The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

The Realm of Possibility

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The Realm of Possibility

Author: David Levithan

Page Length: 210

Reading Level:

Genre: Poetry

PLOT SUMMARY: This book is a collection of poems that shares the thoughts, emotions, and stories of different characters. The characters are high school age. Relationships of all types are detailed – boys together, girls together, and boy / girl. The poems cover the gamut of love from reeling elated at the possibility of a new relationship, to feeling low after not finding love, to finding harmony with each other. Some of the characters also endure hardships and discover more about whom they are and why they act as they have.

REVIEW: I did not enjoy reading this book. I find constantly assessing and deciphering the language of poetry tiresome in an entire book form. There were moments of the poems that I enjoyed; however, overall, the book was tedious.

If you love poetry, you will likely love this book and find many examples of well written poems and forms of expression that you could share with your students.

The one poem I found particularly interesting was one where a character starts writing words on the desk to express whatever comes to mind. These words have impact on the students who see them. The result of the expression – a girl who writes all over her body all of the words that define her – to others who react after reading the words – would provide for an interesting discussion of who we really are and why. See “Comeuppance” 153-163. It might even be interesting to provide students with a silhouette of a body shape and have them fill in the words that describe them before or after reading the poem.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: adjectives, description, poetic forms

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: poems about sex and love between both heterosexual and homosexual couples, a poem about visiting a sex shop (172-179)

RELATED BOOKS: Boy Meets Boy, All That Glitters, Are We There Yet?, Crush, Kissing Kate, I’ve Known Since I was Eight, Thinking Straight, Hero

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.alexsanchez.com/gay_teen_books.htm

http://www.amazon.com/Top-5-Gay-Teen-Life-Novels/lm/1BSXC4W729GZ3

http://www.davidlevithan.com/

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

What They Always Tell Us

What They Always Tell Us

Author: Martin Wilson

Page Length: 288

Reading Level: 4.8

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Career Connection: None

PLOT SUMMARY: James and Alex have grown up together as close siblings. People often considered them twins because they were similar in many ways. James and Alex are one grade level apart. The book takes the reader through an entire year of high school – James’ senior year and Alex’s junior year.

The school year begins with a big party at which time Alex chugs down a bottle of Pine Sol. He is rushed to the hospital where he fortunately recovers. However no one, not even his once close brother, knows why Alex attempted suicide.

Alex’s beginning junior year is filled with studying, visits to his therapist, and avoidance from former friends such as Tyler. Alex becomes an isolated homebody, a recluse.

James’ beginning senior year is filled with questions about his brother’s suicide attempt and daily “weird” behavior.

When James’ friend, Nathen, befriends Alex, Nathen encourages Alex to try out for the cross-country team. To prepare, Nathen and Alex begin a training workout together and develop a close friendship. At first, James is glad that his brother is out of the house and doing something “normal”. However, little does he know that the side activities that Nathen and Alex engage in are more intimate than mere cross-country teammates.

REVIEW: This is a beautifully written coming-of-age story for both Alex and James – two brothers that were once close and have now grown apart due to lack of communication. The reader will discover the character of Alex as one who is caught in the confusing maturation process during high school – cut off from his friends because he is “not acting like them” – not dating, not chasing girls. Alex’s cry for attention during his suicide attempt backfires for him as he experiences increased bullying from former friends. However, once James realizes his brother’s “true feelings”, the two grow closer together once more.

This is a great story of brotherly bonding. The story works because this is the central theme of the story – not the supplemental gay themes. However, both are intertwined. The gay relationship and intimate scenes between Nathen and Alex are maturely written in context of the plot.

Any male who has a brother struggling with a part of themselves as they mature will understand this story. This story contains characters with fresh voices. It is a book that is calmly written and one that will take many readers with siblings on a trip down memory lane.  

There is also an intriguing subplot in this story that deals with a young boy named Henry in search of his real father.

