BOOK NAME: Glory Be
AUTHOR: Augusta Scattergood
Glory’s lazy summer had been slowing strolling along until a big event happened that didn’t just change her summer, but her whole life! Set in 1960s Mississippi, Glory Be introduces you to Glory, a regular eleven year old girl who bothers her older sister, causes trouble, and looks forward to the swimming pool during the blazing summers. She’s had every birthday celebration there since she could swim, but now there are rumors the pool might close. In fact, nothing in town has been the same since a Yankee girl named Laura and her mother have come from Ohio to stir things up. Apparently those folks in the north don’t care much for segregation. In fact, Laura evens goes so far as to help an African American girl drink out of the white’s only fountain!
Glory doesn’t know any different way of life because she has grown up with segregation. But now there’s all kinds of talk about change such as her best friend leaving her school if it becomes desegregated. All these different opinions are making Glory’s head spin as she witnesses first-hand the civil rights movement starting into motion. She is now faced with some difficult choices as she stands up for what she believes is right.
This book was truly amazing and readers will love it just because it is a good read, and they won’t realize they are learning at the same time. The southern spin on the book also makes it all the more enjoyable, opening up a new window to the world for me as a northerner. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn about an interesting topic in our nation’s history or just wants a book to brighten up dark days.
BOOK NAME: Atherton: House of Power
AUTHOR: Patrick Carman
Atherton: House of Power by Patrick Carman is tremendously wonderful. You will expect adventure, action, and mystery. Atherton is a 3 layered land of the Highlands, Tabletop, and the Flatlands. The Highlands is the top of Atherton and supplies Atherton with all the water. Tabletop is where Atherton receives all the supply of food which is why there are slaves in Tabletop. The Flatlands is the place filled with creatures such as cleaners which have suction discs and are able to live on garbage waste and little water. A boy ,named Edgar, living in Tabletop, secretly goes near a cliff escaping from the plantation behind him. Edgar finds a mysterious book about his missing father. Since he can’t read he must reach the Highlands since they know how to read. The number one rule is to never climb the cliffs to the Highlands. Edgar climbs regularly, but the penalty is death!
Atherton: House of Power is a stupendous book because as I said it contains adventure, action, and mystery. My favorite character is Edgar because he was courageous enough to climb to the Highlands even though he most likely would have died just in search of his father. Mr. Ratikan is my favorite villain because he treats the kids ok for a person that uses kids as slaves. If I had to compare this book to another book it would have to be The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi because they both show a character trying to uncover a mystery. I highly recommend House of Power as a dystopian novel.
Want another opinion? Read Kyle’s review!
BOOK NAME: Laugh With the Moon
AUTHOR: Shana Burg
Clare is a thirteen year old girl who lives in Boston with her father, or at least used to. When her dad unexpectedly moves them to Malawi, Africa for two months, Clare is unwillingly dragged to a new place where they barely speak any English. Laugh With the Moon is an inspirational story about how Clare learns to cope with moving to what seems like “a whole other planet” and the aftermath pain of her mother’s death. Clare is faced with many challenges, but with the help from her new friends and father, she’ll learn valuable life lessons that will stick with readers forever.
I was stepping completely out of my comfort zone when reading this realistic fiction book but I really enjoyed it and found it extremely inspirational. I loved that Clare was portrayed as a normal girl that reacted to such drastic changes and challenges like a normal 13-year-old girl would. It helped connect to her and her story which made the book that much better. My favorite character in this book was Memory. I found her really intelligent, clever, and independent even when the world threw hurdles in her way. This book taught me that “grief isn’t a tunnel you walk through and you’re done”. It was extremely moving and I recommend it for ages 10 to 14.
BOOK NAME: War Stories: True Stories from the First & Second World Wars
AUTHOR: Paul Dowswell
I have always had a passion for history but sometimes it can be a challenge to find history books suited for my age. You know what I mean, I’d find a gargantuan book that would put me to sleep in seconds. Well, I found a book that is perfect for anyone who wants to learn about the First and Second World Wars, or just wants to read about some cool true stories. This book explained both world wars very well so even if you already know a lot about them, you would still get a good understanding of what went on.
