Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This is a new author for me- and I like him! I read that this book is a cross between The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies. The Maze Runner is a strange story that starts with Thomas waking up in a box. He knows his name, but doesn't remember anything else about his life before waking up in this box.
When he leaves the box, he finds himself in a new strange world where there are no adults or girls and the boys there speak using some strange slang. As Thomas is introduced to this strange world, he learns there are crazy new rules he needs to live by. Not only are there new rules, but there are also jobs that every boy is assigned. As Thomas is introduced to these jobs, he has an unexplained desire to become a Runner. The Runners are the boys who can leave the compound and enter the Maze. Inside the maze are some scary 'things' called Grievers- mechanical devious creatures that aim to stab and wound.
Things get even stranger when a girl- the first girl in two years enters the Box the day after Thomas. Her message that 'everything will change' scares all the boys, yet Thomas feels a real connection to her.
As things start to change in this new world, Thomas finds himself challenged mentally and physically. Yet if he doesn't figure out the clues that are presented, Thomas fears for not only his life, but the other boys as well.
There will be at least another book to go along with The Maze Runner. Check out the author's website here:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I am a Taxi by Deborah Ellis

Diego lives in the Women's Prison in Bolivia with his mom and sister. His dad is across the road in the Men's Prison. Life is difficult for Diego and he always worries about money and taking care of his family. Because Diego is a child, he is allowed to come and go as he pleases from the prison. He often hires himself out to inmates as their 'taxi' buying things from around the town for them.
When his best friend comes up with a job that will bring in lots of money, Diego thinks this is a solution to all of his problems. The only problem is this job takes Diego away from the safety of his family into the hands of the drug smugglers.
Once again, Deborah Ellis writes a story that opens our eyes to the way children around the world live.

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

I seem to be on a roll with books that have so much potential to use with kids, but are sprinkled with content that is a little out of what I would be comfortable giving to my grade 7 students.
How To Build a House is the story of Harper, an 18 year old whose family life has spun out of control. She has lost all sense of her family and her sense of self-worth. Harper decides to escape all the craziness at home and focus on building a house for a family in Tennessee. She flies to Tennessee expecting to escape in hard work. There she meets a new set of friends while learning a new trade.
Then, she meets Teddy, the son of the family whose house was lost in a tornado. While they learn to work together, Harper must learn to trust herself, her feelings and other people with her feelings.

I love many of the concepts in this book:
1. Running away from life, while at the same time doing something worthwhile.
2. Letting kids explore the world in a safe way.
3. The effects of divorce on a family and the children.

While it bothers me I can't use this book in my class, I have to remember that Harper is 18 and a young woman. Her relationships with the boy back home and Teddy are very real and leave a lasting impression on who she becomes.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anne Frank and Me by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld

Nicole is a typical 14 year old girl. She is worried about boys, school and parents. When she hears gunfire at an Anne Frank exhibit, she is suddenly transported through time to Nazi occupied Paris during World War 2. Nicole begins to struggle with her new life and new rules that she is forced to live under.
This is a great book that examines the effects of war on children.

The Strictest School in the World by Howard Whitehouse

In this story, 14 year-old Emmaline is an inventor of aircrafts. She is ready to try her newest invention, the only problem is she is afraid to fly. The boy next door seems to be incapable of getting hurt it seems like a match and things start to fall into place for the two of them. That is until Emmaline is forced to go to school at St. Grimelda- a horrible place where the teachers are unkind and the girls are even worse.
This was a very quirky story, but a good one.

The Bonemender's Oath by Holly Bennett

Gabrielle and her new friends have made it through the war, but things are still very dangerous for them.
This sequel was as great as the first book. A beginning romance novel that has adventure for the boys and a love interest for the girls.

The Bonemender by Holly Bennett

I don't read a lot of fantasy books, but this is one I really enjoyed.
Gabrielle has special powers, she can heal people by touching them and healing them from the inside.
Early in the story she meets two men who turn out to be Elves carrying a very disturbing message about the future of her homeland. At this point, her life is turned upside down.

United we Stand by Eric Walters

In this sequel to We All Fall Down, we learn what happens to Will the day after he escaped from the south tower at the World Trade Center. Filled with relief that both he and his dad are home safe, he is just happy to be in his own bed and together with his parents. Then Will remembers his best friend James still doesn't know what happened to his father.

Will and his dad were the last people who saw James' father- going up the stairs as everyone else was trying to get out of the south tower. Will knows in his heart that he is dead, but he is unsure of how to handle James.

With Will and James, Walters gives a glimpse into what it is like to not know the fate of someone during an emergency. It is heart wrenching, yet at the same time uplifting. The friendship between Will and James is a great model for kids to learn the true meaning of friendship. So often, we hide from people when times are tough, yet Walters has written about characters who are truly there for each other, even when it is difficult.