This book is written in third-person point-of-view. Odd-numbered chapters focus on Alex while even-numbered chapters focus on James.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, text to world, compare/contrast, prediction

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: there are several pages that list words such as “gay, faggot, queer”, a few scenes depict intimate scenes between two teenage males, and page 120 depicts one of those scenes

RELATED BOOKS: Crush by Carrie Mac, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Big Guy by Robin Stevenson, Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher, Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.randomhouse.biz/booksellers/childrens/files/2010/08/GLBTQ_DiscGd_BIZ.pdf (GLBTQ book discussion guide)

http://martinwilsonwrites.com/ (author’s website)

http://www.readwritethink.org/parent-afterschool-resources/podcast-episodes/lesbian-characters-young-adult-30329.html (podcast)

REVIEWED BY: K. Stratton

December 19, 2010

The Dark Side of Nowhere

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The Dark Side of Nowhere by Neal Shusterman: Audio Book Cover

The Dark Side of Nowhere

 

Author: Neal Shusterman

 

Page Length: 185

 

Reading Level: 7

 

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: Jason’s anxious to shake the small town dust off his feet. Having everyone know everything about him just gets to be too much sometimes. Lately, everyone’s begun to act strangely — a weird encounter with the school janitor and now there’s a secret to protect. What’s going on in Jason’s town? Who’s involved in the cover up and what exactly are they hiding? Will Jason be able to save Paula in time?

REVIEW: This was an interesting book for teaching compositional risk (a great way to achieve a 4 on the TAKS writing). The story seems to be along the usual plot lines until Jason discovers the unthinkable — that everything isn’t what he thought it was; and, that even he isn’t who he thought he was. Once their true selves are revealed no one will ever be the same again. Paula, Jason’s crush, is in grave danger. Jason believes that change is possible, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it. The story is entertaining from a science fiction perspective. Great student responses of their own “what if” stories could occur after reading this novel. This book is good for whole or small group discussion.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: plot, sequence, journal response, character traits, making predictions, generalizations and conclusions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: aliens

RELATED BOOKS: Everlost, Unwind, The Shadow Club, The Eyes of Kid Midas, Dread Locks, Red Rider’s Hood, Full Tilt, Scorpion Shards, Thief of Souls, Shattered Sky

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: War of the Worlds (2005), Men in Black (1997), Race to the Witch Mountain (2009), Return to Witch Mountain (1978)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.storyman.com/books/

http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/shusterman_dark.htm

http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Side-Nowhere-Neal-Shusterman/product-reviews/076534243X

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

The Brimstone Journals

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The Brimstone Journals by Ron Koertge: Book Cover

The Brimstone Journals

Author: Ron Koertge

Page Length: 113

Reading Level: 6.6

Genre: Poetry

PLOT SUMMARY: Meredith, Jennifer, Joseph, Lester, Tran, Sheila, Allison, Kelli, Damon, Rob, Carter, Neesha, David, Boyd, and Kitty are all students at Branston High School. That’s where from many of them their similarities end. One of them is branded as the school slut, another has unwanted advances being made by her stepfather, and yet another is worried about her weight. One of the boys is super athlete who controls his girlfriend, another is new kid in school whose father only wants him to follow the family line and be a doctor, and yet another – perhaps the most dangerous of all – is stockpiling weapons. His plan is to get rid of the people on his “list” and he’s not going to let anything get in his way.

REVIEW: Finally there is a story that can still be a story, maintain a smooth pace, and keep the reader entertained and engaged while being written as a series of journal type entries in the form of poems. Koertge did an excellent job of coming up with a character that almost every high school student can identify with. Boyd’s list of people he plans to execute is an interesting study in pathological behavior – sometimes people end up on the list just for being smart, etc.

This book takes an excellent stand on school violence because the others kids, even those who were going to be involved, take a stance, seek help, and do everything that they can to prevent the tragedy from occurring. I liked this book; it’s a short read that is full of discussion potential. I would recommend this as a classroom / small group assigned reading activity.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, character’s motivation, elements of plot, poetic forms, tree map of the characters and their personality traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Rob has sex with Jennifer because he’s earning points in his sex game – her reaction “it was kind of gross him lying on me like that, plus it hurt” (77)

Talk of pipe bombs, guns, and other explosive materials

References to drinking and a girl with a crush on another girl

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0763617423.asp

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBX/is_5_38/ai_n6207023

http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/Brimstone-Journals.html

http://www.lessonplanspage.com/SSODoSomethingAboutSchoolViolenceUnitDay2WhatsLifeLikeInMyShoes912.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Just Another Hero

Just Another Hero by Sharon M. Draper: Book Cover

Just Another Hero

 

Author: Sharon M. Draper

 

Page Length: 280

 

Reading Level: 4.3

 

Genre: Fiction

 

Career Connection: Teacher, police officer, fast food/retail sales

 

PLOT SUMMARY: A senior year filled with drama is what the small group of friends of Douglass High encounter after they cope with Josh’s death from a hazing accident and the birth of his baby by November.

