August 8, 2006

One of Those Hideous Book Where the Mother Dies by Sonia Sones

A story that reads like a screenplay, the reader quickly becomes involved in the story's two sides: Hollywood fairy tale and overcoming greif. Ruby's mother has passed away, forcing her to move from Boston to L.A. to live in the mansion of her famous actor/father. She is angry and resentful. She misses all that she has left behind - family, friends and first loves. She is painfully greiving the loss of her mother. Her greif blinds her to all that her new life affords - living out the Hollywood fantasy. While the story is resolved neatly, there are some twists that many of you will predict early on. Most will read this in one sitting - it's that good! This story, while written in Ms. Sones' familiar free verse style, is a departure from Stop Pretending or What My Mother Doesn't Know. 
Reed Reads Score: 5

Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen

Gabriela, a native Mayan living in Guatemala, loves to climb trees. She is intelligent, talented and has a bright future. Gabriela's story turns violent and heart wrenching when her family, village and country are torn apart by upheaval and violence. Her ability to climb trees saves her life, but also creates conflict for her. This is a true story as told by the real Gabriela to the author. The author does not attempt to sanitize the story, which might make the story difficult for some. I found her story incredibly sad, but an affirmation of the human spirit.
Reed Reads Score: 4

I, Jack by Jack the dog (as told to Patricia Finney)

At first, I questioned the premise - a book written in the voice of a dog? Ultimately, I found the book funny and "believable". The author has captured what might be a canine's voice. Even cat lovers will find this book fun as Jack's "funny-looking dog" friends add their comments throughout the book in footnotes. The story is about Jack's "pack", comprised of apedogs, and the love of his life, Petra, the dog next door. Jack is often confused by the apedogs' behavior, but is always loyal. He soon discovers that he will be the master of his own pack and meets the challenge of his responsibilities.
Reed Reads Score: 4

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge

Kevin Boland is a star high school baseball player. He has been diagnosed with Mono, and must remain in bed for several weeks. His father, a professional writer, gives him a book that teaches the form and structure of poetry. Kevin decides to keep a journal to pass time, and does so experimenting with different forms of poetry. His writing becomes sensitive and introspective where topics range from baseball, to girls, and eventually to his sorrow over the death of his mother. A good quick read. Most of the novels (at least the ones I've read) that use the free verse format are written in a female voice. This book is a rare one, not only because it is written in a male voice, but because it explores different forms of poetry.  An English teacher could use this novel as a spring board for a poetry unit.
Reed Reads Score: 4
A sequel has been released; Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs

Emako Blue by Brenda Woods

Emako is a beautiful, bright and talented high school senior that is brutally murdered by gangs in central L.A. Her story is told in the five different voices of friends attending her funeral. A poignant story that forces us to look at the effects that senseless murder has upon our youth. The voices range from painful sorrow to cold indifference.
Reed Reads Score: 4

Tru Confessions by Janet Tashjian

How could a devoted sister find a cure for her mentally handicapped little brother by shooting a video? That is what 12 year old Tru (short for Trudy) attempts to do when she learns that a local cable station is accepting entries for ideas for a possible T.V. show. Tru decides to follow her developmentaly handicapped brother with a video camera to record his daily life. Tru learns about her brother, his handicap, and complexities of life in this light hearted look at a serious subject. I know many students will enjoy the humor and the journal format of this book. For me, the story was a bit simplistic, but the humor will appeal to many students.
Reed Reads Score: 3.5

What Would Joey Do? by Jack Gantos

Sadly, this is the last book of the Joey Pigza trilogy. Joey is a good-hearted young man who has his ADHD (hyperactiviy) under control. In this book you meet Olivia, a blind girl that Joey is being home-schooled with. Olivia is mean and has it in for Joey. Joey must also deal with her wacky, selfish, and screwed up parents. The only person who centers his life is granny. If you have read the other Joey Pigza books, this is a must read. If you haven't read any of the Joey books, what are you waiting for?
Reed Reads Score: 5

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

I felt this adult best-seller might be of interest to our more mature readers. A murder-mystery-thriller involving the Priory Sion, and ancient secret society, and Opus Dei, a fundamental Catholic order. One of those can't put it down thrillers. While sex is implied, there are no direct scenes, and the language is relatively mild. If a reader can handle the length, and is interested in the subject matter, why not? There are two versions available, the regular hard back, and the illustrated version which shows all the art work mentioned in the book. I recommend the illustrated version if your knowledge of the arts is limited.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Green is a quiet 16 year-old girl who witnesses the destruction of her family, when they are killed in a 9/11 like tragedy. Her loss is too much for her to deal with; her demeanor and attitude becoming darker as the despair, grief, and lonliness sets in. She expresses herself through the tatoos she carves into her skin and the thorned clothes she wears. While depressed by the anarchy and emptiness around her, she eventually sees hope and renewal. This book has been extremely popular with students, both boys and girls.
Reed Reads Score: 4
Added note, read the new sequel; Green Witch

