The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

Learning to Fly

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Learning to Fly by Paul Yee: Book Cover

Learning to Fly

Author: Paul Yee

Page Length: 107

 

Reading Level: 3.34

 

Genre: Fiction

 

Career Connections: none         

PLOT SUMMARY: Jason is the only Chinese student at the high school in the small town where his mother has opened a deli.  Students make fun of him at school and when he is working at the deli.  He and his mother moved to the United States from China two years after his father had immigrated.  Little did his mother know that his father was having an affair and would leave them as soon as they arrived in the United States.  Jason hates the U. S. but cannot return to China because his mother would have no one to help her.

After witnessing a police chase in the mall, Jason becomes friends with Chief, a Native American student who attends his high school.  Because Chief and his friends smoke marijuana, Jason decides to join them. Jason takes money from his mother to buy pot for him and his new friends. When their supplier gets busted, Jason gets a call to buy a large quantity of pot for the group.  That night, he realizes he was “set up” and is busted by the police. 

Jason feels all alone, but when Chief’s sister dies from an overdose, he realizes that he is not alone in feeling like an outsider and reaches out as a friend to the only other non-white boy in town, Chief.

REVIEW: Many of our low level reading students are those who are immigrants from other countries. I believe this would be a good book for students to read who feel discriminated against.  The events of the book show what students will participate in (many activities legal or illegal) just to be accepted by someone or some group.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: profanity (pp. 83), marijuana and drug use

AREAS OF TEACHING: Characterization, Setting, Compare/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: To Kill a Mockingbird, Romiette and Julio, and The Hoopster

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.orcabook.com

www.learningtogive.org/lessons/unit92/lesson1.html 

www.learningtogive.org/lessons/unit137/lesson2.html

MUSIC, MOVIE, AND ART CONNECTIONS: Remember the Titans (2002), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Gran Torino (2008)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Just Another Hero

Just Another Hero by Sharon M. Draper: Book Cover

Just Another Hero

 

Author: Sharon M. Draper

 

Page Length: 280

 

Reading Level: 4.3

 

Genre: Fiction

 

Career Connection: Teacher, police officer, fast food/retail sales

 

PLOT SUMMARY: A senior year filled with drama is what the small group of friends of Douglass High encounter after they cope with Josh’s death from a hazing accident and the birth of his baby by November.

 

Arielle, who has struggled with peer relations, since the hazing event, finds a way to mend the fences with Kofi and the rest of the group, but she is living with her third stepfather who is extremely strict and controlling with she and her mother. She not only has lost her real dad but her sister has been placed in an institution. Her mother is bound within the wants and needs of her stepfather. No wonder she has a problem with day to day coping skills.

 

Kofi continues to feel pain from his broken arm that was injured in the hazing event and realizes he is addicted to pain killers. He qualifies for admission into Massachusetts Institute of Technology but sees his parents squandering away their money. What does he do to help his family and himself?

 

November has returned to school after the birth of her baby, but finds she has many responsibilities that make school issues take a backseat.

 

While each member of the group try to find coping skills for their various needs, someone is stealing money and personal property at school.

 

Meanwhile, Crazy Jack suffers a mental breakdown and brings an assault rifle to school. The discovery of the thief and Jack holding student’s hostage, takes a toll on the main characters as they try to determine what makes a real hero.

 

REVIEW: This is the final book of the trilogy of the student’s of Douglass High that Sharon Draper has developed. The book is written in third person narrative between Kofi and Arielle as the plot centers primarily on their life issues. Students who have read the previous books, The Battle of Jericho and November Blues will enjoy this final chapter of Arielle, Kofi, November, and Jericho as they answer the question, “What Makes a Real Hero?”

