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.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

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

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.maximumride.com

www.jamespattterson.com

www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/NIE/cguides.html

http://readkiddoread.com/home#

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

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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The House of Dies Drear

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The House of Dies Drear

 

Author: Virginia Hamilton

 

Page Length: 279

 

Reading Level: 6

 

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: At first Thomas isn’t too thrilled about moving away again. He likes being near his grandmother; but, when his dad begins dropping hints about the mysterious new house he has in mind, Thomas’s interest is piqued. Soon he learns of the legend of Dies Drear. Drear was a landowner known for helping slaves along the route to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Drear and two of the three slaves he had been hiding were found murdered. Thomas learns of the great past of the house, its secret tunnels, and its mysterious secretive caretaker. Thomas’s new home is thought to be haunted. Strange things begin to happen. Vandalism occurs. And, Thomas is caught up in a plot to find the culprits and preserve the legend of Dies Drear and the great history the house represents before it falls into the hands of the wrong people.

REVIEW: This book is an excellent look at slavery issues, the Underground Railroad, and prejudice and hatred among the uneducated. Historically, the author does a great job of giving young adults an understanding of the abolitionist era. The story is action packed and full of mysterious events that will keep the reader guessing and turning the page to find out the resolution to the story.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  sequence of events, cause and effect, character traits, making predictions, analogies, historical context, context clues

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: issues of prejudice, vandalism, bigotry

RELATED BOOKS: M.C. Higgins, the Great, Second Cousins, Bluish, Zeely, The Planet of Junior Brown

SLAVERY RELATED BOOKS: 47, Dear Austin, The Land, Nightjohn, Kip: His Story, Bull Run, To Be A Slave, Harriet Tubman Conductor of the Underground Railroad

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Gone With the Wind (1939)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/activity/diesdrear/

http://www.glencoe.com/sec/literature/litlibrary/pdf/house_of_dies_drear.pdf

http://www.leasttern.com/DiesDrear/diesdrear.htm

http://gorman.region14.net/webs/tkeith/the_house_of_dies_drear_unit.htm

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

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

December 19, 2010

The Haunted House

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The Haunted House by Peggy Parish: Book Cover

The Haunted House

Author: Peggy Parish

Page Length: 151

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Bill, Liza, and Ted have just found out that they are moving. All three of them are sad because they know how much they will miss their friends next door. Not only are they moving, but they are moving into the old Blake place which everyone says is haunted! After they arrive at their new home, strange things begin to happen. Mysterious messages are left. The kids must face their fears and discover who or what is behind the mysterious events.

REVIEW: The book appears more interesting (cover art and cover teaser) than it actually is. Although there is great potential for an enthralling story, the book was obviously written for a younger audience and was written to be mysterious but not in any way frightening. I think this book would be great for 2nd or 3rd graders but would completely bore an older student. This book is a cute story for the little ones.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, character traits, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: none

RELATED BOOKS:  Amelia Bedelia books, Clues in the Woods, The Ghosts of Cougar Islands, Key to the Treasure

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.kidsreads.com/series/series-amelia-author.asp

http://www.biblio.com/author_biographies/2001902/Peggy_Parish.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

November 26, 2010

Chasing Vermeer

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Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett: Book Cover

Chasing Vermeer

Author: Blue Balliett

Page Length: 254

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Calder and Petra have one thing in common. They have the greatest sixth grade teacher ever – Ms. Hussey. After Ms. Hussey gives her class the challenging assignment of proving that written letters are not dead by finding someone whose life has been altered by a letter, Calder and Petra decide to work together. What starts as a simple assignment soon morphs into something more. A great mystery is afoot. A painting has been stolen, and Calder and Petra are hot on the trail of a thief.

