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December 19, 2010

Here Today

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Here Today by Martin: Book Cover

Here Today

Author: Ann Martin

Page Length: 308

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Eleanor, Albert, and Marie appear to be the lucky kids to outsiders. After all, their mother is the glamorous and beautiful Doris Day Dingman. Ellie, the oldest, bears most of the responsibility around her house. Her mother, who insists on being called “Doris”, is always worried about her next public appearance opportunity or her next big opportunity. When their mother runs off to New York but promises to send for them all as soon as she makes it big, the children realize what they’ve known all along – their mother cares more for herself than she does for them. The Dingman kids and their father must come to terms with Doris’ abandonment and their feelings of being the Witch Tree Lane outcasts. Yet through their trials and journey to find happiness again, they discover strengths they never knew they had and a love for each other that is stronger than any adversity.

REVIEW: This book makes for an interesting historical companion for studying the lifestyles and changing roles of women in the 1960s. The reader will admire Ellie’s determination and spunk while sharing in her disappointment in her mother. As the Witch Tree Lane events take place, the reader discovers that its inhabitants are wonderful people and not the “freaks” the socialites at school see. In this novel, a story of love, loss, disappointment, and courage unfolds beautifully. This book would generally appeal more to girls and would be a recommended read for any females struggling with social acceptance, mother abandonment issues, self esteem, and those generally searching to find their place in the world.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, making predictions, character analysis, author’s purpose, making historical connections, narrative style, character traits


RELATED BOOKS: A Dog’s Life, Belle Teal, On Christmas Eve, A Corner of the Universe, Main Street, The Babysitter’s Club


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


April 16, 2008

Summer of My German Soldier

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Summer of My German Soldier

Author: Bette Greene

Page Length: 230

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction / Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Patty Bergen is an outcast in her family. She is not particularly pretty (like her mother and sister) and she asks too many questions. She is a Jewish girl growing up in the small town of Jenkinsville, Arkansas where a German P.O.W. camp exists not too far away. Patty longs for some excitement in her life, yet more importantly, she longs to be appreciated and valued. She finds her wish not with her family but through her brief relationship with a German prison escapee named Anton.

Patty admires Anton and wishes to help him hide from the military. She brings Anton food and clothing as well as good conversation. Patty’s true desire is to escape – escape her family, escape her present life. She longs to start a new life with Anton by her side (page 120).

Anton understands that an escape with Patty is not feasible. He ultimately leaves Patty to journey alone, leaving her with sweet words on pages 154-155. The only other person that is aware that Patty has aided an escaped P.O.W. is Patty’s cook, Ruth. However, Patty’s secret is later shattered when she is questioned by the authorities and discovers that Anton is dead. Her emotions burst forth after she finds out this tragic news (page 82). As a result, her family is shamed and Patty is taken into custody for possible treason.

In the end, Patty is sent off to a reform school in hopes to start a new. Ruth sums it up best with her statements about family and love on page 221.

REVIEW: This book is not so much about the war as it is about family, love, and the lack there of. I was amazed at the way in which Patty was treated by her parents – so cold, cruel, harsh, and blunt. Page 124 shows the severity of Patty’s punishments. Page 186 shows how awful Patty’s parents truly are. Patty’s parents seem more concerned with the operation of their store than nurturing their own child (page 73). It is ironic that in a German enemy (Anton), Patty discovers the love and respect she could not find within her own family.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Characterization, Internal Dialogue (Patty Bergen), Compare/Contrast (Patty vs. her sister Sharon, or Patty’s parents vs. her grandparents)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: There is some bad language throughout this book (example on page 83). It is primarily from the adult characters in moments of anger and frustration. Page 55 may be offensive.

RELATED BOOKS: Stepping on the Cracks, To Kill a Mockingbird

RELATED WEBSITES: (recipes and study guides) (enrichment activities)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

March 15, 2008

Among the Betrayed

Among the Betrayed

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Page Length: 156

Reading Level: 5/6

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery, Suspense


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: State Rights! Women Rights! Civil Rights! Well…now there is an idea called Third-Child Rights and only in the world of fiction (for now) in a book titled, Among the Betrayed (book three in a series). In this futuristic story, the government has established a policy in which parents may only have two children due to the shortage of food after recent draughts and famine.


Nina Idi, whose real name is Elodie Luria, is an illegal third-child (shadow child) who has been in hiding from the Population Police all her young life. After she falls for a boy named Jason she unknowingly becomes involved in his profitable plan to expose “exnays” – illegal shadow children trying to pass themselves off as legitimate citizens. However, the Population Police discover that Jason is turning in citizens that are legitimate! Subsequently, they arrest Jason and all those involved – including Nina.


The book begins its plot twist after the arrest. Working for the Population Police in the prison where Nina is held is a double agent. The double agents mission is to discover whether or not Nina was knowingly involved in Jason’s plan. A trio of street smart children – Percy, Matthias, and Alia are placed in the prison to aid this double agents plan. An action-packed adventure then begins when Nina escapes with the other three children to hide out in the woods. Percy, Matthias, and Alia go through a series of tests to confirm Nina’s loyalty to them (as they are illegal shadow children themselves). 


It is at this point in the book, on pages 142-145 that many of the questions in the book are revealed to Nina. Betrayal is a major problem in their world, and this is why secret plans and tests are in place to ensure the safety and protection of many of the illegal shadow children. Among the Betrayed describes a world in which illegal shadow children and their supporters are at odds with the government and the Population Police. Major political figures are in power, secret meetings are held, and public rallies occur in a hopeful effort to establish equality for all.


As the book comes to a close, it gives the reader a hint that the story is not over. Jason is working with a faction of the Population Police, in which the Nina’s friends and colleagues do not support. There is a sequel to this book, Among the Barons.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: Students may identify periods in history that contain similar themes of change and equality as reflected in this book. Page 55 gives the reader a great description of prison conditions during this time.


MOVIE, BOOK, & HISTORICAL CONNECTIONS: I enjoyed this book. It reminded me of the movie, Gattaca, and the book, The Last Book in the Universe. The idea of population control is really not a new concept – Ancient Greece practiced forms of it while current Chinese policy discourages families from having more than one child. One can only hope that the extreme actions that have occurred in this story, do not happen in our future lives.




REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton


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