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January 1, 2011

Mossflower

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Mossflower

Author: Brian Jacques

 

Page Length: 373

 

Reading Level: 6.9

 

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

 

Career Connections: None           

PLOT SUMMARY: Badgers, mice, weasels, squirrels, and a bird, take on human characteristics and battle the wildcat, Tsarmina to get possession of Mossflower.  Tsarmina becomes the Queen of a Thousand Eyes after poisoning her father and imprisoning her brother.  She forces the Woodlanders to work for her as slaves.

When Martin the Warrior meets Gonff (both mice) in the dungeon of Kotir, the two plan an escape.   With the help of other creatures of the forest, they go on a quest to locate Boar the Fighter.  As they cross the country, they develop friendships that support each other, despite their differences.  They exhibit respect for the older animals for their knowledge and cherish their history. 

Tsarmina’s soldiers and Martin and his Woodlanders eventually engage in a fierce battle while Gonff, the Mousethief, sings a song for every event. As the story concludes, good rules over evil.REVIEW: This is an animal fantasy that is full of action.  There are heroes, villains, adventure and romance with all of the characters, created quite descriptively with many human qualities.  The book is a prequel to Redwall, the first of the multiple book series.

The book would be an excellent class novel to read when studying cultural differences, as it shows how the animals, with varied differences, demonstrate the ability to get along in a diverse community.  Gonff’s poetry could be used to help students write short poems.  The food the animals eat sounds simply delicious and students could create recipes.

The writing is descriptive with lots of action and adventure.  I think boys would enjoy this book more than girls.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Simile/Metaphor, Characters, Setting, Descriptive Writing, Poetry, Cultural Diversity, and Personification

RELATED BOOKS: The Redwall Chronicles (20 books), Redwall Picture Books (2 books), and The Tribes of Redwall Series (3 books)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teachervision.fen.com/curriculum-planning/teaching-methods/3803.html  

www.redwall.org 

 

MOVIE & TV CONNECTIONS: Redwall: The Movie (TV-2000), Redwall: The Movie (to be released 2011)

 

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

April 2, 2008

Visions 19 Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults

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Visions 19 Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults 

Editor: Donald R. Gallo

Page Length: 229

Reading Level: 7

 

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: Visions is a collection of short stories by 19 different authors. The book is divided into themes: figments, adjustments, conflicts, choices, illuminations, and kinships. Each short story ends with the author biography.

 

“Shadows” by Richard Peck is the story of a teenage girl who encounters a ghost. Her time spent with her spinster aunts progresses and she discovers that the ghost she had once taught to write returns before she leaves for college.

 

“Saint Agnes Sends the Golden Boy” is a thriller about a young woman waiting for Saint Agnes to reveal her destiny. Maddy discovers the short comings in her boyfriend and dreams of Golden Boy.

 

“Dream Job” is the story of young woman paid to smile and greet clients for $6.25 an hour. She dreams of one day being a fabulous writer. Her dreams lead the reader on a wild ride.

 

“The All American Slurp” is the story of an American and Chinese family each inviting the other to dinner. Their understanding and concerns over eating customs within each culture. The humor comes into play in the slurping of soup and ultimately milkshakes – to which Meg declares “all Americans slurp.”

 

“Jason Kovak, The Quick and the Brave” is a seemingly real tale set amidst the horror of a hold up in a Wendy’s restaurant. Jason is an employee working the day of the hold up. He has always been mild mannered and somewhat timid. Through Jason’s struggle to maintain composure and hope in the midst of danger, he gains courage and strength. Later, Jason is called to go to the police station and identify the potential robber in a line up. Although he is afraid, he does not falter. Jason’s bad experience turns out to teach him that he is stronger and more capable than he believed.

 

“What Happened in the Cemetery” is the story of young Fan. Fan is a teenage girl struggling foremost with her father’s disability. Once a robust, athletic man, Fan’s father is suffering from heart ailments that are have disabled him from working. Sinking further into depression every day, Fan’s father sits around the house drinking and watching television. Fan has her own growing pains and long for a different life. When she ends up in the cemetery with Richie, she finds herself again and refuses to compromise.

 

“Amanda and the Wounded Birds” is the story of a young woman named Amanda. Amanda’s mother is a famous radio personality known for solving everyone’s problems and offering comforting advice. As her mother gets syndicated and becomes even more swept in her career, Amanda finds that she needs her most. With her mother always being busy on the radio, Amanda resorts to becoming one of her callers. The story concludes with a touching reconnection of mother and daughter.

 

“Playing God” begins with an angry Josh who is running away. He can never please his parents and his girlfriend will be moving soon. Josh’s believes it’s better to run away than let others hurt and disappoint him. Laurel, the girlfriend, watched Josh cross the bridge to leave town. It’s then that hears yelping and discovers a box of five abandoned puppies near the river. Laurel convinces Josh to save them. He returns to town to give them away. Josh finds good homes for the puppy and even returns home himself.