REVIEW: This was an interesting and mysterious story. The clues are revealed to the reader as the story evolves. Readers learn a great deal about the famous artist Jan Vermeer and the uses of pentominoes. Readers reflect about what makes great artwork, and they learn about actions taken toward a cause. The book provides great discussion material of the causes and effects of each character’s action or inaction. This is a story that is very interesting and engaging.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, character traits, cause and effect, context clues, foreshadowing, great book to pair with pentominoes from math class

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: none

RELATED BOOKS:  The Calder Game, The Wright 3

RELATED MOVIES: Chasing Vermeer (due out in 2011)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/blueballiett_bio.htm

http://www.usd376.com/hs/staff/brownleea/vermeer/index.htm

http://teacher.scholastic.com/authorsandbooks/events/balliett/teachers_guide.htm

http://www.mystudios.com/vermeer/index.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

September 28, 2009

Haunted Schools

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Haunted Schools

Author: Allan Zullo

Page Length: 128  

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a collection of nine stories of ghosts and spirits who are haunting schools.  The first begins with two teen-age boys, Troy and Cody, coming in contact with a former teacher of a school.  Next, a new girl on the playground turns out to be a former classmate of the current teacher.  When a boy dies from a heart condition, his football team goes undefeated with a little help from the twelfth man. After two girls break a school rule by bringing an Ouigi board into their room, students start getting mysterious kisses.  An unknown drama student and graduate appear in two of the stories and in almost every story there is an eeriness that the reader cannot fully comprehend.

REVIEW: It is hard to believe that all of these stories are true. The plots of each of the stories would make a good horror movie, because the events are unbelievable. This book could be used as a unit study during October.  Then, on Halloween the students could dress as their favorite “ghost”. I thought the stories were entertaining and would appeal to the reluctant reader because they are short and easy to read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Character, Setting, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Haunted Kid Series: The Haunted Graveyard, The Haunted Shortstop, Haunted Kids, More Haunted Kids, Haunted Teachers, Haunted Animal, Haunted Campus, Totally Haunted Kids

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Haunted School (2007- Chinese)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3161

http://www.parlo.com/en/teachers/lessonplans/ghosteng_1.asp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.usbwa.com

http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375831683

http://www.readwritethink.org/lesson_images/lesson997/booklist.pdf

http://www.readwritethink.org/calendar/calendar_day_printer.asp?id=432

http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=865

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

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

Airborn

Airborn 

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Page Length: 501

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Adventure, Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: After saving the life of a man stranded in a lone balloon, Matt Cruse returns to his duties as a poor but faithful cabin boy aboard the magnificent passenger airship, Aurora. The rescued man later dies but leaves his notebook of various sketchings and notes. Months later, Matt comes in contact with the granddaughter of the man he saved, the rich Kate DeVries. Kate has come aboard the Aurora for the sole purpose of finding out what her grandfather saw in the air on his last balloon adventure. According to her grandfather’s sketchings and notes, he came in contact with a glorious, unrecognizable, bird-like creature.

Well into the Aurora’s trip over the seas, pirates take hold of the airship, steal a number of valuables, and render the ship useless. Unbeknownst to the pirates who have fled, the Aurora crash lands on a remote island. The ship’s crew begins to repair the vessel in hopes of saving themselves. Kate takes this time to explore the flora and fauna of the island. During this time, she comes across the bones of the great winged animal her father came in contact with. This wets Kate’s appetite even more to capture additional evidence of the undiscovered creature. Since, during this time period, females were not regarded as being true explorers and scientists, Kate sets out to prove society wrong. It is also her mission to prove that her grandfather was correct in what he saw before he died.

On another venture into the island woods, Matt, Kate, and Bruce come in contact with one of the living bird creatures. Matt and Kate call the creature “cloud cat” based on its appearance and temperament. When the “cloud cat” attacks the three, they run away. Bruce is injured in the escape while Matt and Kate take off in a different direction. Then Matt and Kate come upon the same pirates that attacked the Aurora several days ago. After being captured by the pirates and sentenced to their death, Matt and Kate escape and hook back up with Bruce at the Aurora. It is here that they discover that the pirates have taken the ship hostage again. Matt, Kate, and Bruce set out to take back control of the ship and dispel the pirates. In successfully doing so, Bruce is killed.

The story then flashes forward six months. Kate is seen at a museum with the bones of her “cloud cat” on display. She hopes to settle at a university possibly in Paris. Matt has entered the flight Academy in Paris in hopes to one day return to the Aurora – his home.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book a lot. Several chapters into reading, I felt as if it were a blend of Lord of the Flies and “Titanic”. The story was action-packed and the setting of both the giant ship, Aurora, and the island were vividly painted.

The themes of rich vs. poor, air vs. land, good vs. evil run throughout the book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, comparison and contrast, pair this book with a reading of Lord of the Flies and a viewing of the “Titanic”.

