Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Northern Light

Donnelly, Jennifer. A northern light. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2003. Print.

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2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature
2003 Carnegie Medal
2004 Young Adult Library Services Association's top ten books for young adults
2004 The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor Book

Annotation: Mattie Gokey is a sixteen year old girl in 1906 with a dream of leaving her poor community and becoming a writer. In order to make her dream come true, she takes a job at a hotel where a young woman drowns under mysterious circumstances.

Book talk: “It’s just past ten o’clock. The dawn came and the sun rose on a flawless summer morning. I am standing, frightened, but resolved on the train platform in Old Forge.

Is there a word for that? Feeling scared of what’s to come but eager for it, too? Terricipatation? Joybodenous? Feager? If there is, I mean to find it.” (p. 376)

Mattie Gokey has a word for everything – and when she can’t find a word to describe how she is feeling, she makes one up. Mattie loves words and longs to write. She has been accepted at Barnard College but wonders how she will leave her family – who need her – or find the money to attend school.

So she takes a job a local hotel to provide some extra money for her family and potentially save for college. However, a young woman drowns on the lake and Mattie is unexpectedly tangled in her death. Based on a true story, A Northern Light will delight fans of historical fiction and murder mysteries alike. A true treasure!

ISBN: 0152167056

Subject Headings: Education – fiction, Farm life-New York (state) – fiction, Murder – fiction, New York (state)-history-20th century – fiction

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fever 1793

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Fever 1793. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. Print.

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2003 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Awards
2004 Sunshine State Young Readers Grade 6-8 Nominee
Children's Literature Choice List
Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

Annotation: Mattie Cook, a young resident of Philadelphia in 1793, struggles to survive during the Yellow Fever epidemic that ravaged the city.

Book talk: In 1793, a Yellow Fever epidemic swept across Philadelphia, killing thousands. Fourteen year old Mattie Cook, who lives above the coffeehouse her mother and grandfather own, is just one of the victims of this terrible plague. She travels with her grandfather in hopes to leave the city and the fever, but is instead struck by the virus and fights to stay alive…but that’s only the beginning of Mattie’s problems.

ISBN: 0689838581

Subject Headings: Yellow fever-Pennsylvania-Philadelphia – Fiction, Epidemics – Fiction, Pennsylvania-History-1775-1865 – Fiction

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Alexie, Sherman. The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Print.

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2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
School Library Journal Best Books of 2007
2010 California Young Reader Medal

Annotation: A semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age story of Junior, a poverty-stricken Spokane Indian who attends an all-white high school.

Book talk: I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms.

And the tribe of cartoonists.
And the tribe of chronic masturbators.
And the tribe of teenage boys.
And the tribe of small-town kids.
And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners.
And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers.
And the tribe of poverty.
And the tribe of funeral-goers.
And the tribe of beloved sons.
And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.

It was a huge realization.

And that’s when I knew that I was going to be okay. (p. 217)

Have you ever struggled to fit in, even around people you’ve known all your life? That’s Junior – he’s a reject among the people on his reservation, constantly bullied and tormented. But through the encouragement of a teacher, he attends a school off the reservation in an attempt to save himself. The story that follows is both uplifting and heart-wrenching, and you find yourself cheering for this teenage hero the entire way.

ISBN:  9780316013680 

Subject Headings: Spokane Indian – Juvenile fiction, Indians of North America-Washington (state) – Fiction, Indian reservations – Fiction, Race relations – Fiction, Diaries – Fiction

A Wrinkle in Time

L’Engle, Madeleine. A wrinkle in time. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1962. Print.

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1963 Newbery Medal
Sequoyah Book Award
Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
Runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award

Annotation: Meg Murry, her brother Charles, and their new friend, Calvin, embark on a fantastic journey to find the time-traveling Mr. Murry, who is trapped in another universe.

Book talk: It was a dark and stormy night, and Mrs. Whatsit has just blown in for a tuna fish salad sandwich. She is new to the neighborhood and the Murry’s – Meg, Charles and their mother – are trying to understand their queer visitor.

As Mrs. Whatsit goes to leave, she turns to Mrs. Murry and speaks, “There is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Mrs. Murry goes white. How could this stranger know about a tesseract?

Meg, Charles, and their friend Calvin, will soon learn that a tesseract is a wrinkle in time, a portal to different dimensions, which they will use to find Meg’s father who has been missing for years…who is caught in A Wrinkle in Time.
ISBN:  0440498058 
Subject Headings: Space and time – Juvenile fiction, Time travel – Juvenile fiction

The Fetch

Whitcomb, Laura. The fetch. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Print.

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Annotation: Calder is a fetch, or a death escort, who falls in love with Alexandra, wife of Czar Nicholas, last emperor of Russia, which sets off a series of events that could potentially destroy both heaven and earth.

