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August 30, 2009

Freaky Green Eyes

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Freaky Green Eyes

Author: Joyce Carol Oates

Page Length: 341

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Franky (Francesca) Pierson struggles to determine what she really believes about life and her parents. What she knows is this: her mother has distanced herself, her father has a nasty temper, her father believes in perfect appearances, and life doesn’t always have a happy ending. Freaky, a new nickname Franky earns in a treacherous situation that she narrowly escapes, has to learn to open her eyes and really see for herself what is going on instead of letting others tell her how to think and feel. When Franky’s mother disappears, Freaky realizes just how dark and twisted her world has become.

REVIEW: I think that every young woman (and even young man) should read this book. It teaches all about domestic abuse and controlling behaviors. It would lend to an excellent discussion of what is and is not love. The book also makes an excellent point about how we must learn to see the world for ourselves and to evaluate the actions of those around us rather than just accepting their words or false fronts. Franky has to learn to act courageously despite the circumstances. In the beginning of the book, Freaky also narrowly escapes being raped because she ends up at a party and in a situation she should not be in. Great book  – a must read for young girls who need to understand the dangers of certain situations, the need for choosing relationships wisely, and what love does and does not look like.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: comparing text to self, compare and contrast, sequence of events, setting, conflict, resolution

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: “he’s unzipped his pant, he’s fumbling and panting” (page 16), “grabbed a hold of my arm and shook, shook, shook me so hard my teeth rattled in my head” (page 125)

RELATED BOOKS: Rape: A Love Story, Big Mouth, Ugly Girl, Sexy, Mother, Missing, Flew Away, The Gravedigger’s Daughter


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor


September 1, 2008

The Trouble With Liberty

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The Trouble With Liberty 

Author: Kristin Butcher

Page Length: 88

Reading Level: 4.2

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Liberty is the new girl in school and quickly becomes the most popular. Val, the narrator, befriends Liberty. Almost everyone is drawn to Liberty except for, Ryan, Val’s friend. Ryan knows that Liberty is up to no good. Liberty is a major flirt with the guys. Even when she exclusively dates Val’s brother Cody, Liberty flirts with other boys.

One day at school, Liberty decides to “talk” with her band teacher, Mr. Henderson, in private. After their short conversation, Liberty is found in the school office crying. Liberty has accused Mr. Henderson of rape. The band teacher is subsequently suspended. Everyone in school appears to be on Liberty’s side. However, Ryan distances himself from the situation. Val later confronts Ryan. At this point, Ryan reveals to Val that Liberty “came on” to Mr. Henderson by unbuttoning her blouse and throwing her chest onto the teacher. Ryan also tells Val that Liberty said that Mr. Henderson “will be sorry for this” after he asks her to leave his classroom. Ryan witnessed all of this because he had been sleeping in one of the band practice rooms.

Val finds it hard to completely believe Ryan’s story, however Val eventually confronts Liberty about these new-found details. Upon doing so, Liberty becomes upset. Fortunately Liberty’s mom overhears the conversation and turns her daughter in. Unfortunately, Mr. Henderson does not return to the school because he had put in his resignation before his name could be cleared.    

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book, because even though it was somewhat predictable, I felt the character of Liberty was very intriguing. Her actions, emotions, thoughts, and motives would make for an excellent character sketch. The topic of teacher/student misconduct is a very real one in today’s society. Evidence of such issues can be found in the media today. Like all other Orca Soundings books, it was an easy read and a short one.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (pages 77 & 87), foreshadowing & predictions (page 17), characterization, cause and effect  

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: a teacher is accused of raping a student in this book

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Mean Girls” (2004)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

April 2, 2008



Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Page Length: 197

Reading Level: 7.1

REVIEW: Speak is the story of the chronological events of Melinda Sordino’s ninth grade year  at Merryweather High School  from  the first day of school until the last bell rings in May.  Melinda begins the year by being shunned by all of her friends because she busted an end of summer high school party by calling 911.  She can’t tell her friends or parents why she called the police;  and, as a result,  keeps her story inside her as she enters the halls of high school as an “outcast.”   

Laurie Anderson writes her first novel with vivid descriptions that kept me eager to read without stopping.  I especially liked the lists she had Melinda make.  The first list is on page 5 titled, “The First 10 Lies They Tell You in High School” and on page 148, the second list is “Ten More Lies They Tell You in High School.” 

As Melinda falls into a deep depression over the events of the party and her life as an outcast in high school, she begins speaking less and less.  She doesn’t verbally respond in class, to her classmates or parents.  On page 51 she realizes something is wrong. She says she has spastic laryngitis and wants to leave, transfer, and warp herself to another galaxy.  

