Rose Bliss lives in her family's home which also serves as the town's bakery. Through their baked goods, her parents secretly use a subtle bit of magi...moreRose Bliss lives in her family's home which also serves as the town's bakery. Through their baked goods, her parents secretly use a subtle bit of magic to assist the townspeople. Because of this very thing, they are called away to a neighboring town for a week to help rid the inhabitants of a flu epidemic. While they are gone, mysterious Aunt Lily shows up but even though the kids have never even heard of her, she shows them the ladle-shaped birthmark that every member of the Bliss family has and the kids welcome her into their home. At the same time, Rose, feeling unappreciated by her parents, decides to use some magical recipes from the Bliss Family Cookery Booke to show her family how knowledgable and dependable she can be. With her brothers' help, they try four different recipes, each with its own calamitous outcome. In the end, "Aunt Lily" tries to convince Rose to run away with her to be with people who appreciate her but Rose sees through her baloney story and decides to stay with her family who she loves and who love her, but not before Aunt Lily steals the book and speeds away. Rose's parents return to find the Cookery Booke stolen but their family intact, and a bit more knowledgeable about magical baking.
This is an adorable story about family, making decisions that you may someday regret, and seeing the true meaning behind doing what you love. I think this would make a fantastic crossover book for MHL. My only criticism is that it is a bit long, especially for Division I MHL readers. (less)
Read for summer school curriculum. Unlike Night in every possible way. A book that requires "thinking", something I wasn't necessarily poised to do wh...moreRead for summer school curriculum. Unlike Night in every possible way. A book that requires "thinking", something I wasn't necessarily poised to do when reading a book during summer.(less)
Best friends Sean, Coop, and Matt set a goal for themselves every summer. Play a thousand games of ping pong, try to collect a hundred frogs, build a...moreBest friends Sean, Coop, and Matt set a goal for themselves every summer. Play a thousand games of ping pong, try to collect a hundred frogs, build a clubhouse from old boxes, get their hands on Playboy magazines and share them with the rest of the group, etc. This year's goal is to see a real live naked girl and it isn't going to be easy. But even this seems like a piece of cake compared to the other summertime goal Matt has committed to. He volunteered to swim the 100 yard butterfly, the most difficult stroke to swim and all because of a girl. Kelly West is the hot new girl in town and her ex is the best butterflier around. It's the only way to get Kelly's attention but since Matt can't manage to swim one lap of the butterfly without practically drowning, there's no way he's going to be able to swim four laps without Kelly noticing him for all the wrong reasons. He'll have to get stronger and improve his technique before race day.
Through a whole cast of hilarious characters including Grandpa Arlo who has the hots for the recently widowed neighbor across the street, the Australian swim coach Ulf who pushes Matt without him even knowing it, and the over-the-top swim team coach Ms Luntz, who is eventually the woman the boys see naked (not exactly what they had in mind), the book moves from one comedic situation to the next. This is definitely a boy book including crude humor, disgusting challenges, and lots of insight into girls and masturbation. It was hilarious!
The only criticism of the book I have is the weak storyline about Matt's brother Peter. I think that was an important message to tell (dad leaves family for younger woman, teen boys miss relationship with dad) but it isn't fleshed out enough in my opinion.(less)
I am so disappointed in you. As a junior high school media specialist, I read and LOVED I Hunt Killers a few years ago. It was the...moreDear Mr. Barry Lyga,
I am so disappointed in you. As a junior high school media specialist, I read and LOVED I Hunt Killers a few years ago. It was the kind of edgy mystery book that my reluctant 7th and 8th grade readers could read, stay engaged with, and discuss. In fact, the 8th grade English teachers in my building decided to use it as a literature circle book choice and the title only grew in popularity. And when we found out there was a sequel coming out soon, it became even more appealing! Hold your hats, there was more of the story to come! Game was iffy for me. The sexual tension was so much more blatant and in-your-face as compared to the first book. I was reluctant to include it in my library collection, envisioning my blushing principal getting a call from a parent who read specific lines verbatim to him over the phone. But how can you entice students with the first book of a series and not allow them access to the second. Still, I decided to hold out until I had read and evaluated Blood of my Blood to make my decision. And I'm so glad I did.
