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August 30, 2009

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


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 10, 2008

The Battle of Jericho

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The Battle of Jericho

Author: Sharon Draper

Page Length: 337

Reading Level: 7

PLOT SUMMARY: The Battle of Jericho tells the story a Jericho, his cousin, Josh, and their circle of friends. Junior in high school, Josh, Jericho, and Kofi are thrilled when one of the elite members of the Warriors of Distinction club asks them to help with the Christmas toy drive. The Warriors are the most admired group in school; they have existed for over 50 years, and numerous people in the community are members. Their black satin jackets, revered status, and well known parties make them the most sought after alliance in the school.

Soon the three boys are officially invited to become pledges. Draper details their desires and their relationships with each other and their girlfriends.  The pledges take vows of silence about the Warriors of Distinction pledge activities and the wild and unsettling ride begins. Although the Warriors have a charitable side, they also have a dark side. The pledges become subject to rituals testing their dedication and submission. As each pledge tasks becomes more questionable, Jericho becomes unsure of his decision to pledge. However, no one talks about the tasks and humiliation they have endured, and the pledge class has been told that they must all fail or all succeed as one. He persists even though part him realizes that he should not. The Warriors become so important to him that he loses sight of who he is and of his dreams. With a potential scholarship to Julliard on the line, Jericho must choose between his music and his desire to be popular and accepted.

As the pledging tasks worsen, Jericho must choose between what is right and what is wrong. Should he break his vow of silence and seek the advice of an adult? Or will he continue to participate? Will he become a coveted Warrior or will he lose everything trying?

AREAS FOR TEACHING: From a teaching perspective, I think that this a great book particularly for boys to read. Gang initiations and tales of college hazing incidents make this experience and important one for boys to gain (preferably through a book and not first hand knowledge). There are questionable acts required of the pledges. Discussing group dynamics and peer pressure after reading parts of this novel would be an excellent learning tool. I would also have students map the causes and effects (both anticipated and real) of the action of the pledge “masters” and the pledges. Draper includes a discussion guide at the end of the novel.

TOUCHY AREAS: Questionable parts are the pledge activities themselves and the consumption of alcohol as well as the belittling and inhumane treatment; however, realistically students need to know that things like this exist and do happen, and they need the opportunity to learn how to handle them.


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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