RELATED BOOKS: Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel – sequel to Airborn

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Titanic” (1997), “Cast Away” (2000)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.airborn.ca/airborn.htm (animated informational website about the book and author)

http://www.kennethoppel.ca/novel%20studies/Airborn%20Novel%20Study.pdf (123 page literature unit packet of activities)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 8, 2009

Acceleration

Acceleration

Author: Graham McNamee

Page Length: 210  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Duncan’s dad found him a summer job working at the Toronto Transit Lost and Found, with an older man, Jacob.  The job is boring and Duncan feels as though he lives in a coffin, far below the surface of the Earth.  As he whiles away the hours of tagging and sorting the items, Duncan comes across a leather bound journal.  He becomes enthralled with the book as the author describes his devastating childhood, trapped in a room by his grandmother.  Duncan reads on to learn that the man stalks young women and comes to the conclusion that the man’s future plans include killing the women. 

In the previous year, Duncan feels that he was responsible for a young girl’s drowning.  To avenge this guilt from that year, Duncan decides to track down the serial killer. He employs his two best friends, Vinny and Wayne to help him find “Roach”.  Vinny performs a lot of investigative work to find the type of personality the boys are tracking.  However, in vain attempts, the boys cannot come up with a suspect.

Then, a man comes to the transit station to ask about a lost journal.  When Duncan realizes this is “Roach”, he asks Wayne to help him break into Roach’s home to find clues.  When Roach returns home while Duncan is in the house, a fight and chase break out and Duncan realizes his life is in danger.

REVIEW: In the beginning, the story was a little slow.  However, when Duncan begins reading the journal and realizes that its author is a potential serial killer, the plot “accelerates”.  The story is very suspenseful and a very good read for the male reluctant reader.  It is fast paced and borders on being a book of horror. It is the best mystery I have read in the young adult novels.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Setting, Conflict, Plot, Point of View and Conclusion, Generalizations, and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Pigman, 145th Street, The Boyfriend, The Girlfriend

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), Disturbing Behavior (1998), Final Destination (2000)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-acceleration.html

www.mysterynet.com/learn/lessonplans

www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=796

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 17, 2009

Hit and Run

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Hit and Run

Author: R. L. Stine

Page Length: 164

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Horror         

PLOT SUMMARY: Cassie was best friends with three high school boys:  Scott, Eddie, and Winks.  The four are all very close to getting their driver’s license. One night they decide to go for a practice drive.  When it is Eddie’s turn to drive, Winks yells loudly, causing Eddie to swerve the car.  This embarrasses Eddie, but just a few nights later, he volunteers to take Cassie, Scott and Winks for a drive in his parent’s car. The driving goes pretty well, and Cassie was surprised that Eddie wasn’t still mad at Winks for his practical joke.  However, on the return home, they accidentally hit and kill a man who was crossing the road.  They agree to keep it a secret but before long weird things related to the accident begin to occur.  The corpse of the man killed is missing from the funeral home, and then the teens start getting strange phone calls. Is the victim really dead?  Has his ghost come back to haunt them? Cassie has trouble determining what is real and what she is dreaming.  

REVIEW: This is a suspenseful book that has unanswered questions at the end of each chapter.  Stine does a great job of keeping the reader engaged as to what is going to happen next.  Students who enjoy suspense and mystery would like this fast paced, easy to read, novel.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Human eyeball (p. 5), corpse (p. 150) – neither reference is too offensive if the reader is aware of the subject matter of the story.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Supporting Details, Plot, Conflict, and Characters

RELATED BOOKS: Call Waiting, Beach House, and The Boyfriend

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.motivationalpro.org/lessonplans/2007-2008/BehindTheFaces.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Unexpected

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Unexpected

Author: Laura E. Williams

Page Length: 292

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Unexpected is a book of eleven mysterious stories by various authors of children’s books.  Each of the stories is unique in their plots, but each end with an unexpected ending.  The first story is about a boy who constantly loses things, the second about a rock star who has been robbed.  A homeless man, a dog and a boy help solve this mystery.  “Little Time” is about a young girl, Erica, who only gets one hour of quality time a week with her parents.  Also, included are a story about a baby from outer space, and a “troddler”.  To of the best stories are the “Infinity Jinx” and “Marked for Death”.

