Thursday, May 29, 2008


Walter Dean Myers has written several war stories. His latest, SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH, gives today's teens a chance to learn more about the war that has filled their lives much like the Vietnam War occupied the minds of teens some 30 years ago.

Robin Perry aka Birdy has made the decision to enlist. Certain members of his family have expressed their concern and even disapproval of Robin's decision to serve. Through occasional letters to family members, readers learn about many of Robin's wartime experiences.

Robin's unit is assigned to handle civil matters between the troops and the citizens of Iraq. Although not supposedly in the direct line of fire, these soldiers still witness the horrors of war. They are part of the endless lines of army and marine vehicles traveling toward Baghdad. They experience the choking sand storms, the frightening IED explosions, and watch the grieving as fellow soldiers and Iraqi civilians become casualties of war.

Robin's feelings about the senselessness of the war are clearly expressed. As the events of his tour of duty unfold, he realizes if asked whether the Americans were winning or losing, he would find the question unanswerable. The promise of a quick return home for the troops turns into delay after delay as it becomes obvious that Saddam's reign may have ended, but many more deep-seated problems exist in war torn Iraq.

SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH is a mere glimpse of the action through the eyes of few, but it is one of the first YA novels I've seen to deal with this controversial situation.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES by Mary Downing Hahn

Looking for a good ghost story? ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES has all the required elements. An old inn, two kids who think they know it all, a dark woods, and some blood-curdling screams all add up to a good, old-fashioned ghost story.

Travis and Corey have some tricks up their sleeves when they come to spend the summer at Fox Hill Inn. Their grandmother owns the quiet inn and seems happy with the few guests that happen her way. But when her two grandchildren learn that the inn is supposedly haunted, they decide to conjure up some spookiness of their own to get more customers at the inn.

Things quickly get out of hand when their innocent pranks bring the real ghosts out of hiding. It appears the history of the old inn includes some dead that aren't ready to call it quits. The restless spirits have a score to settle, and Travis and Corey end up right in the middle of things.

Mary Downing Hahn is a master of mystery. ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES is an excellent addition to any middle grade collection in need of traditional haunted house stories.

Monday, May 12, 2008

GREAT BOOK SERIES - according to some 8th grade readers

My 8th grade students are offering some great reading suggestions for the month of May. If you have a minute, take a look at these.

Book series -
RAINBOW BOYS series by Alex Sanchez
PEIRCY JACKSON series by Rick Riordan
TEARS OF A TIGER series by Sharon Draper
DEMONATA series by Darren Shan
SWEEP series by Cate Tiernan
ANGELS IN PINK series by Lurlene McDaniel
FIRE THIEF series by Terry Deary

Stand alone books -
THE SEER by David Stahler
DON'T DIE DRAGONFLY by Linda Joy Singleton
STORY OF A GIRL by Sara Zarr
LUSH by Natasha Friend
DEADLINE by Chris Crutcher

Favorite authors -

Sunday, May 11, 2008

SKETCHES by Eric Walters

The haunting eyes on the cover of SKETCHES will hopefully make readers want to know more. Set in the middle of the homeless community of Toronto, Canada, it is an emotional story about the lives of three street kids.

Dana left home as a last resort. Sexual abuse at the hands of her step-father caused her to act out at home and at school. Unfortunately, her cry for attention and help was ignored by her mother, leaving Dana no choice but to run. On her own in Toronto, she finds life terrifying, but with the help of Brent and Ashley, two other runaways, she is able to survive.

Brent and Ashley each have their own personal demons. Brent escaped to the city to find some answers about his sexuality, and Ashley is fleeing a mother whose life as an exotic dancer doesn't leave room for a teenage daughter. The two use their experience living on the streets to educate Dana on the best ways to find food and shelter and how to avoid being a victim of this harsh life.

Things begin to change when Dana's artistic talent shows through some random graffiti she creates to pass the time. A counselor from a place called Sketches notices her talent and invites her to visit the center. Sketches is an organization designed to offer street kids an outlet for their creative talents, as well as a safe place to work out their problems. Dana and her two new friends find this haven might just give them the tools they need to make something of themselves and their desperate situation.

