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Friday, November 25, 2011

Silhouetted by the Blue

Silhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones, Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winning author of Standing Against the Wind (another one of my favorites), is about a family struggling to cope with the loss of their wife/mother from a tragic car accident. Serena, a seventh grader, has been chosen to be the lead performer in her school production of The Wiz. Sadly, Serena’s little brother, Henry, is being left out at school by kids who don’t want to catch the “dead mommy cooties” from him. This causes Henry to act out and get in trouble at school. Their father is blue – won’t get out of his pajamas, won’t shop for groceries, doesn’t participate in life at all. Serena is burdened with her own grief, having to be responsible for Henry and running the household, and trying to keep up with her own busy middle school life. I appreciate that in both Standing Against the Wind and Silhouetted by the Blue, Jones gives us a great male role model who steps up to help the female protagonist. Elijah, Serena’s classmate, is the nice guy at school who comes to the rescue so many times and truly cares about her. Why is her father giving away items that have been so important to him? Will Serena finally ask for help when she can no longer balance things at home and at school? Read Silhouetted by the Blue to find out.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Baseball Great

Josh is excited about playing baseball for his school. The school reporter, Jaden, has built a lot of hype about his baseball skills in an article she wrote for the school newspaper. Unfortunately, his father, a former minor league player, yanks him off the team during the first practice. Josh’s father signs him up to try out for the Titans, a team made up of older, stronger guys who worry each and every day that they could easily be replaced by someone better. The Titans are coached by a businessman named Rocky Valentine who believes that the boys must take supplements, lift weights, and work harder than ever to be successful. The pressure of being the best causes boys on the team to make harmful decisions. When Josh and Jaden put two and two together, they have a difficult decision to make – one that can cost them everything. I was encouraged to read Tim Green’s Baseball Great by one of my seventh grade students. Reluctant readers will like the suspenseful storyline and brief chapters. Other great books by Tim Green include Football Genius, Football Hero, Football Champ, Rivals, and Deep Zone. Click on the video below to hear the author explain how both sports and writing require hard work and dedication.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tiger's Curse

Colleen Houck’s Tiger’s Curse (book #1) was a book that kept being recommended in various reading circles (middle school, high school, and adults). This fantasy romance is one that will keep many people talking. The book starts off with a prologue…300 years ago, an evil man in the pursuit of powerful amulets pits brother against brother in a duel for the love of a beautiful princess – the result is a powerful, cruel curse. Chapter one begins; Kelsey, who recently lost both of her parents in a terrible accident, finds a job with a traveling circus. Once she begins she immediately becomes enamored by the beautiful white tiger that she helps take care of. She is soon offered the opportunity to travel to India with the tiger to help him transition to a new wildlife preserve. Kelsey learns that the magnificent white tiger with the striking blue eyes is really a handsome prince named Ren who has been under a curse for hundreds of years. He believes she can save him. The two must endure dangers, his dark brother, and their own insecurities in order to save him. This novel has just the right history, romance, and magic to keep readers wanting to read the second novel, Tiger’s Quest. Recommended for 8th graders and above.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

True (...sort of)

I had been waiting a long time for Katherine Hannigan to write another book after Ida B(one of my favorite reads). Imagine my excitement when I opened up my Junior Library Guild selection of the month - True(...sort of)! I loved this book as much as her first novel. The storyline centers on three unique characters. Delly has been in trouble her entire life. The whole town knows she is trouble. She has created her own vocabulary to get through her "dellyventure"-ous life. Brud goes to a private school in town and he loves playing basketball more than anything. He knows that his mouth will never work as fast as his brain wants the words to come out. Delly's and Brud's lives will change when a scrawny, pale girl named Ferris moves into town. Ferris, easily mistaken for a boy, doesn't talk and she has one rule - no one is allowed to touch her. Read True(...sort of) to find out how Delly and Brud become part of Ferris's life when she doesn't even say a word. Although this book will move you to tears, you will celebrate along with characters when their lives change for the better. This is a book you will want to share with others! If you haven't read Ida B (Hannigan's first novel), what are you waiting for?
Click on the video below to listen to the author tell you about her touching book.

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

My Book Talk Club recently finished Nancy Farmer’s The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm which received the Newbery Honor Book award. They are writing this book review. As a collective group we ranked the book as 3.3 out of 5 stars. The novel takes place in the year 2194 in Zimbabwe, Africa. General Matsika’s three children run away from home to achieve a scout patch when their parents refuse to let them outside the gates of their large mansion. At home they are surrounded by automatons (robots) and all the luxury they could ever want. As soon as the children enter the market, they are kidnapped by the She Elephant’s minions and put to work in the plastic mines. General Matsika and his wife hire the best detectives – The Ear, the Eye and the Arm – they have special powers as a result of being exposed to nuclear waste as children. As the children escape from one situation to the next, they stay one step ahead of the talented detectives. The children face many challenges which include traveling to ancient Africa with its customs and folktales. Here are some of our opinions about the book…”I really liked how the author included new and descriptive words from Africa which helped me expand my vocabulary”. “I liked the way the author transitioned from one chapter to the next and how the children were always one step ahead of the detectives – it made it more exciting”. “I liked how the characters had to deal with emotional issues”. “This wasn’t my type of book”. “The beginning was confusing for me, but as I read more of the book it became clearer”. Other great books by Nancy Farmer include The House of the Scorpions, The Sea of Trolls, The Land of the Silver Apples, and The Islands of the Blessed. They also created this book trailer below.