Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rosoff, Meg. How I live now.

Rosoff, Meg. How I live now. Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2004 [0-385-74677-6]
This is a powerful book and I am not sure how I feel about it. Fifteen-year-old Daisy travels to England to visit her cousins. Right after she arrives, the Aunt leaves to give a lecture in Oslo, leaving the children along. While she is gone war (some fictional war) breaks out and they children are left to survive and live in their own morality. Daisy's interest in her cousin, Edmond breaks into true love. While nothing is descriptive about this incestial affair, it is VERY evident. They children are separated during the war and see the gruesome atrocities which happen in such a situation. After a period of time Daisy gets back to the US and after several years, returns to see Edmond. The style of writing draws the reading right into the story but there are long run-on sentences and there are no quotation marks when people speak within a sentence. It is a difficult read. This 194 page book is only for your mature and good readers. Because of the incest, I have decided to send it to our HS. I find it interesting that very few of the reviews mention the incest at all. I think that is irresponsible. Even if you don't purchase book, you should read it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Friel, Maeve. Charlie's story.

Friel, Maeve. Charlie's story. Peachtree, 1997 [1-56145-315-3]
Charlie is a girl is is living with her Uncle and his family ever since her unwed mother abandoned her in a shopping mall when at the age of 4. She is now is a suburban private school and she is not accepted. It gets worse when her fellow students find out she was abandoned. She is bullied viciously by the trendy girls at the school and the teachers either don't see it or ignore it because "girls don't do that." Life isn't very good at home either because everyone there totally ignores the whole story of how she was abandoned. This 121 page book shows how bullying can get out of hand if it is not checked. After a peak, the story resolves itself a little too neatly for my comfort but the story is a good read with a good message. It takes place in England so the reader has to deal with some "Britishisms."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Woodson, Jacqueline. Hush

Woodson, Jacqueline. Hush. Speak/Penguin, 2002 [0-14-250049-6]
WOW this is a powerful book! Toswiah's father (an African American cop in Denver) sees two while police officers shoot a defenseless African American boy. He knows it is wrong so he says he will testify again them. Down comes the "Blue Wall of Silence!" The family is threatened and even bullets are fired through their living room window. One night the family is whisked away under the witness protection program to live in another city. Here the whole family gets new identities. The father goes into depression and can't find a job because all he knows is policing (which he isn't allowed to do.) The mother becomes a devout Johovah's Witness so not only do the kids lose all their friends but they also lose birthdayday and holidays. The kids are told to look forward, not backwards. This 180 book is a powerful book about personal identity, something with which all teenagers deal.

LaRochelle, David. Absolutely, positively not...

LaRochelle, David. Absolutely, positively not.... Levine/Scholastic, 2005 [0-439-59109-0]
Steven is a High School boy going through the usual traumas about passing his driving test, arguing with his parents along with one other thing that has been smoldering in the back of his head. Why is he not interested in girls? Why does he think Coach Bowman is so handsome? All he knows is that he is not gay (or is he) so he goes to the library and gets an outdated book for information. He glues pictures of girls in bikinis on the walls of his room and tries aversion therapy by snapping a rubber band which he keeps on is wrist every time he thinks about a boy. He even goes on a rampage of dating a whole series of girls. Why does not kissing do anything for him? Finally he faces the fact that he may be gay and goes to tell his best friend (who happens to be a girl) and she says...I am glad you finally admitted it. Now comes the school dance and he knows he can't take a girl so... his friend suggests he bring her dog as a date. At the end of this 219 page book, he ends up going to a gay discussion group to talk and even meets another gay guy on the hockey team at school. Steven comes out to his parents who each react very differently, though lovingly. This is a lighthearted book dealing sexual orientation. There is no discussion of physical relationships... just the head trip the boy is going through. I have spoken to some gay friends about the book and they say it is an accurate depiction of how some boys initially face they fact that they may be gay. I hope the book is accepted in the schools.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mazer, Harry. A boy at war: a novel of Pearl Harbor