The stories had a nice variety and wonderful illustrations to start each one. Each story was very inspiring in its own way. I especially liked the one about when Christmas came on the front lines. Apparently all the soldiers in the trenches really wanted to celebrate. So the two opposing sides spontaneously came together to sing Christmas carols and play games. This story shows how with mutual understanding, obstacles can be overcome further conflict possibly prevented. I also really liked how they put the outcomes of the wars into perspective and they truly affected the people, the countries, and how it continues to affect all of us today.
This book is suitable for anyone who loves history and wants to learn more about it. Itmakes history fun, interesting, and easy to understand for kids and just about anyone else who picks it up. I really recommend this book for any kid. Happy reading!
BOOK NAME: My Amazing Life in Photos
AUTHOR: National Geographic
My Amazing Life in Photos by National Geographic is truly a fun, wacky, and inspirational photo scrapbook.
Snap tons of pictures in a variety of topics and paste them in these pretty backgrounds. A category of “All About Me” allows you to put pictures of you from a cute, little baby all the way to a big kid. Where do you live? Bring to life your bright, spectacular bedroom and pretty neighborhood with vivid pictures. Frame a picture of your family and don’t forget about your special pet! Put a class picture and those unforgettable moments with your friends and buddies. Don’t forget to put in all the fun stuff you enjoy doing during your free time. Also, explore your many vacations through the pictures you put on the festive pages. Celebrate with your birthday pictures flying high in balloons. Plus, there’s one whole section dedicated to your pictures in different moods.
My Amazing Life in Photos is a treasurable book in which kids can preserve a lifetime of memorable pictures. The pages have backgrounds which match up with the different themes. For example in the section where kids can put pictures of games and toys they love, there is a background of the game “Operation”. The frames add to the professionalism of this scrapbook since the section about family portraits has the traditional brown oval frames. Also, with each picture, there is a line provided to write a caption so that the meaning of the picture is saved forever. There are lots of tips provided on how to capture the best shot by playing with the zoom and light effects, which will definitely enhance your photo-taking skills.
BOOK NAME: The Schwa Was Here
AUTHOR: Neal Shusterman
Calvin Schwa, also known as “the Schwa,” is not invisible. He is just easy to overlook. He is a nobody, so much so that he might as well be part of the scenery. Even his own father cannot be particularly sure of his whereabouts. Some call this “The Schwa Effect”, a condition that renders one virtually invisible to all but the extremely observant. It is said that this effect is terminal, eventually causing the person to simply fade away.
Anthony “Antsy” Bonano barely even noticed The Schwa when they first met. Calvin seemed to blend in perfectly with his surroundings, virtually unnoticeable. Moreover, the Schwa had sat next to Antsy in class for a long time without Antsy ever noticing until that fateful day. Antsy decided to befriend his “invisible-ish” classmate and assist him with his unusual predicament. After doing extensive experimentation on the effectiveness of the Schwa Effect, Antsy had the “brilliant” idea to use the Schwa’s stealth as a profit generating opportunity. The two-some completed spying tasks as well as dares for the entertainment of the other students, as well as for cash.
All is not well, however. Antsy and the Schwa may have just accepted one triple-DOG-dare too many. Furthermore, the Schwa is having trouble coming to grips with his Schwa Effect. He feels as if he is fading away, and that one day, possibly in the very near future, he will cease to exist. There will be emotional pain, there will be cold hard truth, and there will be plenty of ferocious dogs…
This book was excellent. My favorite part was the author’s style of writing. The book was full of humorous lines and phrases. Sarcasm, jokes, puns, and idioms were all present in this book. Such sayings as, “He didn’t have a cow, he had a whole herd,” and “It smelled like something had died in there because it had smelled something else that had died in there,” were commonplace. I could not stop chuckling to myself, and some were good enough to read aloud to family members for more laughs. Even the titles of the chapters were funny. Behind all of the humor, the plot was excellent as well. There were many unexpected twists and turns, as well as several shocking events. I will not spoil these, so read the book. I have also read another book in the series, called “Antsy Does Time”, which was similar to this book in many ways. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story with plenty of laughs thrown in.
