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Books Reviewed as of 04/24/03 ...

The Shell House
Linda Newbery

The Shell House, by Linda Newbery is a fictional novel with a rating of 3 (1-4, 4 being the best), for readers ages 14-18. I suggest an older teen reader because of the complex, and controversial themes. The main character is Greg, a seventeen year-old boy who is seeking to learn about himself through the plot device of the unfolding mystery of an old mansion that he is exploring. The other main characters are his two friends, Faith and Jordan, without whom his journey would be lonely and less meaningful.

The Shell House is set in present day England. The symbol of the "shell" is important throughout the story as a metaphor for Greg's life and his relationships with his friends. His life has openings for new opportunities to learn about himself, like a shell can be curved and open to  the world. Similarly, the old mansion without a roof is open for investigation, like the open shell. The main plot movement is about how Greg learns about himself and at the same time finds out about the previous owner of the mansion. Themes of homosexuality, depression, disability and self-revelation are explored. The Shell House falls down in its weak development using the metaphor about the "open house" and its parallel to  Greg's openness to learning about himself. The symbol is briefly  and interestingly developed, but then is quickly forgotten. A strength is the descriptive narrative, which is often hidden in lines about Greg's photographs. I recommend this book for mature readers who want to think beyond the main story line.

Katie R, Menlo Park , California

A Stone in my Hand
Cathryn Clinton

Rating- 3
Ages 11-15
             Characters:  The two main characters in “A Stone In My Hand” are Malaak and her brother Hamid. Malaak is an eleven-year old girl growing up during the first intifada. Despite her young age, she is able to see through the violence and sadness that she is subjected to everyday, and manages to find strength inside of herself.
            Hamid, her older brother is very opinionated about what he thinks is right and wrong, and isn’t afraid to stand up for his beliefs. Despite his mother and sister’s urging, he does what he believes is right in the fight for Palestine’s freedom.

          Setting:  “A Stone In My Hand” takes place in Gaza City during the first intifada.
         Preview of the Plot:   “A Stone in My Hand’ is about an eleven year old girl’s life during the first intifada, and how she manages to cope with the sadness and violence that surrounds her. Her father disappeared because of it and her brother becomes a possible victim to it due to his involvement with a group of young radicals. After her father’s disappearance, Malaak deals with her sadness by refraining from talking to everyone. Everyone that is, except the dove, whom she named Abdou, that she found on the roof the night her father left home, never to return.
            As Malaak’s brother becomes more and more involved in a radical group, Malak’s starts see beyond just what surrounds her, and becomes aware of a connection she shares with hr father and brother- strength.
My Thoughts on the Book: 
               The author of “A Stone in My Hand” managed to portray the feeling of a young girl growing up in the hardships of the intifada very realistically, in a way that made me feel the violence and sadness that Malaak dealt with everyday. Although Malaak, is but a child, if she were living in Palestine today, she would be fighting alongside her brother, despite her fears. Her mother and sister, Hend, would be upset about Hamid’s involvemnt with radical groups (for fear of his safety), yet would be proud of him for standing up for himself, his beliefs, his rights, but mainly for his country… for Palestine.
            My favorite part of the book is the nursery rhyme that is translated at the beginning of it. It is what affected me the most, and actually convinced me to read the book. I was a little disappointed that Malaak didn’t share the same feeling as the girl who sang the nursery rhyme, although I can see and understand Malaak’s reactions and feelings to what was going on around her.
            If I were the author of this book, I would show more of Malaak’s strength and make her love for Palestine more apparent to the readers. I also would have written this book for older readers who can fully understand the effects of war on young innocent children. I liked the fact that Malaak was finding out where she stood in all this on her own, but I would have portrayed more of a conflict between her fear, her love for her country, and her belief in what she thinks is right and wrong.
            Overall, “A Stone in My Hand’ is a good book to read to learn more about the suffering of young children, because it provokes strong feelings in it’s readers, but I would recommend this book to younger readers, because I do not think it has much to offer an older reader, in terms of an accurate and in-depth description of the feelings that the intifada has seeded in Palestinians, especially adults, and of the basic Arab pride and the loyalty towards one’s country and the determination to defend it until the end.
            I am not saying that “A Stone in My hand” isn’t a good book, I just trying to make more apparent the differences it would have if a Palestinian or even an Arab wrote it. I think you would enjoy it more if you were in, or reaching your early teens, but it’ll still be worthwhile if you carefully take the time to fully understand what Malaak was going through.

Amirah A.

Dear Papa
Anne Ylvisaker

     Dear Papa by Anne Ylvisaker is an absorbing, emotional and sensitive novel that would appeal to readers of any age and in particular, eight years and above. This novel-in-letters set during World War II revolves around Isabelle, who is highly individualistic and independent and keeps her ‘Papa in ‘heaven’ up-to-date with what is happening in her family. For a debut novel, the caricature of the characters, especially that of Isabelle is par excellence. The heroine of the novel is created with much care and imagination coupled with a pinch of psychological insight, especially while she struggles to cope with the loss of her father.
     Dear Papa
  unfolds itself in the mind and heart of Isabelle and this is the unique feature of the book. Emotionally-charged words, innocent actions, the fear of God, dilemma between Lutheran and Catholic beliefs, conflict between idealism and reality – all these are very finely fabricated to produce a honest and powerful book. The major strength of the book is the readers’ insight into the child’s mind: how an eight-year-old girl perceives her immediate environment in the absence of her beloved father. I would rate this impressive fiction as 4+ (1-4, 4 being the best).


Goddess of Yesterday
Caroline B Cooney

Goddess of Yesterday, by Caroline B Cooney is an absorbing historical fiction novel. The rating is a 3.5 (1-4, 4 being the best). The most appropriate reader audience would be young adult females, ages 11-14. The main character, Anaxandra, lives in the early 13th century in a world full of rivalries and deception. Her self-reflection is brought to life in the widest range of historical settings. The story begins when King Nicander of Siphnos takes Anaxandra as a hostage. Early on, Nicander and his family are killed by pirates. Anaxandra takes on the role of Nicander's princess daughter so that she would not become a slave. She lives in constant fear of punishment by the Greek gods that she so firmly believes in. As the plot thickens, the story becomes complicated to follow, unless the reader is familiar with basic facts about this period in Greek history. Fortunately, the relevant information is included in the afterward. A major strength is the reader's insight into the inner-workings of Anaxandra's mind: the thoughts of a twelve year-old living in the 1200s. One weakness is the abrupt ending without even a reference to a sequel. I would highly recommend this book.

