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


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor


December 19, 2010

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”


“Romeo and Juliette” (1968 and 1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:                    

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

June 5, 2010

Romiette and Julio

Romiette and Julio

Author: Sharon M. Draper

Page Length: 320

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Romantic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Romiette and Julio begins with a strange recurring dream about drowning and a male voice that Romiette Cappelle is having. She is terrified of water and cannot swim.  Julio Montague, 17 years old, is forced to move from Corpus Christi, Texas to Cincinnati, Ohio. He hates Ohio. Everything is gray and there is no where to swim. Julio is an excellent swimmer and loves to swim. The only companionship he has is with a girl he has met in the chat room. Come to find out this girl, Romiette, whom he shares a great deal in common, goes to the same Ohio school. On the first day of school Julio meets Ben during a fight. Ben is a quirky, lighthearted character who changes his hair color everyday. Romiette’s best friend is Destiny who is also quirky and thinks she is psychic. As Romi and Julio’s online friendship develops, they decide to meet in person. Julio and Romi immediately feel a strong attraction to one another. Julio brings with him a bottle of hot sauce and a rose to their first meeting. As they start hanging out together more often, the school gang, the Devildogs or “The Family” begin to threaten Romi and Julio just because Romi is African American and Julio is Hispanic. Also, Romi’s parents do not approve of Julio because he is Hispanic and Julio’s parents do not approve of Romi because she is African American. The gang intensifies their threats which force Romi, Julio, Destiny, and Ben to devise a plan to obtain proof that the gang exists and is threatening them. However, the plan goes horribly wrong. The gang has a plan of their own. They capture Romi and Julio leaving them helpless, tied up, and unconscious in a boat floating in London Woods Lake during a severe thunderstorm. What happens to Romi and Julio? Whose voice was in the dream? What happens to Destiny and Ben? Does the police and search party rescue them in time or is their fate sealed as in Romeo and Juliet?        

REVIEW:  Romiette and Julio is a present day Romeo and Juliet without the tragic ending. Reader’s still experience the themes of friendship, romance, suspense, love, prejudice, racism, and familial pressures exemplified within Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. However, in Romiette and Julio, Sharon Draper allows the reader to identify with the themes in a modern day setting even allowing Romiette and Julio to meet in a chat room. A strong affection develops which leads to gang threats due only to the fact that Romiette is African American and Julio is Hispanic; thus, suspense ensues. Romiette and Julio is a definite supplement for the classic, Romeo and Juliet.  Readers can identify with many themes throughout the book whether it is racism, peer pressure, romance, or soul mates.   

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, allusion, protagonist, antagonist, comic relief

RELATED BOOKS:  Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet in Beverly Hills (Readers Theater), The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The First Part Last by Angela Johnson,  Who Am I Without Him? By Sharon Flake, Books by same author: Tears of a Tiger, Forged be Fire, The Battle of Jericho, Copper Sun, November Blues, Darkness Before Dawn, Double Dutch, Fire by the Rock

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:  Westside Story (1950), Romeo and Juliet (1996), Romeo and Juliet (1968), Gone With the Wind (1939), The Notebook (2004), The Outsiders (1983)

MUSIC CONNECTION: Love Story by Taylor Swift

RELATED WEBSITES:  (secure chat room suggested by the technology department)

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

September 28, 2009

How I Live Now

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How I Live Now

Author: Meg Rosoff

Page Length: 194

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Daisy leaves behind her father and his new wife in New York in search of a sense of family. Daisy’s English cousins take her in with open arms and so a life of love, family, and adventure begins. Her Aunt leaves on a trip leaving the children all alone, and then their lives are irrevocably changed. War has erupted. There are no communications and that’s just the beginning. The children must survive occupation, no food, no medical help, and even separation. The world as Daisy knew it no longer exists. Can she persevere despite the hardships? Is there life after war?