Want another opinion? Read Mairen’s review!
Simon’s cat is a rather complicated book. It’s about… a man named Simon and his cat. Hey! I guess it’s not so complicated after all!
The book tells the story of Simon, a young man with a big cat, who finds a kitten in a box in his backyard. Feeling pity for the kitten, Simon brings it into his home. But without his knowledge, the kitten gets into quite some trouble. It begins to fight with Simon’s other cat, and destroys everything in the home! Yet Simon always comes at the wrong times- when it looks like his cat is the culprit. This sparks a lot of arguments and competitions between Simon’s cat and the kitten.
The kitten is constantly playing tricks on Simon’s cat and getting itself into dangerous situations, such as playing with the hedgehogs or releasing the rabbits. It also ruins the cat’s litter box, and rips Simon’s pants and shoes! The fights are endless! It seems like the cat and the kitten will never be friends! But towards the end of the book, the cat and the kitten learn to get along. They begin to get used to each other, and they even become friends.
I enjoyed this book. It really gives you an image of what the story is trying to tell! I would recommend it to anyone, even young children. Through silly pranks and stupendous surprises, the story of Simon’s cat and the kitten is truly a great one. And the greatest surprise yet? The entire book is in pictures!
Night, by Elie Wiesel, is a heart-breaking memoir about his tragic times in the Nazi concentration camps.
Elie Wiesel is a 13 year old Jewish boy growing up in the village of Sighet located in Hungary. It is 1943 in the midst of the Holocaust, yet the Jewish families in Sighet believe that there is nothing to fear about Hitler and that the situation is not as bad as it sounds. But, one ordinary day in 1944, the Germans appear in Sighet and Elie knows that his life will change forever. Once at the concentration camp of Birkenau, Elie is separated from his mother and sisters, and his only family member with him is his father. Together, the two endure laborious work and starvation thrown upon them by the brutal Gestapo. Their only wish is that they do not get separated and to avoid selection. Through many tiring marches to different concentration camps, will Elie and his father manage to stay together?
The tragedy and history in Night is suitable for middle school and high school kids. Elie Wiesel brings out the inhumanity he faced in the camps, making this book a good primary source on the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel even uses lots of similes, metaphors, and foreshadowing to portray the situation. When he says, “We can’t let them kill us like that, like cattle in the slaughterhouse,” (31), I was shocked at how the mass murders occurred in the crematorium and learned that the prisoners were surrounded by death everywhere. This book truly passes the word that history must not repeat itself–genocides like the Holocaust should never happen again.
BOOK NAME: A Thunderous Whisper
AUTHOR: Christina Diaz Gonzales
Ani was never important. She was always a quiet, insignificant little girl. Her mother, a short-tempered sardine seller, called her neska. At first, Ani thought this was an affectionate nickname. Yet then she found out it just meant girl. People often made fun of her for being the daughter of the sardinera (sardine seller). Growing up during Spain’s Civil War, Ani didn’t have an easy life. Her father was away, bravely fighting for Guernica, the city Ani lived in.
After years having no friends, Mathias moves into town. He is a young, free-spirited boy, who has a limping problem and walks with a makila, a walking stick. Could Mathias be her first friend? Ani is curious to know what the story behind his family is. After all, who would move to Guernica during this dangerous time? After a movie theatre mishap, Mathias discovers that his father is a spy! Suddenly, a world of promise is before him and Ani. They have the chance to help Mathias’s father and his spy group on their missions. Through many lies and confusing envelopes, the two friends succeed in their missions.