REVIEW: The author’s of each of the stories each give a brief review at the end of their selection telling how they came to write the story.  I think the book would be good for reluctant readers who enjoy mysteries, but aren’t quite ready for a lengthy chapter book.  There is a bit of science fiction, suspense, and mystery throughout the book. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Predictions, Characters, and Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Behind the Bedroom Wall, The Mystery of the Missing Tiger, Mystery of the Dark Lighthouse, The Executioner’s Daughter, The Mystery of the Phantom Ship

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Twilight Zone (1983), Back to the Future (1985)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 10, 2008

The Boys of San Joaquin

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The Boys of San Joaquin

Author: D. James Smith

Page Length: 231

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: The setting of the story is in l951, in Orange Grove City, California.  Paolo is the twelve-year-old brother to ten siblings, cousin of Billy, who is deaf, and owner of Rufus, the dog. The story begins with Rufus appearing with a torn twenty-dollar bill hanging from his mouth.  Paolo figures there is probably more money where that came from and employs Billy (the deaf cousin) and Georgie (his younger brother) to help him locate the rest of the treasure. Billy is eager to find the money because he needs the wheel on his bike repaired.  Georgie just enjoys being included with the other boys.  The search ends up in the priest’s garden behind the Cathedral of San Joaguin. However, the boy’s quest involves much more suspense and adventure before the mystery is solved.  

REVIEW: Paolo narrates the story and is quite descriptive of each of the characters and events.  He gives an excellent description of a dog (p.8) and of tools (p. 44) that could be used in teaching descriptive writing.  The story is full of adventure and family situations that arise in Paolo’s life.  Although the book’s setting is in 1951, it has the same type of humor, description, and adventure that I found in reading Mark Twain’s Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Descriptive Writing (p. 8 and 44), Characters, Setting, Theme, and Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: Probably the World’s Best Story about a Dog and the Girl Who Loved Me, Fast Company, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Outsiders

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.oemawlma2008.org/sessiondocuments/April_Henry_handouts.doc

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 3, 2008

Tell

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Tell

Author: Norah McClintock

Page Length: 100

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction, Mystery     

PLOT SUMMARY: David and his mother are awakened in the night by Detective Antonelli to learn that Phil, David’s stepfather has been killed.  David becomes a prime suspect with a weak alibi.  Cameras videoed him within a block of the scene of the accident minutes before the murder took place.  His mother finds his dead brother’s picture that Phil always carried in David’s jean pocket.  Even she begins to suspect David of the killing.  David faces the choice of telling the truth or lying to protect his mom’s feelings.

REVIEW: This is a fast, easy to read mystery that kept my attention throughout the book.  The reluctant reader would get a great introduction to mystery and suspense novels by reading this book.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Sequence of Events, Foreshadowing, and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Bang, Over the Edge, Snitch

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.goodreads.com/author/show/498979.Norah_McClintock

 www.teensreadtoo.com/Tell.html

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/TellTG.pdf

 www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-155401634.html?refid=ssp_mags_808

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 2, 2008

Middle Row

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Middle Row

Author: Sylvia Olsen

Page Length: 100

Reading Level: 2.4

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Raedawn (a Native American) and Vince (a white American) are dating in a town where racial tensions run high. Neither family totally embraces the couple’s bond.

When a fellow classmate, Dune, turns up missing from school, not many people are motivated to find out the truth about this boy’s disappearance. As Vince, Raedawn, and her Uncle Dave dig deeper into the disappearance of Dune, they stumble across a marijuana operation in the backwoods country. Upon their discovery, all three are chased out of the woods by gun shots and dogs. The “detectives” turn to the police to report what they have seen. As a result, Dune and his mother Ocean are forced from their hiding place in the woods to a farmhouse basement.

When Uncle Dave, who used to date Ocean, comes face to face with Ocean and Dune, it hits him that Dune is his son. Uncle Dave and Ocean make amends for their past actions, and the story closes with Uncle Dave accepting Dune into his “family”. A celebration of Dune commences at the Reservation.

