Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thoughts on Lincoln's Flying Spies: Thaddeus Lowe and the Civil War Balloon Corps by Gail Jarrow

Lincoln's Flying Spies: Thaddeus Lowe and the Civil War Balloon CorpsHaving never heard of the Civil War Balloon Corps, I was curious to read this title. Thaddeus Lowe petitioned Abraham Lincoln and the various Generals of the Army of the Potomac to hire him (and his balloons) to scout and identify the position and numbers of the Confederate Army. Jarrow tells of the trials and triumphs of Lowe's quest -- which generals supported and which didn't.

I enjoyed the various photographs and illustrations in the book, but I just wish there had been a little bit of color. I know the photographs had to be black and white, but I think some color could have been included somewhere! There is a great deal of information presented to the reader, and some may find it difficult to comprehend it all. I found the story, while a fascinating subject, dully written. I doubt if any, except the avid Civil War buff will bother to read it. Still, it could be useful for use with a research project on this topic. C+ rating.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thoughts on Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy

Yellow Star
There have been so many Holocaust books written for young readers, that I have to applaud Ms. Roy on telling an unique and amazing story! To be one of twelve children to survive the Lodz Ghetto...Wow! I'm so glad I knew going in that Syvia survived (no spoiler there since you know this on the first page), otherwise I would have been petrified to turn the page. Even knowing the outcome, I still didn't want to turn the page for fear it would describe some friend or family member's death.

Yellow Star is another novel told in verse, perfect for those looking for an excellent example of this format. I'll be highly recommending this to one and all! A rating.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thoughts on Room One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements

Room One: A Mystery or Two
Ted lives in a small, rural town in western Nebraska, where his school consists of five students and he is the only 6th grader. He aspires to one day write mysteries, so he's always on the lookout for one to investigate. And he just found one. Someone was looking out the window at the Anderson's abandoned farmhouse. No one should be there. As he investigates, he learns that a girl, April, and her brother and mom are living there. As he gets to know April, he learns that her father was killed in Iraq. As he helps this family, Ted leads his town in adopting this family to give the town a new identity and possibly to prosperity again.

This isn't my favorite Clements story, mainly because of a disappointing climax and conclusion. I doubt the ending will appeal to many, because it leaves the answers to the reader's imagination. C rating.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Most Popular

These are AMS's most popular titles right now. Plenty of good ones here. It's amazing how some older titles keep popping back onto the list!

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

The Greek and Roman demigods will have to cooperate in order to defeat the giants released by the Earth Mother, Gaea. Then they will have to sail together to the ancient land--Greece itself--to find the Doors of Death.

Attack of the Vampire Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales by David Lubar

Contains over thirty stories of vampires, ghosts, middle school teachers, and other scary things.

Breathe: a Ghost Story by Cliff McNish

When he and his mother move into an old farmhouse in the English countryside, asthmatic, twelve-year-old Jack discovers that he can communicate with the ghosts inhabiting the house and inadvertently establishes a relationship with a tormented, malevolent spirit that threatens to destroy both his mother and himself.

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen

Fifteeen-year-olf Eli, locked inside a radiation-proof compound built by his father to keep them safe following a nuclear attack, begins to question his future, as well as his father's grip on sanity as the family's situation steadily disintegrates over the course of six years.

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale

Rapunzel, having grown up in a lovely castle with the woman she thought was her mother, is placed in a very tall hollow tree as punishment after her curiosity prompts her to climb the castle wall and look at the ruin of the world beyond her home, but she is able to escape and, with the help of Jack, embarks on a plan to free the land from the grip of the witch.

Brain Camp by Susan Chongmi Kim

Problem children Jenna and Lucas find themselves invited to Camp Fielding, where they are surrounded by other misfits whose parents hope will be changed into prodigies. When strange things begin happening around them, Jenna and Lucas team up to investigate, but what they discover is beyond anything they could have imagined.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Baptism by Shelia P. Moses

The Baptism
Readers follow along as Leon weaves a story about the time when he and his twin brother, Luke, are now twelve and old enough to be baptized. This is a coming-of-age tradition is his community, and one that Leon isn't sure he's ready for. In his matter-of-fact voice, the reader learns of the racial prejudice Leon and his family live with daily, and the many injustices African-Americans faced. For me, it's difficult to fathom having to live with the fact that your father was murdered and nothing done to seek justice simply because the victim was black or, knowing that the white man who owns the land you sharecrop is a half-brother of your mom, a relationship that is never acknowledged publicly.

This isn't a book I would recommend for the average middle school reader, frankly because I don't know that they would fully grasp the difficulties of this life. I think it would be an excellent story to use as a starting point for discussions about the life of African Americans and the importance of the civil rights movement.

Because it's a story where there's no great conflict or mystery to grab the reader's attention at the start, I'm not sure how many 11-13 year olds would be drawn to The Baptism. I do think it's one I'll recommend some teachers use as a read-aloud to lead to discussions. C+ rating.