December 31, 2010

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac, Illustrated by Sonny Liew

Wonderland is a graphic novel that spins the original story off from a minor character named Mary Ann. Mary Ann is the white rabbit's house maid who is at first confused for Alice. In this telling, she is off to work, but late so she attempts a short-cut, landing her in the court of the Queen of Hearts. From here chaos ensues, leading Mary Ann to many of the familiar Wonderland characters; Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and even a reciting of Jabberwocky. I have never read the original, and it was obvious to me that much of the humor is lost as a result. I think readers and fans of Lewis Carroll's original will enjoy it, but others may find it confusing. It is rare that I read a graphic novel (the other being Amulet), so it was difficult for me to adjust to the format, so I can lose myself in the story. The illustrations are highly stylized and add depth to the story.
Reed Reads Score: 3

December 21, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It took me three years to read this book. It called to me, but it was too long. Didn't have the time. A month ago my daughter read it. She told me a bit about it, said it was a bit unusual and disconcerting for her. I finished my last book, had nothing around to read, so I picked it up. I've just finished it and write this with tears. This is one of the most brillintly written books I have ever read. Period. It is a story, narrated by Death, of a little German girl, growing up in Nazi Germany. She finds life in words, and in the people around her who are both heroic and demonic. Not really a holocaust story. Not really a WWII story. This is a human story told from the German side, one we rarely read. Not all students will be ready for this book in middle school, but it is one that all of you should eventually read.
Reed Reads Score: 5

November 28, 2010

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Eighteen-year-old Ben Wolfe is entering his senior year in high school. At his annual physical, it is discovered that he has an aggressive blood disease and has less than a year to live. He declines treatment, choosing to live as "normal" a last year as he can. Ben decides that he will keep his condition a secret and orders the doctor not to tell anyone. He determines that he will live his senior year fully by going out for football, dating one of the most attractive girls, challenging his teachers, and befriending the town drunk. He is close to his brother, has a loving father, a coach that is supportive, but his mom is manic/depressive and often isolated. In his dreams he talks to Hey-Soos for support and clarity. Things go extremely well for Ben, but he is constantly questioning his decision to keep his condition from those he loves the most. If you have read Crutcher before, you will be familiar with the sports/family/relationship theme, and of course, there is a therapist to help Ben sort things out. An interesting read, but not as good as Whale Talk or Staying Fat for Sarah Burns. Crutcher doesn't sugar coat the situation. For mature readers because of content and language.
Reed Reads Score: 4

November 13, 2010

I,Q: Independence Hall by Roland Smith

Spies, intrigue, false identities and unexpected twists & turns...this is a fun spy/mystery novel. It has all the elements of a Mission Impossible, spy vs. spy thriller, with techno-gadgets, disguises, car chases, and double agents. The story centers around Q (Quest) and his step-sister Angela, as they become entangled in a search by competing spy agencies for Malak, Angela's thought to be dead mother, who is now believed to be part of a terrorist cell. Clues unfold slowly at first, but the pace quickens as the story moves forward. The ending is satisfying, but leaves you wanting more as it leads you into the next novel in the series; I, Q: The White House.
Reed Reads Score: 4

October 25, 2010

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

Tennyson hates, Brewster,  the boy his twin sister, Bronte, is interested in. Tennyson tries to break them up by intervening on a date, infuriating his sister. Tennyson follows Bruiser home, and sees Bruiser's younger brother about to be beaten by their cruel uncle. Seeing that Bruiser is not doing anything to stop him, Tennyson steps in. Little does Tennyson know that this noble act will create a strong and unusual friendship. A friendship that will change his and his family's life, as Bruiser is no ordinary teenager. The book will bring tears and joy, anger and warmth. The story begs the question...If someone could take all your pain, would you let them? A must read.
Read Reads Score: 5

October 15, 2010

Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

Revenge can consume every aspect of one's life. Pancho wants revenge for his sister's murder, DQ wants revenge for his abandonment, but together they find redemption. Pancho is surrounded by death; that  of his mother, father, and now sister. He is placed in an orphanage where DQ, a wheelchair bound, terminal cancer patient, has "selected" Pancho to be his caretaker. At first motivated by payment for his troubles, a friendship soon binds the two. Pancho is determined to avenge the death of his sister, whom he believes was murdered. DQ is coming to terms with his illness, preparing for his death, and dealing with a mother, who long ago abandoned him, and has now come back into his life to help save his life. The effect of their relationship upon each other is what makes the story rich, moving, and real. Probably best for mature readers because of the subject matter and some language.
Reed Reads Score: 5