Book talk: Are you someone who enjoys a good mystery? Have you ever wondered why investigators were unable to locate the bodies of Alexis and Anastasia, the children of Czar Nicholas who were executed along with the rest of the last reigning royal family? Then The Fetch is the book you’ve been looking for!

Set in the time of the Russian Revolution, The Fetch tells the story of Calder, a ghost who escorts souls to Heaven after a person has chosen death. Upon the death bed of a young boy, he is immediately drawn to the child’s mother, whom is calls Glory. Although the boy wishes to die, Calder refuses to take him. That child is Alexi, who battles hemophilia, and Glory is his mother, Alexandra, wife to the last emperor of Russia.

Calder wants to remain by Glory’s side so he decides to enter the body of Rasputin, after the man is killed. Only Anastasia, the Czar’s youngest daughter, is able to see that Rasputin is not quite the same as he was before. And because of Calder’s actions, Alexi and Anastasia are unable to die during the execution that ultimately kills the remaining Romanov family members. As a result, a rift occurs between Heaven and Earth and Calder, accompanied by Alexi and Anastasia, must set things right. 

ISBN:  9780618891313   

Subject Headings: Future life – Fiction, Death – Fiction, Anastasia, Grand Duchess, daughter of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, 1901-1918 – Fiction, Aleksei Nikoaevich, Czarevitch, son of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, 1904-1918 – Fiction, Rasputin, Grigori Efimovich, ca. 1870-1916 – Fiction, Russia (Federation) – History – Revolution – 1917-1921 – Fiction

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Philbrick, Rodman. The mostly true adventures of Homer P. Figg. New York: Scholastic, 2009. Print.

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2010 Newbery Honor Book
2010 ALA Notable Children's Book

Annotation: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg follows a young boy during Civil War America looking for his older brother, who was sold into the Union Army.

Book talk: “They come by the cartload. Moaning soldiers stacked in flatbed wagons or carts drawn by horse or by hand. Mostly the wounded scream only when the cart hits a bump. Some have already stopped screaming and are put aside as the carts are unloaded, their faces covered with a scrap of cloth.

The rest are carried into the barn on litters, awaiting treatment. Dozens and dozens of men, some of them crying out for their mothers, wives, or their sweethearts. The dozens soon become hundred, stacked inside the barn and out, under the shade of the eaves.

“The battle of Gettysburg has begun,” the newspaperman confides.”
(p. 172)

Homer Figg is trying desperately to rescue his older brother Harold, who is just seventeen and sold illegally into the Union Army by their mean uncle, Squinton Leach. Along the way, Homer has a rip-roaring adventure not unlike Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.


ISBN: 9780439668217

Subject Headings: Adventure and adventures – Juvenile fiction, Orphans – Juvenile fiction, Brothers – Juvenile fiction, United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 – Juvenile fiction

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rapunzel’s Revenge

Hale, Shannon & Hale, Dean. Illustrated by Nathan Hale. Rapunzel’s Revenge. New York: Bloomsbury, 2008. Print.

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ALA Notable Children's Book
Amelia Bloomer Project Selection
Cybils Award
Great Graphic Novels for Teens (YALSA)
Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (YALSA)
Texas Maverick Graphic Novel List
Utah Book Award
Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee

Annotation: Newbury Honor-winning author Shannon Hale, along with her husband, Dean, and illustrator Nathan Hale, has created her first graphic novel for the re-telling of classic fairytale Rapunzel. Though some elements of the story remain true to the original, Hale has thrown in some of her own twists and turns for good measure and pure reader delight.

Review: The fairytale Rapunzel is well-known, and although this version starts off as you would expect – a young girl, with very long hair, held captive in a tall tree tower by an evil, fake mother named Gothel – this story quickly becomes Hale’s own.

The tale takes place in a time similar to the Wild West. Rapunzel uses her long braid as a lasso, befriends Jack, a boy with a penchant for stealing, and who carries a magic bean and a goose that lays a golden egg…hmmmm, and eventually fights her way home to free her real mother and the entire kingdom from the evil Gothel.

Shannon Hale is a master storyteller and she does not disappoint in Rapunzel’s Revenge. Nathan Hale’s illustrations are beautiful. Even those readers who are not fans of graphic novels will be moved by this fun, hilarious, and heart-warming tale of happily ever after.  

ISBN:  159990070X 

Subject Headings: Revenge – Comic books, strips, etc., Outlaws – Comic books, strips, etc., Graphic novels


Volponi, Paul. Rooftop. New York: Viking, 2006. Print.

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ALA Best Book Young Adult
ALA Quick Pick
New York City Library Book for the Teen Age

Annotation: Though they haven’t seen each other in a while, Clay and his cousin Addison are reunited at Daytop, a treatment program in New York City that both boys attend. One night, the African American boys are involved in an incident that leaves Addison dead and Clay questioning family, racism, and justice.

