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,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, 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!...more
This book is a beautiful telling of a horrific story. Set in Spain in 1500, Estrella DeMadrigal is a normal teenage girl whose everyday life revolvesThis book is a beautiful telling of a horrific story. Set in Spain in 1500, Estrella DeMadrigal is a normal teenage girl whose everyday life revolves around her well respected family and her best friend, Catalina. The peaceful existence of her charmed childhood is disrupted when soldiers build a bonfire of books in the town’s center.
This barbaric act signals a rebirth of anti-semitism and as the government decrees against Jews heighten, Estrella realizes that her family may have reason to be afraid. The already prejudiced town—which is divided into the “alajama” where Jews are forced to wear red circles on their clothes and are locked in at night, the Muslim section on the outskirts of town, and the Christian neighborhoods which hold all of the power—turns against one another as neighbors accuse each other of secretly being Jewish.
The slim book packs a powerful story complete with secrets, betrayal, forbidden love, and torture. Hoffman tackles themes of racism, sexism, and religious intolerance through Estrella’s naïve eyes, but even as she realizes the terror of untamed hatred, Estrella grows to accept and love her family and their heritage. Through Estrella’s journey and the climactic ending, readers are reminded of the importance of remembering the horrors of the past....more
This 531 page book is written entirely in poems, some simple verse, some experiments with form. Pattyn Von Stratten is a repressed 17 year old who hasThis 531 page book is written entirely in poems, some simple verse, some experiments with form. Pattyn Von Stratten is a repressed 17 year old who has been raised by an alcoholic, abusive father and an overwhelmed mother. Pattyn’s life consists of taking care of her six younger sisters and learning to be a good Mormon girl. But, when the school librarian feeds her love of reading, she starts to realize that there is more to life than the sexist society that her bishop encourages.
After Pattyn rebels against her family’s and church’s rules, her father sends her to live with his estranged sister. Her Aunt J, the wilds of Nevada, and the handsome neighbor, Ethan, help Pattyn learn to love herself and find a family filled with “forever love.” But, when the summer comes to an end, Ethan has to return to college and Pattyn returns to find a new baby brother and her sisters living in fear of their father. Pattyn tries to finish the school year, but a surprise forces her to try to run away and causes the death of a loved one. The final chapter shows Pattyn vowing revenge and then abruptly ends.
While Hopkins does a fantastic job of describing the reluctant Pattyn falling in love with the iconic Ethan, and creates a fantastic mother figure in tough, old Aunt J, the foreboding bits of foreshadowing that she drops every few chapters continually takes the reader out of the present and gives away the ending far too early. And the ending is not satisfying at all. After Aunt J and Ethan teach her the power of love and after everything she has learned along her journey, at the end of the book she considers something completely out of character.
After investing hundreds of pages learning to care for Pattyn, the reader is left with nothing, just a hint at what she might choose to do. ...more
For everyone who is a loyal Ender fan, this novella will not disappoint! In this interesting story of faith, we get to journey back to Battle School aFor everyone who is a loyal Ender fan, this novella will not disappoint! In this interesting story of faith, we get to journey back to Battle School again. While the story centers on a new character from Rat Army, Zeck, many of my favorite characters from the original series are present, including Ender and Dink. I loved getting another glimpse at Ender's journey and Dink's non-conformity.
But, what makes this story compelling is the moral debates at its center. Zeck refuses to fight in Battle School because his zealot preacher father taught pacifism. But, the irony is that while Zeck was taught pacifism, his father brutally beat him. Zeck still holds the emotional and physical scars of those beatings and tries everything within his power to get the other students to hate him and the administration to send him home. Along the way, he inspires Dink to lead a rebellion against the school policy of no religious or cultural observances which is at the core of this book. A sort of morality play set in futuristic space, the short story brings up some interesting points about hypocrisy and zealotry within religious beliefs.
But, Ender fans will cheer the loudest when he figures out how to help Zeck face his past. Ender proves to us why he is the right leader to save humanity....more
The book is a simple story, written in a poetic style, of the harsh physical conditions surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. Some young readers mayThe book is a simple story, written in a poetic style, of the harsh physical conditions surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. Some young readers may find the first few pages confusing when the pictures show a family playing in the snow, but the words repeat, “There was no snow on Christmas Eve.” The illustrations are traditional....more
Alvarez explains in an informative postscript that the story is based on childhood stories that she was told about The Lady of Altagracia who is the pAlvarez explains in an informative postscript that the story is based on childhood stories that she was told about The Lady of Altagracia who is the patron saint of her country, the Dominican Republic. The book introduces us to young Maria who dreams of the Lady of Altagracia and learns of a way to save her family farm. Inspired by the mysterious native farm worker, Quisqueya, her family prospers. The back of the book says that Vidal “used a magnifying glass and small brushes in gouache to bring the legend of Altagracia to life.” ...more
The book tells of Easter traditions around the world. The writer mentions celebrations in various countries, but only mentions the regions within theThe book tells of Easter traditions around the world. The writer mentions celebrations in various countries, but only mentions the regions within the countries in two chapters. As a result, the young reader is given the impression that all of the people in the given country celebrate Easter as described. With this limitation in mind, the book is an excellent way to introduce diversity within religious celebrations and how cultural traditions impact the religious observance. There is a world map in the back of the book identifying each of the discussed countries and a recipe for a candy Easter nest (see the German tradition).
