Sunday, July 20, 2008
If you like wild animals you will probably like this book a lot. Jackie's Wild Seattle is the name of an animal rescue shelter near Seattle, Washington, and in this book Shannon and Cody spend the summer there with their Uncle Neal, who loves to rescue endangered animals. There are lots of animal rescues (like a coyote in an elevator and a seal at the bottom of a cliff) as well as other things going on in their lives that complicate things for Shannon. She's worried about her parents who are working at a refugee camp in Afghanistan, she's worried about Uncle Neal who secretly is very ill, and she is curious about the angry, withdrawn boy who is doing community service at the animal shelter. I thought some of the animal rescues were a little bit unbelievable, but this book is a good choice for younger middle school kids who like action and animals. It might make you want to go volunteer at the Animal Humane Society!
The plot of this book sounds kind of predictable. Elisa writes love notes for other people. In the course of writing poetry from Theo to the beautiful and popular Lila, Elisa finds herself falling for Theo. Elisa is a free spirit, a poet, and an observer of the world around her. She learns to blossom in spite of her parents' marital troubles, her uncertainty about Theo's feelings for her, and the spiteful acts of jealous Lila. Along the way she gets valuable guidance (and lots of literary food for her soul) from her wise English teacher. I would recommend this to 8th grade girls (on up through high school) who appreciate poetry and literature and a sensitive, deep character trying her best to come out from "undercover."
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Henry's privileged, uncomplicated life comes to an abrupt halt the night his brother is hit by a car. Franklin is barely clinging to life and a Cambodian teenager is the driver accused of hitting him. From this point on, Trouble just won't stay away. The basic plotline is that Henry runs away to climb the highest peak in Maine, and unwittingly is accompanied by his brother's supposed "killer." Nothing is black and white in this story. Franklin was occasionally cruel, especially to Chay, the new kid at his exclusive prep school. The sister, Louisa, is hiding a big secret. Chay has suffered from deep trauma and has parents who don't want him around. Gary Schmidt is a master at writing multilayered, complex stories that delve into issues that really matter. By the second half of this book I was thoroughly hooked and found myself surprised by the direction the book went in. Good middle school readers and people who care about young adult literature should read this novel. It will probably win awards in 2008!
Have you ever wondered about whatever happened to fairy tale characters after the "happily ever after" ending? This book explores the aftermath of the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Many years later the same mirror that the evil stepmother used takes control of a teenage boy and drives him to almost destroy his twin brother and his own kingdom. This is a fairy tale story, but unlike most of this genre, this one is aimed at male readers. The main characters are twin brothers who switch places to deceive their parents. One turns evil and the other has to learn to use his brains and step up to the challenge of one day inheriting his father's title. I thought it went on a little bit too long, and while I enjoyed some of the fairy tale elements, it just didn't enthrall me like some other fairy tale books I've read. Still, there's a lot of action and magic and I think some fantasy readers will enjoy it.
Jason is helping his father cope with his grandmother's recent death when he receives a mysterious phone call that leads him to an equally mysterious postcard. Strange people and events lead him to believe that there was more to his grandmother's life than his father ever knew. A string of clues leads him to a series of old crime magazines that include chapters in a bizarre tale that he believes is actually the story of his grandmother's life. This is a story within a story, and mystery readers will enjoy following along as Jason and his new friend Dia unravel a very strange chain of clues. I think this is a book that will be enjoyed by good readers who can follow a sort of complicated story line. I will definitely recommend it to 6th and 7th graders this fall.
I was mesmerized by this book, mostly because it's based so closely on history. It's a great way to learn about an amazing true survival story. In 1914, 28 men boarded a ship called The Endurance. Their goal was to get to Antarctica so a group of the men could be the first to cross the continent. It was supposed to be a big adventure and it was an honor to be part of the crew led by the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton. What happened was a complete disaster. The ship was frozen into the sea and finally broke apart, leaving the men stranded on the frozen sea. They were hungry and wet and freezing for over a year and a half before Shackleton found a way to save the lives of all 28 men. So much happens in this book that I can't even begin to summarize it. The author does a great job of taking real people (like Perce Blackborrow, the 18-year-old stowaway who ends up having his toes cut off) and bringing the story to life. Readers who like adventure and history will enjoy this book.
Monsoon Summer is a romance novel and a whole lot more. Jazz, a tall, strong, smart business person, is also a 15-year-old girl with a crush on her best guy friend, Steve. She's sure he could never be romantically interested in a girl like herself. Strangely enough, during a summer in which they never see each other, their romantic issues are resolved. The reason they are apart is that Jazz and her family spend the summer at an orphanage in India where they all learn about the gifts they can bring to helping other people. I breezed through this book, enjoying it all the way. It's not a difficult book and it's not all that complex, but it pulled me in and made me interested in India and the culture that Jazz encounters there. If you like this kind of romance and coming of age story, I also recommend Dairy Queen (a little more complex and a bit more mature). Recommended for readers who like romance, world travel, and stories about becoming happy with who you are.