Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Lightning Thief


Riordan, R. (2005). The Lightning Thief. New York, NY: Hyperion Books.

Plot Summary:
Percy has spent most of his twelve years bouncing around from school to school struggling with his ADHD and dyslexia. It is at his final school that Percy is attacked by one teacher Ms. Dodds and aided by another teacher, Mr. Brunner. Ms. Dodds disappears and is mysteriously forgotten and not mentioned. After the school year Percy returns to his mom's apartment with her awful husband Smelly Gabe. He and his mom set off on a trip to the seashore, but their visit is cut short with the appearance of Percy's schoolmate, Grover, who alerts them that they are in danger and beckons them to leave with him. As they head towards safety, the three are pursued by a Minotaur who kills Percy's mother and injures he and Grover. Percy awakens at Camp Half-Blood where he learns that he is a demi-god and his teacher Mr. Brunner is really Chiron and his friend Grover is a satyr. At the camp Percy meets other demi-gods, is informed of the existence of Zeus and other gods and goddesses, he trains for battle, and is claimed by Poseidon as his son. Percy soon learns that there is great unrest among the gods as Zeus' master bolt has been stolen and blames Percy, son of Poseidon, but Chiron believes it was Hades who stole the bolt. Therefore Percy is sent on a quest to retrieve the master bolt before the summer solstice and prevent a battle between the gods. Percy sets out on his quest with the help of Grover and fellow demi-god, Annabeth, daughter of Athena. On their quest to the underworld the group encounters and outwits Medusa, the Furies, and Ares before locating the master bolt and discovering the unexpected culprit and learning that his mother might not have been killed after all.

Review:
I could see myself getting easily hooked on this series. I love mythology and loved reading the descriptions of the modern day appearances of the gods and monsters. Rick Riordan includes a lot of humor in the book through his depiction of the gods, such as Medusa owning "Auntie Em's Garden Gnome Emporium" or Ares and Aphrodite rendezvousing on an abandoned Tunnel of Love amusement park ride. The plot of the book is similar to the Harry Potter and Earthsea series, where a boy finds out he is not normal, receives some schooling on the matter, and then sets off to right what has been wronged. But, although this plot has been written many times, the characters are different and the quest is new and exciting to follow.

Genre:
fantasy, adventure, mystery

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
mythology, good versus evil, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, dyslexia, self-identity

Series Information:
This is the first book of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.

Character Names/Descriptions:
Perseus Jackson (Percy): 12 year-old boy; discovers he is the son of Poseidon; has ADHD and dyslexia - common attributes of demi-gods; must go on a quest to find the master bolt and return it to Zeus
Sally Jackson: Percy's mom; appears to have been killed, but turns out was not
Chiron, Mr. Brunner: Percy's teacher in a motorized scooter at his last school; Chiron, the centaur in his actual appearance; helps run Camp Half-Blood; guides Percy on his quest
Grover Underwood: a satyr who was disguised as a schoolmate to protect Percy; goes with Percy on his quest
Annabeth Chase: demi-god daughter of Athena; assists Percy on his quest
Luke: demi-god son of Hermes; counselor at Camp Half-Blood; chooses to serve Kronos and turn his back on his father
Gabe Ugliano (Smelly Gabe): Percy's stepfather; is mean to Percy and his mother; he smells really bad
Ares: god of war; turns out to be serving Kronos
Poseidon: father of Percy; accused by Zeus to have stolen his master bolt
Zeus: had his master bolt stolen; accuses Percy to have stolen it for Poseidon
Hades: is thought to have stolen the master bolt from Zeus; captured Sally Jackson
Kronos: father of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades; got Luke to steal the master bolt

Annotation:
After discovering he is the son of Poseidon, Percy goes on a quest to retrieve Zeus' stolen master bolt from Hades to prevent a battle among the gods.

Frindle


Clements, A. (1996). Frindle. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Plot Summary:
Nick is a very smart 5th grader, extremely skilled at delay tactics used towards his teachers when they are just about to hand out homework. His classmates encourage and expect this from Nick until he is put into Mrs. Granger's class. Mrs. Granger is the fifth grade language arts teacher and was keen to Nick's classroom antics. After being outsmarted by his teacher, Nick decides to fight back by using Mrs. Granger's explanation of who creates words against her, creating his own word. From that moment on, Nick and his classmates begin a campaign to use the word "frindle" for pen. Furious, Mrs. Granger wages war on any student heard using frindle, keeping them after school each day. The chaos attracts the attention of the local news and before long, Nick appears on the CBS evening news and Late Night with David Letterman telling his story, and further spreading his new word. A businessman in Nick's town begins making pens with the word frindle printed on them. But as the popularity of his word spreads and Nick becomes older, was his experiment actually Mrs. Granger's intended lesson all along?

Review:
This is a thought provoking little book. The relationship between Nick and Mrs. Granger and the lessons they both learn through Nick's word experiment was a wonderful student/teacher exchange. The smart and creative Nick challenging his teacher's beliefs is a great lesson for students and teachers alike, to let our beliefs be challenged and learn from these exchanges. Tweens will identify with the smart and funny protagonist and find humor in the students rising against their school. Teachers will love this book because of the lesson in it.