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Characters, Cause/Effect, Sequence of Events, Theme

 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None that is not age appropriate

 

RELATED BOOKS: The Battle of Jericho, November Blues

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.sharondraper.com/bookdetail.asp?id=25

 

www.storiesofus.com/pdfs/StoriesFlyer.pdf

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

On My Honor

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On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer: Book Cover

On My Honor

Author: Marion Dane Bauer

Page Length: 90

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Joel and Tony are deciding how to spend their long summer day when Tony decides that climbing the starved rock bluffs would be fun. Joel’s terrified – people have died on those rocks. Joel would rather do something safe like swimming at the local pool, but Tony insists on an adventure. Joel decides that asking his dad will end the debate because he’s sure that his father will say no. But surprisingly Joel’s dad agrees as long as Joel promises “on his honor” to only go to the park and back. Both boys promise but as their journey gets under way, Tony stops under the bridge where there’s water. Both boys have been warned about the danger of the river. But Joel, too reluctant to stand up to Tony, and Tony, always too desperate to prove how tough he is, decide to plunge in. It’s a fateful decision that will change everything!

REVIEW: This book makes a huge impact in a very small amount of pages. There are numerous teaching moments for students to identify with. Both boys and girls would benefit from this story, but, it would especially appeal to boys who have dealt with peer pressure issues. Students will feel the devastation that occurs because of Joel’s inability to stand up for what is right – even when someone else doesn’t want to. Teachers can discuss what the actions should have been – before swimming and after. This book would lead to an excellent discussion on other mistakes such as potentially deadly peer pressure situations that can or have arisen. This is an excellent book for reaching students!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, making predictions, author’s purpose, character traits, connecting text to self

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drowning

RELATED BOOKS: Blue Ghost, Killing Miss Kitty, Questions of Trust, Like Mother, Like Daughter, Red Ghost, Rain of Fire

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.mariondanebauer.com/pdf/tg_honorrev.pdf

http://www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00002091.shtml

http://www.tracievaughnzimmer.com/On%20My%20Honor.htm

http://www.montessoricharter.org/tools/language_arts/books/on_my_honor.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Aria of the Sea

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Aria of the Sea by Dia Calhoun: Book Cover

Aria of the Sea

Author: Dia Calhoun

Reading Level: 5

Page Length: 264

Genre: Fiction

Career Connections: Dancer, Healer   

PLOT SUMMARY: After the death of her mother, Cerinthe Gale decides to follow the dream of her mother by pursuing her dancing talents.  She travels to the School of Royal Dancers, where she is accepted after the audition, although she is a commoner.  Cerinthe has the gifts of a healer.  However, she feels guilty because she was unable to save the life of her mother.  Because of this guilt, Cerinthe feels emptiness inside that is not fulfilled through her dancing. 

At the school, Cerinthe has several incidents which make her feel even more inept.  She has a disagreement with a young man she actually feels some desire for, a miscommunication with a teacher, a huge rivalry with Elliana – a very rich student, and an encounter with a mederi – a healer with magical powers.

When an accident between Cerinthe and Elliana occurs, Cerinthe is faced with the question she had earlier in her life with her mother—should she try to help Elliana or wait for the mederi to arrive?

REVIEW: This is a great book for girls from middle school to high school age who are interested in dance or any competition to read.  The characters are well developed and their feelings are easy to relate to.  The idea that a young girl can possess healing powers is intriguing and the discipline that dancers must endure is inspiring.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Setting, Character, Conflict, Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: Avielle of Rhia, The Phoenix Dance, White Midnight

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.shopgirlscouts.com/publications/maSelfEsteem.pdf  

www.teach-nology.com/teachers/lesson_plans/arts/dance  

http://archon.educ.kent.edu/Midwest/Resc/Kansas/psplans.html

MUSIC, MOVIE, AND ART CONNECTIONS: The Turning Point (1977), The Company (2003), and Center Stage (2000)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 18, 2010