REVIEW: This book was a simple story about how in the midst of racial tensions, family can transcend hatred and bigotry. The character of Dune is an outcast of mixed race, yet finally discovers his true family in his long-lost father. I enjoyed this book, however I wished that the character of Dune had some more dialogue. The lack of dialogue used by the author for Dune was probably for effect, but it would have been nice to know a little bit more about this character. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (page 41), characterization of Raedawn (page 71)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: “beach bastards” (page 20), weed operation (page 55), marijuana mentioned (page 56), “damn racist” (page 79), racial tension throughout the book

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.orcabook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/MiddleRowTG.pdf

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

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

September 23, 2008

Alex Rider Scorpia

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Alex Rider Scorpia

Author: Anthony Horowitz          

Page Length: 388

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: In the fifth book of the Alex Rider series, Alex is on vacation with his friend, Tom, in Italy.  Alex is trying to find out what “Scorpia” is and what it has to do with his life, as Yassen Gregorovich mentioned to him in his dying words.

Alex learns that his father was a member of Scorpia, the world’s leading terrorist organization, and was a hired assassin as Yassen was.  Mrs. Rothman, the head of Scorpia, invites Alex to become a part of the terrorist organization.  She has proof that Mrs. Jones of M16 shot and killed Alex’s father.  Alex joins the group and has his own personal vendetta to kill Mrs. Jones. 

As Alex attempts to kill Mrs. Jones, he is captured by M16 and learns the truth about Scorpia, his father, Yassen, and Mrs. Rothman.  He is then lured by M16 to help stop Mrs. Rothman’s latest project, Invisible Sword, which is a plan to kill all the middle school students of England, including Alex Rider.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this the most of the Alex Rider books I have read.  It has lots of action with many twists and turns.  It is hard to predict what the outcome will be for not only Scorpia, England, but Alex, too.  The characters are vividly developed and it is easy to form opinions about them and their personalities.

I thought this was the final book of the series, but discovered there are two more that have been published—Ark Angel and Snakehead. 

SUGGESTED TEACHING AREAS:  Leisure reading, Sequence of Events, Drawing Conclusions, Predicting Outcomes, and Making Generalizations, Descriptive Writing and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Point Blank, Stormbreaker, Skeleton Key, Scorpia, Ark Angel, and Snakehead

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker” (2006), “Mission Impossible l, ll, and lll”, “The Bourne Identity” (2002), “The Bourne Supremacy” (2003), “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=1-9780142405789-0

http://turnpaige.com/2008/02/13/scorpiabyanthonyhorowitz

www.kidsreads.com/series/series-alex_rider-titles.asp

www.teenreads.com/authors/au-horowitz-anthony.asp

www.funtrivia.com/playquiz.cfm?qid=207325

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Alex Rider Stormbreaker

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Alex Rider Stormbreaker

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Page Length: 234

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction, Adventure           

PLOT SUMMARY: Alex Rider is a fourteen-year-old orphan who lives with his uncle, Ian Rider, a bank manager (or so Alex thinks).  Alex receives news at 3 o’clock in the morning that his uncle has been killed in a car accident.  The police reported he wasn’t wearing his seat belt.  Alex finds this hard to believe, because the one thing his uncle always insisted on was that Alex always wear his seat belt.

Alex became even more suspicious when five lawyers appeared at his house to go through his uncle’s study. Then, he saw a gun on one of the driver’s of a limo at the funeral, and upon his return from the funeral, all of his uncle’s papers and belongings had been removed from the study.

 Alex decided to do a little investigating on his own. He found the junkyard where his uncle’s car had been taken, but was discovered by employees just before he was almost crushed by the Lefort Shear, a metal smasher.  

From this point, Alex is taken to the “bank” to talk with the men who had appeared as lawyers for his uncle.  Alex learns that his uncle was never a banker but a spy for M16 (the English government’s equivalent to the CIA).  His uncle was killed by a Russian who works for a man developing a super computer to be given to all the students of schools in England.  The computer’s name is the “Stormbreaker”.

Alex next learns that the M16 people want him to follow in his uncles’ tracks and become a teen-age spy.

REVIEW: This is the first in a series of five action, spy novels about Alex Rider.  I found it comparable to adult spy novels I have read by Robert Ludlum as far as action and suspense are concerned.  It is an easy read and I think the most appealing book I have read for teen males, especially those who don’t think they want or like to read.   I would suggest it not for a teaching tool, but exclusively for leisure reading.  Because there are five books in the series, if a non-reader enjoyed the first, he would be set on a trail to read the next four as quickly as possible.  After getting through the series, we would now have a lifelong reader.

