Ages 10+

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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wonderWonder

Written by R.J. Palacio
Published by Knopf on February 14, 2012 
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Peer Relations
315 pages 
Ages: 10+
 

Three Word Review: Heartwarming, Compassion, Thought-Provoking

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that held him back from attending school due to numerous surgeries. However, now Auggie is a ten-year-old boy who is about to attend school for the first time. He desires to be ordinary and not be constantly stared at or judged by his face. Auggie knows exactly why people turn their head or gasp when they see him for the first time. His favorite day is Halloween when he can wear a different ‘mask’ and blend in. School is filled with the typical middle school drama, but Auggie has even more difficulty as classmates tease, bully, and ignore him. Auggie makes friends with a few who see the true Auggie.  Wonder changes perspectives between different individuals who come into Auggie’s life, but it is mainly from his viewpoint. Hopefully, Wonder will make you look past outward appearances to see the real individual. I stated that this book is for ages 10+, but everyone can enjoy the book and take its message. In fact, it’s my city library’s Tacoma Reads Together book for 2013 for all ages. I plan to attend an  author book talk hosted by the library.

Book Review: Because of Mr. Terupt

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Because of Mr. Terupt 

Written by Rob Buyea
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on October 6, 2010
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, School, Peer Relations 
Ages: 8+, 288 pages 

 

Mr. Terupt is the new fifth grade teacher at Snow Hill Elementary School. The book takes the perspective of seven unique classmates in Mr. Terupt’s class. Jessica is the smart new girl; Alexia is your bully or friend; Peter is the troublemaker; Luke is the class brain; Danielle lacks confidence; Anna has a difficult home life; and Jeffrey dislikes school. Each student has his or her own problems and joys about everyday events and classroom situations told from their perspective. Mr. Terupt is a fresh and new teacher who connects with each student. He tries new things and lets the students think for themselves. Until the awful day when an accident occurs that changes everyone.

I really enjoyed Because of Mr. Terupt. We’ve all had that one special teacher that made a difference in our life. (Hopefully, more than one teacher.) The teacher that made us feel special or we tried something new and exciting for the first time. The students in Mr. Terupt’s class changed because of him. It almost made me cry. It’s a heartfelt book that can spark conversation. I recommend this book.

 

Book Review: Among the Free (Shadow Children #7)

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Among the Free (Shadow Children #7) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on April 25, 2006 
Genre/Topics: Science Fiction, Adventure, Dystopia, Political
Ages: 10+, 208 pages 
 

*potential spoilers*

Among the Free is the final book in the Shadow Children series. At first I thought the title itself was a spoiler, since it states  that individuals are ‘free’. However, the title isn’t at all a spoiler. In this previous books of the Shadow Children series, the reader gains insight into the hardships of third children remaining hidden and who exactly to trust when actions take place. Also, there are different lead characters to gain perspectives. I was very pleased that Luke was the focus character just as it started in book one, Among the Hidden. It was as though the series came in full circle. In Among the Free, Luke is still in the Population Police as he attempts to remain out of sight however they select him for a group activity where he closely works with the Population Police. Events occur when Luke defies orders and runs away from the Population Police. Eventually, Luke stumbles into a village where he soon learns that the Population Police are no longer in power and everyone is free. Luke is skeptical and doesn’t believe the freedom that he views on television, so he travels to the headquarters himself. He indeed does find individuals rejoicing and chanting about freedom. However, conflict and disagreements occur when individuals cannot decide how to reform the government. There is chaos when individuals overuse their new freedom. Are the individuals truly free from the Population Police? What do people desire in their government? Is it possible for citizens to even agree?

I thought Among the Free‘s main plot tackles major political issues. It shows how citizens react to drastic government changes. This book can be used in social studies classrooms while teaching about real life situations in the news with government power conflicts. Unlike the previous books, there’s really no violence in Among the Free. The plot is quite complex and younger ages may not fully understand.

