Sunday, July 27, 2014

Anya's Ghost

Anya's GhostAnya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this graphic novel very much. Anya, the main character, is a high school misfit, not having that many friends. She believes it is because she is a bit overweight, and her family has emigrated here from Russia. She has worked hard to lose her accent, but she is lonely. Walking alone in a park, she falls down an abandoned well, and meets a ghost. It seems as if this ghost really wants to help Anya, but of course, things take a bad turn. I loved Anya's mother.

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Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci: Giants of Science #1Leonardo Da Vinci: Giants of Science #1 by Kathleen Krull
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was rather disappointed in this book. da Vinci was such a fascinating man, painter and inventor, that I feel a book for young people must at least include illustrations of his many sketches. This book does not do that, and it's a shame. There are so many excellent biographies for middle school and high school readers today, which captivate our interests. I fear that when a middle school student takes this book off the shelf, and sees virtually no illustrations, maps or portraits, they will not give this book a chance. I know that this book is part of the Giants of Science series, and the author does not elaborate on the artistic side of da Vinci, but there could still be illustrations of his inventions. There is some very good information, and I do hope that some young people will at least try to read this.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know a lot of 8th grade girls are going to disagree with me, but I did not love this novel. I liked the setting, South Carolina, and the fact that there was a touch of Civil War history, and I did like the characters, Ethan and Lena, and I was rooting for them as a couple, but...
The story takes place in a small town, where Ethan is in high school, on the basketball team, but is mourning the death of his mom. His father has hidden himself away in his room, and so when Lena comes in to town and begins school, Ethan feels as if he instantly connects to her. That's probably because he has been dreaming about her every night, even though he had never met her before. But strange things happen around Lena, she can make windows shatter, and storms weak havoc.
I thought this was a bit drawn out, lots of repetition, but young ladies who love romance, psychic phenomena and weird families, will love this.

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Small as an Elephant

Small as an ElephantSmall as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another book about elephants, but really, this book is about a young boy named Jack who has a very dysfunctional mother. The story opens with Jack and his mom on a camping trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. When Jack wakes up on the first morning, his mother is gone. She has left him all alone at a campsite, and we learn that she has done crazy things like this in the past. He loves his mother, and so will not report this to the police, but actually tries to find her. I could not put this book down, because I was fascinated with how Jack managed to be on his own for a few days, trying to make his way back to the Boston area, and his apartment. It is also a story about mental illness, and how children suffer as a result of parents not seeking medical help.

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The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful story! This is the tale of Ivan, a silverback gorilla, who is living in captivity in a mall and video arcade off of I-95. He has two special friends, Stella, an elephant, and a small dog named Bob. His "domain" is small, and it's hard for him to remember what it was like as a young gorilla in the jungle. When a baby elephant comes to join this sorry circus, Stella is dying, but makes Ivan promise to take care of baby Ruth when she is gone.  This very simple, but heartwarming story, is beautifully written. I highly recommend it, even for reluctant readers.

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Helen Keller Courage in Darkness

Helen Keller: Courage in DarknessHelen Keller: Courage in Darkness by Emma Carlson Berne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fascinating biography of a very remarkable person. We all know that Helen Keller was some woman in history who was deaf and blind, but this book reveals so much more. Her life spanned some of the most interesting times in modern history, and this book intertwines these events with Helen's life smoothly and clearly.  There are many actual photographs, and so many things that I never knew. Helen actually was in silent movies, and in vaudeville. She took up many social causes, and of course, helped change the way the world views disabled people. She died in 1968! I would recommend this for 7th grade and up.

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Searching for Sarah Rector

Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in AmericaSearching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America by Tonya Bolden
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a book full of information, photos, sidebars, and notes. There is everything you wanted to know about the Oklahoma oil boom, the African-Americans who lived in Indian Territory during the early 1900's, and good people and bad people, of both races. I thought this would read more like the other informational books for middle school students that I love,  but unfortunately, this book left me with more questions than answers. The narrative does not flow like a story, in fact, it reads more like a dry history text. It seems as if there was just not enough actual data on Sarah Rector, and nothing in her own words, and so, it left me disappointed.

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