Module 10: Forever

11 08 2010

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Summary: When Katherine and Michael fall in love they are sure it is forever. But as they face the end of their senior year and a summer apart with the knowledge they will be going to different colleges, they begin to question if it will last. Forever is all about firsts, and finding out how long they last.

Citation: Blume, Judy. (2003) Forever. New York: Simon Pulse

My Impressions: I had a little bit of trouble getting into this book. The big problem for me was that I just didn’t feel that I got to know the characters very well and that the author didn’t go in depth enough. That being said, Forever has its merits particularly as a book that deals very candidly and realistically with two major issues teens face–sex and love. I can see how this would be a frequently challenged book, there are some pretty explicit sex scenes and even some teenage drinking (although for them it’s legal since the drinking age is 18) and references to pot smoking. However, none of it is sensationalized nor is it taken lightly. The book deals with issues that teens face, and I think they can definitely learn mature ways to approach it through this book.

Reviews:

“No preaching (Blume never does) but the message is clear; no hedging (Blume never does) but a candid account by Kathy gives intimate details of a first sexual relationship. The characters and dialogue are equally natural and vigorous, the language uncensored, the depiction of family relationships outstanding.” –Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Library Use Suggestion: Forever would be a good book to mention with mature high schoolers in a book talk  that deals with love and relationships.





Module 9: Crank

6 08 2010

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Summary: Written in free-form verse, Crank is the story of Kristina who visits her estranged father and discovers a life of drugs, boys, and irresponsibility. She also discovers her alter ego Bree who justifies flirting with boys and drugs, a.k.a “the monster”, and knows no limits. Back home Kristina struggles to keep Bree and the monster a secret from her family while falling deeper into their embrace.

Citation: Hopkins, Ellen. (2004) Crank. New York: Simon Pulse.

My Impressions: I have never read a novel in verse like this, but as a lifelong lover of poetry I really liked this book it! I think even a person who is not a lover of poetry would enjoy this book as it is written in a very realistic voice, is an easy read, and is something a number of young adults would be able to relate to. This is certainly a disturbing book, but only so because it is so realistic and could very easily be the story of a teen you know. Hopkins does a great job of getting into the character’s head and showing how a person enter into that type of life and justify her or his behavior. Definitely a book I’d recommend.

Reviews:

“Readers won’t soon forget smart, sardonic Kristina; her chilling descent into addiction; or the author’s note, which references her own daughter’s struggle with ‘the monster.'” –Gillian Engberg, Booklist Online review excerpt

“Hopkins writes in free-verse poems that paint painfully sharp images of Kristina/Bree and those around her, detailing how powerful the “monster” can be. The poems are masterpieces of word, shape, and pacing, compelling readers on to the next chapter in Kristina’s spiraling world. This is a topical page-turner and a stunning portrayal of a teen’s loss of direction and realistically uncertain future.” –Sharon Korbeck, School Library Journal review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This book is full of unique poems about Kristina’s experiences written simply and in her voice. It shows readers that poems are not abstract things that have to stick to a formula or rhyme scheme, but that poems can be personal, real, and informal. Based on this young adults could write a poem based on their own life experience.





Module 8: The Dollhouse Murders

6 08 2010

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Summary: When Amy goes to live with her Aunt Clare for a couple weeks she is entranced by the dollhouse she finds in the attic that is an exact replica of her Aunt’s house. However, her feelings soon turn to fear as she discovers that the dolls in the dollhouse come to life and reenact an unsolved murder that happened in that same house years ago. Is there an evil spirit haunting the dollhouse or is someone trying to tell the truth of the murder from beyond the grave?

Citation: Wright, Betty Ren. (1983) The Dollhouse Murders. New York: Holiday House.

My Impressions: At first I was thoroughly creeped out by this book. In my opinion nothing is more frightening than the unknown and with an unsolved murder and dolls mysteriously moving around acting out the murder I couldn’t help but be a little scared. However, the book is far from action-packed and the initial fright quickly dissipated as Amy deals with the much more mundane matters of her life. Maybe it was because I read this book on the heels of the action-packed, fast-paced 39 Clues: Maze of Bones, but overall this book failed to truly impress me.

Reviews:

“[T]aut, suspenseful novel…A subplot about Amy’s relationships with her parents, younger sister and best friend adds depth and warmth to this crisply paced tale.” —Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: What the dolls do when they come to life is a vital part to Amy solving the mystery. Using the book’s descriptions children could act out what they think the dolls did.





Module 8: 39 Clues (Maze of Bones, Book 1)

31 07 2010

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Summary: When Dan and Amy Cahill’s Aunt Grace dies, it sets off an international scavenger hunt which will lead members of the Cahill family to “a secret which…will make you the most powerful, influential human beings on the planet.” Pitted against their less than honest family members, and against the wishes of their Aunt Beatrice who is their guardian, Dan and Amy take their au pair and travel across the world in their search to discover the first of the 39 clues that will lead them to their goal.

Citation: Riordan, Rick. (2008) The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones. New York: Scholastic

My Impressions: I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while due to its popularity, and I’m glad I finally had an opportunity to. The book was very entertaining with a fast-paced plot, intelligent, yet realistic main characters you like from the start, and mystery and danger at every turn. This is the type of mystery/adventure that can appeal to all ages who like the genre, in fact with a few changes this could be an adult mystery. The other great thing about this series is how interactive it is with cards for children to collect and an online game they can play to solve the 39 clues themselves.

