Sunday, October 28, 2012

OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck

I've long been a Steinbeck fan.  It's not about his biggies like GRAPES OF WRATH and EAST OF EDEN, but more about CANNERY ROW and SWEET THURSDAY.  Last night I reread OF MICE AND MEN because I'll be teaching it to my 10th graders next trimester.  Having reread this one, I'm going to pledge to find the time to reread my other favorites.

George and Lennie move from farm to farm to eek out a living as hired hands.  George is the brains behind the pair because Lennie, although powerful individual capable of heaving sacks of barley like no other man, is mentally challenged. 

The two men arrive at the next farm ready to work.  George warns Lennie to let him do the talking or they might be sent packing.  He reminds Lennie they had to leave their last job because of Lennie's mistake. 

Steinbeck captures the time period as well as the life of the traveling hired hand in OF MICE AND MEN.  I'm looking forward to sharing it with my students.  Although they might see it as an "old time" story, I know the emotional aspects of the story will draw them in and perhaps create a few new Steinbeck fans.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

ENDANGERED by Eliot Schrefer

Author Eliot Schrefer uses his own experiences with the bonobo apes as a backdrop for ENDANGERED.  Fans of animal stories and survival tales will want to find a copy of this one.

Sophie was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Now a teen, Sophie's parents have separated so she lives in the United States during the school year and spends her summers in the Congo.  Her mother runs a bonobo preserve in the Congolese jungle.  She has devoted her life to protecting this member of the gorilla family.

Sophie's summer starts with a wild adventure on her way to the preserve.  She knows her mother disapproves of the gorilla poachers and those who capture the endangered apes to butcher or sell, but when she sees the young bonobo in the cage strapped to the back of a poacher's bicycle, she reaches for her money.  Once she makes the deal, she takes possession of the little ape and continues the journey to join her mother at the preserve.

Not happy with her daughter's decision to "rescue" the bonobo, Sophie's mother doesn't have much time to explain her reasons because she of off to release some of the bonobos back into the wild.  Sophie knows when her mother returns there will be further discussion about the incident.  Sophie attempts to stay busy and take care of the bonobo she has named Otto as she awaits her mother's return.

Shortly after her mother's departure Sophie's life turns upside down.  Revolutionaries from the city attack the preserve, killing everyone and destroying the place.  Sophie and Otto manage to escape into a protected enclosure in the compound.  Her survival now depends on her ability to observe the bonobos and learn how to care for herself and Otto.  Will the electric fence surrounding the enclosure be enough to protect Sophie and the bonobos or will she be forced to confront her attackers?

Eliot Schrefer takes readers into an entirely new world.  He describes the violence of the revolution and Sophie's fear as she races to escape and find ways to survive until her parents can come to her rescue.  ENDANGERED is a unique new survival story worth checking out.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

ZOM-B by Darren Shan

Darren Shan has done it again.  He has a new series; this time the subject is zombies.  Book #1 ZOM-B already has a waiting list in my classroom.

B and his friends and family are hearing rumors about zombies attacking in an Irish village.  Living in London, B doesn't take it very seriously, instead focusing on friends and living in the here and now.

B has enough to worry about with an abusive bigot for a father and not much support from a weak, terrified mother.  Unpopular with the principal and teachers at school, B spends time hanging with friends and usually causing trouble as a way to have a bit of fun. 

When the zombies arrive in London, the action truly begins.  In typical Darren Shan form, there is plenty of mayhem and madness complete with gruesome details.  Shan's fans will eat it up.  

Monday, October 15, 2012


Harrison's life has not offered him many advantages.  He has been in and out of foster homes and is currently living with a cruel farmer and his wife.  Forced to do back-breaking farm chores and treated like a slave, Harrison finally cracks.  The farmer is killed in an accident, and Harrison fears he will be held responsible.

Much to his surprise, Harrison finally lands a break.  A kind social worker finds him the home he has always dreamed of.  He is living with a middle school football coach and his wife.  The couple, unable to have children of their own, take an immediate liking to Harrison and make him feel welcome and even loved for the first time in his life.

Having a football coach as a foster parent is also like a dream come true.  Harrison has long been a fan of football and promised himself that one day he would play.  The reality is he now on the team, and he is terrific.  Coach is thrilled to have him as a player.  His size, strength, and speed are the perfect combination for the position of running back.  With his natural talent, the team has a chance to win the championship this year. 

Unfortunately, Harrison's bad luck returns.  Not all the members of the team view his arrival with as much excitement as Coach.  Could a few unhappy players keep him from living up to his potential?  Or will something else more devastating sideline Harrison for keeps?

Author Tim Green's newest release, UNSTOPPABLE, will have sports fans rushing to the library or bookstore.  Written in his signature style with action both on and off the field, short chapters, and relatable characters, UNSTOPPABLE should be a hit with young teen readers.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

SEND by Patty Blount

SEND by Patty Blount presents a hot topic in YA and teen lit -- bullying.  Blount brings a slightly different perspective to the topic and presents it with characters that will definitely speak to teen audiences.

Dan has experienced bullying first hand.  He has experienced it from both sides.  He is guilty of being a bully and has also been a victim himself.

Readers are brought into the story knowing that Dan has committed a terrible act.  He has served his time and will forever regret his actions.  Though the details are not revealed until much later in the story, it is clear that Dan has learned from the experience and has vowed to make a difference for here on out.

It's Dan's first day at a new school, and he'd like to fly under the radar.  Unfortunately, he witnesses an act of bullying in the parking lot that ends with him in the nurse's office seeking first aid for a nasty cut on his chin.  He also is disappointed to be starting the year with an enemy. 

Because of his mysterious background, Dan and his family have relocated yet again to avoid angry mobs who found out Dan's true identity.  He wants to do the right thing and protect his family, but he is determined to be a different person and make up for his earlier mistakes.

Event after event conspire to make life difficult for Dan.  He fears getting too close to others in case he and his family are forced to move again, but at the same time, Dan is beginning to realize he must find a way to rebuild his trust and seek the help of others.  Can he keep his secret or will the truth finally be recognized for what it truly is?