The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

Impact

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Impact by James C. Dekker: Book Cover

Impact

Author: James C. Dekker

Page Length: 94

Reading Level: 3.8

Genre: Fiction

Career Connection: Police officer, pathologist, lawyer, detective

PLOT SUMMARY: As Jordan’s dad speaks to the court about his son who was murdered, Jordan recalls the events that led to his older brother, Mark’s, death. Jordan’s mind wanders as the judge listens to the impact each of the boy’s had on Mark’s death.

Mark was the dream guy – good looking, athletic, intelligent, and outgoing. Jordan was more on the shy, introverted side. Jordan had seen a girl, Shannon, at school and wanted to ask her out. When he talked to Mark about asking a girl out, Mark encouraged him. However, he did not get the nerve up when he saw her in the hall. When he arrived at the football game, he saw his older brother Mark, arm in arm with Shannon. It hit a nerve. There was no way that Mark knew Shannon was the girl Jordan had wanted to ask to the game, but he was with her.

Shannon’s boyfriend, Tony was jealous and wanted to get Mark to stay away from her. Kyle, a neighbor of Jordan’s, saw Jordan on the street and showed Tony who he was. When Kyle approached Jordan and asked him where Mark worked, Jordan knew it was to gain information for Tony. Jordan told him where Mark worked.

At the end of the trial, Jordan wonders what impact he may have had on his brother’s death.

REVIEW: Impact is an easy, independent read and would be good for the reluctant reader to try as a first book. The interest level is high with the action in the courtroom and the details Jordan remembers that lead up to Mark’s murder.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

TEACHING AREAS: Compare/Contrast, Sequence of Events, Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: Scum, Spiral, First Time, Learning to Fly

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Heathers (1988)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.orcabook.com

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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September 28, 2009

Funny Little Monkey

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Funny Little Monkey

Author: Andrew Auseon

Page Length: 298

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Arty Moore is a fourteen-year-old boy with a growth hormone deficiency which has stifled his growth to a mere 4’ 2”. Arty has a twin brother, Kurt, who has seemed to get all of the growth hormones of the two and towers more than 6’ tall. 

Kurt has tormented Arty most of their adolescent life, and when Arty hears of an “underground misfit group” in his school, he employs them to sabotage his brother.  When the school mascot is stolen, Kurt becomes a prime target of accusation. 

While the underground organization mounts evidence against Kurt, Arty becomes infatuated with Leslie Dermott, the new, rich girl in town.   Arty doesn’t really know why, but Leslie seems to enjoy his company, also. A series of events follow that make Arty question his feelings about his brother, mother, Leslie, and the underground misfits.

REVIEW: Young teen boys would enjoy this book as it deals with many of the feelings they experience in the years of puberty and early maturity. The book had several subplots that kept the story line interesting. However, the book focuses on many negative behaviors and feelings and the author does not end it with any strong socially redeeming conclusion.

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

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Mild profanity, some underage tobacco, alcohol, and drug use

RELATED BOOKS: Tangerine

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

October 30, 2008

Cruise Control

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Cruise Control

Author: Terry Trueman

Page Length: 149

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

 

PLOT SUMMARY: Paul McDaniel is a star athlete in high school. His life seems perfect, but it isn’t. Paul keeps bottling up his rage over his family situation; unfortunately, when he lets his rage out he is in danger of completely losing control. On the one hand, Paul loves his brother and longs for a typical relationship; on the other hand, he hates the conditions having his special needs brother in his life has created for his family. Paul’s dad left the family and now he’s the man of the house – unwanted responsibilities that are affecting his future. Will Paul ever break free and can he ever forgive his father?