September 25, 2010

King of the Screwups by K.L. Going

Liam Geller has screwed up for the last time. A popular, fantastic looking, athletic, perfectly dressed guy, Liam is kicked out of his house by his successful CEO father to live with his grandparents. Knowing his grandparents will be no different than his father, Liam has his supermodel mother arrange for him to live with his father's brother Pete. Pete and his father haven't spoken in years because Aunt Pete (what Liam calls him) is a gay, cross-dressing Glam rocker, living in a trailer in small town Pineville. Liam decides that to make his father proud, he is going to use this opportunity in a new school to reinvent himself as a nerdy, academic, unpopular guy. Everything he does backfires and no matter what he tries to do to be unpopular, it makes him more so. Aunt Pete's band members and best friends become important to Liam; Orlando, Liam's English teacher, Dino, the cop, and Eddie, the owner of a clothing store. Liam is a screwup. And you will love him. You will love him because you understand his potential, and that the pain inflicted by his father is controlling his life. Aunt Pete becomes the central figure he needs in his life. While the root of this story is not light, Going does a fantastic job of keeping the humor in between tense, heart wrenching  and tender moments. For mature readers (eighth  grade) based on content.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

September 18, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The third and final installment to the Hunger Games trilogy does not disappoint. Katniss is now holed up in District 13's underground community. Gale, Katniss' mother, and sister Primm have made it to District 13 as well, but Peeta is a captive of the Capitol. The remainder of District 12 has been firebombed and destroyed. Katniss must fulfill her revenge upon the Capitol, and kill President Snow. She enters into a deal with Coin, the leader of District 13, to provide immunity to all Hunger Game victors, as well as the privilege to kill Snow in exchange for becoming the Mockingjay - the symbol and motivation of the rebellion. What ensues is a roller coaster of a story that is totally unpredictable and will leave you breathless. Many will ask " it Peeta, Gale or neither?"
Reed Reads Score: 5

September 7, 2010

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Here is an apocalyptic world where society is in a dark age. Technology, both the knowledge and use of it have regressed. We are in London, no longer a thriving metropolis, but in ruins created by riots and a lack of government. We meet Fever, a fourteen year old girl, the daughter of Dr. Crumb, and the only female admitted to the Order, a society of engineers. Their world is closed from the outside, and ruled by what is logic and reason. Fever has been called to assist an archeologist in the outer world, as he tries to uncover some of the mysteries of an earlier world and the technology that existed then. As she leaves the protection of the Order, she discovers a world that she finds difficult to understand. While she tries to make sense of this world, she starts recalling memories that can't possibly belong to her. To whom do these memories belong? She is pursued, but why? What is it about her past that haunts her? This is science fiction at its best, and now occupies the top of my list with Ender's Game.
Reed Reads Score: 5

Green Witch by Alice Hoffman

An apocalypse beyond imagination...the loss of her family, the destruction of society, and the absence of everything she knew and loved hurled Green into a dark depression. Now, in this long awaited sequel to Green Angel, a year has passed since the disaster that destroyed Green's world. Her garden magically grows, and she becomes somewhat of a guiding force for the small village that remains. Yet her memories, and the loss of true love still haunt her. She ventures away from home to collect the stories of the women that have been branded as witches, and along the way she learns the truth, and discovers what really happened to her one true love. This is a quick, enjoyable read, and an absolute must for the readers of Green Angel.
Reed Reads Score: 4

August 20, 2010

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge

Baseball is central to Kevin, a first baseman, who plays the game hard and is helping to bring his team to the playoffs. He has to balance this with his disinterested girlfriend Mira, his newest "friend" Amy, and his father, who is just starting a relationship after his wife passed away. In the end, it comes down to a tied game, the last inning, the final out...
An easy read, all told in 170 pages, perfect for the reluctant reader, and a great way to teach poetry. POETRY???
Pantoums, tankas, sestinas, couplets, blank verse...forms of poetry that sound foreign are what make up this novel in verse. Kevin's nickname is Shakespeare, given for his writing skills that were introduced in Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, to which this novel is a sequel. Kevin picks up his writing again, only this time he writes with Amy, a girl he meets at a poetry reading. Sending emails back and forth, experimenting with different writing forms, and sharing their teen angst make up much of the novel. A fun read, and a great way to hook an unsuspecting reader into poetry and the forms it takes.
Read Reads Score: 3.5

August 13, 2010

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

Life in the sixties was wild and scary. Everyone lived in fear of communists and atomic bombs. But more than a period of fear, this was a time where our way of life was changing. This is a novel about 11-year-old Franny Chapman. She feels invisible to her family, friends and teachers. She lives in constant fear of never seeing tomorrow from a nuclear attack. She fights with her best friend. She has a crush on the boy down the street. Big sister Jo Ellen is mysteriously gone, and little brother Drew is Mr. Perfect. The Cuban Missile Crisis has created near panic in everyone. How will Franny's world come together? How will she survive? While the story is beautifully written, the story is enriched by pictures, music lyrics, speeches, advertising, maps, and short biographies that bring the period to life. This is especially important to young readers, not familiar with the period. The book is unique in its format, approach and design, but the novel is just good ol' fashioned story telling. Yes, I loved this book.
Reed Reads Score: 5

August 7, 2010

Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg

Joe Friday? Columbo? Monk? These detectives have met their match! Meet seventh grader, Griff Carver, a super-sleuth that has taken the responsibility of hallway patrol at his new school; Rampart Middle School. Griff makes new friends and enemies as he patrols the hallways and keeping his eyes and ears open, discovers a hall pass counterfeit ring that supports one nasty, politically powerful ring leader. With support of Tommy Rodriguez, and reporter Verity King (does he get the girl?), Griff takes on the investigation of his career. This is a funny parody of classic detective heroes. As I was reading it, I felt like I was hearing Joe Friday in Dragnet (sorry kids, you'll have to search that one on the Internet, or catch an episode on some classic TV station). Some references may be beyond most middle school student's realm of reference, but it will be just as fun.
Read Reads Score: 3.5

