The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

The Boxer

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The Boxer by Kathleen Karr: Book Cover

The Boxer

Author: Kathleen Karr

Page Length: 169

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: It’s the late 1800s and times are hard for John and his family. His father has run off, his mother barely makes enough money to get by, and he’s left trying to support his brothers and sisters. Tired of struggling, John decides to try to win the prize money in a fight – there’s only one catch – fighting is illegal. John winds up in the slammer for six months, but it’s in jail that he truly learns what it means to be a champion. Never giving up his love for boxing and determined to provide well for his family, John Woods overcomes the odds to become a famous boxer.

REVIEW: This was interesting read. John’s warm heart and love for his family above himself is an excellent lesson to promote to teenagers. The theme of perseverance and survival in the book is wonderfully and vividly presented. Readers get a feel for the economic circumstances of the time, the limitations imposed by one’s class, and the determination it takes to prevail during hard times. John never gives up on his dreams, his family, or his ethics. This book is a good read and would likely appeal to boys – with its boxing sequences and blow by blow descriptions.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical connections, connecting text to self, connecting text to text, cause and effect, sequence of events, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: boxing, incarceration, betting

RELATED BOOKS: Fortune’s Fool, Born For Adventure, World’s Apart, Mama Went to Jail for the Vote, The 7th Knot, Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me Free

MOVIE & ART CONNECTIONS:

“Rocky” movies

Boxing paintings – http://www.edgarbrown.com/the-loss-boxing.php

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.buildingrainbows.com/bookreview/reviewid/18518

http://www.childrensbookguild.org/kathleenkarr.html

http://litplans.com/authors/Kathleen_Karr.html

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/159.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

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Back by Norah McClintock: Book Cover

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Author: Norah McClintock

 

Page Length: 93

 

Reading Level: 3

 

Genre: Fiction

 

Career Connections: Policemen, Doctor

PLOT SUMMARY: How would you feel if a neighbor who had been jailed for beating your brother so badly that he was in a coma was released from prison and back living with his mother?  This is the situation Ardell Withrow is facing as Jojo Benn returns to the neighborhood. 

The story is told by a young boy who has a broken ankle and is doomed to wear a cast for the summer.  So, he has a good view from his front porch of the neighborhood activities. 

He first explains why Jojo was in jail.  It began when his girlfriend, Shana, became pregnant with his child.  Jojo had an attitude with people and when Shana wanted more attention than Jojo was willing to give, he got an “attitude” with her.  Eden, Ardell’s brother, witnessed this and came to her rescue.  This infuriated Jojo so much that he got a crowbar and beat Eden so badly that he went into a coma.  He has been in a hospital since the horrifying event.

When Jojo is released, the people of the neighborhood are leery of what his behavior will be.  The neighborhood stores refuse to sell him groceries.  He stays at home most of the time, except on the days when he and his mother leave in a taxi.  Shana comes to visit him and shows him their baby.  All of this is observed by the people in the neighborhood, including Ardell and his family.

Ardell and his mother go to visit Eden, but Ardell’s father refuses to visit him. One day his dad comes to the house and tells Ardell’s mother that the hospital has determined that Eden is brain-dead.  Eden is taken off of life support and dies. 

Many of the neighbors attend the funeral, but Shana doesn’t.  The tension increases with each of Shana’s visits to Jojo’s home.  Ardell confronts her and asks how she can forgive Jojo when it is his fault that Eden is dead. When Shana tells him that she didn’t ask for Eden’s help, this is more than Ardell can take.

