Three friends, Zack, Alice, and Poppy, play an imaginary game that seems to have all the best elements of fantasy. Making their own rules and using action figures, they write adventures that span weeks, months, and years. However, when Zack’s fathers decides Zack is too old for games with girls and dolls, everything changes. Zack is so angry and hurt that he handles the matter by refusing to deal with it. He tells Alice and Poppy that he no longer wishes to play their pretend epics and shuts himself off. The girls are hurt and bewildered. Then, late one night, Poppy and Alice show up at Zack’s window. Poppy has been suffering from evil dreams in which one of the dolls visits her. The doll, known as the Queen, claims she was made from the bones of a murdered child, and she will not leave them in peace until they bury her body in the proper place. Not knowing whether they really believe, the children set off on a dangerous adventure.
Children’s horror is not an overly populated genre, but Holly Black enters it with style and skill. The tale picks up quickly and keeps pace throughout the book. Revelations regarding the nature of the children’s changing relationships are woven seamlessly throughout the drama of being terrorized by a ghost. Dealing with the changes of life and maturity can be almost as frightening as supernatural events. In the end, the book was never too scary, too ridiculous, or too boring. I would recommend it to an older child, probably around middle school, who enjoys horror.
It seems that utopian societies always have a dark side. The community in The Giver is no different; the perfect society is balanced by an absence of so many things – colors, feelings, choice. Jonas discovers this absence when he becomes the new Receiver of Memories. In this capacity he learns what really happens in his community and he finds that he can’t live with it. He has to make changes to his circumstances.
This is a really interesting book and a great book for discussions. There is the sameness of the community, the regimented lives of the citizens, the lack of choice in everything they do and the release of people from the community. I thought Jonas’s story was one many could relate to; he really grew up and into himself in the book. He learned to think and act for himself and as an adult.
I did find that when I finished the book I wanted to know more though. I wanted to know how they created the sameness — do they genetically engineer all the people to be color blind? The colors are still there obviously but the people just don’t see them. How did they get rid of the weather, the sun, the hills, the animals? I assume they have climate control, but they aren’t under a dome or anything so how does it work? How did the Receiver of Memories gather all the memories in the first place? They seem to be from many different people and places and times and at least one seemed to come from an animal (the elephant). How are they gathered and stored and tied to the community? Jonas looses them so they are obviously tied to a place. Lots of unanswered questions!
The ending is also very ambiguous and left a lot of questions. Was it real? Did he live or die? How will the community deal with the memories? Will the Giver be able to help them? Will the community change? And should the community change? Even with all the sameness and lack of choice was the community bad? Is release bad?
Sloane and her boyfriend, James, live in a world where suicide has become an epidemic among the teens. The only cure is the Program which cures your depression, but sends you back hollow without your memories. They vow to each other to stay safe and protect each other through anything, but how can they stay strong enough to avoid the Program?
This is an intense book that I really enjoyed reading. What if you could wipe out all of the memories that make you sad? Would it be worth it to lose your identity in the process? I highly recommend “The Program.”
In the walled, dystopian city-state of Quill, each year brings the Purge, when children turning thirteen are sorted into two groups. The Wanteds are allowed to stay in Quill, and continue training at the university. The Unwanteds, those displaying any sort of artistic creativity, are taken from Quill to the Lake of Boiling Oil, as a death sentence for their transgressions. When Alex Stowe is taken with other Unwanteds to their fate, they instead discover their salvation- the Lake of Boiling Oil is a front for Artime, a magic refuge and school, where the artistic talents of the Unwanteds become spells capable of amazing things, including the inevitable defense of Artime when the High Priest Justine of Quill discovers the ruse.
At first, the similarities to Harry Potter were distracting, and I found some of the magical artistic powers and creatures to be a bit silly. As the story progressed, though, I was drawn in a little more with each chapter. By the end, I was enjoying it all, and wanting to continue to the next book. I just needed to keep the intended audience in mind, and let fantasy be wild. This Mark Twain Award winner is a great beginning for a creative series.
An angry, grieving seventeen-year-old musician facing expulsion from her prestigious Brooklyn private school travels to Paris to complete a school assignment and uncovers a diary written during the French revolution by a young actress attempting to help a tortured, imprisoned little boy–Louis Charles, the lost king of France.
I wanted to see what all the hype was about this book, and I was certainly not disappointed. It is now one of my all time favorite chapter books! If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” –indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.
This was one of those children’s books I meant to read when it came out, and just hadn’t gotten around to it. In enjoyed it, but be warned: if your heart is tender towards animals, be prepared to shed a few tears with this one!
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home–and his own art–through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.
Uglies follows the story of Tally, a youth who lives in a dystopian world where everyone turns “pretty” when they reach age 16. This extreme plastic surgery changes people from normal to beautiful, but at a terrible cost. At first Tally both craves and embraces her society and the opportunity to become pretty, but she learns how corrupt the government is. Tally decides to defy her society, which opens up a new world of friendships, romance, and unexpected tragedies.
Uglies is the first book in the Uglies trilogy, and it brings up many themes ranging from corrupt governments to self acceptance.
I found this novel to be thought provoking, but perhaps not particularly believable. I’m excited to learn how Tally faces her mounting challenges in book 2.
Tree-ear is an orphan in 12th century Korea. He lives under a bridge with Crane-man. They live in Ch’ulp’o, a small village on the sea that is renowned for its celadon pottery. Tree-ear becomes the apprentice of a great potter named Min. Tree-ear labors for Min hoping that one day he too will be a great potter. In order to secure a royal commission, Min sends Tree-ear on a long journey across Korea with priceless pottery vases. Disaster strikes but Tree-ear manages to complete his mission and return with the commission.
