Chris Crutcher has put his winning formula into another strong book. Like all of his books, this one doesn't shy away from tough topics like abortion,...moreChris Crutcher has put his winning formula into another strong book. Like all of his books, this one doesn't shy away from tough topics like abortion, religious intolerance, child abuse, mental illness, and suicide. Some topics from his previous books crop up again--the main characters are all on the swim team and there are radical Christian characters who try to persecute the main character and silence open dialogue. But, there are also moderate Christian characters who speak and act with love and understanding. The storyline is compelling and a quick read. Toward the end of the book, the main character repeats the mantra, "ain't it a trip where heroes come from." This sums up the message of the book--that it is ordinary people who have the power to be heroes through their decisions and actions. That is a good enough message for me!(less)
This black and white graphic novel tells a compelling story of race relations in the South before the Civil Rights Movement. The famous baseball playe...moreThis black and white graphic novel tells a compelling story of race relations in the South before the Civil Rights Movement. The famous baseball player Satchel Paige is the central piece that ties the stories together, but the narrator is a washed up baseball player trying to raise his family as a share cropper on a farm owned by two racist brothers. The excitement of playing baseball shines through, but the game is also looked at as the only place where Black players from the Negro Leagues could stand up to White players in exhibition games. The diamond was one of the few places where the men were judged by their talent, not solely by their race.
The book is written in Black vernacular of the South, but the story is still accessible to children. I think parents and teachers should read this along with the children because there are so many great opportunities to discuss American history and racism. The author provides a forward that gives facts about Satchel Page (like the fact that he pitched professionally until he was 69!) and an Epilogue that has historical facts and discussion points for each page of the book.
**The book does use the word "nigger" on one page, but it is within historical context and does add to the story. (less)
This is a light, fun way to introduce modern teen readers to the world of fantasy. Most of the book centers around Ellie’s adjustment to being the new...moreThis is a light, fun way to introduce modern teen readers to the world of fantasy. Most of the book centers around Ellie’s adjustment to being the new girl in town. When she moves to Anne Arundel County with her professor parents, she finds herself mixed up in a bit of destiny. Forces of good and evil conspire to stop Ellie’s new love interest, Will from becoming the great leader he is meant to be. As Ellie learns that a secret organization believes she and her new friends are reincarnations of King Arthur and his nobles, she finds the courage to stand up for the people she cares about even though most of the characters have written her off as a weakling. The book is a quick read and a lot of fun. I am excited to continue reading the series as a TokyoPop graphic novel.(less)
This is a book about a 15 year old girl who becomes a linebacker on her high school football team. It is a great premise, but what makes it a great bo...moreThis is a book about a 15 year old girl who becomes a linebacker on her high school football team. It is a great premise, but what makes it a great book is the fact that the story doesn’t focus on football. D.J. is a depressed and overworked teen who thinks little of herself at the beginning of the book; she spends most of her waking hours taking care of her family’s dairy farm because her father is crippled with a hip injury and her older brothers are off at college.
When a rich, spoiled boy, Brian, is sent to help on the farm, D. J. starts to realize that she wants more for her life. And, when a family friend challenges her to train Brian to get him in shape for the upcoming football season, D. J. finds her purpose. I love that this book has a girl training a boy for football and eventually a girl playing football; D. J. is believable at both. The book rebuffs the social stereotypes of jocks, discussing sexuality as D.J. falls in love with Brian and D.J.’s best friend declares her love for D.J. But, at the core of the story is a girl who finds something that she loves and, in the process, learns to love herself.(less)
I loved the voice of the 14 year old main character, Peak. He was self-assured, smart, and caring even though everyone around him encouraged him to be...moreI loved the voice of the 14 year old main character, Peak. He was self-assured, smart, and caring even though everyone around him encouraged him to be selfish. After he is arrested for scaling a New York City sky scraper, his absent father, Josh, shows up and whisks him off to Asia. Peak soon finds out that his father is planning on using him for a publicity stunt to help his failing climbing business. Josh, who is leading a team of clients up the Nepal side of Everest, is hoping Peak will become the youngest climber to summit. Peak hates that his father is using him, but excited to try the Everest climb. A mysterious Buddhist monk, Zopa, helps guide Peak through his training and reintroduction to his father. The climax of the story is uplifting and the message encouraging. (less)
A story about a boy who wants to be a famous basketball player, like the American’s he sees on the village’s new TV, but growing up on a Mexican farm...moreA story about a boy who wants to be a famous basketball player, like the American’s he sees on the village’s new TV, but growing up on a Mexican farm during a drought won’t allow him to get the new shoes he needs in order to play on the local team. I think the secondary story about Tavo’s father re-digging the ancient irrigation ditches in order to save his farm is the stronger tale and should have been the focus of the book. The inclusion of “magic shoes” from the local bruja take away from the characters’ accomplishments and make it seem like it is magic. I would have liked the story to be more about defying the odds through hard work. The pictures are bright and colorful, especially the one with Tavo’s father’s crazy scarecrows.(less)
While I like the fact that the book shows kids from all cultures and many different countries playing soccer, there is no unifying story or purpose. I...moreWhile I like the fact that the book shows kids from all cultures and many different countries playing soccer, there is no unifying story or purpose. I would recommend this book to an individual student who loves soccer instead of using it as a read aloud.(less)
I didn't hate this book, but I thought it could have been much better. The way it is written, I think it would only appeal to a small audience, namely...moreI didn't hate this book, but I thought it could have been much better. The way it is written, I think it would only appeal to a small audience, namely high school football players and avid fans. The book reads as if a journalist is reporting what is happening to the main character even though it is written in Mick's first person voice. The narrative is detached, especially during the long sections that describe the numerous football games. The football descriptions are written with the assumption that all of the readers will understand the technical language and be able to picture the named plays. I think that is a big assumption. And there was no excitement to the reporting of the games, Mick just told what happened, instead of describing it.
I did like that Mick's story of wanting to be the best football player possible and his eventual decline into abusing steroids, was very plausible. Mick seemed like a regular high school boy and watching how quickly the drug abuse socially isolated him and changed his life was intersting. But, the ending seemed rushed and was unsatisfactory.
I wish that the book would have more directly addressed how serious steroid depression is and how it is a long healing process. And while I understand that it is realistic, I was very uncomfortable with the offensive use of the term gay and the homophobic overtones from the main character and his friend. I didn't feel it added anything to the story.
The second book in Sharon Draper's latest high school trilogy, November Blues is by far the best of the group. The first book (The Battle of Jericho)...moreThe second book in Sharon Draper's latest high school trilogy, November Blues is by far the best of the group. The first book (The Battle of Jericho) deals with hazing and sexism and the third book (Just Another Hero) deals with drug use, mental abuse, and school shootings. However, the other two books have a large cast and tend to get lost inside the ISSUES that are being discussed. November Blues has all of the main players from the first book, but centers around young November who is pregnant (even though it is co-narrated by Jericho who is dealing with the grief of losing his cousin in the first book).
Draper does an excellent job of capturing the disappointment and resignation that comes with teen pregnancy. November is a top student with a bright future who suddenly becomes a statistic. Her mother's reaction is brutal and honest. And November's journey throughout the pregnancy leads her to becoming the parent that her baby needs. I like how Draper interspersed reality (including great details about the bodily changes of pregnancy like uncontrollable farting, hemorrhoids, and exhaustion) with a message of balancing responsibility with aspirations. (less)