Eric Walters combines the harsh reality of homeless living with the right amount of hope to create a story sure to be a hit with teens. Sketches is packed with emotion and drama. It's a fast-paced read about teens struggling with serious issues.

Friday, May 9, 2008

42 MILES by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

JoEllen's life is like the old fable about the country mouse and the city mouse. Since her parents divorced long ago, JoEllen has divided her time between her father who lives in the country, and 42 miles away in the city where her mother lives.

It isn’t just the living arrangements that divide JoEllen’s life. She explains that even back when her parents named her they couldn’t agree. Her name became part Joseph and part Eleanor – a piece of her father and a part of her mother. The city half of her life consists of girl friends, shopping, and movies while the country half involves horseback riding, fishing, and listening to bluegrass music. Even her friends get confused and can’t understand how JoEllen copes.

It’s the only life JoEllen has ever really known, but now that she’s almost thirteen, she is wondering which life is truly hers. Maybe she isn’t either one but perhaps someone completely different.

This short novel written in verse tells of a young girl’s struggle to find herself. Even though she is surrounded by two loving parents, she realizes that neither life truly reflects the person she is inside. Any reader searching for their personal identity will be able to relate to this touching tale.

TWILIGHT Movie Preview

Check out this preview for the TWILIGHT movie. It comes out December 12th.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

FOUND - a new series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Many of you may be familiar with author Margaret Peterson Haddix and her well-known series AMONG THE HIDDEN. She has a new series titled FOUND. If you enjoyed her other books, you might want to take a peek at this book trailer. It's got me hooked.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

CHEATED by Patrick Jones

Patrick Jones has done it again. If you are not familiar with his work, CHEATED would be a terrific way to start. His straight-forward direct line into the minds of his characters is definitely at work in this new YA release. Readers will be yanked into the story on the first page and won't want to stop until they reach the end.

Mick Salisbury is fifteen. He and his two friends, Brody and Aaron, spend most of their time trying to forget their less-than-perfect dads. One is in prison, one is dead, and one has betrayed his family and devastated their lives. The three friends are usually found out late at night with a bottle of rum and a six pack of Coke. That is until one night in November, when lying to their parents and sneaking out become minor crimes compared to the dead homeless man lying at their feet. It was a mistake. They know it was just a terrible mistake, but will their friendship survive when they are faced with arrest and possible prison time for their crime.

Patrick Jones, author of NAILED, CHASING TAIL LIGHTS, and THINGS CHANGE, has created a heart-stopping new story about guilt and betrayal. He takes his readers into the mind of Mick where they will feel the struggle for acceptance and control in a desperate situation. A terrifying mix offeelings, from sympathy to horror, will hold the attention of even the most reluctant reader.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Don't you love that goose peeking around the corner of the cover? Well, that goose changed the life of an entire family.

Emma, a struggling college freshman, has just completed an experiment in her pyschology class. However, the completion of the experiment means the cremation of Freud, the goose that acted as her loyal experiment subject. When Emma hears of Freud's scheduled death, she takes him home in a borrowed cage. Her parents are not pleased and insist that she release him at a local pond.

It turns out that the annoying goose is about to change their lives. Emma's father uses "golden" (as in golden goose) as inspiration when he purchases a lottery ticket. The ticket wins the family a cool $50 million dollars. Now the question is, does sudden wealth make life better or worse?

There were times in EVERYTHING YOU WANT that made me want to close the book and take a pass on reading it. Considering her lucky circumstances, Emma is an annoying complainer at times. She has always compared herself to a more beautiful and more accomplished older sister, and she constantly views herself as anything but normal. What kept me reading was the fact that Emma began realizing that life is not easy for anyone. Even those she always looked up to and admired, reveal that life is not simple, and finding one's true path is a pretty bumpy ride.

Author Barbara Shoup has created a book that shows teens the complicated side of life and the struggle to find the path to true happiness. As most would reluctantly admit - money helps, but it isn't everything.