Tuesday, February 26, 2008

SMILES TO GO by Jerry Spinelli

I've been a long-time Jerry Spinelli fan and was truly excited when given the chance to review his latest, SMILES TO GO. I'm happy to report that Spinelli has created a story that I believe is perfect for his maturing fan base. Those who fell in love with MANIAC MAGEE and WRINGER will be ready for this new novel.

Will Tuppence is a freshman. He spends his days skateboarding, playing Monopoly with his two best friends, Mi-Su and BT, and star-gazing at far-away galaxies. As normal as that sounds, there is another side to Will. His fascination with science gives him a serious approach to life. Recent news that the proton can actually die has Will constantly concerned about just how long life can go on.His concern about protons becomes the underlying thought that occupies his mind as he stumbles through his freshman year.

Other things in addition to the proton problem are beginning to spin out of control for Will. After witnessing a secret kiss between Mi-Su and BT, he starts to wonder why he hasn't tried to kiss Mi-Su. She is suddenly looking like more than just a mere friend. Skateboarding is a great pasttime until BT manages the impossible - a death-defying ride down Dead Man's Hill. How can Will even attempt to match that? There is also the constant pestering of Will's little sister, Tabby. How can he concentrate on his school work or attempt to train for the upcoming chess tournament when she's like an annoying mosquito buzzing through his life?

Spinelli takes his readers into the life of Will Tuppence. In his traditional straight-forward style, he presents Will's challenges and triumphs in a way that had me chuckling and teary-eyed, often at the same time. As I mentioned earlier, I think Spinelli recognizes that his loyal fans are now a bit older and has given them a story to sink their more mature teeth into.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

GRIEF GIRL by Erin Vincent

It happened when they were innocently crossing the street. A speeding tow truck hit them both. She was killed instantly, and he died one month later from complications.

GRIEF GIRL is the true story of Erin Vincent and how she lost both her parents. The lives of Erin, her older sister Tracy, and their younger brother Trent, were tragically changed on the night on October 23, 1983. They were called to the hospital only to learn that their mother was already dead, and their father had suffered crushing injuries to both of his legs.

The story that follows is about how Erin moved from a stunned fourteen year old to a mature young woman with a job in journalism. Life dealt them a cruel blow, but Erin, Tracy, and Trent struggled to overcome less than helpful relatives, financial hardships, and numbing grief to stay together as a family.

Erin describes in detail the stages of grieving that threatened at times to break her will to survive. There was the shock, the tears, the fears, and the depression of the first year of survival. As time passed, Erin details the pressure she felt to keep things running smoothly and not create extra pressure for her sister Tracy. She explains the anger and resentment she felt when the uncle in charge of their inheritance refused to make funds available for necessary expenses. She also speaks candidly of grandparents on her father's side who offered no encouragement or support, but rather criticizm and threats to remove little Trent from his sisters' care.
GRIEF GIRL takes readers on a nearly four year journey of intense emotions that will leave a lasting impression. Hopefully, Erin Vincent will not stop with her own personal story, but will go on to use her writing talents in many other creative ways.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

THE DEADLY CATCH (The Midnight Library Tales #8) by Damien Graves

“The Deadly Catch” is the tale of two boys who kayak into danger. Warnings to stay inside the retaining wall and not venture into the open sea, fall on deaf ears. David and Adam are more interested in looking for real life sharks than listening to a cautious adult. What follows is a mysterious fog, what appears to be an abandoned boat, and a gray, slimy residue. Maybe there is something to be said about a little bit of caution.

The second story titled “The Trap” will scare the pants off anyone with a fear of mice. After Katie’s mother leaves their house in a phobia-induced panic, Katie and her father are left to battle a massive invasion of mice. Beware! This one could interrupt your sleeping for a few night.

“Sticks and Stones” is the story of Shiny Time lip gloss. Who knew that something as innocent as lip gloss could change the life of a teenager. Strange things begin happening, and Kelly finally begins to accept the fact that her fabulous new purchase might be the cause.

Great for middle grade and reluctant readers, these stories are enjoyable separately or as a complete collection. They would provide excellent models for student-driven writing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Sixteen-year-old Morgan just broke up with her boyfriend. Breaking up with a boyfriend sometimes makes a person do crazy things. So she decided to cut off her hair leaving black stubble streaked with her natural strawberry blonde roots, what's the big deal? Can't a girl do something to get her mind off her problems?

Morgan is shocked when her parents' reaction to her hair cutting stunt and near depression caused by her failed romance is to pack her up and ship her off. Not off to a nearby relative or a summer camp, but off to Ireland on a cross-country bike trip. Ireland! A whole other country, clear across the ocean!

At first this unexpected trip has Morgan pitching a fit, but once she arrives in Ireland and accepts the fact, she begins to see the possibilities for adventure. Although her travel companions are an odd bunch, she immediately recognizes that the young, good-looking tour guide has quite a bit of potential. Things might not be so bad after all.

