Monday, June 29, 2009

The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird

I picked this book up at Titles when I was looking for some books that deal with Global issues that children around the world are facing.

Dani and Mamo came from very different backgrounds. Both were born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but their first 12 years were very different. When Mamo became an orphan at the age of 13, he is sold into slavery miles away from his home. After surviving months of terrible treatment, he runs home to Addis Ababa and tries to survive on the streets. Here he meets Dani, a boy who has spent an easy life with all the advantages of the wealthy. Dani's dream is to become a writer, but his father doesn't want that for him and he plans to send him away from home as punishment. Dani somehow plucks up the courage to leave and once on the streets he meets up with Mamo.

Eventually the two boys join a gang of street children and learn how they can all work together to survive.

While this story can be very harsh, it can be used to open up children's eyes to what happens around the world and how families can be formed in the strangest situations.

I would recommend that teachers read this book first to make sure it is appropriate for their class. I have used it with kids in grade 6, but with with lots of talk throughout the reading.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I've Got An Idea by Eric Walters

I usually love anything by Eric Walters, but I really thought this was one of his weakest books yet, not up to his excellent standards.

This story was set just outside of New York City. Three students in grade 6 decide to travel to New York City after their parents refuse to let them go to a concert. They sneak away from their parents and head off for an adventure in the 'big city'.

Normally in an adventure book, I can ignore the fact that the kids do dangerous or unrealistic things. But, I really felt that this book glossed over the real dangers of being in a big city alone at the age of 11. There was a big scene where one of the parents had their secretary's son track down the kids at this huge concert which was very unbelievable. It also really bothered me that the parents didn't even go into New York to get their kids, they waited for them to be brought home.

All in all, not my favourite Eric Walters book!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Book of One Hundred Truths by Julie Schumacher

As Thea is heading off for her annual trip to her Grandparent's home for the summer, her mother slips her a journal and asks her to record one hundred truths while she is away. While this is an unusual request, it is even more difficult for Thea who in the past 6 months has started lying about anything and everything. Being asked to record these truths prove to be very challenging for Thea who has a secret so large that she needs to lie about everything just to keep that one secret.

At her Grandparent's home, Thea is expected to look after her seven year old cousin Jocelyn. While Thea tries to keep her secret from her family, Jocelyn is convinced that the adults in the family are also keeping secrets. Thea soon learns that everyone has secrets, but at some point the truth must come out.

Just Another Day in my Insanely Real Life by Barbara Dee

I really love reading books about normal kids whose lives are anything but normal. I find it really reminds me that not every child comes from homes where everything runs smoothly and sometimes the attitude and behaviours we see at school are a result of things out of the child's control.

In this story, Cassie is really struggling to hold it together. Her father is now "out of the picture", but nobody can explain what that means. Her mother has gone back to work full-time and often is getting home until after everyone is asleep. Cassie's older sister is suppose to be looking after 6 year old Jackson and doing the shopping, but she keeps forgetting. Now Cassie finds herself trying to hold everything together for her brother and sister. Then there is her English teacher Mr. Mullaney who is the strangest, hardest teacher in the world, a cute boy who is sending out strange signals, and her former best friends who have totally ditched her.

Cassie survives with the help of her witty humour and she finds a great deal of solace in her writing. She is very hard not to like, cheer for and respect. This story reminds me a great deal of a Perfect Gentle Knight, with a bit more humour. I think this would make a great read aloud and there is a nice tie in with the writing component.

What I Was by Meg Rosoff

I read this book for my book club- we needed something a bit lighter for June!

This book is set in 1962 when 16 year old "H" is dropped off at his third boarding school on the coast of England. Everything you have ever heard or read about the dismal experiences at English boarding schools is true of St. Oswald's. "H" is determined to survive his year without putting in any effort into his school work or making friends. He has been at so many boarding schools that he knows how to play the game.

H's life changes though when he meets Finn. A boy living off the grid in society. Finn doesn't go to school, lives by himself and survives on his wits and courage. H and Finn develop a rather strange friendship. Being together is all H can think of, but it becomes very difficult for H to escape the school and the curious other boys at the school.

