Genre/Category: nonsense/fantasy/keeping childhood innocence Read for "old time juvenile book" requirement
Summary: Out for a picnic, Alice finds herselGenre/Category: nonsense/fantasy/keeping childhood innocence Read for "old time juvenile book" requirement
Summary: Out for a picnic, Alice finds herself very bored. Her sister's books are full of grown up things and don't interest a girl like Alice. Instead, Alice notices a running white rabbit, who speaks (odd), but also pulls out his pocketwatch to see how late he is (most odd). This, of course, intrigues Alice who sets off after the white rabbit immediately. Following a long fall down a deep well, she finds herself in Wonderland, a place where everyone seems to be a little of the marker. Her crazy adventures are whimsical and fantastical, if not slightly annoying for their nonsensical-ness. A fun read, but overwhelmingly confusing. Perhaps as an adult reader, this book doesn't entice the childhood innocence and entertain me as it used to. ...more
**spoiler alert** Genre/Category: latino literature/boxing/friendship/coming of age/values and morals
Summary: I genuinely liked this book. It was simp**spoiler alert** Genre/Category: latino literature/boxing/friendship/coming of age/values and morals
Summary: I genuinely liked this book. It was simple and it was short. Barry and Alby are best friends, sticking up for one another, until Alby gets caught up in poker and gets in some major trouble with some card sharks. Desperate for money, Alby decides to use Barry's skills as a top-notch boxer and Barry's responsibilities to care for his mother to motivate him to compete in a boxing tournament with a cash prize attached. His scheme, however, is discovered by Barry and practically ruins the relationship. Together, Barry and Alby learn the power of apology and forgiveness.
I thought this was a moving story about friendship and the work and responsibilities it requires to keep it strong. It also addresses identity and staying true to the values and morals of oneself. The tie-ins to parent involvement were also very emotional, demonstrating the responsibilities one has in a family and the ways that each person can support the another. ...more
Summary: Matt has been kept in seclusion for years until one day, three kids findGenre/Category: science fiction/fantasy/dystopia/identity/leadership
Summary: Matt has been kept in seclusion for years until one day, three kids find his shack out in the poppy fields and life changes. He is brought to the main house of Matteo Alacran, El Patron, owner of Opium, the small country between the borders of Mexico and the United States. Despite his human appearance, Matt is treated like an animal, a monster, by the people who live in this house for what appears like no reason at all. When El Patron returns home and finds the horrible treatment of Matt, he reverses the situation, making him a equal to all in the house. That is, until Matt discovers the reason for his treatment: he is El Patron's clone, an exact match to his DNA. And his only purpose to live is to be harvested to replace El Patron's failing organs. Matt's only option is to run away, but running away leads to similarly dangerous situations. In all of this danger, Matt must determine who he really is and confront the issue of his creation as a clone.
I really enjoyed this book. Farmer addresses modern day issues like cloning, improving technology, the immigration problems between the two borders, and the availability of drugs. Readers are drawn to the twisting, turning plot that brings surprise after surprise. Matt is a strong character facing questions that most teens face today: "Who am I?" "Where do I belong?" "Is something wrong with me?" Matt goes through hardship and difficulty to overcome in the end and discover who he really can be. ...more
Genre/Category: fantasy/adventure/coming of age/evil vs. good Read for the "audio book" requirement.
Summary: Harry Potter continues on his quest to deGenre/Category: fantasy/adventure/coming of age/evil vs. good Read for the "audio book" requirement.
Summary: Harry Potter continues on his quest to defeat Voldemort, working closely with Dumbledore to find the horcruxes. In the mean time, the war continues, affecting the wizarding world, the Muggle world, and even resulting in losses for the Order of the Pheonix. Harry is also testing friendships and experiencing love and loss, as do his friends Hermione and Ron.
I loved listening to this book on tape! I have always heard that the Harry Potter books were excellent on tape and it is true. The narrator is extremely engaging and brings the story to life in a way that reading text can't. I think that students would love to read this book via audio since it paints the scene and provides a variance in the tones and characters. ...more
Summary: Titus lives in a world not too far from the pre**spoiler alert** Genre/Category: dystopian/technological/consumerism/love/friendship/Internet
Summary: Titus lives in a world not too far from the present, where everyone he knows lives by the feed implanted in their heads. It's like having the internet and all of its possibilities inside the brain. The feed provides any information needed and acts as a marketing tool to easily identify what type of consumer you are. Unfortunately for Titus and his friends, their trip to Mars ended in hacked feeds. They were forced to spend what felt like an eternity with nothing in their brains except what their brain really knew...which wasn't much. Titus' new friend, turning girlfriend, Violet, and tries to fight against it, confusing it by not allowing it to classify her as a certain type of consumer. Unfortunately, Violet was hit the worst by the hacker, and her confusing messages have made it so that the government won't give her another feed. Her fate is wrapped up in Titus', who in the end seems to fail as a hero.