July 12, 2010

She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

Ally Ryan, an athletically gifted 15 year old, has moved back to her hometown after a year's absence. Originally part of the rich elite, called the "Cresties", she is now a "Norm" and hated by her former friends. Her father, an investment banker, who lost his own as well as the fortunes of Ally's friends, moved Ally and her mother out of their mansion and then abandon them. Ally and her mom move back, now living in a condo. Allie visits her old house where she discovers a gorgeous jock, Jake, living in her old room. The chemistry between them is immediate, but strained, because his group of friends are those that hate Ally. Told in alternating voices between Ally and Jake, the story and romance between them is one of the difficulties of being a teen and standing up to or succumbing to peer pressure. While not my favorite genre, the book is readable, and some of the pranks Ally's friends pull are downright cruel. The ending is a cliffhanger, ensuring a sequel. For mature readers because of strong language that is part of typical teen dialogue.
Reed Reads Score: 3.5

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher discovers his neighbor's dog murdered. Christopher is curious. Christopher must unravel the mystery of the murder. To do so requires him to venture out of his comfortable world of numbers and logic, and into the loathsome world of people. Christopher is a fifteen year old autistic, mathematical savant, whose deep need to uncover the mystery of the dog's murder overpowers his fear of communicating with people. His search for the truth leads him to dark secrets that will change his relationship with neighbors and family. Written in the true voice of Christopher, the story takes unexpected turns, wishing you could be there to protect Christopher. Ultimately this story is about family and how the desire to protect those we love can ultimately hurt them. A perfect companion to Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, both books about autistic youth yearning for the truth. I loved this book. For more mature readers, contains strong language.
Reed Reads Score: 5

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo loves taking care of the ponies at Paterson, a school for high functioning autistic youth. His father, a high powered attorney, wants Marcelo to spend his senior year mainstreamed in a public school because he must experience the "real world." At odds, Marcelo and his father compromise by agreeing to Marcelo spending the summer working in his father's law offices, and from that experience will decide which school he will attend. Marcelo enters a world he fears and doesn't understand. At the office he teams up with Jasmine who takes him under her wing, helping him sort out the competition, jealousy, and indifference that is typical of the business world. When completing a task, Marcelo discovers a picture of a girl whose face is grossly disfigured. His search for the truth behind the picture is life changing. The story is convincingly written in the voice of Marcelo, with deep characterizations and a plot that unfolds beautifully. I loved this book, and while perhaps better suited for high school, it is an important story told with heart and compassion. The book is for more mature readers because of language and light sexual inferences. An excellent companion to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime by Mark Haddon.
Reed Reads Score: 5

Everwild by Neal Shusterman

The second book of the Skinjacker Trilogy, Everwild is just as creepy, but more complex than Everlost, to which it is a sequel. Mary Hightower (the Sky Witch), Nick (the Chocolate Ogre), Allie (the Outcast), and Mikey (formerly the monstrous McGill) are all back along with some new characters, which requires reading the first book to understand what is going on.  Everlost is a world inhabited by Afterlights; children and teens in a world between the living and the dead.  Mary and Nick are at odds, Mary believing that Everlost is where Afterlights should remain in perpetuity, and Nick who wants to send them to "the light". The story follows the maneuvering for dominance between Mary and Nick, as well as Allie who uses skinjacking; the ability to enter the bodies of the living, to help her find her parents.  Several plot twists, and mixed allegiances keep you wondering, but with so much going on the story bogs down. The climax is a cliff-hanger, leaving you yearning for book three.
Read Reads Score: 3.5                                                                                        

Darkwood by M.E. Breen

Overhearing her wicked uncle plotting to sell her to the Drop, a cruel mining operation that utilizes children to harvest ringstone from perilous cliffs,  twelve-year-old Annie escapes to the Darkwood, where her fight for survival begins. This adventure/fantasy will pull you in all directions as Annie encounters friend and foe, constantly leaving you bewildered as to which is which. From the kinderstalk lurking in the forest, ready to grab children, to the King and his glittering palace, Annie must constantly be watching her back. Well written, and vividly described, Breen creates an unusual, twisted world that is dark, creepy and mysterious,
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

January 15, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games are over. Katniss and Peeta, Hunger Game victors, are settling into their life of privilege. Panem is head over heels for the pair of lovebirds. Soon to be married, the people get to vote for which wedding dress Katniss will wear. But Katniss is not happy, nor is the President. Katniss is torn between Peeta and her true love, Gale. Her defiance of the government in the Hunger Games is fueling unrest throughout the country. Hopefully Katniss and Peeta's victory tour will convince the people of their love for each other and settle the brewing rebellion...or will it? The second book of the Hunger Games trilogy is a thriller, but will leave you hanging and angry that you have to wait for book three to learn the fate of Katniss and all that surround her.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5