 

Arielle, who has struggled with peer relations, since the hazing event, finds a way to mend the fences with Kofi and the rest of the group, but she is living with her third stepfather who is extremely strict and controlling with she and her mother. She not only has lost her real dad but her sister has been placed in an institution. Her mother is bound within the wants and needs of her stepfather. No wonder she has a problem with day to day coping skills.

 

Kofi continues to feel pain from his broken arm that was injured in the hazing event and realizes he is addicted to pain killers. He qualifies for admission into Massachusetts Institute of Technology but sees his parents squandering away their money. What does he do to help his family and himself?

 

November has returned to school after the birth of her baby, but finds she has many responsibilities that make school issues take a backseat.

 

While each member of the group try to find coping skills for their various needs, someone is stealing money and personal property at school.

 

Meanwhile, Crazy Jack suffers a mental breakdown and brings an assault rifle to school. The discovery of the thief and Jack holding student’s hostage, takes a toll on the main characters as they try to determine what makes a real hero.

 

REVIEW: This is the final book of the trilogy of the student’s of Douglass High that Sharon Draper has developed. The book is written in third person narrative between Kofi and Arielle as the plot centers primarily on their life issues. Students who have read the previous books, The Battle of Jericho and November Blues will enjoy this final chapter of Arielle, Kofi, November, and Jericho as they answer the question, “What Makes a Real Hero?”

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Characters, Cause/Effect, Sequence of Events, Theme

 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None that is not age appropriate

 

RELATED BOOKS: The Battle of Jericho, November Blues

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.sharondraper.com/bookdetail.asp?id=25

 

www.storiesofus.com/pdfs/StoriesFlyer.pdf

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Stoner and Spaz

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Stoner and Spaz by Ron Koertge: Book Cover

Stoner and Spaz

Author: Ron Koertge

Page Length: 169

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Ben Bancroft has become accustomed to having a hidden life. Living with his over protective grandmother and being disabled by cerebral palsy, he’s always shied away from any attention. After all, who wants to be known as a spaz by everyone (just like in the junior assembly when the principal pointed out how different he was to the entire school).

But Ben’s life is due for change even if it’s in the form of Colleen Minou, a druggie who sleeps around. Ben and Colleen forge an unlikely friendship and both their lives begin to change.

REVIEW: Ben’s transformation from being totally self-absorbed and feeling sorry for himself to a young man who sees beyond his disability and begins to connect with others is wonderful. The story makes an excellent point about disabilities and perceptions and conclusions that people all too easily jump to. 

On the other hand, Colleen’s life style is harsh and maybe too graphic. The constant drug references and her using sex as a means of satisfying her addiction and manipulating people to get what she wants – requires that the book reader be mature enough to understand the consequences and effect. I would not read this book with a class.

The good points are well made through Ben’s filming of fellow classmates. He breaks through the social perceptions of misfits and shows the beauty of humanity. The realities of drug abuse and the cost to the user are also detailed making the book a realistic look the horrifying effects of drugs – students could examine the costs to Colleen’s life.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, author’s purpose, comparing and contrasting (Ben before he looked outside himself and Ben after)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Colleen recounts the night her mom’s boyfriend came into her bedroom and started rubbing her – then she notes after telling her mom who accused her of trying to ruin her (her mother’s) happiness – “I’m fucking ten years old, and I’m on my own”  (70).

Colleen use of drug – smoking a joint. “I snort a little coke” (71).

“She grabs the condom, tears the foil with her teeth, then puts it on with alarming dexterity” (152).