Genre:
fiction, humor

Age Level:
Ages 8 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
teacher-student relationships, etymology

Awards:
1997 Christopher Award
Rhode Island Children's Book Award 1998

Character Names/Descriptions:
Nick Allen: fifth grader; smart and witty; likes to mess with his teachers; creates a new word as a way to frustrate his teacher, having no idea how far his idea will go
Mrs. Granger: Nick's fifth grade language arts teacher; is at first bothered by Nick's experiment, but begins to realize the importance of Nick's experiment

Annotation:
What begins as a way to frustrate his teacher, Nick's creation of a new word spreads beyond what he could have imagined.

Schooled


Korman, G. (2007). Schooled. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

Plot Summary:
Capricorn Jackson was born and raised on a commune called Garland Farm. He remembers other people living there when he was younger, but for the last few years, it was only he and Rain, his grandma and homeschooling teacher. When Rain falls out of a tree and breaks her hip, Capricorn is placed with child services while she heads to physical therapy for a few months. His case worker happens to have also lived on Garland Farms and decides to take Cap home to live with she and her teenage daughter. Cap starts going to school at Claverage School, or C Average School as the kids like to call it. It is customary for the eighth grade class to vote the least popular student in as the class president each year. As soon as Cap shoes up with his waist length hair, tie dyed clothing, and homemade sandals, it was clear who this year’s president is going to be. The popular kids used Cap’s lack of knowledge about life outside of the commune to their advantage. They made life as difficult for him as they could. But, when Cap saves the bus driver having a heart attack to the hospital, getting himself arrested in the process, the kids in the school begin to have a whole new outlook on him. All of a sudden more and more kids are interested in doing tai chi and tie dye with Cap. As his popularity grows and Cap's lack of knowledge of the real world gets himself in some financial trouble, his grandmother gets better and takes him back to Garland Farms. But, now that Cap has had a taste of friendships and reality television, will he be content with his quiet secluded life with Rain?

Review:
This book was recommended to me as a book tween boys would be interested in reading. It was a funny book, with an original concept. The innocence and naivety of Cap as he navigates this new world he has been kept from is what makes this book funny. I enjoyed the sweet touch of Cap learning all eleven hundred of his classmates' names. Without trying, and by simply being himself, Cap captured the attention and respect of his classmates. I liked that the chapters were each narrated by different characters in the book and from their own point of view, but at times I would have to flip back to see who was narrating that particular chapter because I would forget whose perspective was being shared.

Genre:
realistic fiction, humor

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
bullies, popularity, homeschooling

Character Names/Descriptions:
Capricorn Anderson (Cap): 13 year-old boy; grew up on a hippie commune, Garland Farm, with his grandmother; moves in with Mrs. Donnelly and her daughter; becomes eighth grade president of Claverage School
Rachel Esther Rosenblatt (Rain): Cap's grandmother; breaks her hip and is unable to take care of Cap for a few months; head of hippie commune
Floramundi Donnelly: Cap's caseworker; grew up on Garland Farm; divorced; has 16 year-old daughter; takes in Cap
Sophie Donnelly: pretty, popular girl; Cap lives with her and her mother while his Rain is recovering; thinks Cap is a freak and is mean to him at first; Cap is attracted to Sophie
Zach Powers: eighth grade captain of various sports teams; popular kid; bullies Cap by making him eighth grade president
Hugh Winkleman: Cap took his place as least popular student at Claverage School; was Cap's first friend
Naomi Erlanger: popular girl at Cap's school; at first likes Zach and helps him bully Cap; eventually falls for Cap

Annotation:
Having grown up on a commune, secluded from everything outside of his simple life shared with his grandmother, Capricorn Anderson is suddenly forced to attend a regular middle school. His lack of knowledge about the real world makes Cap an easy target for bullies, but his kindness eventually wins over the school.

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography


Jacobson, S. & Colon, E. (2010). Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Summary:
Beginning with the meeting of Anne's parents in the 1920s, this graphic novel spans the life of Anne Frank and her family far before they were in their secret annex and long after she was killed. It tells of the Frank family's comfortable beginnings in Germany and all they had to sacrifice in order to avoid detection by the Nazis. They first moved to the Netherlands, but when the Nazis invaded, the Franks were forced to follow new ordinances, Anne's father, Otto, had to transfer ownership of his company to his employees and Anne was forced to attend a Jewish school. Otto and his wife Edith had already been planning for the Frank family to go into hiding in an annex located in his company's building, but when Margot, Anne's older sister, received a call-up to report to the SS, their family moved up their plans. Another family was invited to live in the secret annex along with the Franks, they were the Van Pelses and had a son named Peter. Later the families invited one more friend into the annex, Fritz Pfeffer. The families were aided by Otto's employees, Miep Gies, Jan Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, and Bep Voskuijl in bringing them food and keeping them hidden. Life in the annex was hard, Anne had a difficult time being civil with her mother and her roommate, Mr. Pfeffer. Her writings during this time were incredibly introspective and wise beyond her years. In 1944, two years after the family had moved into the annex, the family was discovered and taken to Westerbork, a transit camp for Jews, from there they were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and finally Anne and Margot were taken to Bergen-Belsen, where they both died of typhus, which they had contracted through the horrible conditions in which they were forced to live. In 1945 Otto was freed from Auschwitz by the Russians and was devastated to hear the news that his family had not made it. The biography closes with Otto being given Anne's diary and him publishing it so that Anne's dream of being a writer could be realized and so the horrors of what the Frank family and other Jews were forced to endure would be published.