When I first read the Shadow Children series I wasn’t expecting to write a review for each book. I enjoyed the new story idea  and how the characters handled their situations. I’m actually surprised that Amazon lists this series ages eight and up, because the concepts are complex and there is some violence in the books. However, age isn’t a defining factor for whether a book is appropriate for a child. I suggest to read this series.

Book Review: Among the Enemy (Shadow Children #6)

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Among the Enemy (Shadow Children #6) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Published by Aladdin on May 17, 2005
Genre/Topics: Science Fiction, Adventure, Dystopia
Ages: 10+, 240 pages 
 

In this sixth installment in the Shadow Children series, Matthias from Among the Betrayed (book #3) is the main character. The book begins when the Population Police awaken children at school and take them away where they will work for their country. Matthias, along with his friends Percy and Alia, stay together and attempt to escape. Events occur that causes them to be free from the Population Police, however Percy and Alia are now injured. Matthias witnesses a fight between the Population Police and rebels. Without realizing it, Matthias rescues a Population Police officer who takes Matthias under his wing back to headquarters. Matthias is now in the middle of the place he fears most where he enlists to become a Population Police officer himself. While at headquarters, Matthias discovers that there are hidden individuals secretly planning against the Population Police. Matthias must decide who to trust and how to act in such a threatening environment that without careful steps may lead to disaster.

I enjoyed Among the Enemy, but yet again I was slightly disappointed that there was a new lead character. I really had to refresh my memory, since Matthias was only mentioned in book #3. However, I understand that the Shadow Children series is different from other series, because the problem evolves around an entire society not just one character. The reader gains a new perspective as we learn how different individuals handle the problems. Although, I prefer to follow events through a few constant characters throughout the series. I now have only one book to read in the Shadow Children series.

 

Book Review: Cat Found

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Cat Found 

Written by Ingrid Lee
Published by Scholastic Inc. on October 1, 2011
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Animal Rescue, Family Relations
Age: 10+, 176 pages 
 

Billy Reddick found an injured and dirty cat alone on the streets. He took the cat home, although his dad hates cats. Since Billy’s dad hates cats he kept the cat hidden in his messy room. His parents constantly fought and the cat gave Billy some comfort as he talked to the cat and provided care. The whole town disliked cats, because many stray cats wandered the streets at night. The town citizens became upset and discussed ideas about how to remove the cats. There were disagreements, since the town was divided with many ideas. Some citizens wanted to kill off cats whereas others wanted to safety rescue the cats. Billy was caught in the middle with family tensions, a secret cat he owns, and the town’s discussions.

Cat Found hooked my interest right from the first pages. The book described how the cat became injured and it truly broke my heart. Amazon listed this book for ages eight and up, but the subject was sensitive with some sad moments.  Depending upon the child’s maturity the book could be read with younger ages. The author wrote a similar book, Dog Lost.

Book Review: Among the Brave (Shadow Series #5)

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Among the Brave (Shadow Children #5) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Published by Aladdin on April 27, 2004
Genre/Topics: Adventure, Science Fiction, Dystopia 
Ages: 10+, 240 pages 

*Warning potential spoilers for previous Shadow Children books. *

The tragic end of Among the Barons (book #4) left Luke and his friends with more questions about who to trust and uncertainty about their futures. Luke escaped death when his friend, Trey, safely rescued him from harm. Trey is also a third child who remained hidden until he attended Hendricks School. He never considered himself brave or heroic. However, after his dramatic rescue to save Luke all his friends now view him with increased control and bravery. Trey doesn’t at all feel brave, instead he feels as though he was just lucky in a dangerous situation. After Trey’s friends left him alone at the Talbot’s house his goal is to remain hidden. Soon Trey has the courage to walk to the neighbor’s house that is also Luke’s home. Trey discovers Mark, Luke’s older brother, who is determined to find Luke. Mark and Trey begin an adventure to find and rescue Luke, although it’s hardly an easy task. They find themselves at the Population Police headquarters where Trey impersonates an officer. Even though Trey is at the center of individuals he has feared his entire life, Trey still doesn’t believe that he is brave. What exactly makes a person brave? Does Trey have what it takes to rescue others?