Book talk: “The cops stood me up fast, with my hands still cuffed behind me, and everything started spinning. There was somebody standing on either side of me, holding me straight.

And I thought I was going to throw up.

They took me past Addison. He was covered up with a white sheet.

At the doorway, I looked straight down the stairs and thought they were shoving me headfirst off a cliff. So I turned my feet into solid blocks. I looked back at Addison and cried out, “Flesh and blood! Flesh and blood!”” (p. 76-77)

Clay and Addison are cousins, but more like brothers. When Addison is shot and killed by a white police officer, Clay is caught between wanting to do what is right and wanting justice.

ISBN:  0670060690 

Subject Headings: Death – Juvenile fiction, Race relations – Juvenile fiction, African Americans – Juvenile fiction, Drug abuse – Juvenile fiction, Rehabilitation – Juvenile fiction  

How to Be Popular

Cabot, Meg. How to be popular. New York: Harper-tempest, 2006. Print.

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Annotation: Staph Landry is tired of being the town punching bag. She recently found a book that she believes will cure all her troubles, the aptly named How to Be Popular.

Book talk: Have you ever wanted to be popular? Steph Landry wants to be popular, ever since the sixth grade when she accidentally spilled a Big Gulp on Lauren Moffet, the most popular girl in school.

Now, five years later, Steph is prepared to make a change, using the book she found in her soon-to-be-grandmother’s attic as her guide: How to Be Popular.

But popularity comes with a price – is Steph willing to pay it?

ISBN:  9780060880132 

Subject Headings: Popularity – fiction, High school – fiction, School – fiction  

I Had Seen Castles

Rylant, Cynthia. I had seen castles. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993. Print.

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Annotation: John Dante is seventeen years old in 1942 and enlists into the army, despite the response of his family and girlfriend, Ginny.

Book talk: John Dante starts off as an idealistic and optimistic teenager, only to be replaced by an anxious and depressed adult after spending several years fighting in Europe during World War II.

“We soldiers had been right all along. The enemy is always interchangeable. Only the boys in the field remain the same, no matter the war. Boys will do the fighting because they are young and still possessed of the best faith. Only the young can be persuaded to die for each other. Only the young can be persuaded this is the only way.” (p. 90)

In less than one hundred pages Rylant is able to persuasively convey antiwar sentiments without sermonizing. This simple story is all the argument needed to see that war does not end simply because the battles are over.

ISBN:  0152380035 

Subject Headings: World War, 1939-1945 – Juvenile fiction  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Giver

Lowry, Lois. The giver. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993. Print.

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1994 Newbery Medal
1996 William Allen White Award
American Library Association listings for "Best Book for Young Adults"
ALA Notable Children's Book
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Annotation: It is the Ceremony of Twelve and Jonas has received his lifetime assignment; he is the receiver of memories, a position shared by only one other in his community, and he quickly learns the horrible truth about the society in which he lives.

Book talk: Have you ever wanted to live in a perfect world, one where there is no sickness, no war, no lying, no poverty, just peace and harmony?

Are you sure this is a world in which you want to live?

This is where Jonas lives, and Jonas has just learned a terrible secret, one that shatters his understanding of everything he has ever known. He is the new keeper of memories and is only just beginning to recognize the terrible price that he and everyone else in the community has paid in order to live in this perfect world.

ISBN:  0395645662 

Subject Headings: Science fiction, dystopia

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The God Box

Sanchez, Alex. The God box. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007. Print.

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Annotation: Paul is a highly religious teen whose beliefs are challenged when Manuel moves to town, an openly gay student who is also devoutly Christian.

Book talk: Paul is a good son, a good student, a good boyfriend, and a good Christian. But recently, he has asked for God’s guidance in helping to understand and overcome the feelings he has towards other boys.

Paul’s life is further complicated when Manuel, who declares on his first day of school his homosexuality, moves to town. Although Paul tries to stay away from Manuel, the two boys eventually become good friends and Paul’s eyes open to the possibility that God’s love is absolute in The God Box.

ISBN:  9781416908999   

Subject Headings: Homosexuality – Fiction, High schools – Fiction, Schools – Fiction, Friendship – Fiction, Christian life – Fiction  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Wednesday Wars

Schmidt, Gary D. The Wednesday wars. New York: Clarion Books, 2007. Print.

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2008 Newbery Honor Book
2008 ALA Notable Children's Book
2008 ALA Best Book for Young Adults
2007 Booklist Editors Choice
2007 Book Sense Award Finalist

Annotation: It’s 1967 America and Holling Hoodhood is having a really hard time in seventh grade – family, Shakespeare, cream puffs, and Mrs. Baker – and he’s not sure if he’ll survive.