Review:
This is an incredible graphic novel, I have recommended this book to everyone I know. The authors took Anne Frank's incredible diary and provided a wonderful back story into the Frank family and Anne herself and provided the story of what Anne and her family endured beyond their secret annex. In addition, the authors provide "snapshots" of what was going on with the Nazis and the rest of the world alongside with what the Frank family was doing at that time. It helped to provide a clearer picture of the conditions the family was forced to live through before entering the annex. This book provides more of Anne's thoughts, which were withheld by her father in her published diary. Anne was a teenager and was having a rough time with getting along with her mother, the book details a lot of this and her deep insights on war and what their friends were going through outside of the annex. The illustrations are wonderful, and yet frightening at times because of the horrors of the concentration camps. Many of the drawings were taken directly from photographs, which are shown at the end of the book.

Genre:
nonfiction, biography, graphic novel

Reading Level:
Ages 10 and up

Subjects/Themes:
the Holocaust, World War II

Names/Descriptions:
Anne Frank: received a diary on her 13th birthday; moved into the secret annex soon after and documented all the details of her family's life there and her feelings and insights about the war; died at Bergen-Belsen from typhus
Otto Frank: Anne's father; survived the Holocaust; published Anne's diary
Edith Frank: Anne's mother; died in concentration camp
Margot Frank: Anne's older sister; died of typhus with Anne at Bergen-Belsen
The Van Pelses: Husband, wife, and teenage son, Peter who lived with the Frank's in the annex; Anne's first kiss was with Peter in the annex
Fritz Pfeffer: dentist; shared a room with Anne in the annex
Miep Gies, Jan Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, and Bep Voskuijl: employees of Otto Frank's; aided the Frank family in remaining hidden in the secret annex

Annotation:
Through her diary, Anne Frank documented with incredible detail the secret life her family was forced to live in order to stay together and safe from the Nazis. This graphic novel tells of the Frank family's life before, during, and after their two years spent in their secret annex.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shooting the Moon



Dowell, F.O. (2008). Shooting the Moon. New York, NY: Athenium Books for Young Readers.

Plot Summary:
The Army is in Jamie Dexter's blood. Her dad is the Colonel of Fort Hood in Texas and her grandfather was in the Army before him. She has lived her whole life being a part of the Army, traveling around the country to base after base. When Jamie's brother TJ signs up for the Army, she is thrilled, her brother will finally be able to live out their childhood dreams of enlisting. But when Jamie's dad isn't happy about TJ enlisting, it puts a chink in everything Jamie has ever believed about her father and the Army. Her brother is sent to the Vietnam war, excitedly anticipating hearing his tales of war, Jamie is disappointed when the only things TJ sends her are undeveloped canisters of film. As Jamie develops her brothers photos and befriends a private whose brother died in the Vietnam War, the realities of war confront Jamie and she finds herself questioning everything she had been raised to believe.

Review:
This is an wonderful novel of a girl's love for her father and family values, and how getting older and being exposed to the realities of life can begin to shatter everything you've grown up to believe. As a Navy brat, growing up in Navy housing, this book struck a particular note with me. It is an odd thing to be raised almost exclusively around those in support of the military, and then come to an age when you realize that not everyone feels this way about the military, which begins your own questioning of your beliefs. I loved Jamie's gradual realization that her father has imperfections and weaknesses, this is something many girls go through in their tweens, and it was described nicely within this story. It was interesting to see Jamie's ideals questioned as the horrors of war are discovered in her brother's photos.

Genre:
realistic fiction, historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
family, Vietnam War, self-identity, loss

Awards:
2010 Rhode Island Children's Book Award

Character Names/Descriptions:
Jamie Dexter: 12 year-old girl; lives in Fort Hood, Texas; dad is the colonel of the base; brother just sent to Vietnam; volunteers at rec center; plays gin rummy; learns to develop her brother's photographs of Vietnam
T.J. Dexter: Jamie's brother; enlists in the Army as a medic; sent to Vietnam; takes photographs to send to Jamie, especially of the moon; becomes a POW
Private Bucky Hollister: runs the rec center where Jamie volunteers; plays gin rummy with Jamie; his brother died in Vietnam
The Colonel: Jamie's dad; Colonel of Fort Hood; tries to prevent T.J. from going to Vietnam
Sergeant Theophilus James Byrd: teaches Jamie how to develop film; has already been to Vietnam, which greatly affected him

Annotation:
As Jamie's brother is sent off to Vietnam, the behavior of her Colonel father as well as the friendship with a private whose brother died in the war begins Jamie questioning her long time idealism of war.