Among the Brave was similar to Among the Betrayed (book #3), because Luke isn’t the main character. Trey is mentioned in previous books, but the reader learns more about the character. I have mixed feelings about this aspect in the Shadow Children series. I enjoy developing a relationship with the lead character and additional characters mixed into the plot. However, the Shadow Children series highlights different individuals each effected by Population Police and laws. So although I don’t feel a strong connection with each character, I still enjoy learning about each individual’s struggles. I enjoyed looking at new aspects to what defines bravery, because Trey’s bravery may not have been the bold ‘standard’ yet events let his characteristics shine.

Book Review: Among the Barons (Shadow Series #4)

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Among the Barons (Shadow Children #4) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by Aladdin June 1, 2003
Genre/Topics: Adventure, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Ages: 10+, 208 pages
 

For the first twelve years of Luke’s life he had always been Luke, until he received the fake I.D. and he became Lee Grant. Soon Luke adjusted to being Lee at Hendricks School for Boys. He never fully wanted to declare himself as Lee, however he was able to no longer remain hidden. Suddenly, Lee’s younger brother, Smits Grant, desires to also attend Hendricks. Luke doesn’t understand why Smits wants to attend the same school, because Smits understands that Lee died. The Grants are barons who are rich and powerful and receive anything they desire. Smits finally attends Hendricks with his personal bodyguard and demands special accommodation, such as his own room and different food from the other students. Luke’s not sure if Smits can keep the secret that Lee has in fact died. Luke must now live in more lies as he pretends to be Smits brother. Can he trust Smits and his bodyguard?

I enjoyed Among the Barons just as much as the other Shadow Children books. This book becomes complex with more characters and new perspectives. Luke’s character evolved as he’s been out of the shadows for a few months. There were story plots that surprised me just as the previous books.

 

Book Review: Among the Betrayed (Shadow Series #3)

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Among the Betrayed (Shadow Children #3) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing on June 1, 2002 
Genre/Topics: Dystopia, Adventure, Science Fiction 
Ages: 10+, 160 pages 

 

This is the third book in the Shadow Children series and it takes a turn from the previous books. In the first two books, Luke is the central character, but in Among the Betrayed, Nina Idi is the main focus. Nina attended a girl’s school similar to the boy’s school. At the end of book two, Among the Impostors, Nina and Jason were arrested as traitors for falsely turning in third children to the Population Police. Now Nina is in prison and must state exactly what occurred or she faces death. However, the prison guard makes a deal for her to betray other imprisoned third children to learn more information about them. When she meets the children she discovers that they are much younger than her. Nina isn’t sure who to trust and whether she should betray the others.

I enjoyed Among the Betrayed, but I was slightly disappointed that Luke wasn’t the main character. However, I think the series’ theme is complex and additional character perspectives add to the plot. Personally, I thought the book was slow at times. Nina’s prison time is descriptive and harsh at times, so I suggest age ten and up. I’m ready to read book four. (I love when I don’t have to wait for the next book to be published.)

 
 

Book Review: Among the Impostors (Shadow Series #2)

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Among the Impostors (Shadow Children #2) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by Aladdin on December 21, 2001 
Genre/Topics: Science Fiction, Adventure, School Hazing 
Ages: 10+, 172 pages 
 
 

For the first time in Luke’s life he is no longer hiding with the help of a fake I.D. He’s enrolled at Hendricks School for Boys where he must attempt to blend in, because if he’s discovered as a third child the Population Police may kill him. As soon as Luke arrives at Hendricks there is constant teasing and hazing from other classmates. Luke doesn’t know where his classes are, sits alone, and often must follow the orders from others. He begins to get homesick and whispers his name, since now he is Lee Grant. Luke cannot tell the students apart, gets lost in hallways, and doesn’t understand why the school has no windows. One day while wondering the halls Luke notices an unlocked door to the outside. Will Luke have the courage to understand the secrets at Hendricks?

