Wednesday, May 16, 2007
This doesn't look like a middle school book, but I picked it up and couldn't stop reading it. It's a remarkable story of an unlikely friendship between Owen, an orphaned baby hippo, and Mzee, a 130-year-old tortoise. Owen was the only one of his hippo pod to survive the 2004 tsunami. The 600-pound baby was brought to Haller Park, a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya, Africa. There he immediately went toward Mzee, a grumpy old tortoise, and the next morning the pair was found snuggled up together. This book tells about the next year and a half of their lives, and how they have remained inseparable. With great photos and a touching story, this is an example of how children's nonfiction books can appeal to readers of all ages. It's not a book my students will necessarily seek out on the shelves, but I'm going to leave it on display by the bean bag chairs and I know they will pick it up and enjoy it.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The most important thing in Scott's life is baseball. Or so he thinks until life throws him a curveball that makes him change the way he feels about his best friend, his parents, and his dreams for the future. The book opens with Scott nervously waiting at a clinic to be tested for AIDS. It will take a week for the results to come back, and in those seven days Scott must play in the championship baseball game as well as deal with the news that his best friend, Travis, is gay. As usual, Terry Trueman writes a gripping book for mature readers that is short but full of deep issues. Even Scott, whose whole world is baseball, can see that life has more complexity to it than he ever imagined. He sees his best friend threatened with violence, kicked out of his home, as well as accepted and admired by others. The question is, how will Scott treat Travis from now on? Recommended for mature readers (especially baseball fans).
This is the best graphic novel I have ever read. Jacobson and Colon took a complicated topic and put it into words and pictures to make it come alive and make sense in a way that just words could never achieve. It begins with the four airplanes that were hijacked and shows a timeline of the events of that day. Then it shows what the President and other officials were doing and how they handled the disaster. Then it goes back in time and shows how Osama bin Laden became the leader of Al Quaeda and how the 19 hijackers came to be chosen and trained. In the end it tells what the 9/11 Commission things the U.S.A. should be doing to fight terrorism. Unfortunately, our country has not been doing a good job of following the commission's recommendations. It's a really great comic book that is easy to read. If you want to understand September 11 and you don't want to read a thousand page book, this is the perfect book for you.
Can you imagine a time when rock and roll didn't exist? When there was no such thing as popular music just for teenagers? This book makes it easy to understand how poor, small-town Elvis developed a new kind of music and was catapulted into unbelievable fame. Elvis started out as a shy kid who played guitar and liked gospel and hillbilly music. He had a pleasant voice that could be sweet or edgy, and he could make girls scream just by moving his hips. Find out fame changed Elvis into a different person and eventually led to addiction and an early death. This book is compact and to the point, and also easy to read and understand. This is a great new series of biographies for middle schoolers (we also have Johnny Cash and Rachel Carson and Oprah Winfrey in this series).
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
In 1990, 80,000 pairs of Nike shoes were accidently dumped in the ocean during a storm. That's five semi truck containers worth of sneakers. Those shoes drifted in the ocean and came ashore on the west coast of North America, and this discovery gave ocean scientists a lot of knowledge about ocean currrents. This is a book about those ocean currents and how they work, but the most interesting part to me was the incredible amount of trash that is floating in the ocean. In 1992, 28,800 bathtub toys were spilled, and those also gave scientists data about how ocean water moves. This book has beautiful photos, easy-to-understand information about the science of ocean currents, and fascinating facts about how our ocean is polluted with plastic. Read it and find out The Garbage Patch and ghost nets, and learn what you can do to help save our oceans. Recommended to readers of all ages and anyone who uses plastic of any kind.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
I wasn't expecting to like this book, but I was surprised by how good it was. If you like action, suspense, and stories about bumbling kids who save the world, you will want to read about Alfred Kropp. If you like the legend of King Arthur, you will definitely have to read it. Alfred, a miserable teenager with no real talents, skills, or parents, gets roped into helping his uncle steal something valuable. It turns out to be the sword Excalibur, and in the process his uncle is murdered and Alfred is revealed to have some special connection to the sword. Along comes a knight named Bennacio who whisks Alfred along in an attempt to recover the sword from Mogart, an evil knight bent on taking over the world. There is blood and gore and no one is safe from the action, but in the end Alfred finds out his real identity and his real place in the story. Fans of action books (Alex Rider) or horror books (Cirque du Freak) or even The Davinci Code, will like this book. It has a cool new red cover, shown here, and it looks like a sequel it coming out soon.
Nadira and Aisha are sisters. They are Muslim and their family came to the U.S. from Bangladesh. Their parents are in the country illegally, and the family lives in fear of being caught and sent back to their home country. Life is tough for the teenage girls because they know that they have to hide their family secret and they also know that they may not be able to go to college or be able to work like their friends will be able to do when they graduate from high school. In desperation the family tries to enter Canada, but the father is "detained," which means he is put in jail and questioned. Nadira, the younger sister must rise up and try to help her family through this difficult time. I thought this was a good book for someone learning about immigration and what life is like for Muslim teens. Unfortunately, it had the feeling of being written to make a point about how U.S. immigration policy is harming families, rather than being a well-paced story with a gripping plot. It's definitely worth reading, but it might not capture the interest of some teen readers who want more exciting story lines.