What a Beast!: A Look-It-Up Guide to the Monsters and Mutants of Mythology




Kelly, S. (2010). What a Beast!: A Look-It-Up Guide to the Monsters and Mutants of Mythology. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Summary:
This is an encyclopedia of the monsters and mutants of mythology. Each section on a particular monster is set up as a social networking site page, with their profile, 10 things to know about them, and their "family, flings, friends, and foes." Each entry is humorous, but informative, for example, one of the 10 things listed about the Harpies is, "Did we mention our stench? We did? Well, it's worth mentioning twice!" The book also relates each entry to things today in the section "Reality Checks," such as an image of a Siren as the Starbucks logo. Each entry also provides the Greek story surrounding each monster or mutant, such as how they were born, myths in which they are featured in, and how they died (if applicable). The end of the book contains a family tree, which is extremely helpful in keeping track of all of the gods and goddesses and their offspring.

Review:
The format of this book is great; the social networking concept is entertaining and will appeal to tween readers. It's been awhile since my college Greek mythology class and I am currently reading The Lightening Thief, so this was a great refresher for some of characters in that book. I enjoyed the many different components of each entry, the history, the humor, and the relevance of mythology to us today. As I progressed through each entry it was very difficult to keep track of all of the gods and goddesses and I kept thinking that a family tree would have been helpful. Once I finished I realized there was one, but at the end of the book. Overall this is an awesome book, I look forward to reading more in the series.

Genre:
nonfiction, encyclopedia

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
mythology

Series:
This book is part of the Mythopedia series. Other titles in the series are:
She's All That: A Look-It-Up Guide to the Goddesses of Mythology
All in the Family: A Look-It-Up Guide to the In-Laws, Outlaws, and Offspring of Mythology
Oh My Gods!: A Look-It-Up Guide to the Gods of Mythology

Annotation:
An encyclopedia full of the origins, history, and relevance of the mutants and monsters of Greek mythology.

Al Capone Does My Shirts



Choldenko, G. (2004). Al Capone Does My Shirts. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Plot Summary:
Moose and his family move to Alcatraz Island for his dad's new job as a guard and electrician at the prison. The island has apartments for guards and their families so that they can be close by in case anything happens with the prisoners. Moose's family moves him away from his friends and home to Alcatraz so that his parents can send his older sister, Natalie, to a special school, the Esther P. Marinoff School in San Francisco. Natalie is autistic, although that was not a known diagnosis in 1935, the year in which the book begins. Moose befriends the other kids on the island and becomes notorious at his school in San Francisco for living among the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. Natalie does not immediately get into the school and requires special care to prepare her for another shot at acceptance into the school. These lessons are expensive and Moose's mom must work evenings, leaving Natalie in the care of Moose. Moose's outlook on his experiences on the island and his feelings towards his sister begin to change, prompting him to take a big chance in getting Al Capone to pull some strings to make a good thing to happen.

Review:
The setting for this book is incredible. I had no idea that families ever lived on Alcatraz Island. The author does an incredible job of not letting the book get lost in the setting, it's more about Moose and his conflicted self as he navigates new experiences in his new surroundings. I would get so frustrated reading about the responsibilities loaded onto Moose in taking care of his sister. After finishing the book, the author's note states that the author's sister was autistic, which makes sense due to the incredible job she did in capturing the emotions associated with having a sibling with autism. Moose is realistically conflicted about most things in his life, where he lives, his friends, and his feelings towards girls; which is very common to boys this age. The author adds another layer to this with his relationship with his sister and loving her, but also being resentful for the responsibilities placed on him. I especially enjoyed the author's note at the end providing historical accounts of life for families and prisoners on Alcatraz Island. I found myself wondering at the probability of many things throughout the book, so the first hand accounts were very welcome at the end.

Genre:
realistic fiction, historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
siblings, autism, Alcatraz

Series Information:
Al Capone Shines My Shoes is the sequel to this book.

Awards:
2005 Newbery Honor Book

Character Names/Descriptions:
Matthew Flanagan (Moose): 12 year-old boy just moved to Alcatraz Island; sister Natalie is autistic, he takes care of her a lot; likes baseball
Natalie Flanagan: Moose's sister; is 15 years-old, but their mom tells everyone she is 10; is trying to get into the Esther P. Marinoff school; loves counting the buttons in her button box; becomes friendly with an inmate on garden detail (Onion 105)
Al Capone: notorious gangster imprisoned on the island; helps Moose out with a special favor
Theresa Mattaman: girl living on the island; 7 years-old; gets along well with Natalie
Piper Williams: warden's daughter; smart; always scheming; goes to Moose's school in San Francisco
Annie: girl living on the island; 12 years-old; good at playing catch
Jimmy Mattaman: Theresa's brother; builds contraptions

Annotation:
Moose and his family move to Alcatraz Island in 1935. Once there he must adapt to his new life and adjust to the increased responsibility of his autistic sister.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Skateboarding in Action




Crossingham, J. (2002). Skateboarding in Action. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company.

Summary:
This book begins with a brief history and different styles of skateboarding, such as streetstyle or vertical skating. The basic information on getting started is provided, with diagrams and explanations of the various parts of a skateboard and the safety equipment one should wear while skating. The book then tells how get started skating; how to push off, glide, and turn. As the reader progresses through the book, the instructions become more complex involving tricks, such as the ollie. Once the basics of streetstyle skating are discussed, the book delves into skateparks and skating on flat bars and ramps. There are photos and drawings of many different grab tricks, accomplished by getting air on the ramp and grabbing the board while the skater is in the air. The book finishes with a glossary of terms.

