Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oates, Joyce Carol. After the wreck, I picked myself up, spread my wings, and flew away

Oates, Joyce Carol. After the wreck, I picked myself up, spread my wings, and flew away. HarperCollins, 2005 [978-0-06-073525-8/0-06-073525-2]
Jenna and her mother in a terrible accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge. Her mother dies but Jenna survives with many injuries. Just before the accident her parents divorced so did does not want to go with her father in California and ends up with her Aunt and Uncle. Jenna likes the feeling of being "in the blue" but when she is finally taken off the pain medicine she doesn't know what to do. She is a loner in her new school until she meets Crow on his motorcycle who ends up leading her to Trina, a rich girl who is into partying. Jenna no drops into a long spiral of drug use and partying with Trina. Her Aunt and Uncle don't see (or ignore) the signs. On Christmas Eve she overdoses. Now Jenna sees a psychiatrist. Nothing or no one helps her and finally she ends up at a party with Trina with boys in their 20's. Trina is beaten up and raped and Jenna just barely makes it next store to call the police. At the end of the story she meets up with Crow again who helps her face what she he been dreaming and wondering about the accident. This 292 page book is a harsh book about someone spiraling into self-destructive drug abuse and finally meeting someone who helps her see her demons and help her face them.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Boyne, John. The boy in the striped pajamas

Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. David Fickling Books, 2006 [0-385-75106-0]
This story is told from the innocence of a nine-year-old boy but is written for older readers. Bruno and his family live in Berlin in a large house. His father is important and wears an impressive uniform. One day "The Fury" comes to visit with the blond-haired lady. A few days later, they are closing up the house and move to "Out-With." His father has a new uniform and is called commandant. Bruno doesn't like the new, small house in the middle of nowhere and a big fence running down one side of the property. Bruno is lonely. One day while exploring the long fence he sees a boy on the other side of the fence in striped pajamas. They become friends, talking through the fence. Bruno doesn't understand why there are so many people living on the other side of the fence and his new friend doesn't understand why he was brought to live there. This 214 page book is a story of the Holocaust told entirely through the eyes of an innocent child. It has a much more innocent feel than Spinelli's "Milkweed." While there is nothing inappropriate in the book, I am not sure whether elementary students will understand the book. Because of the way the story is innocently told, I am not sure that all the students in my middle school will understand the ending (which I will not tell you about here.) This book is great for discussion. Be sure to read it.

Doyle, Brian. Uncle Ronald

Doyle, Brian. Uncle Ronald. Douglas & McIntyre, 2004 [0-88899-621-7]
This book is narrated by an one hundred and twelve year old man who can not remember what he had for lunch but can relate a powerful tale from his childhood. He grew up with a abusive father. Finally one day his mother could not take it any more and takes him and runs away. She sends Mickey to his Uncle, who lives on a farm and she disappears. Life then becomes complicated at the tax collectors arrive in the Uncle Ronald's town and the townspeople refuse to pay. After this is sort of resolved, Mickey's mom shows up followed in a few days by his abusive father. Mom stands up to him and everyone chases dad away. This 163 page book is a powerful story of an abusive father in the wilderness of Canada around the turn of the 20th century. The idea of having the old man relating the story, starting and ending the book, makes it more special.

Stewart, Paul and Chris Riddell. The Winter Knights [The Edge Chronicles #8]

Stewart, Paul and Chris Riddell. The Winter Knights [The Edge Chronicles #8]. David Fickling Books, 2007 [978-0-375-83741-8]
Quit (the son of a sky pirate) has been accepted as a student in Knight's Academy. This story takes place almost entirely on the floating rock of Sanctaphrax. For some reason Edgeworld has been plagued by bitter cold and snow storms which is causing havoc with the buoyancy of the floating rock city. There are all kinds of plans to keep the rock afloat, but the ruling Academic begins ruling with an iron fist. There is a great deal of political intrigue as various factions struggle to gain control and save Sanctaphrax. This all ends up with the sudden poisoning of the ruling Academic and following bloody civil war. Although I love this series, this 377 page book is not my favorite. There is so much political intrigue and many unusual and similar names of the participants, that I was frequently confused. For those of you who are concerned about this, the civil war is very bloody. Another thing that bothered me was that after this vicious civil war, suddenly everyone is all happy again as they clean up the body. No hard feelings? Although it is not my favorite of the series I am sure its fans will gobble up this book too, along with its continuing incredible illustrations.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Coy, John. Crackback