REVIEW: This is a high interest level book written for the reluctant teen reader.  The story is told from an observer’s point of view, I think a student who has few friends or shy may be able to relate to the narrator. I would suggest the book to boys who are just beginning to do independent reading.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Drawing Conclusions, Making Predictions, Character, Conflict, Cause/Effect, and Compare/Contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

RELATED BOOKS: Snitch, Tell, Bang, Down, Marked, and Watch Me

RELATED WEBSITES:

https://www.etrafficpress.com/?q=orca-soundings-resource-guide  

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

June 5, 2010

Monster

Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Drama, Fiction-Crime

PLOT SUMMARY: Is he really a Monster? Did he really have anything to do with the murder of the drugstore owner? These are the questions that young 16 year old Steve Harmon is asking himself. All he knew was that he was to enter a drugstore, see how many people were inside, and see if there were any police. Then he was to exit the drugstore. Actually, did Steve even agree to be a “lookout”? It was planned to be a robbery or so that is what Bobo Evans and James King told him. After Steve leaves the drugstore, the robbery went terribly awry. The drugstore owner, Mr. Nesbitt is murdered. Steve is arrested and put on trial for murder. If convicted he faces 25 years to life in prison or the death penalty. While in the detention center, Steve maintains his sanity by writing in a journal that he will use for a “film” after this nightmare is over. Steve was not even present when the murder occurred, so does this make him a monster? How could a jury convict him? How could people think he was a monster, as the prosecutor described him at the beginning of the trial? His own lawyer doesn’t even believe him. His parents do not even look at him the same way. When Steve views the “film” of himself, who or what does he now see?

REVIEW:  Walter Dean Myers does an excellent job at immediately getting the reader’s attention with his first sentence in Monster: “The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is beaten up and screaming for help”. The story is written in the format of journal entries by Steven Harmon as well as dramatic script writing by the same character. The book is written in a young African American teenager’s point of view. The book’s voice is in modern language/slang that young reader’s can understand. However, some of the scenes and events described in the detention center range from cries of despair and beatings to rape. This subject matter is extremely difficult to read but does portray the realities of jail. One gains insights into Steve’s emotions, fears, and self concept from his journal entries. After reading the book, one can not help but re-examine one’s own beliefs and self concept. After reading Monster, hopefully young readers will realize that choices they make now can affect their lives forever as Steve does in the gray writing on pages 220-221 – “What was I thinking?”       

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, voice, mood, tone, 5 steps of the writing process, dialogue, dialect, journals, diaries, antagonist, peer pressure.

TOUCHY PAGES: 36, 37, 57, 73, 109, 139-140, 143-144

RELATED BOOKS:  Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Chocolate War (Readers Circle) by Robert Cormier, The Contender by Robert Lipstyte. Books by the same author: Slam!, Hoops, Scorpions, Glory Field, Fallen Angels, Game, Bad Boy: A Memoir, Somewhere in the Darkness, Motown and Didi , Harlem

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Outsiders(1983),  Westside Story (2003),  Once Upon a Time In the Hood (2004), The Price of the American Dream (2004).

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

http://www.mcte.org/bpw/ricker.pdf

http://thebestnotes.com/booknotes/Monster_Myers/Monster_Study_Guide_Summary01.html

http://digitalbooktalk.com/?p=17

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/myers.html#monster

http://special.lib.umn.edu/clrc/kerlan/wdm/monster/index.php

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

November 15, 2009

Monster

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Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Drama

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: 16 year old Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder. He is accused of taking part in a convenience store robbery where the shop owner is shot and killed. Steve Harmon is accused of being the “look out” during the robbery. James King, the accused shooter during the robbery, is also on trial. Both boys are represented by separate lawyers.

Steve decides to write a movie script about his time in jail and his time during the trial. He writes his thoughts and reflections on notebook paper in journal format and records the actual events of the trial in movie scene format. Steve’s love for movie scripts has been nurtured through his high school education so it is only natural for this teenager to express his emotions in such as format. Monster shifts back and forth between Steve’s loneliness in jail and the tension in the courtroom. In jail, Steve is left with his own thoughts about himself. He is left to reflect on how others view him. The prosecutor has labeled him a monster, his father looks at him in a different light, and Steve questions if his lawyer views him as guilty or not.