Katie R. Menlo Park, California. U.S.A.

Food Fight
Janet Bode

"Food Fight" is a book about eating disorders targeted to America's most at-risk group- adolescent girls.

This is their book as much as it is author Janet Bode's. Sprinkled throughout the facts and statistics of anorexia and bullimia, are bits and pieces of the writings of young girls. They write about their families, their friends, their lives at school, and mostly, their body image. One writes: "I hate my entire appearance. My hair is too thin and I wish it was curly. I hate my face. My ears stick out and now I have acne... but the worst is my weight... I can't stop thinking about food. I am fat. I am disgusting." It only makes it worse to realize that this girl is ten years old.

In fact, "Food Fight" makes one aware that the problem of eating disorders is getting worse. The girls who develop the disorders are younger and younger. Clearly American girls are in trouble, and Bode wants us to do something about it. This book is her contribution to the battle against anorexia and bullimia. It serves as a sensitive guide to these girls, girls who are so often labled as "over-achievers" or "good" girls. On the outside, Bode notes, girls who develop eating disorders may look as though they have everything going for them. But on the inside they feel upset.

But Bode wants people to understand that an eating disorder is not just a problem with an individual girl. It is a problem with families, with society, and with American culture. She explains the many reasons why a girl might develop anorexia. It may be triggered by a comment her father makes. It may be that she sees a skinny woman in a magazine ad, or all the supermodels she sees on TV. For whatever reason, the girl begins to think her life would be better if she just lost a little bit of weight. It often begins with a diet. But then she wants to lose more and more. Often, before she or her family notices, her problems with eating have spun out of control. Most frightening of all is the fact that studies have shown that children as young as two years old have already learned the message that thinner is better. Is it any wonder that, as Bode notes in a chapter headed "Food for Thought", in one school 43% of girls in 5th through 8th grade had dieted? And 54% felt they looked fat?

Despite these alarming statistics, no one has really listened to young girls themselves about their thoughts on eating disorders- no one, that is, until Janet Bode. As author Janet Bode explains in her concluding chapter, this book was a project on many levels. Bode spoke to experts on nutrition and eating disorders. She spoke to parents. But what makes her book unique is that she collaborated with a grammar school English class and used the writings of hundreds of girls in the seventh and eighth grades. Although many books have been written on this topic, this is the first book that takes it into account that the age of girls afflicted with anorexia and bullimia is getting younger and younger.

This is Janet Bode's wake-up call. It is both well-written and easy to understand. It is informative and educational, with instructions readers on nutrition and good diets; diets meant not for losing weight, but rather achieving health. It is a guide for parents also, instructing them to the warning signs and the steps to take to help build a girl's self-image and prevent eating disorders. It is personal and sensitive, the stories of these girls are all too familiar. These girls are our friends, sisters, daughters, and maybe even ourselves. All in all, Janet Bode has written a wonderful and necessary book that certainly gives us food for thought.

Adinah C.

Thursday’s Child
Sonya Hartnett 

Thursday’s Child by Sonya Hartnett is an imaginative piece about a family during the Great Depression. I would rate this book a 3 ½ because of the small difficulty to really get into the book. Over all though, this book was amazing and will stretch your imagination. The book is about a young girl named Harper, who lives in a two-roomed shanty with her family. On the day that her brother Caffy was born, Harper was told to go and play outside with her other younger brother Tin. A mud slid on the banks of the creek somehow buries tin alive, almost, but Tin digs himself out. Harper realized then that Tin liked to dig and liked being inside the mud. Tin started digging under the veranda and making his own kingdom of tunnels, living away from his family. This book unfolds itself in the mind of a child and is truly awesome. This is a great beach book or one that you can curl up and read, it also has an amazing ending. Enjoy getting lost in Sonya Hartnett’s book,  Thursday’s Child.

                                            By Arlene R.    Watkins Glen


By Teena Booth


     As if being a teenager isn’t hard enough, Teresa Dinsmore also has to deal with her mother, the frequently married town beauty; her wild sister, and just not fitting in anywhere. That is, until the fire!


     In Teena Booth’s debut novel, an outcast freshman gets the opportunity to reshape her life after a raging fire destroys her home.


     When Teresa is flooded with attention after the disaster, she begins to wonder if this sudden fame could be just what she needs to find her place, both at home and at school. The answer to this question and more await you in “Falling From Fire.”


Rating 3 out of 4 stars

K’si W.


Princess in Love
Meg Cabot

     This is the third book in the Princess Diaries series  rated on a scale of 1 - 4 , 4 being the best, I rate this book a 4. This book is great for pre-highschoolers and highschoolers and who ever is reading the series or just needs a funny book to read. In Meg Cabot’s 3rd book, Princess Mia is getting ready to leave for Genovia to be presented to her people that she will one day rule. She is stuck in a situation where she secretly is in love with her best friends brother, Michael, but is going out with another Guy. This book is hilariously funny and has a great ending, but keeps you guessing up till the end. Anyone who hasn’t already read any of the Princess Diary books could pick up the 3rd book and start reading it, because Meg Cabot’s style of writing informs the reader of what has previously happened in a stuble and un- annoying way. Enjoy Meg Cabot’s newest book Princess in Love!!!           

                                                          Arlene R.  Watkins Glen, NY


The Xenocide Mission
Ben Jeapes

Before you read this book, I'm going to ask you to do something that may seem a bit odd. Trust me; once you find out about the author, you'll better understand the often complex, always challenging nature of his first science fiction novel. Here's what I want you to do: visit his web site at  Yes, Mr. Jeapes is British and this shows up throughout his writing. But as you can see from his web page, he is also a very, VERY free spirit.

