The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

The Road of the Dead

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The Road of the Dead

Author: Kevin Brooks

Page Length: 339

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Ruben has always been different. He can sense what others are thinking or feeling even when they’re not near him. One night he senses that his sister Rachel is in pain and is gripped by fear. The next day, his family finds out that Rachel was murdered. He and his older brother Cole set out on to avenge her death and find out who killed her. Before long, they are themselves victims of violence. Trapped in a web of deceit and surrounded by people who want to silence them permanently, Cole and Ruben must fight their way out. Their only goal is to take Rachel’s body home for a proper burial... if they can make it back alive.

REVIEW: Typical Kevin Brooks book – edgy, violent, dark, foul mouthed, violent… To some teens though – this might be interesting. I found the book to be a little shallow and unrealistic – 2 boys taking on an entire town – what are the chances? The fact that the girl has been raped and murdered is a little dark (not something the teenage mind always needs more of). The review on the back of the book mentions “brutal, vivid violence” – I totally concur. I would not read this book as a class. On a historical note, the road of the dead was a passageway, funeral processions walked along to arrive to the final resting place of the body many years ago.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: imagery, author’s purpose, sequence of events, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: many – violence, shooting, torture, rape, dead bodies, etc.

RELATED BOOKS: Lucas, Candy, Being

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/0439786231.asp

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/apr/29/featuresreviews.guardianreview35

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/contributor.jsp?id=2614

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

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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

Catching Fire

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Catching Fire (Hunger Games Series #2) by Suzanne Collins: Book Cover

Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

 

Page Length: 391

 

Reading Level: 5.4

 

Genre: Fiction

 

Career Connection: Coal miner, political leader

 

PLOT SUMMARY: In this sequel to The Hunger Games, Katniss is at home but not able to enjoy her life in Victory Village because of the rumors of uprisings against the Capitol. She lives under the pretense that she loves Peeta, but she longs for her days in the meadow with Gale. Gale is working in the coal mines now, so she spends her days alone, hunting for food for Gale’s family. Her heroic moves at the end of The Hunger Games have made her the target for the president to help stop the rebellious behavior of the people in the neighboring districts.

 

When it is time to pick the tributes for the annual hunger games, the citizens learn that the rules for the “Quell” have been changed. The tributes can be picked only from previous participants. So, Peeta and Katniss are back in the arena. They face bigger challenges and Katniss discovers her conscious plays a bigger part in survival.

 

REVIEW: This is a good sequel to the first in the series, but is not as fast paced. More of the action takes place outside of the arena where Katniss must make decisions of personal issues. The book would be enjoyable for both boys and girls as the plot unveils violent and heroic events.

 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Characters, Theme, Cause/Effect, Setting

 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None that aren’t age and content appropriate

 

RELATED BOOKS: The Hunger Games

 

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Hunger Games (to be released 2011)

 

RELATED WEBSITES:

 

www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/56284.asp

 

www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/catching_fire_88086.htm

 

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 30, 2009

Monster

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Monster

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction / Screenplay

PLOT SUMMARY: Steve is only sixteen years old and he’s on trial for murder. Steve isn’t enjoying his time in the slammer – the only thing he can say for it so far is that he’s become a writer. Steve’s life hangs in the balance – jurors will determine his fate – and all Steve can do is write it out one scene at a time.

REVIEW: This book is a decent read with some excellent points for classroom discussion and student engagement. One great point for students is that it’s written as a screenplay and they might all enjoy taking on parts as different characters in the play. I like how the author connects the reader to Steve’s life and lets the reader ponder (on their own) his guilt or innocence – in essence the reader becomes the juror as page after page more details are divulged.      

The book is great for teaching the judicial process and gaining an understanding of how evidence is used and how trials are conducted.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character traits, elements of plot, comparing and contrasting the characters, comparing text to self, point of view, cause and effect

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: robbery, shooting, prison life

RELATED BOOKS: Dopesick, Sunrise Over Fallujah, Crystal, Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Shooter, Somewhere in the Darkness

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/             

http://litplans.com/titles/Monster_Walter_Dean_Myers.html

http://lib.store.yahoo.net/lib/monkeynote/pmMonsterSample.pdf

http://quizlet.com/920587/monster-legal-terms-flash-cards/

http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-monster/

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

Home of the Braves

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Home of the Braves

Author: David Klass

Page Length: 355

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Joe Brickman is a senior and the captain of the less than stellar Lawndale soccer team. But, he’s hoping for a transformation this year on the soccer field and in his friendship with Kristine. Suddenly, the school social structure is in an uproar. The new student, who looks like an ad for a modeling magazine, is a Brazilian soccer player who becomes known as the “phenom.” Soccer becomes the in sport at school and the football players have issues. Violence breaks out and the soccer stars are threatened by the football team. Ed McBean has been marked and he refuses to bow. When some members of the team take matters to far, Ed’s life is in danger. Ed is tired of being the victim; he becomes angry and withdraws. Joe’s afraid that all out war or a violent outbreak at school is brewing. Can he stand tall and stop it all before it gets out of hand, or is he stuck with the cycle of violence that existed when his own father was in high school?