I actually liked this more than I thought I would. I thought the characters were very relatable and the story gripping and interesting. I also liked the fact that it is based on historical facts. I had to look up celadon pottery and the Thousand Cranes Vase after I was finished reading. Both are truly beautiful and you can tell that it took great skill to make these items.
O My Darling was described to me as one of the best supernatural books, a comedy and a romance. I saw no comedy, a hint of the supernatural and did see the romance even in a tragic sense. The writer wrote with great imagery which made it a joy to read. There were parts I thought were not necessary and other parts that confused me.
A beautifully written story of two teenage Jewish boys who become friends even though they are from different Jewish traditions. The narrator, Reuven, is from a modern Orthodox Jewish family with an intellectual Zionist father. While Danny is an academically gifted son and heir to a Hasidic rebbe. Set in 1940s Brooklyn the two young men form a deep friendship that lasts into adulthood. They struggle through adolescence, family conflicts and crisis of faith during the Holocaust when the stories reach the U.S. together. The two fathers clash over intellectual and spiritual matters and of course have conflicts between themselves and their sons. Though the book explores religious differences between the two Jewish traditions the struggles reflect on issues we all face no matter what religion or family background.
When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.
I loved the form in which the author wrote this book. The chapters are short but contain so much in those short amounts, it will appeal to kids who don’t normally like long chapter books. The fact that she based it on a true story will be another hook for some kids. It really makes you think about zoos and how we treat our fellow creatures. I can see why it won the Newbery award.
Sometimes I read a book and wonder what happened when I was a child that I missed reading it then. Maybe I was just too preoccupied by The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High and didn’t pay attention to books that might be considered quality. Maybe I only read things I could get through Scholastic Book Club. Whatever the case, I am glad I have the opportunity to read some of these as an adult and to introduce them to kids.
The Westing Game is one of those books I never read as a kid but know I would have loved. It did when the Newbery when I was a pre-reader, but I am sure it was on every library shelf throughout my childhood. It is a wonderfully engaging mystery that reminded me a lot of the movie Clue (not an exact match I admit, but some elements were there). I liked that it is not a dumbed down mystery for kids, but one that made me think even as an adult. In the introduction, it states that Rankin never “wrote-down” to children, but instead wrote to the adult in children. I think this perfectly describes this book.
The story begins with the Sunset Towers and its new occupants. They are all carefully chosen, except for the mistake, and all are connected even though they do not realize it. Sunset Towers is in the shadow of the Westing House whose mysterious owner, Sam Westing, disappeared 20 years ago. Then Sam Westing is found dead in the house and the occupants of the Sunset Towers are notified that they are heirs to the Westing Fortune. The sixteen heirs are paired up and given clues to solve the mystery of who murdered Sam Westing. They winner of the Westing Game will receive the Westing fortune. Along the way we learn so much about each of the characters and their connections to each other and Sam Westing. In the end there is only one winner of the Westing Game, but everyone who plays benefits in some manner.
Insurgent, the second book in the Divergent trilogy, is as good as a book the original. Reviewing this book takes on a Fight Club perspective: First rule of reviewing Insurgent-Don’t talk about Insurgent. By talking this book I would be ruining the book, so go read and enjoy.
Before The Hunger Games there was Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature.
Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .
Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.
When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.
Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental–and emotional–turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.
This was a pretty cute book. Reminded me of an urban Little House on the Prairie. I loved the detailed description of Jewish holidays. Make sure you don’t read those sections on an empty stomach…the food descriptions were very well written!
It’s the turn of the century in New York’s Lower East Side and a sense of adventure and excitement abounds for five young sisters – Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie. Follow along as they search for hidden buttons while dusting Mama’s front parlor, or explore the basement warehouse of Papa’s peddler’s shop on rainy days. The five girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises. But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!
The War Within These Walls follows a young Polish boy whose Jewish family has been moved into the ghetto in Warsaw by the Nazis. Like so many others, Misha’s family endures devastating conditions. Misha begins to sneak through the sewers just to find food for his family. Eventually, his little sister joins him as well. Until she fails to return, that is. As things go from bad to worse, Misha joins his fellow Warsaw residents in one final stand against the Nazis.
The Warsaw Uprising is not addressed in YA fiction much, if at all. This slim novel brings the events of that struggle into focus with a sparse verse-like narrative and somber blue-grey drawings. It’s a lovely, if devastating, story about an important chapter in our collective history.
Evan has been moving around his entire life. Thus, he has perfected the art of being the New Guy. As the New Guy, Evan focuses entirely on meeting girls. He has no male friends to speak of and goes from girl to girl. He’s always had good luck with girls and views them as little more than conquests. Friendship with girls who won’t sleep with him aren’t really worth his time. Then Evan sleeps with the wrong girl. She’s a girl with a violent ex-boyfriend (who is unfortunately friends with Evan’s roommate). Evan gets beaten up so badly that he’s pulled out of school by his father and taken to live in the small rural community in Minnesota that his father grew up in. There, everyone knows everyone else. Evan quickly discovers that he cannot simply spend the summer hiding from everyone and everything. Slowly, bit by bit, Evan begins to make actual friends, both male and female. Still, Evan is haunted by the repercussions of his beating and has trouble even thinking about going back to his old way of living.
Evan’s perspective is a unique one in YA lit. Evan isn’t really the most likeable of characters, but it doesn’t take the reader long to figure out that it’s not entirely Evan’s fault. Evan’s mother is long absent and his wealthy father is more comfortable with computers than people. As Evan begins to open up to his new friends, he begins to reassess the way he thinks about both women and relationships.
The ending is little on the tidy side and the final chapters portraying Evan at the public school feel like they’re rushed and possibly unnecessary. Otherwise, it’s compelling read about issues rarely addressed from the male perspective. This would likely make a very interesting book for discussion groups.