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