The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

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

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Planet Janet

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Planet Janet by Dyan Sheldon: Book Cover

Planet Janet

Author: Dyan Sheldon

 

Page Length: 221

 

Reading Level: 6

 

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Janet’s lost in her own “me” world and she reveals all her thoughts, hopes, and dreams in her diary. Janet talks about the mad cow (MC), her mother, her best friend Disha who has joined her in the dark phase, her wacked out brother, and her psychotherapist father. Janet’s so lost in her own self-centered world that she fails to see the turmoil swirling around her. Events are in place that just may bring her crashing back to reality.

REVIEW: Reading Janet’s diary is interesting and revealing. She talks about everything from a crush on a guy and how she plants herself in his path to catch his attention to finding her bra in her brother’s room. The book is definitely only appropriate for older teens as she and her best friend smoke a joint and Sara Dancer talks about “doing it” and subsequently suffers a pregnancy scare. All along throughout the story, Janet’s busy being disgusted by her mother and never stops to see the pain her mother is going through. An affair is revealed at the end and both Janet and her mother discover their common strengths, and Janet discovers that she needs her mother more than she thought. I’d recommend this book to teen girls – especially the ones that tend to be more self-centered (as they might learn something about themselves along the way).

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  identifying plots, subplots, elements of plot, written response in the form of a diary, cause and effect, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: grandma’s disapproval of a homosexual relationship, presence of marijuana, Sara Dancer talking about doing it for the first time and what it was like

RELATED BOOKS: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, My Perfect Life, Planet Janet in Orbit, Confessions of a Hollywood Star

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

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.dyansheldon.co.uk/

http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php/Planet_Janet_by_Dyan_Sheldon

http://www.librarything.com/work/227229\

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

November 15, 2009

Crazy Loco

Crazy Loco

Author: David Rice

Page Length: 135

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a series of short stories in the setting of the Texas Rio Grande Valley.  All of the stories are about the daily lives of Mexican-American teens.  One story deals with two boys who live in a lower socio-economic small town who have their “uppity” cousins from California visit.  Another story is about an 85 year-old mid-wife and the relationship she shares with her niece.  One of the stories focuses on a young boy who is forced to move-in with his grandfather after his parent’s divorce.  There is a dog who loves firecrackers and a big learning experience for an altar boy.

REVIEW: The stories appear authentic because the author includes many Spanish words and phrases and depicts the characters with realistic personalities and viewpoints.   Also, the primary religion, Catholicism is used as a reference in the narratives that contain drama and some humor.

I would suggest this book for Hispanic males.  It could also be used in a study of Hispanic Heritage or in a cultural diversity unit.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Point of View, Character, and Setting

RELATED BOOKS: Becoming Naomi Leon, House on Mango Street, Finding Our Way, and Crossing the Wire

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.learningthroughlistening.org/…/463/lessonId__383

www.readwritethink.org/calendar/calendar_day.asp?id=293

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging

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Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging

Author: Louise Rennison

Page Length: 6      

Reading Level: 247

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a one-year diary account of the thoughts of Georgia Nicolson, a 14 year-old girl from England.  Georgia is the older sister of 3 year-old Libby, best friend of Jaz, and owner of Angus, a mixed breed cat who is very large and mean.

All of Georgia’s thoughts center on how to be a cool, sexy teen and survive the home life with her pet, sibling, and nerdy parents. Georgia relates the feelings she experiences when arriving at a costume party as a stuffed olive, paying Peter for kissing lessons, pretending she is a lesbian, and trying to attract Robbie (the SEX GOD). 