I think this book would be a great read aloud, I think there are many issues that are addressed throughout the book that need to be talked about after to help kids understand and work through.

Raymond and Grahm Rule the School by Mike Knudson and Steve Wilkinson

This book is for younger readers. Normally I wouldn't put it on the blog, but I just finished reading it with my boys (ages 8 and 10) the other night and they wouldn't let me stop reading it. They loved this book. I don't think it has much literary value- but it was a big hit with my kids.

Raymond and Graham are entering fourth grade, they have been waiting for this year since they started at their school in grade one. This is the year they are the 'big kids', the year the younger kids will look up to them, their year to put on the play "A Christmas Carol". This is going to be their year to rule the school.

However, things quickly go wrong. From getting the scariest teacher in the school, being in a class with the school suck up and trying out for the big part. Raymond and Graham face each problem with humor and a positive attitude.

This book had my boys laughing out loud, covering their faces in fear of what antics Raymond and Graham were going to be getting up to next and begging me to read the book each night. And for that alone- this book deserves a place here and on my book shelf. The minute we finished it, we ordered the sequel- Raymond and Graham, Dancing Dudes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rules for Life by Darlene Ryan

Izzy lost her mother 2 years ago, but luckily her and her dad have always been very close. They have survived this loss by growing closer.
But, when her dad announces he is getting remarried (and Izzy has never even met the women), things start to spiral out of control for Izzy.

This is a great book about the sacrifices you need to make in extended families.

Abduction by Peg Kehret

Matt knows better than to get into a strangers car. But when the stranger ends up being his dad- things get very strange, very quickly.
His sister Bonnie is beside herself with guilt and worry. It was her responsibility to look after Matt. Bonnie tries to find Matt, but soon finds herself in a very dangerous situation.

Among the Enemy by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This book follows the "Among the Brave" series.
Matthias is another third child on the run from the population police. But when he unknowingly saves one of his 'enemies' he is thrust into the population police headquarters. Matthias must risk everything to help other third children- but will it cost him his life?

Out of Focus by Margaret Buffee

Bernice is a 16 year old girl with a lot on her plate. Her mother is an alcoholic and Bernice is expected to look after her younger brother and sister. When they end up living at a deserted summer camp, things start to look brighter for the whole family as they try to repair the damage of living with alcoholism.

We All Fall Down by Eric Walters

This book was published (and read by me) a few years ago. It is another Walters hit.
This story starts on September 10, 2001 in New York City. Will is a grade 9 student who will be spending the day at work with his father as part of the "bring your child to work" day. His dad works in the south building of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan. What starts out to be a boring way to spend a day turns into a day Will and most of us will never forget.
Told as only Eric Walters can, this story examines the horror of that terrible day in a way that is appropriate for students to understand.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

This hard-to-find book(although I saw another copy at Titles the other day when I was there) would be a great follow up to teenagers looking for the next book after Twilight. This is the classic story of a boy and girl on opposite sides falling in love. Except there is a twist.

In Noughts and Crosses, the opposite sides are black and white. In this world, the Crosses have all the power. They control the government, police, schools, media- everything. The Noughts have to live by the Crosses rules. They are their gardeners, their housekeepers, basically any menial job, the Noughts fill. It is the classic case of the rich getting richer.

In this world, we meet Callum -a nought boy and Sephy a Cross girl. They have been friends their whole life. Callum's mother was Sephy's nanny and they grew up together. Now that they are 15, their feelings for each other are starting to change. But it is very difficult for these two young people. Sephy's father is one of the most powerful men in the government, and he is very vocal about his views on the noughts and how they are worth less than the Crosses. Then there is Callum's family. Callum suspects his older brother and father of belonging to a group using violent means to bring attention to the inequality of the two races.

Sephy and Callum try to navigate their friendship through many many obstacles put in their path both from outside their families and within their families. This is a great read. There are also 3 other books in the series.

There is one scene that is a bit questionable, but it is very tame. I would suggest reading it first before giving to anyone younger than grade 7.

Thaw by Monica M. Roe

First off- a warning- this book is for mature readers. I'm not sure I will give it to any grade 7 or 8 kids- there is some swearing and some sexual references in it too.

Having said that- I loved this book. It is the story of Dane- a 17 year old. He is very intelligent and a gifted adult. The only thing he isn't good at is sharing, expressing or showing any emotion. He is a very egocentric young man.

We meet Dane in a rehabilitation center where he is undergoing treatment for Guillain-Barre Syndrome. A disease that left him paralyzed and fighting to get back what he once had. The story alternates between his present life in the rehab center to the previous winter. His life back home, looked good on the outside, but his emotionless state has left him confused now that he has lost everything he thought was important.

I loved the character of Dane. His character is a strong male who is afraid to share what is in his heart. I also loved how he wasn't ever afraid to share what was in his mind as well. I think this book would really grab high school boys and the discussion that could come out of it would be amazing. I just wish there wasn't quite so much swearing!