Inside the gym, Kyle and Stephen are lying facedown on the ground. An upperclassman sits on top of each one. Gilbey stands before them holding a bag w...moreInside the gym, Kyle and Stephen are lying facedown on the ground. An upperclassman sits on top of each one. Gilbey stands before them holding a bag with a spoon... There's something brown inside... "You are a part of this team, aren't you?... Of course you are a part of this team, because we will never let you go," Alva says. "Gilbey? The spoon?"
I had to reread Press Play this week after hearing about the hazing in Sayreville, NJ, on the news. When I first read the book, it seemed like an over-the-top version of team hazing and bullying, designed to get people talking. After watching the Sayreville superintendent's press conference on his decision to completely cancel their football team's entire season, I realized that there is much more reality to this than I ever wanted to believe. Greg Dunsmore, aka "Dun the Ton", is an overweight outcast at his high school. His interests lie in video and filmmaking, and his goal is to get into a top film school when he graduates and escapes high school. To do that, he will have to create and submit a film project - and it will have to be incredibly good. His initial idea is to create a documentary of his own weight-loss journey, from his workouts with his friend Quinn as his coach to his experiences being bullied and humiliated about his weight in the hallways, and his home life where Mom's answer to any painful experience is food. He connects with fellow film student Ella, who's dealing with her own bullying issues, and fellow overweight loner Ollie. While he's creating the workout videos in the school weight room with Quinn and Ollie, they overhear the lacrosse team in the gym, and it doesn't sound like practice. Hidden beneath the bleachers, they discover the lacrosse upperclassmen verbally and physically abusing the younger players. Greg decides to film those incidents of hazing - after all, these are the same players who have been tormenting him for years. Upon his attempt to make the superintendent aware of the issues, he realizes that the principal and other adults have been in on everything, and if he's going to make it out of this, he's going to have to do something different... something that scares him to death. He's going to have to join the team for Hell Week training and convince them that he's making a positive film about the winning team that everyone loves. Getting the story told truthfully on film in a challenge, but getting the truth to the people who will actually do something about it is the real challenge. Greg doesn't make the right decisions at every turn, which makes this even more realistic. This is well-written, gripping, and I recommend this for 8th grade and up. I really want my EMS graduates in high school to read this. But I also want my 8th graders to read this. There is a lot of swearing, and the bullying scenes should literally make your blood run cold. The reason I want my 8th graders to read this is that I want them to think carefully about what kind of person they want to be when they get to the high school. What do you want yourself to do when the lights go out and you hear the wolf howl signal? Will you step up and say something, and will you keep saying something until someone listens? Will you hide in the back and say nothing while you watch? Or will you be laughing and egging someone on? What kind of character does it take to do the right thing in the face of certain ostracism, and possible violence? My point of view in recommending books like Press Play to my students is that if they take a walk in these shoes, through these fictional events, then they have the chance to consider what they would WANT themselves to do if they are ever confronted with a situation like this. We don't throw our soldiers into battle without training, nor do we allow doctors to operate without training. Giving students books like this one arms them with scenarios and possible choices to think through when they are not facing them under pressure. That may possibly be the best training we can give them.(less)
"Excuse me, sir, but what are you going to tell the boys?" He laughed out loud. "We don't have to tell them one blessed thing, Mamie," he said, calli...more "Excuse me, sir, but what are you going to tell the boys?" He laughed out loud. "We don't have to tell them one blessed thing, Mamie," he said, calling me by my name for the first time. "How 'bout we let that strong right arm of yours do all the talking?"
I loved this! It's short, easy to read, and Mamie "Peanut" Johnson's voice shines. One of only three women who ever played professional baseball in the Negro Leagues in the 1950's, she is a delightful character. Her story begins in South Carolina, where she grew up on her grandmother's farm, playing baseball with all of the boys using rocks wrapped in tape because no one had a real ball. When her grandmother passed away, Mamie's mother moved her to Long Branch, NJ to live with her aunt and uncle. There, she discovered that girls were only allowed to play softball, and she didn't like it. After she showed her pitching skills to the officer coach of the local Police Athletic League, she joined the all-white team of boys and proceeded to pitch them to consecutive championship seasons. Mamie kept playing, even though she was rejected without a tryout for the All-American Girls Baseball League because they refused to accept black players. Eventually, scouts from the all-male Negro Leagues discovered her, and she tried out for the Indianapolis Clowns team. In an era of racism and prejudice, Mamie faced many difficulties and unfair situations. Her gender often made things worse, but her indomitable spirit and amazing talent made her dreams a reality. Pair this with Mo'Ne Davis pitching in this summer's Little League World series, and it's a grand slam all around! Easy enough for 4th grade readers, but a wonderful story for all of middle school as well.(less)
But even the most bitter of wars end, and people who were once enemies can, in time, become friends. Only in the Middle East does it seem as though th...moreBut even the most bitter of wars end, and people who were once enemies can, in time, become friends. Only in the Middle East does it seem as though there is no end in sight.