The Contender

The Contender

Author: Robert Lipstyte

Page Length: 227

Reading Level: 6.1

Genre: Fiction, Drama

PLOT SUMMARY: The main character, Alfred Brooks, is a young African American man whose daily life exemplifies the struggles of urban life in the 1960s.  He lives with his caring, loving Aunt Pearl in Harlem since the death of his mother when he was 13 and abandonment of his father when he was 10. On the stoops of his neighborhood are alcoholics, drug addicts, and homeless people. The plot intensifies when Alfred’s long-time best friend, James, and others try to get Alfred to rob the store at which he works. Alfred refuses but forgets to tell the others of the silent alarm. One person gets arrested and the other two get away. James turns to drugs and tempts Alfred. Through these struggles, he manages to find the will to survive and be a better person by learning to box. Boxing and his coaches provides him with the self confidence and discipline he so desperately needs to reject the temptations of drugs, robbery, and dropping out of school for good. Alfred then begins to learn that he can be a positive influence upon the community in which he lives. Alfred learns that being a contender does not necessarily apply only to boxing.

REVIEW: The Contender is an excellent book in which most reader’s can identify with the themes; that is, resisting peer pressure, trying to become a better person, and overcoming difficult situations. Robert Lipstyte, the author of The Contender, leaves the reader with a sense of hope at overcoming obstacles and moving forward rather than following the status quo. After reading the book, one believes he or she can arise from his/her surroundings of desperation if only one becomes focused upon something that is positive and maintains discipline to achieve a goal and maintain hope in a better tomorrow.   

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, peer pressure,  5 steps of the writing process

RELATED BOOKS: Monster by Walter Dean Myers, Rocky Marciano: The Rock of His Times by Russell Sullivan, Muhammad Ali, the People’s Champ  by Elliott J. Gorn,  King of the World by David Remnick, Grammar for Middle School: A… by Don Killgallon, Iron Mike: A Mike Tyson Reader by Daniel O’Connor. Books by the same author: The Brave, The Chief, Warrior Angel, One Fat Summer (Ursula Nordstrom, Raiders Night, The Yellow Flag

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Hope for the Broken Contender (2008), Kid Monk Baroni (1952), Cinderella Man (2005), Rocky Balboa (2006), Rocky (1976)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://education.yahoo.com/homework_help/cliffsnotes/the_contender/

http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/The-Contender-Robert-Lipsyte-Biography-Personal-Background.id-62,pageNum-4.html

http://thebestnotes.com/booknotes/Contender_Lipsyte/Contender_Summary01.html

http://robertlipsyte.com/

http://english.byu.edu/Novelinks/reading%20strategies/The%20Contender/Cloze%20Test.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Contender_(Robert_Lipsyte_novel)

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/contender/

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

August 30, 2009

Drive-By

Drive-By

Author: Lynne Ewing

Page Length: 85

Reading Level: 3.5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins as Jimmy is shot and killed in front of his brother Tito and little sister Mina by a possible gang member in a car. The police imply that Jimmy was in a gang and that two potential suspects Ice-Breaker and Lamar Calles want something Jimmy had that belonged to them. This makes no sense to Tito because Jimmy had always said there are two kinds of gang bangers: those who are dead and those who were going to die. He told Jimmy that joining a gang didn’t make any sense at all. Tito then tries to find out the truth about his brother – Was he really in a gang? If so, what did the gang members want from him? Tito then must become the man of the house by taking care of and protecting his little sister, Mina.

The mystery begins when Tito and his mother attempt to collect Jimmy’s last paycheck at the restaurant only to find out that he had never worked there. To add to the mystery, Gus who is Tito’s long-time friend intentionally gives an inaccurate description of the car used in the drive-by shooting. Gus tries to pressure Tito into carrying a gun and joining a gang for protection now that Jimmy is dead. On the other hand, Tito’s Jewish friend, Zev, tries to be a positive influence.

Tito is faced with many tough decisions: how to find out the truth about his brother, what the gang members want from him, whether or not to join a gang, or to perform honest work to provide for his family.   