REVIEW: The book is written in a journal form with entries by months, days and hours.  Georgia’s accounts of life are hilarious, yet every teen-age girl can relate in someway to the feelings and experiences she has.  The book includes “Georgia’s Glossary” which defines many of the British/English terms used that Americans will not find familiar. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: References to lesbians and making out throughout the book but nothing inappropriate for today’s teen-age exposure

AREAS OF TEACHING: Figurative Language, Characters, Point of View, and Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God, Knocked Out by My Nung-Nungas, Dancing In My Nuddy Pants, Away Laughing on a Fast Camel, Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers, Startled by His Furry Shorts, Love is a Many Trousered Thing, and Stop in the Name of Pants

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.georgianicolson.com/index.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 30, 2009

Boy Proof

Boy Proof

Author: Cecil Castelluci

Page Length: 203

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Victoria, known to all her friends as Egg, is a senior at a Hollywood High School. She is a cineophile who loves movies; her knickname, Egg, comes from her favorite movie – Terminal Earth. Egg’s become an expert at keeping people at bay – her friends, her mother, and even the new guy. Egg soon discovers that pushing everyone away may not be what she wants after all. Egg thought she was boyproof, but she’s jealous of Nelly and the attention she gets from Max. Egg begins to discover that she can’t do everything all by herself. She really does need love and friendship from both her family and friends. How can she undo the damage she’s already done?

REVIEW: Teen readers will be able to relate to Victoria’s (Egg’s) self conscious attitudes and her feelings that she must keep everyone at bay. Readers will also identify with her need to belong and her deep desire to want to be beautiful and feel comfortable with herself. Egg discovers that she does need people. That she’s talented and must learn to believe in herself. It’s interesting that her choice after being in the running for Valedictorian at school is to not go to college right away and instead work as an apprentice in costuming with her father. Some cautions – typical teen behaviors in one sense but point of discussion about acceptable behavior toward parents and friends – Egg pretty much walks all over her mother and comes and goes whenever she wants. Overall, the message is the book sends is a good one—Victoria had to find herself, throw off her cloak, and become comfortable with who she was before she could find love and happiness.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: connecting text to self, sequence of events, cause and effect, making predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: references to sexuality, language (2-3 times)

RELATED BOOKS: Plain Janes, Janes in Love, Beige, The Queen of Cool

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Breakfast Club, Can’t Buy Me Love

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.misscecil.com/

http://www.readingmatters.co.uk/book.php?id=269

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Make-up_artist

http://videos.howstuffworks.com/hsw/13188-skills-for-healthy-living-learning-to-like-yourself-video.htm

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

August 8, 2009

Aimee

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Aimee

Author: Mary Beth Miller

Page Length: 276

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As far as everyone else is concerned, Zoe’s guilty. She can’t go anywhere near her old friends and her parents have had to move her away to a new school. Aimee is gone, and this is what Zoe gets for “helping” her – total alienation from her friends, loneliness, isolation, parents who think she’s a murderer, and weekly visits to see a shrink. All Zoe did was try to be a friend and this is her reward??

REVIEW: This book is not the average read by any means. Aimee was Zoe’s best friend. She talked often of killing herself and one night in Zoe’s presence does just that. There are issues of teen sex where Zoe had sex with Chard and took hot baths, etc. taking what she considered aggressive actions not to be pregnant. Aimee tells Zoe stories of an abusive step mother who assaults her sexually. Zoe deals with her own depression and anorexia as a result of the incident. Zoe’s parents are cracking under the stress of probation, psychiatrists, and Zoe’s erratic behavior. On the other hand, the book deals well with an extremely emotional topic – suicide. The reader experiences first hand Zoe’s pain, loss, and suffering (which might make an excellent anti-suicide teaching point). The topics covered in the book are excellent for sparking classroom discussion / debates. Should you elect to let your students read this book – it should definitely be a page turner and of high interest.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character traits, sequence of events, flashback, depth of emotion for character development, cause and effect, comparing and contrasting

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: girl talks about slitting her wrists (p. 86), child abuse reference (p.133), suicide reference (pgs. 243-246)

RELATED BOOKS: On the Head of a Pin, Handtalk School, The Pact, Thirteen Reasons Why, Hold Tight, Teen Suicide

