Saturday, July 31, 2010

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

After reading The Worst Thing She Ever Did in June, ( I had to order something else by Kuipers.
Life on the Refrigerator Door was Kuipers first novel and what a powerful novel it is. This story is told through a series of notes left on a refrigerator between a mother and her daughter. While it was a quick read, it is thoughtful and thought provoking. It's amazing how much you can learn about characters through a series of short notes about day-to-day life.
Claire, is 15 and is a typical teenage girl- stuck between that phase of still being a young girl and wanting to be a grown up. With her mother being away so often, there are times when Claire is frustrated, angry and amused by her mother. For her mother, she is struggling to be a single mom to Claire and to successfully manage the life of a busy doctor. When Claire and her mother are confronted with a crisis, they deal with it in very different ways, but what always comes through is their love for each other.
Reading this book reminds me of the different perspectives people have on events throughout their lives. It reminded me that my mother probably wasn't as crazy as I thought she was when I was a teenager, and scares me to think of my boys hitting their teens- hopefully they will be easier on me than I was on my mom!
This is a very quick read, but one really worth reading!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams

This is the second book I've read by Abrahams. The first one was Reality Check ( His writing is a bit older than I usually like for my grade 7's, but the story lines are always very exciting.
In Bullet Point, Wyatt is a 16 year old boy who lives for baseball season. School is really just an excuse to play baseball. But, when the economy forces the school to give up offering all after school sports- Wyatt doesn't know what he will do. Then he is offered a chance to go to another city and play baseball. This seems like a dream come true- especially after a nasty fight with his step-father Rusty.
As he is leaving town, his coach hands him a picture of his biological father, a man Wyatt has never really cared much about- although he knows he is in jail. When Wyatt ends up in Silver City, he meets a very beautiful, but mysterious girl named Greer. Through Greer, he comes to learn more about his father and as he gets to know and like the man, Wyatt is faced with a decision. Wyatt believes that his father is innocent of the crime he was sent to jail for and Wyatt will stop at nothing to free him.

I really think this book will appeal to many boys, it is fast paced, has a sports interest and of course the beautiful, mysterious girl. There are a few scenes that are a bit more mature, but I will put it in my classroom and talk to students before they read it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I had no idea when I bought this book how interesting the author Cory Doctorow is. You have to check out these two sites: (where you can download his books for free on just about any platform imaginable- if you happen to have an iTouch- it would be worth getting the Kindle app and downloading the books to read right on your touch!) and (which has to be the strangest blog I've ever read- but at the same time- I really like it!)

In Little Brother- Marcus is your typical 17 year old gamer. He knows how to make technology work for him and he uses it to his advantage to play different online games. But when terrorism strikes in San Francisco- he and his friends are swept up in a raid and accused of being terrorists. When Homeland security finally releases them, things have really changed for Marcus. Suddenly the freedom he is use to is gone. Now, Marcus realizes how much power Homeland security has and how they are using technology to track and monitor the kids. Marcus starts fighting back. He starts using his knowledge of technology to outsmart the government- but it is a very risky move.

I found this book slow in places- I was a bit frustrated with Marcus constantly explaining how the technology worked- and I didn't really understand it. I also had a hard time figuring out when this story took place. There were lots of times it felt like present day, but the technology was too advanced for that to be true. Having said all that, just when I was about to give up on the book, I pushed through and found myself really wrapped up in the story and Marcus' quest to gain back personal rights for all.
I think it would be interesting to have a discussion with some tech savvy kids about their thoughts on this. There are lots of interesting points for discussion.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda

Crossing is the first novel by Andrew Fukuda. It has the eerie feel of William Bell's book Stones- the whole story is a bit creepy and spooky.
Crossing tells the story of Xing Xu- a boy in high school who longs to fit in with his white classmates. Xing disappears into the hallways,classrooms and his small town- his teachers don't even know if he speaks English. The only friend Xing has is Naomi- another Chinese immigrant and the two have been friends for so long- they are all each other has.
When students from his high school go missing, things get very strange for everyone at Slackenkill High School. Rumors and gossip are on overdrive throughout the small community. For Xing- the disappearance of the boy who has the lead in the school musical also means big changes for him as well. Suddenly, he is in the role of the lead at in the school musical- he sings beautifully, but only for his music teacher.
As the book comes to a conclusion, Xing is faced with the harsh reality of who he is and who people believe he is.