REVIEW: Ewing’s novel is bleak, though ultimately hopeful, with a satisfying ending that makes its point without belaboring it. In the early pages, Tito’s older brother, Jimmy, is killed in a gang-related drive-by shooting. This is only the beginning of Tito’s family’s troubles for while they cope with their grief; the gang attacks their house repeatedly, forcing the family to move. Following revelations about Jimmy’s secret life, Tito’s innocence is gradually stripped away; he confronts hard truths about gang life and takes action to protect his family and do what is right. Written in stripped-down prose that mirrors Tito’s bleak world, the brief tale combines the plot twists of a mystery with a topical setting and theme that will appeal to reluctant readers.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Conflict, Point of View, Cause/Effect, Conclusions, Generalizations, Predictions, Tragedy Theme, Protagonist, Antagonist, Parallelism, peer pressure

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drive-by shooting, death of character

RELATED BOOKS:  The Outsiders, Scorpions, Monster, Books by the same author: The Final Eclipse, Moon Demon, The Talisman, Possession, Night Shade, The Sacrifice, The Haunting, The Secret Scroll, Divine One, Night Sun

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Westside Story (musical – 2003),  Once Upon a Time In the Hood (2004), The Outsiders (2008), Drive-by Shooting (documentary of gangs in Fort Worth, Texas – 1994), The Price of the American Dream (2004)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://digitalbooktalk.com/?p=30

http://teachers.askacop.org/gangsandschoolviolence.html

http://www.lessonplanspage.com/SSODoSomethingAboutSchoolViolenceUnitDay5Groupthink912.htm

http://www.cln.org/themes/youth_violence.html

REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

January 18, 2009

Amalee

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Amalee

Author: Dar Williams

Page Length: 180

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Amalee struggles with the evenings she must spend with her dad and his four best “over forty” friends.  She is also struggling with her relationships in school, both with teachers and peers.  She has the image of being a mean kid and feels that no one really likes her.

When Amalee’s father becomes seriously ill and is bedridden, his friends come to take care of him, but no one tells Amalee what is wrong.  They take her to school and cook with her but are not honest with her about what is going on with her dad.   Meanwhile at school, Ellen and Hally, who were her friends, begin to make fun of her.  When Amalee gets into a fight with Lenore, Phyllis (a neighbor and one of the “older” friends) comes to Amalee’s aid. 

REVIEW: In her first novel, Dar Williams creates a realistic plot of a young girl who has a single parent, her dad.  When he becomes ill, Amalee, does not want anyone to know.  Williams does an excellent job of describing the feelings and emotions Amalee experiences of not knowing or being in control of what is happening in her life.  Like many teens, she does not know how to deal with these emotions and chooses to hide rather than share them.  When Phyllis comes to her rescue and helps Amalee explain to Lenore and the principal what she is going through, Amalee finds some peace. However, it is not until she finally talks with her dad about his illness that Amalee finds contentment.

This is a good book to read for children who have parents with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses so that they know their feelings of denial and fear are normal.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Theme, Characters, Point of View, and Cause/Effect,

RELATED BOOKS: Olive’s Ocean and Lights, Camera, and Amalee

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Stepmom (1998), CD’s by Dar Williams: The Green World, My Better Self, Out There, End of the Summer, Promised Land, The Beauty of the Rain

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 17, 2009

Beach House

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Beach House

Author: R. L. Stine

Page Length: 210

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Horror         

PLOT SUMMARY: Maria, Stuart, Amy, Ronnie, and Buddy are all at the beach in the summer of 1956.  When Stuart and Ronnie de-pant Buddy and leave him nude in the ocean, the girls get a good laugh at Buddy with the boys.  However, the four-some do not realize that Buddy was embarrassed by the incident.  He is so embarrassed that he wants revenge.

In Part 2 of the book, the setting is on the same beach with another group of teens, but the time is 50 years later.  Ross, Ashley, Kip and Lucy are spending time together at the ocean when they meet Brad, a very wealthy, good-looking but serious guy. One night, Kip and Lucy fail to return home.  Their disappearance is a mystery. Ashley becomes interested in Brad, and decides to break-up with Ross when his jealousy causes a scene at Brad’s mansion on Ocean Drive.  Lucky for Ashley, Ross follows her after the break-up to watch her activities.

In both parts of the book, there is a mysterious “Beach House” that no one has ever lived in.  The house contains a secret that is not revealed until late in the story.

