The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

Maximum Ride The Angel Experiment

Maximum Ride The Angel Experiment

Author: James Patterson

Page Length: 440

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

PLOT SUMMARY: Maximum Ride got to name herself because she is a fourteen-year-old girl who is the result of genetic experimentation conducted in a lab.  She has wings as a result of avian genes injected into human embryos. She is 98% human and 2 % bird.

Maximum lives with five other kids who have her same genetic make-up.  They are called “bird children” and call themselves, “the flock”.  Fang is a boy, four months younger than Max.  The other members are: Iggy, another boy blinded by an experiment at the lab, Nudge, a girl who talks in excess, Gasman, an eight-year-old boy with stomach problems, and Angel, his six year old sister.

The group was raised at the lab in cages and subjected to many experiments.  Then, Jeb Batchelder, one of the lab scientists, took them to his home in the mountains and educated and nurtured them as a father would his own children.  When he suddenly disappeared, two years ago, Max, being the oldest, was put in charge of “the flock”. 

One day, Erasers (other experimental beings who can become wolf-like creatures) appear at the mountain home and kidnap Angel. Led by Max, “the flock” begins the journey to find Angel, discover their real parents’ identity, and get revenge on an unlikely traitor.

REVIEW: Full of adventure, mystery, and suspense this would be a good book to use as a class novel.  The characters, along with the action, provide good descriptive reading.  I believe young adults would identify with the loyalty the children exhibit for each other and enjoy the fantasy of what genetic experimentation may provide in the future.

This is an excellent book for boys, girls and adults to read.


AREAS OF TEACHING: Figurative Language, Simile and Metaphors, Compare/Contrast, Theme, Character, Sequence of Events, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Maximum Ride: School’s Out Forever, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports


MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Maximum Ride (set to release in 2013)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

September 21, 2008



Author: Jeanette Ingold 

Page Length: 267

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: The setting originates in Texas where Moss is a mechanic trying to save money to attend a technical school.  However, after being fired, Moss leaves town to locate his father without saying any goodbyes, particularly to his girlfriend, Beatty. Moss finds his father, a drunk, and decides to join the Civilian Conservation Corps as a way to support his family.  His assignment is in Montana where the remainder of the story takes place.

Although the CCC is not a military branch of the government, it is run like one.  Moss discovers he has a talent for reading blueprints and is soon assigned the title of “junior leader.”  First, the men must build the camp.  They work well together under the direction of Major Garrett.  However, when Major Garrett is reassigned, Moss and his buddies, Nate, Sam, Apple, and Romeo learn that the new Major is out to make himself look good.  In addition, the other junior leader, Compton, is out to make Moss look bad.

The men take on the challenge of helping the farmers save their crops, but the weather, egotistical men, and faulty supplies hinder their progress.

REVIEW: This book was educational to me, as I had never heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was started by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression.  The book is informative of what the CCC actually did, and has a great story line developing the characters and conflicts that occur between them.  I think boys would enjoy this book more than girls, but there is a little bit of romance which would appeal to the female gender also.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Historical Context, Conflict, Character and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Tree Army: A Pictorial History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Forgotten Men: The Civilian Conservation Corps, Youth in the CCC, The Soil Soldiers: The Civilian Conservation Corps in the Great Depression, Airfield

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Ludington Beach House, Ludington State Park, Temperance River State Park, CCC Shelter, Pokagon State Park, Michigan, CCC Museum-Michigan


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 6, 2008

Arctic Explorer The Story of Matthew Henson

Arctic Explorer The Story of Matthew Henson

Author: Jeri Ferris

Page Length: 75

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Biography

REVIEW: Arctic Explorer is a biography about Matthew Henson, the faithful side-kick of Robert Peary. Henson was by all accounts just as knowledgeable and resourceful as his partner Peary. However, Henson never earned the true respect and reputation he deserved until after his death. This lack of respect was due in large part to Henson’s skin color. Henson was an African-American and during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, African-Americans were not regarded as equals among whites. Peary described the contradictions of these American times by saying that he and Henson both could eat from the same frozen chunk of walrus and sleep in the same igloo in the Arctic, yet they both could not eat in the same room or sleep in the same hotel in America!