I love dystopias, and while I hated the language of the book, I liked the idea of it. It was a mixture of the bleak literature and the dystopian novel and really addressed the issues of consumerism and reliance on technology that we see today. The issues were pertinent and the message clear. It is an inventive novel, but one that could use some soap in its mouth. ...more
Summary: Lafeyette is the youngest of three brothers and he wishes that he had his oldGenre/Category: brothers/family/loyalty/death/grieving/survival
Summary: Lafeyette is the youngest of three brothers and he wishes that he had his old life back. His father died when Laf was young, saving a drowning woman from a freezing pond. His mother died of diabetes in her sleep and Laf found her, thinking she must have overslept. Laf's older brother, Ty'ree, had the chance to go to MIT but dropped out because he was needed to watch his brothers, working full time to put food on the table. And worst of all, Laf's closest brother, Charlie, has just returned from a correctional facility and seems to hate Laf, even blames him for the death of their mother. This new life, and this "NewCharlie", have convinced Laf that life is really bad. But as this broken family finds a way to survive in the tough streets of Harlem, they grow closer together and find that they can rely on one another for anything, "brother to brother to brother." This an incredible story of three young men who love one another so much that they manage to survive at remarkable odds. It inspires hope in the reader and addresses difficult issues of grieving and acceptance. I loved it!...more
Summary: Jacob is invisible. At least, he tries to be. If he is ever noticed at school, evenGenre/Category: self esteem/confidence/high school/romance
Summary: Jacob is invisible. At least, he tries to be. If he is ever noticed at school, even looked at for just a second, something terribly clumsy and embarrassing will happen. Unfortunately, his desire to remain unseen reflects in his grades and in order to avoid failing his English class, he must do some work on the school play, a place where he is sure to be seen. Maria Tresser, the most popular girl in school, begins to take notice of Jacob, only to make things worse for Jacob! His jitters around Maria convince him that he needs to disappear even more and people rarely see him. The big night for the play comes and things go horribly wrong with Jacob's duties, but somehow, everything manages to work out just right. He lands a date with Maria, and begins to realize that he just might own the school.
A funny, humorous read that entices young adults who recognize the fear of being noticed in the wrong way....more
Genre/Category: poetry/best friends/growing up/school Read for the "poetry" requirement.
Summary: Fernie and his best friend have known each other sincGenre/Category: poetry/best friends/growing up/school Read for the "poetry" requirement.
Summary: Fernie and his best friend have known each other since they were babies. Together, they grow through life, failing at spelling bees and attending school dances in glowing, fuzzy orange socks. Gary Soto's verse presents photographic moments and feelings from Fernie's life as he comes of age.
The verse is simple, even childish, and is far from entertaining for a young adult. The verse also seems unrelated to content and seems unpolished and purposeless. This was not my favorite read and I would not use it as an example of engaging or good poetry. ...more
Genre/Category: Graphic novel/mystery/family/coming of age Read for "graphic novel"
Summary: Coraline is a young girl who has just moved to a large newGenre/Category: Graphic novel/mystery/family/coming of age Read for "graphic novel"
Summary: Coraline is a young girl who has just moved to a large new home shared with three other tenants, the retired actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, and the man who trains mice. Her mother is too busy to play and her father works away in his office, so she contents herself to explore the grounds and gardens of the house. She soon feels ignored and bored when the rains come, so she begins to explore indoors. Creepy things begin to happen when she discovers that a brick wall hidden behind a door dissolves into another world where fake mothers and fathers live with button-sewn eyes. In this world, Coraline finds things much less boring; she has adoring parents, friends who are interesting, colorful bedrooms,and much more. But she soon finds out that her button-eyed parents want to keep her in this alternate reality, kidnapping her real parents, and attempting to replace her real eyes with buttons. The creepily drawn pictures portray this alternate reality and terrifying monster mother in very bleak and terrifying ways making the novel a page-turning, heart-thumping mystery thriller. Can she find her parents before it is too late? Will Coraline become trapped in this mirror world for forever?
