with math skills)

http://football.about.com/cs/football101/a/bl_football101.htm (Football 101)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

April 2, 2008

Breathing Underwater

Breathing Underwater

Author: Alex Flinn

Page Length: 263

Reading Level: 4

REVIEW: Breathing Underwater details the life of Nicholas Andreas. Nick is a sixteen year old who seems to have everything going for him. He’s on the football team, has a rich father, is popular, and even has a girlfriend. What everyone doesn’t see is his pain; his mask to the world shows none of the devastation he’s feeling on the inside. Nick’ father is an investment banker – Greek, attractive, hardworking – but with a dark secret. He’s controlling and often angry; Nick pays the price by enduring his beatings and beratings. Nick is scarred emotionally and often injured physically. As a result, he’s afraid of being rejected and mistreated; he doesn’t know how to trust. His mother ran off when he was five; what kind of woman would leave her son with such a monster of a father?  

Nick’s anger and feelings of worthlessness can’t be suppressed any longer. Sometimes he’s in a rage and can’t control himself. Caitlin, his girlfriend, suffers the consequences of Nick’s misplaced emotions. He hits her and humiliates her often. Always remorseful afterwards, Nick sometimes can’t even believe his own behavior. Caitlin is always sorry she has upset him; although she realizes his behavior is wrong, her love keeps her from leaving him. As Nick’s outbursts become more common others begin to see the dangerous young man lurking underneath the seemingly calm exterior. How far will Nick’s out of control anger take him? Can he change before he loses everything?

TEACHING AREAS: As a teaching tool this book is excellent. Everyone – parents, teachers, young men and young women – needs to understand the signs of, effects, and long term consequences associated with physical and emotional abuse. Every young adult needs to truly understand how wrong violence is in a relationship. The reader learns though Nick’s erroneous ways of thinking. It’s shocking to realize how much he loves Caitlin and how his warped view of love is presented to her (with put downs, controlling behavior, and physical violence). A particularly telling scene to how far Nick has removed himself from his own behavior happens when he watches a group of girls say awful hurtful things to Caitlin. He feels hurt for and comforts her; yet, it isn’t long before he’s using the same kind of hurtful remarks towards her himself. This book was eye-opening as a teacher and as a mother. The only cautions for this book are the language. Nick pretty much uses every bad word he knows in his angry outbursts and between boys slang sexual terms are used. The book ends with a great message and the reader is truly better off for having read it. I also like the way the story varies between narration and Nick’s own journal entries (this is a great teaching tool and maybe a nice way to teach compositional risk for TAKS).  

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.alexflinn.com

http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/lit_resources/authors/stories_behind/storyflinn1.html

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0060291982.asp

http://www.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/tows_2002/tows_past_20020228.jhtml

http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/ADV/teenDating.htm 

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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