 

REVIEW: This book takes a real look at what life might be like for a family with a severely handicapped child. Through Paul’s emotions we experience his anger at not having a normal life, his disappointment in his father’s inability to be the man of the house and handle the situation, and his anger with himself over not being a better brother and ever even thinking about wishing that his brother didn’t exist. Powerful and raw — this book is moving and very real.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, word choice in writing, mood, tone, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict

 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Foul language interspersed throughout the story

 

RELATED BOOKS: Stuck in Neutral, Inside Out, No Right Turn

 

RELATED MOVIES: “Rain Man,” “Gaby,” “Touched by Love,” “Door to Door”

 

   

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.harperchildrens.com/webcontent/teachers_guides/pdf/0066239613.pdf

 

http://unjobs.org/authors/terry-trueman

 

http://www.terrytrueman.com/books_cruise.htm

 

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cerebral_palsy/cerebral_palsy.htm

 

http://www.terrytrueman.com/

 

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Stuck in Neutral

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Stuck In Neutral

Author: Terry Trueman

Page Length: 114

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

 

PLOT SUMMARY: Shawn McDaniel is fourteen years old. He is the average teenager – interested in girls and sports. He has an amazing mind and can remember details from conversations. The problem is that no one knows how brilliant Shawn is because he can’t tell them. He’s confined to a wheelchair, unable to move or speak, and prone to violent seizures. Everyone thinks he is incapable of thought or feelings, except maybe his dad. Shawn’s father is fixated on his son’s suffering; he cannot stand to watch his body tremor during a seizure and he’s feels guilty about Shawn’s suffering. Shawn fears that his father may be plotting to kill him.

 

REVIEW: This book takes a powerful look at the what if. What if mental and physical impairments aren’t always as comprehensive as they seem?  What if what we have always assumed to be true isn’t true after all?  Trueman paints a vivid picture of what life might be like for Shawn – colorful, rich, and exciting in its own way. As The Horn Book reviewer writes “evoking one of our darkest fears and deepest hopes — that a fully conscious and intelligent being may be hidden within such a broken body, as yet unable to declare his existence.”

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: description, imagery, word choice in writing, mood, tone, author’s purpose

 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: pages 91-93 – violence as Paul nearly beats to death two boys torturing his brother, seizure descriptions, anger from siblings

 

RELATED BOOKS: Cruise Control, Inside Out, No Right Turn

 

RELATED MOVIES: “Rain Man,” “Gaby,” & “Touched by Love”

 

   

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-stuck-in-neutral/

 

http://www.harperchildrens.com/webcontent/teachers_guides/pdf/0066239613.pdf

 

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cerebral_palsy/cerebral_palsy.htm

 

http://www.terrytrueman.com/

 

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 12, 2008

Night of the Twisters

Night of the Twisters

Author: Ivy Ruckman       

Page Length: 151

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: Night of the Twisters is a narrative told by Dan Hatch, the oldest of two children, and resident of Grand Island, Nebraska.  It is based on the actual tornadoes that struck Grand Island and the surrounding areas on June 4, 1980.

As the story begins, Dan has just won a bike after entering the Dairy Queen Bike Race because his best friend, Arthur, dared him to race.

Dan and Arthur spend most of their free time together.  Dan prefers being at Arthur’s house, to get to eye Stacey, Arthur’s 14-year-old sister.  Arthur likes to be at Dan’s house, so that he can escape his six sisters.  They both appease the wishes of Dan’s, Aunt Goldie, by participating in her craft projects and self-improvement classes. Dan is a bit jealous of his baby brother, Ryan, who requires most of his mother’s time and attention.

The book is written in chapters from hour to hour on the afternoon of June 3rd.  At 5:00, Arthur and Dan are leaving the beach as clouds begin to build.  At 6:00, Arthur has dinner with Dan and his family and then, Dan’s dad leaves to go to his grandpa’s house that lives in the country. After doing the dishes and folding some diapers, about 7:00, the boys went for a bike ride.  They visited Mrs. Smiley and went by Arthur’s house to see if he could spend the night at Dan’s.  Everything and everybody were very calm-before the storm hit.

By 8:00, warnings are being given on the radio that tornadoes have been cited.  Dan’s mother gets worried, that Mrs. Smiley, who lives down the street, may not know to take cover.  She decides to drive down the street to help Mrs. Smiley get into her basement.  However, before her return, the sirens sound.  Dan and Arthur hurry to get Ryan, Dan’s baby brothers, Minerva, the cat and themselves down into the basement.  They make it to the basement as they heard the roaring of a freight train.