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Good Charlotte – Hold On, Linkin Park – Breaking the Habit

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.teenreads.com/features/020415-aimee.asp

http://www.teensuicide.us/

http://library.thinkquest.org/12333/page2.html

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 18, 2009

Sleepover

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Sleepover

Author: Suzanne Weyn

Page Length: 95

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: It is the last day of eighth grade and Julie is having a slumber party.  Farrah, Hannah, and Yancy come over with a rather uneventful evening planned.  But when Staci, the most popular girl in school, calls to make a challenge for the best cafeteria spot at the high school next year, action begins.  The girls prepare for a Polaroid scavenger hunt in which they must get a picture made with a stranger in a bar, steal Steve’s (Julie’s secret crush) boxer shorts, and obtain a logo off of a security car.  They use Ren, Julie’s brother from college, as their decoy and sneak out of the house for a night of wild adventure.

REVIEW: The book is written in chapters narrated by each of the characters. Middle school and junior high girls would enjoy the sequence of events the girls have during the evening that include adventure, competition and a little romance. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Point of View

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

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Sleepover (2004)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 5, 2008

Tough Trails

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Tough Trails

Author: Irene Morck

Page Length: 96    

Reading Level: 2.6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As a teen-ager, Ambrose Metford worked for his Uncle in the summer taking trail riders high up into Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.  As the story begins, Ambrose is sent to the horse auction to sell his horse Blackie.  Uncle Mac had given permission to Ambrose to buy a horse to replace Blackie. 

As the auction begins, Ambrose meets an older woman who seems to be as upset as he is to be selling her horse.  In fact, she convinces Ambrose to buy her horse, Society Girl who is 25 years old.  Ambrose didn’t make the best decision when buying his horse. He knows he will be scrutinized by Uncle Mac and his two aunts, Janice and Madge for buying the old mare.

Ambrose bonds quickly with Society Girl and has her practice packing the bags she will need to carry on their trail rides. A famous photographer and his son request Ambrose and his aunt to take them on the very steep, rocky trail to Wapta Lake.  The trail is tough, the boy is a brat, and a storm hits.  Ambrose questions if he can redeem himself from his bad decision of buying a horse because of a sympathetic heart.

REVIEW:  This is an easy to read, short book that would interest horse lovers. It has adventure and suspense, along with showing the vulnerability of a young man sent on his own to make a very big decision.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details

RELATED BOOKS: Firehorse, Paint the Wind, I am the Great Horse

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Horse Whisperer, Sea Biscuit, Dreamer

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol10/no1/toughtrails.html

 

nancykeane.com/booktalks/morck_tough.html

 

http://www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=358            

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 3, 2008

The Time Hackers

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The Time Hackers

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 96

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Dorso and Frank are ordinary high school guys in the future. Ordinary if you consider the techno world they live in. Smells and sights from the past can he viewed as holograms. One day a dead body shows up in Dorso’s locker. The next thing Dorso knows, he’s looking eye to with Custer and Beethoven. Frank thinks Dorso’s losing it, until they both encounter an animal from the past. Soon Frank and Dorso are cast into the past — sometimes with no warning at all. Will they be able to solve the mystery of their sudden time travel? Can they survive amidst the battles they are being sent into? Who is responsible and why have they picked Dorso and Frank?