REVIEW: The ideas presented in this book were fascinating. The reader catches a glimpse of the harsh realities of war and the backward trend society is forced to take because of it. With no electricity, supplies, or communication, and not enough weapons, the children must become resourceful and inventive. The characters are realistic and the story line is believable. Who ever stops to consider what we’d do if all our modern conveniences were suddenly non-existent? How would surviving anything so horrific alter the course of your life – if you survived at all? Rosoff tells a beautiful story etched with pain and suffering but enveloped in love and courage. This is a great thinking story and therefore a wonderful discussion piece.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, imagery, realism, first person narration

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: violence – p. 108 enemy attack, p. 105 “brains splattered everywhere,” p. 141 “birds were pecking at the dead face in front of me”

RELATED BOOKS: Dies the Fire by Sterling, 1632 by Flint, Islands In the Sea of Time by Sterling, War of the Worlds, Life of Pi, Hatchet by Paulsen

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964), War of the Worlds


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 30, 2009

Romiette and Julio

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Romiette and Julio 

Author: Sharon Draper

Page Length: 274

Reading Level: 5

Genre:  Romance fiction

PLOT SUMMARY:  The two main characters, Romiette and Julio are alike in spirit and feelings, but they are culturally different.   Romiette “Romi” Cappelle is sixteen years old, and is an African American teenager who lives in Cincinatti, Ohio.   As the book begins Romi has a nightmare of drowning which remains in her dreams throughout most of the book.   She searches for an understanding of her fear of water, but comes up with nothing.   Sixteen year old Julio Montague is a Mexican teenager who has just moved to Cincinnati.  He hates the cold weather in Ohio and wants to move back home to his grandfather’s ranch.  However, Julio knows it’s impossible since his parents moved from Texas, because of the heavy gang pressure in its schools. When Julio meets Romi online in a teen chat room and they discover that they attend the same high school, they make an instant connection.  Romi can’t believe that Julio is so good looking, charming and sensitive, and Julio has never known another girl like Romi, who is so beautiful, smart and caring. Although neither Romi nor Julio sees their different races as a problem, other people begin to object to their budding romance.   Julio’s father tells him straight out that he will never approve of his son dating a black girl. And then there are the “Devildogs”, an African American gang at school who wear all purple and make it glaringly obvious to Romi and Julio that they don’t like the races mixing.  When Romi and Julio stand up to the gang members and turn the tables on them, the gang members threaten to get even.  The danger escalates when the gang begins stalking the couple and making overt threats with guns.

Julio and Romi are terrified by the threats of violence. When Romi, Julio and their best friends Ben and Destiny forge a plan to break away from the gang’s grip, Romi and Julio find themselves caught up in a deadly situation.   The parents finally become close enough to mend their ill feelings of prejudice and work right along with the police to help their children.   Although the danger is pending throughout the plot’s climax the book’s resolution is breathtakingly awesome.  

REVIEW: It was a great book, and I would recommend it to anyone, young or old.


5.9 draw upon experience to for word meanings

5.10 know main idea and details

5.11 connect and compare the various ideas

5.12 analyze characters

RELATED BOOKS:  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.   Other books by Sharon Draper: Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire, Darkness before Dawn

MOVIE & MUSIC CONNECTIONS:  Romeo and Juliet vs. West Side Story


 REVIEWED BY: Linda Schwegler

Private Peaceful

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Private Peaceful

Author: Michael Morpurgo

Page Length: 202

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Charlie and Thomas Peaceful are brothers growing up in a rural setting living in the house the Colonel so graciously provided for the family in exchange for their father’s work. A tragic accident occurs for which Charlie feels responsible and the circumstances of the family change. Yet, Charlie and Thomas still enjoy an adventurous childhood. War has begun and Thomas is made to enlist. Charlie won’t be left behind and the two brothers embark upon the horrific and devastating journey across the seas as they serve their country in World War I. Can they make it back home alive? Will they ever see their brother, mother, or their precious Molly again?

REVIEW: Morpurgo delivers another excellent war story with such depth of characters, motives, and emotions that teachers have a wide range of discussion points and readers have many opportunities for connecting to the text. This book would make a great classroom novel. The novel isn’t just about the war. It details the childhood of the two young brothers including their protection of their mentally challenged brother, their love of the same girl, and their escapades to keep the family fed and survive their “loveless” grandmother. It’s a beautifully told story of sacrifice and tragedy.  