REVIEW: This is another good book about the dangers of bullying. The fear of violence and the damage done to the people involved is well presented. Students will be able to identify with and analyze the actions of the characters. Joe is an excellent character to study – he doesn’t let his father define him, he overcomes the past cycle of violence, and he isn’t afraid to stand up for his friend. The book also presents interesting points for discussion about how the administration at Joe’s school handled the hazing and violent incidents – whether or not that was effective and what could be done differently or more effectively. 

Joe also develops from a character with substandard academic performance to one who finally does apply for college and who finds a program that builds on his strengths. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, sequence of events, question the test, compare and contrast text to self and world, character analysis, bubble map – descriptive adjectives

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: student is wrapped completely in athletic tape and stuff in a dark equipment closet (222-223), fighting, brawl at the community meeting, degrading and inciting remarks made by bullies

RELATED BOOKS: You Don’t Know Me, Dark Angel, You Don’t Know Me, Buddha Boy, Crash

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Mighty Ducks, Heathers, Chicken Little, Ice Princess, Sky High

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PBX/is_6_36/ai_107202651

http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=17-9780374399634-1

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

December 12, 2008

Witness

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Witness

Author: Karen Hesse

Page Length: 161

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction written in Verse

PLOT SUMMARY: The setting of the story is in Vermont, in 1924.  Ten characters of the small community tell the story in verse.  It is the story of two young girls, Leanora, an African American whose mother has died, and Esther who is Jewish.  Neither is welcome in the community anymore because it has fallen under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan.  The other characters range in age from teen-ager to middle 60’s.  Some of the characters refuse to join the Klan and others become active.  With the Klan growing, violence increases.  However, the community eventually pulls together to find hope and redemption.

REVIEW: The setting of the story surprised me, in that, I was not aware the Ku Klux Klan was active in the North.  The story is told in verse, and could be read aloud as a play. The characters are vivid not only in their descriptions but also in their actions.  Each of them distinctly reflects a response that would be typical of real life when an influential association infiltrates a community.  Although set in the early 1900’s, this would be a good novel to study in conjunction with study of Hitler’s influence over the Nazi party and the Civil Rights Movement in America.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Some violence but it correlates with the theme of the book.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Verse writing, Theme, Conflict, Historical Context, Setting, and Character

RELATED BOOKS: To Kill a Mockingbird, A Time to Kill

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), A Time to Kill (1996)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teenreads.com/reviews/0439271991.asp

www.kidsreads.com/clubs/club-witness.asp

www.students.ed.uiuc.edu/bmweber/standard4.html

www.winooski.k12.vt.us/DHA_final_TeacherManual.pdf

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 3, 2008

Down

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Down

Author: Norah McClintock

Page Length: 103

Reading Level: 3.2

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Remy has just been released from a nine month stay at a juvenile correction facility for assaulting a man who insulted his girlfriend.   While in jail, he did not return letters to his family or girlfriend.  Upon his release, he finds his mother and sister treating him like a criminal.  His girlfriend, Asia, has a new boyfriend, Marcus.   Marcus and his friends are in a rivalry with some of Remy’s friends from school.   Asia knows that Marcus has a knife and wants Remy to talk to him-to warn him what can happen in reality.  Remy is suffering from a lot of anger.  He has to learn to control it and to cope with the people in his surroundings.

REVIEW: Norah McClintock has written another suspenseful book for the reluctant reader.  I thought the book was good because it deals with prejudice, peer pressure, romantic and family issues, and violence.  All of these subjects are matters of pressure that high school students must face each day. 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Marijuana use and some profanity but it is not inappropriate for the high school audience. 

AREAS OF TEACHING: Point of View, Conflict, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Bang, Marked, Snitch, Tell

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Gridiron Gang (2006), Stomp the Yard (2006)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.teensreadtoo.com/Down.html

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/DownTG.pdf

www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=432

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

October 17, 2008

The Crossing

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The Crossing

Author: Gary Paulsen

Page Length: 114

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Manny is a fourteen year old orphan surviving on the streets of Juarez, Mexico. Manny’s nights are spent in a cardboard box and his days planning how to outwit the older, meaner gang members so that he can grab coins being thrown off the bridge by tourists. Manny dreams of leaving Juarez for the United States. One fateful night Manny decides to try his luck against the border patrol. He runs into the sergeant, a career military man who is haunted by his past. Manny and the sergeant develop an unlikely friendship that is put to the test one fateful night. Will Manny ever make it to the United States, or will he fail like so many others before him?