I personally hate creepy books, so this was one that I hurried through. The pictures were well done and really complimented the story, making it even more terrifying. I think that it addresses real issues of being satisfied with our lives and contends with the cliche that "all is greener on the other side." This book would be great for junior high and high school students who are still trying out their identities and becoming accustomed to the ways of real life. They would enjoy the art and the terror that the pictures bring to the story. ...more
Genre/Category: biography/non-fiction Read for "non-fiction" requirement
Charles J. Shields tells the life story of reclusive Nelle Harper Lee,Genre/Category: biography/non-fiction Read for "non-fiction" requirement
Charles J. Shields tells the life story of reclusive Nelle Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird, one of the greatest novels ever written. Shields presents us with Nelle's background, describing her personality, her family life, and perhaps most importantly, the connections between her personal life and her only novel. Lee's life is marked with excitement and sadness, which make for an intriguing biography that keeps the pages turning. Full of quotes and anecdotes, the book really reveals Lee's inner life touching on issues of her mother's mental illnesses, her best friend's betrayal, and her reasons for never writing another book. I was shocked at some parts of the book, felt immense pity for Lee, soared with her in her successes, and ultimately felt like I knew Harper Lee by the time the book was done. Well-written and engaging, Shields has provided an excellent resource for understanding To Kill A Mockingbird and fabulous insight for one of the greatest authors of modern time. The interesting stories could really interest young adult readers who need some background on the book. ...more
Genre/Category: Romance/vampires Read for "romance"
Summary: Bella Swan is the new girl in Forks, Washington where the sun rarely shines. Her first daysGenre/Category: Romance/vampires Read for "romance"
Summary: Bella Swan is the new girl in Forks, Washington where the sun rarely shines. Her first days of school are horrible, not just because of her adjustment to new people, but because of the strange boy, Edward Cullen, who sits next to her in science. His angry glare,disgusted revulsion to her, and aversion from contact make her feel worse and worse. However, it soon becomes apparent that neither can stand to be away from the other, some type of internal draw. Due to the blossoming relationship between the two, Bella soon discovers the truth about Edward with the help of some old legends and internet search engines: Edward is a vampire. Balancing Edward's crazy desire for her blood and Bella's refusal to let the relationship alone leads to a love unlike any mortal has experienced. Bella soon learns that although she doesn't fear Edward or his vampire family, there are others out there who will try to harm her. Can their true love hold them together when everything is on the line or will it only bring harm and death to those they love? Twilight is full of romance and action, exploring the world of vampires, trust, and loyalty.
Personally, I thought the book was completely engaging but completely lacking in literary merit. Because I am a huge fan of the "chick flick," I loved this book. It played out like a Lifetime movie with such sensual language that sometimes I blushed. "Edward's lips crushed against Bella's"...I could almost be reading a dime novel. But because I am an English teacher, this book disgusted me. It was full of fluff, repetitive lines that never brought new imagery. It was merely a very in depth love story, albeit a new twist in the conflict. I would only recommend it to high school students due to the passionate and sensual language (and sexual scenes in later sequels) and would only recommend it as an entertaining and romantic read. ...more
Genre/Category: mental illness/family/loss of innocence Read for "oral author report: Lowry"
Summary: Katy Thatcher grows up in a small town hoping to bGenre/Category: mental illness/family/loss of innocence Read for "oral author report: Lowry"
Summary: Katy Thatcher grows up in a small town hoping to be a doctor like her father. On a trip to pick up the "hired girl," Katy meets and befriends Jacob, a boy with a mental illness. As Katy goes through the year, she meets Jacob in a variety of situations and she begins to understand his actions and reasons for doing certain things. Katy also tries to make sense of some sexual images she comes across that involve the neighbor boy and the neighbor's hired girl. When their relationship results in pregnancy, things quickly take a turn for the worse, involving Jacob. Only Katy understands what has happened and why.
I thought the language of this book was geared for a young grade, perhaps 5th to 7th; however, the content (sexuality, death, mental illness) and the ending result in a dark book that should really only be read by mature 8th graders or high school students. ...more
Genre/Category: death/sibling relationships/coming of age/birth read for "oral author report: Lowry"
Summary: Meg and Molly are sisters and they couldn'Genre/Category: death/sibling relationships/coming of age/birth read for "oral author report: Lowry"
Summary: Meg and Molly are sisters and they couldn't be more different. Meg likes to spend time by herself, enjoys arts, and can be terribly messy. Molly is the popular, beautiful cheerleader who gets everyone's attention. It becomes even harder for these two opposite sisters to get along when they move to a small country house with only one bedroom for them to share. Meg quickly adapts to country life, making friends with the next door neighbors, but Molly seems to become grumpier and lazier. Meg finds it more and more difficult to be in the same room with her. Along with Molly's new attitude come some physical changes, but those are blamed on the recurring flu that has plagued Molly since coming to the country.But when Molly is rushed to the hospital and endures test after test, Meg realizes that Molly is much sicker than she has been told. Meg now must find a way to help her sister know that she really does love her. She must find a way to keep her happy despite her sickness. And she must find a way to keep loving herself in spite of all of this change.