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

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: young woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock, thieving to feed the family, war deaths

RELATED BOOKS: Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea, Dolphin Boy, Why the Whales Came, Kensuke’s Kingdom, My Friend Walter


Private Peaceful – theater production


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Postcards from No Man’s Land

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Postcards from No Man’s Land

Author: Aidean Chambers

Page Length: 312

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jacob’s grandmother is ill, and Jacob must take a trip to Amsterdam in her place. The purpose of Jacob’s journey to Amsterdam is to see his grandfather’s (a World War II veteran) burial site. Jacob meets the elderly ailing woman who nursed his grandfather during the war and learns much more than he was expecting about his family’s past. Along the journey, Jacob discovers new friends and new feelings he never knew he had. Geertrui shares with Jacob the secrets of his grandfather’s past as she weaves the tales of their adventures during World War II. 

REVIEW: Chambers wrote a masterful story that was outside the realm of the “normal” historical fiction novel. The author does a wonderful job of blending past and present events as the chapters shift from Geertrui in the past to Jacob in the present. In the end, it is revealed that Geertrui has recorded the story for Jacob in her journal – her last act before her assisted suicide is scheduled to take place. Be warned that the book addresses Jacob’s developing awareness of his sexuality and his attraction to both men and women. Bisexuality becomes a topic among more than one of the characters. The story of the war and Geertrui’s love for Jacob’s grandfather is wonderfully told. The reader gets a realistic sense of the urgency and danger present during the war.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, historical connections, character traits, methods of writing, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: topic of bisexuality, pages 199-200 sex between Geertrui and a married soldier

RELATED BOOKS: Breaktime, Dance on My Grave, Now I Know, The Tollbridge, The Diary of Anne Frank, Four Perfect Pebbles

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Diary of Anne Frank

ART CONNECTIONS: Amsterdam – Dutch Resistance Museum online

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Hit Songs from World War 2


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Heavy Metal and You

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Heavy Metal and You

Author: Christopher Krovatin

Page Length: 186

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sam loves two things – heavy metal and Melissa. He only feels complete when he’s got his music and the one girl in the world who makes him feel like he’s never felt before.

There’s only one problem, Melissa doesn’t really fit into his heavy metal world. She hates his friends and isn’t in love with his music. Sam can’t stand her friends either. Is there love strong enough to overcome the obstacles in their way? Can you truly love someone without loving their friends and their interests?

REVIEW: Unless you are a heavy metal fan – as in know the lyrics, music style, and band names of many of the top heavy metal bands –then you may find this book boring. I really couldn’t relate – but I think that a true metal head would love this story. I did not enjoy reading it because the main character’s obsession with heavy metal, what songs he liked, how he likes his music, etc. dominated the book. Once you get past the heavy metal excess, the drugs, the alcohol, and the overuse of the F word, there is a slight bit of substance to the book.

The author tackles the age old issue of love and friendship and what happens when the two clash. There are some interesting issues to ponder about relationships, acceptance, and what love (versus attraction) really means. Heavy metal lovers read on – everyone else… maybe when you’re really really bored.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: lessons about true to yourself, cause and effect, author’s purpose, dialogue, elements of plot

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: many of them — f- – k must appear over 50 times, use of marijuana, use of alcohol (and the message that it’s ok), smoking, pg. 125 “her shirt went over her head,” pg. 95 “cocaine addicts dream”

RELATED BOOKS: Candy, Kissing the Rain, I Will Survive, Cut, Talking in the Dark

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: any appropriate heavy metal music


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


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Eclipse (Book 3 in the Twilight series)

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Page Length: 629

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: With Edward back in full force in Bella’s life, her desire to become a vampire after high school graduation strengthens. However, the vampire Victoria is back with an army of newborn vampires which wreak havoc on the nearby Seattle area. Victoria, who still harbors intense revenge against Bella, sets her site on the town of Forks! Victoria plans to set these newborn vampires onto Bella!

Meanwhile, Bella becomes engaged to Edward and spends some of her free-time with Jake. During this time, Jake’s feelings for Bella intensify. Later in the woods, Bella and Jake kiss, however Bella quickly explains to Jake that even though she loves him, her love for Edward is much greater. She also reiterates the fact that she still desires to be a vampire.