Granny Torelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech

Rosie and Granny are in the kitchen making soup. You can feel the warmth of their relationship and smell the wonderful soup that is the background of the story. But, Granny senses something is wrong with Rosie. Granny is able to get Rosie to reveal that she has had a falling out with her best-friend-for-life, Bailey. There are many lessons here about friendship and loyalty all told in Granny's kitchen.
Reed Reads Score: 4

Inside Out by Terry Trueman

Zach is meeting his mother in the diner as usual. Two sixteen-year-olds decide to rob the diner, and hold its patrons as hostage. What they don't know is that Zach is a suicidal schizophrenic. He has little understanding of what is happening and is constantly haunted by strange voices in his head. Through Zach we find out why these boys are robbing the diner, and the help they seek. A powerful story, told through Zach's eyes.
Reed Reads Score: 5

Flavor of the Week by Tucker Shaw

Cyril is a high school senior, an outstanding chef, overweight, and madly in love with Rose. Rose sees Cyril as a good friend. Cyril's best friend Nick meets and falls for Rose. Nick asks Cyril to prepare a romantic meal for Rose. Here the Cyrano de Bergerac like charade begins as Rose falls head over heels for Nick, believing he is a sensitive guy that can cook and be romantic. Can you tell where this is going? The most interesting part of the book are the recipes at the end of each chapter. I have to try the Kitchen-Sink cookies, and the roasted vegetable sandwich!
Reed Reads Score: 4

ChaseR: A Novel in Emails by Michael J. Rosen

Chase Riley's parents have decided to leave urban Columbus, Ohio and move to a rural farm. Disconnected from his friends, he communicates with them by email. The story is told through his emails, which communicate a world shockingly different than the one he came from. The insects, the mice, the deer, and the hunting season all present a different reality for Chase. A reality he is learning to live with, until an accident happens.... The story was interesting but not compelling. The novelty of the email format was not enough to hold my interest. Just an o.k. read.
Reed Reads Score: 3

The Glass Café by Gary Paulsen

Tony is a gifted artist. His mother, Al, is an ideal parent. She is loving, supportive, yet firm in her relationship with Tony. The only catch is that she is a dancer at an adult club. Tony is given the chance to draw some of the other women that work with his mother. When his art teacher sees the pictures, she deems them so outstanding, she enters them in an art contest. A complaint is filed because the pictures are judged as pornographic. Social Services come to take Tony from his mother...which is where the real story starts. The book is fresh, fun, and takes a serious look at the social service system.
Reed Reads Score: 4

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelson

Cole Matthews has been in serious trouble his whole life. Now, after brutally beating a boy to the point that he causes severe brain damage, he must pay the price. He is given a choice to either face the criminal justice system, or face Circle Justice; a Native American tradition that gives the victum and the offender an opportunity to heal. His sentence is to spend one year on a desolate Alaskan island. Cole thinks that his sentence is light, and can easily be escaped. His anger and attitude have not changed...until he meets "Spirtit Bear". I read this book relunctanly, perhaps it was the title that turned me off. The surprise was how much I enjoyed it. Read it for the adventure, but also read it for the insights into human nature.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

A beautifully told tale of a young mouse who commits the mortal sin of having contact with the human world. Even more condemning is that he has fallen madly in love with a human, Princess Pea. The mouse council finds him guilty and sends him to the dungeon to be eaten by rats. This is just the beginning of a tale that is beautifully written, every word perfectly chosen. This is one to enjoy, savor, and read aloud over and over again! Newbery award winner.
Reed Reads Score: 5

Brian's Hunt by Gary Paulsen

Brian's Hunt, another sequel to Hatchet, has Brian returning to the wilderness. We learn how Brian is an expert at survival and the hunt, He finds a dog, determines it belongs to his Cree friends, goes to visit them and finds their campground empty. Brian then embarks on a "hunt" to unravel the mystery.This book is bogged down with extensive detail about surviving in the wilderness. I felt that the author was putting forth his justification for hunting rather than writing a good story. I did not enjoy this book. 
Reed Reads Score: 2

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

The topic of teen pregnancy is covered from the point of view of the father, in this case, sixteen year old Bobby. A realistic and touching view of how fatherhood changes Bobby's life in expected and unexpected ways. What I liked is that Bobby is middle class with a solid and supportive family, rather than the stereotypical underprivlidged or troubled youth that typifies this genre. The 2004 Printz Award Winner
Reed Reads Score: 3.5