Melinda’s parents are caught up in their own jobs with little notice of Melinda’s problems.  When they are called to the school for her lack of attendance and downward spiraling grades, they deal with it by yelling at each other. On page 70, Melinda’s thoughts are that she feels she was a big disappointment to them and they would all be better off if they just split the money and all went about life on their own. At Christmas, she tries to tell her parent’s about the incident at the party but she freezes and can’t speak.  Both of her parents leave the room. 

Melinda does have one friend, Heather, a new girl in town who doesn’t know about Melinda’s “snitching” at the party.  Heather is desperate to make friends and to belong to a club or organization.  Melinda, however, can’t communicate her problems even to Heather and eventually Heather begins to shun her, too.   

As the school year proceeds, Melinda makes a vague attempt at suicide by cutting her wrists with a paperclip.  Her mom reacts by saying, “I don’t have time for this Melinda.”  Melinda does find some comfort in her Art class with her teacher, Mr. Freeman.  He is experiencing some difficulties with the school board and I think she relates to him for this reason. She works hard to complete her art assignment which is making a tree “come to life”.  However, this is equally hard. 

Any form of communication is hard for Melinda.  She talks briefly to her biology lab partner, David Petrakis.  And an old friend, Ivy, makes idol conversation with her about her art. It is not until Rachel, her former “best” friend, begins talking to one of the senior boys that Melinda realizes she must be honest and tell somebody what happened the night of the party.   

I enjoyed this book and think it would be a good novel for a class to read and discuss.  There are many issues that relate to our teens of today. A movie has been made of the book but I have not seen it.  At the end of the book, there is a question and answer section with the author.  She also writes a quick read about censorship. 



REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 5, 2008

Julie of the Wolves

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Julie of the Wolves

Author:  Jean Craighead George

Page Length: 170

Reading Level: 6th


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: The book Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George, is the story of a thirteen year-old girl’s journey to preserve the traditions and culture of her Eskimo people.  The story begins with Miyax, or Julie, as she is called by the “white people”, lost on the Alaskan tundra.  She is running out of food and, in her desperation, turns to a pack of wolves for help.  After some time, the wolves begin to see her as one of their own.  Through their assistance she is able to survive for several months before finding her way to the village Kangik.


The second part of the book focuses on Miyax’s childhood.  Her mother died when she was young which caused her father, Kapugen, to lose his mind.  In his grief, her father leaves their village behind, and he and Miyax move to a seal camp.  It is during these five years that Miyax learns the ways of her Eskimo people and embraces her heritage.  But this way of life comes to an end when her Aunt Martha shows up, and insists that Miyax return to the village and receive a proper education.   Kapugen relents, but tells Miyax there is a way to escape her aunt’s wishes: when she is thirteen, Miyax may choose to marry an Eskimo boy named Daniel, for his family follows the old traditions.  Soon after leaving with her aunt, Miyax is told that her father never returned from a hunt, and he is assumed dead.


During the years that Miyax lives with her Aunt Martha, she corresponds with a pen pal named Amy who lives in San Francisco.  Through Amy’s letters she learns about movies, sports cars, carpet, and blue jeans. She begins to flirt with the idea of a non-Eskimo life, yet decides at thirteen that the old ways are best: she will marry Daniel.


Miyax travels far to her new home, but is surprised to discover that Daniel is severely mentally challenged.  She lacks the experience and confidence to escape the marriage, and so she accepts her fate.  Things seem tolerable at first.  Her new mother teaches her how to sew, and Daniel’s father seems fun loving.  Daniel keeps to himself, and they live like brother and sister.  Yet it isn’t long before Miyax learns that Daniel’s father is an abusive alcoholic.  And, after being made fun of, Daniel decides to truly “make Miyax his wife”.  She escapes him and runs away with a few essential supplies, but gets lost on the tundra.


The last part of the book is about Miyax surviving the Alaskan winter as a true Eskimo.  She successfully feeds and clothes herself with the skins of animals, and she enjoys the company of her wolf pack, and pet bird.  She even builds her own cozy igloo.  When Eskimo hunters discover her hideout, she learns that her father, Kapugen, is alive and well in a nearby village. 


On her journey to find Kapugen, she experiences the destructive nature of progress first hand.  Miyax encounters excessive pollution, and watches her beloved “wolf father” killed for sport by American hunters. 


In the end Miyax finds her father.  He had not died in a hunting accident.  It turns out that years before he chose to start a new life for himself, and had recently journeyed to her aunt’s village to find Miyax.  At first she is thrilled.  She envisions their new life together as one lived in the old traditions.  Yet her dreams are stopped short when she meets her new step-mother, a woman who is not Eskimo, and sees that her father has embraced aspects of the “white man’s world”.  He has a TV, electric stove, radio, etc.  Initially, Miyax plans to run away to her igloo and live an Eskimo life in isolation. Yet she comes to the realization that the time of the Eskimos has ended.  With her new understanding, that change is inevitable, she heads back to her father’s village.




REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

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