RELATED BOOKS: Fat Kids Rule the World, You Don’t Know Me, The Brimstone Journals, Gingerbread, The Beast, Angel Dust Blues

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/Stoner-Spaz.html

http://www.teenreads.com/features/2002-koertge-ron.asp

http://www.bookrags.com/biography/ron-koertge-aya/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Romiette and Julio

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Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper: Book Cover

Romiette and Julio

Author: Sharon Draper

Page Length: 320

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Julio has just moved to Cincinnati from his home town of Corpus Christi to get away from gangs and so that his father could find work. The Devildogs run things at Julio’s new school and let him know right away that they don’t want him in their school. Then Julio meets Romiette and his luck changes. He’s finally met a girl that he loves talking to. However, the Devildogs don’t want Romiette talking to Julio and their threats are increasing. Can Julio and Romiette make a relationship work amid so much chaos? Why does Romiette keep having a nightmare about drowning and what could it mean?

REVIEW: To all the Draper fans, I apologize but I did not enjoy reading this book. I feel that her use of dialogue is excessive and totally weighs the book down. The idea of modernizing Romeo and Juliette is a good one, however the delivery was poor. Reading becomes labored because it’s too much “blah, blah, blah” between the characters (exactly what most English teachers tell their students to avoid when writing their own stories). I feel that like most Draper books this story really doesn’t deliver a solid storyline – it seems to stay too superficial and never really goes deep enough to drive the point home. On a positive note, Draper does try to address the issue of gang violence and its dire consequences.

I was disappointed and I would not want to read this as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character traits, elements of plot, comparing and contrasting the characters, comparing text to self, point of view, how not to use dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: gang intimidation, kidnapping, gang violence

RELATED BOOKS: The Battle of Jericho, Just Another Hero, November Blues, Fire from the Rock, Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliette”

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:

“Romeo and Juliette” (1968 and 1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:                            

http://sharondraper.com/

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/draper.html

http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=857

http://sharondraper.com/lessonsdetail.asp?lesson=5

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Responsible

Filed under: R,Uncategorized — thebookreviews @ 9:04 pm
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Responsible by Darlene Ryan: Book Cover

Responsible

Author: Darlene Ryan

Page Length: 100

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Kevin is the new kid again in his fourth high school. His new “friends” are the school bullies led by Nick. Nick has perfected the art of accidentally shoving and tripping others. One day Nick chooses the wrong girl to mess with. Erin’s fed up with Nick’s bullying and she isn’t backing down. Nick’s anger grows as he decides that Erin must pay. Kevin becomes involved in Nick’s plot to get revenge and as Nick’s attacks on Erin grow more vicious Kevin is caught in the middle. Does Kevin follow Nick’s lead and protect himself or does he help Erin before it’s too late?

REVIEW: This is the typical Orca book. The sentences are short. The action happens quickly to keep students engaged and the problem is handled on the surface. Students should find the bullying issue and the feeling of being stuck in a difficult position relevant and interesting.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits, dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Topic of bullying, Language – “we’re not done pussy boy,” “get your ass out of my way”

RELATED BOOKS: Mirror Image, Pigboy, Daredevil Club, Saving Grace, Rules for Life

RELATED MOVIES: “Chicken Little,” “Ice Princess,” “Heavyweights”

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.darleneryan.com/books/responsible.php

http://www.stellaraward.ca/2007/author.php?id=36

http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/index.asp

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2008/10/bullying-1030.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

September 28, 2009

I.D.

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I.D.

Author: Vickie Grant

Page Length: 101

Reading Level: 2.8

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Chris is tired of his life of growing up on the bad side of town. One day, he finds a wallet lying in the street. Chris matches the physical description of the guy and assumes his identity. The money and credit cards inside the wallet help finance Chris’s new life as Andrew Kirk Ashbury. Although, Chris means to stop by and give the wallet back, events keep occurring that distract him. Will Chris really be able to become Andrew or will his true identity be revealed?

REVIEW: This is the typical Orca book. The sentences are short. The lesson taught in this book is that there is no real right or wrong here. The character’s only remorse is that he almost got away with it. The story lacks depth and never really explores the consequences that Chris will face. The story ends with Chris being arrested as Andrew for a long list of crimes. Perhaps the only good lesson to teach from this story are the philosophical statements about the “grass being greener” and things not always being as they seem.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits, dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: subject of theft, smoking, drinking, language

RELATED BOOKS: Dead-End Job, Pigboy, Quid Pro Quo

RELATED MOVIES: “Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/IDTG.pdf

http://www.vickigrant.com/books/id.html

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/july-dec05/idtheft_8-29.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 30, 2009

Rat

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Rat

Author: Jan Cheripko

Page Length: 205

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Rat loves everything about basketball –except for the fact that he is disabled and feels that he can’t play the sport on the same level as his peers. He’s still a part of the team as the manager, but one day all of that changes. Rat witnesses something he wishes he hadn’t (or maybe he is glad that he could help – he really can’t decide). Coach has his hands all over one of the cheerleaders. Rat’s the only witness and he becomes caught in the crossfire. Will he tell the truth? Will the team treat him any differently if he “rats” on the coach? How far is he willing to go for a friend?

