Wednesday, February 28, 2007
There’s lots going on in Simone’s life. She has a best friend who is dating a jerk, a brother who is suddenly handsome and popular, and a crush on a guy who serves coffee at the local food co-op. Simone, an atheist who fights for causes she believes in and works for the American Civil Liberties Union, is caught off guard when her parents tell her that her birth mother wants to meet her. At first she resists, but when she finally lets Rivka into her life she learns about her previously unknown Jewish heritage and how important family and traditions can be. In the midst of great sadness, Simone finds happiness in a romance and satisfaction in being a supportive daughter. This is a realistic story about a high school girl growing up, changing, and learning that there is more to life than she ever imagined. Recommended for readers in grades 8 and up.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Holly is only 12 years old when she flees from a creepy and abusive foster father. Before she runs away, her teacher Ms. Leone encourages Holly to write in a journal. This book is the journal she writes during the seven months she spends hiding, running, and trying to stay alive. She hides in a truck, jumps onto a train, walks, and rides buses. She steals food or eats at soup kitchens. She sleeps outdoors, sometimes under a deck, sometimes in a cave, and finally in a cardboard box. She lives in fear of being caught and of other homeless people who threaten her. I found myself really wanting to know what happens to Holly in the end, and I think middle school readers will feel the same way. This book does not gloss over the realities of being homeless, but I’m guessing that in real life homelessness is even more nightmarish than Holly’s story conveys. If you like reading about young people with big problems, you should read Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Wow. This book made me want to stock my basement with food and bottled water. This is the diary of Miranda, a 16-year-old who experiences the end of life as she has always known it. A meteor hits the moon and knocks it out of its orbit. There is no immediate effect on Miranda's family in Pennsylvania, but it quickly leads to planetary disaster--tidal waves destroy the coasts, volcanoes erupt and block the sun, and supplies of food and energy are completely disrupted. Miranda and her mother and two brothers stockpile food and try to survive as things get worse and worse. Little by little everything normal is gone--phone service, electricity, school, even sunlight. Miranda's family eats less and less and must live through the winter huddled by the wood stove in one room of their house. And they are the lucky ones. They have firewood and some canned food, and so far they haven't gotten sick. This book will make you think about all the things you take for granted and about how you would react to "the end of the world."
Well, I finally read my first Tamora Pierce book. And it was good! There are some fantasy books that I love, but I'm just not drawn to them like I am to historical or realistic fiction. Anyway, I can now see why so many good readers devour books by Tamora Pierce. Alanna is a strong, heroic young girl who wants to be a knight, but in her world, like ours, it's not something girls do. So she disguises herself as a boy and goes to the palace for training. She is small and gets picked on, but she works hard and has a gift for magic, and so she triumphs eventually. It's a very convincing fantasy world without dragons or strange creatures. It's almost a combination of medieval times and a fantasy world with sorcerers and magic. This is a good starting point to get into Tamora Pierce's books because she wrote many more books about the land of Tortall.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
This is the first novel I have read about the experiences of the Japanese in the World War II internment camps. Sumiko is the main character, and the book starts on Dec. 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor is attacked. Sumiko and her family are Americans of Japanese descent, but are taken from their homes and forced to live in what are basically prison camps just because they are Japanese. Her grandfather and uncle are taken to a camp in North Dakota, and she and her family are sent to a camp in the desert of Arizona. This is a quiet book, well-written and descriptive, told through the eyes of an introspective young girl. I appreciated the book for it's portrayal of history, but I have to admit I didn't find the plot very compelling. I do recommend it for students who want to learn about the time period, but be a patient reader and don't expect a lot of action or twists and turns.
This is the third book in Krull's series called Giants of Science. As usual, she has written a short, gossipy, and surprisingly interesting biography of a person that kids would normally find pretty dull. Freud was truly a pioneer in the field of psychology—before he came alone no one thought that a person could be helped by talking about their problems. Freud was the first to realize that people had a subconscious--the memories and feelings we are not even aware we have. Freud listened to people's dreams and thoughts, and found that once people confronted what was in their subconscous they could move on with their lives. Freud also had a lot of weird theories, especially about sexuality, and Krull shares those with readers. He was also pretty full of himself and hated for people to disagree with him. Of the Giants of Science books, I would say this is not as strong as the books on Leonardo or Isaac Newton, but if you want or need to know about Freud and you're looking to be entertained, this is definitely the book to read.