The Book Reviews – Website

August 30, 2009

Last Shot

Last Shot

Author: John Feinstein

Page Length: 251

Reading Level: 5.2

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Drama

PLOT SUMMARY: In the Last Shot by John Feinstein, 8th graders Steven Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson win the USBWA writing contest. The reward is attending the Final Four College Basketball Championship as reporters with full press passes and press access. Their assignment is to write a story a day covering the events surrounding the championship games. Little did they know they would accidentally over hear a coach blackmailing one of the star MSU players, Chip Graber. Thus the mystery arises. Who is the coach and why is he demanding Chip to intentionally lose the championship game? What does the coach have over Chip to make Chip consider losing the game? These questions spark Stevie and Susan’s interest and they begin their quest as amateur sleuths.  No one will answer their questions or take them seriously since they are just “kids”. So they undertake solving the mystery on their own only to find that the blackmail involves very powerful people.   

REVIEW: Any basketball enthusiast will love this book feeling as though you have a courtside seat at the championships. Even those of us who aren’t interested in basketball will enjoy Last Shot. The main character, 8th grader-Steven Thomas, is immediately likeable. Winning the USBWA , a writing contest, is a dream come true for Stevie where he will attend the Final Four basketball championship as a reporter with full press passes and press access. The reader’s attention is immediately captured as Stevie and his co-winner, Susan Carol Anderson embark on solving a mystery of a life-time involving the basketball star, Chip Graber. John Feinstein, a sports reporter himself, impresses upon the importance of the media in solving mysteries with his book Last Shot. The book is fast-paced and keeps the reader wondering what is going to happen next.

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, media.

RELATED BOOKS: Summer Ball by Mike Lupica,  Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica, Heat by Mike Lupica, The Big Field by Mike Lupica, Football Genius by Mike Green,  Books by the same author: Are You Kidding Me?: The Story of Rocco Mediate’s Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open, Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl, Season on the Brink, Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today’s NFL, Running Mates

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Above the Rim (2004), Glory Road (2006), The Basketball Fix (1951), Harvard Man (2001)


REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel


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


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 26, 2008

NFL Behind the Scenes

NFL Behind the Scenes

Author: Joe Layden

Page Length: 32

Reading Level: unknown

Genre: Non-fiction

REVIEW: This 32 page book about football is more like a magazine. From the colorful photographs to the informative captions, this piece of reading will grab the attention of most athletic students – especially boys. Also, it is short enough to entice even the most reluctant reader. NFL Behind the Scenes covers almost every aspect of the game – from the very first football game played in 1869 (without helmets) to the 2003 Super Bowl game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. 

There are even several black and white photographs from the early years of football in America. Page 28 shows a picture of a team of guys warming themselves from the cold on the field with straw. Now the author does an excellent job of covering topics such as training camp, the trainers, media staff, crazy fans, equipment, and coaches. Some of the photographs provided have numbers on them to direct the reader to the appropriate captions. This is helpful.

After reading this text, I learned that Walter Camp is one of the main individuals responsible for bringing football to the forefront of American life. Also, early football players actually played a game that was a combination of football, rugby, and soccer. Some team members during that time even sewed their own uniforms! The author stresses that football is not only a game, but a business. In addition, passion is a key to playing the game well.

I would like to have seen larger captions. Also, the concern with allowing students to read this style of book, is that they might focus only on the photographs and not read any of the words on the page.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: text features, sequence of events (pages 4-9)

RELATED BOOKS: Joe Layden has written many other books just like NFL Behind the Scenes, Amazing But True Sports Stories by Hollander

RELATED WEBSITES: (virtual tour – new Dallas Cowboys stadium) (National Football League official website) (football game with math skills) (Football 101)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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