Here's the reason I'm so upset. As a school Media Specialist I begrudge the fact that I have to put my neck on the line in order to promote your books to young adult readers. Yes, there's lots of killing. Yes, there's gory images. But I can argue that those are the kinds of things that, while mature, my students can see on prime time TV any given night of the week. But the part that pushed it over the edge for me was the sexual relationship between Jazz and his mom. Really? How necessary was that in propelling the story line of this book? I would argue that it was completely unnecessary and that more young adult readers, for whom the book is supposedly written, would have access to the book at school media centers around the country if it weren't for that small (and did I mention unnecessary?) plot line.
As a result, neither Game nor Blood of my Blood will be included in my school's library and now I'm questioning whether or not IHK should even be here. I've had to make some difficult decisions because of your choices in writing, Mr. Lyga, and while I would love to share your books with my students, you've made it impossible to do so.
Habo is an albino living in Tanzania with his family (mom, two brothers, and sister). He is an outcast in all aspects of his life because of the color...moreHabo is an albino living in Tanzania with his family (mom, two brothers, and sister). He is an outcast in all aspects of his life because of the color of his skin. At school, he is forced to sit in the back and called ghost boy by the kids who refuse to play with him. He cannot work outside because his skins burns easily in the sun and so he feels like a burden on his family since he can't provide. His dad left the family right after Habo's birth because of the color of Habo's skin and his mom and siblings have been trying to save their farm ever since, to no avail. They are now being forced out of the only home Habo has ever known. His mom's sister lives in Mwanza, a fishing town far to the north and it is there that they must take refuge. There, Habo learns that albinos' body parts are thought to be lucky and soon he is hunted by a man who wants to make money off of Habo's skin, legs, and hair. Habo knows what this man, Alisiri, is capable of. On the way to Mwanza, Habo witnesses Alisiri and some other men kill an elephant just for its ivory tusks. Alirisi is ruthless and when he comes for Habo, Habo must flee. His aunt told him in conversation that in other parts of the country, albinos are not targeted. In fact, some of them have been elected to parliament.
And so, with little money and food, Habo boards a train to Dar es Salaam. But once he's there, he's unsure of what people really do think of albinos and he has nowhere to go in this big city. He targets an old man making his supper to steal food from. What a mistake! While Kweli might be blind, something Habo doesn't even realize right away, he is strong and his blindness has only made his other senses more heightened. He hits Habo with his stick and after a struggle, Kweli asks Habo to join him in his meal and eventually to live with him in exchange for his help. Kweli is a wood carver and encourages Habo to carve as well, giving him tasks like carving a dog and cat in the beginning but then more complicated things like "evil" and "happiness" as Habo becomes a more accomplished carver. Just as Habo is beginning to feel safe and envision a future, he returns home one day to find Alisiri trying to talk Kweli into carving his poached ivory. Kweli doesn't realize this is the same man who has haunted Habo's dreams for months, but once Habo tells him his story, they decide to go to the police. They set a trap for Alisiri and he is arrested. In the very end, Asu, Habo's beloved sister finds him and Habo feels the love of his family and sees a future as a carver's apprentice.
This book is fantastic in that it brings up a topic, albinoism, and the horrific treatment of albinos that is little known to us in the United States. I learned a lot about the topic as well as about life in Tanzania. The story itself is riveting. Just as you begin to believe that Habo may have found safety after all, there is evil around the next corner. I think students would be drawn in by the action and end up learning a lot about an unknown topic. Highly recommended! (less)
In 1932, in Flemington, NJ, Bruno Richard Hauptman is tried for the kidnapping and murder of the 22-month-old son of Charles Lindbergh, the famous avi...moreIn 1932, in Flemington, NJ, Bruno Richard Hauptman is tried for the kidnapping and murder of the 22-month-old son of Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator, and his wife. Katie Leigh Flynn is 12 at the time and is bored with her town where nothing important ever happens. When the trial begins, her uncle who is a newspaper reporter in town, breaks his arm and can't write so, with the permission of her mom, Katie is able to attend the trial to take notes that are later used to write articles in the newspaper. It is through her eyes that we learn about the time period and the other parts of life that continue to go on even during the midst of what some have called the most publicized crime of the 20th century.
The book is written in free verse poetry but I thought the flow of the poems was so well done that there were many times I didn't even realize I was reading poetry. It read like a novel to me. I have just a few issues about the book. I wonder about the authenticity of the narrator's voice in this story. I wonder how realistic it is to think that a 12-year-old girl would have been accepted into the press core at this prestigious trial. I wonder how realistic it would've been that her friend, Mike, would've been in school and not forced to work to survive. I thought it was ambitious to tackle so many different sub-plots and, at times, the story line of the trial, suffered as a result. There were a lot of holes in the story, and unless I had researched the topic in advance (something that would just simply be too much work for the junior high students I work with), I'm not sure I would've understood a lot of the details. Overall, I thought this was a thoughtful, very readable book and I'm glad I learned so much about this time period in history by reading it! (less)
Earlier this school year, I received a grant to purchase "high/low" books (books about a high interest topic written at a low reading level). I purcha...moreEarlier this school year, I received a grant to purchase "high/low" books (books about a high interest topic written at a low reading level). I purchased a series of books called Disasters with these funds and I wanted to read at least one of the books so I was able to book talk the series to students in preparation for summer reading.