Many of the witnesses that testify against Steve are jail inmates themselves that have motives for their testimonies. This plays in favor for Steve. Steve’s lawyer tries her best to distance Steve from the other accused (James King, the shooter). Steve’s lawyer feels that if the jury can see a difference between Steve and James, then possibly the jury will see Steve as the good one of the two.

In the end, the jury finds James King guilty and Steve Harmon not guilty. When Steve turns to hug his lawyer in appreciation, his lawyer stiffens and turns away.

Monster is a creative example of the inner-workings of the mind of an accused teenager. Is Steve Harmon truly a monster or a victim of circumstance?

I would recommend that this book be read and studied as a group. The organization (movie script format) may be confusing for some. It is a good story that can generate discussion on a number of current topics.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: imagery, vocabulary (ex. dispensary), reading in different formats: diary, movie script

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: language on pages 80 and 81, imagery of jail-death row, vague descriptions of sexual acts in jail

RELATED BOOKS: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

MEDIA CONNECTIONS: Law and Order – TV series

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.harperchildrens.com/schoolhouse/TeachersGuides/myers.htm#monster

http://litplans.com/authors/Walter_Dean_Myers.html (scroll down to the middle for 9 links)

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/myers.html (scroll down to the middle for 6 links)

http://books.google.com/books?id=dX5YBgIkFJ0C&dq=walter+dean+myers+monster&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=y84hStHkCI_MM8TmpcEJ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#PPP1,M1  (copy of the book on-line through google)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 30, 2009

Monster

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Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction / Screenplay

PLOT SUMMARY: Steve is only sixteen years old and he’s on trial for murder. Steve isn’t enjoying his time in the slammer – the only thing he can say for it so far is that he’s become a writer. Steve’s life hangs in the balance – jurors will determine his fate – and all Steve can do is write it out one scene at a time.

REVIEW: This book is a decent read with some excellent points for classroom discussion and student engagement. One great point for students is that it’s written as a screenplay and they might all enjoy taking on parts as different characters in the play. I like how the author connects the reader to Steve’s life and lets the reader ponder (on their own) his guilt or innocence – in essence the reader becomes the juror as page after page more details are divulged.      

The book is great for teaching the judicial process and gaining an understanding of how evidence is used and how trials are conducted.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character traits, elements of plot, comparing and contrasting the characters, comparing text to self, point of view, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: robbery, shooting, prison life

RELATED BOOKS: Dopesick, Sunrise Over Fallujah, Crystal, Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Shooter, Somewhere in the Darkness

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/             

http://litplans.com/titles/Monster_Walter_Dean_Myers.html

http://lib.store.yahoo.net/lib/monkeynote/pmMonsterSample.pdf

http://quizlet.com/920587/monster-legal-terms-flash-cards/

http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-monster/

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

August 24, 2008

Monster

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Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 277

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder.  He is 16 years old, scared, and alone in jail.  The prosecutor calls him a MONSTER.

The story is written in a movie format as Steve writes and directs it.  As the prosecutor brings witnesses to the stand, the reader experiences Steve’s thoughts and emotions.  He is excused because of the testimony of one of the men who committed the robbery.  Supposedly, Steve was an accomplice by going into the neighborhood store in Harlem, checking it out to see if it was safe, and giving the two robbers a “go ahead” sign to enter the store.  As the robbery takes place, the store owner pulls a gun, and in a struggle, the gun goes off, and the owner dies.

Steve’s lawyer never gives him much hope, but there is no “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Steve was actually involved.  As he takes the stand, he denies being in the store the day of the crime.  He does acknowledge knowing the accomplices. The jury is left to decide the outcome of his future. 

REVIEW:  I have read several of Walter Dean Myers young adult books and enjoyed this one the most.  As he writes the book in a play format, the reader becomes very attached to Steve Harmon’s feelings and fears.  Meyer’s lets the reader come to his own conclusion about Steve’s guilt or innocence.  I think the book would be a good class novel to read.