Yet on one terrible day, Guernica is bombed. The village is destroyed, and many are killed. Ani and Mathias manage to survive, but they lose everything. Their world is turned upside down. Left as orphans, they cannot get over the pain of losing their parents and all of their loved ones. Padre Inaki, the kind priest of the village’s church, takes Ani and Mathias into his home. They help his wife take care of all of the injured survivors. But wait- there is hope! Ani reunites with her father, but she must break the news to him that his wife has been killed. And her father cannot stay for long. He must return to continue fighting.
Through helping those in need, Ani and Mathias realize that they can make a difference, far beyond their own village.
I really enjoyed this book. I have to admit- I almost cried during certain parts of it. There are some chapters that may be intense for young children, and I would therefore recommend it to anyone ages 12 and up. Ani and Mathias’s courage is simply inspiring.
BOOK NAME: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
AUTHOR: Brian Selznick
Have you ever read a book that was a piece of art and a great story at the same time? If not, then you’ll find that The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a great book to try. In fact, it’s such a great book that they made it into a great move too and it has since won several Academy Awards. It is also impressive to say that you read a five hundred page book in one day, as long as you don’t mention that the majority of the book is pictures. However, you’ll find that this novel is like a picture book times a thousand with stunning illustrations, realistic characters, a nostalgic setting, and a mysterious adventure that will keep your eyes glued on the pages.
Hugo Cabret is a boy that lives in a magnificent train station in Paris. This boy’s father used to clean the clocks and make sure they stayed working. Hugo learned everything he knows from his father. He learned something new every day until the day his father died. Not wanting to go to an orphanage, he takes his father’s place so no one would notice his dad was gone. The only thing Hugo’s father left behind (besides his knowledge) was an automaton. An automaton is a complex humanoid “robot”. Hugo suspects his father left a secret message and when he gets it working he will understand.
On his own with no one to support him, Hugo goes through many tribulations, including to resorting to stealing. He steals food from the café, and steals small toys for parts for his automaton. The man who owns these toys catches him stealing and they come to find that they are not complete strangers.
This is a book that I think everyone should read, especially if you want to see the movie. This inspiring book is sure to be an instant classic.
BOOK NAME: I, Q: Book One, Independence Hall
AUTHOR: Roland Smith
What if your parents were major rock stars, had a contract signed, and were traversing the entire country performing on a tour? And what if you found out that your stepsister’s mom was a secret service agent, and you also noticed some weird creeps stalking after you? These questions are what stepsiblings Q (Quest) and Angela must come face to face with in the start of a thrilling series by Roland Smith.
Q and Angela’s parents are pop stars, and the entire family is now on a tour performing across the U.S. It seems as if nothing strange could ever occur as the family heads from city to city on a mega RV. Everything, however, changes when an old roadie (people who set up equipment during a stage performance) named Boone spontaneously appears and decides to become the family’s driver. To top that off, Angela begins to harbor strange feelings that someone is following them. That’s when Q discovers that his stepsister’s deceased mother was a former Secret Service operative who was killed by foreign terrorists. Before long, Q and Angela manage to get involved in the secretive, deadly world of intelligence and espionage, as they must encounter and deal with Israeli Mossad agents, private intelligence agencies, and the conspiracy surrounding Angela’s mother’s death. Can Q and Angela uncover the truth behind the death and reveal who the actual villains are?
