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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


Flour Babies

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Flour Babies

Author: Anne Fine

Page Length: 178

Reading Level:  6.2

Genre:  fiction

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW: This book is about a young boy and his class that begin a scientific experiment on Flour Babies, a Child Development Project, for the school’s Science Fair.   The classroom, known as #8, is given a challenge to keep and care for flour sacks (babies) for three weeks while daily writing a journal about it.  Some of the students in this class are tired of the project by day eleven, except for Simon Martin.  He relates to the flour baby and reflects back upon his own father who deserted him when he was quite tiny.  He finds taking care of the flour baby quite fascinating up until the near end of the twenty one days.   Generically, each of the boys either caves in to all of the responsibility or holds tight with his inner desire for parental caring for the Flour Baby.  

While reading this book anyone will laugh and chuckle as the nineteen students try carefully to keep the sacks clean, free of hair, mud less and smudge proof.   The real heroes of the story may end up being Simon Martin’s mother because he figures she must have Angelic Wings for putting up with him his whole life.  Even their teacher, Mr. Cassidy, gets a bit tired of the project as it ends, but personally he gets in a few teaching lessons as they are deemed appropriate. 

Mayhem takes place at the end of the three weeks as Simon lets many of the flour babies explode within the gym and school hall ways.  This is a comical end to a humorous book. Anyone would love this book. I really liked reading the book because it was funny as well as realistic.


6.9 draw on experience for word meanings

6.10 know the main idea and the details

6.11 make connections with comparison and ideas

6.12 analyze characters.

RELATED BOOKS:   other books by Anne Fine are Goggle Eyes, The Granny ProjectUpon on Cloud 9 and Bad


REVIEWED BY:   Linda Schwegler

September 21, 2008

One More Step

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One More Step

Author: Sheree Fitch

Page Length: 85

Reading Level: 2.5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: 14 year old Julian lives with his older brother Chris and his divorced mother. Julian’s father separated from his mother when he was only 1 year old. As a result, Julian’s relationship with his father is not a close one. Their contact is limited to weekend and holiday visits. On a recent Christmas visit to their father’s home, Julian and Chris spend time with their father’s new wife, children, and their grandfather – Poppie. When Chris and father are sent outside to fix some broken Christmas lights, Chris’ leg is broken breaking the fall of his father. Julian becomes upset at the scene and decides to leave his father and join his mother and her new boyfriend, Jean-Paul, for a visit to Quebec. Jean-Paul intends for Julian’s mother to meet his huge family!

On this trip, Julian discovers that this “new man” in her mother’s life is a supportive and loving one. Jean-Paul and Julian bond and move several steps towards becoming a “family”. The past 14 years of Julian’s life have resulted in his mother dating 3 men – all with their flaws. His mother’s new French boyfriend, Jean-Paul, proves to be promising, despite Julian’s constant cocky and sarcastic attitude.

Towards the end of the Quebec trip, Julian’s mother gets a call that her father, Poppie, has passed away. This is a blow to Julian, who was very close to his grandfather. The story comes to a close with Julian’s mother marrying Jean-Paul, Chris going off to school, and Julian realizing that Jean-Paul is not going to be his replacement father but rather a supportive male presence.   

REVIEW: I enjoyed this book. I thought the internal and external dialogue of Julian was awesome. It kept me engaged. For a book written at a 2nd to 3rd grade level, I was entertained. The topic of divorce, separation, and new family figures is a touchy one, and I felt the author did an excellent job portraying the emotions, change, and acceptance that comes with this frequent situation in society. The book overall had a positive tone yet the youthful sarcastic elements remained. This certified it as authentic. Even though there were numerous curse words, this gave the dialogue true and real meaning.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: voice, internal & external dialogue

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: curse words (pages 47 & 54), references to underage drinking (page 65 & 79-82), references to items such as condoms and hickeys

RELATED BOOKS: Dear Mr. Henshaw, It’s Not the End of the World

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), “Boys N the Hood” (1991)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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