I really enjoyed this book. True to Lowry's character, she writes in very simplistic language that almost feels childish, yet she deals with very difficult issues like death, birth, nudity, hatred, etc. Some of her insights are very poignant and require a lot of contemplation. I would recommend it to junior high students but it isn't my favorite book by Lowry. ...more
Genre/Category: dealing with death/coming of age/inner strength Read for "Lurlene McDaniels" requirement
Summary: Trisha is having a great senior year wGenre/Category: dealing with death/coming of age/inner strength Read for "Lurlene McDaniels" requirement
Summary: Trisha is having a great senior year with her sweet and sensitive boyfriend Cody, and her best friend Christina, except for the intrusive presence of Christina's boyfriend, Tucker. Trisha knows that Christina and Tucker's relationship is verbally abusive and could soon result in physical abuse and despite her best efforts to persuade Christina to dump Tucker, Christina is attached. For example, when Christina gets a scholarship to a great university, Tucker gives Christina such a guilt trip that she plans to discard the scholarship to go to the local college so that she can stay closer to Tucker. Trisha is determined to help her friend get rid of this bad influence! One night, on the way home from a basketball game, Tucker's truck flips and rolls, killing Christina and placing Cody in a coma. Only Trisha can remember what happened to cause the accident, but her accident trauma keeps her from remembering all of the details. What happened that night? As Trisha heals, Cody comes out of his coma, only to appear to have forgotten everything and everyone. The story addresses Trisha's grief over Christina, her rebuilding of the relationship with Cody, and her desire to find out what really happened the night of the accident.
Well, Lurlene McDaniels is known for being a tear-jerker and I am known to be a big crier, so I think this book was pegged for me. I hated it because I knew exactly what format it would be in, but I think that it does deal with the issues of death and recovery well. I dreaded reading anything by her and I was surprised to find that I didn't hate it quite as badly as I thought I would. It was much less sappy than I had heard. I would recommend this book for high school students. ...more
Genre/Category: graphic novel/Chinese culture/identity crisis and resolution
Summary: This graphic novel weaves together three stories that appear compGenre/Category: graphic novel/Chinese culture/identity crisis and resolution
Summary: This graphic novel weaves together three stories that appear completely unrelated, yet blend together in the end. The first deals with a Chinese fable about the Monkey King who decides that he is not satisfied with being a monkey; he wants to be something more. The second deals with the young boy, Jin Wang, who transfers to a new school and must face stereotyping and isolation. He is determined to move beyond these generalizations and prove that his identity is not Chinese. The third addresses an American boy, Danny, whose life if plagued by his stereotypical Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, who arrives to visit him. Chin-Kee is the very source of the problem for both Jin and Danny who are trying to avoid association with such a blatant stereotype.
When I first began this book, I hated it. I ranted about it for a very long time with friends, until I got to the middle of the book. When the stories began to weave together and I recognized purpose in each of the stories, I realized how brilliant the book was. I like how the book can be applied to any person who has been in a "body and life" from which they wanted to escape. It deals with issues of identity, stereotyping, etc. I think that from a white perspective, it really presents the harsh reality of the way American-Chinese people are treated. It also does interesting things with Christianity, purpose of life, sanctity of identity, etc. I would be careful to teach this book to a class with students who are American-Chinese because it might offend them or create a stigma where other students think that the book represents the experiences of all American-Chinese. ...more
Genre/Category: Mystery/suspense/mental illness/murder/frienship Read for the "Tim Wynne-Jones lit circles"
Summary: This book starts off creepily, foreGenre/Category: Mystery/suspense/mental illness/murder/frienship Read for the "Tim Wynne-Jones lit circles"
Summary: This book starts off creepily, foreshadowing the rest of the book: a step-daughter listening to her father's private guilty confessions, and drawing the conclusion of murder. This step-daughter, Ruth Rose, determines that she needs help in order to reveal her father's crimes and she turns to 14-year-old Jim Hawkins. The same Jim Hawkins whose father disappeared two years ago. The same Jim Hawkins whose father was killed by Ruth Rose's step-father. The suspenseful story follows Jim and Ruth Rose's exploration for the truth and the terrifying places that it leads them. Unfortunately for both of them, Ruth Rose is on medication for mental illness and Jim has had recent suicidal thoughts. People are not too concerned with their life or death information, brushing them off as somewhat delusional. Unfortunately, Ruth Rose's step-father, the pastor of the local church is aware of their search and is attempting to hinder it in any way that he can, even if it means injuring of killing the children.