"The Xenocide Mission" is one of those rare young adult sci-fi books that respects the reader. Sure, it's got slam-bang action good enough to be brought to the attention of some Hollywood studio, but it's the characters that dominate the action, not the other way around. The year is 2154 and human beings have developed a race of robots known as 'First Breeds' (and also by a less-than-nice term 'Rustie') Lt. Joel Gilmore is introduced to the reader on the very first page as a young, inexperienced soldier finding himself in an impossible situation. Even with the aid of First Breed 'Boom Round', Lt. Gilmore is facing certain death....and you're only on Page Ten. Joel's father isn't doing much better; he's on a runaway space-ship carrying a Doomsday device and headed on a collision course with the sun. Ben Jeapes knows how to grab the reader on Page One and not let go until the action-packed, nail biting ending. Here is a new author to science fiction who will definitely make a place for himself in the small circle of intelligent sci-fi writers.

Rating: 3 Gender appropriate: Both

Genre: Science Fiction

Joe L., Lompoc, California

The Guy Book 
Mavis Jukes

This is more of a informative book than one which you could sit down and read with a cup of hot chocolate. I reate to it well as I am still going through puberty and that is bascially what the book is about. I would give it 2 out of 4 as I did find it quite boring although very informative. This book would be suitable for pre teens and teenagers. The book is set in the style of a car manual to try and make it as interesting as possible but it just didn't work for me.

Andrew  Neilson

An Ocean Apart, A World Away

The book An Ocean Apart, A World Away is basically about a young Chinese girl of sixteen who dreams of being a doctor someday, in early 1920s china. The young girl, nicknamed Yanyan, meets a handsome young man, who she develops feelings for. This young man, in turn returns the affection, but later on, she finds out that the boy has plans to change the state of government in china. She is invited to go on this dangerous adventure with the boy, but in order to, she has to leave everything behind, including her dreams of being a doctor.

          This book is suitable for children 12 years and up. It is an interesting book, and teaches a lot about our differences, morals, and growing up. On a scale of one to four, this book is rated a solid three.

                             Nneoma A.
Silverspring, Maryland.

Island Boyz
Graham Salisbury

Graham Salisbury was an island boy himself, and this collection of short stories--ISLAND BOYZ will give the most land-locked reader an intimate look at being a teenaged boy on a Hawaiian island. Teenaged boys AND girls will hear the surf and taste the saltiness of the sea as they meet the inhabitants of the eleven stories, told in the island language of the teller. Readers will share Henry's reluctance to ignore the soldier's offer of friendship, and his ultimate decision to name his horse for that young man. Readers will feel Johnny Smythe's guilt-filled regret for the torment a classmate received from the other guys. Readers will know Joey's panic as wild hurricane waters try to steal Joey's life.

The stories themselves are like a rainbow, each with its own hue and intensity, but part of the whole wonder of island life. Even though some contain dark and painful plots, each ending shines with the conviction expressed in the introductory poem,  "I would not have traded places with anyone not even God."

I would rate this book a 4. After reading ISLAND BOYZ, I feel like I've spent time in Hawaii with Henry, Johnny, Joey, and others teens experiencing life and the changes that life inevitably brings to all who grow. Graham Salisbury creates very real characters, and the story endings don't always turn in the direction expected.  The first story in the book, "The Ravine," will demonstrate that.

Carol F., Cortland, NY

The Quigley’s
Simon Mason 

The Quigley’s by Simon Mason is a story about atypical family and all the crazy memories they have acquired throughout the years. I would rate this book a two on a scale of four mostly because it isn’t targeted at my age group. It is an easy read and I would recommend it to older elementary aged children. The book focuses around the Quigley family, Mum, Dad, Lucy, and Will. The book is divided into four sections in which each family member shares a specific memory dealing with themselves and how the family reacts. Dad tells of a crazy babysitting mishap with the potential to end very badly, Mom shares a special birthday memory, Lucy reveals her bridesmaid dilemma, and Will tells of his best Christmas. All of the stories leave the reader in suspense until the very end, but my personal favorite was Lucy’s. This book shows the strong bonds of healthy families and the ability they have to work together and compromise. You’ll be able to relate it to family memories of your own. The downfall of the book is that it was more a collection of short stories pieced together to make a larger story and never really concluded with an actual message or point. If you’re looking for an easy read this book is it, but I personally needed more substance in a book.

Amanda B., 17, Fort Wayne, IN

 Harriet Spies Again
Helen Ericson

Harriet Spies Again, by Helen Ericson, is a continuation of Louise Fitzhugh's famous bestseller, Harriet the Spy. I'm sure fans were excited to hear of the sequel, but, unfortunately, they will be disappointed. Although Harriet Spies Again is clever and entertaining, it is not nearly as exciting as the original. The characters are not as developed and the plot is pretty unrealistic. I am sixteen, and felt the book was too young for me. I first read Harriet the Spy when I was about eight and thoroughly enjoyed it then.

I believe that Harriet Spies Again is suitable for ages 9 to 13. Both younger and older readers will be equally bored. Harriet Spies Again picked up where Harriet the Spy left off. Harriet's parents are leaving for a few months and her beloved nanny Ole Golly is coming to care for her. Harriet is shocked to discover that Ole Gole is not the same person as she was before.  

Instead, Ole Golly seems to be hiding something, and Harriet will stop at nothing to determine what it is.


Both Sides of Time
Caroline B.Cooney

Young Adult
Rating:  4

Any novel by Caroline B.Cooney should be read between the ages of 13 and 15 years old. Her writing is simple yet includes masterful created conflicts that may take a few minutes to clew into but, are worth it in the end. This novel has no specific gender aim. I think this is an excellent novel to read in the classrooms.

Annie Lockwood, a fifteen year old romantic living in 1995. When she travels back a hundred years she is faced with difficult situations even more complicated than 1995. Strat, a young man about to embark on the adventure of his life. Devonny, Strat's younger sister who although loves a great mystery, can't keep herself from revealing the truth. Throughout this novel we are taken back to a time where manners and thoughtfulness were a necessity in everyday lives. In a novel where romance begins young and morals are the logic of the story, we learn from the characters.

Both sides of time is an amazing novel, it brings life to a young spirit and hope to a forgotten heart. The knowledge throughout the novel is thoughtful and has a great significance to manners in today's society.

Julie Ann T.
Wallaceburg, ON

Midnight Predator
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Rating: 4++
Reader: Anyone 13 and up who likes Amelia's twisted life of vampires and humor

Anyone who has read any of Amelia's books knows what I'm talking about when I say her books are to say the least addictive! So it isn't a shocker this is another wildly perfect book. It is mostly about a vampire hunter named Turquoise Drake, and her life. Her life mostly is a real mixture of being a vampire hunter trying to deal with her life and deciding what she wants in her life. After some catastrophic and tear-jerking things happen with her family she is force her the path of working with vampires, Along with some thriller in the mix to when a she is sold into slavery as a job to kill a particular vampire. While under ownership she encounters a previous master who decides to create havoc for Turquoise. Which threatens her life more then ones.

