The Book Reviews – Website

April 26, 2008

Saving Francesca

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Saving Francesca

Author: Melina Marchetta

Page Length: 243

Reading Level: 5

 

REVIEW: Francesca is one of 30 girl students at the newly co-ed St. Sebastian’s School. St. Sebastian’s has 750 male students. The school is obviously a high school though it is set in Australia and so the terminology used is a little different. The interplay between the students is unmistakable and crosses all cultural barriers though.

 

Francesca does not enjoy St. Sebastian’s and likes it even less when she quite accidentally becomes the spokesperson for making things fair for the girls. Francesca’s personal life is strained and difficult too, making her school problems even harder to handle. Francesca’s mother has become clinically depressed and her condition is misunderstood and approached incorrectly by almost everyone in Francesca’s extended family. Her father is at the end of his rope and Francesca is terribly worried about her mother and her younger brother Luca.

 

TOUCHY AREAS: I enjoyed the book very much, but there is a very liberal sprinkling of curse words and topics some may be a little uncomfortable with. Make sure this is right for your class and if it is be ready for an enjoyable read.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml

 

www.depression.com

 

www.csu.edu.au/australia

 

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

April 8, 2008

Inside Out

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Inside Out

Author: Terry Trueman

Page Length: 117

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Zach Wahhsted, 16, is waiting, as usual, in a coffee shop after school for his mom to pick him up. Two teenagers with guns show up to rob the coffee shop, but a witness calls the police and soon there is a tense hostage situation. The two gunmen, brothers who just want to help pay for their mom’s cancer treatment, don’t want to hurt anyone and they ask for quiet and promise safety for the hostages. When Zach, who suffers from schizophrenia, begins talking back to the voices in his head, they perceive him as being disrespectful and rude. Zach knows he has difficulty determining what is real and what is not, but he doesn’t have a lot of control over his disease. This makes a dangerous situation even more so especially when Zach is not able to take his medication.

REVIEW: Reading this book reminded me a bit of watching a Hitchcock film. I really felt for Zach, a bright kid dealing with a terrible illness. Two of the voices in his head, Dirtbag and Rat, tell him he is worthless and try to get him to kill himself. Zach knows that he has trouble knowing what is real and what is not and he knows he responds inappropriately in many situations. What he does not know is how to fix it. Trueman, one of my new favorite authors, gives us an insight into just what Zach is thinking and his daily struggles. Throughout the book a relationship develops between Zach and the two brothers who are trying to rob the coffee shop. He even helps them, by contacting his doctor, to make a deal with the police. The hostage situation ends peacefully, but we learn that a few months later Zach does take his own life as so often happens with this disease. The ending was a real blow after coming to care for and admire Zach.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  The book can provide an insight into dealing with mental illness as well as the lengths people can sometimes go to when they feel desperate. This book could also open a discussion for how stories we see on the evening news don’t always paint the whole behind the scenes picture.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The entire book is pretty intense. The final two pages reveal that Zach has committed suicide. Throughout the book when Dirtbag and Rat show up to taunt Zach the dialog is harsh.

RELATED BOOKS: Cut, A Corner of the Universe, Kissing Doorknobs

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.terrytrueman.com

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

 

February 4, 2008

True Sea Stories

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True Sea Stories

Author:  Henry Brook

Page Length: 153

Reading Level: 7th

Genre: Non-fiction

 

REVIEW: True Sea Stories is a non-fiction book which is made up of 10 short stories of men and women challenged by the appeal of oceanic waters.  The stories range from the voyages of early explorers of the 16th century to 20th century sailors and adventure seekers.

 

Henry Brook’s approach to writing each story attracts attention immediately by throwing the reader into the peril of the voyage at hand.  He then follows the introduction with background information and explicit details of how each story ends. 

 

Especially interesting to me, was the story of the secret mission at the close of World War II of a ship, caring an atomic bomb to Japan.  The mission was so secret that when the ship wrecked, no one reported it had not arrived in port.  Four hundred sailors went into the ocean, only 130 came out, the others lost to sharks, starvation and desperation. 

 

MOVIE & HISTORICAL CONNECTIONS: This story was told in the movie “Jaws” and spurred the interest of a young boy to research the story in its entirety. This book would appeal to those who enjoy adventures like Titanic, navy battles, and Jacque Cousteau explorations. 

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: The specific stories in this book could be used as a supplement to geographical or historical studies.  Boys would enjoy this book more than girls.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.thedeckplate.com/sea-stories.htm

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s?ie=UTF8&index=books&field-author=Paul%20Dowswell&page=1

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 14, 2008

Probably Still Nick Swansen

Filed under: P — thebookreviews @ 2:36 am
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Probably Still Nick Swansen

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff

Page Length: 151

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

 

REVIEW: Nick spends his school days in Room 19 with the rest of the special ed. kids, except for his good friend Shana who just had her “going up” party for graduating to regular classes.

 

Nick is a character I fell in love with right from the beginning. He knows some things that being in special ed. means. He knows he can’t drive even though he is sixteen and he knows some kids won’t talk to you much even if you do know everything about amphibians. What Nick isn’t sure about is if he should go to the prom but he asks Shana and she says yes.

 

When Shana doesn’t show though you get a glimpse at how complicated Nick is. His sister’s death several years earlier and an accident that hurts his dog along with the disappointment about the prom lead to some difficult times for Nick. He wants to hide from the world, but realizes he has to face all of these issues in order to find peace. Nick gains a sense of self-awareness and we are left with a happy ending.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.griefworks.com/SiblingDeath.ask

 

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians.html

 

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

 

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