REVIEW: Although very un-Paulsen like (because it’s not about wilderness survival and animals), the book is entertaining.            The plot twists and turns will keep readers entertained. The book provides great opportunities for history connections as the boys travel to different time periods. The scientific concept of hologram technologies and time travel into virtual worlds is also interesting (a good hook for sci-fi and fantasy fans). 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits, dialogue, cause and effect, point of view, author’s purpose, historical connections

Writing activity: Have students write a time travel journal, or have students pick an era of time addressed in the story and write as if they were living in that time period

RELATED BOOKS: Amos’s Killer Concept Caper, Danger on Midnight River, The Green Recruit, Hatchet, Brian’s Winter

RELATED MOVIES: “The Minutemen,” “Terminator,” “Back to the Future,” “Star Trek,” “Kate and Leopold”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/about.html

http://unjobs.org/authors/gary-paulsen

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

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/time/

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 12, 2008

Rebel

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Rebel

Author: Willo Davis Roberts       

Page Length: 153

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Amanda Jane Keeling has the nickname Rebel because at an early age she was defiant in all that her parent’s tried to teach her.  Rebel is the only girl in her family and she has three musically talented brothers. As her family prepares for a trip to Europe where the boys will participate in music competition, Rebel’s Gram, decides to buy a boarding house in the University area.  She asked if any of the children would be able to help with house renovations.  Rebel thinks this would be a good opportunity to miss another competition, and plans to stay with Gram and help for two weeks, then join her family for the road trip through Europe.

Gram is going into her housing venture with another older woman, Old Vi, as referred to by her grandson, Moses.  Both ladies have pet dogs. Gram’s is Pookie and Old Vi’s is Tiger.

Upon meeting Moses, Rebel is pleasantly surprised.  At the age of 14 she is 5’ 10” and towers above all the boys she has ever known.  Moses is 15 and is 6’ 6’’.  While Rebel has overcome some of her rebellious ways, she identifies with Moses on some family issues and expectations.  Moses’ dad is a lawyer and wants his son to follow in his footsteps.  Moses would rather die than be a lawyer.  His interest lies in making movies and he constantly carries a video, capturing all of his surroundings on film.  Rebel’s family expected her to play the piano and follow her brothers in the music field but she expresses that she is “tone deaf.”

The two teens have every intention to help with the painting of the three-story Victorian home, but several events get them distracted.  They witness a thief steal a candy bar from the neighborhood deli and a mystery and adventure begin.

REVIEW:  This is an easy book to read.  The author captures the reader’s attention quickly and it is hard to put the book down, as the characters are developed with unique personalities that are easy to like.  Moses and Rebel establish a bond, and the reader senses there is somewhat of an attraction as they work on the house, hang out, and solve a mystery together.  Gram and Old Vi are feisty old ladies with dogs that add depth to the plot.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Plot, Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Characters, Conflict, Cause and Effect, and Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: The Kidnappers: A Mystery, Twisted Summer, The One Left Behind

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.answers.com/topic/willo-davis-roberts-2

www.bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=1185705

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

April 21, 2008

Something Girl

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Something Girl

Author: Beth Goobie

Page Length: 105

Reading Level: 2.8

Genre: Fiction

 

PLOT SUMMARY: Something Girl is the story of Sophie, a teenager who lives in mortal fear of her father.  For years she has been walking on eggshells, covering for her father’s physical abuse, and trying to win his love.  Even her mother cannot seem to help her.  Instead of defending Sophie, she stares out the window and nurses her pain with alcohol each day. Yet everything changes when Sophie’s friend, Jujube, starts to ask questions about her mysterious injuries. 

 

Jujube is an imaginative twelve-year old with two different colored eyes.  She’s convinced that aliens are trying to communicate with her, and she really looks up to Sophie.  Though the girls are three years apart in age, they are inseparable.  

 

One day, Jujube finds Sophie in their secret fort.  She is beaten, bloody and can’t move.  Jujube discovers the truth about Sophie’s injuries, and decides that she must speak up.

 

At first Sophie is frightened and angry.  She’s scared that her father will take his frustration out on her, but a social worker reassures her that she is now safe.  Sophie goes to live in a group home while her mother enters rehab to treat her alcoholism.

 

In the end, Sophie comes to terms with the pain that sudden life changes can bring.  But she also understands that these changes are a source of hope for her future. Throughout the book she hears her father’s angry voice tell her that she is a “nothing girl”, yet in the end she realizes that she is worth something.