IQ Book 1: Independence Hall is one of the best modern day thrillers I have ever read. Roland Smith, who is usually an expert author when it comes to nature and animals, finally takes his renowned writing career and steers it into the genre of action/thrillers. The great thing about this book is that instead of featuring just adult characters, Roland Smith is able to include characters who are young adults. As a result, this allows young readers to connect with the main characters, mainly Q and Angela, and therefore, enjoy an amazing reading experience. When Smith writes other novels, he usually enables them to bring forth an excellent plot and at the same time, enlighten readers about the phenomena of science, nature, and biology. Another laudable feature of this book is that Smith decides to put aside scientific topics and brings politics into the mix. IQ Book 1 takes a dive into the world of intelligence and counter-terrorism, political situations affecting the world today, and the hectic lifestyle of renowned rock stars. The cast of the book is a unique one filled with a variety of intriguing, interesting, and even comedic characters. Interesting characters in this book included Q (the main character), who is adept at magician skills and devouring hamburgers in three bites; Angela, whose intelligence, instinct, and coolness allow her to overcome any situation; Boone, the book guru who owns a book collection that would have made the Library of Congress seem like a simple shelf; and Israeli agent Eben, who always seems to daunt the audience with his relentless determination to accomplish a mission. The plot and humor are what certainly define the book, as readers will be hooked onto the plot and laugh at the numerous moments of humor found in abundance throughout the book. The plot, though, may seem a bit too intricate and complicated to understand at first (that’s why I had to read it more than once), but this is a Roland Smith book that you do not want to miss out on!
This book is definitely interesting for any reader out there who’s got nothing on their desk to read. On a scale of 1-10, I’d grant this book a 10.
BOOK NAME: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie
AUTHOR: David Lubar
Scott Hudson is just starting high school, and already the troubles are beginning. His bus driver is an
obnoxious grouch of a man. The school’s Spanish teacher can’t speak a word of English, and seems to
believe her students can comprehend her. The seniors are attempting to make Scott’s life as miserable
as possible with their egregious pranks. Julia, a girl Scott was acquainted with in kindergarten, is now a stunning teenage “goddess”. She has become so gorgeous; she now seems far out of Scott’s league. The list of difficulties expands with each passing day. At least Scott has his longtime buddies, Kyle, Patrick, and Mitch, to help him survive.
The news Scott’s parents reveal, however, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Scott is
going to be an older brother. How is THAT going to work? He’s always been the younger brother, and
his older sibling Bobby has some dark predictions of how a baby can throw its sibling’s life into chaos.
That’s horrible news for Scott.
The baby isn’t due to arrive for a while, and Scott has more current issues to face. Will he ever
understand the Spanish teacher? Will the cruel gangs of seniors grind him into dust before the end of
the year? How can he possibly win Julia’s heart when she doesn’t even notice him? What catastrophes
await him as the year drags on?
This is a phenomenal book, beyond phenomenal in fact! I couldn’t put it down! It is absolutely hilarious! It is filled with sarcasm, witty jokes, comical situations, irony, and just about every other type of humor imaginable. The story is not too shabby, either! The humorous aspect prevents it from ever becoming dull. The ending has some unexpected twists, and is quite a heartwarming close to the story. I won’t spoil it though! You’ll just have to read this incredible book and find out what happens.
The votes are in! Thanks to everyone who entered the contest and voted for the finalists. All of the reviews were great.
And now for the big reveal!
The three bloggers who received the MOST votes for their reviews are:
Bianca, 13, Delirium by Lauren Oliver
David, 12, Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland
Luke, 12, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Congratulations to our winners! Keep reading DogEared to officially “meet” our three new bloggers when we reveal their avatars and read some of their reviews in 2013!
BOOK NAME: Animal Farm
AUTHOR: George Orwell
Animal Farm by George Orwell depicts true events through a group of animal’s fight for power.
Mr. Jones, the owner of Manor Farm shows apathy towards his farm animals. Soon, Old Major, a respected pig on the farm gathers all the animals on the farm and brings about the idea of rebellion. Even after Old Major dies, the rebellion continues and the animals overthrow Mr. Jones. Three pigs, Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer, expand on Old Major’s preachings and come up with the Seven Commandments of Animalism, stating that all animals are equal and that humans are enemies. At first, all the animals are proud to follow these Commandments. However, Napoleon and Snowball soon get into heated arguments and Napoleon expels Snowball from the farm. This is the beginning of Napoleon’s absolute power and torturous rule over the animals. Slowly, the Seven Commandments change and the pigs begin acting as humans, thus betraying Old Major’s principles.