Coy, John. Crackback. Scholastic, 2005 [0-439-69733-6]
Miles is excited about his Junior year in HS and his time on the football team. So is his father who was a football star in his High School. It seems that this story will be a rah rah football story with a father's loving support. Well, Miles' father is less than loving. In fact he is verbally abusive and picks on everything Miles does on the field. Everything really changes when Miles beloved coach has to resign for medical reasons. Miles doesn't like the new coach and the new coach does not like him. For the first time in his life, Miles is no longer a starter on the team. This 201 page book is not your usual sports story, well worth reading and adding to your collection.

Myracle, Lauren. The fashion disaster that changed my life

Myracle, Lauren. The fashion disaster that changed my life. Dutton, 2005 [0-525-47222-3]
Allison intended seventh grade to be her year of change. She was going to be noticed. Unfortunately she was noticed the first day of school when static cling made her mothers undies stick to her pants. Luckily she had her two true friends and the three of them helped each other trough anything until...Allison gets assigned to a partner in Science. Her partner was one of the "in crowd" and suddenly she has two sets of friends. This 135 page story is fairly common in literature. One of a set of friends finds new friends, gives her old friends less attention, they get mad, the new friends turn out to be jerks, then she has to go back to her former friends. Although it is a familiar plot, the author handles the life of seventh grade girls nicely and I am sure the book will be popular.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Allison, Jennifer. Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator

Allison, Jennifer. Gilda Joyce: Psychic investigator [#1]. Dutton, 2005 [0525-47375-0]
Gilda lives with her mother after her father has died a few years older and has considers herself a psychic investigator. One day to impress her friends she tells them she is going to visit a cousin in San Francisco. After a series of misunderstandings, she ends up getting invited to spend a few weeks with her divorced uncle and his daughter. Gilda finds out that several years earlier her uncle's sister committed suicide by jumping of a tower window of the mansion in San Francisco. This is a perfect situation for Gilda to investigate. With the reluctant help of her cousin Gilda investigates this death. Of course the house is haunted and her uncle sleep walks, there is a colorful housekeeper who is scared of ghosts. This 321 page book is a fun book. I hope the author keeps the series fresh and original.

Grant, Vicki. Dead-end job

Grant, Vicki. Dead-end job. Orca, 2005 [1-55143-378-8]
I enjoy Vicki Grant's writing and I feel this is her best effort yet. A High School girl, Frances has a boyfriend who can be jealous at times. One night as Frances is working the late shift at a convenience store a strange comes in a starts flirting with her. He has an interesting story about his life and is very interested in her life. Over the next few days he keeps running into Frances all over town. She tries to discourage him (she has a boyfriend she likes) but does not want to hurt his feelings. Unfortunately by being nice, she is also sending mixed messages to this strange guy. Before long Frances realizes he is stalking her and telling her lies. This 104 page book has an exciting conclusion -- I couldn't put it down and was nearly late for an appointment. It would be a great high interest low level book.

Howe, James. The watcher

Howe, James. The watcher. Aladdin, 1999 [0-689-8533-7]
Every day a sad girl sits at the top of the stairs watching the beach. She watches the handsome lifeguard, and a family that comes to the beach every day and she thinks they have wonderful lives. The reader finds out while getting to know everyone in the book, that they all have their share of problems. The biggest problem though, the reader finds out at the end of the book with the shocking, harsh ending that "the watcher" has a terrible homelife and an abusive father. The shocking abuse described at the end of the 173 page book sneaks up on the reader. The author leaves the reader thinking.