I enjoyed Among the Impostors perhaps even more than Among the Hidden. There are new situations, problems, and characters for the reader to discover. The book surprised me even when I thought I knew what was happening. I’m ready to read the third book in the Shadow series.

Book Review: Among the Hidden (Shadow Series #1)

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Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by  Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on September 1, 1998
Genre/Topics: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Adventure
Age: 10+, 153 pages 
Book Awards: Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2002),Sunshine State Young Readers Award for Grades 6-8 (2001), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (1999)
 

Luke has never gone to school, left his house, or met any other individual beside his family. He lives in the attic and cannot even look out windows. Luke is a third child who lives in the shadows. He must remain hidden, because he lives in a society where there can only be two children. If a third child or anyone attempting to hide a third child is discovered then the Population Police can punish by death. One day while peeking through the attic vents he notices a face in the neighbor’s window. Is it another third child who must stay hidden? How will Luke respond to the face?

I really enjoyed this book, because it had an interesting and unique plot. It contains government context and perhaps mature ideas. The book ended on a great cliffhanger and I’m ready to read the next book in the series.

Book Review: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

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Dead End in Norvelt 

Written by Jack Gantos  
Published on September 13, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Ages 10+, 341 pages 
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Humorous
 

Jack Gantos is grounded for the entire summer in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, in 1962.  How did Jack get himself grounded during the entire summer? He accidentally  shot a bullet from his father’s Japanese rifle and disobeyed his mother’s commands when he cut down her corn crop. To get out of the house, Jack agrees to help his elderly neighbor, Miss Volker, type obituaries. Miss Volker is a Norvelt town original and it is her duty to report  obituaries for  the original Norvelt citizens. The obituaries include much more than just information about the deceased, instead it is historical narratives about how their life impacted the small town. There are many colorful characters in Norvelt. Jack’s best friend is Bunny whose father is the town undertaker. Mr. Spizz rides an adult tricycle and adores Miss Volker, yet she has no plans to marry him. Each obituary leads to new adventures with real historical information scrambled in the book. Miss Volker always reminds Jack that people need to learn from the past, because mistakes can be repeated. Sprinkled inside the story are Girl Scout cookies, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Hells Angels, melted wax, a homemade airplane, a bloody nose, and even a possible murder.

Dead End in Norvelt won the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction in 2012. Personally, I think this book was very humorous at times but I’m not sure it fully deserves a Newbery Medal. I think the book had little emotion, plot, character development, and it didn’t leave me with a lasting moral or lesson the way many wonderful Newbery Medal books have done. I enjoyed that there was real history throughout the pages, since Jack spent his grounded time reading historical books and he learned information from Miss Volker when writing the obituaries. If you’re searching for a book with sarcastic humor, death, true facts, and a glance into 1962 as a child then this may be your book.

 

Book Review: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet 

Written by Gary Paulsen 
Read by Peter Coyote 
Originally Published by Aladdin on January 1, 1987 
Ages: 10+, 208 pages 
Audio Review: 3 hours, 42 minutes 
Audio Edition: Published by Listening Library on April 27, 2004
Topics: Survival, Adventure
 

On a trip to visit his recently divorced father, thirteen year old Brian Robeson is the only survivor in the small single engine plane crash after the pilot has a heart attack. After the pilot dies, Brian steers the plane as best as he can and lands inside the Canadian wilderness. The only items he has for survival are his clothes and the newly bought hatchet from his mother. Brian faces many challenges as he braves the wildness alone to survive. In order to survive, Brain must stay physically and emotionally strong. He often has flashbacks about his parent’s recent divorce, which is painful because he feels he wouldn’t be in this situation if his parents were still together. Brian knows that if he is going to survive the wilderness then he needs to think positive. His personality changes as he becomes more patient and corrects previously made mistakes. Brian gains patience as he learns to closely watch and think before making any quick and reckless actions. He learns skills to fish, start a fire, build a shelter, and defend himself. Hatchet is the first book in the Brian Saga series. Gary Paulsen won a Newbery Honor Award for Hatchet.

