Wednesday, October 29, 2008


With the recent popularity of poker, especially Texas hold'em, Paul Volponi's new book is sure to be a success. Usually Volponi focuses on sports, but his switch to poker as a theme in THE HAND YOU'RE DEALT will still satisfy his fans and most likely earn him some new ones.

Huck Porter has grown up surrounded by poker. His father was a local poker champion and taught Huck everything about the game. As he sat by his father's deathbed at least he was comforted by the fact that the man proudly wore the treasured watch every tournament winner got to wear for a year until a new winner was crowned. But that comfort suddenly disappeared when the watch was stolen by Mr. Abbott, Huck's high school math teacher, who insisted his poker skills had won him the right to wear it.

From the moment of his father's death, Huck swears to seek revenge. His every waking thought is focused on how and when he will beat Abbott and wear the watch that had made his father so proud. Unfortunately, many things stand in his way. His mother doesn't approve of the poker tradition set by her late husband, his best friend thinks it's time to let the whole thing go, and the girl of his dreams doesn't view their relationship to be as serious as Huck would like. Even getting in the famed local poker tournament is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

Volponi uses family loyalty, colorful characters, and card shark action to draw readers into the story of Huck's attempt to regain what rightfully belongs to his family. Understanding the finer points of poker is not a necessary requirement. Readers just need the ability to follow some fast-paced action and cheer on the good guys.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Interested in entering a contest to win some cool books? Check out The Pageflipper's blog.

It will just take a minute of your time and a bit of sharing about a good book you've read recently. Come on -- give it a try! But hurry because you only have until November 1.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

HIPPIE CHICK by Joseph Monniger

If I heard someone else say this about a book, I would immediately roll my eyes and decide to skip reading it, but here goes ... HIPPIE CHICK is a beautiful book! Seriously, if you have a chance to read it, run, don't walk, and grab the chance.

Lolly Emmerson is an independent fifteen year old who sets out for an evening sail in the Florida Keys. She leaves a note for her mother as her neighbor suggests and heads out in the small boat she has handled by herself on countless sails. This time events conspire against her when the boat hits some underwater wreckage causing it to overturn. Lolly is thrown overboard with only her lifevest for support.

After hours of struggle and a bump against her leg she is sure is a bull shark, she manages to climb onto the floundering boat. Her fragile hold on the disabled craft doesn't last long, and she slips back into the water, and what she believes to be certain death.

As Lolly beautifully relates her story, she describes the arrival of three manatees. One of the huge, gentle creatures allows her to cling to him as they make their way to a feeding area in a tiny mangrove bay. Lolly credits the manatees with her eventual rescue, but once rescued, she finds it difficult to relate her curious adventure to news reporters and interested friends.

Many authors of survivor tales focus on frightening, desperate attempts to beat nature and hang on until help arrives. Joseph Monninger tells this story in a different way. The focus is on the mysterious, sensitive side of nature. Lolly experiences a deep connection to her manatee rescuers that only she can understand. Monninger gives readers a peek into Lolly's emotional, life-changing experience.

HERO TYPE by Barry Lyga

Kevin Ross, known as Kross to his friends, has been called a hero in his hometown and beyond. But can the seemingly innocent decision to remove a couple of magnetic ribbons from the back of his ugly, brown used car catapult his hero status to that of hated enemy? You bet it can!

Kevin happened to be at the right place at the wrong time for a serial killer called The Surgeon. For potential teen victim and classmate Leah, it was a case of the right place at the right time. Since saving Leah from certain death, Kevin can't look anywhere in town without seeing his name and hers linked on "thank you" signs and congratulations of all kinds. People can't seem to be able to do enough for Kevin, and they watch anxiously as he appears on TV and waits to collect a reward for his heroism.

All this praise and excitement is confusing for Kevin. He has long had a crush on Leah and relishes the attention she is now giving him; however, there are several secrets in Kevin's life that cast a shadow on all this positive attention. One secret is his father's mysterious military history in the Gulf War. Even when Kevin's mother still lived with them, the subject of his father's military service was off limits. The other secret is Kevin's own guilt for some event that actually placed him with Lead in the alley at the time of the killer's attack.

On the day Kevin pulled in the driveway with his new, used car, his father angrily demanded that the "support our troops" ribbons be removed immediately. When Kevin innocently explains that the local car dealer had slapped them on as he drove out of the used car lot, his father still insists they need to go. Unfortunately for Kevin, a news reporter still following the local hero, witnesses the removal of the ribbons. This news is interpreted as "un-patriotic" behavior, and it unleashes the fury of a town proud of its patriot values.

As Kevin battles the public, who days before spoke of his heroic deed, he learns more about his parents' divorce, his mother's decision to move to California, and his father's struggles in the Gulf War. Readers can watch as Kevin learns the true meaning of patriotism and the freedoms we all take for granted. His story is especially intriguing in this time of political turmoil and tension. Author Barry Lyga clearly demonstrates the division that can be created by different interpretations of what it means to support one's patriot beliefs.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

THE JUVIE THREE by Gordon Korman

What do you get when you mix three juvenile delinquents on their last chance before doing some long term hard time, one do-gooder out to help them become better people, and Gordon Korman? THE JUVIE THREE! It is a fast-paced, page-turner complete with humor, action scenes, romance, and some fascinating twists and turns.

Douglas Healy lived through his own hard times as a teen, and now he is determined to give some hope to a new crop of troubled teens. He has worked hard to cut through the red tape and bureaucratic nonsense to open a small halfway house (apartment) for three lost boys. Gecko, Terence, and Arjay have commited a variety of crimes from driving a stolen getaway car to murder, and society seems to say their are beyond hope. The efforts of Douglas Healy have given the three a last chance.

Gecko seems grateful and determined to do the right thing. Arjay is confused and suspicious, yet strangely appreciative, that a stranger would take the time to reach out a helping hand. Terence looks at the situation as an opportunity to make a quick buck and escape ASAP. When Terence breaks the rules one night and attempts to sneak out by way of the fire-escape, the other two boys step in to protect what they view as their last chance at a real life. The scuffle between the boys is interrupted by a sleepy and angry Douglas Healy who has the unfortunate luck to plummet head first from the fire-escape to the pavement below.

Fearful of the outcome if they are caught, the three boys load an unconscious, bleeding Healy in the back of a stolen car and rush him to the nearest emergency room where they dump him and then high-tail it back to the apartment. Until they can decide what to do next, they agree to keep up appearances and stick to their usual daily routine. What follows is an amazing tale of how three supposedly "no good" kids follow the rules and make the right decisions without adult supervision. The plot twists and turns will keep even the most reluctant readers on the edge of their seats. Don't miss THE JUVIE THREE.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Here's a list of must-reads from my 8th graders.

GRIEF GIRL by Erin Vincent
SIDE EFFECTS by Amy Goldman Koss
HIT AND RUN by Lurlene McDaniel
SKATE by Michael Harmon
ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES by Mary Downing Hahn
GOSSIP GIRL series by Cecily von Ziegesar
GIVE A BOY A GUN by Todd Strasser