Thursday, September 08, 2016

Review: Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed some of the other books that Gary D. Schmidt has written---they have always been a bit touching, and very real. This storyline is very different. Jack and his parents have decided to take in a foster kid named Joseph. All that Jack knows about him is: he tried to kill a teacher; he won't wear anything orange; he won't let anyone stand behind him; he won't let anyone touch him; he won't go into rooms that are too small; and, he has a daughter. Whoa. The writing is beautiful and simple, the two boys will creep into your heart, and you will feel your heart break. Good story for both girls and boys, adults, too.

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Sunday, September 04, 2016

Review: We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read many of Russell Freedman's historical nonfiction books, which are all well-researched and full of photographs, and this one is another to add to the collection in the Maxson MS library. The setting is Nazi Germany, and our heroes are young college students who defied Adolf Hitler and his notorious regime. The White Rose student movement was founded by Hans Scholl and a few friends, and soon included his sister, Sophie Scholl. In a time when children turned against parents, and neighbor against neighbor, Hans and Sophie Scholl were able to inspire a brave group of college students, and distribute thousands of leaflets condemning the Nazis. Freedman brings their story alive, and gives the reader wonderful photographs to leave a lasting image on our hearts.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Wonder. I thought it was well-written, and told a remarkable story. This book tells the story of other people that Augie encountered that first year at Beecher Prep. Three different stories that stand alone, and, they are all very entertaining. The Julian Chapter lets us see how some of the students were really mean and snarky to Augie. The Pluto chapter helps us to see friendship in a new light. And the Shingaling chapter is lots of fun, with lots of middle school "girl" drama. I hope that when 6th and 7th graders read this, it will help them look at their friendships, and kids in their classes, with a bit more empathy.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: Booked

Booked Booked by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I totally loved The Crossover, and this book comes in a close second to The Crossover. Booked, though, is about soccer. Nick Hall is a star soccer player, as is his best friend, Coby. They play and kid around all the time, and everything seems cool, until Nick is hit with some really bad news.

Not as much sports action in this book as there was in The Crossover, but it is a quick read and both middle school boys and girls should enjoy this.

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Review: Wintergirls

Wintergirls Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is probably one of the most depressing books I have ever read. Lia and Cassie were friends, but had grown apart. Both girls had eating disorders, and as you can tell from Lia's observations, they were both bad influences on each other. But Cassie turns up dead in a motel room, and the night she died, she left 33 messages on Lia's phone. Lia is haunted by Cassie's death, and is on a death spiral herself, as she sets lower and lower weight goals that will kill her sooner than later.

I have loved and recommended many of Laurie Halse Anderson's books, but I simply can not recommend this one. The family is clueless, and that was very frustrating for me. I do not want to believe that parents can be so self-absorbed that they would not recognize that their daughter is starving to death. 8th grade and up.

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Review: All Shook Up

All Shook Up All Shook Up by Shelley Pearsall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a disclaimer: I am a die-hard Elvis Presley fan. So, when this book showed up at my book fair, I purchased it for the library, and knew I had to read it. It is a funny, very down-to-earth look at the relationship between 13 year-old Josh, (who lives with his mom in Boston) and his father, who lives in Chicago. Poor Josh has to go live with his dad for a few months, which means starting a new middle school, and being away from his friends. Traumatic, right? Well, when Josh finds out that his dad lost his job, and is now trying to make a living as an Elvis impersonator, things get crazy.
Very realistic dialogue, the author never writes down to her audience, and the story moves along very quickly. Very real family problems, and they are not sugar-coated.
I even made my husband read the book, and he enjoyed it, too!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review: The Boy in the Black Suit

The Boy in the Black Suit The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book started out making me laugh, and I immediately liked the author's style of writing. It is very realistic, you can hear the voices of the characters as they walk down the street, or down the hall in school. Matt, the main character, has suffered the loss of his mother. He is trying to deal with the grief, and still must contend with high school. He is befriended by Mr. Ray, the owner of the funeral home that took care of his mom's funeral. It's a good thing, because Matt's dad is not handling the death of his wife. He has started to drink, and is becoming an embarrassment to Matt. Matt takes a part-time job at the funeral home, and he meets an interesting girl, named Love. Their lives have crossed once before, but they didn't know it.
I liked Mr. Ray a lot, and Matt was cool. I hope some mature 8th graders will give it a chance.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics

The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am amazed that a book about rowing could be exciting and moving. After having seen the movie, Race, about Jesse Owens competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, I really didn't think this book would hold my interest. I was wrong. From the very beginning, the author does a wonderful job of drawing the reader into the story of one of the "boys", Joe Rantz. We learn about his really difficult childhood, growing up in Washington State during the Great Depression. He was left on his own at the age of 15. But the bigger story is that of this remarkable crew team, that beat the odds. It is a story of a group of remarkable young men, who stove to be the best. There are lots of great photographs, and, I wasn't bored at all.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another great nonfiction book for young adults. I love history, and am a Civil War buff, so I thought I knew a lot about the KKK. It is so great when I can learn something new about history, especially about the history of the United States. This book describes a truly horrific time in our history. Just after the Civil War, during Reconstruction, and through the Jim Crow era, Susan Campbell Bartoletti does a fantastic job of explaining the history of the KKK, and about the lives of all the black people who had to live with the Clan's acts of terrorism. There are many actual photographs, illustrations, and a great deal of eyewitness accounts, as were recorded back in 1937, and can be found in the Library of Congress. I highly recommend this book for 8th graders and up.

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