I really love how the characters are so well developed with there own untold but unquestionably noticeable quarks to there personality. The only weakness is if any is the cliffhanger end! But I predict anyone who picks this book up will be able to put this one down!

Reviewer: Candace C. Books KY USA

Christmas with Anne and other Holiday Stories
L. M. Montgomery

Christmas with Anne and other holiday stories was a terrific book . This book was written by L. M. Montgomery . I think this book is more for kids in the ages group of 13-15 . Anne is a very lively spirited girl. She has adventures and troubles that she works through. this book is very interesting.   I think pretty much anyone would enjoy this book. You meet a lot of funny and enjoyable characters. From family members to friends . And the stories always keep you Guessing What will happen next. From reading the 16 stories you can learn many valuable lessons of life.  I recommend this book to every one .

                                                                                                   Jessica V

Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II
Penny Colman

Genre: Non-fiction, history, World War II
Rating: 4
Who should read? grades four up

This book chronicles the women who reported news live as it ocurred during World War II. Before the United States entered the war, women were permitted to report on all aspects of the war.

After 1941, women had to be approved by the U.S. military and were assigned a rank within the Armed Services. This was not easily gotten, in fact it was incredibly difficult.

Individual women are depicted here with photographs. Colman starts at the beginning of the 1930s and proceeds through to the end of the war - as it was for the correspondents.

This book is not only very interesting and very well-written, but exposes most of us to an area of knowledge previously unexplored and unknown. It is exciting.

I would only wish that all of the women named could have been been put together with their photo in order to easily match a face with the reporter been talked about.

Katrina Y.
Jaffrey, NH USA

China’s Son 
by Da Chen


It’s the year 1962. Your eyes open, revealing dried yams, chopsticks and eager eyes all subsumed within the obscure town of Yellow Stone in Southern China . Like every other baby you enter the world armed with a bag of opportunities, or do you? It was acrimonious, a pot spitting its contents, and began in 1966 – it was termed the Cultural Revolution and tarred many a person within the population with the epithet ‘bad’. Your ancestors were land lords, people many cocked a snook at due to Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s ideas which the wealthy and poor “pro-revolutionists” alike drank like adages. Thus your fate has been donned; you are to become nothing more than a farmer.

That life was to be lead by Da Chen, the protagonist and writer of this book. The book is a memoir of his youth and what become of demure Da with nothing but drawbacks lacing every bridge. Da has four siblings of which he was the youngest. His three sisters, Si, Ke and Huang, and brother Jin were forced to drop out of school due to the political reform. They, thus, turned to their only other avenue: farming. Da’s education was threatened many a time by the authorities but Da, in elementary school was the top student, and thus he remained. I was fascinated by his thirst for knowledge and his determination to complete his studies. As it’s a true story it makes one reflect on one’s own life and I can with candor admit that I as a being have grown from all that Da experienced. One also discovers the acerbic antics of this so called revolution , in that for e.g. Da was the only member of his entire school who was banned from joining the Little Red Guard’s , a communist organization for the youth . I was angered by many of the goings as I’m confident any reader would be for e.g. intellectuals were the tortured refuse of China . The people lived in a commune and many fathers’ either farmed the land or, as Da’s did, were responsible for “mining” it.- many books are either set in England, America or Australia and this location informs one of the inhabitants’ cultural and living conditions during that period in history. During Mao’s reign he fed his people with the idea that education was of no relevance and thus Da, the shunned ‘enemy’ of china, reverted from a student of note to an insouciant smoker, drinker and gambler. At one period in his school career he had not a friend and when he did eventually make friends they cared not about his family being landlords as all the others had. Da was integrated into their “family” and soon adopted their ways –   the result was that school hibernated lying dormant until the death of Chairman Mao. A death which sparked ideas about education and suddenly there was this lust for knowledge. College became ‘the’ fad and examinations were being held in search of 100 possible applicants. These could be of any age and political background.

If one was accepted you were made as the government was willing to pay for your tuition and there was a promise of a job. Da’s studies lay in taters as before Mao went on his “vacation” academics meant nothing and after all he was the grandson of a landlord, a nothing. What becomes of this boy will amaze you – I know I was juggling tears and smiles at the end of this book.

I think it’s quite controversial to pin a rating on such I book as it greatly depends if this book’s attributes will interest you. For e.g. if you are a fanatic of soppy romance novels don’t attempt it and if the book had to be rated by such a person the rating would be rather low. However, I am a lover of history and could drown in other’s cultures. Bearing that in mind I dub this book with a rating of 4 (on a 1-4 scale). If you wish to leave home and travel back in time without incurring the expense of a ticket or magical portal this book is for you. The diction is of a basic and easy to comprehend level – what a quick palatable read! From cover to cover I digested this book and the hope this book gives to any dreamer of reaching their utopia is so profound that I sincerely recommend this book.

©Nicole H., 2002

Johannesburg , South Africa

Stoner and Spaz 
by Ron Koertge

I would rate this book as a 3.

Ben is your average 16 yr. old whose parents are dead, lives with his grandmother, and has cerebral palsy. Normal right? Absolutely! Expecially compared to Colleen, a girl who is completly strung out on drugs and doesn't have many trustworthy friends. But these two find something in eachother they never thought they would - someone who sees them for who they really are.

I really liked this book because it delt with many issues many teens face, such as drugs, embarrassment, and peer preasure. I liked how it was told from a guys point of view. I haven't read many books that are like that.

