Friday, September 25, 2009

Michelle: A Biography by Liza Mundy

The author of Michelle: A Biography is Liza Mundy, a staff writer for The Washington Post. She follows Michelle Obama from her working class childhood on Chicago's South Side thru Princeton and Harvard Law School as well as her marriage to President Barack Obama. Interesting woman!


Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

There are some writers who know things and post them on the Internet so other writers can learn them. Some of them say that there are only seven plots in the whole world. [...]
Other writers say there are only three plots: happy ending, unhappy ending, and literary plot (that's the kind of ending that is uncertain). There is a whole book called Twenty Master Plots, which I happen to own. And another author wrote that he thought there were thirty-nine plots.
But really, if you ask me, there is only one kind of plot.
Stuff happens.
That's it. (9-10)

12 year old Jason Blake has autistim spectrum disorder, or ASD. His mother prefers to call it nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) or pervasice developmental disorder-non-specific (PDD-NOS). Is it any wonder, with all these letters following him around, that he joins an online writing community where he learns to express himself through words. It's through his writing that he begins to communicate with another member, known as PhoenixBird. Jason thinks of her as his first friend, and possibly girlfriend. But when he learns that they'll finally be able to meet at the annual conference, Jason begins to wonder if PhoenixBird will continue to like him after she sees how different he really is. You might learn something about writing, people with disabilities, and maybe even yourself when you read Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras

He turns to me. Already! This is not going to be pretty, I can tell, I can tell, I can tell.
"Mirabelle, you didn't follow my instructions. You didn't work with light or color. If you choose not to follow instructions, theere has to be a good reason, right? And you have to work doubly hard..."
He puts my pile of sketches down on his desk and chooses the top one, my favorite, to set on the easel next to Catherine's. The contrast is just aweful, seeing the young broken maple without a single leaf next to the flaming tree. (28)

Mirabelle wants to have some friends who will call here Mira, because Mirabelle is her mother's name for her. Mira gets her wish when the new girl, Cath, takes notice of their mutual talent and love for art. But her new friendship does not help her home life, where she lives in a basement apartment with her unemployed, paranoid mother. Her father visits every so often with the support check, but considering he left Mira behind to care for her mother, she's less than happy with him. When life's troubles become to much and she misreads her art teacher's body language, she's left seeking counseling from a blind red-headed woman. Readers must wait till the very end to find out if Mira is able to pick up the pieces of her broken life in Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Sophie, an girl who lives in an orphanage, is awakened one night by the sound of a giant outside her window. It turns out to be the Big Friendly Giant (BFG) who blows dreams into people's windows at night. He's never been seen by a human being before, so he takes Sophie back to his home with him. While he doesn't eat humans, the nine other giants who live in the land with him love the taste of humans. They go off to eat humans every night. Sophie insists they must put a stop to it, but how? Read Roald Dahl's The BFG to find out.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

My jaw falls open. I couldn't be more surprised if she told me NASA called to say the eclipse has been cancelled. My knees buckle. My mother tightens her grip on my hands. "WHAT? What are you talking about?"
"Oh, wow," the girl leaning against the wall says. "And I though MY parents snuck this on us! But at least we had some warning." (107)

Three teenagers from completely different backgrounds end up meeting at a camp event centered around a complete solar eclipse. Ally and her younger brother Kenny live at the camp with their parents and are homeschooled about the stars but not about what makes a kid popular in the real world. Popular, soon-to-be model Bree and her younger sister Melanie's physicist parents are buying the camp and taking over immediately after the eclipse, which Bree is not happy about at all. And then there's Jack -- sci fi fanatic, artistic, and loner -- who is dragged along by his science teacher as an alternative to attending summer school for failing science. Joined by Ally's long time friend Ryan, the stars collide when these kids gather to watch the eclipse in Wendy Mass's newest novel, titled Every Soul a Star.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mack McGinn's Big Win by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

I have a secret. At Camp Nassau this summer, I discovered something. It's not a new talent. I've always been good at it, but no I'm really, really good. Kids' eyes were bugging out and all the counselors made a big deal. Rory was at soccer camp. None of my friends were there. Mom and Dad weren't either.
That win was mine. No coaching, no cameras, no pressure. Sweet. It felt so sweet, I almost cried. I knew right then. I'd found my sport.
Just wait until Dad sees. (5)

Mack McGinn's whole family is full of winners. His grandfather was a football hero, his Dad almost made the Olympic soccer team, his mom was a nationally ranked swimmer in college, and his brother has more trophies than anyone could ever think of having. Mack is forever following in his family's shadow and footsteps. This year though, he has a plan... a plan to distinguish himself amongst his family members, and will set everything right. But Mack doesn't count on the big Thanksgiving Parade festivities not ending the way he planned. It's a surprise ending in Coleen Murtagh Paratore's Mack McGinn's Big Win.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford

"Just talk to her," she says. "If you feel yourself trying to brag or be impressive, just stop and ask her a question--a question about her! Ask about drill team. Ask about her singing. Find something about her that you think is especially cute tonight and compliment her on it. Not her boobs or her butt, Carter! Just stick to her clothes or jewelry for tonight. Her hair and her eyes come later. And even if her shoes or toes are cute, don't say anything about them. Some girls think it's weird if you like feet. So avoid the subject. And only one compliment, two at the most! You don't want to cross over into stalker territory. If you run out of things to talk about, just ask her another question. The question is your bread and butter. Got it? Don't try to get her drunk or drag her into some back room, bathroom, or shed!" (36)

This is the advice that freshmen Will Carter receives from his senior big sister Lynn when he arranges his very first date. So what if it's not with the girl of his dreams Amber Lee, but her friend -- the formerly chubby and totally hot Abby. Carter starts falling for Abby, when Amber Lee invites him to ask her out to the homecoming dance instead. Complications obviously arise, which end up affecting his ADD brain and his shaky position on the football team. As he navigates the rest of his freshmen year, Brent Crawford shows readers how Carter Finally Gets It.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee.
She tells me in four sentences. No, five.
I can't let me hear this, but it's too late. The facts sneak in and stab me. When she gets to the worst part
...body found in a motel room, alone... walls go up and my doors lock. I nod like I'm listening, like we're communicating, and she never knows the difference.
It's not nice when girls die. (1)

This is high school senior Lia's reaction to the news that her ex-best friend Cassie was found dead in a motel room in Centerville, New Hampshire. They were inseperable ever since Cassie moved into the neighborhood, until several months ago. They shared everything with each other, including Cassie's bullemia and Lia's anorexia and self-mutilation. Lia, who's now living with her father and stepmother after two hospital stays, backpedals while trying to deal with the grief of not answering her phone when Cassie called her for help. Laurie Halse Anderson has written a gripping tale delving into the world of eating disorders and depression with Wintergirls.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look

In case you missed it, my name is Alvin ho. I was born scared and I am still scared. Things that scare me include: [...]
The dark (which mean I have nyctophobia).
The great outdoors. (What's so great about it?) Lots of things can happen when you're outdoors:
The end of the world. (1-2)

Alvin Ho is still afraid of... well, everything. He still does not talk at school, climb trees, or sleep with the light off. But when he gets locked in a cardboard box after a magic trick goes horribly wrong, Alvin's dad decides to take him camping. Just the two of them, alone in the woods, with bears, coyotes, and who knows what else. Needless to say, Alvin is less than thrilled. His older brother Calvin helps him prepare, and so does his Uncle Dennis. But when his little sister Anibelly offers to take his spot, is Alvin saved from the woods? Fans of the first book need to read Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

January 1
Dear Leo,
I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.
And what better way to celebrate this New Year's Day than to begin writing a letter to my once (and future?) boyfriend. (1)

So starts what Stargirl dubs the world's longest letter to her boyfriend from Arizona, Leo. Although she's not sure she is going to send it to him, Stargirl begins to detail her new life in Pennsylvania. Her dad has started his dream job of becoming a milkman, and Stargirl has resumed being homeschooled by her mom, the costume designer. But Stargirl's life is more complicated than she realized, and she explains to Leo the trials of Dootsy, a preschooler who doesn't know when to stop talking, an agorophobic neighbor name Betty Lou, and a girl name Alvina who is suffering growing pains. What's most confusing however is Perry Delloplane, the silent high schooler with a murky past and a habit of littering and skipping school. Fans of the first book starring Stargirl will want to return to Jerry Spinelli's Love, Stargirl.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mercy on These Teenage Chimps by Gary Soto

I, Ronald Gonzalez, better known as Ronnie, was like any other boy until I turned thirteen and woke up as a chimpanzee. (1)

Thirteen year olds Ronnie and Joey feel like their chimpanzees (completely different than monkeys) as they encounter growth spurts, long dangling arms, and *sniff* really bad smells. But as much as they joke about it, they don't take kindly to Joey's old wrestling coach calling him a monkey and yelling at him in front of his new crush, Jessica. Joey figures that if everyone thinks he's a monkey, he might as well live in a tree, which he promptly climbs and refuses to leave. Ronnie is convinced that if he convinces Jessica to visit Joey, he might come out of the tree. Gary Soto tells the story of mislead love and how to fall off roofs in Mercy on These Teenage Chimps.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The fact was that when the invitation had come from the Buckner Academy for Girls to participate in a seventh-grade student exchange, the teachers at Thunder Creek Middle School had decided that any seventh-grade girl could submit her name. But she had to bring a note from home saying that the family was able and willing to take on a guest for two weeks. Ivy June had supposed that at least half the seventh-grade girls would turn in notes the next day, but at the end of the weke, only six families had said they were willing. After a teacher's visit to each of those homes, the names had been placed in a coffee can and shaken around. The principal herself had drawn the winning name: Ivy June Mosley. (9-10)

