The Book Reviews – Website

November 3, 2008


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Author: Colin Frizzell

Page Length: 98

Reading Level: 3.5

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Chill is exactly that – a teenager with an even temper that doesn’t let life get him down. Even though he was born with a limp leg, he doesn’t let that bother him. He is a talented artist with a promising future. Sean is his good friend. Sean is the narrator of the story and an insightful & funny one at that.

When the school hires a new English teacher, things start to become interesting. Mr. Sfinkter makes it his mission to belittle all the students in his class. He is stern, crushes students’ hopes and dreams, and does not seem to show any concern for his pupils. All of the students realize this except for one – Sean. Mr. Sfinkter, for an unknown reason, takes a liking to Sean’s aspirations to become a writer. Sean is excited and begins a novel which he finishes and turns into Mr. Sfinkter for possible publishing.

On the flip-side, Mr. Sfinkter pokes fun at Chill’s desire to become an artist. This angers Chill who is set out to expose Mr. Sfinkter for the cruel man that he is. The entire faculty, view Mr. Sfinkter as a genuine and courteous man.  However, the students know better. The “face” that Mr. Sfinkter puts on for his teaching peers is the opposite of what he wears in class.

Chill first uses his drawing abilities to post (on the local news) an artistic rendering of a man suspected of flashing women. The man that Chill draws looks exactly like Mr. Sfinkter. The students enjoy this trick, however the faculty seem un-phased. Chill continues his quest to expose Mr. Sfinkter by altering his own mural for the school and adding a “few special touches”. At the murals unveiling, what is seen is a picture of Mr. Sfinkter with a “flaming face”. Chill’s mural is intended to depict Mr. Sfinkter in a bad light. Chill is called into the office along with others who follow to hear the gossip. Mr. Sfinkter is present as well. It is in the office that Mr. Sfinkter “blows up” and begins calling Chill names such as “daydreamer” and “gimp”. In this fit of rage, Mr. Sfinkter reveals to all his true nature.

Sean realizes that Mr. Sfinkter was never going to read his book or publish it and understands all that Chill has been going through. Their friendship, once strained with the arrival of Mr. Sfinkter, is now growing stronger.

REVIEW: I truly enjoyed this book. The topic will be of great interest to many students since I am sure that any student can remember a time when they had a teacher that was “less than nice” to them. The vivid and fresh dialogue of the character Sean was wonderful to read. It kept my interest. I must credit the great writing to author Colin Frizzell. The writing was authentic in that it was almost as if teenagers were writing this book expressing their concerns over Mr. Sfinkter.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: simile (page 5), descriptive paragraphs about teachers (page 8-9), descriptive paragraphs about reading/English (page 14)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: the topic of teachers being disrespectful to students


websites about “good teachers”

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton


August 6, 2008

Girl Coming in for a Landing

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Girl Coming in for a Landing

Author: April Halprin Wayland

Page Length: 129

Reading Level: 6.5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a book written entirely in poems. From the first day of school through the end of the year, the main character, a teenage girl, details her life at school and at home in poems. From the classroom to dating and parties she shares everything – her emotions, her thoughts, her hopes, and dreams. She offers authentic teenage emotions and insight – you will finish the book wishing for more.

REVIEW: This was an interesting book. It reads quickly because of the brief poems on each page (although many of the poems are worth more than one read). I think that this book would be a wonderful teaching tool for poetry. Students can see how poems can (and do) tell a story and the many forms they can take. Teachers could discussion the emotion and insight the author can convey with few but powerful words within a poem.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: poetic forms, voice

RELATED BOOKS: Braces, Bras, and Bellyrings, Lines in the Sand, The Night Horse


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 2, 2008

The Landry News

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The Landry News

Author: Andrew Clements

Page Length: 131

Reading Level: 6


PLOT SUMMARY: The Landry News is the story of fifth grade, Cara’s adventures as a newspaper editor. Cara’s parents recently divorced and she’s new in town. Although her previous newspapers escapades found her in some trouble, Cara isn’t giving up on what she loved. She learns that truth and mercy are important; this becomes the motto of her newspaper. Mr. Larson, Cara’s teacher, typically spends his days in class drinking coffee and reading the newspaper; he gave up on teaching years ago. Her first edition in her new school is thumb tacked to Mr. Larson’s bulletin board. Mr. Larson becomes alert as quiet falls over the room. Posted on his bulletin board is Cara’s newspaper, with an editorial about him. Cara writes “There is a teacher in the classroom, but he does not teach.” Mr. Larson becomes enraged; yet, over the weekend, he realizes that Cara is right. He isn’t the teacher of the year he used to be; he can’t even remember when he lost the desire to teach anymore.


Cara’s paper brings the whole class to life. Mr. Larson leads the class in a discovery of what a newspaper is, what it contains, and what its purpose is. All of the students become involved and teaching and learning are flourishing. However, Dr. Barnes, the principal, puts a stop to the paper, when an article that he deems unfit (personal information about a divorce) is published. He holds Mr. Larson responsible – is secretly thrilled to finally have the documentation he needs to have Mr. Larson removed from the classroom. Dr. Barnes hasn’t been happy with his teaching for years. The students rally behind their teacher who begins to teach them about the First Amendment and what this means. A new paper, appropriately called The Guardian continues to be published outside of school. The entire experience concludes as the board meeting where Mr. Larson is under review. The students show up, the young man who wrote the article on divorce reads it aloud, and a decision is made. Will Mr. Larson’s job survive? Cara’s determination to be heard and to present her viewpoint with mercy and truth may have changed more lives than she could ever have imagined.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book would be a great tool for reinforcing the study of the Bill of Rights in history class and for looking at what can happen when we stand up for what we believe in. Another interesting point of discussion and a reality for many students is the look at teacher burn out. This could lead to discussing how does anyone find the will to keep going and trying year after year? What makes one person persevere while others falter?


REVIEW: I liked the book. It’s a quick read with an excellent message and a great view of our rights in action. 




REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


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