Reviews:

The book dazzles with suspense, plot twists, and snappy humor, but the real treasure may very well be the historical tidbits buried in the story.” —School Library Journal review excerpt

“Built around a ripe conceit—wealthy matriarch scatters cryptic clues to a mysterious fortune around the globe—this first installment in a projected 10-book series is tons of fun. Lead-off hitter Riordan (The Lightning Thief) mixes just the right proportions of suspense, peril and puzzles in a fast-paced read.”–Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a good book to get children interested in researching their family tree. Just like Amy and Dan discover their famous ancestors through their search to solve the clues, kids might be surprised to discover who some of their ancestors are.





Module 7: Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii

20 07 2010

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Summary: This book chronicles the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 and the destruction of the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The author provides a timeline of the eruption as well as the excavation process of the sites and describes both in an easy to understand manner. This book also includes a number of photographs of the excavation process and the remains as they are today.

Citation: Deem, J. M. (2005) Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

My Impressions: I enjoyed this book. It was full of great factual information that is easy for a middle schooler or above to understand and increase their knowledge. I visited Pompeii when I was in 8th grade and I recognize some of the photographs in the books as ruins and skeletons I saw. I particularly enjoyed the section in this book in which the author highlights the discoveries at five different sites and the remains that were found there. This section makes the book more personal, the reader is able to get a little bit into the lives and houses of the people the explosion affected.

Reviews:

“Deem explains how scientists have used these molds and other evidence to piece together the life styles and final moments of some of the victims, and conveys these heart-wrenching tales. Dramatic photographs of the casts capture the horror of this event and help readers to envision day-to-day life in this civilization. With incredibly engrossing images and narrative, this is a powerful and poignant piece of nonfiction.” –Jodi Kearns, School Library Journal review excerpt

“The excavations and body preservation techniques are explained in detail; everyday life in the city and the later tourist activity centered in Pompeii are also highlighted. But the jewels here are the numerous black-and-white (and some color) photographs, especially those featuring the plaster casts and skeletons of people in their death throes. The horizontal format, with pages looking as though they were partially bordered in marble, makes an attractive setting for the art. Excellent for browsers as well as researchers.” –Ilene Cooper, Booklist review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a great book to go along with a book talk on ancient civilizations or natural disasters.





Module 6: Fever, 1793

13 07 2010

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Summary: Mattie Cook is a fourteen-year-old growing up in nation’s capitol of Philadelphia, Pa., at the end of the eighteenth century. She works with her mother, grandfather, and their cook Eliza at their coffeshop and wants nothing more than to stop being treated like a child. However, disaster strikes the Cook family and all of Philadelphia when yellow fever breaks out, creating the one of the worst epidemics in U.S. history. Mattie must fight for her own survival and that of her family’s as they wait the frost to come and the fever to break.

Citation: Anderson, Laurie Halse. (2000) Fever, 1793. New York: Simon & Schuster.

My Impressions: I’ve read and enjoyed Halse’s book Speak an was eager to see how she would transition to historical fiction. I am happy to say she did it well and with ease. Not only does Mattie’s character and her surroundings seem historically accurate, Mattie’s character and voice are crafted so that a teenage girl today could relate to her. When I first began this book I wondered how Anderson could take an outbreak of disease and make it seem interesting for 243 pages, but I had no trouble staying interested in the book.

Reviews:

“Anderson tells a good story and certainly proves you can learn a lot about history in good fiction. An appended section gives more background.” –Stephanie Zvirin, Booklist Online review

“Extremely well researched, Anderson’s novel paints a vivid picture of the seedy waterfront, the devastation the disease wreaks on a once thriving city, and the bitterness of neighbor toward neighbor as those suspected of infection are physically cast aside. However, these larger scale views take precedence over the kind of intimate scenes that Anderson crafted so masterfully in Speak. Scenes of historical significance, such as George Washington returning to Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital, to signify the end of the epidemic are delivered with more impact than scenes of great personal significance to Mattie.” —Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestions: A great use of this book would be to compare Mattie’s life in 1793 to a fourteen-year-old today. Are different things expected from Maggie as a woman or a young woman than today? How did doctors and other people deal with sickness and disease?





Module 5: Ender’s Game

12 07 2010

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Summary: At some point in Earth’s future aliens that resemble giant bugs, a.k.a. Buggers, have attacked Earth twice and Earth is in fear of a third attack to finish humans off. Though he is only six military commanders believe that  Ender Wiggins is the answer to Earth’s survival and the destruction of the Buggers. For five years he is trained and tested to see if he has what it takes to command the fleets of starships. Ender must prove that he has what it takes to survive his constant hardships and save the earth.

Citation: Card, Orson Scott. (1991) Ender’s Game. New York: Tor.

My Impressions: I had no trouble breezing through this book, but I might have breezed a little too quickly because I definitely missed some key points in the scientific explanations. Despite that I was able to understand the book. Although I enjoy and read quite a bit of fantasy, I don’t often read science fiction so I don’t have a lot to compare Ender’s Game with, but I thought the book was interesting and different. At the same time it was a little unnerving to see how Ender’s freedom and childhood is stripped from him and how he is a pawn, albeit an important pawn, but a pawn nonetheless. While the book was definitely good, I was a little depressed by the end because I didn’t feel like Ender ever truly found happiness. However, I know that Ender’s Game is the beginning of a series so perhaps in one of the later books he truly finds happiness.

Reviews:

“Card has taken the venerable conceits of a superman and an interstellar war against aliens, and, with superb characterization, pacing, and language, has combined them into a seamless story of compelling power.” –Roland Green, Booklist Online review

“Now, in this novel, Card fulfills his early promise…and more.”–Ben Bova

Library Use Suggestion: In the book Colonel Graff suggests that the perpetuation of the war between the buggers and humans is because there is no way for the two species to communicate. This could open a conversation about communication barriers and how to breach them. How deaf people communicate with people who don’t know sign language and how people who speak different languages communicate could be discussed.