SUGGESTED TEACHING AREAS:  Leisure reading, Sequence of Events, Drawing Conclusions, Predicting Outcomes, and Making Generalizations

RELATED BOOKS: Point Blank, Skeleton Key, Eagle Strike, Scorpia

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker” (2006), “Mission Impossible l, ll, and lll”, “The Bourne Identity” (2002), “The Bourne Supremacy” (2003), “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.stormbreaker.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stormbreaker  (novel)

www.anthonyhorowitz.com/alexrider/books/stormbreaker.html

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 12, 2008

Rebel

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Rebel

Author: Willo Davis Roberts       

Page Length: 153

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Amanda Jane Keeling has the nickname Rebel because at an early age she was defiant in all that her parent’s tried to teach her.  Rebel is the only girl in her family and she has three musically talented brothers. As her family prepares for a trip to Europe where the boys will participate in music competition, Rebel’s Gram, decides to buy a boarding house in the University area.  She asked if any of the children would be able to help with house renovations.  Rebel thinks this would be a good opportunity to miss another competition, and plans to stay with Gram and help for two weeks, then join her family for the road trip through Europe.

Gram is going into her housing venture with another older woman, Old Vi, as referred to by her grandson, Moses.  Both ladies have pet dogs. Gram’s is Pookie and Old Vi’s is Tiger.

Upon meeting Moses, Rebel is pleasantly surprised.  At the age of 14 she is 5’ 10” and towers above all the boys she has ever known.  Moses is 15 and is 6’ 6’’.  While Rebel has overcome some of her rebellious ways, she identifies with Moses on some family issues and expectations.  Moses’ dad is a lawyer and wants his son to follow in his footsteps.  Moses would rather die than be a lawyer.  His interest lies in making movies and he constantly carries a video, capturing all of his surroundings on film.  Rebel’s family expected her to play the piano and follow her brothers in the music field but she expresses that she is “tone deaf.”

The two teens have every intention to help with the painting of the three-story Victorian home, but several events get them distracted.  They witness a thief steal a candy bar from the neighborhood deli and a mystery and adventure begin.

REVIEW:  This is an easy book to read.  The author captures the reader’s attention quickly and it is hard to put the book down, as the characters are developed with unique personalities that are easy to like.  Moses and Rebel establish a bond, and the reader senses there is somewhat of an attraction as they work on the house, hang out, and solve a mystery together.  Gram and Old Vi are feisty old ladies with dogs that add depth to the plot.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Plot, Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Characters, Conflict, Cause and Effect, and Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: The Kidnappers: A Mystery, Twisted Summer, The One Left Behind

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.answers.com/topic/willo-davis-roberts-2

www.bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=1185705

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 11, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

Author: Mark Haddon      

Page Length: 226

Reading Level: 8

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Christopher John Frances Boone narrated the story.  As it begins, Christopher has just discovered Ms. Shear’s dog, Wellington, dead in her yard.  Christopher, then, introduces himself to the reader stating that he knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and also, every prime number up to 7057.

The reader will note that the chapters in the book are numbered by prime numbers because Christopher prefers prime numbers to ordinal numbers. Christopher continues the story as he explains the events of the rest of the night in which he was taken to jail on suspicion of killing the dog.  In addition, he writes about his thought processes, his visits with Siobhan, and his relationship with his father and the death of this mother.

Christopher cannot let the death of Wellington go unsolved.  He questions neighbors, Ms. Shears, and his father to see if they might be able to help solve the mystery, but no one has any answers.  When Christopher’s father reads his book and learns of his investigation, he becomes angry and starts shouting at Chris.  The next day Chris can’t find his book.  He looks for it everywhere and when he enters his dad’s room to search, he finds evidence that his dad has not been truthful with him about his mother’s death.

A new investigation begins . . . 

REVIEW:  After reading the first two chapters of the book, it is easy to detect that Christopher is not a normal 15-year-old boy.  He is extremely intelligent, but has very low social and communication skills.  He has a very typical personality of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of Autism).