Book talk: In 1967 America is engaged in the Vietnam War, and Holling Hoodhood is conducting his own battle with seventh grade. Because Holling is neither Catholic nor Jewish, he must spend his Wednesday afternoons studying with Mrs. Baker, his English teacher, rather than attending church or synagogue. Even worse, he and Mrs. Baker are studying Shakespeare. And worst yet, Mrs. Baker hates his guts.

But Wednesday afternoons are not Holling’s only problem. He is also dealing with a hippie older sister, cream puffs, yellow tights, and Doug Swieteck’s older brother, just to name a few. However, there are also moments of sheer delight in Holling’s world, like baseball with Joe Pepitone and Horace Clarke, and figuring out that Meryl Lee is actually kind of nice.

ISBN:  9780618724833   

Subject Headings: Coming of age – Fiction, Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Plays – Fiction, Junior high schools – Fiction, Family life – Long Island (N.Y.) – Fiction   

The Book Thief

Zusak, Markus. The book thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.

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2006 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
2006 Publishers Weekly Best Children Book of the Year
2006 Booklist Children Editors' Choice
2007 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
2007 The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor Book

Annotation: Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl living in a foster home during World War II era Munich, Germany.

Book talk: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a brilliantly crafted and gorgeously written piece of historical fiction. Narrated by Death (who does not carry a scythe by the way, but is otherwise tickled by the oft used description), it is a story about a young girl growing up with foster parents on a poor street outside Munich during Nazi Germany.

Death calls Liesel the book thief because when he came to claim Liesel’s younger brother he noticed her stealing a book, a grave digger’s manual. Although Liesel begins her story unable to read, her foster father uses the manual to teach her. Throughout the story Liesel steals (collects?) other books and begins to craft her own, an act which will ultimately save her life. Liesel also collects friends – Rudy, the boy with lemon-colored hair, and Max, the Jewish man who hides in the basement – and learns about friendship, love and humanity in a time when hate-filled propaganda is everywhere.

This is a story that reminds us that war and death are best friends, people are not always as they seem, and simple acts of kindness sometimes change the world. 

ISBN:  0375831002   

Subject Headings: Germany – History – 1933-1945 – Juvenile fiction, Books and reading – Fiction, Storytelling – Fiction, Death – Fiction, Jews – Germany – History – 1933-1945 – Fiction, World War, 1939-1945 – Jews – Rescue – Fiction

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ninth Ward

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Ninth Ward. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2010. Print.

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Coretta Scott King Honor Book

Annotation: A fictional account of a young girl from the Ninth Ward, the hardest hit district in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

Book talk: Ninth Ward is the story of Lanesha, a 12-year old girl who lives in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans with the woman who delivered her, Mama Ya-Ya, after her mother died during her birth. Lanesha is special, she is able to see and speak to spirits (including her mother, who continues to labor in the upstairs bedroom). Lanesha is clever and strong, despite being mostly friendless because she is so very different from the other children in her neighborhood. But Lanesha is loved, even though her “up town” family cares little for her existence.    

Mama Ya-Ya is gifted too; both wise in the ways of the world and able see the future. And Mama Ya-Ya sees a great storm coming, and something else, something she can’t quite figure out.

ISBN:  9780316043076 

Subject Headings: Hurricane Katrina, 2005 – Juvenile fiction, Spirits – Fiction, Coming of Age – Fiction, Survival – Fiction, African Americans – Fiction, New Orleans (La.) – Fiction  

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York: Scholastic, 1999. Print. 

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2000 The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor Book
1999 National Book Award finalist
Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist
Golden Kite Award
ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Quick Pick
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
Booklist Top Ten First Novel of 1999
BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
SLJ Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare Title

Annotation: Anderson’s highly awarded first Young Adult novel tells the story of Melinda, a young girl who refuses to speak after a traumatic event.

Book talk: Being a freshman in high school is tough for most teenagers, but for Melinda it is especially difficult. She is a social pariah, shunned by friends that she has known since childhood after calling the police during a party over the summer. Teachers don’t like her much either. Her parents spend most of their time fighting rather than paying attention to their daughter. But Melinda has a secret, a secret so devastating that she chooses to remain silent rather than talk about the night that shattered her world.

This book is a force, sometimes humorous, mostly devastating. The reader practically wants to shout at the unsympathetic people that surround Melinda because unlike her peers, teachers, and parents, we know what happened to her. However, we get the pleasure of seeing Miranda triumph, emerge slowly from her self-imposed exile, fight back, and eventually Speak.

ISBN:  0439456177 

Subject Headings: High School – Fiction, Schools – Fiction, Emotional Problems – Fiction, Rape – Fiction