Summary: Steve Harmon is a high school student and an aspiring film-maker; he is also on trial for murder. He decides to tell his story in the form of...moreSummary: Steve Harmon is a high school student and an aspiring film-maker; he is also on trial for murder. He decides to tell his story in the form of a script, and this is the format of the book. At the beginning of the book, Steve swears he is “not guilty” and believes he didn’t do anything wrong. He wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger. He is on trial with the man who planned the robbery of a local convenience store, James King. The other two participants have turned against them in order to get reduced sentences. The truth of Steve’s involvement is revealed through the evidence presented in the trial, flashbacks, and nightly journal entries. As he sees the pain he has caused his family, Steve begins to question his own innocence. When he turns to embrace his hardworking defense attorney, she steps away, and he is unsettled by the expression in her eyes. By the end of the novel, Steve has begun to realize his own guilt and the consequences of his actions.
Analysis: This contemporary realistic novel is both visually dynamic and fast-paced. The format of hand-written journal entries, typed screen play, and occasional photos tell the story. Myers addresses Steve’s fears about prison in a realistic and age appropriate manner and forces the reader to contemplate some difficult questions. Steve has a good family and school life; he has never done anything too bad, so he is shocked by his involvement in the justice system. Through testimony and flashbacks the reader discovers that Steve didn’t participate in the planning or really commit to participating in the crime. He simply goes along with James King so he can look cool. He justifies his role in checking the store for cops by saying he didn’t really do anything. He didn’t give any kind of signal; he just left the store. He didn’t commit the murder or the robbery, but he knew what would happen and went through the motions of committing the crime. Myers asks his readers to determine Steve’s guilt along with their own. Are you guilty if you just allow things to happen or go along with the crowd? Steve is a realistic character to whom readers can relate. He sees the pain and disappointment he has caused his parents, his little brother, even the teacher who has encouraged Steve’s film-making. Steve doesn’t consider himself a criminal, but he realizes that one decision will change the way people see him for the rest of his life. This is a message Myers’s teenage audience needs to hear. (less)
Vivian and her pack have the gift of transformation. During the day they appear to be human, but at night they can morph into a creature like a wolf,...moreVivian and her pack have the gift of transformation. During the day they appear to be human, but at night they can morph into a creature like a wolf, only more powerful. After one of the pack kills a human, the family business is burned down. The fire kills her father, the pack leader, and they all move temporarily to the suburbs. Everyone expects Vivian to connect with one of The Five, a group of males her own age, but Vivian feels an intense attraction to Aiden, a human boy. Aiden feels drawn to Vivian as well, but he doesn’t know the truth about her. Meanwhile, the males of the pack fight in an ordeal to determine a new leader of the pack. The winner is Gabriel, who is twenty four, attractive, and aggressive. Despite his attentions to her, Vivian doesn’t like him. While all this is happening, someone is the pack is committing violent murders, and Vivian is convinced she is the killer, though she has no memory of the killings.
This novel is a modern fantasy with a contemporary setting and contemporary issues. Vivian’s wolf-like perspective is different and interesting. Her view of the world is animalistic, focusing on food, mating, and pack concerns. She wants to be different, but she can’t really understand how the humans interact. She uses her self-confidence and sexuality to win Aiden, but she is frustrated with what she perceives as timidity. The essential conflict of the book is Vivian’s struggle with her own nature. She feels repulsed and attracted by the aggression and wolfish playfulness of her pack mates. She questions herself and her own nature. Is she a killer, an animal who can’t control her own impulses?(less)
Analysis: This modern fantasy novel’s greatest strength is the change in the characters. While they aren’t bad in the beginning, they are immature and...moreAnalysis: This modern fantasy novel’s greatest strength is the change in the characters. While they aren’t bad in the beginning, they are immature and a bit selfish, not at all concerned with the welfare of others, even the mother. They are just happy to be on their own. As the story progresses and Rosoff presents the children and the reader with some of the horrifying effects of war, we see them slowly change into more compassionate people. At the beginning of the story, Daisy is mainly concerned with her own unhappiness with her stepmother and her father’s indifference. She has even become anorexic to annoy and frustrate her step-mother. When the government institutes rationing, Daisy doesn’t mind because it makes it easier