I liked this book, but I think it will take a very mature reader to see it through. I'm wondering how it would be as a read aloud for my grade 7's. The spookiness factor alone might just do it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dark Life by Kat Falls

I read about this book a few weeks ago and quickly ordered it. I'm always looking for new alternative reality novels for my kids. It occurred to me while reading this how clever a writer has to be to write these types of novels. You can't just start writing a story- you have to write in such a way that makes the reader understand how the world is different from the world we currently know, without just coming right out and listing the differences. In Dark Life- Kat Falls does just that. She creates this unique world where some people live in the ocean, travel by unconventional methods and fight against the government. She does this in a way that makes the world she writes about come alive in your mind.

Dark Life is about a 16 year old boy named Ty who has lived in the water his whole life. He loves his life and can't wait to turn 19 so that he can own his own part of the ocean. Suddenly, Ty's life becomes more complicated- outlaws start attacking the settlement he lives in and the government is trying to change the rules. When Ty meets Gemma- a Topsider (someone who lives on land)the two of them go on quite an adventure under the water.

I love this glimpse into an alternative reality, I love how Falls paints these amazing pictures with her words of life under water and I liked the excitement of the story. The plot actually reminded me a lot of Kenneth Oppel's book Airborn ( The relationship between the two main characters were pretty similar. I can't wait to share this book with kids in the fall- as a matter of fact- I know one student who I am going to send an email to right now suggesting this book as his summer read!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I just finished reading The Help- and while it is an adult book- it is very appropriate for young adults to read. I absolutely loved this book- it will be going into my box of Civil Rights books immediately.

Set in the 1960's in the deep south, during a time of segregation between blacks and whites. There were clear lines drawn between the two groups that was very hard to change- but very easy to identify. The Help is a book that looks at these lines and how the divide started changing during the Civil Rights movement.

The Help follows several characters, but it is told through three voices. Skeeter- a 23 year old girl who has just graduated from Ole Miss- a place where she was successful in gaining an education, but very unsuccessful in gaining a husband- the main purpose for young white girls to go to school. The other two voices are Aibileen and Missy- two black women who are maids for Skeeter's friends. While Aibileen and Missy are women of two different generations- their lives share many similarities. It is through the relationship they have with the families they work for that they share a common bond.

When Skeeter tries to find a place for herself- she starts a project that draws these three women together. It is a dangerous project that could put all of their lives at risk. This project helps each of these women deal with the separation between black and white and the attitude of many in the southern part of the United States during this time.

I would suggest parents or an adult read this book before giving it to a student or parent- but I for one will be sharing this book with my students in the fall!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Witching Hour by Elizabeth Laird

I've always liked Elizabeth Laird's books. I've read several by her that deal with children in difficult situations around the world. This is the first one I've read by her that deals with an historical time period.

The Witching Hour is set in Scotland in the late 1600's. During this time, there was a real fight between religions. In England, the fight between the Protestant and Catholic way to worship changed with each new King or Queen. This book deals with a young girl- Maggie who starts out accused of being a witch and is sentenced to hang. When she is forced to run for her life, she falls right into the fight between the Protestants and Catholics. I really liked how the book shows how scared people were of things they didn't understand. It was much easier for people to blame unfortunate events on a woman and accuse her of witchcraft than it was to understand that bad things happen sometimes.

This book gives an interesting insight to a part of history that will be new to many young readers. I like the way Elizabeth Laird teaches history through real characters. Maggie is a very believable character and throughout the story you are drawn into the drama that surrounds her and her family. As an adult reader, I liked that about the book. I'm not sure that just any reader will pick this one up. You need to have a liking for historical novels to enjoy this one.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

Grisham is a well-known adult author. He writes about mysteries in the legal world. Theodore Boone is his first try at writing for young adults. He sticks with what he knows, which is the law.
This book is interesting, it deals with a trial for murder that is taking place in a small town. Theodore Boone is an eighth grade boy with an obsession for the law. Both his parents are lawyers and for reasons that aren't well explained, Boone knows everyone in the legal system.
As a teacher, I try to teach my students that stories need to have a problem and a solution. The great authors make the problem something people care about, or might possibly face themselves. Grisham doesn't really do that in this book. The big problem is that Boone knows something that could change the outcome of this trial. Grisham doesn't really go into enough detail about why we should care. There isn't really anything scary or mysterious about the plot. The cover-and other adult Grisham books usually have a suspenseful middle action where the person with the truth is trying to win out over the bad guys. None of that happens in this book, although it could have easily taken place.
All in all, I’m not sure how this book will be received by kids. There is no doubt that Grisham knows a lot about the legal world- I’m just not convinced that kids will buy into it.