I am not the kind of person who reads scary books, but this book was so excellently written that I couldn't put it down once I had started! It was a page-turning thriller for young adults and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were so real, including Father, that this book played out exactly like a movie for me and I think that it would be an excellent book to engage non-interested readers!
Genre/Category: coming of age/poverty/overcoming environment/success
Summary: Written in free verse or formatted prose, Make Lemonade tells the story oGenre/Category: coming of age/poverty/overcoming environment/success
Summary: Written in free verse or formatted prose, Make Lemonade tells the story of LaVaughn, a 14-year-old girl whose mind is set on going to college, despite her poor upbringing. With her Big Ma's support, LaVaughn goes in search of a job to fund her college dreams, and to Big Ma's dismay, LaVaughn picks up a job working for 17-year-old Jolly. Jolly is a teenage mother with two children from different fathers, struggling to make ends meet while she works at the local factory. LaVaughn's heartstrings are plucked by the little kids Jeremy and Jilly and she quickly becomes attached. When Jolly loses her job at the factory and can't afford to pay LaVaughn for her services, LaVaughn battles with the definitions of fair, and right and wrong. She ultimately decides to help recognizing that sometimes life just isn't fair. LaVaughn's optimistic perspective and true desire to help this little family lead Jolly to make some big changes in her poverty stricken life. Ultimately, this is a story about overcoming disappointment and discovering success no matter how dire the circumstances. As we are told, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
This was an excellent story about setting goals and reaching for dreams. I think that LaVaughn deals with issues that we all face: when is helping someone else really hurting them? And when do I stop helping? What if helping someone else is hurting me? And I think that Wolff really addresses some of the nitty gritty of the projects. Some of her descriptions made me physically ill with all of the gooey, slimy, rotting images. I felt that the book was a fair representation of that way of life, yet it also provided a ray of hope, a way to change.
Genre/Category: jail/murder case/judicial system/innocence vs guilt/identity vs action/ who am i???
Summary: Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A shoGenre/Category: jail/murder case/judicial system/innocence vs guilt/identity vs action/ who am i???
Summary: Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A shop-owner was killed in his store after a robbery and Steve is being tried for his supposed participation as a lookout. Steve's experience in jail is so horrific that he tries to escape reality by turning his life and court sessions into a movie. The book is written in this style with camera moves and stage choreography, giving little description and all dialogue. The movie script is accompanied by an occasional journal entry where we really see the fear as Steve contemplates a life in prison, a life that he doesn't believe he deserves. This possibility is so terrible to him and the gritty realism of prison life will turn any reader away from its seeming grandeur. The novel leaves Steve's innocence or guilt ambiguous,relying on the reader to determine the truth. However, it is clear that Steve does learn something from his moments in jail. While incarcerated, Steve lost himself and couldn't determine reality from his imagination. The novel ends with him filming himself, really trying to find out who he is on the inside. I thought the book addressed some really important themes of adolescence, especially portraying a life in jail that is far from ideal. I think Myers hoped it was turn some readers onto a different path. Steve's ultimate question, "Who am I?" reflects a constant mind set of the teenager. Steve searches to find a way to identify himself beyond the petty actions and friends with whom he associates. He encourages teens to avoid peer pressure and focus on who they really are inside. ...more
Genre/Category: poetry/Dust Bowl/Depression/family relationships/healing/identity and place
Summary: Billie Jo should have been a boy,but she was bornGenre/Category: poetry/Dust Bowl/Depression/family relationships/healing/identity and place
Summary: Billie Jo should have been a boy,but she was born a girl. Her family lives in the Dust Bowl and is about to be hit hard by the Depression. Written in free-verse, Billie Jo diaries her harsh life where the dust cakes the food, cakes the beds, and can even bury her beloved piano. Despite these harsh conditions, there is still happiness in the home until Billie Jo's mama dies from an accident that Billie had a hand in. Along with her mama, Billie Jo loses an unborn baby brother and finds the heavy weight of guilt almost too difficult to bear. The accident also scars her fingers beyond belief, making it difficult and painful to attempt playing her beloved piano. As Billie Jo fights to find something to live for, her father has also reached his limit, succumbing to guilt and ignoring the festering skin cancer growing all over his body. Billie Jo thinks that to be truly happy, she should get out of the dust, but once she leaves, she finds that who she is relates directly to the dust. Hesse tells a story of discovering identity and courage to live through difficult times. The sparse poetry matches the bleakness of dust bowl life, but also presents a perfect medium through which Billie Jo's healing process comes about.
