Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Worlds Afire--Paul B. Janeczko

Collection of poems about a circus fire in 1944. The poems are all by eyewitnesses--some of them survivors, some of them not. Very quick read, only 92 pages of individual poems, but very disturbing. The writing is good, the voices are haunting. I would not give this to a young reader. Novels in verse are not for everyone--they have a limited audience--and with this subject matter I don't feel comfortable putting it on a list for all middle schoolers. It has limited readership.

Reading: Snap--Alison McGhee
On My Nightstand: Loads more

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Brother Hood--Janet McDonald

This is a good book, well-written with good characters, but it's not middle school. The main character is an 11th grader who has sex within the first 3 chapters, he routinely interacts with drug dealers in the hood and at his private school. I just don't think it's middle school. Junior High, yes, High School, yes. Not middle school.

Reading: Worlds Afire--Paul B. Janeczko
On My Nightstand: Lots

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Really, Truly Everything's Fine--Linda Leopold Strauss

I couldn't even finish this one. It was so slow and it was hard to read with my eyes rolling constantly. Same old "my life is falling apart" story but it's so slow I got bored in the first few chapters.

Some kids like it. Some don't. I really don't think it's Top Shelf. We've given in on the Supernaturalist and other books, I don't think we have to keep this one too.

Reading: Brother Hood--Janet McDonald
On My Nightstand: More more more

Open Your Eyes--Editor Jill Davis

Short story collection of young people traveling to other faraway places.

Didn't really interest me. I can't see middle school kids being very interested either. I'd say No to Top Shelf unless a kid likes it.

Reading: Really, Truly, Everything's Fine--Linda Leopold Strauss
On My Nightstand: Lots

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Puppet Wrangler -- Vicki Grant

12 year old Telly is sent to stay with her aunt so her parents can deal with her rebellious older sister. Telly's aunt is a producer for a children's television show with puppets. While helping out with the show, Telly discovers that one of the puppets is actually alive.

Funny. Exciting. Main character Telly is great. She narrates the story and includes footnotes that are hysterical. Some farting humor, but who doesn't love that? The puppet, Bitsie is funny too. I think we've all imagined our dolls/stuffed animals/toys coming to life and what they would be like. It's funny to think of a puppet on a kids' TV show being so gruff and ornery and having to say lines like "Bitsiest Best Friend."

The kids like it and are responding to it, so I'd say okay to it being Top Shelf. It was certainly entertaining and different and stands out from the rest of the "problem novel" crap we usually get.

Reading: Don't know yet
On My Nightstand: Lots

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Hunter--Joy Cowley

Told in alternating voices, this is a great example of a good multicultural adventure story. Half the story is set in 1805--a teenaged Maori boy is kept as a slave by a rival tribe. Because he has the ability to see visions, he is kept alive. He can see prey in his visions and is known for his hunting ability, but because he is a slave he is treated like the dogs and not given a name. He names himself Hunter and yearns for escape but must wait until he feels it's the right time.

The other half of the story is set in 2005. Three young children crash in a small plane on a remote island near New Zealand. The pilot is killed, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Somehow Hunter from 1805 is able to communicate with the oldest girl and help her survive with her brothers.

The chapters are short enough to keep the reader riveted. The alternating voices help contribute to the thrilling tone. The desrciptions are good--just enough to be interesting without being overwhelming. The two stories are tied together nicely at the end.

I'd like to see how the kids respond to it, but I think it's Top Shelf.

Reading: The Puppet Wrangler--Vicki Grant
On My Nightstand: Juliet Dove, Queen of Love and some baby name book but you don't care about that.

Monday, August 23, 2004

On the Run--Michael Coleman

Luke is a juvenile delinquent--his dad is in prison, again, and he seems to be headed in the same direction. While walking in a mall parking garage, he spots a 4x4 and decides to break in so he can steal a pair of running shoes. He has a talent for picking locks and would have been able to get away with the shoes if two local older thugs hadn't jumped him from behind and stolen the car. Luke is left behind and implicated in the car theft. Long story short, he's given community service instead of Juvie because of a letter written by the daughter of the care owner who saw good in him when he saved her life in the garage (the thugs tried to run her down).

Good story, Luke matures and realizes he doesn't want to be a criminal. The climax is exciting. But there's really nothing special about it. Nothing screams out Top Shelf.

Reading: Hunter--Joy Cowley
On My Nightstand: Juliet Dove, Queen of Love--Coville; something else I can't remember right now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sister Slam and the Poetic Motormouth Road Trip -- Linda Oatman High

I liked it. I like the title. I love the slam style. I love that Jack Kerouac's name was mentioned and the Beats were mentioned a lot.

