Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Touchdown Trouble by Fred Bowen

Touchdown Trouble (Fred Bowen Sports Story Series)Sam is excited when his football team, the Cowboys, beat their rivals, the Giants, with his last second touchdown, and are the only undefeated team in their league. When the whole team gets together at Sam's house for a celebratory viewing of the game on video, they discover that the touchdown shouldn't have counted. Now, they will have to decide whether or not to inform the league, the other team, and their coach about their discovery.

I love watching football, but I rarely read books about football. I think it's because the descriptions don't tell me enough to visualize the play most of the time. Or, maybe, I just don't want to read a play-by-play transcript of a game. What I like about Touchdown Trouble is how the story really isn't the game itself, but what happens at the game to affect all of the players afterwards. It's nice to have a story where the characters are faced with an ethical dilemma, but I wish that the outcome wasn't so clear from the onset. I wanted to be left in suspense a bit on what decision the boys would make, rather than know even before I got there how the vote would end.

Yes, it's a bit predictable, but I still think fans of sports books will love to read. It's probably best suited for 5th-6th graders at the oldest, although some slightly older may want to read. I give it a 'C' rating.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Off To War by Deborah Ellis

Off to War: Voices of Military ChildrenDeborah Ellis interviewed the children of service members from the United States and Canada on their thoughts and opinions. We learn of their feelings about having a parent serve in a war, their life at home and how it differs from the average child, whether they plan to join the military, and what are their goals in life. Interviewed are children of varying ages, backgrounds, and situations, so the reader gets a wide spectrum of views.

I enjoyed reading the first four interviews or so, but then felt like I was hearing the same thing over and over. I wanted to notice what made this child or family different from the previous one and I didn't see much. I can see some readers becoming bored and not finishing the book, but I hope they will at least skip to the last two stories. One was an interview with a child whose father died in Iraq and another whose father is a conscientious objector to the war. To me, these last ones were the most fascinating, and maybe that's because they stood out from the others.

I did sense an underlying anti-war message from the author, but one I think she tried to minimize. I got the feeling that she tried to be as neutral as possible about the issue. I'm glad I read the book, for it does give one much to ponder. I just wish I could have been more engaged with the stories of these children. I give it a 'C.'

Monday, April 4, 2011

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

IncantationI'm not sure how many YA novels have been written about Jews who hid their religion during the Spanish Inquisition, but this is the first one I've read.

In Incantation, Estrella's whole life transforms when she discovers the secrets of her family. Years before, in order to avoid persecution, her ancestors pretended to convert to Christianity, but secretly practices their faith. When the family is betrayed by someone thought to be a friend, Estrella must make some decisions that will change her life forever.

I like the way Alice Hoffman writes. The story is deceptively simple -- emotions are laid bare, straightforward. Before the reader notices, bam!, he's sucker-punched and his gut's in knots. As he turns the pages, he hopes for a twist to make things better for Estrella and her family, knowing that it was unlikely to occur.

Definitely recommended for fans of historical fiction, Incantation rates a 'B' from me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland About two years ago, I set out to read or reread many of those books considered classics. As part of that goal, I selected Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Before now, I'd only read selections from the book, but never the entire story.

 I found the story charming, especially the poems/songs. Yes, it's silly and nonsensical, but that's part of the fun. I can just imagine someone creating a story such as this to entertain some children, adding in something sillier just to get a stronger reaction from your audience. (Think of the movie, "Bedtime Stories.")

Don't read this expecting to find something exactly like the Tim Burton film or the Disney animated film. Instead read it if only to know the inspiration of both films. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to those that want to read something that's silly and fun. It's a 'B' book for me.