This is how Phyllis Reynolds Naylor begins her newest story, Faith, Hope, and Ivy June. Ivy June Mosley is from Thunder Creek Kentucky, where she lives with her grandparents since her parents and four siblings ran out of room in their house. They have outhouses instead of bathrooms, rely on a ham radio to relay the news rather than telephones, and worry whenever a cave-in is reported in the mines. Catherine Combs is from Lexington, where she attends an all girls Catholic school, lives with her family in a house with four bathrooms, and has her own computer at home. When they visit each other for two weeks, the girls initially have a hard time relating to one another. Family emergencies for both the girls prove that sometimes, faith and hope is all you need to have in common with someone.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

I gulp hard and nod halfheartedly, trying to disguise my mortification at his comments.
You see, neither Peter nor anybody else in my class has any idea about my Lebanese-Muslim background. In fact, my real name is Jamilah Towfeek, but I'm known as Jamie when I'm at school because I'm on a mission to de-wog myself. (5)

Jamilah "Jamie" Towfeek has never had anyone from school over to her house. If anyone ever did visit, they would instantly find out that Jamie is an Australian of Lebanese-Muslim heritage, which is a problem in their clearly divided high school. She comes up with elaborate excuses to prevent friends from finding out about her over-protective father, her feminist/activitist older sister, and her mechanic older brother. The only person she is perfectly honest with is an e-mail penpal. While she tries to convince her father that she should be allowed to go to prom, her two best friends stop talking to one another and her e-mail friend blocks her messages. Randa Abdel-Fattah presents this dual-identity situation in Ten Things I Hate About Me.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Black Circle by Patrick Carman

"Nicely done, dweeb. Now we're stuck at the airport with no money. Nellie's going to love us when we wake her up and she discovers we've stolen her phone, spent most of our cash, and need a ride from the airport. And we don't even have any doughnuts yet! Could it get any worse?"
"I think it just did," said Dan.
Amy's heart sank as a black stretch limo pulled up to the curb behind them, and a door opened. Ian and Natalie Kabra, a Clue-hunting team infinitely more dangerous than the Holts, had arrived on the scene. (8-9)

Amy and Dan are on their own after a mysterious note and picture of their parents sends them to Russia without Nellie or their cat Saladin. The mysterious NRR seems to be helping them, providing them with passports, money, and guidance. But is NRR really an ally. Or is this another elaborate plot to send the brother and sister off track? And are Amy and Dan really forming another alliance with yet another clues team? Read The Black Circle, Patrick Carman's contribution to the 39 Clues series, to find out.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

Phoebe and her friends held their breath as the dead girl in the plaid skirt walked past their table in the lunchroom. Her motion kicked up a cool trailing breeze that seemed to settle on the skin and catch in their hair. As they watched her go by, Phoebe could almost tell what everyone was thinking. Everyone, that is, except for the dead girl. (1)

Fans of Stephenie Meyer will devour Generation Dead by Daniel Waters. No one knows why teenagers across America (and only America) are suddenly rising from the dead. But these zombies, or the politically correct term "differently biotic", are not as welcome at Oakvale High as they would like to be. When undead Tommy Williams tries out for the football team and starts hanging out with goth (but very alive) girl Phoebe Kendall, sparks fly amongst the public and their classmates. Phoebe's long time friend and next door neighbor Adam maintains he's just worried about her safety, but with danger lurking in the shadows, he's forced to confront feelings that might be more than just friendship.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) by Micol Ostow

"I want to start a band."
This is it: the reason I asked Jonas over to my house, the reason I spent all of my camp cash on a secondhand Fender. My big Plan for junior year, my scheme for getting noticed--and possibly getting Sari at the same time.
Jonas blinks. "Can you even play?"
In response, I drag my amp--also secondhand--out of the deepest corners of my closet. [...] I strum the first few bars of Nirvana's "Lithium," knowing as I do that Kurt Cobain will have maximum impact on Jonas. Sucker has no idea that the man knew, like, three chords.
Jonas' eyes widen, impressed, and I know that I've made the right call. (35)

Ari Samuel Abramson is a junior at Gittleman High school, which is a Jewish day school. In an attempt to become popular, Ari convinces his girl crazy best friend Jonas, the most religious kid in school Yossi, and Yossi's freshman sister Reena. Calling themselves the Tribe, their first gig is a one song wonder at a Bar Mitzvah. Playing their smash hit, a ska version of "Hava Nagilah", they make friends with the Jewish bouncer at a club and enter a Battle of the Bands. But fame has it's downside too, as Ari realizes that the girl of his dreams might not see him in the same light. If you want a totally new perspective on the Jewish and rock community, read So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) by Micol Ostow.