REVIEW: The book is written in six parts with flashbacks from the 1950’s to the present.  It is suspenseful with serial killers in each era. For those who like suspense and mystery, and do not scare easily, this is a great book to read. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The book’s theme is of several violent murders. However, if the reader starts the book, knowing that its genre is “Horror”, I feel the book is age appropriate for the high school reader.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Setting, Theme, Conflict, Character

RELATED BOOKS: The Boyfriend, The Girlfriend, Call Waiting, and Hit and Run

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Scream (1996), and Prom Night (1980)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.smartgirl.org/reviews/books/7278256.html

www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=407

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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

December 12, 2008

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo

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Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo

Author: Greg Leitich Smith

Page Length: 188

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Elias, Shohei, and Honoria are best friends attending Peshtigo Middle School. Elias is from a family of very smart and successful parents and siblings.  Shohei is the adopted Japanese son of two Irish parents. Honoria is the girl caught in between the two.

It is time for the annual school Science Fair.  Elias decides to copy one of his older brother’s past experiments and Shohei decides to join him in working on the project. Honoria wants to teach piranhas to become vegetarians.

The plot thickens when Elias’ experiment does not match the findings of his brother; Shohei faces his parent’s daily issues to acquaint him with his Japanese culture; and, Elias has a crush on Honoria who confides in him that she has a crush on Shohei.   

REVIEW: This is an entertaining book in that the character’s each tell a portion of the story.  Each of their personalities is developed through their actions and thoughts.  The trio face conflict with their parents, teachers and each other. There is a Reading Group Guide at the end of the book which would assist if the book was used as a class novel. I think both boys and girls would enjoy the book for leisure reading.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Theme, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Holes, Tofu and T. Rex

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.gregleitichsmith.com

www.cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2005_04_01_archive.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 10, 2008

Blue Jasmine

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Blue Jasmine

Author: Kashmira Sheth

Page Length: 186

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: It is very hard for Seema to leave her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for America but the twelve-year-old girl moves with her family from India to Iowa City. Upon arriving in the United States, Seema learns that very little is the same in her new home and environment.  The streets, buildings and grocery stores are much larger but she finds fewer people with whom she can communicate.  As she enters school, she compares her life to “chutes and ladders”.  Some days everything goes great, others are pure disasters.  Seema does make friends and adjusts to her new home.  When her grandmother in India becomes ill, she returns to her old home and finds that things are not the same and she has trouble fitting in to both worlds.

REVIEW: This book is filled with great descriptions of India and its beautiful flowers and aromas of food flavors.  Sheth uses metaphors, similes, and idioms to write a great book for teaching examples of figurative language.  The characters are developed with vivid personalities and the setting of both India and Iowa City are well described. 

I think young girls would especially enjoy reading this book that not only describes two different cultures but also confronts the issues middle school girls must go through to “fit in”.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Figurative Language, Setting, Character, and Comparison/Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: The Kite Runner, Born Confused, The Conch Bearer, New Kids in Town

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Kite Runner (2007)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.webenglishteacher.com/childlit-s.html

www.ailf.org/teach/resourceguide2005.pdf

www.tracievaughnzimmer.com/blue jasmine.htm

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Chestnut Hill The New Class

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Chestnut Hill: The New Class

Author: Lauren Brooke

Page Length: 212

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Dylan Walsh, a 7th grader, has finally convinced her parents to let her go to boarding school.  Upon her arrival at Chestnut Hill, she meets several new friends. One of the girls is Lynsey, a spoiled rotten brat.  Another is Malory, who appears to be too good for the rest of the group.  Dylan meets more girls, however, the best thing about Chestnut Hill is the horses.  Dylan has her heart set on making the horseback riding team.  Before that happens, she must experience several events, which can determine her future as a student at the school and her future of making good decisions.

