Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Choldenko, Gennifer. Notes from a liar and her dog

Choldenko, Gennifer. Notes from a liar and her dog. Penguin, 2001 [0-14-250068-2]
Ant thinks her parents don't understand her.. in fact he keeps hoping for her real parents to show up so she keeps a scrapbook and writes a diary for them. Antonia is always in trouble with her parents and at school while her two sisters are model children and model students. She loves her dog which her mother hates. This 216 page book is a wonderful story about a teen (6th grader) who feels the whole world is against her. The ending is not "Walt Disney-like" but very satisfying.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Reuter, Bjarne. The ring of the slave prince.

Reuter, Bjarne. The ring of the slave prince. Dutton, 2003 [0-525-47146-4]
It is the 1600s and Tom is diving for sunken treasure when he rescues a Spanish boy about his age and a black youth. They have survived a shipwreck and since the black boy is the son of a King in Africa, Tom agrees to help him get home so he can claim half the reward. After they get separated, Tom searches for this pair, starting a series of adventures (almost separate stories) where Tom works for a blacksmith, then a boomba on a plantation, a boy on a Spanish ship, and then on a pirate ship. The first third of this book starts out slow, but as Tom gets involved in his adventures, the pace picks up fast. There is not a lot of white space on the page, so this 372 page book is a long read. Also, it is translated from the original Danish and I found a lot of grammar irregularities which may have appeared in the translation. Good readers who like sailing adventure stories (with a little gore) will enjoy this book.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Strasser, Todd. Can't get there from here

Strasser, Todd. Can't get there from here. Simon & Schuster, 2004 [0-689-84169-8]
This is the gritty tale of a tribe of teenagers living on the streets of New York. The reader experiences their rough life, what they have to do to survive, and their feelings of hopelessness. To survive, the kids learn not to trust adults...even those who may be trying to help them. When someone tries to help them, the kid's response is "what do you get out of it?" This 198 page book is a harsh tale of life on the streets and the limited possibilities of leaving that life.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Korman, Gordon. The island [series]

Korman, Gordon. The island [series]. Scholastic, 2001 1: Shipwreck [0-439-16456-7], 2:Survival [0-439-16457-5], 3: Escape [0-439-16452-4]
Six kids who are in trouble with the law (or other situations) are sent on a 4 week cruise from Guam run by a group hoping to turn their bad ways around. The sailing ship encounters a typhoon and sinks, the captain is killed and the first mate takes off with the lifeboat. After a terrible time alone at sea, the six kids end up on a tiny uncharted island. Here they have to survive but a group of murderous criminals also use the island from time to time. The kids find a tiny and mysterious World War II air base on the island. One kid gets shot in the leg. Should they try to take out the bullet? Will the group of criminals find them and kill them? Does anyone else think they are alive? This set of approximately 130 page books could have been made into one suspenseful book. The print is large so it would have fit nicely in a 200/250 page book. The series weaves a great tale and would make a great high interest series approachable to many kids from maybe 3rd to 7th grade.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Magrs, Paul. The good, the bat, and the ugly.

Magrs, Paul. The good, the bat, and the ugly. Atheneum, 2004 [0-689-87019-1]
Let me start out with ... yes, the author's name is spelled correctly! Here we have a cross of a British sitcom and Daniel Pinkwater. Twenty years ago Jason's dad, Frank, was a famous TV puppeteer (with a bat puppet) but Frank ended his career by having a big fight with his puppet on the air. Now Frank wants to give Jason a puppet for Christmas but Jason hears the packed away bat puppet calling him. Frank goes crazy one day at a store, destroying all the puppets in a window display. We enter the crazy world of TV puppets who seem to be more in control then the puppeteers. Suddenly puppets are getting murdered (or destroyed.) Who is doing it? Why does Frank's puppet bat talk to Jason? If you have readers with a warped sense of humor they will like this 247 page book. Just one note: There is dark magic at the end of the book when we find out that early in his career, Frank sold his soul to the Devil to make his puppet talk. The devil appears at the end of the book (in the form of Punch of Punch and Judy fame.)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Koss, Amy Goldman. The Cheat

Koss, Amy Goldman. The cheat. Scholastic, 2003 [0-439-70179-1]
This is the story of a bunch of 8th graders involved in a cheating scan for the Geography mid-term. Sarah is one of the popular girls at school and is able to convince Jake to get his sister's last year copy of the Geography mid-term. Sarah give the answers to several other kids. Unfortunately the teacher changed two questions and they are caught. This 175 page book is told be each of the involved students in alternating chapters. The author gets into the hearts and feelings of middle school students, their loves, their fears, relationships with their parent and school faculty, and their feelings of honor. It is a well written book which will be approachable by many students.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia. Snakecharm

Atwater-Rhodes, Ameila. Snakecharm [Kieshra'Ra #2]. Delacorte, 2004 [0-385-73072-1]
In book two the avians and serpiente shapeshifters are living in peace since their King and Queen (Zane & Danica) have married. But now Danica is pregnant.. how with a half-breed heir to the throne be raised? How will it be able to rule? The fragile peace is shaken by the arrival of an ancient shapeshifting falcon looking for criminals from her land. Although it took a while for me to get back into the story of this 167 page book, I was totally involved in the tale soon enough. It would be helpful for the reader if the author made a list of characters designating them as avians, serpiente or falcons and their place in the society. Of course now I cannot wait for the third book.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Delaney, Mark. The protester's song

Delaney, Mark. The protester's song [Misfits, Inc. #5]. Peachtree, 2001 [1-56145-244-0]
Thirty years ago Jake's Uncle, Josh lost his leg at an explosion during Vietnam protest. Once night the family goes to dinner and the musician playing reminds Uncle Josh of someone at the protest. That starts a chain of events in which Misfits, Inc (a group of kid detectives) gets involved with an FBI cover-up. In the midst of the story their school librarian resigns over a censorship issue. The buildup to the exciting climax kept me not wanting to put the book down. This 214 page book is #5 of a series concerning this group of detective HS kids. I have a feeling I may be purchasing more of this series.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Scholastic, 2005 [0-439-78454-9]
As he turns 17 Harry and the gang enter their 6th year at Hogwarts. In this book we learn much of the early history of Voldemort through a system of Dumbledore gathering people's memories so that he and Harry can experience. In between that, Harry and his friends are growing up and are having the relationship struggles of early teens. Early in this 652 page book, Harry needs to borrow a used copy of the Potions text book and gets one that has a lot of handwritten notes in it, signed by "The Half-Blood Prince." As you probably know by now, a significant character dies in this book. I will not ruin it by telling you who (although someone did tell me.) After such a long time between books, I was worried about not being able to get into the story and characters again, but Rowling starts out the book reminding the reader of previous happenings in an easy and not over-done way. The climax scene is a visual and heart-wrenching experience for the reader. What I say here, will not influence whether you buy the book, but I also encourage you to read this series since you can be sure your students will be reading it.