The Book Reviews – Website

November 29, 2010


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


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)


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.


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: (movies about dragons)

RELATED WEBSITES: (quiz) (lesson plans and website links) (discussion questions)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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


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


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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