Mazer, Harry. A boy at war: a novel of Pearl Harbor. Scholastic (Book Fair), 2001 [0-439-36676-3]
It is early December 1941 and Adam's father is an officer serving on the Arizona. Much to his father's displeasure, Adam has some Japanese friends on the island. The morning of the attack the boys sneak under a fence and hijack a row boat to go fishing so they are in the harbor at the moment of the attack. There are some vivid descriptions of the situation in the harbor, but it is not overdone. After the attack, Adam and his mother wait word about his father. This short 104 page book would be a very good high interest reader but I would be cautious about using it with children below 6th grade because of the attack scene. There are historical notes at the end of the book which give enough background material and would spur further research. This short book shows what it must have been like on the island, before, during, and after the attack. The only other fiction book on this subject that I have read is "Under the blood-red sun" by Salisbury

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bauer, Joan. Stand tall

Bauer, Joan. Stand tall. Penguin, 2002 [0-14-240148-x]
A Twelve-year-old, six foot, three tall boy is nicknamed tree. He is having a difficult time dealing with his parents divorce. Meanwhile his grandfather has his leg amputated after a complication of a war injury from the Vietnam War many years ago. Tree helps he grandfather as a way to help himself deal with the divorce. Meanwhile a new girl arrives at school and becomes an outcast except that she becomes friends with Tree. This 182 page book is full of wonderful subplots (an ailing dog, and a major flood in town) and interesting characters. I was especially drawn to the grandfather who is constantly making comparisons with dealing with daily trauma (such as divorce) to being a soldier. Not only is it a great read, it would be a wonderful discussion starter.

Carman, Patrick. Beyond the Valley of Thorns

Carman, Patrick. Beyond the Vally of Thorns [The Land of Elyon #2] Orchard Books, 2005 [0-439-70094-9] NOTE: this was an uncorrected, advanced reader's edition
Alexa thought she had solved the problems in her kingdom at the end of book 1 but at the opening of book two she is drawn out of Bridewell once again through the tunnel in the library. She finds out that he is the leader to help defeat the evil forces which are trying to take over her kingdom. Once again she joins up with her old friends (along with some new ones) to defeat evil giants, mad bats, and wild dogs on being controlled by an evil mastermind. Can she are her small band of follows defeat the terrible forces which threaten Bridewell? This 221 page book is a good continuation of this fantasy. Once again, I feel the cover is too cute and juvenile for the level of fantasy in this story.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Trembath, Don. Lefty Carmichael has a fit

Trembath, Don. Lefty Carmichael has a fit. Orca Book, 1999 [1-55143-166-1]
This book opens in a hospital room as Lefty is slowly waking up. Around him is a family reacting to him being in the hospital. Lefty had a seizure in the playground and now he has to deal with it. Not only him, but also, his family, friends, and high school members. This 215 page book deals with epilepsy in a realistic and yet humorous fashion. The book had a lot of humor in it. I would love to see the opening 50 pages with him waking up in the hospital performed on stage. I have been following this author because he is Canadian and may not get the publicity that American authors get. This is my favorite book of his so far.

Peters, Julie Anne. Define "normal."

Peters, Julie Anne. Define "normal". Little Brown, 2000 [0-316-73489-6]
Good student, Antonia is excited to participate in her middle school's peer counseling program but has some doubts whether she can work with Jazz, a punk looking girl with dyed hair and piercings. As it turns out, Antonia has more problems at home with her clinically depressed mother. Jazz doesn't get along with her parents but lives in a huge house with an indoor pool. This 196 page book is perfect for middle school kids as it explores what it means to be "normal."

Rennison, Louise. Dancing in my nuddy-pants

Rennison, Louise. Dancing in my nuddy-pants. Avon, 2003 [0-06-075961-5]
What can I say? In this continuing saga of Georgia Nicolson she is up to her silly antics. In this book she goes on a trip to France, deals with her cat, Angus, tries to decide if the Sex God is really right for her.. or is it Dave the Laugh. You will not be able to stop laughing while reading this "bubble gum for the mind" 202 page book. I just love they way she play with language. Middle school girls love this series.

Luiken, Nicole. Silver Eyes

Luiken, Nicole. Silver Eyes. Pocket Books, 2001 [0-7434-0078-x]
This sci-fi book opens with Angel being trained as a security firm for this huge interplanetary company. The problem is that is does not remember her past. Slowly she realizes that he has had a "loyalty chip" implanted in her mind which keeps her loyal to the company and wipes out her previous memories until... she meets Mike, a rebel. Slowly she starts to believe that she was part of Mike's revolution. When she and Mike are invited to large science contest, every thing gets turned around. Can Angel work against her chip? Can she go back? This 256 page book is full of many plot twists. There is a previous book to this one which not reviewed well at all, but I really loved this one.