Monday, May 19, 2008

So Far From Home

So Far From Home

A Dear America Book

by Barry Denenberg (1997)

Irish girl escapes the potatoes, sails the ocean blue, works in the mills, dies of a cough... I've been very impressed with the "Dear America" series, so I'm glad I didn't pick this one up first. It didn't start out too bad, maybe a little rushed, yet melodramatic, but the 2nd half must have been written right after reading Lyddie ... really does not measure up to the quality of the other books.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher

101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher

by Lee Wardlaw (2004)

Y'know how you go to make an omelet and start tossing in whatever is there in the fridge, but realize you went too far and added too much when the spaghetti and orange chicken clash unappetizingly, so you have a bowl of Cap'n Crunch instead?

I don't think I can remember all the issues blended in to this scramble -- surprise pregnancy of mom, laid off dad, overly mean teacher, freshly deceased mother/dad dating again (and dating the mean teach, but that's just syrup on the eggs), rebellion of good student, crush on girl, too smart for grade level, never giving up on your dreams, mysterious illness/best friend in hospital, Egyptian burial traditions -- the list goes on...


having been shown my critique and the comment from this book's author (see "comments") , Guest Reviewer/Son #2 decided to air his opinion as well, and come to the defense of the author and her work --

Dear Ms. Wardlaw,

I really like this book, 101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher, the
funny thing is that it wasn't given to my classroom as a gift but the teacher bought it from the book fair! It's a pretty good book but I think that in 101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher you should have put more info on the other teachers instead of only on Fierce (my teacher is not nearly as bad as Fierce) also I was wondering if the book is based on a real thing or if its a made up story. I can't wait until when 101 Ways to Bug Your Friends and Enemies comes out in 2009.

Sincerely, Kasey

p.s. I think that Sneeze should invent an automatic fish feeder.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Journal of Joshua Loper

The Journal of Joshua Loper

a Dear America Book

by Walter Dean Myers (1999)

Driving cattle along the Chisolm Trail, keeping a diary of battles against the elements, stubborn steer and horses, racism, and the difficulty of being a cowboy.

The Slave Dancer

The Slave Dancer

by Paula Fox

Newbery Medal 1974

A young boy from New Orleans is impressed into the crew of a slave trader and witnesses first hand the horrors of human capture and bondage... not light reading for a fun book group, but not overly heavy either; there is always a spark of awareness and independence in the boy to let us study the other characters and the slave situation without being overwhelmed.

I seem to be on a sea theme lately, maybe there's a cruise in my future (but I guess that would mean there would be pirates, shipwrecks, rats and scurvy too, so let's hope not...)

Thursday, May 15, 2008


by Neil Gaiman (2002)
Ooooo, spooooky... a little ghost story, clever and imaginative and humorous in the expected excellence of Gaiman's style. A girl in a big house with quirky neighbors and a mysterious door to nowhere...

Seuss was an annoying child...

Monday, May 12, 2008



by Jerry Spinelli (2007)

Misfit, emotionally stressed, parentless kids argue and bond and help each other... they argued a bit much for me, but maybe that's because I have my own that I usually refuse to let bicker/fight/insult (unless it's clever) with each other. A deceased mom, a wacky mom, missing and rarely there dads, a clueless Grandmother that lets her 9 yr old roam the streets all night (?), and a teen girl with issues (the book on her would be a J Frey/C. Love memoir) all connect for a too easy ending, but lots of issues to discuss with kids -- grief, growing up/personal responsibilty, connecting with others...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sky Horizon

(sorry, the cover is much spookier when larger than a freckle...)

Sky Horizon

by David Brin (2007)

I like a book that does the unexpected; as an adult reading juv or YA fiction, things can get a bit predictable (although I really thought ol' Wilbur would be Christmas dinner) and when a book keeps me turning and guessing, that's a good thing.

Sky Horizon isn't the best written book, it has some strange scenes that don't seem to fit -- but when the end is not really the end (what/where is the next book?) even that seems to fit in, and is another unexpected aspect... standing alone, the book has some drama, some intrigue, a good lead character, and aliens. It also brings up many points for discussion regarding our history and future as a planet, our role as a species or member of the universe, or simply as individuals relating to one another. Lots of opportunity for "well, what would you do?" or "what do you think?"

connections: exploration, Columbus/aborigine, ET, Only You...Mankind

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Love, Stargirl

Love, Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli (2007)
A little more sappy and melodramatic (in a spacey way) than the first Stargirl, but still enjoyable, sweet, and funny. I think I have a fondness for Stargirl because she reminds me a lot of a former girlfriend from back in the day who I imagine still pines for me and leaves me anonymous notes... she wasn't as weird as Stargirl, but was unique and caring and did her own thing -- attractive yet scary to a teenage boy and his raging hormones. Ah, I digress... Much more likable supporting cast here, lots to discuss with peer pressure and family issues and unrequited emotions...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Cay

The Cay

by Theodore Taylor (1969)

set during WWII among the Caribbean Islands, a white boy and an elderly black man are shipwrecked together on a tiny island where the boy learns to respect and love the man... good adventure, survival, coming of age, very well done...

Golden Line: "He said softly 'Young bahss, you 'ave always been my friend.'"

connections: blindness, shipwrecks, Swiss Family Robinson, Call it Courage

Friday, May 2, 2008

Babe and Me

Babe and Me

by Dan Gutman (2000)

"A Baseball Card Adventure" -- if my review gets confused, it may be because we just watched the movie Everybody's Hero about a kid and Babe Ruth... pretty cool, mixes in real world events with a boy that can travel back in time, unbelievable but fun...