At the end of the book, there are a section of questions for discussion and questions for the author that would be good to use if read as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Setting, Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Conflict, and Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Violent content but written in an acceptable manner

RELATED BOOKS:  Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Bad Boy: A Memoir

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.northern.edu/hastingw/myers.html

www.northern.edu/hastingw/myers.html

www.kennedy-center.org/multimedia/storytimeonline/harlem.html

www.powells.com/biblio/0064407314

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 23, 2008

Among the Betrayed

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Among the Betrayed

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix      

Page Length: 156

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Nina Idi wakes up in a jail cell and realizes she has been caught by the Population Police.  The “hating man” interrogates her as to her dealings, which may involve protecting other “third family children.”

Nina lives in a country where couples are allowed to have two children.  Nina, like many others, was the third of her family to be born.  She lived in hiding with her grandmother and aunties until she was sent to Harlow School for Girls.

At Harlow, she met Jason, who attended the neighboring boy’s school. She fell in love with Jason, and told him that she was a third child.  She doesn’t realize that Jason has also been arrested.  While in jail, Nina is placed in a cell with three younger children, also, third children.  The hating man tries to get Nina to betray the children and get information for him.  As the story evolves, Nina chooses not to betray the children, and they find a way to escape the jail. 

Nina and company make their way to the Boy’s school where she believes she can get help from Lee, one of the boy’s she knew through Jason.

REVIEW: This is the third book in Margaret Haddix’s Shadow Children sequence.  I have not read the previous two books, but was able to get interested in the story line immediately. 

The story is a captivating mystery that I didn’t solve until the very end of the book.  It is interesting in that the plot centers around a subject that in America we don’t consider an issue that could be a reality. 

Students who enjoy mystery would like this book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  Sequence, Characters, Compare/Contrast, Cause and Effect, Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Among the Hidden, Among the Imposters, Among the Barons

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Village” (2004)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.english.unitecnology.ac.nz/readhot/book_review.php?book_id=418

www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-87148594.html

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Peterson_Haddix

www.buildingrainbows.com/bookreview/reviewid/18515

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 11, 2008

Freak the Mighty

Freak the Mighty

Author: Rodman Philbrick          

Page Length: 169

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Max is a learning disabled student with no friends who has just finished seventh grade and is very large for his age. Max becomes friends with his new neighbor, Kevin, a boy the same age who has a health impairment, which has stopped his growth at about the height of three feet.  Kevin is very intelligent and quotes large words and their meanings to Max on a routine basis. Kevin lives with his mother, The Fair Gwen, next door to Max and his grandparents. Although the two boys are extreme opposites they bond and become know as “Freak the Mighty.”

During the summer, they spend hours together as Kevin shares his knowledge and imagination with Max.  They have several encounters with some adverse people who help build their reputation as “Freak the Mighty.”  The first boy they encounter is Tony D., the local gang leader. Then Kevin and Max come in contact with Loretta Lee and Iggy, who live in the “testaments”.  Next, they must work with Ms. Donelli, the English teacher; and last but not least, they meet Killer Kane, Max’s dad who has been in jail and just released on parole.

Kevin or Freak, as Max calls him, helps Max see that he is not as “dumb” as he thinks he is.  They convince the school principal that Kevin needs Max in his classes in the fall and the two become inseparable.  Together, they experience friendship accompanied by heartache, hurtful truths and a little bit of magic.

REVIEW:  This is a wonderful story of two quite different boys.  Although, they both have experienced a lot of heartache, together they find a life filled with magic and adventure.  It is a story of the underdog overcoming extreme odds or two underdogs who become one mighty force.

At the end of the book, the author gives tips to young writers on how to get started in writing.  Also, listed is an interview with the author and a list of Kevin’s dictionary.