An ultimately moving story that pushes the reader to believe that they can do anything too. ...more
Summary: Jason Bock is sick of religion, especially his parent's religion. Claiming no faitGenre/Category: religion/leadership/faith/friendship/choice
Summary: Jason Bock is sick of religion, especially his parent's religion. Claiming no faith in God, Jason turns to religion that he creates: the Chutengodians. This new religion worships the local city's water tower. Jason enlists his best friend, Shin, in the process of building up the religion. Membership doubles when Magda (Jason's crush) joins, along with Henry the bully. This new religion ruffles quite a few parents as Shin becomes ultra obsessive, and Henry finds a way to turn to peaceful religion into a more dangerous one. Eventually, Jason realizes that his religion has run out of control when Henry is severely injured and Shin appears to have lost his sanity. He finally pays attention to his father's advice, "Your friends listen to what you say." He realizes the influence that he has and the choice that he must make to return everything to normal. In the end, his quest for religion only brought him to the realization that you can belong to any religion but it won't mean anything unless you have faith.
This book seemed to somewhat challenge the organized religions of today, especially the biggest ones. It mocked the archaic elements of the religions and pointed out their weaknesses. But I don't think that this book was anti-God or religion. Rather, it addresses the need for a God and a belief in something. I think that Hautman suggests we question our lives and our solid beliefs in religion to be sure that we truly have faith in the organizations to which we profess membership. ...more
Genre/Category: family relationships/trust/courage/coming of age/autism
Summary: This book focuses on one character, Christopher Boone, who is autisticGenre/Category: family relationships/trust/courage/coming of age/autism
Summary: This book focuses on one character, Christopher Boone, who is autistic; however, the autism is not the focus. Rather, the focus is on the regular themes that are often in teen novels: love, family relationships, trust, finding oneself, developing courage, finishing a quest. Christopher initially sets out to discover who murdered the neighborhood dog, but the investigation leads him to new and difficult situations that he never dreamed he could be capable of handling. His character is genuine and he provides fabulous insights into the human character, despite his attributed "mental disorder." His experiences provide an insight into autism that pull the reader in, making them proud of each of his accomplishments and discoveries. His brilliance is evident especially in mathematics, and the book is full of his equations and left-brained thinking.
The book connects to most readers who have experienced change, who have tried to build family relationships, who have been afraid to step out of their comfort zones. Christopher's story is truly touching and one of a kind. ...more
Summary: Whirligig tells the story of renewal for someone who's life has been far from peGenre/Category: death/suicide/self worth/whirligigs/traveling
Summary: Whirligig tells the story of renewal for someone who's life has been far from perfect. After a bad day at school, Brent sets of to kill himself. But instead of killing himself, he ends up killing another girl in a car accident. The girl's family requests that he travel to the four corners of the United States, erecting whirligigs to honor her memory. Brent agrees and sets off on a quest that brings peace to his heart and hope for a life when he returns. The book's post-modern structure weaves bits and pieces of the story, flashing forward and backward. It pulls together the story of Brent and the lives that are influenced by his actions and by the whirligigs that he builds to set things right.
This story was very touching, following the struggles Brent has on his mission for redemption. The strange plot structure threw me off at times, but I felt that it really emphasized the lost feelings that Brent experienced and ultimately added to the overall emotion. The book is a short read, and well worth it. ...more
**spoiler alert** Genre/Category: sports/discrimination/death/coming of age
Summary: Louis Banks has a pretty good life. He has made the football team**spoiler alert** Genre/Category: sports/discrimination/death/coming of age
Summary: Louis Banks has a pretty good life. He has made the football team after spending months to prepare and get himself in top physical condition. He has a good job with supportive adults. He has a girlfriend, Becky, who is smart, popular, beautiful and who loves and supports him in everything. He has a great best frien, Carter, who is there to listen and encourages him in his football dreams. And his parents are the kind that don't stifle. But everything changes when he makes a big choice in football, deciding to stand up for values that he didn't even know he had. Some people support him, others tear him apart. And then it gets worse. Becky dies in a car crash. His grief overcomes him and he loses himself for a while. The combination of the football disaster and the loss of Becky contribute to multiple reactions that tug at the reader's heartstrings. In the end, a supportive coach guides him to a new release where he can succeed and find himself again.