Both the vampires and the werewolves of Forks become aware of the approaching newborn vampires and form an alliance for the primary purpose of protecting Bella. Due to a set of circumstances, both Edward and Jake become part of the fight. The intensity at which they battle against the newborn vampires is symbolic of the intensity of love that both Edward and Jake share for Bella. Thankfully, Victoria and the newborn vampires are destroyed.

Eclipse ends with Jake receiving a wedding invitation to Bella and Edward’s nuptials.

REVIEW: I did not enjoy this book in the Twilight series as much as I did the previous two. I felt much of the beginning was very slow. However, I liked how the vampires and werewolves combined forces for the purpose of Bella’s protection.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, cause and effect, setting, comparison / contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Twilight, New Moon, Breaking Dawn

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Twilight” (2008), “New Moon” (2009)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love

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The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love

Author: Rosie Rushton

Page Length: 325

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Ellie, Abby, and Georgie have always lived a comfortable life. They have plenty of money, attend a well known school, and live in a large home passed down by their ancestors. Most of the time the girls are worrying about going out, dating, and what exciting adventure they’ll choose to participate in next – until tragedy hits a little too close to home! It’s when everything changes and the girls are on the brink of losing everything that they learn what really matters to themselves and each other.

REVIEW: This book was ok. It is interesting from the stand point of being told through the interests of three very different sisters: the tomboy, the socialite, and the practical one. Most girls will be able to identify with predicaments and feelings that at least one of the girls share. A real life look at what matters most is brought about in the story line when their father is taken from them. The girls must learn to come together and find their strengths outside of their former fortune. Students might also identify with the father leaving the family to take up with a younger woman who seems to have “taken over” their dad. One of the girls falls for a young man who appears to be taken and keeps promising to break it off with the other girl (another issue many girls will be able to relate to).

Overall, it’s not a bad book. I did find the first half of the book confusing because I kept trying to backtrack and remember which girl was which. The book cover cites the book as “an engaging homage to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.”

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character traits, elements of plot, comparing and contrasting the characters, comparing text to self, point of view, effective use of dialogue in writing

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: lying to sneak out to a club, vicious controlling games the girlfriend plays to keep her man

RELATED BOOKS: Summer of Secrets, Secret Schemes, Daring Dreams, What a Week to Risk it All, The Secrets of Love, Looking for Billie

RELATED WEBSITES:                    

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


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

August 8, 2009

A Northern Light

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A Northern Light

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Page Length: 386

Reading Level:  7

Genre:  Mystery, Romance, Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The intelligent 16 year old girl, Mattie Gokey, secretly chooses a “word of the day” from a hidden dictionary. She is a bright student and aspires to finish high school, to go to college in New York, and to become a writer. However, in 1906 women were not expected to do such things. They were expected to marry, have babies, and take care of the house/farm. She uses her “word of the day” to escape the hardships she endures on a daily basis. Her father, despite the request of her teacher, refuses to let her entertain the thought of going to college. Due to the recent death of her mother, she must bare the burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his farm. Mattie, a self-proclaimed plain-girl, finds herself attracted to handsome Royal Loomis. To Mattie’s surprise, Royal is also attracted to her but he has no interest in reading books. He only has an interest in farming. Although she enjoys his company, they are polar opposites when it comes to obtaining fulfillment within a romantic relationship. The plot thickens when a guest at the Glenmore Hotel where Mattie works, Grace Brown, drowns. Earlier in the day, Grace had given Mattie a bundle of letters to burn. Mattie forgot about the letters and was too busy to burn them. Her curiosity got the better of her and she began to read them; ultimately inferring from the letters and piecing together the identity of Grace’s male guest that Grace may have been murdered. Does Mattie get to go to college or is she forced to marry Royal? Was Grace Brown really murdered? If so, who murdered her? Who was really her teacher? Does Mattie become a writer herself or is she trapped working on her father’s farm?  Does she keep her promise to her dead mother?

