The Book Reviews – Website

August 30, 2009

Ball Don’t Lie

Filed under: B — thebookreviews @ 7:01 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Ball Don’t Lie

Author: Matt de la Pena

Page Length: 280  

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sticky is a skinny 17-year-old high school junior living in Venice, California.  This is his fourth foster home, after living with his drug addicted, prostitute mother who committed suicide when Sticky was only a young child.  Sticky has an obsessive compulsive disorder, but can usually get control of it after a few minutes.

Although Sticky is white and has been passed from family to family, he has developed an amazing talent for basketball.  He considers his real home the neighborhood recreational gym where old NBA basketball players as well as the homeless hang out.  His passion for basketball is unstoppable.

Surprising even to Sticky, Anh-thu, an Asian girl from school is attracted to him. She loves to watch him play basketball and wants to help him reach his goals and aspirations of making something of the predictable future of a poor white kid living on the street.

Sticky has great plans for Anh-thu’s birthday but they are halted after Sticky is approached for sex at the rec center, makes a bad decision after being taunted by one of the players and finds himself in a dire situation.

REVIEW: I would recommend this book for mature teens.  It is well written in third person voice.  The author is able to create emotion, passion, and suspense in his writing, while covering several intimate scenarios that Sticky experiences in his young life.  Sticky is exposed to difficult situations as a young child, and life doesn’t get easier for him with age. 

The reader is able to see Sticky grow and mature as he progresses through his junior year with the boys at the gym, with his foster family, his girlfriend, and his schoolmates. This is an excellent book for boys interested in basketball.  

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

TOUCHY AREAS: harsh profanity (p. 53, 128, 171, 175, 230), physical abuse (p. 65), sexual activity (p. 88, 164), sexual abuse (125), drug use (p. 226)

RELATED BOOKS: Slam, Painting the Black, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, Athletic Shorts

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Ball Don’t Lie (not yet released), Hoop Dreams (1994, Documentary), Hoosiers (1986), Heaven is a Playground (1991), Above the Rim (1994), On Hallowed Ground: Streetball Champions of Rucker Park (2001 Documentary)


 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


October 17, 2008

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Filed under: T — thebookreviews @ 8:01 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Author: Katherine Paterson

Page Length: 148

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Galadriel Hopkins, or Gilly, is on the move again to yet another foster home. Gilly could really care less. She’s in control and she can get rid of this one too. Who wants to live in a house with some small dumb boy and old ratchet woman anyway? 

Gilly can’t believe the new place she’s been sent to by her social worker. Even worse than her foster home is the fact that she has a “colored” neighbor and a “colored” teacher. Gilly dreams about her beautiful mother and just knows that one day she will sweep in and rescue her. Gilly begins to learn that things are not always as they seem or even as she might hope they would be. But, with every cloud there is a silver lining even for Galadriel Hopkins.

REVIEW: I enjoyed reading this story. The reader empathizes with Gilly’s situation and even sees right through her tough girl act. Paterson does a brilliant job will all of the characters. The reader develops relationships with the characters as Gilly does. We even share Gilly’s disappointment in her mother. This book is a very touching and seemingly authentic account of what life might be like for a foster child. Recommended read!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, anticipation reaction guide, sequence, compare and contrast text to self

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: emotions of being a foster child

RELATED BOOKS: Jacob Have I Loved, Jip: His Story, The King’s Equal, Bridge to Terabithia


RELATED MOVIES: “Annie,” “The Little Princess,” “Angels in the Outfield”


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

July 1, 2008

The Other Side of Truth

The Other Side of Truth

Author: Beverley Naidoo

Page Length: 252

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Twelve year-old Sade and her brother Femi are living in Nigeria during times of political unrest. Their father writes about freedom from oppression in his at times underground newspaper. One morning their lives take an awful turn when a militant group fires upon their home. Desperate to save the children, they are secretly spirited out of the country to England. Refugees on the run; the children arrive only to discover that their uncle is nowhere to be found. With no one to turn to the children must fend for themselves on the streets of London. Will they ever be reunited with their family?

Placed in foster care, Sade finds that she too must fight battles. She is bullied and threatened. With no one to turn to and the whereabouts of her family unknown, Sade must face these trials alone. Will she find the courage and strength to endure the hardships that will follow? Can she save herself and her father before it is too late?

REVIEW: This novel was really interesting to read. I’ve seen movies about political violence in third world countries but never read about it really. The horrors these children face when their mother is gunned down and their father falsely imprisoned are unthinkable.

I like how Naidoo interwove Sade’s own conflict with oppression so that both father and daughter are fighting for truth and justice. This book is action packed. Many questions are left unanswered until the end which is a great hook for reluctant readers (and works well for making predictions and questioning with students). This book is an interesting read and a look at political issues that are often glossed over in history textbooks. Through it all, the children survive and learn to overcome the atrocities they have witnessed. I would recommend this book for its perspective, eye-opening value, and the lessons that it teaches. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: author’s purpose, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, compare/contrast, sequence of events, symbolism, summarization, theme, setting, characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Beginning of the novel – shooting, death threats, conditions of people in prison

RELATED BOOKS: Purple Hibiscus, Things Fall Apart, Graceland, A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

May 21, 2008

Pictures of Hollis Woods

Filed under: P — thebookreviews @ 9:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Pictures of Hollis Woods

Author: Patricia Reilly Giff

Page Length: 166

Reading Level: 4th

Genre: Fiction


PLOT SUMMARY: Twelve year old Hollis Woods has spent her life flitting from one foster home to the next.  Her one ambition is to find “the perfect family”: people who will love her for who she is and never let her go.                         


Hollis seems to find just that, in the Regans.  The father, whom she calls Old Man, has a soft spot for Hollis, the mother is nurturing and kind, and Steven is both a brother and best friend.  Yet all of Hollis’s dreams are shattered when Steven is injured in a car accident, an accident in which Hollis shoulders the blame.  In her desperation, Hollis runs away from the Regans and moves in with a new foster mother.                                                                                                       


Beatrice is an elderly artist who is starting to show signs of dementia.  She provides Hollis with the emotional safe haven she needs.  Beatrice is patient, nonjudgmental, and fun-loving despite her age, yet it soon becomes obvious to Hollis that she must assume the role of care giver.  Beatrice forgets things easily and can hardly take care of herself.                                                                                           


Hollis realizes it is only a matter of time until the social worker removes her from Beatrice’s home, so she hatches a plan to run away with Beatrice and live out the winter in the Regan’s summer cabin.  After several days, Hollis realizes how ill-equipped she is to take care of Beatrice and eventually takes her back home.                                                                                                                                                


With this step toward maturity, Hollis finally stops running.  She realizes that she must face her problems in order to grow, that it is the only way she will ever obtain the family she so desires.                                                                                          

In the end, Hollis is welcomed back into the Regan’s arms.  Throughout the novel she has collected memories, like snapshots in her mind, of her worst and greatest moments.  Hollis ends the book with a final picture, one in which she is finally part of an authentic family.                                         


REVIEW: I love this book!  The characters are rich, and the story is beautifully woven.  I think the integration of Hollis’s “photographs” is creative.  It provides a strong visual connection to each stage of her life.  I also enjoy the way the story dances between the past and the present. This allows the reader to slowly discover and compare who Hollis was with who she has become.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: imagery, metaphors, & similes.  Also, suspense drives this story, which makes it a good book to use when teaching predictions.


RELATED BOOKS: This reminded me of the book White Oleander, by Janet Fitch






REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John


Create a free website or blog at