Animal Farm is an amazing book for all ages. The animal story will touch the hearts of young kids. But, actually this book uses animals as an allegory to depict the Russian Revolution of 1917. All the characters in the book have actual human counterparts such as Napoleon who represents Joseph Stalin and Snowball who represents Leon Trotsky. I enjoyed comprehending the events to understand the Russian Revolution. For example, when Snowball is banished from Animal Farm by Napoleon, it symbolizes Trotsky’s exile from Russia by Stalin. To thoroughly enjoy this book, I suggest keeping a list of all the characters’ human counterparts.
Voting for the 2012 “So You Wanna Be a DogEared Blogger” contest is being extended for another week. That’s right–you can cast your vote once a day until February 8!
The ten finalists of the 2012 DogEared Blogger contest have been chosen! Click here to read the reviews and vote for your favorite. Cast your vote in the poll on the right side of the review page.
The last day to vote is February 1, so be sure to come back once a day and vote for your favorite review!
Tell all your friends to help vote. The three reviewers that receive the most votes will become our new DogEared Bloggers!
Illustration by Chris Rooney
BOOK NAME: Gathering Blue
AUTHOR: Lois Lowry
Gathering Blue is an amazing book about a young girl named Kira. Kira’s father had been killed on a hunt, even before she was born, and her mother has now died of illness. In Kira’s community, if you can’t do work, you might as well be brought to the field to be eaten by the beasts. Kira, who was born with a twisted leg, is too young to weave by herself, so she has the small job of picking up the scraps at the weaving shed. Now that both of her parents have died, Vandara, an evil woman in the community, wants Kira to be taken to the field.
Kira is taken to court. The judges decide that Kira can stay in the community, but now she will have a new job. Every year, the entire village would get together, and the “Singer” would sing a long song about all the good and bad things that had happened to the village. While he sang, he would wear a robe Because of her magnificent abilities in weaving, Kira will repair and restore the Singer’s robe. She will now live in the government building.
In the building, Kira meets Thomas the Carver. They eat their meals together and become good friends. Slowly, Kira begins to notice some strange things about her community. Could people be keeping secrets from her? Kira is determined to find out.
I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to anyone ages 12 and up. Kira’s courage is truly inspiring, and everyone should learn from her.
This book is a sequel to The Giver. Read Mairen’s review of The Giver.
BOOK NAME: A Kids’ Guide to America’s Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship, and the 100-Pound Giant
AUTHOR: Kathleen Krull
ILLUSTRATOR: Anna DiVito
This isn’t your average history book. This is a book with an easy to understand history of the Bill of Rights and how as a kid you can protect and use those rights. There are tons of engaging and silly illustrations which made learning the Bill of Rights a lot more easy and fun. This book goes over all the first ten amendments and gives you what you really need to know. I know most of you are thinking “What does a piece of paper some old guys wrote more than two hundred years ago have to do with me?” Actually, it turns out it has a lot to do with you! Everything you take for granted is most likely because of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Think about it, without these secured rights you might have been arrested for simply saying you think Spiderman is “lame.”
The author really gets the point across that the Bill of Rights is still very active today by using real life modern day examples and interesting cases in court. This book is great if you want a simple place to start learning about the Bill of Rights, need to understand it better, or you’re just a bit rusty and need a good review. This book is especially great for kids who love history or are interested in law. If you’re studying for your school’s Constitution test, what a great tool this can be to remember the number of each Right and what it really means. Good luck!
BOOK NAME: The Mark of Athena
AUTHOR: Rick Riordan
Hi readers! I am reporting to you about Rick Riordan’s new book, The Mark of Athena. It’s book three in the Heroes of Olympus series. I couldn’t wait for this book to come out because as you probably know by now, I think Rick Riordan rocks! Well, The Mark of Athena was worth the wait!