The boys survive the storm, but do not realize what comes after a severe tornado demolishes a town. They must make adult decisions about how to survive and help others survive.

REVIEW:  Ivy Ruckman does a great job of getting the reader involved with the characters at the beginning of the book.  The way in which he writes the events, hour by hour, create suspense as to what will happen next.  He develops the character of Dan, and shows how he changes and matures in just a twelve hour period. 

I think this book would be a good read aloud for a class.  It has good character development, description, and an order of events that the class could discuss and develop as writing projects.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Cause and Effect, Characters, Setting, and Conclusions, Predictions, and Generalizations

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Twister” (1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.gitwisters.com/tenyears/kidsrelate.php

www.stemnet.nf.ca/CITE/night_of_the_twisters.htm

www.mrsdell.org/twisters

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 6, 2008

Blue Eyes Better

Blue Eyes Better

Author: Ruth Wallace-Brodeur

Page Length: 106

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The Drummond family has suffered a terrible loss. Scott is dead. Tessa and her family will never be the same. Tessa’s tormented by her brother’s death. She feels responsible and she can’t face telling anyone why. Her mother withdraws and cries constantly; she doesn’t seem to care or even notice Tessa anymore. Mom and Scott were always so much alike. Tessa really feels that having blue eyes like Mom’s would have been better. Tessa struggles to go on without her brother and without her mother’s support. Can the Drummond family overcome their grief and move on together, or will Scott’s death be too much for them to bear?

REVIEW: This was a stirring, emotional story. The reader experiences Tessa’s loss and her longing for her mother to notice her. The book really lets the reader feel what it would be like to lose a brother, feel guilty for not saving him, and to have a parent shut themselves away when you needed them most. I would recommend this as a read for anyone who has ever lost a family member – especially a sibling (although the book will appeal more to girls).

AREAS FOR TEACHING: theme, setting, point of view, characters, author’s purpose, generalizations, mood, tone

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: dealing with death, guilt, and depression

RELATED BOOKS: Home by Five, The Godmother Tree, Stories from the Big Chair, Callie’s Way, One April Vacation, Olive’s Ocean

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2241/Wallace-Brodeur-Ruth-1941.html

http://www.slanza.org.nz/gutsygirls.PDF

http://www.answers.com/topic/ruth-wallace-brodeur

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Blue-Eyes-Better-Brodeur-Wallace/9780142500866-item.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Hardball

Hardball

Author: Will Weaver

Page Length: 240

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: It’s 1971 and Billy Baggs is a star pitcher for the farm team. Billy and the farm team are arch rivals against Archer “King” Kenwood and the city team. Both boys have more in common than they realize: a longing for the same girl, controlling fathers, demanding home lives, and a love of baseball. High school baseball is approaching and the coach needs both the boys as future teammates. When the last farm vs. city game of the season erupts in violence, the coach hatches a plan. The boys will have to spend time living each other’s lives. Will King and Billy be able to get along long enough to survive their time together? Can they overcome their differences and come together in time to make the team?

REVIEW: I really enjoyed reading this book! I loved the lessons Weaver teaches about tolerance for one another, how things aren’t always as they seem, being true to yourself, standing up for what you believe in, and more. This book provides many teachable moments worth discussion. Worth the read – but probably better appreciated by students who have lived in both rural and urban settings or who at least understand the differences between the two. I think that many students will be able to identify with Billy, King, and even Suzy.   

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, compare/contrast, cause and effect, summarization, theme, setting, plot, conflict, point of view

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: mild sexual encounter, mild language: pg. 85 “Gina floated on her stomach … as naked as a jaybird,” pg. 87 “keep showing off your titties,” violence (fighting)

RELATED BOOKS: Striking Out, Farm Team, Saturday Night Dirt: A Motor Novel, Full Service, Red Earth, White Earth

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/12865/Will_Weaver/index.aspx

http://www.willweaverbooks.com/yalit.html

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

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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