REVIEW: This book is a truly coming-of-age novel intertwined with romance, mystery, and history. The author through her words is able to evoke the emotions felt by Mattie as she grapples with life’s difficult choices. At a time in Mattie’s life when all she wants to do is read any book she can find and save money for college, she feels she must choose what is best for her family. Mattie is also haunted by the promise she made to her dying mother: that Mattie never leave her father and younger siblings. By reading Grace’s letters, Mattie finds her voice and a determination to live her own life. The many subplots throughout the story provide the reader with constant curiosity as to what is going to happen next. The reader finds oneself constantly asking the question, “What would I do, if I was in this situation?” Therefore, this thought provoking book leaves the reader with an unintentional examination of self.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  setting, characterization, plot, theme, compare/contrast, cause/effect, point of view, inference, writer’s motive, voice, mood, and tone, word choice, audience and purpose

RELATED BOOKS:   An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser,  East by Edith Pattou, Just in Case by Meg Rosoff,  The Tailor’s Daughter: A Novel by Janice Graham,  A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Boyle Trilogy) by Libba Bray, Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor.  Books by the same author: A Gathering Light, The Tea Rose, Humble Pie, The Winter Rose

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: A Place in the Sun (1991), An American Tragedy (2007), October Sky (1999), Friday Night Lights (2004)


REVIEWED BY:  Tammy Leitzel

June 7, 2009

New Moon

New Moon (Book 2 in the Twilight Series)

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Page Length: 563

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Bella Swan continues her romance with her vampire soul mate, Edward Cullen. Things are going well for the couple despite Edward’s suppressed feelings to attack and consume Bella. The story begins with a birthday celebration for Bella at the Cullen residence. When Bella falls prey to another clumsy accident, she cuts herself on glass which reveals her blood for the vampire family to salivate over. Jasper Cullen, who has difficult suppressing his appetite for human blood, lunges at Bella. Luckily he is held back by his family members and escorted away from Bella. This incident is the last straw for Edward who has tried his best to create a safe and controlled atmosphere for himself and his girlfriend.

After some odd behavior, Edward tells Bella that he is moving away, leaving her alone. Edward immediately exits the town of Forks and Bella’s life. Before leaving, Edward makes Bella promise not to do anything that would put herself in danger. Knowing the kind of person Bella is, this promise is sure to be one that will be broken.

Over the course of the next several months, Bella wanders around in a pseudo catatonic state. She is depressed and does not know how to live her life without her one true love. Luckily, a motorcycle and an old friend resurrect Bella from her dejected condition. Jacob Black, an old childhood friend from the local Native American reservation, helps Bella in her quest to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Little does Jacob know that the reason Bella desires to ride is to engage in dangerous activity which Edward asked that she not do. Bella has realized that while engaging in high risk activities, she is able to “hear” the voice of her vampire lover. This “voice” becomes an addiction to Bella, thus her quest for thrill-seeking adventures continues for much of the novel.

On the bright side, Bella grows closer to her friend, Jacob. She becomes happier, more productive, and almost “back to normal”. Jacob has strong feelings for his friend in return but is not forward enough to initiate much action initially. Just when Bella feels that she and Jacob are reaching a point where their relationship could move in a whole new direction (in a positive manner), Jacob disappears for several weeks. Bella attempts to make contact over time only to be ignored and shut out. Bella suspects that Jacob may be involved in some gang activity on his reservation but she is not quite sure. She later finds out that it is something much more secretive and unusual. Jacob is a member of a group – a pack of werewolves!!!

Jacob is fearful to reveal all that he is to Bella, however Bella expresses to Jacob that she is not turned off by the fact that Jacob is a werewolf. She even goes so far as to divulge many of the secrets that she and Edward shared. Of course Jacob was sure that Edward was a vampire, but to hear it from Bella’s mouth only reinforced his thoughts. Bella goes on to say that an evil vampire, Victoria, is after her. Jacob states that his pack of werewolves is on the hunt for this vampire and that Bella need not worry.

When Bella goes on a cliff diving venture she suffers a minor concussion in the water. Jacob saves her, but her action creates trouble for many. Alice Cullen has a vision of Bella cliff diving (appearing to commit suicide) and relays this to her family except for Edward. Rosalie Cullen, however, takes this information and shares it with Edward. Edward in turn sets out on a quest to visit the Volturi, an ancient vampire family in Italy, to stir up trouble in hopes of death. Edward would rather die than live on this Earth without his true love.

Alice and Bella track down Edward and save him, however Bella is revealed to the Volturi to be a special and intriguing human. The Volturi release Bella, Alice, and Edward on the condition that Bella will be turned into a vampire at some point. The Volturi further stated that they would check up on the Cullen family to view the new state of Bella.