Review:
I don't know much about skating, but the way the book is organized works well for learning a new skill. The book begins with the basics and the skills build on each other with each new page. The photographs are nice, they seem current, not outdated. Some of the drawings are a little silly and could make the book seem a little uncool. There are new terms on each page and great explanations of each. What I thought especially great about the book is that even though beginning skaters interested in this book will not be able to do most of the tricks described, it will teach them how to identify them when watching skating at a skatepark or at the X Games.

Genre:
nonfiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
skateboarding, sports

Annotation:
Learn the basics of skateboarding as well as cool tricks you can one day hope to accomplish.

Bone: Rose




Smith, J. (2009). Bone: Rose. New York, NY: Graphix.

Plot Summary:
The story begins with sisters Rose and Briar hearing the tale of the first dragon, a queen named Mim. Mim maintained balance of the world until the Lord of the Locusts entered her mind and made her crazy. She fought against the other dragons until they trapped her underground with the Lord of the Locusts still inside her. Briar and Rose are princesses and will someday be called to rule the land, they must develop their dreaming eye in anticipation of that day. They are taken to Old Man's Cave to finish the last of their training and prepare for their final test. Rose's dreaming eye is more developed than her older sister's and she is able to communicate with her dogs; Briar is secretly jealous of Rose. Once at the Old Man's Cave news comes that the dragon has been released from the mountain and the Lord of the Locusts along with it. Worrying that she released the dragon through her dreams, Rose tries to kill the dragon before it destroys the world. Rose soon realizes that it was Briar, through her jealousy and greed, who freed the dragon. Rose eventually is able to defeat the dragon, but must follow the wise words of the Great Red Dragon and kill the first living creature she sees after completing this task. Next to her is her betraying sister and her beloved dog, Rose must make the choice of whom to kill.

Review:
I didn't know that this was the prequel to the Bone series when I checked it out. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had already read some of the Bone books because I would have had more insight into the story. That aside, it's a great story of jealousy, betrayal, and love between siblings. Rose is a heroic young girl, gifted in the talents that will one day make her a great queen, and full of love for her sister and all other living beings. The illustrations are great, they are done in a more comic book style than most of the graphic novels I've been reading lately. The images of the river dragon are especially beautiful. I look forward to now reading the Bone series and finding what comes of Rose. It was also awesome to find out that Jeff Smith used inspiration from the caves in Hocking County where my family is from in Ohio; in this book are "Old Man's Cave" and "Conkles Hollow."

Genre:
graphic novel, fantasy

Reading Level:
Ages 9 -12

Subjects/Themes:
siblings, good versus evil

Series Information:
This is the prequel to the Bone graphic novel series.

Character Names/Descriptions:
Rose Harvestar: princess; younger sister to Briar; has a good dreaming eye; can talk to dogs
Briar Harvestar: princess; older sister to Rose; is not as gifted as Rose; is jealous of her sister; frees the Lord of the Locusts
The Great Red Dragon: advises Rose on what she must do; good dragon
Mim: first dragon; queen; is driven mad by being possessed by the Lord of the Locusts
The Lord of the Locusts: evil force that possesses Mim and forces her to disrupt the balance of the world

Annotation:
The forces of evil have been unleashed on the land, in her effort to defeat this evil force Rose discovers that those closest to her are not who they seem.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Smile




Telgemeier, R. (2010). Smile. New York, NY: Graphix.

Plot Summary:

Due to her overbite, Raina was told by her orthodontist she’s going to have to get braces. The very same night Raina was racing some friends in the street and falls, busting her two front teeth. She was immediately rushed to the dentist who attempted to replace her teeth and build a cast around them to keep them in place. After a week the cast was removed and (oh no!) the jawbone had sustained more damage than her dentist thought and her two front teeth were higher up in her gums than the rest of her teeth. She looked like a vampire! These teeth had to go. Raina was given a temporary retainer with two fake teeth attached to fill the large gap left by her missing teeth. Then, the dentist decided to put braces on Reina, as planned, but try to bring all of her teeth closer together, thereby replacing her missing teeth with the teeth she already had. This was a lengthy and painful process filled with fake front teeth that were continuously shaved down as Raina’s teeth moved closer together through the constant tightening of her braces. After years of this, the gap between Raina’s teeth finally closed and her existing teeth were reshaped to look normal. Throughout this entire ordeal, Raina finished elementary school, middle school, and entered into high school; she also grew apart from her friends and found new ones who were much more accepting and fun to be with.

Review:

A graphic novel was the perfect format for Raina Telgemeier to tell the story of the long horrible process of fixing her front teeth. The illustrations provided funny and truthful portrayals of the discomfort and pain associated with dentist and orthodontist visits. The subject matter would have not been as entertaining or easy to read about without the illustrations. Not only did the author succeed in telling us about her horrific ordeal with dentists, orthodontists, endodentists, and peridontists, she also was able to show the changes that she was going through in addition to her teeth; those of her friendships and school life. Reina made a transition common to many children who move from elementary to middle school, she realized she had less in common with her friends than she had when they were younger, so she parted ways and found some new ones. This is a transition I went through at that time, as I’m sure many have. It’s nice that this graphic novel shows that this is just something that happens and can turn out to be a really good thing.