REVIEW: The book was stark and realistic. The sergeant is depicted in all his military perfection and glory, but also shown realistically as a man haunted by the demons of war. He spends his evenings numbing his mind with alcohol. Manny is ever hopeful despite his sparse lifestyle. He’s a great character to study for strength and perseverance. He never stops trying to better his conditions no matter how hopeless it may seem. This book is very real and in it’s own way violent, dark, and graphic; however, it would likely capture and keep the attention of male students.

Reading this book and also reading an editorial on the need for border patrol might make for a very interesting classroom discussion.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: historical context, narrative effect, predictions, inferences, summarization, point of view, character traits

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: alcohol, violence, bull fight (with the goring of the bull), post traumatic stress flashbacks, illegal activity

RELATED BOOKS: The Rifle, Brian’s Winter, Hatchet, Good-bye and Keep Cold, Fallen Angels, The Island

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://martsubhub.lib.wv.us:8000/kcweb/kcContent?isbn=9780531057094&type=review&controlnumber=+++87007738&referedby=titlelist

http://www.bookrags.com/The_Crossing_(Paulsen)

http://litplans.com/authors/Gary_Paulsen.html

http://www.pbs.org/pov/utils/highimpact/delvedeeper/ddborder.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/26/books/26paul.html?pagewanted=2

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

August 6, 2008

True Believer

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True Believer

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff

Page Length: 264

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: LaVaughn is 15. Despite the fact that she lives in poor neighborhood filled with violence, LaVaughn longs to go to college. LaVaughn begins to dream about life after high school. She sees how her friend, Jolly, suffers to make ends meet, take care of her two young fatherless children, and try to earn her credits to graduate. LaVaughn knows that she must find a way to a better life. Her friends have turned to a new interests, and Jody, a boy that used to be a close friend, has moved back to town. LaVaughn’s heart races every time she’s never him or even smells his wonderful chlorine scent left behind in the elevator. Life doesn’t always turn out the way LaVaughn expects. Can she keep her friends and find true love before her sixteenth birthday arrives?

REVIEW: Although this book lists as a reading level of 7, it has the potential to appeal to a lower reading level because of the short , easy to navigate and understand chapters. The only qualifier for a level 7 to me it seems are the large science vocabulary words LaVaughn shares with the reader as she learns them. The book has an excellent message about education and expectations and the discord that can arise between friends and family members who aren’t comfortable with the new developments sometimes perceived as “snootiness” in the person who is changing for the better. The book details friends who were lost to violence and a school shooting. LaVaughn walks in on two males kissing; the readers experience her shock and reaction.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, character sketch, technical vocabulary, conclusions and predictions, setting, theme, characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: violence, homosexuality, death of a parent, death of a classmate

RELATED BOOKS: Probably Still Nick Swanson, The Mozart Season, Make Lemonade

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?sid=812&pid=417088&agid=21

http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-true.html

http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780807206935

http://crhssreadingolympics.blogspot.com/2007/05/wolff-virginia-euwer-true-believer.html

http://www.simonsays.com/subs/pdfs/kids/Wolff.pdf

www.hbook.com/magazine/articles/2001/may01_wolff_sutton.asp

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

May 21, 2008

Snitch

Snitch

Author: Norah McClintock

Page Length: 100

Reading Level: 2.1

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Josh is a troubled teen with a violent hand and experience in theft. Josh has a hard time getting along with others – especially if they are bullies. Travis is just such a guy. Josh once had an altercation with Travis after witnessing him picking on another kid. As a result, Josh punched Travis.

On another “purse snatching” venture, Josh’s best friend, Scott, surprisingly snitches on him. As a result, Josh is sent to anger management classes (dog training classes). When Josh walks into his first day of anger management class, he realizes that he will have to work in the same environment as Travis and Scott! Josh will have to manage not only humans, but dogs with serious behavior problems. Patience and kindness will be required in order for the dogs to respond well to Josh’s training.

As Josh struggles to train his dogs and ignore Travis and Scott, he attempts to stay out of the way of his brother’s nagging wife with whom he lives. Later on in the story, Josh is questioned about a recent attack on Scott that has left the boy unconscious. The police suspect Josh because the weapon in which was used to hit Scott is Josh’s.

It is later discovered that Travis is the culprit in the attack. Josh successfully completes his anger management classes and reconciles with his best friend Scott.

REVIEW: This book was very easy to read and follow. It gave a simple message about reconciling with old friends and realizing the need to control one’s anger. I did not realize that dog training classes were an alternative to traditional anger management courses. I would recommend this book to struggling readers.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: similes (page 31), foreshadowing (page 18), predictions (page 32)

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Anger Management (movie – 2003)

RELATED WEBSITES:

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

http://www.ksee24.com/younews/17359054.html

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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