REVIEW: This book really packs in quite a few moral lessons and dilemmas. Rat is turned against by the basketball team because he tells the truth. No one will talk to him, he’s bullied and threatened, and he can’t even get his dad to see him for who he is. The new coach changes how Rat feels about himself and his relationships. We’re introduced to not only bullying, the cold hard truth about how doing what is right is not always popular, and two characters suffer with the loss of their loved ones to cancer. The new coach of the team not only teaches the boys great plays but also teaches them the elements of successful character traits (a lesson in and of themselves). Altogether it is a nicely crafted story that should appeal to both male and female students. There are great lessons in this book and wonderful vivid discussion points about decisions, actions, and repercussions – and about believing in yourself and standing up for what you believe in. Cheripko also teaches students that everyone has heart and everyone makes mistakes – great classroom read!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: huge potential – connecting text to self, sensory images, elements of plot, cause and effect, sequence of events

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: death from cancer, bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment

RELATED BOOKS: Imitate the Tiger, Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove, Voices of the River

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Cheripko__Jan.html

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/contributor.jsp?id=172619

http://www.boydsmillspress.com/contributors/contributors/cheripko_jan.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie

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My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie

Author: Susan Heyboer O’Keefe

Page Length: 255

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Alexandra, with her mother, has just returned to her mother’s home town, Nickel Park. Alexandra has had trouble in every school she’s been to lately, she and her mother are always on the move, and she already hates life in this little town trailer park. The only pastime Allie enjoys is attending funerals – even of complete strangers. This time Allie makes a new friend, find a teacher who believes in her, and uncovers a mystery – it appears that Jimmy was murdered and Allie intends to find out who did it.

REVIEW: This book was an “ok” read. It deals with some of the typical issues of teenage rebellion and general discontent. The one notable subject matter was that Allie constantly blames her mother for the disappearance of her father – and in her mind she romanticizes the reasons why she hasn’t heard from him – only to later come to terms with the crushing reality that he’s started a new life and doesn’t want her included in it. There are many likable characters for readers to relate to. However, the plot isn’t as well developed as it could be, and Allie’s counter bullying of Dennis and the consequences isn’t adequately addressed.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: comparing text to self, compare and contrast, sequence of events, setting, conflict, resolution

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: bullying issues, funeral descriptions, suicide due to parent acceptance issues

RELATED BOOKS: Death by Eggplant, Christmas Gifts

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.meghan-mccarthy.com/authorstalk_susanokeefe.html

http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/childrens_writing/117238

http://www.girlposse.com/reviews/books/my_life_and_death.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Boy Proof

Boy Proof

Author: Cecil Castelluci

Page Length: 203

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Victoria, known to all her friends as Egg, is a senior at a Hollywood High School. She is a cineophile who loves movies; her knickname, Egg, comes from her favorite movie – Terminal Earth. Egg’s become an expert at keeping people at bay – her friends, her mother, and even the new guy. Egg soon discovers that pushing everyone away may not be what she wants after all. Egg thought she was boyproof, but she’s jealous of Nelly and the attention she gets from Max. Egg begins to discover that she can’t do everything all by herself. She really does need love and friendship from both her family and friends. How can she undo the damage she’s already done?