When the Cullens and Bella arrive back to Forks, they have a discussion about turning Bella into a vampire. Carlisle Cullen agrees to turn Bella into one of them upon graduation from high school. Later it is revealed that Jacob Black is aware of this plan and is not happy. He tells Edward that if the Cullens turn Bella into a vampire, the treaty that the werewolves and the vampires have held in the town of Forks will be broken.

At the conclusion of book 2, Bella is in quite a predicament: if she is not turned into a vampire soon, the Volturi will kill her. If she does become a vampire, the vampire / werewolf treaty will have been broken, and the werewolves (including Jacob) would kill Bella and the Cullen family.

REVIEW: Book 2 in the Twilight series is much more action packed yet still retains much of the emotion from book 1. The comparisons and contrasts between Jacob and Edward is striking. Both Jacob and Edward love Bella. Both Jacob and Edward are non-human creatures of violence. Jacob and Edward are true enemies connected by their affection for a human. New Moon is a roller coaster of emotions. Many references to the Shakespeare characters of Romeo, Juliet, Rosaline, and Paris are mentioned. Bella compares herself to Juliet, Edward to Romeo, and Jacob to Paris. I enjoyed how Bella is caught in the middle not only emotionally but sometimes physically between Edward and Jacob. The twist at the end involving the vampire / werewolf treaty was a nice touch in connection to Bella’s continued desire to become a vampire. Just when Bella feels she is close to becoming more like Edward, she realizes that the very thing that she wants the most, might lead to her ultimate death at the hands of another that she loves.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, cause and effect, setting, comparison / contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Twilight, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “New Moon” (movie set to release in late 2009)

RELATED WEBSITES: (official website of the author)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 17, 2009

Jake Reinvented

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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”


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

December 7, 2008


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Author: Virginia Hamilton

Page Length: 193

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Realistic FIction

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: Cammy is jealous of her cousin Patty Ann who always appears perfect. However, Cammy knows the truth behind Patty Ann’s proper exterior – Patty Ann is bulimic.

Cammy loves her mother and brother. She is especially fond of her grandmother, Gram Tut. However, Cammy can’t seem to grow close to two of her family members: Patty Ann and her mother, Cammy’ aunt. One day on a wilderness outing, one of Cammy’s friends falls in the water. Patty Ann rescues the girl, however drowns herself while doing so. Cammy witnesses this act and subsequently feels guilt over Patty Ann’s “death”. It is through the strength of Cammy’s grandmother, that Cammy resolves her tormented feelings and is able to let Patty Ann and herself rest at peace.

Cousins is a tale of family and the secrets and “false fronts” they display. It is also one of tragedy and how family support can bridge the gap between happiness and sorrow. I thought this story was rather simplistic. I am not a huge fan of the author, and I did not find this story effective or enjoyable. However, for those struggling with the issue of family and death, it may prove an worthwhile read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: hidden details, symbolism, issue of guilt, death, and family

RELATED BOOKS & BOOK WEBSITES: Second Cousins by Virginia Hamilton

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Stand by Me” (1986), “My Girl” (1991)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

December 1, 2008


Twilight (Book 1 in the Twilight Series)

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Page Length: 498

Reading Level: 5.6

Genre: Fiction, Suspense, Romance

PLOT SUMMARY: After Bella Swan moves away from her mother in Phoenix to live with her father in the gloomy city of Forks, she befriends a mysterious teenage boy named Edward Cullen. However, “befriends” is not exactly the most appropriate way to describe the evolution of Bella and Edward’s relationship. The two teenagers fall madly in love with each other! Bella is most attracted to how beautiful, odd, and different Edward is to all the other boys in Forks. Edward is attracted to the way Bella “smells” and her very “human” qualities.

Edward is different in that he is a vampire. Bella is different in that she is attracted to one. Many of the citizens of Forks view Edward and his family as different, however very few speak the word “vampire”. Edward explains to Bella that he and his “family” are vampires; the kind that abstain from feeding on human flesh. Edward goes on to say that he is greatly attracted to Bella in the primal sense and gives everything not to devour her in the literal sense. Oddly this does not seem to affect Bella who understands that even though Edward has a major craving to kill her, he also has an undying desire to love her. Edward is different in that he is battling two very opposing emotions.