I found this book not only entertaining and intriguing, but very informative of the characteristics of Asperger’s.  Because of the reading level, it may be too difficult for the typical student in a resource class, but for those who do have high reading levels, I think they would enjoy and relate to Christopher.  It is a great book for teacher’s to read.  It helps one understand the behaviors and thought processes of a child with this disease.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Sequence of Events, Conflict, and Setting

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Strong Language p. 81-81, 127, 160,184

RELATED BOOKS: One Child, Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism, A Spot of Bother

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=66-0099450259-1

www.randomhouse.com/vintage/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400032716

www.wikipedia.org/…/The_Curious_Incident_of_the_Dog_in_the_Night-time

www.readinggroupguides.com/guides3/curious_incident_dog1.asp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 6, 2008

Double Helix

Double Helix

Author: Nancy Werlin

Page Length: 260

Reading Level: 7.3

Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Eli Samuels is just about to graduate from high school. Eli has his valedictorian speech planned, just got a job, and has a great girlfriend. He feels on top of the world – almost. His father isn’t thrilled with his new job offer and his mother is wasting away in a nursing home where she suffers from Huntington’s disease. Eli could be carrying the Huntington gene. His father won’t tell him why he despises Dr. Wyatt, his new employer. Eli has always known there was something different about himself. He meets Kayla, a gorgeous, perfect woman and his whole world turns upside down. Nothing is at it seems. He and his father argue constantly, and Eli feels angry with his girlfriend. A startling discovery in his mother’s belongings and a secret elevator shaft at the lab lead Eli on the path to discovering who he really is and just what Dr. Quincy Wyatt has been up to for the last twenty years.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this book! Werlin’s pacing, suspense, and characters were excellent. The book constantly has the reader thinking about what the secret could be (which is great for our students – wondering what will happen next). Great questions are raised about ethical concerns and just how far selection should go. The author makes an excellent point about the value of all human life, the need for family, and the limitations that should be considered and reconsidered before making some scientific decisions.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: author’s purpose, conflict, plot, generalizations, predictions, inference, characters, sequence of events

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: sexual references (no explicit details), brief violence

RELATED BOOKS: Black Mirror, Impossible, The Rules of Survival, Locked Inside, The Killer’s Cousin

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.nancywerlin.com/helix.htm

http://www.nancywerlin.com/helix_guide.htm

http://www.teachervision.fen.com/suspense-fiction/printable/55166.html

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

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

July 29, 2008

The Grand Tour

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The Grand Tour

Author: Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Page Length: 469

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: Cecelia and Kate are back in the sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot. Cecelia has just married James. Kate has just married the Duke of Schofield, Thomas. Both Thomas and James were already partners and friends. Together they plan a grand tour of Europe for their honeymoon. The party of five includes, Thomas’s mother, Lady Schofield. As they arrive in Paris a mysterious item is delivered to Lady Schofield. Suddenly, they are thrust into a new mystery. It seems that again black magic forces are at work. Someone may be trying to restore Napolean to power. Magic rituals have been held at many of the historical sites on Kate’s list. A robbery has taken place and the group is hot on the trail of thieves. Their grand honeymoon has instead turned into a grand mystery. They must unravel the clues and discover who is behind the disappearance of the artifacts and the gathering of magic before it is too late.

REVIEW: This book was interesting to read. The first novel in this series was written as Cecy and Kate exchanged letters. This time they are traveling together and instead recording their individual accounts of what has happened in their journals. This book continues to provide an excellent look at the language and customs of the early 1800’s. Historical sites and facts are detailed as well as travel throughout Europe. I would not recommend this book to a struggling reader, because of the language, the length of pages, and the amount of focus required to keep up as the characters entries alternate. However, for anyone interested in English literature set in the early 1800’s woven together with magic and romance, these books are an interesting read. This book also provides the teacher with an excellent example of how journal writing can be used to develop a character or even create an entire story.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, setting, conflict, idea of writing through journal entries, connecting to history

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the idea of sorcery (black magic)

RELATED BOOKS: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (prequel), The Mislaid Magician, Jane Austen books

RELATED MOVIES: Practical Magic, Snow White

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.sfsite.com/03a/gt195.htm

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBX/is_4_40/ai_n16547507

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=1154795

http://thecelebritycafe.com/books/full_review/900.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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