REVIEW: Teen readers will be able to relate to Victoria’s (Egg’s) self conscious attitudes and her feelings that she must keep everyone at bay. Readers will also identify with her need to belong and her deep desire to want to be beautiful and feel comfortable with herself. Egg discovers that she does need people. That she’s talented and must learn to believe in herself. It’s interesting that her choice after being in the running for Valedictorian at school is to not go to college right away and instead work as an apprentice in costuming with her father. Some cautions – typical teen behaviors in one sense but point of discussion about acceptable behavior toward parents and friends – Egg pretty much walks all over her mother and comes and goes whenever she wants. Overall, the message is the book sends is a good one—Victoria had to find herself, throw off her cloak, and become comfortable with who she was before she could find love and happiness.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: connecting text to self, sequence of events, cause and effect, making predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: references to sexuality, language (2-3 times)

RELATED BOOKS: Plain Janes, Janes in Love, Beige, The Queen of Cool

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Breakfast Club, Can’t Buy Me Love

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.misscecil.com/

http://www.readingmatters.co.uk/book.php?id=269

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Make-up_artist

http://videos.howstuffworks.com/hsw/13188-skills-for-healthy-living-learning-to-like-yourself-video.htm

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 18, 2009

Are We There Yet

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Are We There Yet

Author: David Levithan

Page Length: 215

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Although they were once close, Elijah and Danny have drifted apart. Danny is grown and away in the “real world” wrapped up in carving out a corporate career. Elijah is finishing his last year of high school and hasn’t even bothered to apply to college yet. Suddenly, Elijah and Danny find themselves on a trip to Italy together. They are reluctant participants in a parental ploy to bring them back together again. Adventure, discovery and maybe love awaits. Will they leave Italy as distant as when they landed?

REVIEW: If you love art, museums, artifacts and Italy then you will love this story. If however you get bogged down by excessive descriptions of art works and buildings, then you may find the book tedious – especially in the first half. The book does pick up plot towards the end. The reader experiences the nostalgia of the boys’ childhood through their flashbacks. The very different personality styles of the characters give them a more universal appeal to readers.

The author does make 2 good points: about finding more things in common with people than we expect sometimes and about defining who we are. The references to common marijuana use bothered me (in terms of it being portrayed as acceptable). Also, I was hoping for more closure in the end.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, sequence of events, flashback technique, cause and effect, making predictions, compare and contrast character traits, connecting text to social studies and the arts

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: marijuana use

RELATED BOOKS: The Realm of Possibility, Boy Meets Boy, Marley’s Ghost, Wide Awake, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, Likely Story

ART CONNECTIONS: Italian Renaissance Artists and art styles, David, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Visite.html

http://www.davidlevithan.com/

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/davidlevithan/fromdl.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 17, 2009

Jake Reinvented

Filed under: *AWESOME BOOKS!!!,J — thebookreviews @ 9:17 pm
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Jake, Reinvented

Author: Gordon Korman

Page Length: 213

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jake Garrett is the new kid at F. Scott Fitzgerald High School. He’s dresses like a male model for a fashion magazine, and he is perhaps the best long snapper the football team has ever had. Jake throws fabulous parties every Friday night – who doesn’t love Jake?

Despite the admiration of every male and female in the high school, Jake only longs for one thing – Didi. Didi, the most beautiful girl around, happens to be dating Todd, the team quarterback. Jake is determined to do whatever it takes to win Didi. Will Jake really be willing to sacrifice everything just to have Didi? What will happen if Todd discovers Jake’s plan?

REVIEW: Korman delivers another entertaining read. The reader loves Jake as much as everyone else. Rick, who befriends Jake through good and bad, is an admirable character who teaches everyone what true friendship should be. The focus of much of the story is Jake’s willingness to do whatever it takes (without being psychotic) to get what he wants – Didi. The interesting depth of the story here is how hung up Didi is on position and appearances – and that no matter how hard Jake tries Didi doesn’t look at him as she does Todd. (This part of the book presents a great opportunity to talk about appearances and how often we all see what we want to see in someone.)