Hailey I.
Fremont, Nebraska, USA

Some Kind of Pride
By Maria Testa

Rating: 3
Middle School/5th grade age

The main character in Some Kind of Pride is Ruth DiMarco. Ruth is an eleven-year-old who has always dreamt of playing major league baseball, which is a major league dream, especially for a girl. She, as well as her brothers, were named after famous baseball players, her name coming from Babe Ruth. And she definitely has the talent to live up to the name; she is by far the best shortstop her small town has ever seen. Ruth's mother dies when she was young, and she lives with her father, a famous sports writer, and two brothers, both of whom love baseball. Her best friend Ellie proves faithful as being the little league scorekeeper and faithfully goes to all practices and also has big thoughts for an eleven year old as she has already announced herself as a feminist. Ruth also finds a friend in Ross, a writer for Sports Illustrated, who learns a lot from this eleven-year-old prodigy

Ruth loves baseball, but when she overhears her father remarking her talent was wasted on a girl she begins to doubt herself. How could a girl ever make it to the major leagues? Her immense talent however soon attracts Sports Illustrated and a writer comes to interview her for a story.

Throughout the book Ruth is trying to discover how she can be both a baseball player and a women. She learns more about her mother, who was the first female firefighter, and she learns what being a feminist really is, what she really wants, and who she is without baseball.

Some Kind of Pride was a book about a young girl defining herself. The characters were pretty well defined for such a short book. Ruth was sometimes unclear in he thoughts, but I loved Ellie, who was truly a best friend to Ruth. The sports writer for Sports Illustrated and her brothers we also well developed characters. I didn't especially like the way her parents were described or how they developed in the story. The plot was good and it could have been drawn out much more. I did enjoy how her mothers role, even though she was dead she played am important role in he story. This story will definitely be inspiring to girls who want to accomplish something. You find yourself really wanting Ruth to go all the way with her dream. This book would be great for younger readers, especially girls, because it's short but will also hold their attention and teach them a valuable lesson on what feminism really is.

"'All this time maybe I should have been wishing I knew how to play like a girl.'"  -Ross, Sports Illustrated Reporter

Cory C.
Lake Orion, MI, US

Gone From Home
by Angela Johnson

3.5 Stars (Out of 4)

Gone From Home, by Angela Johnson, is a series of twelve stories of young people gone from home.  This book can be read by boys or girls, ages 13 and up.  This book is really short and makes for easy reading.  The stories deal with hope, compassion, and hardships teens have to or can deal with.  There is a different main character in each of the different stories.  The stories are from 2-12 pages long.  This book is very good and some of the stories you might be able to relate to, I could.  Some of the stories have surprise endings to them and that makes it all the better.  Hope that you choose to read this book, I definitely recommend it.

Crystal L.
Watkins Glen, NY

What Janie Found
by Caroline B. Cooney

What Janie Found, by Caroline B. Cooney, is the sequel to three other novels, all based on a similar theme. The genre is fiction, for a young adult audience, ages 13-16. The rating is a 3 on a scale of 1-4, with 4 being the best. Someone who has read the first three in the series would be the best reader of this book, but it is remarkable how easily this novel can stand alone after a brief reading of the introduction. The main character, Janie, was kidnapped at age three, and brought up by her kidnapper's parents, after her kidnapper disappeared. This unlikely plot is balanced by the more common and well- developed themes of love, guilt, family attachments, and all of their complexities. These universal themes help the reader go beyond the unlikely plot. Janie's need to know her kidnapper, Hannah, and the details about her life, drive this novel to a peaceful conclusion. A major strength is the character development of Janie, and also, surprisingly, the character development of Hannah in her absence. One weakness is the implausibility of the events, but again, this is countered by the universal nature of the more important themes of the novel.

Katie R.
San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.


Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes
Wendelin von Draanen

Mystery, Ages: 11-15

I readily enjoyed this teen mystery. It's in the tradition of Nancy Drew and the Dana Girls. However Sammy Keyes is a rather original character though she has some all-too familiar traits. Think Harriet the Spy.

The story revolves around Sammy, her best friend, Marissa, her grandmother, and some pretty rough gang members. This is the first novel in the series that I've read. However it seems that Sammy should know better. She always gets herself into these weird situations. But this girl has got guts!

When Sammy is left a "surprise" from a scared-to-death girl in the mall, she knows there is a mystery to solve. Danger lurks in her path at every moment.  Snake Eyes with his "Hatred for eyes, steel for a mouth" is a pretty intense character. However it keeps your adrenaline going.

A lot of surprises came from this novel. I was happily and not-so-happily surprised sometimes. The last fews sentences of each chapter left me wanting more. At times, I felt I couldn't put down the book. Ms. Von Draanen was very good at keeping someone's attention.

For the most part, the story was believeable. Just don't try this at home!

However I was disappointed a few times when it seemed unrealistic. It seemed as if Ms. Von Draanen just needed to give the reader this information whilst forgetting realism. I mean come on, why would a tough guy start spilling family history to some little girl he doesn't know? But again, for the most part, Ms. Von Draanen was pretty consistant.

The whole side story about softball was pretty much the same as every other teen novel. I think it would have been better if Ms. Von Draanen had stuck with the mystery which is ultimately the main and best part of the novel. The side story really doesn't entangle with the main story so it seemed like a waste of time. However Ms. Von Draanen is a talented writer and kept my attention throughout these times.

Overall, I'd rate this novel four out of five stars. It wasn't perfect, but it was good enough that it kept me reading for at least an hour at a time.

Hats off to Wendelin von Draanen and Sammy Keyes!

Jeanette B.
Waldorf, Md. USA

The Baboon King
by Anton Quintala

  3½ (out of 4 stars) 

            The Baboon King, by Anton Quintala, is a story of survival.  The story itself seems so real that it is hard to believe it is a work of fiction.

Morengaru is an independent, solitary, strong native hunter, living in the areas of Tanzania and Kenya, most likely in the present day.  Born of a Kikuyu mother and a Masai father, Morengaru has felt like an outsider for all of his life.  After a fatal misunderstanding, Morengaru is banished from the Kikuyu tribe.  He wanders through the African grasslands until he meets up with a tribe of baboons.  Their leader, or king, steps forwards and challenges Morengaru to a fight.  Armed with only his knife and his brute strength, Morengaru accepts.  The fight ends: the baboon king is dead, Morengaru is seriously crippled.  Morengaru’s helplessness forces him to stay near the area of the baboons.  Morengaru now must adapt to living with the baboons; yet still somehow hope to return to human civilization.  Gripping and realistic, this story will have you on the edge of your seat.  Quintala writes with the knowledge and confidence of one who has been around these African and baboon tribes.