 

REVIEW: Something Girl is one of the Orca Sounding books, and so it’s great for teens reading at the elementary level.  It’s also a good book for students who enjoy realistic fiction. Personally, I didn’t enjoy this read as much as some of the other Orca books.  For example, the alien subplot seemed out of place in the story.  Yet there were two things I did like about Something Girl.  First, I thought it was neat that Sophie and Jujube appear in another Orca book: Sticks and Stones.  Also, I felt the ending was very realistic.  Beth Goobie didn’t deliver a perfect solution to Sophie’s problem.  Instead, the reader sees that doing the right thing can be both painful and rewarding. In conclusion, if you have a student hooked on the Orca Sounding’s series they will probably also enjoy this book.

 

TOUCHY AREAS: This book touches upon physical and emotional abuse. There is a violent scene between Sophie and her father that begins on p.53.   During this scene her father also uses the word “goddam”.

 

RELATED BOOKS: Sticks and Stones

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://orca.powerwebbook.com/client/PDFs/TeachersGuides/Orca%20Soundings/SomethingGirlTG.pdf

 

http://alcoholism.about.com/od/about/a/alcoholism.htm

 

http://turntohelp.com/dependence_identifier/?qs=ysm&OVRAW=physical%20abuse20quiz&OVKEY=drug20abuse20quiz&OVMTC=advanced&OVADID=11646593012&OVKWID=139166309512

 

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

 

REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

 

April 15, 2008

Who Owns Kelly Paddick

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Who Owns Kelly Paddick

Author: Beth Goobie

Page Length: 89

Reading Level: 3.1

Genre: Fiction

 

PLOT SUMMARY: When Kelly Paddick is brought to the Marymound School for Girls, she has no idea that her life is on the brink of an amazing transformation.  As a victim of sexual abuse, survival and escape are the only things Kelly has learned from life.  Yet with the help of  Sister Mary, a social worker, and a friend named Chris she begins to realize that she can’t keep running from her problems. 

 

In order to reach that understanding Kelly must first learn to avoid tangling with “Pit Bull”, the teen bully who lives in her building.  In her jealousy and insecurity, Pit Bull antagonizes and manipulates Kelly.  Yet, during her months at Marymound, Kelly comes to the understanding that Pit Bull is only acting out of her own fear and self-hate.

 

When Kelly finally gets her chance to escape the girls’ facility, she decides that running away won’t dissolve the awful memories that haunt her.  Instead, with the help of Chris, Kelly attempts a new strategy: trust.  Kelly learns that Chris has also dealt with sexual abuse, and by talking about her ordeal has learned to survive it.

 

In the end, Kelly learns that her father and his abusive tendencies no longer own her.  And most importantly, just as Sister’s Mary’s poster proclaimed, Kelly finally learns to “love herself”.

           

REVIEW: Who Owns Kelly Paddick is one of the Orca Sounding books, and so it’s great for teens reading at the elementary level.  It’s also a good book for students who enjoy realistic fiction.  Though some of the slang is out of date, the situations are true to life. It’s no secret that sexual abusive is a prevalent problem in our society.  Victims often search for ways to escape their pain, and of course some get lost in self-blame.  For this reason, I think Who Owns Kelly Paddick could really benefit any student with a history of abuse.  If you have a student hooked on the Orca Sounding’s series I highly recommend this book!

 

TOUCHY AREAS: This book touches upon sexual abuse, and self-inflicted injuries. Though the topics may be heavy, they are presented in a very appropriate fashion.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=119

 

http://www.1800runaway.org/

 

http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Child+Sexual+Abuse§ion=Facts+for+Families

 

http://www.bloomington.in.us/~mwhouse/sexassault.htm

 

REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

Kicked Out

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Kicked Out

Author: Beth Goobie

Page Length: 92

Reading Level: 3rd

Genre: Fiction

 

PLOT SUMMARY: Kicked Out is the story of a girl’s journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance. When Dime, a troubled teen, fails to connect with her parents she is kicked out of the house and sent to live with her older brother, Darren.  Because Darren is a paraplegic, Dime is supposed to help him with day to day tasks, yet the reader soon learns that it is Dime who is truly in need of support.  She is dating Gabe, an insecure teen with a wicked temper, and she carries guilt about her brother’s condition.  Dime feels that she is the one who should have been paralyzed because she is so prone to making mistakes.