Mountain Disasters is a collection of mountaineering stories from around the world. Many mountain-climbing terms are explained along with descriptions of the mountains and some of the more notorious people who have tried climbing them.
This book kept my interest and was a fast read - both of which are appealing to the junior high students where I teach. (less)
This high/low book is a part of the Astonishing Headlines series of books. I reviewed another book, Condemned, from this series and thought it was one...moreThis high/low book is a part of the Astonishing Headlines series of books. I reviewed another book, Condemned, from this series and thought it was one of the most awful books I've ever read. This book was much better.
Shot Down is a book about airplanes, both those used in combat and passenger planes, that have been shot down over history. The stories are interesting and provide a lot of useful facts. Unlike Condemned, I felt that there was enough information to fill a book with, however, things do tend to fall apart a little towards the end. While the stories about SEAL Team 6 and Drones are fascinating, they differ from the other stories in the book because they don't involve the shooting down of anything.
This would be a book that I would recommend to students who were in need of something at a lower reading level. (less)
Earlier this school year, I received a grant to purchase "high/low" reading materials for my junior high school library. High/low materials mean that...moreEarlier this school year, I received a grant to purchase "high/low" reading materials for my junior high school library. High/low materials mean that the content in the book is of high interest written at a lower reading level for struggling readers. I am a huge proponent of high/low materials, especially in our ELL student population and also for students who struggle academically and I have read and suggested many high/low books over the course of my career. The book Condemned will not be one of them. I have several issues with this book and an so fired up about them that I may, in fact, contact the publishing company of this book, Saddleback Educational Publishing, to discuss my issues. Here are just a few...
I think the underlying issue behind so many other issues I have with the book is that there just wasn't enough to write about concerning this topic. Condemned is a part of the Astonishing Headlines series of books. In this book, the term condemned is stretched, in my opinion, to cover deforestation and Michael Vick's pitbull dogs who are later sent to DogTown to recover, among other topics. Probably one of the more interesting stories (and accurate in terms of the word "condemned") is the one about Grand Central Station. However, in order to fill space, information like the map of New York's famous buildings on page 25 are included. The map shows where Grand Central Station is located along with The Empire State Building, and the World Trade Center towers. The caption at the bottom is about how terrorists attacked the Towers in 2001. What does this have to do with Grand Central Station?
Another story tells the tale of Luna, a redwood tree in Headwaters Forest, CA that is "condemned" to be cut down by a lumber company. Julia "Butterfly" Hill, a college student, lives in the tree for two years to thwart its demise. Page 49 includes a graph which shows the size of trees that grow in the American West in comparison to the Redwood which is the tallest. I do not understand the need for this graph other than to confuse readers with irrelevant information and to take up space. The same is true with the picture and information about the loggerhead turtle on pages 76-77. This is not an informational book about loggerhead turtles and I don't know why it is necessary to know what they weigh or eat in a book entitled Condemned.
But, putting all of this irrelevant information aside, what really "gets my goat" is the blatant bias in the description of The Innocence Project. According to the book, the reasons why someone might be wrongly convicted of a crime include: inexperienced public defenders who have heavy caseloads which may cause them to miss important details, police pressure to solve a case especially when the crime is heavily covered in the news, forced confessions by refusing suspects food, water, and sleep, and prosecutorial misconduct because overzealous prosecutors want to win at all costs (which includes withholding evidence or misleading witnesses). I am livid that this is the information we want to give our youth. It is essentially telling them that our criminal justice system is rigged, untrustworthy, and out to get them, despite evidence which might include DNA.