Never-the-less, Peary regarded Henson as a source of strength, even if Peary could not or would not voice this in public. Both Henson and Peary journeyed numerous times to Greenland, as a part of the North Greenland Expedition, in attempts to break land travel records. They completed several treks successfully, however their biggest goal was to be the first humans to journey to the North Pole.

On their journeys through Greenland, Henson and Peary ate walrus meat, witnessed Inuit women chew the fat off of animal skin to make clothing, and saw Inuit mothers clean their dirty babies the way a cat cleans her own young. Henson in particular got to know the Inuit culture as the Arctic natives thought Henson was an Inuit due to his dark skin. Henson and Peary learned about the Inuits fear of two main spirits: Kokoyah (The Spirit of the Ice Cap) & Tornasuk (The Spirit of the Frozen Sea). The spirits’ powers came in the form of blizzards, cracking ice-caps, and frigid temperatures.

Page 66 marks the several attempts Henson and Peary made at reaching the North Pole. April 6, 1909 marks the date in which Peary states that he and Henson finally reached the North Pole. However, the accuracy of this statement is still not confirmed by all questioning sources.

To further muddy things, Dr. Frederick Cook (who had been on some of Peary’s expeditions) claimed to have reached the North Pole even prior to Peary returning to America from his successful North Pole expedition. However, as time elapsed, it became evident that there was absolutely no evidence to support Dr. Cook’s claim. In time, Peary and Henson would get the recognition they deserved.

Peary passed away much earlier than Henson. Matthew Henson went on to lead a fairly quiet yet content life and was ultimately buried next to his Arctic partner, Robert Peary, in Arlington National Cemetery.

I enjoyed this book very much. Stories of the Arctic are so descriptive in their depictions of the frigid cold and of the lack of bare necessities. Strength of character and physique are a requirement to survival in these conditions. Matthew Henson was a man of great character. He was an African-American who was well liked by all and displayed talent with the best of all men. His loyalty and bravery are an inspiration to anyone. He is a classic example of what it means to be a true partner and companion.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (pages 17 & 44), reading a map, reading captions, photographs to reinforce text, using a bibliography, using an index, & identifying setting

RELATED BOOKS: Far North, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, & The North Pole


RELATED WEBSITES: (NOAA website of the North Pole) (Greenland tourism) (Inuit history)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

June 2, 2008

Fallen Angels

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Fallen Angels

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 309  

Reading Level: 5   

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins with Richard Perry, 17, a resident of Harlem, on his way to Vietnam.  On his flight, he meets a nurse, Judy, also going to serve in the Army.  Upon arrival, Perry joins his unit made up of Lobel, Johnson, Brunner and Pewee.  Although strangers in a strange land, the men quickly bond as they begin their service time in Vietnam. 

The soldiers first must get used to the harsh living conditions of the hot, humid, conditions of the country. Then, they learned to deal with the unknowing agenda that awaited them each day.  Many days, they didn’t do anything but sit around the camp playing games.  Other days, they were sent into villages to meet the women, children and older citizens of Vietnam.  At other times, they were sent to battle to protect or defend other units. 

After their first experience with combat, Perry realizes he doesn’t know a prayer to recite.  As a group, they learn to pray together.  They welcome the priest and chaplain’s visits.  Throughout the book, rumors are constant that the peace talks are making progress and the war will end soon.  However, the days go into weeks, the weeks into months and the battles continue. 

Perry writes to his family, but doesn’t tell them what the war is really like.  The war becomes more real as soldiers get wounded and die.  By the middle of the book, the small unit is in the middle of the war.  They believe in defending their country, but they question how it is being done.  They see each other get wounded both physically and emotionally and they share a dream—to get home alive.

REVIEW: This book was very descriptive and realistic in its presentation of action in the Vietnam War.  It is a narrative told from the point of view of a 17 year old African American from Harlem and his experience in the war.  Myers vividly describes the difficulty in getting a good night’s rest on page 61. A simile on page 63 is a good example of Myers excellent writing ability.  The descriptions of battle made me feel as if I were a part of the unit as they fought to return home.

I enjoyed the book, especially because I have a high interest in this war, as it occurred when I was in high school.  Boys would especially like this book, but I think girls could easily read it with great interest.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Supporting details, Setting, Characters, Compare/Contrast, Sequence of Events, Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

TOUCHY AREAS: Strong language

RELATED BOOKS: Vietnam Nurse, In Country

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Platoon, Green Berets, Dear America: Letters from Vietnam


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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