Fast-paced dystopian adventure whose roots come from Daniel 1. Remember this one when families ask for "Christian teen fiction for boys that's not sci...moreFast-paced dystopian adventure whose roots come from Daniel 1. Remember this one when families ask for "Christian teen fiction for boys that's not science fiction!" (Thanks Tanvi for the rec.!)
review section from Sarah Elizabeth on Amazon: "Keep in mind that while this book does contain some mature content (that may be inappropriate for younger teens) this book is ultimately founded upon a Christian Worldview. If you loved reading The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins and The Giver Series by Lois Lowry then you'll most likely enjoy reading Captives by Jill Williamson too."(less)
(I read only the 1st 40 pages before it was due.) Good setup, interesting premise (aliens invade world, humans all slowly die, she may be alone in the...more(I read only the 1st 40 pages before it was due.) Good setup, interesting premise (aliens invade world, humans all slowly die, she may be alone in the world), decent characterization, and quite suspenseful writing. Not sure I'll take the time to finish it, but I'm impressed so far.(less)
This book was really touching and more gripping than I expected. Elise and Franklin have always been friends, but on the first day of middle school, E...moreThis book was really touching and more gripping than I expected. Elise and Franklin have always been friends, but on the first day of middle school, Elise's legs are all scabbed up from playing Knights with Franklin, and when her locker partner Amanda teases her about "playing", Elise begins to wonder if Franklin is not quite cool enough for middle school. The tension between Amanda and Elise, and Franklin and Elise, builds throughout the book as Amanda ratchets up the bullying (and Elise's teacher refuses to respond to the issue) and Elise gets increasingly frustrated with Franklin's qualities. Caroline, one of Amanda's friends, reaches out to Elise, both improving and complicating the situation.
The other major plot line concerns Elise's parents, both of whom died long ago. (She lives with her aunt and uncle, who are wonderful, and another aunt and her baby move in partway through the book.) Her father left her a letter for each year of her life, and, it turns out, 8 keys to 8 rooms. Lots of discovery ensues!
Highly recommended for tweens or 4th/5th graders who enjoy realistic books. Bullying and friendship are major themes.
**spoilers start here
Elise gets progressively meaner to Franklin as Amanda gets meaner (she always smashes Elise's lunch). Franklin and Elise decide to fight back by putting shaving cream in A's lunch. He does it. When A finds it, it flies all over both girls, who then have a fistfight. Both get detention. F. confesses and said he did it on his own; he gets suspended.
E. eventually apologizes to F. She also sees A. with her mean brothers on the day she decides to learn all about A, which helps her a little. C. decides to cut off A. in favor of E.
The rooms help E. to understand her family and herself better.
It's interesting to see how having just 4 people (C, E, F, and Diane) "on your side" helps so much to work against the bully. That part reminded me of Liar and Spy.
The book's relationships are super touching and made me cry at the end. Very nicely done!
Hold Fast contains elements of Balliett's earlier books (such as Chasing Vermeer), with math and language puzzles and a Chicago backdrop, and will lik...moreHold Fast contains elements of Balliett's earlier books (such as Chasing Vermeer), with math and language puzzles and a Chicago backdrop, and will likely be enjoyed by her fans. This book will catch you up in the action and also make you think about life in America today. Recommended for readers from 4th-10th grade (good for those who are "reading up") or as a read-aloud for families with children those ages.
What sets this book apart from her previous ones is its compassionate and realistic portrayal of people who find themselves, for whatever reason, homeless and in a homeless shelter--which, while it is better than the streets, contains a lot of challenges.
The Pearl family loves language, loves words, loves books. Dashel (the dad) loves them so much, he works in the library and plans to get a library degree sometime soon. He passes this love of words and rhythms of language on to his children, Early and Jubilation, and his wife, Summer. Their family lives in a small apartment and dreams of someday owning a house, but for now, their home is full of love and they are content.