 

As Dime becomes closer to her brother she learns that she deserves to be treated with respect.  She also realizes that she doesn’t have to be perfect to be loved. In the end, Dime reaches out to her parents, and the reader is left with hope that they can all move forward.

           

REVIEW: Kicked Out is one of the Orca Sounding books, and so it’s great for teens reading at the elementary level.  It’s also a good book for students who enjoy realistic fiction.  Though some of the slang is out of date, the situations are true to life.  I think many teens will relate to Dime’s fears and struggles.  If you have a student hooked on the Orca Sounding’s series I highly recommend this book!

 

TOUCHY AREAS: This book touches upon teen rebellion and dysfunctional relationships.  Though the topics may be heavy, they are presented in a very appropriate fashion.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=121

 

http://deanofstudents.unc.edu/relationships/factfiction/datingviolence.html

 

http://www.apparelyzed.com/

 

http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Why_Kids_Don_t/

 

REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

 

April 10, 2008

Heavy Metal and You

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Heavy Metal and You

Author: Christopher Krovatin

Page Length: 186

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sam is an intelligent, spike wearing heavy metal fan who meets and falls for Melissa who doesn’t approve of his partying lifestyle. A romance develops and Sam tries to makes some changes for Melissa. Sam’s friends are not impressed with Melissa and her friends are not impressed with Sam. The resulting stress on their relationship is the main story of the book.

REVIEW: I think this book will reach a rather specific audience. The culture clash between metalheads and ‘straightedge’ Melissa were some of the more amusing parts of the story. I found myself hoping Sam really would not take her to the Deicide show and for sure not let her in the mosh pit. You just know it isn’t going to end well. The book is full of references to real bands, CD release dates and metal musicians. It might be just the thing for those reluctant readers who are fans of this music. It also offers an inside look into some other aspects of personality beyond appearance and music preference. The budding romance between Sam and Melissa begins to show some cracks when the differences in their lifestyle and friends become obvious. Krovatin also shows some of the reasons this music is so embraced by the fans.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Discussion for changing your personality for someone else, staying true to yourself, etc.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES:  References to sex, drug and alcohol use and curse words (and rock and roll!) are sprinkled throughout the book.

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Any kids who listen to metal will recognize the numerous references to rock groups and songs.

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.thisispush.com

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

A Fate Totally Worse Than Death

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A Fate Totally Worse Than Death

Author: Paul Fleishman

Page Length: 124

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Danielle, Brooke and Tiffany enjoy their status as beautiful people at Cliffside High. When the desirable male students take an interest in Helga, the new exchange student from Norway, the girls are not pleased. The girls plot to get rid of Helga. We learn they caused the death of another female student last year and we learn that they are mean spirited. When the girls are performing community service at a local nursing home, they speak hatefully of the old people there right in front of them, making fun of the fact that they can’t speak, or stop the girls from eating the chocolates brought by a family member and various other types of insulting behavior. Gradually, through a series of misunderstandings, and the fact that Danielle, Brook and Tiffany suddenly and mysteriously begin ageing rapidly, the girls come to believe that Helga is the ghost of the girl who died last year come back to get her revenge by making them old, deaf, gray, etc. We find out in the end that Helga is not a ghost and one of the recovered ‘old’ people from the nursing home has taken her own revenge on the girls by poisoning them with a drug that causes people to age.