Wilborn Hampton was a United Press International journalist in 1970, and was sent to Amman, Jordan to cover a story of terrorists who had hijacked five commercial airplanes, capturing three and landing them at a remote airstip in Jordan. The hijackings sparked the Black September civil war, during which Hampton was trapped with many other reporters in Jordan. His experiences, taken from his memories and from his diaries during the time, give a realistic experience of war from the perspective of someone affected directly, yet not fighting. Eventually, he and many others were evacuated on a Red Cross flight to Beirut, where he stayed to cover the end of the war. Things festered for many, many months, until October 6, 1973 - Yom Kippur. On the traditional Day of Atonement for those of the Jewish faith, Syrian planes and tanks attacked Israel's northern border, and Egyptian forces dropped bombs along the Sinai side of the Suez Canal. The battles through the short war were intense, and the politics and maneuvering behind the scenes were just as intense. Some of the most interesting chunks of text deal with the realities of wartime censorship for a journalist, the propaganda of the time, and the ability to get coded messages with correct information through. Even though these events took place more than 40 years ago, the history and reality of the stories rings true today - when we are again experiencing major conflicts in the Middle East. Peace will require great work, understanding, compromise and acceptance... and once again, tragically, those things seem awfully far out of reach. 7th grade and up.(less)
There are two weeks of school left. As soon as the final bell rings, I'll have two giant problems. Problem 1: I'll have a boring summer and be forced...moreThere are two weeks of school left. As soon as the final bell rings, I'll have two giant problems. Problem 1: I'll have a boring summer and be forced to stay at my grandparents' boring house. Problem 2: I'll have to go to seventh grade in three months and be forced to do that horrible Family Tree Project that Lisa's sister had to do this year. Everyone at school will know about my mother. Sarah Nelson is hoping that, for the first time, her college professor father will find some way for her to stay home for the summer, and that he will decide to pick up and move away from Garland, Texas before she has to do the family tree project. That has been their strategy every time that people find out about her mother -- usually through news stories that bring up the events that Sarah can't remember but have have defined her life. Her mother tried to drown Sarah and her twin brother Simon when they were only two. Their mother was declared insane and put in a mental hospital in Wichita, from which she sends two greeting cards each year to her daughter. Sarah is a tough, delightfully funny and inventive character who loves words, asking questions, her "best friend" Plant (yes, a houseplant), and her kind but alcoholic father most of all. This is the summer she will find role models and friends. When her father agrees to allow their home-from-college neighbor Charlotte to supervise Sarah for the summer, things do start to look up, especially since Charlotte knows about romance and boyfriends. The summer writing assignment was to write "real" letters to someone -- and Sarah chooses Atticus Finch, because she thinks he was a very good father and role model in To Kill a Mockingbird. Because her father has such difficulty talking about their family's past, and her grandparents aren't much better, Sarah's letters to Atticus are full of all the questions she would love to ask her own family - including her mother - as she watches herself for "sure signs of crazy." 6th grade and up.(less)
During World War II, many women enlisted in the Army and Navy as nurses. Armed forces policies dictated that women could only be stationed in support...moreDuring World War II, many women enlisted in the Army and Navy as nurses. Armed forces policies dictated that women could only be stationed in support roles, and never near combat areas. That all changed the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. The following day, the Japanese navy bagan bombing the Allied bases in the Philippine Islands. There were 101 Army and Navy nurses at the hospitals on the Bataan Peninsula and nearby Corregidor Island. While some were evacuated as the official policy dictated, 67 nurses stayed to care for the sick and injured, because there were not enough male medical staff to handle the hundreds and hundreds of soldiers who needed them. The nurses who stayed treated all of the patients in makeshift jungle hospitals and in the giant reinforced underground tunnels on Corregidor, until they were captured and became prisoners of war. They suffered from malnutrition, starvation, and a host of tropical diseases, yet they cared for each other and continued to serve as nurses for anyone in need. They were finally liberated from the prison camps in 1945. All of the nurses came home alive, yet none were recognized for their service or combat status until 1983 -- because they were women. The personal accounts and photographs bring their courage and determination to life. Farrell's detailed research leads to a powerful and emotional story that will keep you thinking about these brave women for a long time. 8th grade and up.(less)
When it comes to history and tradition, nothing can match the World Series. Since it started in 1903, it has provided baseball fans with measures of d...moreWhen it comes to history and tradition, nothing can match the World Series. Since it started in 1903, it has provided baseball fans with measures of drama, scandal, inspiration, triumph, and heartbreak.