REVIEW: This is the first in a series of eight novels about the girls at Chestnut Hill.  Girls who especially love horses would enjoy this series. I believe it would be best used as a book for leisure reading.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Supporting Details, Sequence of Events, Conflict, Cause and Effect, and Comparison and Contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Making Strides, Heart of Gold, Playing for Keeps, The Scheme Team, All or Nothing

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Horse Whisperer (1998), Sea Biscuit (2003)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Brooke

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 5, 2008

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

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Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

Author: Dyan Sheldon

Page Length: 272

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Mary Cep (aka- Lola Elspeth Cep) has just moved from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey.  As she tries to make a statement at her new school, she becomes friends with Ella Gerard.  Ella, like Lola, has a love for the rock band Sidhartha.  When they hear the band is breaking up, Lola tries everything to get permission to attend the concert in NYC with Ella, even a hunger strike, which her mother does not fall for.

At school, Lola tries out for the leading role in the school play.  She doesn’t realize that Carla Santini, the most popular girl in school, is trying to sabotage her and her efforts in winning the starring role.  Carla not only runs the school, but her dad is a wealthy lawyer and he gets her tickets not only to the Sidhartha concert, but also to the party following.

Lola refuses to be outdone by Carla, and announces she also has tickets to the concert and party.  A night of antics, mishaps, lies and deception follow as Lola and Ella make their way to NYC.

REVIEW: This is an entertaining book that develops its characters well.  I would suggest it for leisure reading for teen-age girls rather than using in the classroom for instruction.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Profanity and alcohol use (p. 206-208)

AREAS OF TEACHING: Compare/Contrast, Figurative Language, (similes and metaphors p. 152, 166, 169, 172, 204), and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws, All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.litplans.com/titles

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 1, 2008

Hit Squad

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Hit Squad

Author: James Heneghan

Page Length: 106  

Reading Level: 3.8

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Grandview High School has been known in the past as an upscale high school with few gangs or inner high school rivalry.  When students get a choice to transfer across previous school boundaries, some bullying and hazing begin to occur.  Birgit is trapped in a closet with three strange girls spitting chocolate on her, Mickey’s lunch is stolen and Joey is beaten up so badly he is admitted into the local hospital.  Birgit feels that the principal and teachers cannot control the violence, so she forms a “Hit Squad” made up of Mickey, two other football players and herself to teach the bullies a lesson.

REVIEW:  This was a captivating book because of the violent action occurring on a high school campus. To me, it was almost too violent in the retaliation steps that the “Hit Squad” takes to teach the bullies a lesson.  When Candy, Mickey’s foster sister questions him about the ‘squads’ methods and motives, Mickey appears to hear what she is saying, but because of his infatuation with Birgit, he makes choices that become fatal.

I think both boys and girls would both enjoy this book.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Conflict, and Setting

TOUCHY AREAS: Alcohol and marijuana use on page 56.

RELATED BOOKS: Exposure

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Rats and Bullies (2004), Mean Creek (2004), Bully (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://mysite.verizon.net/revhank/jamesheneghan/hitsquad.htm,

http://sandeelee.blogs.com/bullying/2005/02/rats_and_bullie.html,

http://plethoria9.blogspot.com/2006/07/mean-creekimportant-teen-flicks.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

 

 

November 3, 2008

Exposure

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Exposure

Author: Patricia Murdoch

Page Length: 102

Reading Level: 2.8

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Julie, a little overweight, was an easy target for Dana, the most popular girl at school, to make fun of and ridicule.  Dana notices that it is not only her, but also anyone that Dana can make a negative remark to, she does.  Julie only wishes there is some way she might be able to give Dana a little dose of her own medicine.  One night as her brother, Zach, returns home from a party, Julie learns that Dana was at the party.  Not only was she at the party without her boyfriend, but also Zach has pictures of her drinking and inappropriately dressed.  Julie now has the ammunition she needs to destroy Dana’s reputation. 

