Monday, January 09, 2017

Review: The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is really a 3 1/2 star review. I have always been fascinated with Lizzie Borden and her story, ever since I was a kid and learned the lurid rhyme: "Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one." I have read tons of articles, and have even watched a ghost hunter show that takes place in her house, the scene of this awful crime. This book is takes us through the crime scene, and the author lets her readers know what life was like back in Fall River, Massachusetts 1892, with lots of sidebars and actual photographs. Some of the descriptions of the crime scene are totally gross. There were parts of the book I did skim over, because it got a little technical. That being said, this book is not that easy to read, so I would recommend it for 8th grade and up. As an aside, the author actually slept in Lizzie's bedroom, as the house is now a Bed and breakfast!

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Thursday, January 05, 2017

Review: Nightbird

Nightbird Nightbird by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Twig is a young teen who has moved from New York City to a quaint little town in Vermont. She lives with her mom and older brother, James. Her brother, because of an old family curse, stays hidden. He has huge black wings, and can fly! His mom is worried that the government will discover his "strangeness" and take him away. Because of all of this, Twig can never have close friends, and this gets to be difficult when a new family moves in to her neighborhood. She makes friends with Julia, a girl her own age, and they discover that this curse involved Julia's family, too. Things get even more complicated when Julia's older sister sees James, and they fall in love. Witches curses, spells, and monsters.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Review: No Ordinary Day

No Ordinary Day No Ordinary Day by Deborah Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a very slim novel, but tells a story that may be surprising to some middle school students. The setting is India, and we learn of the plight of Valli, who doesn't go to school because she picks (or steals) coal for her family. When she finds out that she is adopted, she runs away to Kolkata. She makes her way as a homeless girl, but then runs into some difficulty. She meets Dr. Indra, who tries to help Valli. Dr. Indra has discovered that Valli has leprosy. This is a very different kind of story, but a great way to learn how children survive in different cultures around the world.

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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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