This is one for the serious baseball fans among us! After a fast-moving history of the World Series, the chapters are organized into greatest games, best performers, memorable moments, and what the future of the game will hold. As an accomplished sportswriter, Doeden knows how to describe the games and plays and keep the excitement up. There are lots of mentions of statistics, but they don't overwhelm the individual stories of the players and the games. I especially liked how he compared legendary players to more modern players, like putting Babe Ruth next to Pablo Sandoval in the best performers section. I also liked his explanation of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, and its consequences for the players and the game. Full of archival photos and incredible game photos, this was one delight for the sports fan! Excellent design and interesting organization of the information. 6th grade and up. (less)
The atomic bomb was a completely new weapon at the time, and scientists wanted to learn more about the bomb's capacity... U.S. President Harry Truman...moreThe atomic bomb was a completely new weapon at the time, and scientists wanted to learn more about the bomb's capacity... U.S. President Harry Truman ordered military officials to select a place to carry out nuclear testing. Admiral Blandy... named the atomic bomb testing program Operation Crossroads. "Sea power, air power, and perhaps humanity itself are at the crossroads."
After World War II ended in August 1945 with the dropping of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two superpowers emerged: the Soviet Union and the United States. Both nations were working to develop atomic weapons, and this new Cold War led to the atomic testing program which would be located in the Marshall Islands, specifically Bikini Atoll. Far from any large cities, with predictable winds and few islanders who would have to be moved, the remote location seemed ideal. The first atomic bomb was detonated in the air above Bikini Atoll on July 1, 1946. The second was detonated underwater only a few weeks later on July 25, with far more devastating consequences. The islanders of Bikini had been moved to Rongerik Atoll, about 125 miles from Bikini, but near Rongerak Atoll, where other islanders lived. Between 1946 and 1958, the US detonated 67 nuclear bombs in the area. The 12th bomb, Bravo, was the worst. Unlike all previous fission bombs, this one was a fusion bomb. Far more powerful and deadly, it was placed on Nam island at the edge of Bikini Atoll. On March1, 1954, its detonation left a mile-wide crater in the ocean floor, vaporized part of Nam, and sent a 25-mile-high mushroom cloud of radioactive steam and dust into the atmosphere. The islanders nearest had not been evacuated, and suffered radiation poisoning and longterm health problems for years. Many of the soldiers and sailors ordered to be part of the program also became seriously ill, some suffering for years. Was the scientific knowledge gained from all that testing worth the cost in lives, damaged health and damaged environment? Solid research, lots of historic photos, and excellent design. 7th grade and up.(less)
The Mars Science Laboratory mission has one overarching objective: to determine if Mars is habitable.
On August 5, 2012, the spacecraft carrying the C...moreThe Mars Science Laboratory mission has one overarching objective: to determine if Mars is habitable.