It is ironic that this is possibly the longest review I have ever written and it just so happens to be about a little 98-page book, which never should have been published, in my opinion. I would've given it zero stars if that was a choice. Garbage.(less)
**spoiler alert** One for the Murphys begins as Carley Connors sits in the back of the social worker's car on her way to a foster home. Carley has jus...more**spoiler alert** One for the Murphys begins as Carley Connors sits in the back of the social worker's car on her way to a foster home. Carley has just been dismissed from the hospital where her mother is still a patient. They were both horribly beaten by Carley's step dad, a horrible man whose abusive past is fueled by his alcohol addiction. Carley's mom isn't exactly Mother of the Year material either. Before they moved to CT, Carley and her fun-loving and free-spirited mom lived in Las Vegas where they "shopped" for clothing by digging through the clothes in the Goodwill donation bins around town with flashlights in the middle of the night so as not to get caught. In fact, when Carley thinks back to that night, it was her mom who held her foot so her step dad could catch her and beat her. So when Carley steps foot in the Murphy's house for the first time and she meets three happy boys, a hard-working firefighter dad, and a loving and doting mom, she is caught off-guard. This is not what she is used to. She is tough, having had to look out for herself. Mrs. Murphy buys her orange juice to drink just simply because Carley likes it. No one has ever done that before. Mrs. Murphy makes her sandwiches for lunch and writes little notes of encouragement to put in her lunch bag. No one has ever done that before. Michael Eric and Adam include her as one of their super heroes and Daniel, who after a rough start, finally confides in Carley that his love for basketball has put him at odds with his dad who is a huge baseball fan. Carley gives him pointers to improve his game and they form a bond. "Families stick together," is the Murphy family motto and after spending 60 days with them, Carley feels like she is one of them.
When news that Carley's mom is getting better and wants to see her comes, Carley isn't so sure she wants to. When it comes to light that Carley's mom was actually trying to save her from her step dad's beating rather than hold her down, Carley isn't so sure that what she remembers happening isn't really what happened after all. When Carley finds out that her mom is being dismissed from the hospital and they are moving back to Las Vegas, Carley wishes there was one of her that could stay with the Murphy's and one of her that could go with her real mom, the only one she has ever known until now. But just as in real life, things don't always work the way you want them to and even though Carley would really rather become a Murphy, she can't. I literally sobbed at the end of this book. Life isn't always tied up in nice, neat packages.
Interspersed throughout the book are relationships between Carley and the other kids at school and issues revolving around being a "foster kid". Toni, real name Charity, chooses to go by the name of the award that she plans to win someday, the Tony Award, and is obsessed with the musical Wicked. Rainer meets Carley during one of the lowest points of her life and won't let her live it down. It is Toni who comes to her rescue and later becomes her best friend.
I would HIGHLY recommend this book. It is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It is perfect for middle level/junior high age students. Excellent read! (less)
Jerry Downing is Kendall, NJ High School's star quarterback and Carla Jenson is the lead reporter for the school's newspaper, the Kourier, and soccer...moreJerry Downing is Kendall, NJ High School's star quarterback and Carla Jenson is the lead reporter for the school's newspaper, the Kourier, and soccer player for Kendall's high school team who is currently sidelined with an ACL tear. It is because of this injury and the surgery that follows that Carla starts writing on the Kourier's blog about sports injuries. Jerry is also blogging on the site, mostly about playing football in general, but after a concussion during one of the games, he also starts researching and writing about sports injuries. As Kendall's football team continues winning and finds themselves in the state championship game, Jerry's best friend Dan is suffering from the effects of a previous concussion and won't admit it. Carla goes to the Internet, blogs about Dan, and gets in trouble for it. The principal makes her take the page down and punishes her by suspending her from reporting on any sports for a week. In the meantime, Carla and Jerry go to New York to visit a brain injury clinic where they learn the devastating effects of multiple concussions. As the football team gets closer to the championship game, the principal, the coaches, and the players decide they don't want to hear about the dark side of contact sports. Not now. Not when the championship trophy is this close. Not when the town and community can add another title to their list of accomplishments. So the question becomes, when does responsibility to the health of the players trump winning at all costs?
I was so excited to read this book! Concussions has become such a hot topic in contact sports; several students have been spending their phy. ed. and study hall time in the media center because, as they recover from sports-related concussions, they can't participate, can't watch a computer screen, can't be on their phone, can't read a book, and the list goes on and on. We struggle with what to do with them and they struggle to keep up with their schoolwork. I was hopeful that this book would do more to address this issue but because of the format which consists of blog posts by both Carla and Jerry and later on, emails between the two, I felt that the overall theme of concussions was overlooked. I also thought the very specific details of Carla's ACL surgery, the details of Carla's extravagant house and her dad's employment as president of the hospital, and more were unnecessary and took away from the storyline. I give this book an "eh, it was ok" rating overall. (less)