 

“The Fuller Brush Man” is a story of survival and courage. Donald sells brushes and other items throughout the neighborhood and surrounding areas. Often the door closes in his face, yet Donald persists. At home his mother’s condition is worsening daily. Donald doesn’t want to face the inevitable; yet, he’s missing out on precious time with his mother. Donald must learn to be brave and visit his mother too.

 

“The Good Girls” is a heart wrenching story of two lives damaged by sexually abusive fathers. Frances lives alone with her drunken and abusive father. Her escape is the ballet classes that she teaches nearby. When a new student moves slowly and seems withdrawn from the other children. It doesn’t take Frances long to figure out what is going on. Together the two give each other strength and find freedom from their abusive fathers.

 

“On The Bridge” is a classic tale of wanting to be popular and thinking that “bad” looks cool. Adam and Seth are hanging out together on the bridge. Adam decides to have a little fun by throwing rocks of the bridge onto the cars down below. One car gets hit by the rock and comes back up on the bridge. Three men get out and demand to know who did it. Adam fingers Seth  who is beaten by the group. Seth learns the hard way what friendship and being cool are not.

 

“Great Moves” details the dating adventures of two girls. One seems to be the pampered popular sought after girl, Annie, while the other a more ordinary girl, Brenda. The two most eligible young men in the grade, also friends, go to great lengths to get Annie to take one of the them to the dance. The competition is fierce and before long they are even fighting over Brenda. The girls reunite when the realize that all the boys want is competition.

 

“A Hundred Bucks of Happy” is the story of a teenage boy who finds a one hundred dollar bill on his way home from school. He’s ecstatic and insists despite his brother’s comments and his mother’s economic status that the money is his to spend. Yet, when he goes to the mall, nothing seems to suit him. Torn between his desires and his sense of right and wrong, Chris even returns to the spot where he found the money hoping someone will claim it and relieve him of the necessity of  decision.  In the end, Chris splits the  money with his brother and mother and harmony and relief follow.

 

“Cousin Alice” is the story about Fern’s visit to stay with her aunt. Her mother is in a coma and Fern has nowhere else to go while her father looks after her mother. Fern’s aunt is her mother’s twin sister. Fern uncovers the tensions among members of the town and her aunt. Her young cousin had died when she fell into a well in the neighbor’s backyard years ago. Tensions have been running high ever since. As the towns people band together against Fern’s aunt an interesting turn of events take place. A fire erupts and old scores are settled.

 

“Words of Power” is told much like a traditional Native American tale. Late Blossoming Flower is a young Native American woman who descends from a woman of power. When puberty arrive, she must set out to find her power word. She is not to speak but must embark upon her journey with silence until she finds what she is searching for. Following a butterfly that seems to take her away from the path of light, Late Blossoming Flower discovers her power and passes the test of restraint.

 

“The Sweet Perfume of Goodbye” is a Bradbury like science fiction story. Caroline is a seventeen year old scientist sent to another planet to gather data for two years. The planet is devoid of any smells except for the alluring and exotic smell of the death – to which the inhabitants rejoice and smile about – after all death is inevitable. Caroline becomes the outsider “freak show” who makes the rounds talking about Earth and its fabulous smells. She’s received with humor and polite tolerance of her wild ideas. Caroline’s ship arrive to return her to Earth; but, Caroline realizes she’s in trouble when Dr. Orr, her ride, arrives but begins talking about the lovely overwhelming fragrance.

 

“Jeremiah’s Song” is the story of the death of a grandfather. Ellie having gone off to college has her own views of the ways things should be. Emphasis is given to the importance of Grandpa’s stories and listening to what he has to teach. Grandpa reveals that his stories are like a bridge connecting us all to others who have experienced hardships too.

 

“The Boy with the Yellow Eyes” is a story of two very different boys – a bookworm, Norman and a budding athlete, Willie. Both boys meet up in an abandoned train yard. A stranger is in another box car setting up his equipment. The boys hear tapping sounds and run to investigate. Norman decodes the tapping and realizes the man is a spy. The boys are caught and Norman is captured. Willie saves the day with a well timed and placed baseball swing. The boys become heroes and even receive a visit from the Vice President.

 

“The Beginning of Something” tells the story a teenager, Roseanne, and her mother. One night her mother receives a call that her Cousin Jessie has passed away from complications of diabetes. Melissa, Cousin Jessie’s daughter, is suffering without her mother.  Roseanne visits and compares herself to her beautiful cousin Melissa. The two girls bond and begin to see the strengths within each other. Amidst a funeral and grieving a new adventure begins for Roseanne as she goes a double date with a childhood friend. As Melissa and Roseanne grow closer together, Roseanne reflects on how their friendship and dating secrets mirror those of their mothers.

 

RELATED WEBSITES-SHORT STORY LINKS:

 

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/

 

http://www.classicreader.com/short-stories.php

 

http://www.shortstoryarchive.com/

 

http://www.americanliterature.com/ss/ssindx.html

 

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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