Edward is a nearly 100 year old vampire in a teenage body that has discovered his first true love. Bella is a true teenager and has also discovered her first true love.

When outsider vampires arrive to Forks, they sniff out Bella as well as Edward’s attraction towards her. These new vampires begin their “hunt” for Bella. Edward’s family (good vampires) do all they can to protect Bella and evade these evil vampires. In the end, the evil vampires lose and Bella is saved. However, Bella has been bitten!!! Edward makes the decision to suck the venom out of Bella, thus saving her from becoming a vampire.

The novel ends with Edward taking Bella to their high school prom. At this event, Bella expresses her desire to become a vampire. Even though she knows why Edward sucked the blood from her, she wishes he hadn’t. Bella desires to become a vampire so she and Edward can live together for eternity in love. Edward does all he can to keep himself from giving in to her request. He kisses her ever so slightly on the neck as the first novel in the Twilight series closes.

REVIEW: I absolutely loved this book. I am not much for romance novels but setting a romance story within the backdrop of a gloomy town with vampires in it was brilliant. The nearly 500 pages went by quickly as I was consumed. Now, the first few chapters start out a little rough with over-usage of “big words” but this decreases as the story progresses. It did appear that Edward and Bella became attracted to each other rather quickly, but I believe the author was trying to portray an accurate depiction of true love. Much of the novel contains dialogue between Bella and Edward – Edward stating that he loves Bella deeply, but knows he could very easily kill her & Bella stating that she doesn’t care because she wants to be with him forever. This type of conservation occurs frequently – though a little repetitive (however I believe this is authentic dialogue when one considers that the characters are two teenagers in love).

The novel has created much buzz in the young adult literary world and has spawned the 2008 movie by the same name which, in it’s first weekend, made over $70 million. On the radio, web, and conversations with teachers, I have heard such things as, “my male students want to be Edward Cullen”, “I know someone who broke up with her boyfriend because of the book”, and “I have read this book 3 times in one week”. All three statements are pretty extreme, yet very real.

Books can have an amazing impact on readers, and Twilight is one (in a series) that I believe falls into such a category.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: good vs. evil, foreshadowing, characterization, & setting. Before you read: make sure you read the Genesis quote at the beginning as well as the Preface. After reading, go back and read both again. Both of these sections can create some good discussion topics.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Nothing of major concern is contained in this novel. Some may find that the topics of teenage love and vampires unfavorable, however there are no sexual acts contained in the book. Even though this book is more a romance novel than one about vampires, only mild kissing is present.

RELATED BOOKS: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, The Twilight Companion: The Unauthorized Guide to the Series by Lois Gresh, Twilight Saga: The Official Guide by Stephenie Meyer, other books in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer: New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, & Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

MOVIE CONNETIONS: “Twilight” (2008)


RELATED WEBSITES: (awesome lesson plans, rubrics, and activities for the classroom related to the novel) (Twilight Quiz – which character are you?) (official website of the author) (official movie website)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

November 3, 2008

The Wedding Planner’s Daughter

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The Wedding Planner’s Daughter

Author: Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Page Length: 192

Reading Level:

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Willa Havisham has only one wish – she longs for a father. Willa’s mother is beautiful and educated, but there is a problem. Her heart seems closed forever to anything that has to do with love. Willa loves living in Bramble. She finally has a best friend, enjoys spending time with her Nana, and has a wonderful English teacher who would be perfect for her mother. Willa plans a picnic for her mother and Sam and all seems well, until everything goes wrong.  Willa’s secret thirteenth ingredient to each wedding just may be her undoing. Stella does what she always does when she feels in need of protection – she flees. Willa is forced to leave the only home she has every really known. Can she change her mother’s mind before it is too late? Will Willa ever have a father she can call her own?