Genre:
graphic novel, nonfiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9-12

Subjects/Themes:
dental care, self-identity, friendships

Awards:
2010 Boston Glob-Horn Book Award Honor
2010 New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

Character Names/Descriptions:
Raina Telgemeier: begins her story in the sixth grade and finishes as a sophomore in high school; sustains a serious mouth injury which causes her to spend many years trying to get her front teeth fixed

Annotation:
After knocking out her two front teeth, Raina spends her tween years filled with visits to dentists, orthodontists, endodentists, and peridontists. Throughout these years, Raina learns about life, friendships, and most of all herself.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.




Blume, J. (1970). Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Margaret just moved with her parents from her apartment in New York City, her friends and grandmother, to the suburbs of New Jersey. She immediately becomes friends with Nancy, a neighbor her age, who fills Margaret in school gossip and informs her on what is and is not cool at their school. Once the school year begins, Margaret meets the rest of Nancy's crew and becomes a part of their secret club. As part of this club Margaret must wear a bra, which, much to her chagrin, is not something she yet requires. As the school year passes Margaret keeps in touch with her grandmother, who still lives in New York City, continues to hang out with her friends, and begins to explore different religions as part of a year long project for her class. Margaret's father was raised Jewish and her mom, Christian. After her paternal grandmother became upset her son was marrying someone not Jewish and her materal grandparents decided to have nothing to do with their daughter for marrying a Jew, Margaret’s parents decided to raise her without religion. Margaret has always kept the fact that she talks to God a secret from her parents and they get upset when she tells them she has begun exploring different religions, stating she is too young for such a big decision. Margaret navigates through her sixth grade year learning about boys, dealing with her feuding family and lying friends, and anticipating changes in her body that are reluctant to come.

Review:
This is a great book for tweenaged girls. I read it at as a tween and remember it making me feel so NORMAL, which was something I didn't often feel at that age. Margaret is dealing with friends who are more developed than her, friends with insecurities, and her own questions about what she wants and who she is. That is every girl in their tween years. Because this book is especially important for girls about to get their period, I think it’s excellent they revised it to include maxipads with adhesive. I remember loving the book until I read about having to get a belt when I get my period. I had NO idea what Ms. Blume was talking about. I worried about it for a couple of days and then finally asked my mom, who explained that’s how pads used to be. For nostalgic reasons, I was really looking forward to that part, but I am glad they updated it to avoid panic in tween girls the world over.

Genre:
realistic fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
self-identity, moving, religion, periods, friendships

Character Names/Descriptions:
Margaret Ann Simon: narrates the book; just moved from New York to New Jersey; is in the sixth grade; struggling with her religious beliefs; wants to be normal and get her period
Nancy Wheeler: Margaret's first friend in New Jersey; introduces her to Janie and Gretchen; heads up their secret club; lies to Margaret about a few things
Janie Loomis and Gretchen Potter: friends of Nancy's who become Margaret's friends; together the four girls form the Four PTS's (The Pre-Teen Sensations)
Laura Danker: girl in Margaret's class who is very developed; Nancy has told Margaret lies about Laura
Grandmother (Sylvia): Margaret's paternal grandmother' lives in New York; is Jewish and would like Margaret to also be Jewish; loves Margaret very much, but doesn't get along with Margaret's parents very well
Moose Freed: fourteen year-old friend of Nancy's brother; mows Margaret's lawn; Margaret has a crush on him

Annotation:
Margaret navigates through her sixth grade year learning about boys, religion, dealing with her feuding family and lying friends, and anticipating changes in her body that are reluctant to come.

Book Trailer #1: Chasing Lincoln's Killer

video

Sunday, March 6, 2011

And Then What Happened Paul Revere?




Fritz, J. (1973). And Then What Happened Paul Revere? New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Summary:
Most people are aware of Paul Revere's famous ride to announce the arrival of the British troops to the colonies during the Revolutionary War. But, do they also know that he took part in the Boston Tea Party or that he made false teeth? This book tells about Revere's historic ride and discusses other aspects of his life as well, including his family, military life, and the many different occupations he held. It seems that Paul Revere did not like to be idle, he kept several jobs, many at the same time. His role with the Sons of Liberty in the Boston Tea Party and his ride to spread news of the event to Philadelphia and New York won him the respect of the Patriots, who made him an express rider and secret agent. The book also provides little known facts as told by his great-grandchildren of his famous ride and details events that took place after his death.

Review:
This is a quick little biography. It is written like a fictional account, helping to keep young readers interested in Paul Revere's eventful life. The author adds in funny little anecdotes about Revere's life, such as his dog returning to his home to fetch the spurs he had forgotten on the night of his great ride, as later told by his granddaughter. Or that he sold false teeth he had whittled out of hippopotamus tusks. Another great addition to the book is the inclusion of actual quotes taken from Revere's own writings and images of the engravings from his metalworking. The illustrations add a humorous quality to the book through the cartoon drawings of his life. They also help to keep the biography interesting and entertaining for the young reader.