REVIEW: Think Mean Girls with a horror twist. Love Paul Fleishman, didn’t care for this book. The girls are vain and hateful with no redeeming qualities. The older lady who gets revenge on them is mean too. No lesson is learned that can be used in life. The girls remain old and infirm. I also did not like the message that growing old is worse than anything, even death. The book is written as a parody and does have funny moments, but I just didn’t really enjoy the humor and I can usually find something to laugh about in almost any situation. It is a quick read and may be hilarious to some.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: People not to emulate

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Flip discussion of student’s death, condoms, Playboy magazine, lots of talk about body parts ageing.

RELATED BOOKS: Les Liasons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liasons)

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Mean Girls & Cruel Intentions

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.candlewickpress.com

www.paulfleischman.net

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

February 14, 2008

Frightful’s Mountain

Filed under: F — thebookreviews @ 10:07 pm
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Frightful’s Mountain

Author: George, Jean Craighead

Page Length: 258

Reading Level: 4th 

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Frightful’s Mountain is the third book in the Sam Gribley series.  It begins where On the Far Side of the Mountain ends, with Sam’s Peregrine Falcon, Frightful, in the clutches of two poachers.  Throughout the story we watch Frightful evolve from a tame bird, to one finally in touch with her natural instincts. 

 

After escaping from the poachers, Frightful is forced to survive on her own.  It becomes clear that her life with Sam has left her unprepared for the realities of a falcon’s life.  She doesn’t know how to hunt, she doesn’t understand how to be a mother, and she isn’t even familiar with how and when to migrate. 

 

As Frightful searches for her home in Sam’s tree house, she encounters another falcon, Chup, who has lost his mate.  She bonds with him and he leads her to his aerie where three chicks await them.  Because Frightful was taken from her nest at such a young age, she is unfamiliar with her maternal responsibilities.  Luckily Chup takes up the slack, and Frightful walks away from the experience a little wiser.

 

When Frightful fails to migrate with her mate and chicks in the fall, she struggles to deal with the harshness of a New York winter.  Eventually, she is electrocuted by a telephone wire, and is rescued by a loving falconer and his wife.  They help speed Frightful’s recovery, then use her to educate local schools about the dangers of telephone poles to birds of prey.  This sparks a local campaign to save the endangered falcons.

 

Throughout the book Frightful finds Sam.  He misses his bird, but knows that he cannot keep her, as he is not a licensed falconer.  He worries that she may be so imprinted upon him that she will not be able to survive on her own.

 

The next spring Frightful mates with a new falcon and makes her own aerie on a local bridge.  It seems last spring’s adoption has taught her just enough about motherhood.  Unfortunately, the state begins repairs on the bridge where she is nesting.  The children of the community, including Sam Gribley, try to halt the work in an attempt to save the baby falcons, or eyases.  Their efforts prove fruitless.

 

Ultimately, the same poachers who kidnapped Frightful steal two of the eyases.  Sam discovers the theft and moves Frightful and her remaining eyas to a perch near his tree house.  The poachers are eventually caught; the eyases are raised by falconers, and eventually set free.

 

In the end, a community is brought together by its love for falcons, Frightful finally migrates with the rest of her kind, and Sam is relieved by the knowledge that his bird is able to survive on her own.

 

In my opinion, this was the best of the Sam Gribley books.  I feel Jean Craighead George did a great job of portraying Frightful’s thoughts and actions in a realistic way.   Though many of the human characters are one-dimensional, the story moves along rather quickly.  Each chapter poses a new problem and solution for Frightful.  This is a great book for animal and nature lovers.  I found that my male students last year really related to the idea of living on their own in the wilderness. 