            I felt that this book was very well written.  As said, Quintala writes with knowledge and confidence.  Originally I had thought that the book wasn’t going to be that good.  My mind had no empty space that was craving to be filled with knowledge of the baboons or African tribespeople.  However, my mind changed upon reading into the book.  The story is very nicely tied together, in connections that make sense and are easy to grasp.  The book is filled with descriptions: descriptions of the African grasslands, the jungle, the animals who live there, and the tribes of the Kikuyu and the Masai.  These descriptions are great for laying down the setting of the book and they are not too long, losing the reader’s attention.  No book is perfect though, and The Baboon King had its weaknesses.  At one point during the story, when Morengaru is first living near the baboons, I was struck by this “this is getting a little boring,” thought.  However, the action rose after a little bit, and then I was engrossed once again.
The Baboon King, a story of survival, is not for everyone.  This book is for people who enjoy reading about situations of survival, and plots set in the present-day world.  Although I knew nothing about the life of African tribespeople, I did not let this hinder my reading.  In the end, it did not matter what my knowledge was, since the book was very clear and knowledgeable.  Readers who will probably enjoy The Baboon King are those who have liked other novels such as Hatchet and The Lord of the Flies.  The Baboon King is difficult reading material, and I would recommend it to readers in sixth grade and above.  Basically you, the potential reader, decide for yourself whether or not The Baboon King is for going to capture your enthusiasm.  I highly enjoyed this book and recommend it to others interested in such novels.

Review by: 
Carolyn S.,
Age 14
Sherrill, NY USA

Akiko in the Castle of Alia Rellapor
by Mark Crilley

Akiko in the Castle of Alia Rellapor is a humorous science fiction title aimed at 5th through 6th graders but of interest to older pre-teens that enjoy graphic novels or computer games.  This easy to read “chapter” book (155 pages) captures the flavor of the popular Akiko comic book series, with black and white comic style illustrations, sound effects, lots of dialogue and little narrative.  This is the second adventure of Akiko, a precocious 4th grader, who is transported to the Planet Smoo, where she and her non-human traveling companions attempt to rescue Prince Froptoppit from the Alia Rellapor’s castle.  The first book in this series is Akiko and the Great Wall of Time.  Akiko, a strong, level-headed girl who dresses in jeans and a T-shirt, is a nice role model for young girls but equally attractive to boys.  This is a witty, quick read which would satisfy younger readers. It deserves a rating of 3.

Jan D.
Chelsea, MI

Girls in Love
by Jacqueline Wilson
Rating: 4+

Readers Needed: This is a chick flick, no guys aloud. There also is some odd differents in the culture so 12 and up

Preview: Well this is one book that every girl out there can relate too, even though it about a teenager in England and her two best friends. She has pretty bizarre taste, with a painfully and pitifully ordinary life. The book starts out in there holiday home in Wales where Ellie (the focal character) is introduced to a boy named Dan. Which afterwards in the story becomes the main focus of the entire account. Ellie doesn't even try to make friends with the pathetic Dan who was twelve and going into 9th grade. Ellie is absolutely uninterested in Dan, so to get him off her back she gives Dan her address to write her sometimes since he lived in London. Ellie hoping he had misplaced her address gets back home and goes back into her unpopular, typical English existence. Her best friends equally seemed to meet up someone over the summer holiday so Ellie begins to tell some serious tales about her dream Dan, which is a concoction of genuine Dan and a hottie she walks by to go to school. All simultaneously this is one interesting book that will have you thinking your just discovered yourself a new best friend named Ellie!

Reviewer: Candace C.
Brooks, Ky USA

Born to Fly
Shane Osborn

Born to Fly, by Shane Osborn, with Malcolm McConnell, is a biography that reads like a fictional novel. The rating is a 2.5 (1-4, 4 being the best).

The book would fit a male or female audience, ages 11-14. The hero and main character is Shane Osborn who fought his way to become a navy pilot, and then had a distinguished career as a survivor of a near fatal accident. The main character, Shane Osborn, overcomes facial reconstructive plastic surgery at age 16 after a car accident-at a time when he thought his dreams of being a pilot were over. A major strength is that the reader learns much about training to become a pilot, aviation vocabulary, and details about the design of airplanes. The reader will be surprised to find himself drawn in and interested in this topic, even if it was not a previous interest.

Katie R, San Francisco, California, USA

Star Wars Packet

            The packet of “Star Wars, Attack of the Clones” includes four books:  An Attack of the Clones Movie Storybook, The Stars of Star Wars book, a children’s book on the adventures of Anakin, and a Jedi training and trials book ( which also includes a lightasber pen).
            The Movie Storybook, written by Jane Mason and Sarah Hines- Stephens, is based on the story by George Lucas.  It starts by the reunion of Padmé, the former Queen of Naboo, and Anakin, the future Darth Vader.  This book concentrates mainly on the love story between Anakin and Padmé, and it is meant for a young audience, having a simple plot and story.  It is appropriate for only Star Wars fans.  From a scale of 1-4 (4 being the best), this book would fall under the category of 2.

            The book on the stars of Star Wars might appeal to someone who takes an interest on actors and actresses.  This book includes information of Hayden Christensen (actor who plays Anakin), Natalie Portman (actress who plays Padmé) and Ewan McGregor (actor who plays Obi- Wan) and other stars of Star Wars.  It also includes information on the costumes in Star Wars.
The other two books (Anakin Apprentice, and Jedi Training and Trials Quiz book) are relatively simple books meant for children 6-8.  These two books include pictures and text.
            Overall, I recommend that only Star Wars fans read this book.

Christine T.
Palo Alto, CA

Flags of Our Fathers: Heroes of Iwo Jima
by James Bradley (adapted by Micheal French)

genre: nonfiction (history)
rating: 4 (scale of 1-4, 4 being highest)
who should read: age 12-16

       When I first saw the cover of the book, the words "adapted for young people" stared out at me. This was a major disappointment for me because I hated most adaptations and abridged versions of popular novels. However, as I read through the first chapter, I was completely taken in by the events in the account. Little did I know that this would prove to be one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read.

       This book primarily focuses around the lives of the six flag raisers in the famous photograph captured during the American invasion of Iwo Jima in World War II. Personally, I've never really paid much attention to this picture before, even though it's in all my history books. We mostly remember World War II as the Holocaust, when millions of Jews suffered in Europe. Images of Hitler and concentration camps race across our minds. No one remembers the war in the Pacific. In fact, I've never heard of Iwo Jima before I read this book. It's very interesting to see a part of WWII that I haven't heard about before. Also, when we think about war, we connect it with the army. In this book, we get to see how the marines played a big role in one of the most destructive wars in history.