I really enjoyed this book. Some people might be turned away by the apparent sports message, but I think that this book addresses multiple issues that students face everyday that go far beyond sports. It addresses discrimination and standing up for the values you believe in. It addresses death and grief, friendship and love, trials and successes. Overall, I felt that the book was very poignant and I truly felt empathy for Louis. This book could be read by older junior high students and high school students. ...more
Summary: Sophie is the eldest of three sisters, living in the land of Ingary, doomed by fairytale legend tGenre/Category: fantasy/magic/bit of romance
Summary: Sophie is the eldest of three sisters, living in the land of Ingary, doomed by fairytale legend to fail at everything because she is the oldest. When her father dies, Sophie is resigned to help in the family hat shop with her stepmother while her other two sisters are sent off to experience grand adventures: one as an apprentice witch, the other as an apprentice baker. What Sophie doesn't realize, is that she has magic powers and is somehow magically creating the most magnificent hats. These magical hats get her in trouble, for the Witch of the Waste hears word of her skill and in jealousy turns Sophie into an old crone. With her new disguise, Sophie is free to speak however she wants and act in any way she pleases. Finding such freedom in her creaky, old disguise, she gets the courage to approach the Wizard Howl's magical moving castle, despite assurances that his is an old, mean wizard who eats girls for breakfast. Once aboard, Sophie gets swept into the magical world of fire demons, falling stars, houses that open in four different cities, and wizards who throw temper tantrums. Her disguise allows her to poke her nose where it isn't wanted and she soon becomes involved in solving a curse put upon Howl. Despite Howl's arrogance and selfishness, Sophie finds that she is really beginning to like young wizard Howl. Mixed with magic, courage, disguise, love, adventure, and mystery, the novel is a quick, entertaining read that takes the reader on an adventure that is both wild and weird.
I personally thought this book was great merely for pleasure. I think that it would be most appreciated at the junior high or middle grade level. I did enjoy the new plot idea and creativity with the characters and moving action, however, it had very little literary acclaim. One theme I did find intriguing was the topic of disguise and perception. Throughout the novel, Jones addresses these issues and the ways to use disguise and overcome ill-formed perceptions. ...more
Genre/Category: young adult/Southern racism/ family/ courage/ defiance
Summary: Cassie Logan is the 9-year old daughter of an African-American family wGenre/Category: young adult/Southern racism/ family/ courage/ defiance
Summary: Cassie Logan is the 9-year old daughter of an African-American family who owns their own Southern land in the 1930's, a time when all other black families were forced to sharecrop. Still at an age of innocence, Cassie narrates the story of her community and the hardships of racism with a quality of naivety, slowly coming to a realization of the horrors of discrimination. As the white neighbors, particularly the Wallace family, begin to harass the black families in the town, Cassie's family is the only one with the resources to provide a way to survive without relying on the Wallace's supplies. Their defiant stand and simple boycott against the their white enemies causes terrifying trouble for the Logans. Night men stalk the family, family members are beaten, and friends are blackmailed. Cassie tells the story of her appalling awakening to the realities of life in the Deep South, revealing a story of fear, strength, and brutal honesty. But more importantly, it tells of the great sacrifice one family gives to ensure that they can hold their heads high and not bend their backs to the system.
I personally loved this book. Cassie's naive narration provides a perfect lens through which to view this world of racism and fear. Her development from innocence to experience creates questions that the reader desperately wants answers for. The story is touching, telling of a family and community that bond together to provide strength and support to one another in a horrible time. The sacrifices made make this an unforgettable story. ...more
Genre/Category: bleak young adult/realism/defying the system/peer pressure/good vs. evil
Summary: Jerry Renault enters his freshman year at Trinity burGenre/Category: bleak young adult/realism/defying the system/peer pressure/good vs. evil
Summary: Jerry Renault enters his freshman year at Trinity burdened with his mother's death from cancer, his father's robotic and purposeless existence, and his own desire to become more than he is. His chance to find purpose and move beyond his threatening sorrow comes with the school's annual Chocolate Sale. Tied up in the very middle of the school's bureaucracy, Jerry becomes an iron rod for some to cling to and a target for some to gain ground in power and prestige. The stories of the boys whose lives intermingle with Jerry's create a realistic perspective of humanity, perhaps unsheathing some of the nitty, gritty that is so well-covered in other young adult novels. As always, Cormier skirts nothing and addresses difficult issues head on.