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Frightful’s Mountain relays a great deal of facts about falcon’s, (how and what they eat, where they migrate, how they’re trained, how many exist in the wild, etc.) so this is also a great book for students who enjoy stockpiling trivial data.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson112.shtml

 

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Peregrine_Falcon.html

 

http://www.peregrinefund.org/default.asp

  

http://rfalconcam.com/rfc-main/mainView.php

 

http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/peregrine_falcon.php

 

http://www.can-do.com/uci/lessons99/falcon.html

  

REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

February 2, 2008

New Kids in Town: Oral Histories of Immigrant Teens

Filed under: N — thebookreviews @ 10:22 pm
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News Kids in Town: Oral Histories of Immigrant Teens

Author: Janet Bode

Reading Level: 4.5

Page Length: 126

Genre: Non-fiction, Autobiography

 

REVIEW: New Kids In Town is a compilation of oral histories of immigrant teens.  The author, Janet Bode, a resident of New York City, visited schools and noticed as she looked around that 1/3 of the student’s head of household’s  were from other countries than  the United States.  In the 1800’s nearly all immigrants were from northern and western Europe.  Now, only 5% come from that part of the world.

 

Bode conducted a study and found where the majority of immigrants come from today.  She then located students from each of these countries:  Afghanistan, El Salvador, India, Cuba, Philippines, Dominican Republic, China, Mexico, South Korea, Greece and Vietnam.  The words she wrote were originally spoken in the immigrant teen’s own voices.

 

In each chapter, Bord gives an introduction of each country’s origin.  Then, there is a story by each immigrant.  They each share a story about their life in their old country, then a review of their life in America.

 

Most of the teens’ families experienced fear in the countries they exported from and are victims of discrimination in the U. S.  However, all of the teens appear to feel they are better off in America.

 

I especially liked the last paragraph on page 84. It begins, “they came here to American and he didn’t know how to speak a word of English.  Now, six years later he is a pharmacist . . . he introduced me to his staff. . .they all understood his English”.  I said, “This is a miracle!”  He answered, “Sook, America is where miracles come true”.

 

The last chapter about Von, from Vietnam, was the most detailed and touching to me. I think that may be because of my age ( 18 ) during the Vietnam War.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book would be good to use in the study of the cycle of immigration over the past 30 years.  It is a good non-fiction read that will influence teens to appreciate the U. S. and its’ opportunities.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://content.scholastic.com

 

www.amazon.ca/gp/cdp/member-reviews

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

 

January 26, 2008

Bad

Bad

Author: Jean Ferris

Page Length: 182

Reading Level: 4

 

REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Sixteen year old Dallas, is caught attempting to rob a convenience store at gunpoint. The judge offers her parole at home, but her father refuses and so she is sentenced to six months at a Girl’s Rehabilitation Center.

 

One of the book reviews I read for Bad called it an “absorbing, quick, read”. I agree with the absorbing part, but for me this was not a quick read. It was a gritty, non-blinking look at life in a rehabilitation center. There are candid discussions of drug use, sex, and violence including abusive relationships and rape.  The author spent some time interviewing girls at a rehab facility in San Diego and she has dedicated this book to those girls. Her characters are tough, street smart survivors who also have real fears, hopes and dreams.

 

The book chronicles Dallas’ journey through the criminal justice system and back to the real world.  Ferris does not wrap up the ending in a nice neat package. Dallas makes the decision not to return to her father’s home and we are left feeling hopeful about her future, but knowing she has a difficult road ahead. Dallas doesn’t pretend to herself that it is going to be easy for her to turn her life around. I would have liked for Dallas and her father to reconcile and for Dallas to live happily ever after, but in real life that just doesn’t always happen.

 

While I was left wishing for a little better outlook for Dallas, I must say I think Ferris got it right. From beginning to end, the subject is treated in a realistic straightforward way.  Near and dear to my heart though is the fact that while in rehab Dallas falls in love with reading and learns for the first time about the beauty and comfort you can find between the covers of a book.

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

http://www.jeanferris.com/

 

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

 

http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/

 

www.teenpregnancy.org

 

www.teachersagainstprejudice.org

 

REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall

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