Genre:
biography, history

Reading Level:
Ages 8 - 12

Similar Books:

Subjects/Themes:
Paul Revere, Revolutionary War, American history

Annotation:
Paul Revere is well known for his historic ride to alert the colonies of the invasion of the British troops during the Revolutionary War, but not much else is known about him. This book provides additional information about Revere's life before and after his famous ride.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key


Gantos, J. (1998). Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Plot Summary:
Joey Pigza's mom and dad ran off when he was a baby and left him to be raised by his emotionally abusive grandmother. After cleaning herself up a bit, Joey's mom returns to take care of him. Joey has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). His grandmother didn't believe there was anything medically wrong with him and the medicine he's been taking since his mom arrived isn't working. Joey has good days and bad days and usually can't sit still after lunch. Joey's school has a hard time with him and doesn't have the resources to provide the care he needs. After his repeated outbursts in class that often not only injure himself, but his classmates as well, Joey is ordered to go to a Special Education school. Once at this special school, Joey is taught more about his disorder and given tests and has x-rays taken of his brain. His doctors put him on a new drug that seems to help with his hyperactivity. Joey is able to return to his regular school and realizes that he is a good kid after all, he just has some medical issues that need attended to.

Review:
The author of this book does an incredible job putting the reader in the mind of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This book was really uncomfortable for me to read at times because of the unfortunate circumstances of Joey's family life and his struggle with trying to be good. Joey is extremely likable and the author succeeds in getting the reader to see his internal struggle with wanting to do right, but his mind and body not allowing him. I think that this would be a great book for teachers, parents, and maybe even children with ADD, but I wouldn't have imagined that many children would be interested or really understand Joey's struggle. But, I suppose the author included enough silliness of Joey's character to have wide appeal and I know it is a very well liked book by kids. Joey is a funny guy and says a lot of funny things such as his token response to any question, "can I get back to you on that?"

Genre:
realistic fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, single-parent, alcoholic, emotional abuse

Awards:
ALA Notable Children's Book
California Young Reader Medal
National Book Award Finalist

Series Information:
First book in Joey Pigza series:
Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
Joey Pigza Loses Control
What Would Joey Do?
I am Not Joey Pigza


Character Names/Descriptions:
Joey Pigza: raised by his emotionally abusive grandmother; mother is an alcoholic; has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
grandmother: Joey's paternal grandmother; raises Joey until his mom returns; she is emotionally abusive to Joey, she leaves when Joey's mom returns
mom: Joey's mom; she returns to raise Joey after being gone most of his life; she is an alcoholic; she is finally trying to help Joey and get him the medicine and attention he needs
Mrs. Maxey: Joey's teacher at his regular school; tries to help Joey but is concerned that he is going to hurt himself or other students
Maria Dombrowski: good student in Joey's class; Joey accidentally cuts off the tip of her nose
Ed Vanness (Special Ed): Joey's caseworker at the special education school

Annotation:
Joey tries to be good and sit still like he's asked, but his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder prevents him from doing so. When he's moved to a special school and given more attention from his mom, case worker, and teachers, Joey begins making progress along with a medication that hopefully will help.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Graveyard Book




Gaiman, N. (2008). The Graveyard Book. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Plot Summary:
During the tragic demise of his parents and sister at the hands of a knife-wielding man, a toddler wanders out of his home while the whole ordeal is taking place and up the street to the nearby graveyard. This is very unfortunate for the murderer , whose order was to kill the entire family. The murderer follows the scent of the boy to the graveyard where the baby's mother's spirit appeals to a ghost woman and begs her to take care of her son. The ghosts in the graveyard protect the baby from the murderer and vow to raise him as their own, giving him the Freedom of the Graveyard. The Owens, the ghosts who act as his parents, name the boy Nobody Owens, calling him Bod for short. Bod is raised by ghosts in the graveyard, learning the tricks of the ghosts, and rarely leaving to walk among the living. He learns how to read and write from ghosts who were teachers when they were alive, learns the ways of the dead from a werewolf, and about the fickleness of girls from a witch. Unfortunately, the secret society who ordered Bod's family murdered has not forgotten about the boy and returns to finish the job. It is up to Bod all he has learned to protect himself from these evil men.

Review:
This is such a well crafted story, so rich with imagination. Using the graveyard as an unlikely setting of a boy's upbringing is unique and pleasantly spooky. It is a wonderfully bizarre and unusual coming of age story, not unlike the author's inspiration, The Jungle Book. Gaiman develops his characters well, and provides lovely descriptions of the graveyard. There are many little details that add to the fun of this book, such as the inscriptions of each tombstone being provided after the introduction of each new ghost into the story. I thought that was a very clever touch. I was much more interested in Bod's life in the graveyard and learning about each of the ghosts and what they did in life and what they taught Bod, rather than the plot itself. The plot was great, but I was content with reading all of the little vignettes about Bod's time in the graveyard. The dark and misty quality of the illustrations add to the spookiness of the story.