REVIEW: This story addresses the subject of bullying that is prevalent in the school system from junior high through high school.  Students seem to constantly be putting others down in an effort to make themselves look better.  The author portrays the characters in such a manner that the reader can easily identify with a love/hate relationship for the accused and accuser.  After Julie gets her revenge on Dana, she realizes it doesn’t feel so good to hurt someone and acts on that by saving Dana’s life.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Underage alcohol and marijuana use.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Point of View, Character, and Foreshadowing

RELATED BOOKS: Story of a Girl

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.readerviewskids.com/ReviewMurdochExposure.html,

www.readerviewskids.com/ReviewMurdochExposure.html,

findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4063/is_/ai_n17195256,

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

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Down

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Down

Author: Norah McClintock

Page Length: 103

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Remy has just been released from a nine month stay at a juvenile correction facility for assaulting a man who insulted his girlfriend.   While in jail, he did not return letters to his family or girlfriend.  Upon his release, he finds his mother and sister treating him like a criminal.  His girlfriend, Asia, has a new boyfriend, Marcus.   Marcus and his friends are in a rivalry with some of Remy’s friends from school.   Asia knows that Marcus has a knife and wants Remy to talk to him-to warn him what can happen in reality.  Remy is suffering from a lot of anger.  He has to learn to control it and to cope with the people in his surroundings.

REVIEW: Norah McClintock has written another suspenseful book for the reluctant reader.  I thought the book was good because it deals with prejudice, peer pressure, romantic and family issues, and violence.  All of these subjects are matters of pressure that high school students must face each day. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Marijuana use and some profanity but it is not inappropriate for the high school audience. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Point of View, Conflict, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Bang, Marked, Snitch, Tell

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Gridiron Gang (2006), Stomp the Yard (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teensreadtoo.com/Down.html

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

www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=432

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

October 30, 2008

House Party

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House Party

Author: Eric Walters

Page Length: 102

Reading Level:

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: When Casey’s parents go out of town they think she is staying at Jen’s house overnight, but Jen has other ideas. She talks Casey into having just a ‘small get-together’ with a ‘few friends.’ The party gets wildly out of control ending with property damage, police and ambulances.

REVIEW: This book was ok and I think fairly realistic. As a high school student who did have a house party while my parents were out of town (yes I got caught) I could relate to many aspects of what happened in the book, although thankfully not to such a large degree. A lot of the unknown, uninvited kids who show up at this party read about it on somebody’s webpage. That is a scary thought considering just how out of control things can get without everyone on the World Wide Web being invited. Before the party Casey is worried someone might spill something on the carpet or throw up. Those worries come to pass, but they are only the beginning. Lamps and windows are broken, the crowd grows to over 200 people and fights break out. The book ends with Casey getting ready to face her parents and take responsibility for her actions.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Cause and effect, prediction

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Lots of underage drinking on the party pages and a couple is interrupted in the parent’s bedroom during the party.

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.ericwalters.net

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

 

August 24, 2008

One True Friend

One True Friend

Author: Joyce Hansen

Page Length: 154

Reading Level: 6

Genre:  Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of a friendship between Amir and Doris who met while Amir was living in a foster home on 163rd street in the Bronx. Amir’s parents were killed in a car wreck and he was separated from his siblings who were put into foster care.  As the story evolves, Amir is living with his youngest brother, Ronald and his foster parent’s, Alvin and Grace Smith. Amir is on a mission to find his aunt, who he believes has his other sibling’s living with them.  He has a letter and picture he wants to send to all of the people who have the same last name as his aunt to try to find them.  However, Mr. Smith forbids Amir to send the letters and says that he will help find his aunt.

Amir feels alone and writes Doris about his life in Syracuse, the Smith’s, and Ronald.  Doris writes back about issues she is having with her schoolmates and family.  Both Amir and Doris, give each other advice and support through their mail. They both feel disconnected from the world they live in and hold on to the distant friendship to solve their problems.

REVIEW: This book starts off slow, but gets better as the relationship between Doris and Amir develops through the letters they write.  The issues that the two teens face are realistic as to what many teens fact today.  A meaningful relationship also develops between the Smith’s and Amir that makes Amir realize what blood family and chosen family can both be a part of one’s life.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Conflict, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast, Setting and Characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: References to marijuana use and AIDS, but nothing that is not age appropriate.