not to eat; however, when she and Piper are hiding in the forest during their journey home, living on what they can find, she finally realizes she has been starving all along for love and for food. This revelation helps her overcome the disorder. She also describes her feelings for Edmund as starvation and hunger. It is the powerful relationship with Edmund that teaches Daisy compassion. Even though the characters are separated for about two thirds of the book, the connection is so strong they can sense each other across the miles. All the cousins have telepathic ability and seem to be more fragile than Daisy. As the story progresses, she forgets herself and begins to take responsibility for protecting them. Rosoff uses Daisy to illustrate the callousness of human nature when presented with the suffering of others. Like Daisy, many people aren’t concerned with a problem if it doesn’t directly affect them. By the end of the book, Daisy understands the suffering of war and takes her place among her cousins as a protector. Most of the characters are helpful and considerate, making the best of a bad situation, but the occupying army knows they will most likely be killed eventually and the soldiers have no fear of death. Rosoff shows the effects of wars fought by suicide bombers and people with nothing to live for. The book has some elements of fantasy (telepathic ability and an alternate reality embroiled in WWIII), but Rosoff’s descriptions are graphic and intensely realistic. It is not hard to imagine the world in a similar state. (less)
Summary: It’s the summer of 1899 in Fentress, Texas, and it is hot. That summer almost twelve year old Calpurnia makes some discoveries. Her journey b...moreSummary: It’s the summer of 1899 in Fentress, Texas, and it is hot. That summer almost twelve year old Calpurnia makes some discoveries. Her journey begins with a blank notebook, given by her oldest brother, and a quest to obtain a copy of Darwin’s The Origin of Species. When she can’t get the book at the library, she is shocked to discover that there is a copy in her own home, living in Granddaddy’s locked library full of curiosities. Calpurnia has never had much of a relationship with her gruff and solitary grandfather, who spends all his time in his “laboratory,” a building from the former slave quarters, or out collecting specimens. Mr. Darwin and his book help the two discover their mutual interests, and Granddaddy begins to teach Calpurnia how to be a scientist. She spends every spare moment with Granddaddy collecting, observing, and recording her observations, but as the summer leads to fall, she has less time. Her mother finally decides it’s time to begin training Callie for her womanly responsibilities, but Callie has no desire to learn to cook and sew; she wants to be a scientist. Even though women have a few more opportunities, Callie isn’t sure any of those will be available to her. (Grades 7 and up) Analysis: Calpurnia’s voice in this historical fiction novel feels authentic. This is a story about events that happened before the life of the author. The language is playful and delightful, filled with Texas colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions. Callie is mostly happy with her life on the family farm, but this is no sugar-coated story of life on the farm. The people work hard, and when her sensitive younger brother grows too attached to his turkey charges the week before Thanksgiving, Granddaddy and Calpurnia come up with a plan to make things easier on him, but they still eat the turkey. The world is changing fast at the turn of the century; the author includes a new telephone, an automobile, and new photographic processes. On their scientific exploits, Callie and Granddaddy even discover what might be a new species of hairy vetch, with only a very small difference. Women’s roles are changing, but Callie’s life course is already mapped out. This realization is heartbreaking for Callie and the reader. When she finally realizes that she, like generations of women before her, is destined to spend her future darning socks and making pies, she feels betrayed. The author deftly weaves the story of the hairy vetch and Calpurnia’s story together in a more realistic portrayal of the changing roles of women over time. The other does portray the traditional role in a truly negative light, however. Calpurnia’s parents seem to have a happy and loving relationship, even if her mother sometimes needs her tonic to deal with Callie’s six boisterous brothers. Harry, the oldest brother, seems bent to give up college for domestic life, and three of the brothers are in love with Calpurnia’s best friend. Calpurnia knows that if she chooses to have any kind of career it will mean she can’t have a family of her; she just doesn’t know if the choice will be hers to make. Review: “Callie is a charming, inquisitive protagonist; a joyous, bright, and thoughtful creation. The conclusion encompasses bewilderment, excitement, and humor as the dawn of a new century approaches. Several scenes, including a younger brother's despair over his turkeys intended for the Thanksgiving table and Callie's heartache over receiving The Science of Housewifery as a Christmas gift, mix gentle humor and pathos to great effect. The book ends with uncertainty over Callie's future, but there's no uncertainty over the achievement of Kelly's debut novel.”