Korman makes an excellent point about trying to buy loyalty and popularity. Jake’s true self is revealed and the consequences aren’t pretty. Another character in the book, Dipsy, suffers the teasing of the football team. Teachers could examine his sacrifices of self and what it does or does not do for him. Dipsy is also known to throw out philosophical statements relating to animals. This is a great book for talking about appearances and what makes someone who they really are – always an interesting topic for teens struggling to discover their sense of self.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  cause and effect, sequence of events, character traits, elements of plot, theme, author’s purpose

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drinking, party going, flagrant disregard for someone else’s property

RELATED BOOKS: The Juvie Three, No More Dead Dogs, Swindle, The Search

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Mean Girls”, “Bratz”, “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://gordonkorman.com/toposite.htm

http://www.scholastic.com/titles/island/

http://midwestteacher.blogspot.com/2007/07/thinking-it-overbooks.html

http://midwestteacher.blogspot.com/2007/07/thinking-it-overbooks.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

The Girlfriend

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The Girlfriend

Author: R. L. Stine

Page Length: 165

Reading Level: 5.5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Scotty and Lora are the perfect high school couple. She is a cheerleader and he is the star quarterback. They are seniors and plan to attend Princeton after graduation.  When Lora leaves town for a week to visit Paris, Scotty is attracted to Shannon, a girl he gives a ride to after the game on Friday night. Shannon lures Scotty into her home after a secret date on Saturday night.

On Monday, Scotty realizes he doesn’t want to see Shannon anymore, and he certainly doesn’t want anyone to know about the date.  However, Shannon has other ideas.  She feels that Scotty is now “her baby”, and begins to stalk him not only at school but at his home, too.  She warns him not to leave her or her brothers will come after him.  In a series of tragic events, Scotty learns that a one-night stand is not worth the heartache and pain it causes to him and all of his friends and family.

REVIEW: R. L. Stine has written another suspenseful, intriguing book for young teens.  Although parts of the book are predictable, there is a surprise ending relating to Shannon’s past.  Readers who enjoy suspense and romance will enjoy this easy to read horror novel.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Cause and Effect, Making Predictions, and Compare and Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: The Boyfriend, Hit and Run, The Dead Girlfriend, Beach Party

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Play Misty For Me (1971)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.content.scholastic.com/browse/search?query=stine

www.rlstine.com

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 7, 2008

Truth

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Truth 

Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Page Length: 108

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: After a house party turns into a scene of a brutal murder, the teenagers who attended are questioned. In this small town of 5,000, these teens do all they can to either cover-up what happened or invent vivid fantasies of what occurred. The main character, Jen, is a local reporter for the schools TV news program. Ironically, she was also one of the teens who was at the party. Though she didn’t see the actual murder occur, Jen does hold many facts as to what happened which she keeps from the police and her father.

Ultimately three suspects are focused on. 1 – Ross has been in trouble before, has a temper problem, and is addicted to steroids. 2 – Nate is Ross’ friend and was at the party along with Ross. 3 – Jerome is the boyfriend of Jen, the main character, and was also at the party.

Jen begins to go crazy as she contemplates that her boyfriend may actually be a murderer. All three male suspects have recently been evasive to their friends at school, prompting major suspicion. Later on, it is witnessed that Ross and Nate have threatened to silence the teen who lived at the house of the party. After secret statements are gathered, a boot is found, and odd behavioral observations are made known, the truth finally comes out. It is with Jen’s reporting skills and the help of her camera man, that the story unfolds.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book very much. It was a quick read, yet kept my attention throughout. The dialogue was fresh and seemed appropriate for a character in her teens.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: genre of mystery, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: references to bars, steroids, and pills – steroids affecting one of the main characters behavior

RELATED BOOK & MOVIE: Macbeth by William Shakespeare, “Macbeth” (several movie versions available)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/TruthGuide.pdf (teacher’s guide to the book)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

October 30, 2008

Lockdown

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Lockdown

Author: Diane Tullson

Page Length: 103

Reading Level: 2.9

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: An emotionally unstable student is pushed over the edge by thoughtless classmates and brings a gun to school causing a real lockdown. Panic and chaos ensue as the students realize this is not just another drill. One student who feels he can help takes a risk, but the ending is still not a happy one.

REVIEW:  This book broke my heart. Josh, the student who brings the gun, cares and knows all about the hamsters in his science class. Some of the other kids want to see the new babies and disrupt the nest and touch the babies causing the mother hamster to reject them and eat them. It is just too much for Josh who is a bit naïve and socially out of things but truly cares about the animals. He loses it, brings the gun, taunts his classmates, but ultimately ends up shooting and killing himself. Like I said, it broke my heart.

 AREAS FOR TEACHING: Point of view, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: pages 13-15 in the science class, and the rest of the book during the lockdown – especially the final pages.