In the book, Jason, Percy and the five other questers meet at the Roman camp. Then all of the sudden, Leo attacks the camp with the ship’s weaponry! The demigods barely make it out and are immediately on their quest. Leo is definitely my favorite character. He’s really funny and messes around, but when it’s time to work, he WORKS HARD! I like that about him.
This is my favorite book in the series so far because the Greeks and Romans FINALLY meet. This puts a lot of tension in the story; you never know when a betrayal will happen. Talk about suspense! Also, there are a lot of new monsters in the story. Some are comical characters and others are downright nasty! Even if you haven’t been following the series, the way Rick Riordan develops his characters is a really good reason for trying this book. You won’t be disappointed.
Until next time, folks!
Tomorrow is the last day to send in your entry for the 2012 “So You Wanna Be a DogEared Blogger” Contest! For your chance to be chosen as one of the three new bloggers, read a book, write a review according to the instructions in the official rules, and enter the contest. We’d love to make you part of the DogEared team!
Illustration by Chris Rooney
BOOK NAME: Across Five Aprils
AUTHOR: Irene Hunt
9-year-old Jethro Creighton has lived on his father’s farm in southern Illinois his entire life. He is finally old enough to work on the farm and do his part to provide for the family. Jethro is proud to pitch in, and is extremely content with his boyhood. All seems peaceful to him, but underneath the placid mask lie turbulent times. The United States is being torn apart. Civil war seems just over the horizon.
Then the first shots ring out at Fort Sumter. The American Civil War has begun. As the men around him rally for war, Jethro doesn’t think much of the battle, just faraway gunfire on a faraway building. How could it possibly affect him?
As the battles rage on, his brothers begin to leave. Tom Creighton, John Creighton, and Jethro’s cousin Eb Carron, all leave to fight for the Union side. Jethro still doesn’t think much of war. His brothers will live; it will be the Southern Confederates, the enemy, who perish on the battlefield.
Then, Jethro’s favorite brother, Bill, quietly slips away to fight for the Confederacy, discreetly telling Jethro of his intentions. What if Bill is one of those Confederates who dies in battle? Could Bill die by another brother’s bullet, or will it be the other way around? How will a Union-favoring town react to the news of a Confederate in their midst? Most importantly, how long will the brutal war rage; will all of his brothers return home?
This book was not the greatest book I’ve ever read, but it certainly wasn’t the worst either. The storyline was a little dull. The beginning of the book, before the Civil War begins, is especially slow and boring to read. It does have its moments, especially during the war years. I found the recounts of the battles to be especially interesting. Still, there was one main characteristic of this book that I found somewhat annoying. To authenticate the Illinois setting, the characters speak with a drawl. All of the slang, improper grammar, and accented words made the dialogue difficult to understand. Still, if you like history, you should definitely give Across Five Aprils a try.
BOOK NAME: Elephant Run
AUTHOR: Roland Smith
Nick Freestone is a young teen living in a time when the world is at war. Due to the fact that the city he resides in, London, is being bombed by German bombers constantly, Nick’s mother decides to send him off to Burma where his father manages a teak plantation. Nick feels that he will be safe in Burma halfway around the world and is ready to learn about the world of mahouts (elephant handlers) and teak harvesting. At the plantation, he befriends Mya, a girl his age, and the legendary elephant monk Hilltop.
Everything seems to fare well for Nick until the day the Japanese invade the country. Japanese troops overrun the plantation and hold the villagers hostage. Nick’s father and several other plantation workers are sent off to a labor camp while the rest (including Nick) are held in captivity at the plantation. As Nick adapts to harsh life in the Japanese-occupied plantation, he is forced to play the role of servant and suffers from the abuse of Bukong, the plantation’s former chef who is a Burmese collaborator with the Japanese. Eventually, he and Mya cannot tolerate the Japanese occupation of the country any longer and secretly plan to escape the plantation and rescue their imprisoned family members with the assistance of Hilltop. The two know that escape is nearly impossible. Japanese soldiers control the entire countryside and the jungle wilderness is an inhospitable place. Despite the risk of capture and punishment, nothing will stop Nick and Mya as they embark on a dangerous journey to free themselves from the Japanese.
