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


Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005. Print. 

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Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books of 2005
School Library Journal Best Books of 2005

Annotation: A young girl moves to Forks, Washington to live with her estranged father and becomes attracted to a young boy who is not at all what he seems.

Book talk: Bella Swan is your typical teenage girl, average looks, average smarts, just all around average…but her life changes irrevocably when she moves to Forks, Washington and meets the impossibly beautiful Edward Cullen, a hundred year old vampire. The two immediately form a deep connection; however their love is tested by Edward’s supernatural world. 
“Be very still,” he whispered, as if I wasn’t already frozen.
Slowly, never moving his eyes from mine, he leaned toward me. Then abruptly, but very gently, he rested his cold cheek against the hollow at the base of my throat.
I was quite unable to move, even if I’d wanted to…With deliberate slowness, his hands slid down the sides of my neck. I shivered, and I heard him catch his breath…His face drifted to the side, his nose skimming across my collarbone. He came to rest with the side of his face pressed tenderly against my chest.
Listening to my heart. (p. 275-276)

Although this type of scenario has been done before, Meyer adds a few twists that make this story all her own, such as vampires transferring dangerous venom to their victims when bitten and sparkling (instead of bursting into flames) in sunlight.

ISBN:  0316160172 

Subject Headings: Vampires – Fiction, High School – Fiction, Washington (state) – Fiction

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Am Scout

Shields, Charles J. I am Scout: The biography of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt, 2008. Print.

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American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults
Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year
Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List

Annotation: I Am Scout is the aptly-named biography of Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the much beloved To Kill A Mockingbird.

Review: Through personal letters, interviews, books, magazines, and newspaper articles, Shields has written a highly readable account of Pulitzer Prize winning author Harper Lee. Although she wrote just one novel, Lee is one of the most notable authors America has ever produced.

I Am Scout chronicles Lee’s birth and youth, which would later serve as the backdrop to Mockingbird, her (sometimes volatile) friendship with fellow author, Truman Capote, and her struggle to find normalcy after the publication of her book.

Most fascinating is Lee’s constant struggle to find herself and to feel comfortable in her own skin; this theme is addressed several times throughout the book. Interestingly, she once commented that she wanted to be the Jane Austen of south Alabama. It is worth considering how many budding authors have wanted to be the Harper Lee of American fiction.

ISBN-13:  9780805083347
ISBN-10: 0805083340 

Subject Headings: Lee, Harper -- Juvenile literature.  Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography -- Juvenile literature. Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography. Young adult literature. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.

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2005 Newbery Honor Book
2005 The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor Book

Annotation: A fictional account of a true event; Schmidt creates a coming-of-age story filled with friendship, heart break, and hope.

Review: In 1912, Turner Buckminster is the son of minister who has recently moved to a small coastal town in Maine. Although he got along well enough in his native Boston, Phippsburg may well have been Mars for how much he stands apart from his community, and Turner longs to “light out for the Territories”.

It is not until he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin that Turner begins to enjoy his new home. There is one hitch: Lizzie Bright is an African-American girl, poor, and living on an island that the town leaders want for themselves. When the people of Phippsburg fear that its local economy will no longer sustain them, they force the African-American community off Malaga Island, wanting to build a resort atop their homes and graves. When Turner tries to stand up to the racism and injustice, he suffers the loss of both Lizzie and his father.

Schmidt’s writing is flawless, and the story is supported by a host of vivid secondary characters and grand descriptions of Maine, a hundred years ago. This is a story not to be missed, regardless of reader age.

ISBN:  0618439293 

Subject Headings: Young adult literature, race relations -- Juvenile fiction, Maine -- History -- 20th century -- Juvenile fiction

Go Ask Alice

Anonymous. Go ask Alice: A real diary. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971. Print.

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Annotation: A fictional account of a troubled teenage girl written in the 1970's as a testament against drug use.

Review: Although the book, structured like a journal, starts off innocuously enough with the musings of a typical teenage girl - trouble with boys, parents, and body image - the story quickly derails. Upon moving to a new town, the diarist goes to a party and unknowingly ingests LSD. Because she finds so much pleasure in this experience, the diarist plunges into a life of drugs.

The book details the main character running away from home, to facing peer pressure from the dealers at school when she tries to live drug free, and to being put into an insane asylum. By the end of the book however, the diarist attempts to take control of her life. The most poignant part is the last page, where the reader is informed that three weeks after the last entry the protagonist died, perhaps due to an overdose.

Go Ask Alice, though written over thirty years ago, remains popular to this day for its raw and terrifying account of how drugs can ruin a young life.

ISBN-10: 0689817851
ISBN-13: 978-0689817854

Subject Headings: Young adult literature, drug -- abuse fiction, diaries -- fiction