After a nasty spill off her bicycle, Morgan finds even more adventure. While unconscious, she is transported to a different time in Irish history where she becomes the legendary Morganne. Repeated bouts of this "time travel" involve a character named Fergus, a king, and other odd and mysterious creatures.

Maryrose Wood, author of SEX KITTENS AND HORN DAWGS FALL IN LOVE, has created a fun-filled tale complete with humor, romance, fantasy, and rebellious teenage adventure. Readers are sure to be captivated by Morgan's honest, refreshing spirit. An added bonus is the terrific cover artwork!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I asked my 8th grade students to give me a list of book suggestions to post here. With their help, I'm planning to include a new list once a month. Here are the February suggestions in no particular order.

BOOTCAMP by Todd Strasser
TTFN by Lauren Myracle
ERAGON and ELDEST by Christopher Paolini
TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer
PERFECT by Natasha Friend
THE CAR by Gary Paulsen

Please stay tuned for more suggestions in March.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder

Ava and Jackson were in love. She knew he was special the first time she saw him. They had a great time together. There were tender moments and happy times. Jackson knew just how to tease and entertain Ava.

Now Jackson is gone or at least that's what Ava thought. There was a terrible accident and a funeral, but Ava is convinced she just felt Jackson's touch, and she is pretty sure she may have just seen him reflected behind her in the mirror. As the days go by, Ava becomes more certain that Jackson's ghost is visiting her.

Plagued with guilt as a result of Jackson's death, Ava doesn't think she will ever be able to carry on. Her family and friends support her and do everything they can to bring her back to the world of the living, but Jackson's ghostly presence is pulling her in another direction.

Lisa Schroeder's I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME is a captivating novel. Written in verse, it is a fast read that commands the reader's attention. Emotions like guilt, grief, and aching sadness swirl around the characters, but an underlying current of love and hope carry a message that readers will gladly take with them beyond the final page.

Friday, February 8, 2008

BECAUSE OF ANYA by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Being a kid is hard enough - just imagine if one day your hair mysteriously began to fall out. It gets worse, and you have to start wearing a wig. And then one day, the unthinkable happens. Your wig falls off in gym class.

Anya is suffering from a condition known as alopecia areata which causes unexplained hair loss. First it began as several quarter-sized bald patches, and then it progressed to complete baldness. The doctor told Anya and her parents that her hair could regrow, but the chances were slim.

Going to school was hard since Anya was worried that everyone would find out she was wearing a wig, but she wasn't the only one bothered by the situation. Keely, another girl in Anya's class, observed the changes in Anya and also observed one of their bossy classmates begin making comments about Anya and suggesting that someone should try to remove the wig to get to the truth. Keely realizes it is time to put aside her own shyness and speak up for Anya.

Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of the AMONG THE HIDDEN series, writes a heartwarming story of a girl with a life-changing condition and the family and friends who try to make her life easier. Excellent reading for upper elementary or middle grade readers looking for a story of understanding and acceptance.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

GET WELL SOON by Julie Halpern

Main character Anna Bloom is used to feeling alone, shy, and depressed. She spends most of her time avoiding school and people, and crying is her reaction to stressful situations. It has gone on long enough that her parents decide the next step is to commit Anna to the adolescent ward of a mental hospital.

That is where Anna begins writing about her 21 days locked away from the world. She writes about her experiences in letters to her only friend, Tracy. These unmailed letters chronicle Anna's passage through fear and feelings of abandonment to eventual feelings of acceptance and power. On the day Anna arrived at the hospital she never dreamed that she would find one-of-a-kind friends, a first love, and feelings that would allow her to take control of her life for the first time.

GET WELL SOON is the product of first time YA author Julie Halpern. This honest and often humorous story will have readers wanting more from this author.

Welcome to Readingjunky's Reading Roost

Hello fellow readers!

I've decided to begin this blog to post YA book reviews. I'm already posting reviews on MySpace, but as an 8th grade teacher, I would like to have a "friendlier" spot to offer my students a chance to look at the reviews I write. Hopefully, this avenue provides relatively safe access to the great author websites/blogs that offer such terrific book information. I feel more able to recommend this location to my students rather than the more open format of MySpace.

For anyone not familiar with my posts on MySpace, I review mostly YA fiction. My focus is on books for middle grades and high school age readers. I have reserved the right to review only books I feel I can review positively. After all, I believe life is too darn short to read books that don't truly interest me.

Currently my plan is to post my reviews on both blogs. Readers will be able to view a brief summary of each book, my quick thoughts on any unique qualities in the book, and a peek at the cover. (I confess - I do sometimes "judge a book by its cover.")

I appreciate any comments you would like to share regarding the books reviewed and also suggestions on additional books that readers might enjoy. Always on the lookout for new material to use in my classroom, I'm open to any and all suggestions.

I'll begin posting reviews soon, and I'll also take a moment to fill you in on my background as a book lover and educator. I look forward to sharing many reading related thoughts with any interested readers.

Read on!