September 14, 2009

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Miranda witnesses her best friend, Sal get beat up by a mysterious boy for no reason. Sal doesn't want to be with Miranda since the incident. Miranda, searching for new friends finds Annemarie and Colin, who together, volunteer to work at Jimmy's sandwich shop at lunch. Then mysterious things start happening...the key to her apartment is missing, a shoe is stolen, and mysterious notes start appearing in the most unusual places..."I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter." A story that seems to wander at first, but the end is stunning, pulling all the loose ends together.
Read Reads Score: 4

August 16, 2009

The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going

Gabriel King is filled with fear. Spiders, alligators, and a friend’s older brother don’t compare to his greatest fear; entering the 5th grade and facing the school bullies in the upper grade yard. His best friend, Frita, decides that she is going to help him confront his fears by forcing him to make a list of all his fears, and face them over the summer. What Gabriel doesn't realize is that Frita’s fears are deeper. Frita is African-American, and faces the prejudice that was existent in the South in 1976. K.L. Going has created a humorous and heart warming coming of age story, that teaches us about friendship, family, and overcoming hatred. Highly recommended for all students and their parents!
Read Reads Score: 5

July 27, 2009

Trophy Kid, or How I was Adopted by the Rich and Famous by Steve Atinsky

We have all heard about Brad and Angelina's adoptions. Famous Hollywood celebrities have a habit of gaining publicity by adopting a foreign under-privileged child. Imagine what it might be like to BE one of those children. That is the premise of Trophy Kid...
At three years old, Josef is orphaned when his parents are killed during the civil war in Croatia. Robert Francis and Greta Powell, Hollywood super-stars step in and out bid all others to adopt Josef, or Joe. Fast-forward, and Joe is now 13, and given the task of writing a book about his experience, with the help of Tom, a writer that never gets credit for his work. As Joe and Tom discuss Joe's past, several questions come up. Are Greta and Robert self-serving ego maniacs? Has their over-protection been hiding the truth? Is Robert's father really alive? Get a peek at the Hollywood lifestyle as Joe searches for the answers, and learns what family really is. Great for reluctant readers.
Reed Reads Score 3.5

Gold Rush Kid by Mary Waldorf

At the height of the Alaskan Gold Rush, twelve-year-old Billy’s father has set off to the Klondike to make it rich. After the sudden death of their mother, Billy and his 15 year old sister Edna are left alone. Faced with being sent off to relatives, they decide to head for gold country and search for their father. The story unfolds as a fantastic adventure where children are thrust into the tough and difficult life of a gold miner. The pair face hardships, friendship, sibling rivalry and grief, while learning that family is what will ultimately help them survive. Provides rich details of the life of the Alaskan gold miner in the 1890s. Excellent for discussing families, grief, and Alaskan gold rush history.
Reed Reads Score: 4

June 10, 2009

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Enter the Hunger Games, a sporting event that no other can match; in scope, in pagentry, in fame for the victor. And for the losers? Nothing less than death.
In this dark picture of the future of North America is Panem, a country divided into twelve districts, plus the Capitol. To remind it's citizens of it's power, the Capitol requires each district to send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the Hunger Games; a televised event where the combatants must fight to the death until only one remains. Enter Katniss Everdeen a 16 year-old girl who, because of the loss of her father, has learned to survive and support her family. When her younger sister is selected for the games she steps in to take her place. Katniss enters a world more extravagant than she could dream, and so dangerous, she doubts that she can survive. An engrossing story that pulls you in immediately and maintains a tenseness throughout. A thought provoking look at how a strong sense of humanity can survive in a heartless world.
Read Reads Score: 4.5

June 3, 2009

The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich

I love science fiction because I get to see into the imagined future. It’s the same with historical fiction except it's factual: I get to peek into the world the author has researched and really see how someone lived from day to day. Louise Erdrich wrote three books about a Ojibwe girl growing up along the rivers of North Minnesota in the 1800’s.  Her name is Omaykayas and her family is a colorful group of native Americans with bad moods, and funny traits just like your family. The difference is that they live totally off the land and the waters, their existence threatened by the Western expansion of the United States. In the third book, “The Porcupine Year,” her brother takes a porcupine as a pet and even wears him as a hat! Omaykayas loves an Ojibwe boy older than her twelve years; her uncle steals the winter supplies from the family, and she almost drowns in a river storm. The entire series begins with “The Birchbark House” followed by “The Game of Silence” and finally “Year of the Porcupine.” Survival skills and family are key here. Ms Erdrich also writes adult historical fiction, and I find all her books fascinating.

Reed Reads Score: 4.5

The Evolution of Capurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Lately, I seem to always write about historical fiction with a girl as the main character. But there are plenty of guys in this book, including a rascal of a grandpa. Hanging out with old folks may not be your idea of fun. It all depends on who it is, right? Calpurnia Tate, 11 years old in 1899, discovers three important things: her granddad is NOT a mean guy; learning how to observe nature as a scientist is really fun, and being forced to learn housekeeping is NOT.  It's the era when Charles Darwin's theories of evolution are making news, automobiles make their first appearance in town, and it's the mating season for Cali's older brothers. Natural science is all over the place!  I predict that this novel will win Newbery honors, and that when you read how the author, Jacqueline Kelly, weaves all these ideas together, you will also love The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.

Reed Reads Score: 5

April 13, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Total, unadulterated, middle school humor! The diary, no, JOURNAL of Greg Heffley reveals the inner-workings of the mind of a middle school kid. No logic, no real story line, just pure fun that will make you laugh out loud. The girls have Georgia from Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging and now the boys have Greg to reveal what really goes on in the heads of middle school boys.
Reed Reads Score: 4

April 12, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Eight-year old Bruno loves to explore, loves to play with his best friends, and lives a full, rich life in World War II Berlin. Suddenly his life is turned upside down, when his father gets a promotion and he must move, leaving behind all that he loves. His new home is isolated in the country, and there is no one to play with, and nothing to do. Bruno decides to explore, discovering the "farm" he could see from his bedroom window. And there, sitting behind the barbed-wire fence, is a boy...
This is a beautifully told story of a special friendship in World War II Europe. Even if you've seen the movie, the book is still well worth reading.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

February 9, 2009

Click: One Novel Ten Authors

We all leave legacies, the way we affect people and history, in unexpected ways. Click is the legacy of a photographer, George "Gee" Keane. The first chapters introduce the reader to his grandaughter, Maggie and grandson, Jason, each mourning the loss of their grandfather in different ways. Through them we learn that Gee was a well traveled, fairly well known photo journalist, who has left his grandchildren a gift that ultimately will change  their lives. Each chapter, written by a different author, is a short story unto itself that focuses on people and places in the life of Gee, and how they ultimately all connect. The concept is interesting, but I found the writing from chapter to chapter uneven (not surprising), with some chapters far more compelling than others.
Read Reads Score: 3.5

January 21, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A murderer's knife is dripping with blood. Three in the family are dead, and now its the baby's turn. Little does this baby know that his curiosity has saved his life. Climbing out of bed and wandering outside, he was not to be found by the murderer. His curiosity has led him to a nearby graveyard, where the spirits that live there, know that he is now an orphan. The spirits decide that they must protect and  raise this child. A child that they will call Nobody or Bod for short. This is Bod's story, a story of a young boy raised in a graveyard by spirits and a guardian, the people he meets, the adventures he faces, and the mystery he must solve; who murdered his family and why they are still after him? This is Neil Gaiman's second book for young reader's, following the immensely popular Coraline. This is a great read especially for you horror and mystery lovers
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

Trivia question: Where did Neil Gaiman get the title from?