-- Schultz, Jennifer, School Library Journal, 03628930, May2009, Vol. 55, Issue 5. (Academic Search Complete) Potential Uses: This is an excellent book for the budding scientist. Granddaddy teaches Calpurnia about the scientific method and drawing logical conclusions, and the two carefully analyze and notate their observations and experiments. Throughout there is a sense of wonder and surprise for the natural world. Reader Appeal: Calpurnia’s observations of the natural world and of human nature are honest, humorous, and conversational. The characters are realistic and surprising, and Kelly expertly weaves the theme of transformation through the humans and animals in the book. This book is a delight! Awards: Texas Lone Star Book, Newberry Honor Book, Chicago Public Libraries Best Books List (less)
It's Chicago in 1968. Sam's father is a respected leader of the Civil Rights movement who advocates peaceful resistance; he is friends with Martin Lut...moreIt's Chicago in 1968. Sam's father is a respected leader of the Civil Rights movement who advocates peaceful resistance; he is friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. Sam respects his father, but he is beginning to feel frustration with the lack of progress, and he is curious about the Black Panthers. As the story progresses, Sam learns that his beloved brother, Stick, is involved with the Black Panthers, and he feels conflicted. When Sam sees an unprovoked act of violence committed by the police, he feels compelled to do more.
The beauty of this book is in the relationships and character development. No one is all bad or all good, and everyone's arguement has value. Sam's dawning realization that becoming a man means listening and thinking for himself is powerful and heartbreaking. The author also uses symbolism to great effect with the tower built by Stick and Sam to represent the changing nature of their relationship. (less)
I won't include much about the plot of the book here because the joy of reading it is in discovery. It is a little slow and confusing at first, but do...moreI won't include much about the plot of the book here because the joy of reading it is in discovery. It is a little slow and confusing at first, but don't give up! This a a truly beautiful and well-written story. Everything in this book is important. All the details and events come together beautifully and poetically. This is a story of awful pain and terrible beauty. When all the pieces are in place at the end and all the mysteries are revealed, the characters accept and forgive one another, and they begin to find peace. Jellicoe Road has a complex plot and several elements of post modernism. There is just a touch of magical realism in Taylor’s dreams of her father and in the dreamlike descriptions. Marchetta also employs literary allusions by referencing relationships in To Kill a Mockingbird among others. (less)
There were things I enjoyed about this book. I'm all for smart kids who are literary, and I'm even willing to suspend my disbelief into that whole kid...moreThere were things I enjoyed about this book. I'm all for smart kids who are literary, and I'm even willing to suspend my disbelief into that whole kids behaving as adults thing. This is my problem with this book and all its cousins: why do writers feel the need to be sexually explicit and "edgy" to reach a modern audience? Sure, there are teenagers who drink and have sex; there always have been. I'm just not sure making it seem commonplace is the best idea. Kids are confused enough without "award-winning" books throwing sexuality at them. SPOILER ALERT: I am tired of the "here's my school assignment about what I learned from this terrible event, and now that I've written it, I will be able to overcome anything" conclusion. It's become a cliche. Let it go, my friends. Let it go.(less)
I just love these books. It is hilarious and heartbreaking watching DJ try to figure out life. Plus, you'll finally find out what Dairy Queen really m...moreI just love these books. It is hilarious and heartbreaking watching DJ try to figure out life. Plus, you'll finally find out what Dairy Queen really means!(less)
One of my students was reading this book, and I was drawn in by the cover. I do love a good mix of fairy tale themes in a modern setting. My only comp...moreOne of my students was reading this book, and I was drawn in by the cover. I do love a good mix of fairy tale themes in a modern setting. My only complaint is I wanted a little more from the villain. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this book; it is a good story about the nature of love.(less)
I am a fan of Shannon Hale's work, but I was dissappointed with this book. The plot was a bit weak and dragged for most of the book. I did enjoy the e...moreI am a fan of Shannon Hale's work, but I was dissappointed with this book. The plot was a bit weak and dragged for most of the book. I did enjoy the ending.(less)
This is my least favorite Joan Bauer so far. I love the rest of her books, but I didn't really get into this one. The character development was a litt...moreThis is my least favorite Joan Bauer so far. I love the rest of her books, but I didn't really get into this one. The character development was a little off.(less)