Personally, this novel stuck with me for days. It required major reflection for me to sort through my feelings about the characters and the issues that they raised. The only thing I personally disliked was the mention of masturbation several times in the novel, almost ruined the whole book, but it again relates the idea of bleak realism in Cormier's novels: nothing is left out. Be prepared for a thought-provoking, shocking novel about real life. ...more
Genre/Category: teen isolation/abuse/power of one/friendship
Summary: Melinda used to be an ordinary freshman high school student. She had great friendGenre/Category: teen isolation/abuse/power of one/friendship
Summary: Melinda used to be an ordinary freshman high school student. She had great friends, did well in school, and was relatively happy at home. One evening changed everything. Now, she wanders the halls alone, dodging cruel comments and dagger glares from her peers, even her best friends. Her teachers are befuddled and unsure of how to react to her sudden change in attitude and performance. Melinda is also confused. She is losing her ability to speak, often pleading with her mouth to voice the problem, but she proves more and more incapable of forming verbal conversations. And is anyone really listening? As she finally confronts the root of the issue, Melinda must find the power to speak or she will never speak again. This is a touching story about isolation,friendship, and the power we all have to speak and make ourselves be heard. We just need the courage to do so.
I personally thought this book was fabulously written, following Melinda's daily actions at school and home, and portraying a perspective of peers and teachers that we rarely see from a suffering student. As a teacher, I cringe at the ignorance and nonchalance with which Melinda was treated by her teachers and it encourages me NOT to become that teacher. As a student, Melinda reminded me that students like her surround me and often their circumstances are merely overlooked so that we might judge their appearances and actions. Melinda also teaches a valuable lesson about self worth and the ability we all have to speak out. ...more
Genre/Category: medical non-fiction/science experiments/ self-experimentation/risks and consequences
Summary: Guinea Pig Scientists tells the stories oGenre/Category: medical non-fiction/science experiments/ self-experimentation/risks and consequences
Summary: Guinea Pig Scientists tells the stories of ten brave experimenters who tested their own ideas and products on themselves. Sometimes, these experiments ended in death, but always, their deaths or sacrifices provided progress for the scientific and medical worlds. While the scientific stories are intriguing, they are not for those with an easily upset stomach, as the book explores bodily functions, cutting open the body, and investigating the processes within. I think the book reads slightly like a textbook based on interesting stories; however, despite the thick text, I do think that the "gross factor" will interest students, particularly boys, in the study of science and experimentation. ...more
Summary: Sir Earnest Shackleton set off to conquer the most dangerous continent on the Earth, Antartica,Genre/Category: Non-fiction/adventure/heroism
Summary: Sir Earnest Shackleton set off to conquer the most dangerous continent on the Earth, Antartica, by crossing the ice-covered continent from one side to the other. But first, he would have to reach it. This non-fiction book provides a literary perspective to the unreal adventure of Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance. Before ever reaching land, the Endurance was caught in the ice, frozen hundreds of miles from land, and eventually crushed in the ever-moving pressure of the ice floes, but all of the men lived to tell of the 18-month battle for survival. Without their ship, the crew experienced horrible exposure to the freezing elements, merciless seas, and predatory animals. Their survival is a heroic telling of one man's ability to lead in times of disaster, and a crew's desire to survive. Littered with actual photographs of the voyage, the book sets a tone of adventure and new perils with every turn of the page. Armstrong writes with skill, utilizing cliff-hangers and literary devices to keep her readers on the edge of their seats until the crew safely arrives home.
This book was one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. It is captivating and engaging, completely reworking my perspective on non-fiction. Armstrong creates palpable characters who I became attached to, invested in their well-being and safety. The pictures provided visions that I couldn't even imagine, and the writing propelled me through each page as I bit my nails, waiting for the crew's safe reunion and return to their home. ...more
Genre/Category: Urban futuristic fantasy/dystopic/adventure/ responsibility/loyalty/ Read for "fantasy."
Summary: Katniss is a 16-year old girl living iGenre/Category: Urban futuristic fantasy/dystopic/adventure/ responsibility/loyalty/ Read for "fantasy."
Summary: Katniss is a 16-year old girl living in a futuristic America where the Capitol reigns in total power over twelve smaller, submissive, and separated districts. She happens to live in the coal district, district number twelve. Every year, each district must enter a young man and a young woman to fight to the death in the Hunger Games, a cruel game televised to all of the districts, designed to remind them of the Capitol's supreme power. When Kat's younger and only sister is drawn as the female contestant for her district, Kat volunteers to take her place. As Kat heads to the Capitol, she can only anticipate the horror of the Games and the way the players are manipulated. Her only hope is to survive everyone, no matter the method.
I loved this book. It kept me on the edge every second. It had a fabulous mix of teen romance, action,suspense, friendship, and loyalty. I felt like it raised a lot of questions, especially when considering that half of the book addresses teens killing other teens. I think the book addresses such a delicate topic well. As a partially distopic novel, I think the book addresses a lot of questions that we should ask ourselves as American citizens. ...more