The Book Reviews – Website

August 30, 2009

God Went to Beauty School

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God Went to Beauty School

Author: Cynthia Rylant

Page Length: 56

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction/Poetry         

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a collection of 26 short poems in which God is the main character. God lives out day-to-day life encounters as a teen living on earth would experience.  The poems are written from the author’s perspective of how God would react to beauty school, a dog, cable T.V., relatives, girls, and even fudge.

REVIEW: This is a short book and it is easy to read.  It would be a good book for the lower level reluctant reader to begin independent reading.  The poems enlighten the reader with a more realistic view of God’s perceptions.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Writing poetry, Point of View, Symbols, Word Choice, Voice, Mood and Tone

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: God as a character in a fictional book

RELATED BOOKS: Every Living Thing, For the Graduate: God’s Guide for the Road Ahead

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Oh, God (1977), Bruce Almighty (2003)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 6, 2008

True Believer

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True Believer

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff

Page Length: 264

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: LaVaughn is 15. Despite the fact that she lives in poor neighborhood filled with violence, LaVaughn longs to go to college. LaVaughn begins to dream about life after high school. She sees how her friend, Jolly, suffers to make ends meet, take care of her two young fatherless children, and try to earn her credits to graduate. LaVaughn knows that she must find a way to a better life. Her friends have turned to a new interests, and Jody, a boy that used to be a close friend, has moved back to town. LaVaughn’s heart races every time she’s never him or even smells his wonderful chlorine scent left behind in the elevator. Life doesn’t always turn out the way LaVaughn expects. Can she keep her friends and find true love before her sixteenth birthday arrives?

REVIEW: Although this book lists as a reading level of 7, it has the potential to appeal to a lower reading level because of the short , easy to navigate and understand chapters. The only qualifier for a level 7 to me it seems are the large science vocabulary words LaVaughn shares with the reader as she learns them. The book has an excellent message about education and expectations and the discord that can arise between friends and family members who aren’t comfortable with the new developments sometimes perceived as “snootiness” in the person who is changing for the better. The book details friends who were lost to violence and a school shooting. LaVaughn walks in on two males kissing; the readers experience her shock and reaction.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, character sketch, technical vocabulary, conclusions and predictions, setting, theme, characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: violence, homosexuality, death of a parent, death of a classmate

RELATED BOOKS: Probably Still Nick Swanson, The Mozart Season, Make Lemonade


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

July 29, 2008


Filed under: G — thebookreviews @ 8:17 pm
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Author: Pete Hautman     

Page Length: 198

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY:  As Jason Bock looks up at the sky after being hit by Henry Stagg’s, he focuses on the tall water tower above him and has the revelation that the town water tower is his god. 

Jason is the son of a slightly neurotic mother who obsesses over Jason having some disease. His dad is a devout Catholic who insists Jason attends the weekly Teen Power Outreach (TPO) meetings at the church. Jason has doubts about the validity of his faith and therefore, reasons that he can invent his own religion, which is the worship of the Ten-legged God, the town water tower.

He quickly recruits his friends, Shin, Magda, and Dan to be in the TLG faith with him and gives each of them specific titles of leadership.  As he ponders how the group can climb the tower for a weekly mass, he runs into his bitter enemy, Henry Stagg’s who is atop the tower.  When Henry shares the secret of climbing the tower, Jason allows him to be a member of the TLG and names him “High Priest”.

As the story unfolds, Shin starts writing and drawing works, which reflect the teachings of the TLG. Henry, Magda, Dan, and Jason all climb the tower and go for a swim in the top of the water tank.  As they attempt to descend the steps of the tower, there is an accident. They are caught by the police and punished by their parents.  Shin, however, is at home “hearing the voice of the TLG. 

REVIEW: Probably, most teens at some time, question their faith as their parents have taught them.  This book is a narrative by such a teen as he not only questions his parent’s beliefs, but also decides it is perfectly fine to invent his own religion. 

The story is believable that a group of teens would join a “cult”, but mostly for the fun and adventure of the group doing adventures together.  As Shin, becomes obsessed with the religion, the story gets eerie that one could take the fantasy too far.

The book is an easy and fast read.  Students who enjoy fantasy or science fiction would enjoy. At the back of the book there is a summary and questions for discussion.  Also, there are some activities if it was read as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Character, Point of View


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 1, 2008

The Glory Field

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The Glory Field

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 375

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This novel tells the story of generations of the Lewis family. The story begins in West Africa in 1753 when Muhammad Bilal is captured, bound, and taken on a ship. Young Muhammad longs for his family, watches many of his shipmates die, and wonders what his own fate will be. He longs for his freedom. Next we meet, Moses and Joshua Lewis on a South Carolina plantation in the year 1864. They too are on a dangerous quest for freedom no matter what the cost. The story continues across the family tree in each generation concluding in modern times. The Lewis family must summon all of their strength and courage to overcome hardships that continue to present themselves in different forms to each generation.

REVIEW: I enjoyed the historical perspective this book provided. Myers did an exceptional job of helping the read feel the struggles of each generation. He truly relays how arduous the struggle for equality has been for African Americans. Different generational stories are told by both the males and females of the family – making the book equally appealing for all students. The novel is rich with historical connections and would make an excellent teaching tool.

The one thing I found hard to follow at times – or really that I wish he had done differently would have been to follow one specific family line all the way through instead of taking different characters along the way. However, the stories are woven together well; sometimes, just glancing back at the family tree diagram helps the reader keep it all together in their mind.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: author’s purpose, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, compare/contrast, sequence of events, symbols (shackles),  point of view, causes and effects

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: whippings, slavery, prejudice, cruelty, drugs

RELATED BOOKS: The Color Purple, Gone With the Wind, Up From Slavery, If You Lived When There was Slavery in America, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas

RELATED MOVIES: “Gone With the Wind,” “Roots,” “The North and the South,” “The Color Purple,” PBS – “Slavery and the Making of America”


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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