       James Bradley, the author, is the son of one of the flag raisers. Through many interviews and years of research, he is able to write down an account of what went on during the U.S. invasion of Iwo Jima. We follow the six flag raisers, as well as their fellow comrades, through a series of dark and painful events that happened during the war. I can't even remember how many times I cried when reading this book. Every time a soldier dies, I just can't help but shed a tear for the loss of an innocent life. Then there are passages that tell of the self-sacrifice of one soldier to save his buddies, which brings more tears to my eyes. Bradley did a wonderful job by filling this book full of emotions. Be sure to have tissues ready when reading!

       Flags of Our Fathers is truly one of the best nonfiction pieces for young adults today. I highly recommend that everyone, especially those interested in history, give this book a try. My suggestion on who should read this is the 12-16 age group. For some teens, however, this book might be a bit graphic. If you can't stand to hear about deaths, don't read this book! Those older than 16 could still try this book, but I really think that the original would appeal more to them. I can't wait to check out the original, unadapted version at the library. I hope that every teen who picks up this book will enjoy it as much as I did.

                                                                      Rachel Z.,
E. Brunswick, NJ

Songs of Faith 
Angela Johnson

That summer was a “hot summer, a sad summer, an everybody-going-away-and-leaving-me summer…” for Doreen.  Her father has moved to Chicago after the divorce, her best friend moved to the east coast and her brother stopped talking.  Somehow, joining in with the rest of the country celebrating the bicentennial just doesn’t feel right.  Through it all, Doreen learns about herself and the strength she has inside and she learns to keep her mind and heart open, no matter how things might hurt because you never know what you might miss if you don’t.

The major strength is Angela Johnson’s richness and depth when telling a story.  You often feel that you are eavesdropping on the characters.  However, the story line was somewhat difficult to follow.  It is told in first person narrative but the speaker, Doreen, changes subjects so often that it’s hard to keep up.  Johnson’s fans, though, will appreciate the storytelling.  This would be most appropriate for grades six and seven but not for those students who have trouble reading as they will have great difficulty following the characters.   I would give this an overall rating of 2.

Reviewed by Donna K.
Atlanta, GA, USA

Fresh Girl
Jaïra Placide 

Fresh Girl, by Jaïra Placide is a fiction novel with a rating of 3 (on a scale of 1-4, 4 being the best). The most appropriate reader is a mature young adult, male or female, ages 14-18. I would recommend an older reader because of the political and personal violence seen by the main character.

Mardi, the main character, is a fourteen- year old Haitian girl who is born in New York, but at age four moves to Haiti to be raised by her father's mother because of her own parent's financial difficulties. Her life in Haiti is filled with disturbing experiences of political violence, and mistreatment of women and children. When she finally returns to New York, at age 12 she is scarred by the haunting memories of her last days in Haiti.

A major strength of the book is the vivid imagery of Mardi's daily life, and the fast, flowing, realistic dialogue. One weakness is the lack of details in the development of the other characters besides Mardi. The book is still eye-opening about the 1991 coup in Haiti and the people affected by those changes.

Katie R., San Francisco, California, USA

Locked Inside
by Nancy Werlin

Locked Inside, by Nancy Werlin is not your typical, wealthy orphan girl at boarding school story. The genre is fiction with a rating of 3.5 (1-4, with4 being the best). It is written for a young adult audience, age 13-17.

The main character, Marnie, is an heiress whose life is filled with a waninginterest in school, and an extraordinary interest in a computer fantasy game called Paliopolis. In the game she becomes Sorceress Llewellyne, who meets another online player named Elf. The characters remain interesting, but not at all realistic. As the plot becomes more complicated, Marnie is kidnapped by her very unbalanced, and angry chemistry teacher, who has developed an intense dislike for Marnie. Marnie's computer friend Elf somehow comes to her rescue, but finds himself trapped along with her in the teacher's basement. Their captivity becomes a real life caricature of the Paliopolis computer game that once held their mutual attention.

A major strength lies in the wonderfully constructed descriptions of Marnie's inner thoughts and feelings. Less realistic, but equally intriguing, are the conversations she imagines she has both with her deceased mother and her computer persona, Sorceress Llewellyne. A weakness is the lack of realism in the kidnapping, and the friendship with Elf. Also unlikely, is the unusual and unsettling climax that leads to their escape attempts. One conflict explored is how Marnie wants to get to know herself and her history, and at the same time, makes a large effort to deny herself access to this information. Marnie is clearly struggling and learning about how to free herself from the feeling of being "locked inside" herself during the drama of actually being "locked inside" the basement. She learns aboutunlocking herself with pain, difficulty, grace, and humor. 

Katie R. San Francisco, California, U.S.A

Carolina Autumn
By Carol Lynch Williams

Review of Carolina Autumn 
By Carol Lynch Williams

            Starting high school and having a real boyfriend is unsettling enough for fourteen-year old Carolina, but she’s still trying to cope with extreme changes from the last year.  First her father and sister went on a trip and never came back.  Then she and her mom moved to a different house, and her mom seemed to forget Carolina was there.  But it’s new neighbor Garret who becomes a real boyfriend, and thank goodness for her friend, Mara—at least she’s been there for support. 

            When Carolina, Mara, and Garret sign up together for a photography class, Carolina doesn’t need the camera’s lens to see that Mara intends to add Garret to her “other-girls’-boyfriends-I’ve-stolen” list. Her mom wants to reconnect with Carolina’s life, too, and Carolina isn’t sure she even wants that.

            With “Notes to You” sprinkled throughout her story, Carolina gradually reveals to the reader where and why her father and sister went away.  Carolina is bruised by her family and friends, but she is not broken.  The reader will root for her as she picks herself up and faces the changes in her life.

By Carol F.