On August 5, 2012, the spacecraft carrying the Curiosity rover arrived in the atmosphere of Mars, and deployed for landing on the surface. Curiosity is the most recent of the almost 40 attempts to reach Mars, including the Viking and Mariner spacecrafts, and the much smaller rovers Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity. NASA and the other world space agencies are working hard to get information about Mars, in order to plan for manned missions to the red planet. NASA has set a date of 2030 for the first manned mission, which seems very far away, until you look at all of the problems they have to solve in order to send astronauts that far from Earth and successfully bring them home at the end of the mission. How long will it take to get there? What dangers will the astronauts face on the way there and on the return trip home? How will they bring, grow, or create enough food and water to survive and be healthy? How long will they stay on Mars, and how will they survive the conditions on the planet? These are just a few of the questions that scientists are working on, and the information on climate, soil, geography, and history of the planet that Curiosity and the other missions have given us will be part of the solutions. Interplanetary travel takes a lot of planning! Excellent nonfiction with plenty of amazing images for anyone interested in space -- when the 8th grade went to DC, we had the chance to see an exhibit of Curiosity's photos from the surface of Mars, and they were fascinating. Strong 6th grade readers and up.(less)
"What. Of. The. Wrong?" "I guess," I said, "they should pay something. Be made to... They should..." I could go no further. The Messenger turned away...more "What. Of. The. Wrong?" "I guess," I said, "they should pay something. Be made to... They should..." I could go no further. The Messenger turned away from me to face the two... "This wrong demands punishment," he said. "I offer you a game. If you win, you will go free, unbothered by me or by my apprentice... If you lose, then you will face the thing you fear most."
What form does justice take? Some people believe that human law is enough, other believe in religious vengeance or karma. Michael Grant gives us the Messenger of Fear, and his new apprentice, Mara. They move through time and space, calling upon the Game Master to cause the most horrific and heartwrenching choices and games imaginable as punishment and payment for crimes of wickedness, bullying, and teenage thoughtless cruelty. If the players win the game, they go free -- though they are all changed from the experience of the game. If they lose, they must face their greatest fear. The idea of justice ought to involve some satisfaction, or feeling of triumph of good over evil, but as Mara discovers, justice takes from those who deliver it just as it does from those who receive it. Good and evil, choices and consequences... and there is no black and white, unless you're looking at how The Messenger is dressed. Horror that will make you think -- for 8th grade and up. Publication date 9/23/2014.(less)
"No one person can do everything... But we can all do something."
Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian immigrant to the United States, was living in Atlanta when...more"No one person can do everything... But we can all do something."
Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian immigrant to the United States, was living in Atlanta when she discovered a Middle Eastern grocery store that carried many of her favorite foods in nearby Clarkston. As she made more trips to Clarkston, she noticed many groups of children playing soccer in parking lots. She was coaching soccer for the YMCA at the time, and had played for years herself. It turned out that the kids playing soccer (barefoot, often with only a raggedy ball) were refugees who had been moved into Clarkston with their families from all over the world. Soccer was what they had in common, but none of them could afford the fees to play for organized school or community teams. Luma decided to start her own team, which came to be known as the Fugees. The boys who joined the team needed everything, so Luma had to find ways to get them equipment, jerseys, and often food. Coming from more than a dozen nations shredded by war, many of the boys had seen horrific violence and death, and most had lost family members to the wars. They needed help with learning English, catching up from being years without formal schooling, and learning to get along in a team of many different cultures. This is an inspiring story of one person who has chosen to make a difference for others by investing her time and her talents in the children of her community. Perfect for the World Cup fans this summer!(less)
"Today I am pleased to announce the most marvelously stupendous game ever created: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library! The entire library will be th...more"Today I am pleased to announce the most marvelously stupendous game ever created: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library! The entire library will be the game board. Your children will be the game pieces. The winner will be famous all over the world. The first to use what they find in the library to find their way out of the library will be crowned the winner. They can only use their wits, cunning and intelligence to decipher clues and solve riddles that will eventually lead them to the location of the library's super-secret alternate exit. Participation, of course, will be purely voluntary. Should anything go wrong, we have paramedics, firefighters, and a team of former Navy SEALs - each with the heart of a samurai - waiting to swoop in and rescue your children. It'll be like The Hunger Games, but with lots of food and no bows and arrows."
Shades of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Mr. Lemoncello, world famous billionaire toy and gamemaker has returned to his Ohio hometown to open the world's most amazing public library, designed and built under the utmost secrecy and security. Twelve 12-year-olds have won the chance to spend the night in the library, and play his best game ever, with all sorts of prizes at stake -- including a job in advertising for the Lemoncello company. This is one of the most fun books I've read in quite some time -- full of humor, action, puzzles, clues, and characters you'll love (and love to detest!). Highly recommended for everyone.(less)