This book is different from most books written for young adults in that it covers several issues that most of the public has trouble accepting.  And, he author does it in a humorous way. I think anyone above the age of twelve would enjoy this book. It would be especially good for anyone who is mentally or physically challenged.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Sequence of Events, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Max the Mighty, Tangerine, The Outsiders

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:The Mighty” (1998)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.rodmanphilbrick.com/teaching.html

www.ducation.pitt.edu/library/Clusters/Freak.html

www.en-herrick.k12.il.us/staff/…/ftm/activities/quest01-02.ht

www.seacoastnh.com/film/mighty.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 1, 2008

The Other Side of Truth

The Other Side of Truth

Author: Beverley Naidoo

Page Length: 252

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Twelve year-old Sade and her brother Femi are living in Nigeria during times of political unrest. Their father writes about freedom from oppression in his at times underground newspaper. One morning their lives take an awful turn when a militant group fires upon their home. Desperate to save the children, they are secretly spirited out of the country to England. Refugees on the run; the children arrive only to discover that their uncle is nowhere to be found. With no one to turn to the children must fend for themselves on the streets of London. Will they ever be reunited with their family?

Placed in foster care, Sade finds that she too must fight battles. She is bullied and threatened. With no one to turn to and the whereabouts of her family unknown, Sade must face these trials alone. Will she find the courage and strength to endure the hardships that will follow? Can she save herself and her father before it is too late?

REVIEW: This novel was really interesting to read. I’ve seen movies about political violence in third world countries but never read about it really. The horrors these children face when their mother is gunned down and their father falsely imprisoned are unthinkable.

I like how Naidoo interwove Sade’s own conflict with oppression so that both father and daughter are fighting for truth and justice. This book is action packed. Many questions are left unanswered until the end which is a great hook for reluctant readers (and works well for making predictions and questioning with students). This book is an interesting read and a look at political issues that are often glossed over in history textbooks. Through it all, the children survive and learn to overcome the atrocities they have witnessed. I would recommend this book for its perspective, eye-opening value, and the lessons that it teaches. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: author’s purpose, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, compare/contrast, sequence of events, symbolism, summarization, theme, setting, characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Beginning of the novel – shooting, death threats, conditions of people in prison

RELATED BOOKS: Purple Hibiscus, Things Fall Apart, Graceland, A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.beverleynaidoo.com/theother.html

http://eyeonafrica.wordpress.com/

http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-other.html

http://www.crossingborders-africanwriting.org/writersonwriting/beverlynaidoo/analysisoftheothersideoftruth/

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IB98046.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

May 1, 2008

Losing Joe’s Place

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Losing Joe’s Place

Author: Gordon Korman

Page Length: 233

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sixteen year olds, Jason, Ferguson, and Don, are about to experience the most exciting summer ever. Jason’s brother, Joe, is headed overseas for the summer and has agreed to lease his uptown Toronto apartment to the three guys. The only instructions Joe left behind are not to lose the lease. The three are a little dismayed to find themselves in the poor side of town with a rather colorful collection of neighbors. However, the boys dig in to big city life and are determined not to admit defeat to their parents. All the boys find employment in Don’s uncle’s factory; but, before long Ferguson is a member of the technology team and is streamlining the processes in the factory. Jason and Don end up laid off and the adventures begin. From chasing after the same girl, to seeking jobs, and running the apartment, the antics of the three boys is entertaining. A surprise guest arrives by the name of Rootbeer and a stay at the police station follows. Will the boys be able to pay the rent and survive the summer, or will they have to call home for help?  Can they keep Plotnick, their eccentric half-crazed landlord, happy and avoid being evicted; or will their own good intentions be their undoing?