I enjoyed listening to this audio version of Hatchet. Peter Coyote’s voice was clear and provided emotion during the reading. There was sometimes music and sound effects during suspenseful moments. Some readers may become disinterested, since Brian is the only character for most of the book and there is no real conversation. However, Hatchet kept my interest as Brian encountered challenges for survival.

Book Review: Eggs by Jerry Spinelli

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Eggs 

Written by Jerry Spinelli 
Published June 1, 2007 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Ages: 10+ 
224 pages 
Topics: Death, Friendship, Dysfunctional Families
 

David is nine years old who lives with his grandmother since his mother died in an accident. He takes his frustrations out on his grandmother and doesn’t have any friends. He always follows the rules, since his mother’s death was caused by someone who didn’t follow the rules.

Primrose is thirteen years old who lives with her fortune-teller mother and her own ‘room’ is an old vehicle that she hopes to beautify. People often egg her ‘room’, but she tries not to take it too personal. She’s not sure who her father is and often pretends to be someone else.

David’s first encounter with eggs is when he’s dragged to an Easter egg hunt with his grandmother. David finds an egg, but after a second glance he notices that the egg was resting on lips. This is the first time he meets Primrose, yet he believes she’s dead.

David and Primrose begin unlikely friendship. David now sneaks out late as Primrose takes him ‘shopping’, which is actually searching through trash to sell items at a flea market. David knows he’ll never get into trouble since his grandmother won’t tell his father even if she does notice him gone. Primrose also doesn’t tell her mother about her late night shopping trips, since her own mother often isn’t thinking straight. David and Primrose often yell their frustrations at each other, but they gradually help each other with their own personal struggles.

I had difficulties with Eggs, because I honestly don’t think a nine and thirteen year old who aren’t siblings, neighbors, or attend the same school would become friends. However, they are never truly friends instead they both come from slightly dysfunctional families and together they slowly realize how to live through their pain and heal in the process.  Personally, I don’t think this was Jerry Spinelli’s best book. I suggest Maniac Magee for a great read.

Book Review: Maniac Magee

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Maniac Magee

Written by Jerry Spinelli 
Published November 1, 1999 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Ages: 10+
180 pages
Topics: Realistic Fiction, Racism, Homelessness, Sports
 

Maniac Magee wasn’t always known as Manic Magee, instead he was born as Jeffrey Lionel Magee. There are many legends about him and it’s sometimes difficult to know the whole truth. His parents died when he was only three, so he lived with his aunt and uncle who continually fought. Jeffrey had enough and he ran away, but he didn’t just run away. No, he ran and ran until his shoes fell apart. You may be curious how Jeffrey became ‘maniac’. When he finally slowed down, he left memorable impressions with individuals. Some people thought it appeared odd to rescue a kid from the feared house in the neighborhood or throw a football with one hand or eat dinner without knowing anyone at the table or hit a baseball from an unbeatable pitcher. Finally, whenever anybody discussed the new kid he was now known as Maniac. Maniac Magee didn’t have a home, so he often ran house to backyard to even the zoo. The legend is true that he never went to school, since he didn’t have a home to go to when school was out. Maniac Magee is most remembered for bringing the East Side and West Side together, which was racial divided by misunderstandings.

Maniac Magee won a Newbery Medal in 1991. Some Newbery Medal books I don’t think are worthy, but Maniac Magee is worth the high honor. I really enjoyed this book and even cried. It’s a great book with a powerful message to break down barriers and not keep prejudices, instead learn and understand about each other. There are racial remarks and hate messages throughout the book. The subject is complex, but there are many humorous situations as Maniac Magee doesn’t see black and white instead he sees challenges to overcome. I highly recommend this book.

     For the life of him, he couldn’t figure why these East Enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him was real black.

- Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, page 51)

Scholastic Lesson Plans for Maniac Magee

Maniac Magee Lesson Plans, Vocabulary, & Activities

Various Lesson Plans with Maniac Magee, Newbery Medal, Jerry Spinelli’s Biography