Lucy the Giant
by Sherri L. Smith

Lucy the Giant, by Sherri L. Smith, is a fictional novel, about a six-foot tall, sensitive and awkward heroine. The rating is a 3, (1-4, and 4 being the best). The audience who would most enjoy the book would be young adults, male or female, aged 11-14. The reader is quickly introduced to the main character, a tenth-grade student, named Lucy, who lives with her alcoholic father, and her loving stray dog, Bar. This is an odd name for the dog she loves, and the place she hates, the bar, where her father goes to drink. For a moment she thinks that Bar can bring comfort to her lonely life in the small Alaskan town where she lives, since her mother left the family eight years ago. Early on, Bar, dies, and sadly, Lucy can only afford a tin can for the ashes. Lucy runs away, and without much difficulty gets a job on a crab fishing boat, under the assumed identity, of an adult named Barbara. Life doesn't necessarily become easier, but at least the Bering Sea of Alaska is beautiful, and life is different. As a crew member leading an adult life, she feels far away from the emotional dangers she had experienced at home. Her new family seems safe. The feeling of safety doesn't last very long. Lucy a.k.a. Barbara, comes to realize that problems follow you wherever you go, unless the change is positive and internal.

This theme is developed particularly at the end of the novel, which ends somewhat predictably. Not much is solved, at least not the relationship with her father. She does however, find ways to comfort herself by enjoying her good memories, and the pleasure she takes in understanding herself, and this is an important change.

Katie R. San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History
edited by Tonya Bolden

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History edited by Tonya Bolden, is a great historical non-fiction book. I would rate this book a 4, because it really showed me a lot about women’s history that I didn’t know already. I found it very interesting and would recommend it to anyone ages 13 and on, even if they aren’t interested in women’s history, both female and male. The book contains many short stories, poems, quotes, and pictures that all reflect the awesome women that have changed the way women act and think today. This book is also a great resource to use for projects, papers, research, and debates. There aren’t many books today that completely reflect women’s history, but this is one that does.

                                                          - Arlene W. Glen, NY USA

145th Street
by Walter Dean Myers

145th Street
by Walter Dean Myers

Myers writes ten fiction short stories that are a powerful collection of stories about people with strong emotions in often desperate situations.

The rating is a 4, on a 1-4 range, with 4 the best. The audience is young adult, age 13-16. There are many characters in each story. All characters are inhabitants of 145th street, in New York's Harlem. Although the stories are brief intrusions into the difficult lives of many characters, there is time in relatively few pages to get to know people suffering with problems of violence, drug abuse, and loss, and the relief they experience with friendship, humor, love and irony. A favorite story is "Angela's Eyes," about Angela, who has prophetic visions about death. She dreams about events before they happen, and that gives her power and status in her rough neighborhood. The story is also humorous with details about mundane life, such as breakfast food (eggs) mixed in with themes about death, and Angela's inability to rid herself of her visions which have become more of a burden and curse than a gift. The book makes a strong impression on the reader, leaving you wanting each story to be a short novel, but still giving you something from the contained unit of the short story.

Katie R. San Francisco, CA, U.S.A

Catherine Called Birdy
by Karen Cushman

Catherine Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman, takes place in the Middle Ages in A.D. 1290.  The setting is the Village of Stonebridge, outside of London, England.  It is the story of 14 year- old Catherine whose diary writings tell the story of her wish to be free of the suitors who her abusive father has chosen for her to marry.  As the story develops, so does her keen, funny and disrespectful sense of humor.  This is clearly needed as she tries dismiss suitors that she would never choose for herself.  In the end she is content being herself and finds an acceptable man to marry.  She continues to wish, and feels that she has wings and freedom, even if she never leaves home.

 The main character, Catherine, sees herself as a “plain gray and brown goose”(Cushman, 31).  In deciding what “birdy” best describes her she says “I think I love geese more that any other birds because no one else does.  They are not small and delicate like larks and sparrows, or swift and clever like hawks and falcons.  They do not sing like nightingales, and cannot be trained to talk, or dance, or do tricks.  They are cunning, greedy, shortsighted, and stubborn--much like me, now that I think on it.” (Cushman, 30).  Her goal is to be different from other girls of her time. She wants to choose her own husband, and stop pursuing traditional girl’s roles, which she feels will not allow her to be comfortable with herself.

Her biggest obstacle is carving out a unique identity free from the control of her father.  She resolves this challenge by developing a better understanding of herself and learning that she doesn’t have to leave home to be free.  She is able to hear this from the fortuneteller Madame Joanna who tells Catherine “You are lucky. Little Bird, for you have wings, but you must learn to master them.  Look at the baron’s hawk there on her perch. Just because she doesn’t flap her wings all the time, doesn’t mean she can't fly” (Cushman, 104-105).  Another challenge for Catherine is to find a safe way to express her feelings in a society where women are not outwardly emotional.  She is able to do this by complaining to her diary.

 The reader learns about how medieval life is defined by social roles based on economic class and inherited position.  Girls are born to grow up, be married off, and have children.  Women’s work also consists of spinning, sewing, and making ointments and potions.  Young boys have the right to play, and men can work at a paying job.  In contrast, most modern women are free to make choices about their lives and it is not at all unusual for women to work outside the home.  Young girls and boys both have opportunities to be educated.

 Catherine Called Birdy is highly recommended for readers ages ten to fourteen.  It would be particularly fascinating for a young adult who already had background information about the Middle Ages.  The greatest appeal would be to a female reader who could most easily identify with the emotional life of the main character.  The many rich details of medieval life are a colorful addition to a simple story line.

Katie R.

San Francisco, CA

The Rag and Bone Shop
by Robert Cormier

The Rag and Bone Shop, by Robert Cormier is an engrossing mystery novel written for a mature teenage audience.  The rating is a 3 (1-4, with 4 being the best).  The author explores themes of crime, guilt, innocence, morality, and sadness.  The main characters are Alicia, a seven year old girl who is found murdered, Jason, a twelve year old neighborhood boy, Brad, Alicia’s brother, and a relentless interrogator named Trent.  The plot unfolds mostly in dialogue as the characters of Trent and Jason are developed during a long interrogation in which Jason is the main suspect for Alicia’s murder, since he may have been the last person to see her while she was alive.  The title of the book was taken from a line of  a Yeats poem.

“I lie down where all the ladders start, In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart”

 These lines underscore both the theme of the novel, and the mind of the interrogator, Trent.  Cormier's strength lies in his skill of character development with unexpected details about body movement and thought process.  The book reads easily, but seems to end abruptly before many questions are answered.

Katie R. San Francisco, California, U.S.A.


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