REVIEW: This was a humorous, well developed story full or plot twists and turns. Boys in general would probably find it more entertaining. The first person account seems right on with how a 16 year old would approach the situations presented in the book. The boys learn how to appreciate and tolerate each other despite their differences. Joe’s inattention to leaving good directions for the boys reinforces the importance of communication. It’s a cute, light, heart-warming read. Good values are reinforced, and Jason is a likable, good intentioned main character.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: dialogue, causes and effects of decisions, flow map of events, setting, point of view, conflict, plot

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Rootbeer performs stunts for money (i.e. betting someone they can not hit him in the stomach with a two by four), Jason goes to jail (mistakenly) for theft,

RELATED BOOKS: Swindle, No More Dead Dogs, Schooled, Kidnapped, The Climb

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://gordonkorman.com/toposite.htm

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

http://www.saidsimple.com/content/How-to-Write-a-Review (good site to use to teach students how to review a book)

http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2076/Korman-Gordon-1963.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

March 8, 2008

When Dad Killed Mom

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When Dad Killed Mom

Author: Julious Lester

Page Length: 199

Reading Level:

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: The title says it all.  Jeremy and Jenna’s mom was shot by their dad. Mom is dead, dad is in jail and two kids are left to try and make some sort of life for themselves in the aftermath. This is a disturbing book as you would imagine. It is well written, but I didn’t enjoy it, much as I didn’t enjoy watching Schindler’s List. That is not to say there is not value and it wasn’t compelling, there is and it was, it is just not the kind of book you read for fun.

 

The newspaper headline reads “College Shrink Kills Wife.” The story is told from both Jeremy and Jenna’s point of view. They take turns narrating. The mom, who has already been killed when the book starts, tells her story through a diary the son finds. This is obviously a family in trouble but the actions of the father come as a shock to the children. Throughout the book several deep dark family secrets are revealed that shake-up the characters and the reader. We find out that Jenna and her dad don’t have an entirely wholesome father daughter relationship just for an example.

 

I had to read this book in short segments and follow-up with something lighter. I would have a hard time recommending it to just anyone although, given the title, I think the reader is fairly well prepared for some of the content and tone.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.eduplace.com/kids/tnc/mtail/lester.html

 

http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/lester.htm

 

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

 

February 6, 2008

Sounder

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Sounder

Author: William H. Armstrong

Page Length: 116

Reading Level: 6th

Genre: Realistic / Historical Fiction

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: This book is about an African-American family of unnamed characters. They live in poverty in a cabin on the far edge of a southern town during the 19th century. I loved the description of the under-belly of the cabin on page 42 when it stated, “it smelled stale and dead, like old carcasses and snakes”.  Present in the family are a father, mother, and several male and female siblings. The main character is referred to as “boy”. Another prominent character is a dog name Sounder. Sounder is coon dog that travels with the boy’s father as they attempt to hunt for food. Often times the father will return to the cabin empty-handed.

 

Quite rapidly the story changes from a simple tale about a poor family living in the south with their dog, to an account of a father who is caught stealing a ham for the family. As the father is being hauled away for this crime, Sounder gets caught in the commotion. Sounder is wounded and trails off into solitude leaving droppings of blood and a piece of his ear. This book lends itself well to a lesson on imagery.

 

The family is devastated that their father is being taken to jail only for the crime of trying to provide his family with a descent meal. We later find out that his punishment for stealing is years of working in labor camps. In addition to the loss of the father, Sounder’s absence is greatly felt by the boy. Day after day, the boy searches for Sounder in hopes that he will be re-united with the beloved dog. The boy spends the rest of his time attending to jobs in the field, searching for his father in labor camps, and dreaming of being able to read. Various references are made to the boy attempting to read town signs and store signs and newspapers out of the trash can. I really enjoyed the examples cited in this story about the excitement of a boy yearning to read.

 

Later on in the novel, Sounder returns. It is apparent though that he was badly wounded. He has one eye, the side of his face is badly altered, and he limps. Sounder’s spirit that was one present at the beginning of the book is now much more subdued.

 

Towards the end of the book, the boy meets a teacher who offers to help him with his studies. The boy begins to attend school while still helping out his family with work.

 

The story wraps up quickly with the return and death of the father, Sounder’s death, and the boy’s reflection on his continuing studies and life.

 

MOVIE CONNECTION: There is a movie of the same name (1972, 2003)

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00000886.shtml

 

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

 

http://www.easyfunschool.com/article1936.html

 

http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/armstrong.htm

 

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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