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.dianetullson.com

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

House Party

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House Party

Author: Eric Walters

Page Length: 102

Reading Level:

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: When Casey’s parents go out of town they think she is staying at Jen’s house overnight, but Jen has other ideas. She talks Casey into having just a ‘small get-together’ with a ‘few friends.’ The party gets wildly out of control ending with property damage, police and ambulances.

REVIEW: This book was ok and I think fairly realistic. As a high school student who did have a house party while my parents were out of town (yes I got caught) I could relate to many aspects of what happened in the book, although thankfully not to such a large degree. A lot of the unknown, uninvited kids who show up at this party read about it on somebody’s webpage. That is a scary thought considering just how out of control things can get without everyone on the World Wide Web being invited. Before the party Casey is worried someone might spill something on the carpet or throw up. Those worries come to pass, but they are only the beginning. Lamps and windows are broken, the crowd grows to over 200 people and fights break out. The book ends with Casey getting ready to face her parents and take responsibility for her actions.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Cause and effect, prediction

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Lots of underage drinking on the party pages and a couple is interrupted in the parent’s bedroom during the party.

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.ericwalters.net

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

 

September 21, 2008

Losing is Not an Option

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Losing is Not An Option

Author: Rich Wallace

Page Length: 127

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Ron is an athlete who longs for the next running competition and can’t stop dreaming about coming in first. After each defeat, he intensely trains for the next meet. In between meets, Ron is the average high school guy who hangs out with his friends and longs for a girlfriend. He excels as a teenage poet and works hard on the basketball court tool. This book chronicles his crushes, friendships, hardships, and training in nine short stories.

REVIEW: Honestly, the first half of this book I wasn’t making the connection between the same character and the all the short stories. However, in the last half of the book the author seemed to do a better job of tying the stories together. The language in the book ranges from the f word to other frequently used curse words. The main character and his friend are propositioned at a carnival; the girls offer sex for money.  Underage drinking is present, drug use, and sexual innuendos. I would be careful in recommending this book; on the other hand, the Ron does a good job of remaining true to himself and his sport.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea, author’s purpose, making predictions, chronological ordering, textual support

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: page 60 – “closet masturbator”, page 86 – “Ziploc bag of pot”, page 79 – “asshole”

RELATED BOOKS: Curveball, Wrestling Sturbridge, Shots on Goal, One Good Punch

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.answers.com/topic/rich-wallace

http://www.loveland.k12.oh.us/district/technology/ITech/LES/Reading/L.htm

http://www.authors4teens.com/introduction.jsp?authorid=rwallace

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 6, 2008

Now You See It

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Now You See It

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Page Length: 278

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Wendy returns home for her latest eye doctor appointment with blurred vision thanks to the eye drops he put in her eyes. She discovers a pair of sunglasses on her front lawn and slips them on. Her vision becomes clear and happy. Wendy can suddenly see great with these new sunglasses on. The next day, Wendy wears them to school and suddenly everything has changed. On the way to school, the bus driver witnesses an accident and Wendy sees a ghost. In class, she puts on the glasses and can’t believe her eyes when she sees beautiful, popular Tiffanie as a wrinkled old crone. Soon it seems that Julian and Tiffanie have discovered her secret. Hot on her trail, Wendy hides out at her grandmother’s nursing home until Julian shows up. Wendy runs outside and finds herself taken to another dimension where there are villains, elves, and dragons. Wendy must befriend the creatures and the crone so that she can rescue the prince before it’s too late.

REVIEW: This was an interesting book. It was entertaining and humorous despite the seemingly far-fetched plot. Although who doesn’t wonder and wish that time travel were possible (and what a great journal writing exercise that would make after reading this book)? The author includes just enough teenage feelings and emotions as well as science fiction element to keep the reader engaged and interested in turning the page to discover what will happen next. Students who enjoy books like Inkheart and the Artemis Fowl series would also enjoy this one.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: symbols, characters, plot, conflict, theme, setting, author’s purpose

RELATED BOOKS: The Changeling Prince, A Coming Evil, Being Dead, Witch Dreams, Never Trust a Dead Man

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.vivianvandevelde.com/background.cfm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivian_Vande_Velde

http://www.geocities.com/~teddarnold/vivian.html

http://www.harcourtbooks.com/authorinterviews/bookinterview_velde.asp

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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