The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

The Hoopster

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The Hoopster


Author: Alan Lawrence Sitomer


Page Length: 218


Reading Level: 6


Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Andre seems to have everything – an uncanny ability to shoot baskets, a great job at a magazine, and an awesome girlfriend. Andre is assigned the job of writing an article on racism. He begins to notice it everywhere he goes, even in his cousin Cedric’s skits. One night, Andre’s article gets written and he becomes a local celebrity; but, fame comes with a price. Race tensions are high in Andre’s town and his article is getting as much hate mail as fan mail. Andre’s own life is threatened. Will he ever reach his dreams of becoming a famous writer in the midst of so much hatred? What will reaching for his dreams cost him in the end?

REVIEW: This book has a decent story line and was actually able to include basketball without being totally focused on just the sport. As the matter of fact, this athlete has dreams of being a writer. He dates a Hispanic girl, his best friend is white, and he learns that his own father once changed his fate because of racist hatred. Faced with this knowledge and facing his own hate crime, Andre must decide if he too will enter into the cycle of violence or if he can follow a different path. Andre suffers tremendously because his views are outside the norm. The actions of the supremacist group leaves Andre emotionally and physically battered; yet, through it all, Andre prevails and continues to believe in himself and believe that he can change the racist views of the world.

This book had a basic plot and an easy story line to follow. This book would work well as a classroom read for students with a lower reading level.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  character traits, cause and effect, author’s purpose, sequence of events, imagery, elements of plot, stereotypes

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: racist remarks, hate crime –  Andre is physically assaulted with the intent to permanently maim him, his father tells of a white man relieving himself on his boots and of being hit over the head with a bottle

RELATED BOOKS: Hip-Hop High School, Paulsen’s Nightjohn, Draper’s The Battle of Jericho, To Kill a Mockingbird, Richard Peck’s The River Between Us

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Dead Poets Society (1989), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


June 5, 2010



Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Drama, Fiction-Crime

PLOT SUMMARY: Is he really a Monster? Did he really have anything to do with the murder of the drugstore owner? These are the questions that young 16 year old Steve Harmon is asking himself. All he knew was that he was to enter a drugstore, see how many people were inside, and see if there were any police. Then he was to exit the drugstore. Actually, did Steve even agree to be a “lookout”? It was planned to be a robbery or so that is what Bobo Evans and James King told him. After Steve leaves the drugstore, the robbery went terribly awry. The drugstore owner, Mr. Nesbitt is murdered. Steve is arrested and put on trial for murder. If convicted he faces 25 years to life in prison or the death penalty. While in the detention center, Steve maintains his sanity by writing in a journal that he will use for a “film” after this nightmare is over. Steve was not even present when the murder occurred, so does this make him a monster? How could a jury convict him? How could people think he was a monster, as the prosecutor described him at the beginning of the trial? His own lawyer doesn’t even believe him. His parents do not even look at him the same way. When Steve views the “film” of himself, who or what does he now see?

REVIEW:  Walter Dean Myers does an excellent job at immediately getting the reader’s attention with his first sentence in Monster: “The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is beaten up and screaming for help”. The story is written in the format of journal entries by Steven Harmon as well as dramatic script writing by the same character. The book is written in a young African American teenager’s point of view. The book’s voice is in modern language/slang that young reader’s can understand. However, some of the scenes and events described in the detention center range from cries of despair and beatings to rape. This subject matter is extremely difficult to read but does portray the realities of jail. One gains insights into Steve’s emotions, fears, and self concept from his journal entries. After reading the book, one can not help but re-examine one’s own beliefs and self concept. After reading Monster, hopefully young readers will realize that choices they make now can affect their lives forever as Steve does in the gray writing on pages 220-221 – “What was I thinking?”       

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, voice, mood, tone, 5 steps of the writing process, dialogue, dialect, journals, diaries, antagonist, peer pressure.

TOUCHY PAGES: 36, 37, 57, 73, 109, 139-140, 143-144

RELATED BOOKS:  Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Chocolate War (Readers Circle) by Robert Cormier, The Contender by Robert Lipstyte. Books by the same author: Slam!, Hoops, Scorpions, Glory Field, Fallen Angels, Game, Bad Boy: A Memoir, Somewhere in the Darkness, Motown and Didi , Harlem

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Outsiders(1983),  Westside Story (2003),  Once Upon a Time In the Hood (2004), The Price of the American Dream (2004).


REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

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

July 29, 2008

Orphea Proud

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Orphea Proud

Author: Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Page Length: 190

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story of Orphea begins in a club where Orphea shares her material with the crowd. Orphea begins to tell us her story. She begins with a flashback to when her mother, Nadine, was a beautiful singer, wed to a controlling preacher. Orphea tells us how they met and what unfolded in her childhood. Orphea and her best friend fall in love with one another. Orphea’s brother doesn’t approve; he creates a tumultuous home life for Orphea. After being sent to live with her aunts, Orphea befriends Ray, and through their friendship Orphea’s broken heart begins to heal. She begins to write again and finds her way back to living again.

REVIEW: This is not your average book. In fact, Orphea falls in love with her best friend, Lissa (they are both females). The book deals with the romance and rather briefly addresses the physical nature of their relationship. Prejudice is revealed through the brother who reacts toward the relationship with violence. The book does create an understanding for Orphea as a person and would be useful in teaching students to understand instead of judging others. However, I would not want to have to defend this book to a parent. I would avoid this book on the classroom level all together.

On the other hand, times are changing and some students may need the support this novel could offer about sexuality and same-sex relationships. Read it your self before your students do and you’ll be prepared instead of surprised.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: conflict, cause and effect, countering prejudice,

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: lesbian relationship (detailed on pages 22-23), physical abuse (pgs. 23-24)


Female same-sex relationship books: The Rules for Hearts, Good Girls Don’t, I’ve Known Since I was Eight, Keeping You a Secret

Wyeth books: A Piece of Heaven, Something Beautiful, Corey’s Underground Railroad Diary


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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