Elephant Run by Roland Smith is one of the best books he has ever written that is intended for younger audiences. The book combines history, cultural studies, and nature, and is a unique book with something for everyone. Elephant Run takes an in-depth look at Burma during WWII and tells the story of Nick’s experiences living in a wartime Japanese-occupied Burma. I appreciate the fact that Smith examines an uncommon, “backwater” front of the war that is not as studied as the other famous fronts of the Second World War. The story’s background settings will allow readers to know what life was like for the Burmese as they were subjugated and dominated by the Japanese including labor conditions and the dangers of disobeying the military authorities. Roland Smith’s book also takes a fascinating look at the culture and wildlife of Burma. He accurately describes the clothes that the Burmese wear (skirt-like clothing known as a Longyi), the diverse wildlife of the country, the inside of a traditional Burmese home, the trade of a mahout (elephant handler), and other aspects of Burma.
I especially enjoyed the plot, which was fraught with suspense, action, and memorable characters. I’m pretty sure that Elephant Run could be made into a film, because the action never seemed to cease for even a moment! Elephant Run is an excellent read for any historical fiction fans, and I’d give it a 9.5/10. This book is simply brilliant and creative, and will not fail to satisfy!
BOOK NAME: Mockingbird
AUTHOR: Kathryn Erskine
When Caitlin Smith, a 10 year old girl who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, experiences the tragedy of her brother Devon being murdered in a middle school shooting, she is desperate to find closure. Yet as she looks for closure, she realizes that this is not something simple to grasp. Her father, a widower, is still in terrible depression and grief over the loss of his son. Although Mrs. Brook, the school counselor, has sessions with Caitlin and tries to help her through this tough time, Caitlin still feels like no one understands her.
Before his tragic death, Devon was an eagle scout. He was working on making a chest as part of this position. The chest remains unfinished in the living room of the Smith home, and Caitlin’s father even puts a sheet over it. Caitlin tries to convince her father to finish the chest, yet he is still not ready.
In school, Caitlin has trouble with friends. No one wants to befriend her because of her syndrome and because they do not want to create an awkward situation after the loss of her brother. Caitlin doesn’t think she will ever find a friend, until she meets Michael, the son of the principal of Devon’s middle school, who had also been killed in the shooting. Could Michael be her first friend?
Throughout the book, Caitlin tries to deal with the troubles of her life. She works hard to adapt to life without her brother. Towards the end, Caitlin begins to understand what finding closure is all about.
I really enjoyed this book. It is a little tough, so I would recommend it to anyone ages 10 and up. Caitlin’s story is inspiring. I learned so much from the way she deals with the challenges in her life.
BOOK NAME: Of Mice and Men
AUTHOR: John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, is a story of friendship and hardship.
George and Lennie are two men who are best friends. Lennie, with a huge build, is not mentally sound and often acts like a little child. George, the exact opposite of Lennie, is short and straight to the point. Together they work on a ranch, hoping to gather enough money to buy their dream house – a small farm with rabbits, chickens, and alfalfa. However, Lennie, who is immature, often gets in trouble with Curley, the ranch boss’s son. As a true friend, George supports and cares for Lennie through all his hardships. However, one day Lennie takes things too far by accidentally strangling Curley’s newly-wed wife. How will George manage to help Lennie in this tragic incident?
Of Mice and Men is an amazing book for teens. It realistically portrays the two men’s friendship through good times and hard times and their everlasting support of each other until the very end. At times, the plot is dramatic and the story turns in ways I would never have expected. The unexpected ending mystified me and left me with mixed feelings. However, the author’s descriptions helped me clearly picture the plight of the ranch workers during the Great Depression.
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