Monday, January 31, 2011

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

This is NOT, I repeat, NOT a Newbery book, nor is it a children's book. It is considered a "young adult" book, but I will not be letting my 13 year old young adult read this. Very mature themes, and disturbing material.
"Kristina is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. Then she meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild ride turns into a struggle for her mind, her soul - her life."
This is the first in a series. I decided to read them for a few reasons: #1 - the interesting writing style; it is written in poetry form. I'm not a big poetry fan, so I wasn't sure how if I would be able to get through it, but it read very smoothly. #2 - I know this is a very popular young adult series right now, and well, I like to keep on top of what young people are reading, and #3 - I am interested in most stories of a psychological nature. I won't lie - this was not a light, fluffy read. It was dark, disturbing, sad, etc. And, no happy ending here. But, all that said - I am glad to have read it. Unfortunately, drug addiction is becoming more and more common in teens, and at a younger and younger age. My hope is that novels like this will show youth how extremely dangerous drugs are and help to deter them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

#54 - When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 Medal Winner
"By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious not arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper: I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late."
Wow. That is the first thing that comes to my mind after reading this book! Amazing!! One of those books with a twist of an ending that just leaves you amazed! I am afraid to say too much and give it away. I did not expect this to be a sci fi type book...Think Time Traveller's Wife - children's style. Highly recommended - as a matter of fact, my daughter is going to start it tonight after I raved about it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

#53 - Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

1993 Medal Winner
"May stopped by beside the trailer - May who was always 'a big barrel of nothing but love,' May who had been Summer's mother for the last 6 happy years, May who was dead. But only old Ob, her sorrowing husband, sensed her visitation.
Summer was none too pleased at the news. Wasn't it enough that she missed May terribly, that she was singlehandedly trying to keep Ob from dying himself? She needed to hear from May directly. And now, to confound all, crazy Cletus Underwood, from Summer's seventh grade, had become involved.
Cletus, like Ob, believed in the spirit world. He was mightily pleased to wait in May's garden while Ob and Summer cocked their ears and scanned the sky of West Virginia for a sign.
Word came, but from a source different than expected when finally Summer, Cletus and Ob set off to Putnam County to see The Reverend Miriam B. Young, Small Medium at Large, who Cletus had read about. Word came for Summer a night later, direct as could be."
Missing May is a sweet, but heartbreaking story about a grieving family. I think that anyone who has lost a loved one can identify with searching for signs of their lost loved one in everything around them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#52 - Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson

2006 Honor Book
"Soonie's family makes Show Ways - quilts with secret meanings that are maps to freedom. Her family tells stories of bravery that inspires courage. Each generation passes on to the next the belief that there is a road to a better place."
This book is an unusual choice for a Newbery as it is a picture book. However, it is a very inspiring book about African American history showing the road from slavery to freedom. The illustrations are beautiful as well.

#51 - Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

1961 Medal Winner
"In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. Once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind. This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building a shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery."
This book was a little tedious for me, as I have a little trouble getting into certain historical fiction. Add to that the fact that there is very little dialogue in the book as the girl is completely alone. However, by the last few chapters I was almost on the edge of my seat. A little hard to get into, but I'm glad I read it. An interesting fact - this is based on a true story of an Indian girl who had spent 18 years alone on an island before being rescued.

Monday, January 17, 2011

#50 - Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos

2001 Honor Book
Halfway through my first goal of 100 books by the end of 2011!
"Joey Pigza really wants his six-week visit with his dad to count, to show him he's not as wired as he used to be, to show his dad how much he loves him. But Carter Pigza's not an easy guy to love. He's eager to make it up to Joey for past wrongs and to show him how to be a winner, to take control of his life. With his coaching, Joey's even learned how to pitch a baseball, and he's good at it. The trouble is, Joey's dad thinks taking control means giving up the things that keep Joey safe. And if he wants to please his dad, he's going to have to play by his rules, even when the rules don't make sense."
This book showed an interesting extreme case of ADHD, both in a child, and in an adult. I really felt sorry for Joey - he tried so hard to be good, but his hyperactivity made it so hard! When the dad, took his medication away and flushed it all down the toilet, saying it was just a crutch, I wanted to punch the living daylights out of him.
Overall, a good book!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#49 - The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois

1948 Medal Winner
"Professor William Waterman Sherman, a disillusioned schoolteacher, sails in a giant balloon over the Pacific, lands on the island of Krakatoa, and witnesses a stupendous explosion in which that notorious island blows up. When Professor Sherman is found adrift in the Atlantic clinging to the debris of twenty balloons, all America rocks with curiosity. Much of the story is based on complete truth-scientific principles behind nineteenth century balloon inventions and the history of the amazing civilization found on Krakatoa. The rest, agrees the author, is absolute nonsense."
Let's just say...this wasn't one of my favorites. The middle of the book was fairly interesting, with its descriptions of outlandish inventions (and keeping in mind this was written in the 1940's), but otherwise, I had a hard time getting into this one.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

#48 - Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

1990 Medal Winner
"Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think about life before the war. But it's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching in their town. The Nazis won't stop. The Jews of Denmark are being "relocated" so Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family. Then Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission. Somehow she must find the strength and courage to save her best friend's life. There's no turning back now."
This book was reminiscent of The Diary of Anne Frank. It made me so sad to think of how, even if this particular story is fictional, this really did occur in our world's history. To think of how horrible life was for the Jewish people...I just can't even imagine. But, this story was heartwarming as much as it was heartbreaking. It was also suspenseful in true Lois Lowry form. She also added an afterword explaining which parts of the story were true, and it had a lot of very interesting information that I did not know. Highly recommended!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

#47 - Sounder by William H. Armstrong

1970 Medal Winner
"It was like a horrible nightmare...The boy's father taken away by the sheriff...Sounder racing after them, hit by a shotgun blast...The boy has to save Sounder. The beloved dog risked his life for his family. But the boy's mother says Sounder has crawled away to die!"
This book was very sad. A family torn apart by the unjust arrest of their father, poverty, mistreatment, a beloved dog terribly injured and thought to be dead. Not the most uplifting of stories. But, there is an underlying story that has a good ending. The boy (and interestingly, he is never named in the book) longs for education. He desperately wants to learn to read, and is eventually taken under the wing of a kindly school teacher, and his dream is fulfilled.
I know this book has been made into a movie, and I would love to see it. The book was quite brief (only 116 pages), so I am interested to see how the story was expanded. Definitely a classic!