Genre:
fantasy, horror

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Similar Books:

Awards:
2009 Newbery Medal Award
2009 Hugo Award
2010 Carnegie Medal
Locus Award

Subjects/Themes:
family, friends, loss, death, self-identity

Character Names/Descriptions:
Nobody Owens (Bod): family is killed when he is a baby; raised by the ghosts in the graveyard and given the Freedom of the Graveyard; lives in the graveyard until he is fifteen years-old; a secret society is trying to murder him
Silas: Bod's guardian; he is able to walk among the dead and the living so he can bring food and things from outside the graveyard to Bod; member of the Honour Guard
The Owens: ghost husband and wife who adopt Bod and raise him as their son
Scarlett: young living girl who plays with Bod in the cemetery when she was young and then makes his acquaintance again when they are older; befriends Mr. Frost; introduces Bod to Mr. Frost
Liza Hempstock: witch living in the graveyard; helps Bod with his fading; can leave the graveyard because she is buried just outside of it in unconsecrated ground
Nick Farthing and Maureen Quilling (Mo): living kids in Bod's town; bullies at the school Bod briefly attends; Bod haunts them
Jack Frost: murdered Bod's family; disguises himself as a historian; part of the secret society, the brotherhood of the Jacks of All Trades

Annotation:
A boy is raised by a graveyard after his family is murdered. The graveyard comes together to protect the boy from the evil that is still after him.

The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez


Goldschmidt, J. (2005). The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Plot Summary:
Raisin Rodriguez is not having the best year of her life. She was happily living in Berkeley, CA with her mom and dad and little sister, when her parents decided get a divorce. Then, her mom falls in love and gets married to her business partner. Next thing Raisin knows she's moving all the way to Philadelphia to live with her new stepdad and stepsister. Raisin is miserable in her new town, she misses her two best friends, doesn't like her older stepsister, and only knows one person at school, a freckle-face son of a friend of her stepdad's. In an effort to keep in touch with her best friends Raisin begins a blog where she discusses every single detail of her life in Philadelphia, including the all the tragic details of her trying to become friends with the popular girls of her school. Just when things start looking up for Raisin, her blog gets leaked to the rest of the school, how will she be able to face all of her schoolmates once they know all the awful things she's said about them and embarrassing things she's admitted about herself?

Review:
This book is like the Bridget Jone's Diary for tweens. At times the book can be over the top with silly antics and funny scenarios, and yet Raisin is a girl dealing with real issues, common to girls her age. Raisin's parents just went through a divorce, she had to move across the country to live with a new family and leave behind all of her friends. She is having self-identity issues at the new school, wanting so badly to be popular, but not quite achieving that status. I felt that the narrator's silly and at times annoying antics were too much and covered up a lot of the real issues involved in the plot and she can be a bit of a bully. But, the book's intent was obviously meant to be more entertaining, with a bit of a moral thrown in. In the end it seems Raisin has turned over a new leaf, yet she continues to write negative things about her new friends on her blog.

Genre:
realistic fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 10 - 13

Similar Books:

Subjects/Themes:
diary, divorce, popularity, self-identity, friendship

Character Names/Descriptions:
Raisin Rodriguez: 12 year-old girl; just moved from Berkeley, CA to Philadelphia after her parents divorced and her mother remarried; has only one friend at her new school; longs to be popular; keeps a blog
Claudia and Pia: Raisin's best friends from Berkeley; are the only ones privy to reading her blog; make comments on the blog
Jeremy Craine: son of Raisin's stepdad's friend; only person Raisin knows at school; talks too loud; has freckles; is really nice to Raisin, even if she isn't always nice back; likes Fiona
Fionas and Haileys: group of popular girls named the "Fiona and Haleys" by Raisin consisting of Fiona, Hailey, Madison, and Bliss; all carry a red bag with pink monogrammed initials; do not want Raisin in their clique

Annotation:
Outcast and alone at a new school, Raisin writes a blog in an effort to keep in touch with her best friends now on the other side of the country. But once the blog leaks out to her new school, all the work Raisin has done to gain popularity is in jeopardy of being ruined.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Professional Reading #4

Stout, H. (2010, April 30). Antisocial Networking? The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/fashion/02BEST.html

Teens and tweens using social networking sites and texting gets a lot of negative attention primarily because of publicized instances of cyberbullying and sexting. This article takes on a whole other issue with this trend, how are these modes of communication affecting young people's social interactions with one another. Children are able to communicate with one another more than ever and have several different ways in which to do so. But has this begun to diminish the actual face-to-face communication between friends and are quality friendships deteriorating because of this phenomenon?

I see it as a quality versus quantity issue. Face-to-face communication yields a depth and understanding among friends that is hard to achieve through a computer or mobile device. But, the ability to communicate with friends constantly throughout the day provides young people with more opportunities to interact with their friends. Parents in the article were split on the issue. One stated that by using Facebook her son is satisfied with that as his primary social interaction with his friends; he is reluctant to hang out with them in person. Another parent stated that Facebook has enabled his shy son the ability to communicate more confidently with his peers, it has helped to bring him out of his shell.

I think that outgoing young people are going to hang out with their friends no matter what. To them, texting or Facebook is just a way to keep up with friends when they're not together. I think that the problem would be with those who are more reserved, where they are satisfied with primarily interacting with their friends through their mobile devices. It is disconcerting to think that this type of communication will affect young people's social interactions and quality of friendships now and as they become adults.