RELATED BOOKS: The Gift Giver, Yellow Bird and Me

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0395849837.asp

www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0395849837.asp

www.joycehansen.com

www.answers.com/topic/joyce-viola-hansen

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws

Filed under: L — thebookreviews @ 12:04 am
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Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws

Author: Janette Rallison

Page Length: 185

Reading Level: not listed

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Josie and Cami are best friends in ninth grade and both are on the basketball team.  Josie is a natural athlete and basketball comes very easy for her.  Cami loves the sport, but must work hard for everything she accomplishes.  Josie has asked Cami to help her get Ethan’s attention.  Ethan, one of the cutest boys in ninth grade, has recently broken up with Ashley who is the captain of the basketball team.

The book is written in narrative form with Josie penning one chapter, then Cami the next.  The reader gets opinions, thoughts, feelings and ideas from both Cami and Josie.  As the book progresses, Cami realizes she also has a crush on Ethan.  Josie begins to enjoy the idea that she could actually be the MVP of the basketball team because she is always the highest point shooter.

The two girls discover that each of them has not been totally honest with the other and a fight develops.  This quarrel carries over to the basketball team and the other players, which causes the team to suffer several losses.  On a road trip to an important basketball game, Josie and Cami discover that friendship is more important than the issues they have put between themselves.

 REVIEW: This is definitely a “chick” book and I think girls of middle school and junior high would enjoy it more than older girls.  The characters and their behaviors are very stereotype of middle class Anglo-Saxon females.

The book was a fast read, but not one that I would highly recommend.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Characters, and Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School, It’s a Mall World After All, The Revenge of the Cheerleaders, Playing the Field

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Grease” (1978)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teensreadtoo.com/PursuitOfFreeThrows.html

www.walkeryoungreaders.com/books/catalog.php?key=461

www.janetterallison.com/questions_life_love.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 29, 2008

Godless

Filed under: G — thebookreviews @ 8:17 pm
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Godless

Author: Pete Hautman     

Page Length: 198

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY:  As Jason Bock looks up at the sky after being hit by Henry Stagg’s, he focuses on the tall water tower above him and has the revelation that the town water tower is his god. 

Jason is the son of a slightly neurotic mother who obsesses over Jason having some disease. His dad is a devout Catholic who insists Jason attends the weekly Teen Power Outreach (TPO) meetings at the church. Jason has doubts about the validity of his faith and therefore, reasons that he can invent his own religion, which is the worship of the Ten-legged God, the town water tower.

He quickly recruits his friends, Shin, Magda, and Dan to be in the TLG faith with him and gives each of them specific titles of leadership.  As he ponders how the group can climb the tower for a weekly mass, he runs into his bitter enemy, Henry Stagg’s who is atop the tower.  When Henry shares the secret of climbing the tower, Jason allows him to be a member of the TLG and names him “High Priest”.

As the story unfolds, Shin starts writing and drawing works, which reflect the teachings of the TLG. Henry, Magda, Dan, and Jason all climb the tower and go for a swim in the top of the water tank.  As they attempt to descend the steps of the tower, there is an accident. They are caught by the police and punished by their parents.  Shin, however, is at home “hearing the voice of the TLG. 

REVIEW: Probably, most teens at some time, question their faith as their parents have taught them.  This book is a narrative by such a teen as he not only questions his parent’s beliefs, but also decides it is perfectly fine to invent his own religion. 

The story is believable that a group of teens would join a “cult”, but mostly for the fun and adventure of the group doing adventures together.  As Shin, becomes obsessed with the religion, the story gets eerie that one could take the fantasy too far.

The book is an easy and fast read.  Students who enjoy fantasy or science fiction would enjoy. At the back of the book there is a summary and questions for discussion.  Also, there are some activities if it was read as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Character, Point of View

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.petehautman.com/godless.html

www.powells.com/biblio/61-0689862784-0

www.romantictimes.com/books_review.php?book=22600

http://web.mac.com/stannes1/iWeb/Book Review/Other/

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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