Sunday, June 07, 2009

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as we knew it

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as we knew it. Harcourt, 2006 [0-15-205826-5 // 978-0-15-205826-5]
WOW! This is by far the most powerful book I have read in a LONG time. I got so wrapped up in the story, I went into a kind of depression. Miranda and her family live in western Pennsylvania on May 19th when the asteroid hit the moon. It moved the moon on a closer orbit to the Earth causing tsunamis around the world, earthquakes and floods. Most coastal cities in the world are destroyed. Miranda's mother had the foresight to hit the food stores and other stores the next morning to purchase non-perishable food, clothing, batteries and other supplies. What happens next is that all of society starts to quickly collapse. Electricity stops, there is very little oil or gas because all the tanker ships and refineries on the coast were destroyed. Eventually the stronger pull of the Moon's gravity causes old extinct volcanoes to start erupting. Grey clouds cover the skies as the summer ends and it starts to get cold..colder...and colder. This this 337 page book tells the story of survival when there is no hope for rescue. It is the tale of death, cold, starvation, friendship, and love. I will not say how the book ends.. but it is appropriate. All I can say.. for upper middle school to through High School.... don't miss this one!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Rowling, J.K. The tales of Beedlethe Bard

Rowling, J.K. The tales of Beedle the Bard. Scholastic, 2007 [978-0-545-12828-5 // 0-545-12828-5]
This is a collection of short stories billed as Wizard/Muggle folklore with "extensive commentary" by Albus Dumbledore. The "net proceeds" from the sale of this book goes directly to a charity which helps children. I would have rather had Ms. Rowling ask for direct contributions to the charity. Out the the several short stories, I found only one half-way enjoyable (The Wizard the and hopping pot.) To connect these stories to Harry Potter, after each short story is a long explanation of the significance and importance of each tale by Albus Dumbledore. There are even footnotes in Dumbledore's commentary as further explanation. I held off purchasing this 110 page book and I sincerely hope Ms. Rowling does not try to write more such books which try to thrive on the coattails of the Harry Potter saga. If she wants to write.. use another set of characters. I have only convinced one student to check this out and she was not pleased with it at all.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Yep, Laurence. Dragon Road

Yep, Laurence. Dragon Road. HarperCollins, 2008 [978-0-06-027521-1]
This is part of the Golden Mountain series which follows the Young family from 1849 through 1995. It is now 1939 and Cal and Barney are basketball "sharks." To make money to survive in the Depression, they pretend they can't play basketball and then scam a bet and always win the game. This keeps them alive but is not a life until they meet a guy who is setting up a traveling exhibition Asian basketball team. They travel around the country, making a name for themselves and even a little money for themselves. Will Cal ever get back to Chinatown and say what he really feels for his girl friend who has been left caring for his alcoholic father. This 290 page book is a good sports story, historical story, and a story of prejudice in 1939. I like Mr. Yep's books. NOTE: This book is loosely based on an actual Asian traveling team of the time. There is a short bibliography at the end of the book for students with further interest in the team.

Woodson, Jacqueline. After Tupac & D Foster.

Woodson, Jacqueline. After Tupac & D Foster. Putnam, 2008 [978-0-399-24654-8]
This is the story of three teenage girls in the inner city. Two girls are the best of friends and D Foster shows up (about a month before Tupac got shot the first time.) All three of them become inseparable even though the first two girls are not sure about much of the background of D Foster. The three of them grow up in the three years that D Foster was with them. This 151 page book deals with three girls, inner city life and growing up. Note that Tupac is not in the book but rather they just remember time periods around the events in Tupac's life.

Fitzgerald, Dawn. Soccer chick rules

Fitzgerald, Dawn. Soccer chick rules. Roaring Brook Press, 2006 [1-59643-137-7]
Soccer is everything for 13 year-old Tess and she spends her life focused on that until she finds out that the School Board has threatened to cut sports programs on school unless the school budget or levy is passed. Along with trying to do her best in the soccer season, getting involved with boys and challenging friends, Tess now gets involved in local politics. This 150 page book deals with sports, friendship, and fighting for a cause.

Pinkwater, Daniel. The Neddiad.

Pinkwater, Daniel. The Neddiad. Houghton Mifflin, 2007 [978-0-618-59444-3 // 0-618-59444-2]
WOW.. I have met several authors at conferences, dinners, etc. and would LOVE to meet Mr. Pinkwater. His middle school books are an absolute riot (although strange,) It is the 1940's and Ned's father made a fortune selling shoe laces to the army. They decide to move to LA, taking the train across the country. Ned misses getting back on the train at one stop and ends up on a wild adventure getting to meet his parents. There are many plays on words throughout the book that I am sure most kids will not catch. For example, Ned meets a famous movie star, Aaron Finn. On the trip Ned is given an ancient carved turtle by a shaman and ends up having to save the world from disaster. I LOVE his books but it is always a sell, to get a kid to read them. I have turned on a couple kids to his wacky sense of humor.. maybe because I have one also. This 307 page book is not a totally crazy as the Snarkout Boys books or Lizard music... and I think I love it the best. You go, Daniel!

Citra. Becky. Never to be told.

Citra, Becky. Never to be told. Orca, 2006 [1-55143-567-5 // 978-1-55143-567-1]
Asia has lived on the farm at Cold River with elderly Ira and Maddy for a long time. She has started seeing a ghost. When Ira has a heart attack everything changes.. she suddenly has to go live with her birth mother's family. A ghost appears there also. Only Asia can see and hear these ghosts. This is a ghost story but also a warm story about a girl trying to figure out where she belongs and to figure out why ghosts are appearing to only here. This 217 page book is a touching ghost story.. not a scary one.

Hoffman, Alice. Incantation.

Hoffman, Alice. Incantation. Little, Brown, 2006 [0-316-01019-7 // 978-0-316-01019-1]
Estrella is 16 and lives with a close-knit family during the Spanish Inquisition. She does everything with her best friend until by chance she falls in love with the guy who is promised to her best friend. This is the Inquisition where one must be careful about what one does and says. One day Estrella discovers that her family is really Jewish and when her friend suspects, she turns Estrella's family into the Inquisition. This is a very powerful story. While the 166 page book is short, it is very heavy reading. People are living in a society where they must be very careful about what they say, or or even appear to be doing. There are descriptions of burnings and torture. It shows an aspect of the Inquisition that one does not often hear about. It is a good book to balance with some of the Holocaust things.