Life gets more complicated when Dash takes an extra job on the side delivering old books. He's not sure exactly who's buying these books or why, but it's a good gig and he loves books, so he doesn't worry too much. One book comes through his hands that he can't resist keeping--Langston Hughes' The First Book of Rhythms, so he pays his source some money for it, and this book and its rhythms permeate the rest of Hold Fast.
One day, Dash disappears, and a few days later it becomes clear that he had been mixed up in something big, something bad, something so complex the authorities can't sort it out. The family apartment is completely ransacked and destroyed, even the door, so they move out, because "you can't live in an apartment without a door."
In the context of a homeless shelter, Early starts a new school and Summer tries to report the crime and get a job, all while taking care of young Jubilation (Jubie). The realities of life are harsh for them--sickness is passed around at the shelter, schoolmates are cruel, authorities won't listen, and worst of all, they don't have Dash with them. Summer slowly gives up and retreats into herself, depressed and hopeless, leaving Early to watch over her brother and solve the mystery of Dash's disappearance.
**spoiler alert--you should stop reading here if you want to read the mystery for yourself--
(If you just want to know the ending, I will say this--it is cautiously optimistic about the Pearl family.)
She contacts her dad's favorite teacher from school, but doesn't get as much information as she needs. She heads back to the public library to interview her dad's coworkers, some of whom were suspiciously hired at the time the unofficial book business began. Although some are hardened criminals, a few are sympathetic to Early and help her along.
In the end, it turns out criminals were smuggling diamonds in the spines of the books (old books' spines are stronger)--and not just any diamonds, the diamonds from the famous Antwerp heist.
Dash had been kidnapped by them but had escaped, and was wandering the streets until it was safe. Once he reads in the paper that the crime has been cracked, he starts asking at every shelter, and eventually finds his family.
He can return to his job at the public library once his strength returns, which is wonderful. However, I couldn't help reflecting on how tenuous their life still is. One wrong move, and their apartment was destroyed and their family torn apart. They are rebuilding now, but if he lost his job for some reason, they still have no safety net. How many families live their lives this way? Far too many, for a host of complex reasons. This great book asks these questions and more as it gives a face to homelessness today. (less)
Okay book with some suspense, although most of the suspense is "what should I do?" agonizing kind. Some dated cultural references. Not the best book,...moreOkay book with some suspense, although most of the suspense is "what should I do?" agonizing kind. Some dated cultural references. Not the best book, but definitely a fine choice for middle and high school readers especially boys.(less)
This amazing book combines elements of magic and mystery, the realities of life and death, and the consequences of choices along with complex characte...moreThis amazing book combines elements of magic and mystery, the realities of life and death, and the consequences of choices along with complex characters, plot twists, and a rich setting to tell an unforgettable tale.
After Evie's mom dies, her dad decides he wants a fresh start, so he buys an orchard in New York and they move. It's a great idea since her dad loves trees, but the locals all believe the orchard is cursed. Evie doesn't believe in curses or fairy tales anymore ... but she has a hard time explaining the pale, cold-handed boy who shows up one day, looking exactly like the 10-year-old boy whose funeral she witnessed on her way into town. Maggie, the sister of the man who owned their house and orchard, tells Evie some stories about her father finding the original Garden of Eden, and now Evie doesn't know what to think.
I picked this up to review as a possible Battle book since many of our patrons enjoy reading scary books, and I was so impressed with it, as a scary book and as a simply beautiful book that tells the deep truths of life. I would recommend it to readers aged 3rd grade and up who like suspense, and also readers who like books like Madeleine L'Engle's books, which recognize the reality that there is more to this world than we can see with our eyes. Highly recommended.(less)
I picked this up to see if it would be a good pick for Battle, but after reading a few chapters, I think the subject matter is too dark for a general...moreI picked this up to see if it would be a good pick for Battle, but after reading a few chapters, I think the subject matter is too dark for a general audience (like Battle). Demon shadows, creatures that steal people's bodies, and mythical creatures coming to life is a bit much.(less)