Meg Rosoff writes some very strange books. Her other book How I Live Now was also a strange story. I haven't really decided if I like her stuff or not. I am looking forward to chatting about this book in early July with others who have read the story.

Hunger by Michael Grant

*Warning- if you haven't read Gone, this review will provide spoilers that you may not want to know about. Read Gone first, then come back and read this review!

In this sequel to Gone, Sam and Caine have survived the big 'poof', but they still find themselves on opposite sides of survival. Caine has aligned himself with some very scary characters Drake and Diana who have mutated in such vile ways that everyone is scared of them. They don't trust one another and the tension is very thick between them all. Sam is still struggling to hold it all together in town. He is responsible for everyone and every little thing. He has become a surrogate parent for all young children and the strain of it all is really starting to wear him down.

All of the food in town is gone and the children are starving. Things are even worse at Coates Academy where Caine's encounter with the mysterious 'thing' underground has left him weak and mentally unstable.

As Sam tries to feed the town, Caine is plotting for ways to take over all the food and buildings in town. To top it all off there is a real growing divide between kids who have mutated and kids who are normal.

This book was absolutely as exciting as the first one. It also ended in such a way that you just know there is going to be a third book.

Gone by Michael Grant

This is an amazing new book that I stumbled across on another website. 14 year old Sam dreams of surfboarding all day long. One minute he is sitting in class barely listening to his teacher and the next minute "poof" his teacher is gone. Not just stepped out of the room gone, but gone gone. As he looks around the room, he realizes other kids are gone too. When he meets up with other kids in the hall they come to realize that anyone over 15 years old has vanished. Suddenly, there are no adult, nobody to tell them what to do, when to eat or how to behave. This is the new world. Dubbed the "FAYZ" it becomes a world where bullies rule and sides are being quickly drawn. Sam finds himself reluctantly in charge of the 'townies' and he has to face Caine, the leader of the kids from the private school just outside of town. Sam and Caine share a bond they had no idea about before the disappearance of all the adults. The kids quickly find themselves hungry and fighting for survival. As all this is happening, animals begin changing in strange ways and so do the kids. Kids start gaining strange powers that make some more powerful and scary than others. It is a strange new world where everyone is trying to survive on their own.

This book is a nice thick book- 550 pages and each chapter leaves you wanting more. There is a strange little website where you can read someones blog who lives in the FAYZ. Here is an interview with the author as well:

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

This is the first book I have read by Sandell, but it won't be the last. This was a beautiful, sad, hopeful, touching book. I cried and laughed as I read it late into the night. The story is told through Cora, a young girl who at the start of the novel is just starting high school. But she is also dealing with the death of her brother just a few months ago. Nate was 4 years older than Cora and when they were young, Cora looked up to him as her hero. In the last few years though, they had a typical older brother- younger sister relationship- lots of fighting and silence. Now Cora needs to go to the same high school where Nate's reputation for being the rebellion makes it hard for Cora to be her own person.

Cora's parents have also changed since Nate's death. Her father retreats into silence and anger and her mother has become so over protective of Cora that she can hardly move without her mother being aware of it.

To top it all off, Cora starts to develop feelings for Damian- her brother's best friend, and the boy who Cora's parents blame for his death. As Cora tries to sort out her feelings for Damian, she must also fight to live her own life even when her parents want to keep her safe and protected.

This is an amazing book that looks at what happens to the people left behind when someone dies.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bounce by Natasha Friend

Imagine being 11 and coming home from camp to have your father announce 1. He is getting married 2. The women (who you have met once) has 6 children 3. You have to move to another state. This is exactly what happens to Evyn. One minute she is getting ready for grade 6, with her best friend and the next minute she is driving to a new state to meet a huge family she is going to live with AND start at a new private school. Once in Boston, Evyn's father starts to change and it seems her whole life is falling apart. In order to survive, Evyn needs to bounce with the change in her family, the change in routines, and insults from girls she thinks are her friends.

I thought this book was really great. It deals with blended families and how everyone needs to adjust and how hard it is starting over again. Well worth the read!