REVIEW: I absolutely loved this book! I highly recommend it!! Some might consider it a definite magnet for girls. On the other hand, fathers would benefit from the insight into the heart of a young girl that this book offers. The characters are wonderfully crafted. The reader can feel the pain of Willa’s mother and yearn with Willa for her happy ending. Willa’s insight is beautiful – “I can take the look on the father’s face when the music starts and he smiles and whispers ‘Are you ready?’ and his daughter looks up at him and nods like she’s trying not to cry.” The book offers a beautiful lesson about love and trust and how important is in life to never let fear win out.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, mood, tone, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits

RELATED BOOKS:  The Cupid Chronicles, Willa by Heart, Forget Me Not

RELATED MOVIES: “The Wedding Planner,” “The Parent Trap”


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

September 21, 2008

One More Step

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One More Step

Author: Sheree Fitch

Page Length: 85

Reading Level: 2.5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: 14 year old Julian lives with his older brother Chris and his divorced mother. Julian’s father separated from his mother when he was only 1 year old. As a result, Julian’s relationship with his father is not a close one. Their contact is limited to weekend and holiday visits. On a recent Christmas visit to their father’s home, Julian and Chris spend time with their father’s new wife, children, and their grandfather – Poppie. When Chris and father are sent outside to fix some broken Christmas lights, Chris’ leg is broken breaking the fall of his father. Julian becomes upset at the scene and decides to leave his father and join his mother and her new boyfriend, Jean-Paul, for a visit to Quebec. Jean-Paul intends for Julian’s mother to meet his huge family!

On this trip, Julian discovers that this “new man” in her mother’s life is a supportive and loving one. Jean-Paul and Julian bond and move several steps towards becoming a “family”. The past 14 years of Julian’s life have resulted in his mother dating 3 men – all with their flaws. His mother’s new French boyfriend, Jean-Paul, proves to be promising, despite Julian’s constant cocky and sarcastic attitude.

Towards the end of the Quebec trip, Julian’s mother gets a call that her father, Poppie, has passed away. This is a blow to Julian, who was very close to his grandfather. The story comes to a close with Julian’s mother marrying Jean-Paul, Chris going off to school, and Julian realizing that Jean-Paul is not going to be his replacement father but rather a supportive male presence.   

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book. I thought the internal and external dialogue of Julian was awesome. It kept me engaged. For a book written at a 2nd to 3rd grade level, I was entertained. The topic of divorce, separation, and new family figures is a touchy one, and I felt the author did an excellent job portraying the emotions, change, and acceptance that comes with this frequent situation in society. The book overall had a positive tone yet the youthful sarcastic elements remained. This certified it as authentic. Even though there were numerous curse words, this gave the dialogue true and real meaning.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: voice, internal & external dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: curse words (pages 47 & 54), references to underage drinking (page 65 & 79-82), references to items such as condoms and hickeys

RELATED BOOKS: Dear Mr. Henshaw, It’s Not the End of the World

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), “Boys N the Hood” (1991)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 6, 2008

True Believer

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True Believer

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff

Page Length: 264

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: LaVaughn is 15. Despite the fact that she lives in poor neighborhood filled with violence, LaVaughn longs to go to college. LaVaughn begins to dream about life after high school. She sees how her friend, Jolly, suffers to make ends meet, take care of her two young fatherless children, and try to earn her credits to graduate. LaVaughn knows that she must find a way to a better life. Her friends have turned to a new interests, and Jody, a boy that used to be a close friend, has moved back to town. LaVaughn’s heart races every time she’s never him or even smells his wonderful chlorine scent left behind in the elevator. Life doesn’t always turn out the way LaVaughn expects. Can she keep her friends and find true love before her sixteenth birthday arrives?

REVIEW: Although this book lists as a reading level of 7, it has the potential to appeal to a lower reading level because of the short , easy to navigate and understand chapters. The only qualifier for a level 7 to me it seems are the large science vocabulary words LaVaughn shares with the reader as she learns them. The book has an excellent message about education and expectations and the discord that can arise between friends and family members who aren’t comfortable with the new developments sometimes perceived as “snootiness” in the person who is changing for the better. The book details friends who were lost to violence and a school shooting. LaVaughn walks in on two males kissing; the readers experience her shock and reaction.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, character sketch, technical vocabulary, conclusions and predictions, setting, theme, characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: violence, homosexuality, death of a parent, death of a classmate

RELATED BOOKS: Probably Still Nick Swanson, The Mozart Season, Make Lemonade


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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