The countries discussed, and their most interesting tradition, are as follows: Sweden: Children dress as witches and go house to house asking for candy and money (much like American Halloween) Ethiopia: After long church services, families have an Easter feast and play a board game called Gebeta. Russia: After spring cleaning children enjoy special desserts called pashka and kulich. The famous artist Carl Faberge and his intricate egg designs are also discussed. Egypt: Children receive gifts of new clothes and race Easter eggs down hills. Mexico: Villages have intricate parades that recreate Jesus’ last days. Mexico City also has a famous passion play with thousands of actors reenacting the life of Jesus. Philippines: The women and girls go to one end of the town carrying a draped statue of Mary while the boys and men go to the other end of town carrying a statue of Jesus. The processions meet in the center of town and go together into church. Colombia: San Antero has a burro beauty contest where the townspeople dress up their mules, the winning burro is retired from work. Germany: Children decorate trees with hanging eggs and craft nests for the Easter Hare to visit. When they wake up on the morning of Easter, they find chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs in their nests. ...more
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, namelyI 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 most spiritual of Stephen King's books, this story centers on a young boy who feels he has been chosen by God to fight an ancient evil. The boy'sThe most spiritual of Stephen King's books, this story centers on a young boy who feels he has been chosen by God to fight an ancient evil. The boy's belief is unshakeable even as his mother and sister become victims of the evil's minions. The rest of the ensemble is a mix of society, including a cool Vietnam vet. The combination of horror, Christian faith, survival instinct, and leadership brings a new twist to King's telling of good vs. evil....more
This book is based on the the African American singer, Dionne Warwick's childhood and how she found her inspiration to be a singer. The book has a strThis book is based on the the African American singer, Dionne Warwick's childhood and how she found her inspiration to be a singer. The book has a strong Christian message of prayer and shows how Dionne first sang in the church choir where her grandfather was the pastor.
The book's opening follows "Little D" as she greets all of the people in her neighborhood, using different languages for the different ethnicities. And Little D goes about her life playing games and considering different types of careers until she finds her top talent--singing. In the end of the book, Little D encourages the readers to find their top talent.
The illustrations are beautiful, realistic drawings showing Little D and characters from various ethnic backgrounds. The cover art is especially powerful showing the tiny Little D on the Apollo stage in front of a packed audience.
There is also a complimentary CD in the back with two songs recorded by Dionne Warwick....more
A beatiful story about love. The Giving Tree continues to give and give to the boy as he becomes a man. At every stage of his life, the tree is exactlA beatiful story about love. The Giving Tree continues to give and give to the boy as he becomes a man. At every stage of his life, the tree is exactly what the boy needs.
The over-simple picutres compliment the story perfectly.
I was told many years ago that this book was inspired by a debate that Silverstein had with a friend about Jesus' role in the Christian faith. The book is his understanding of the relationship between man and Jesus. This fact adds another layer of meaning to the already powerful picture book....more
I love Alfred Kropp's voice; he is what makes this series so much fun! And Yancey definitely has his self-deprecating wit down in this sequel.
The bookI love Alfred Kropp's voice; he is what makes this series so much fun! And Yancey definitely has his self-deprecating wit down in this sequel.
The book is a fast paced action adventure novel that quickly veers into supernatural fantasy. It is a fun book that could appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys, but could also cross over to many other types of readers.
But, what keeps the reader interested is Alfred's journey of self discovery as he learns how to be the knight that he was named.
The most interesting part of this book is found in the author's blurb. This book is written about the author's cousin who was the daughter of the firsThe most interesting part of this book is found in the author's blurb. This book is written about the author's cousin who was the daughter of the first African American doctor in Baltimore.
But, the story itself shows a young girl experiencing the Christmas season and awaiting her special Christmas tree. The story has a lot of text, but is made up of simple sentences (sometimes fragments) which could make it a good independent chapter book for a transitional reader.
The illustrations are a mix of oil wash on board and mixed media in full color. Many of the pictures show wide shots of the characters' actions and it is hard to identify the characters as African American until the family dinner toward the end of the book....more
This fictionalized story of Harriet Tubman and her journey toward freedom takes place mostly as a conversation between Tubman and God. The book has aThis fictionalized story of Harriet Tubman and her journey toward freedom takes place mostly as a conversation between Tubman and God. The book has a forward that explains slavery and an afterward with biographical information about Tubman.
Kadir Nelson's detailed, elaborate drawings are a study in shading, use of light, and perspective....more
This book tells the story of the 17th century Mexican poet, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. She was a scholar and writer when women were thought to have inThis book tells the story of the 17th century Mexican poet, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. She was a scholar and writer when women were thought to have inferior intellects. The book describes how her zest for reading and passion for learning helped her become a beloved "poet, defender of women's educational rights, intellectual, playwright, environmentalist, [and:] wit."
The book has a sprinkiling of Spanish words with a glossary in the back of the book. There is also one of Juana's poems written in Spanish and translated in the back.
The pictures, by Beatriz Vidal, are intricately detailed, bright colored pencil portraits....more