Two friends, Laura a.k.a. Sister Slam and Twig leave their small Pennsylvania town for a Poetry Slam. They do okay at the slam, but wind up having crazy adventures during their road trip. This all leads to more slams and more adventures.

I enjoyed it thoroughly but I think it's better for an older reader than for a middle schooler. Middle school kids won't have the life experience, or anything close to it, to truly appreciate this story. Because of that, I'd say it's not Top Shelf, but definitely worth the read.

I don't have time for a real review since I'm currently working and trying to figure out who's going to be me for October-December. Ack.

On My Nightstand:

Blue Fingers -- Cheryl Aylward Whitesel

I couldn't even finish it.
I didn't particularly like the main character. The story was a bit boring. After reading a much better book about a Japanese boy during the time of the samurai and ninja (In Darkness, Death), this book just didn't do it for me.

Reading: Sister Slam and the Poetic Motormouth Road Trip--Linda Oatman High
On My Nightstand: Juliet Dove, Queen of Love--Bruce Coville
Story Time--Edward Bloor
Summer Secrets --Patricia Hermes

Thursday, August 12, 2004

In Darkness, Death--Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler

I started Behind You--Jacqueline Woodson yesterday, but didn't finish it. If I didn't have a million other books to read I would have finished it. It's definitely well-written and a good book, but I think it's better suited for high school than middle school and since this is crunch time for top shelf, I don't have time to read anything that's not a possibility (I also returned all those pregnancy books). Top Shelf is my only reading now.

Anyway, here's my notes for this book:

Fourteen-year-old samurai-in-training Seikei assists his foster father Judge Ooka investigate the murder of Lord Inaba in eighteenth century Japan and learns not only the way of the samurai, but also of the ninja in this exciting tale of murder and honor.

Well-written, descriptive and engaging. Will appeal to boys and girls. Mystery. Adventure. Multicultural. Judge Ooka was a real person, and although this story and Seikei are made, this would be a good useful curriculum tie. There are two previous books with these characters, but I hadn't read them and I didn't feel lost at all.

Reading: Oh gosh, I don't know now.
On My Nightstand: More more more

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Inventing Elliot--Graham Gardner

Reminiscent of The Chocolate War, this book effectively deals with both sides of bullying. Elliot is a weak loser at his old school and constantly a victim of the stronger, malicious bullies. When he moves to a new school he decides to reinvent himself--he needs to stand out just enough to fit in. He wants to be noticed in the right way, not noticed because he's trying to be invisible. His strategy works--until he's noticed in the right way by the wrong people--the Guardians who organize and orchestrate all the bullying in school. The Guardians recruit Elliot and even though he knows what it's like to be on the other side, he participates because of the relief that it's not him and the fear that it could be.

This is a good quick read. I finished it in just a few hours. There are references to 1984, and knowing Orwell's book definitely enhances the story, but it's not required. Graham does a good job examining bullies and their victims.

Possible Top Shelf depending on the reaction from the teens.
Reading: Behind You--Jacqueline Woodson
On My Nightstand:
Blue fingers : a ninja's tale -- Whitesel, Cheryl Aylward.
In darkness, death -- Hoobler, Dorothy.
Juliet Dove, Queen of Love--Coville, Bruce.
Sister Slam and the poetic motormouth roadtrip--High, Linda Oatman.
Story time--Bloor, Edward, 1950-
Summer secrets -- Hermes, Patricia.

Monday, August 02, 2004

On Becoming Babywise--Gary Ezzo

I'm not really reviewing this book, I just thought it would be funny to pretend to... Although I suppose you can say I haven't really been reviewing the last few books either (proper grammar and sentence structure is just so hard now). I did finish the Babywise book though. And like all of the other pregnancy and baby books I've been reading, it's about half and half as far as usefulness goes--some of it is really good and some of it is just bull.

I've been somewhat disappointed with the top shelf submissions. I think the publishers are all on drugs or just don't care. The list is Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Students. FICTION. MIDDLE SCHOOL. What part of that is confusing? I've been getting nonfiction. I've been getting books clearly meant for elementary school readers. Or high school readers. Ugh. Maybe it's good, it's giving me the time to read all these silly baby books, but I'm afraid when the deadline comes for my list I'm going to have a hard time coming up with 30 books!

Reading: So many to choose from...
On My Nightstand:
Birth your way by Kitzinger, Sheila.
Blue Fingers : a ninja's tale by Whitesel, Cheryl Aylward.
Doing It by Burgess, Melvin.
Husband-coached childbirth by Bradley, Robert A.
Natural Childbirth the Bradley way by McCutcheon, Susan.
On becoming birth wise by Ezzo, Anne Marie.
Pirates! by Rees, Celia.
Sister Slam and the poetic motormouth roadtrip by High, Linda Oatman.
Summer Secrets by Hermes, Patricia.

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